Cultural depictions of Philadelphia

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Cultural depictions of the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania range from depictions of major historical events to the city being used as a minor backdrop.

Painting and sculpture[edit]

Date Title Artist Notes
1771 Penn's Treaty with the Indians Benjamin West Oil on canvas
1811 – c. 1813 Members of the City Troop and Other Philadelphia Soldiery John Lewis Krimmel Watercolor, gouache, and graphite
1817 Declaration of Independence John Trumbull Oil on canvas
1827 "William Penn's Treaty with the Indians, 1682" Nicholas Gevelot Sandstone frieze located in the United States Capitol rotunda.
1875 The Gross Clinic Thomas Eakins Oil on canvas depiction of Jefferson Medical College's amphitheater.[1]


Date Title Author Notes
1844 The Quaker City George Lippard[2]
1899 The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study W. E. B. Du Bois Sociological study of life for African Americans in late 19th century Philadelphia.
1912 The Financier Theodore Dreiser First volume of the Cowperwood trilogy.
1939 Kitty Foyle Christopher Morley Later turned into the film Kitty Foyle.[2]
1942 Liberty Belle Don Cameron & Chuck Winter, creators Charlton Comics superheroine whose powers were originally tied to the ringing of the Liberty Bell. First appeared in Boy Commandos #1 (Winter 1942). Rights currently owned by DC Comics.
1956 Down There David Goodis Later turned into the film Shoot the Piano Player.
1957 The Philadelphian Richard P. Powell
1974 Oreo Fran Ross
1990 Philadelphia Fire John Edgar Wideman Based on the events surrounding the 1985 bombing of the MOVE house by the Philadelphia Police Department.
1993 Flyy Girl Omar Tyree Features the character Tracy Ellison.
1988 - 2003 Badge of Honor (novel series) W. E. B. Griffin Series about detectives in the Philadelphia Police Department.
1998–present Heart of the City Mark Tatulli Daily comic strip.[3]
1999 The Resurrectionist (Old Philadelphia Mystery Series) Mark Graham
2000 For the Love of Money Omar Tyree Sequel to Flyy Girl.
2001 Epsilon John J. Rust
2005 Boss Lady Omar Tyree Omar Tyree's third Tracy Ellison novel.
2006 The Blonde[4] Duane Swierczynski


Date Title Artist/Group Notes
1818 "Philadelphia Fireman's Cotillion" Francis Johnson
1879 "O Dem Golden Slippers" James A. Bland Theme song from the Philadelphia Mummers New Year's Day Parade.
1958 "Philadelphia Baby" Charlie Rich
1963 "South Street" The Orlons
1964 "Dancing in the Street" Martha and the Vandellas
1970 "Move Closer to Your World" Al Ham Theme song from WPVI-TV's "Action News" broadcast since 1972.
1973 "TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)" MFSB This tune and its subsequent cover versions served as the theme song from the dance and music television series Soul Train for much of the period from 1973 to 2006.
1975 "Philadelphia Freedom" Elton John Inspired by Billie Jean King and the Philadelphia Freedoms tennis team.
1975 "Lookout Joe" Neil Young Contains the line "Remember Millie from down in Philly? She took my brain, and forgot my name."
1976 "Gonna Fly Now" Bill Conti Theme song from the Rocky film series. The song is closely associated with the city of Philadelphia in general, and with the front steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in particular.
1982 "Atlantic City" Bruce Springsteen The first line, "Well they blew up the chicken man in Philly last night now they blew up his house too," refers to the murder of mobster Philip Testa in 1981.
1982 "Mt. Airy Groove" Pieces of a Dream Tribute to the Mount Airy section of Northwest Philadelphia.
1983 "Fo-Fi-Fo" Pieces of a Dream Inspired by the Philadelphia 76ers' NBA championship in the 1982-83 season, with the team winning the three rounds of the playoffs in "four, five, four" games, respectively.
1985 "Punk Rock Girl" The Dead Milkmen The lyrics reference Zipperhead and the Philly Pizza Company, both on South Street (Philadelphia)
1985 "The Roof Is on Fire" Rockmaster Scott and the Dynamic Three Though commonly assumed to have been inspired by the 1985 bombing of the MOVE house by the Philadelphia Police Department, the single predated the MOVE bombing by a year.
1988 "Parents Just Don't Understand" DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince Contains the line "We headed downtown to the Gallery Mall."
1989 "Beat Up Guitar" The Hooters The Lyrics mention several streets in Philadelphia, along with these lines in the chorus, "From the town that rocked the nation; Philadelphia, PA"
1990 "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince Theme song from the television series The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. The title character notes that he is from "West Philadelphia, born and raised."
1991 "Motownphilly" Boyz II Men
1991 "Summertime" DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince Contains the line "Back in Philly we be out in the park, a place called the Plateau is where everybody goes" (reference to Belmont Plateau in Fairmount Park).
1993 "Philadelphia" Neil Young Written for the film Philadelphia.
1993 "Streets of Philadelphia" Bruce Springsteen Written for the film Philadelphia.
1994 "All Around the World" Boyz II Men
1996 "Got My Mind Made Up" Tupac Shakur Contains the line "I rock from here to there, to Philly and back."
1996 "Long Island Degrees" De La Soul Contains the line "characters have the tendency to con themselves to think the East Coast is only New York and Philadelph."
1996 "Can't Knock the Hustle" Jay-Z Contains the line "High stakes, I got more at stake than Philly."
2000 "Right and Exact" Dilated Peoples Contains the line "from Cali to Philly to the Circus of Piccadilly."
2001 "Beanie (Mack Bitch)" Beanie Sigel Contains the line "'Bout to take over the city of Philly like John Street."
2002 "Block Party" Will Smith Mentions a plan to buy hundreds of cheesesteaks from Ishkabibble's Eatery, Jim's Steaks, and Pat's King of Steaks for a block party.
2003 "All My Life" Freeway Contains the line "From Cali to Philly, Philly to Cali, I deliver the goods, haulin' a milli.
2005 "Sound of Philadelphia" Reef the Lost Cauze Feature song on Philadelphia rapper's 2005 album Feast or Famine.
2007 "Ms. Philadelphia" Musiq Soulchild
2007 "Goodbye Philadelphia" Peter Cincotti

