Philadelphia, PA - Philly is no stranger to cinema. While the city may be most well known as the site of the formidable Rocky franchise—the first movie won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1976, Philly is no stranger to cinema.
While the city may be most well known as the site of the formidable Rocky franchise—the first movie won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1976, and the seventh installment, Creed, is set to debut in late 2015—more than 100 films have showcased the Philadelphia region on the silver screen since the 1970s. From screwball comedies to tearjerkers, inspiring true stories to action-packed adventures, these movies show off the region’s iconic and lesser-known streets and sights. Here’s where to relive some of Hollywood’s most memorable Philadelphia moments:
Sports Flicks For A Sports Town
- Rocky (1976) – This triumphant underdog story about a blue-collar boxer, played by Sylvester Stallone, put Philadelphia on the cinematic map. While the six-film franchise (with a seventh in the works) showcases locations all over the city, the most iconic site by far is the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway), where Rocky Balboa famously ends his workout by running up the 72 steps that lead to the doors of this world-famous museum. A bronze statue at the bottom of the steps commemorates the famous scene.
- Invincible (2006) – Inspired by true-life events, this movie tells the story of Vince Papale, a 30-year-old bartender (played by Mark Wahlberg) who tried out for—and made it onto—the Philadelphia Eagles in 1976. Football tryouts and preseason games were filmed at Franklin Field (235 S. 33rd Street), where the Eagles actually played until 1970. Today the field is home to the University of Pennsylvania Quakers.
- The Wrestler (2008) – Mickey Rourke won a Golden Globe for his role as Randy “The Ram,” an aging wrestler struggling to survive. While much of the film takes place nearby in New Jersey, some of the wrestling matches were actually shot at The Arena (2300 S. Swanson Street) in Philadelphia. The Arena has since been renovated and renamed 2300 Arena, but the venue still hosts wrestling matches and other sporting events.
Action & Adventure
- The Italian Job (2003) – This star-studded, high-octane flick about a gang of modern-day outlaws takes place all over the world, including in Philadelphia. As Stella, played by Charlize Theron, drives her Mini Cooper through the city, she speeds past City Hall (Broad & Market Streets) and the Benjamin Franklin Bridge (near 6th & Race Streets).
- National Treasure (2004) – Nicolas Cage stars as a treasure hunter on a quest to steal the Declaration of Independence in this blockbuster. Along the way, Cage and his team of brainy misfits follow clues that lead them to sites like Independence Hall (520 Chestnut Street), the Liberty Bell (6th & Market Streets), The Franklin Institute (222 N. 20th Street) and Reading Terminal Market (12th & Arch Streets).
- Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009) – The second installment of the Transformers series finds Sam (Shia LaBeouf) at college, and although his school isn’t identified in the film, Philly fans will recognize the University of Pennsylvania. In fact, scenes at a fraternity house party were actually filmed at an active Penn frat house known as the Castle (250 S. 36th Street).
Comedies Filmed in Philly
- Trading Places (1983) – This hilarious comedy starring Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd celebrates Philadelphia from its first frames, as the opening credits roll over shots of Philly landmarks like Boathouse Row (along the Schuylkill River), the Italian Market (9th Street from Wharton to Fitzwater Streets) and The Thinker outside the Rodin Museum (22nd Street & Benjamin Franklin Parkway). Later in the film, the Wells Fargo Building (123 S. Broad Street) makes an appearance as the headquarters of the fictional Duke & Duke bank, and the Curtis Institute of Music (1726 Locust Street) stands in for the ritzy Heritage Club.
- Marley & Me (2008) – Owen Wilson stars as a Philadelphia Inquirer reporter opposite Jennifer Aniston in this heartwarming comedy about a couple and their unruly yet lovable dog. While the adorable puppy steals the show, the family’s idyllic country cottage in Chadds Ford (1175 Meetinghouse Road) also made quite an impression on the public; the 1830s home sold for more than $1 million in 2011.
- Baby Mama (2008) – Before the suburban Philadelphia-born Tiny Fey and Amy Poehler were Hollywood’s go-to hosting team, they starred in this buddy comedy about a high-powered businesswoman and her ill-mannered pregnancy surrogate. The film features scenes set in some of the city’s most beautiful spots, including Love Park (16th Street & John F. Kennedy Boulevard) and Rittenhouse Square (18th & Walnut Streets).
- Mannequin (1987) – Andrew McCarthy stars as a window dresser at Prince & Co. department store in this cult classic about a mannequin (Kim Cattrall) who comes to life. Prince & Co. is a fictional store, but the store scenes were filmed in the John Wanamaker Building (1300 Market Street), now home to Macy’s.
