Top Five Non-'Rocky' Philadelphia Movies


When you hear the words "Philadelphia" and "movie" together, one word typically comes to mind: "Rocky." Six official Rocky films were made between 1976 and 2006, followed by the Oscar-nominated spinoff film Creed in 2015, and all were set at least partially in the City of Brotherly Love. The Art Museum steps are all but unofficially named for Sylvester Stallone's Rocky Balboa, and right next door is the statue of the fictional boxing champ - who got a statue 33 years before the city's real-life heavyweight champion, Smokin' Joe Frazier.

But the story of Philadelphia movies hardly begins and ends with Rocky; classic films were produced in the city long before Rocky fought Apollo Creed, and some of history's greatest directors have worked there. Hitchcock shot most of 1964's Marnie there. The animals at the end of Terry Gilliam's 12 Monkeys (1995) were from the Philadelphia Zoo. Invincible (2006) dramatized the life of unlikely Philadelphia Eagle Vince Papale. Silver Linings Playbook (2012) was shot entirely in the region, as was the vast majority of M. Night Shyamalan's filmography.

But other than those- and all the Rockys- these are the five best:

5. The Philadelphia Story (1940.) George Cukor's famed "Comedy of remarriage" captured the old money world of the Philadelphia Main Line, with starring roles for three of the greatest movie stars of the 20th century: Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant and James Stewart. Surprisingly not dated, for a movie that came out 76 years ago.

4. Philadelphia (1993.) The first major Hollywood movie about the AIDS crisis, Philadelphia is a legal drama about a young attorney (Tom Hanks) who with the help of a homophobic lawyer (Denzel Washington) sues a white shoe law firm that fired him because he had AIDS. Featuring one of Hanks' very best performances, Philadelphia holds up much better than era-specific social problem movies typically do.

3. The Sixth Sense (1999.) Sure, everyone likes to pick on Shyamalan these days after his recent string of high-profile flops. But let's not forget that, even beyond its closing plot twist, The Sixth Sense was a brilliantly crafted, tense-as-all-hell effort that made outstanding use of Philadelphia locations. I don't know that Bruce Willis has ever been better, and also a winning turn from Toni Collette (who starred in another Philly-set film, 2006's In Her Shoes.)

2. Trading Places (1983.) One of the greatest comedies of the 1980s, directed by John Landis, has Eddie Murphy and Dan Ackroyd both at the height of their powers, as a poor guy and a rich guy who effectively switch places as part of an "experiment" by a couple of evil plutocrats (Ralph Bellemy and Don Ameche.) It's still hard to walk down South Broad Street and not see it as the Duke and Duke headquarters.

1. Blow Out (1981.) Director Brian De Palma grew up in Philadelphia and one of his best films is another take on Blow-Up and The Conversation, starring John Travolta as a movie sound technician who stumbles into evidence of a murder. Serves as a reminder of the talents of the young Travolta, as well as of a very different Philadelphia from the one today, including a much grungier Reading Terminal Market. "It's a good scream."

Stephen Silver is a journalist who has lived in Philadelphia for 11 years. A father of two, his work has appeared in Philadelphia Magazine, New York Press, SB Nation, The Daily Banter, CSNPhilly.com, the Good Men Project, Chatterblast's The Lightning Strike, Splice Today, Screenrant.com and the Philadelphia area's Patch websites. Follow him on Twitter at@StephenSilver.