Music video[edit]

Date Title Artist/Group Notes
1987 Everything Good Takes Time Jeffrey Osborne Tribute to Julius Erving upon his retirement from the Philadelphia 76ers.
1991 Summertime DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince
1993 Streets of Philadelphia Bruce Springsteen
1993 Freedom of '76 Ween Spike Jonze directed this tribute to the soul groups of the 70's, showing Ween stealing the Liberty Bell.
2000 Justfriends (Sunny) Musiq Soulchild
2000 Gettin' in the Way Jill Scott
2001 A Long Walk Jill Scott
2001 Floetic Floetry


Date Title Notes
1848 Philadelphia in 1848 Text of play no longer exists.[2]
1939 Philadelphia Story Play written by Philip Barry and later adapted into a film.[2]
1969 1776 Broadway musical, later adapted into a film.
1980 Zooman and the Sign Off Broadway play written by Charles Fuller, first performed by the Negro Ensemble Company.
2004 Love on Lay-Away Play written by David E. Talbert.


Date Title Country Notes IMDB
1926 The Show Off USA Silent film based on the play by George Kelly. Stars Ford Sterling. [1]
1933 42nd Street USA Busby Berkeley musical, ending takes place in Philadelphia. [2]
1934 The Show-Off USA Based on the play by George Kelly. Stars Spencer Tracy. [3]
1940 The Philadelphia Story USA Stars Jimmy Stewart, Katharine Hepburn, and Cary Grant. Takes place on the Main Line, based on a play.[2] [4]
1940 Kitty Foyle USA Based on a 1939 novel.[2] [5]
1941 The Big Store USA Stars the Marx Brothers. [6]
1946 The Show-Off USA Based on the play by George Kelly. Stars Red Skelton. [7]
1957 The Burglar USA Based on the book by David Goodis. [8]
1959 The Young Philadelphians USA Based on Richard P. Powell's novel The Philadelphian. Stars Paul Newman and Robert Vaughn. [9]
1964 Marnie USA Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. [10]
1967 The Happiest Millionaire USA Musical about Anthony Joseph Drexel Biddle, Sr. [11]
1968 High School USA Documentary [12]
1972 1776 USA Adapted from Broadway musical. [13]
1973 Trick Baby USA Stars Kiel Martin and Mel Stewart. [14]
1976 Rocky USA Written by and starring Sylvester Stallone.[5] [15]
1978 Dawn of the Dead Italy/USA Sequel to Night of the Living Dead. Directed by George A. Romero. [16]
1979 Rocky II USA Written by and starring Sylvester Stallone. [17]
1981 Blow Out USA Directed by Brian De Palma.[5] [18]
1981 Bustin' Loose USA Stars Richard Pryor and Cicely Tyson. [19]
1982 Rocky III USA Written by and starring Sylvester Stallone. [20]
1982 Fighting Back USA Vigilante Picture. [21]
1983 Trading Places USA Stars Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy.[5] [22]
1984 Birdy USA Directed by Alan Parker. [23]
1984 The Philadelphia Experiment USA Based on the urban legend of the Philadelphia Experiment. [24]
1985 Rocky IV USA Written by and starring Sylvester Stallone. [25]
1985 Witness USA Stars Harrison Ford.[5] [26]
1986 The Bombing of Osage Avenue USA Documentary on the 1985 bombing of the MOVE house by the Philadelphia Police Department, as told from the perspective of the neighboring residents of Osage Avenue. Written and narrated by Toni Cade Bambara. [27]
1987 Mannequin[5] USA [28]
1988 Stealing Home USA Starring Mark Harmon and Jodie Foster [29]
1990 Downtown USA Directed by Richard Benjamin. Stars Anthony Edwards and Forest Whitaker. [30]
1990 Rocky V USA Written by and starring Sylvester Stallone. [31]
1991 Mannequin 2 USA [32]
