Philadelphia’s most iconic film image is Rocky Balboa conquering the museum steps. But other films draw from Philadelphia too, with unique scenery, famous monuments, and diverse neighborhoods coming to life. Check out our favorite movies shot in the City of Brotherly Love.
One of the most iconic boxing films (and series) is also one of the best-known films showcasing Philadelphia. Rocky Balboa, the title character, lives in Kensington in Northern Philadelphia, and trains all across town. Sylvester Stallone consciously captured the city where he grew up, including famous scenes at the Philadelphia Museum of Art steps (the “Rocky Steps”), the Italian Market in South Philly, Boathouse Row, Penn’s Landing, Independence Hall, and many more. To this day, tourists run up the Museum steps and throw their hands up in triumph to mimic Rocky’s glory.
The story of Andrew Beckett, a corporate lawyer suing his former employer for firing him because he has AIDs, unfolds with images of Philadelphia that symbolize liberty. The Liberty Bell, Benjamin Franklin Bridge, and Liberty Place provide sleek backdrops for this grueling fight against AIDs prejudice. Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington are seen strolling downtown at Center City, as well as South Philly and University City. The pinnacle court scene occurs in a courtroom in City Hall, Philly’s most recognizable architectural treasures.
While Haley Joel Osment’s character sees dead people, audiences were privy to M. Night Shyamalan’s home city through his own eyes. Pre-Revolutionary War buildings, cemeteries, and monuments provide a spooky setting for the supernatural thriller. Osment’s character takes solace at St. Augustine’s Roman Catholic Church on 4th Street, and Bruce Willis meets his wife at a table with a single paces setting at the restaurant that is now Butcher and Singer Steakhouse on Walnut Street.
Eddie Murphy and Dan Akroyd turn Philadelphia into their playground in Trading Places, with opening scenes showing Boathouse Row, the Schuylkill Expressway, the Liberty Bell, and Independence Hall. The broad social and ethnic diversity of the city comes to life as different characters from varying backgrounds are woven together. Eddie Murphy’s character is seen begging in Rittenhouse Square, while Aykroyd is seen in a ritzy apartment in Old City.
Another director hailing from Philadelphia, Brian de Palma, puts his home city on the big screen in this thriller. John Travolta’s B-movie sound effects character believes that he’s captured a murder while recording sound at a park. 30th Street Station, the banks of the Schuylkill, and Penn’s Landing are some of the locales included. Travolta’s character races through the City Hall courtyard in a car chase, and eventually crashed through the window display in the former Wanamaker’s Department Store on Market Street.