- Up Close & Personal (1996) – In this love story, romance blossoms between veteran news director Warren Justice (Robert Redford) and Tally Atwater (Michelle Pfeiffer), a go-getter reporter. However, Atwater finds herself in trouble when she is held hostage during a riot at Holmesburg Prison (8215 Torresdale Avenue), where a large portion of the film was shot.
- Silver Linings Playbook (2012) – Not only did David O. Russell’s Oscar-winning movie garner critical and public acclaim, but it also celebrates Philly fan culture. Pat Sr. (played by Robert De Niro) is a die-hard Eagles fan, and so is his son Pat (Jenkintown native Bradley Cooper), who proudly sports his Eagles jersey. One scene even takes place at Lincoln Financial Field (1 Lincoln Financial Field Way) before a game. Later in the film, Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) and Pat compete in a dance competition in the ballroom at the Benjamin Franklin House (834 Chestnut Street), then make their way through historic Jewelers’ Row (8th & Walnut Streets) for the film’s grand finale.
Nail-Biters Filmed in Philly
- Witness (1985) – The pivotal scene of this Academy Award-winning drama takes place in Amtrak’s 30th Street Station (30th Street & John F. Kennedy Boulevard), where a young Amish boy accidentally witnesses a murder. To protect the boy, a police detective (Harrison Ford) moves in with the boy and his family in nearby Lancaster County, also known as Amish Country.
- Twelve Monkeys (1995) – It’s not every day that elephants, giraffes and zebras take to the streets of Philadelphia, but Terry Gilliam’s time-twisting tale is rife with the unexpected. Bruce Willis stars as James Cole, a convict sent from the future to stop terrorists from releasing a deadly virus into the population. Unfortunately, he winds up in a mental institution, which was set in the notorious Eastern State Penitentiary (2027 Fairmount Avenue). Fun fact: The airport scenes were actually shot at the Pennsylvania Convention Center (1101 Arch Street), which was newly built at the time.
- The Sixth Sense (1999) – Philly’s own M. Night Shyamalan has shot several of his blockbusters in and around town, but this story about Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment), a nine-year-old outcast who claims he can “see dead people” is the one that earned him his film cred. Philadelphia is featured prominently in the film. Cole and his mother (played by Toni Collette) live in a small row home in southwest Center City (2302 St. Albans Place), two characters dine at the swanky Striped Bass (now Butcher & Singer, 1500 Walnut Street) and Cole takes refuge behind the massive red doors of St. Augustine Catholic Church (243 N. Lawrence Street) in Old City, not far from some of the city’s most historic attractions.
- Philadelphia (1993) – The movie that earned Tom Hanks his first Oscar was shot almost entirely on location throughout the city. The memorable scene where Hanks and Denzel Washington read through legal texts, for instance, takes place in the Fisher Fine Arts Library (220 S. 34th Street) at the University of Pennsylvania, and at one point, several characters spend time at the Racquet Club of Philadelphia (215 S. 16th Street). Additional locations featured in the film include the BNY Mellon Center (1735 Market Street) and Famous 4th Street Delicatessen (700 S. 4th Street). Bruce Springsteen also won an Oscar for his Streets of Philadelphia song featured in the film.
- Jersey Girl (2004) – Longtime collaborators Kevin Smith and Ben Affleck reunited for this tearjerker about Ollie Trinke, a widower trying to balance career and family. In one memorable scene set in New York but shot at the Hard Rock Cafe Philadelphia (1113-31 Market Street), Trinke publicly bashes Philly’s hometown hero Will Smith. Don’t worry, Smith appears in a cameo later in the film.
- In Her Shoes (2005) – Based on the novel by Philadelphia-based author Jennifer Weiner, this flick stars Cameron Diaz and Toni Collette as two very different sisters. The final scene takes place at the Jamaican Jerk Hut (1436 South Street), a low-key restaurant that the cast and crew loved so much that they wrote it into the movie.
- "The Intouchables", starring Philadelphia's Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston, has been renamed "The Upside" is no comedy, though, and it marks Hart's first dramatic role. The movie is set to premiere in theaters on March 9, 2018
- Philadelphia Movie Sites Tour – For a crash course in Philadelphia movie history, this bus tour gets two thumbs up. Over roughly two and a half hours, the tour takes guests to more than 50 locations featured in more than 30 movies and television shows. As the bus travels, built-in screens play film clips that feature each site. Tours run from June through October and depart from the Independence Visitor Center (6th & Market Streets). (215) 625-7980.
Publisher / Webmaster at Philly Bite Magazine.