1993 Money for Nothing USA Stars John Cusack. [33]
1993 Philadelphia USA Stars Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington.[5] [34]
1995 Twelve Monkeys USA Directed by Terry Gilliam.[5] [35]
1995 Two Bits USA Directed by James Foley. [36]
1996 Up Close & Personal USA [37]
1998 Wide Awake USA Directed by M. Night Shyamalan. [38]
1998 Fallen USA Directed by Gregory Hoblit, starring Denzel Washington. [39]
1999 The Sixth Sense USA Directed M. Night Shyamalan, stars Bruce Willis and Haley Joel Osment.[5] [40]
2000 Best in Show USA Mockumentary about five entrants in a prestigious Philadelphia dog show. Directed by Christopher Guest. [41]
2000 Unbreakable USA Directed by M. Night Shyamalan, stars Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson.[5] [42]
2001 A.I. Artificial Intelligence[citation needed] USA Directed by Steven Spielberg and stars Haley Joel Osment. [43]
2002 Confessions of a Dangerous Mind USA Based on the autobiography by Chuck Barris. Directed by George Clooney, stars Sam Rockwell. [44]
2002 State Property USA Stars Beanie Sigel. [45]
2003 Death by Association USA Written and directed by Anthony L. Fletcher. [46]
2003 My Architect: A Son's Journey USA Documentary on architect Louis Kahn. [47]
2004 The 24th Day USA [48]
2004 Fat Albert USA Based on the animated television series by Bill Cosby. [49]
2004 National Treasure USA Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, stars Nicolas Cage.[5] [50]
2005 E-A-G-L-E-S: The Movie USA Documentary on the Philadelphia Eagles' 2004 season. [51]
2005 A History of Violence USA Directed by David Cronenberg, based on a graphic novel. [52]
2005 In Her Shoes USA Directed by Curtis Hanson, starring Cameron Diaz.[5] [53]
2005 Shadowboxer USA [54]
2005 State Property 2 USA Stars Beanie Sigel. [55]
2005 Train Ride USA [56]
2006 10th & Wolf USA Directed by Robert Moresco.[6] [57]
2006 Invincible USA Based on the real life story of former Philadelphia Eagles player and Philadelphia native Vince Papale starring Mark Wahlberg as Papale and Greg Kinnear as Eagles head coach Dick Vermeil [58]
2006 Lady in the Water USA Directed by M. Night Shyamalan. [59]
2006 Rocky Balboa USA Written by and starring Sylvester Stallone. [60]
2006 The Shame of a City USA Documentary on the 2003 Philadelphia mayoral campaign between John F. Street and Sam Katz. [61]
2007 Pride USA Directed by Sunu Gonera, starring Terrence Howard.[7] Based upon the life of swimming coach Jim Ellis. [62]
2007 Shooter USA Directed by Antoine Fuqua, starring Mark Wahlberg.[8] [63]
2008 Cover USA Film starring Aunjanue Ellis. [64]
2008 Then She Found Me USA Directed by Helen Hunt. Based on the novel by Elinor Lipman. [65]
2008 Marley & Me USA Starring Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston. American comedy-drama film, based on a true story. The family moves to the Philadelphia area, specifically southern Chester County, west of the city. [66]
2008 Baby Mama USA Starring Tina Fey. [67]
2008 The Happening USA Directed by M. Night Shyamalan. [68]
2009 Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen USA Directed by Michael Bay. [69]
2009 Law Abiding Citizen USA Directed by F. Gary Gray. [70]
2010 Devil (2010 film) USA Directed by John Erick Dowdle. [71]
2011 Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles USA Directed by Jon Foy. [72]
2012 Silver Linings Playbook USA Directed by David O. Russell. [73]


Date Series Notes IMDB
1941–present Philadelphia Mummers New Year's Day Parade Held annually on January 1 on Broad Street since 1901. First televised in 1941. Broadcast rights are currently held by WPHL-TV (Philadelphia).
1952 - 1964 American Bandstand Dance and music show hosted by Dick Clark, first locally on WFIL-TV (Philadelphia) as Bandstand, then nationally on ABC as American Bandstand. The show moved to Los Angeles in 1964. [74]
1965 - 1978 The Mike Douglas Show Syndicated talk show hosted by Mike Douglas. Moved to Los Angeles in 1978. [75]
1968 - 2012 One Life to Live ABC daytime drama (same-day rebroadcasts on SOAPnet from 2000 to 2012). Setting is the fictional town of Llanview, Pennsylvania, which is modeled after the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia. [76]
1969 Hey, Hey, Hey: It's Fat Albert NBC live action/animated special. Precursor to the Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids animated series. [77]
1970 - 2011 All My Children ABC daytime drama (same-day rebroadcasts on SOAPnet from 2000 to 2011). Setting is the fictional town of Pine Valley, Pennsylvania, which is described as a Philadelphia suburb on the Main Line. [78]
1972 - 1984 Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids CBS children's animated series. Philadelphia setting not specified, but the show was based on Bill Cosby's coming of age in Philadelphia. [79]
1973 - 1986 Schoolhouse Rock! - America Rock ABC series of educational animated short films, designed to teach children about American history through song. "Fireworks" deals with the signing of the Declaration of Independence, while "Preamble" covers the drafting of the Constitution. The chorus to "Preamble" is a verbatim recitation (less four words) of the actual Preamble to the Constitution. Aired between Saturday morning cartoons on a rotating basis along with other Schoolhouse Rock! short films. [80]
1976 - 1978 The Tony Randall Show ABC sitcom. [81]
1979 Blacks in America: With All Deliberate Speed? CBS News two-part documentary. In Part 2, Ed Bradley travels to his hometown of Philadelphia, to assess how African Americans have fared in the 25 years following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which outlawed public school segregation. Aired July 25, 1979. [82]
1979 - 1980 Angie ABC sitcom. [83]
1981 - 1987 Dancin' on Air Dance and music show, aired locally weekdays on WPHL-TV (Philadelphia). [84]
1983 Grace Kelly ABC made-for-television movie. Biopic chronicling the life of actress Grace Kelly, from her childhood in Philadelphia until her wedding to Prince Rainier of Monaco. [85]
1984 - 1989 Brothers Showtime comedy series. [86]
1985 Live Aid Multi-venue benefit rock concert held on July 13, 1985 to aid famine relief in Ethiopia. One of the major venues was JFK Stadium in Philadelphia. Concert was broadcast live to 1.5 billion viewers in over 100 countries. [87]
1986 - 1991 Amen NBC sitcom. [88]
1986 - 1993 Double Dare Nickelodeon game show for children. Originated from the studios of PBS member station WHYY-TV (Philadelphia). [89]
1987 Frontline PBS documentary series. Episode entitled "The Bombing of West Philly" examines the 1985 bombing of the MOVE house by the Philadelphia Police Department. Aired May 5, 1987. [90]
1987 - 1988 Bustin' Loose Syndicated sitcom. Based on the Richard Pryor film. [91]
1987 - 1991 thirtysomething ABC drama. [92]
1989 - 1991 Shannon's Deal NBC drama. [93]
1990 - 1996 The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air NBC sitcom. Frequent references to the titular character's hometown of Philadelphia, including the West Philadelphia section (which is mentioned in the theme song). [94]
1992 You Bet Your Life Syndicated game show hosted by Bill Cosby (remake of the original, hosted by Groucho Marx). [95]
1993 - 2000 Boy Meets World ABC sitcom. [96]
1994 The Oprah Winfrey Show Syndicated talk show. Episode highlighting the city of Philadelphia aired May 23, 1994. [97]
1994 Philly Heat ABC miniseries about members of the Philadelphia Fire Department. [98]
1995 - 1997 Brotherly Love NBC/WB sitcom. [99]
1996 Mumia Abu-Jamal: A Case for Reasonable Doubt? HBO documentary. Examines the conviction and death sentence of journalist/activist Mumia Abu-Jamal for the 1981 murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. [100]
1998 Africans in America: America's Journey Through Slavery PBS miniseries/documentary. Part 3, entitled "Brotherly Love", examines colonial Philadelphia and its community of free African Americans. [101]
1998 The Garbage Picking Field Goal Kicking Philadelphia Phenomenon ABC made-for-television movie. [102]
1999 The Hunt for the Unicorn Killer NBC miniseries. Dramatizes the 1977 murder of Holly Maddux and the decades-long pursuit of her accused killer, environmental activist Ira Einhorn. [103]
2000 - 2006 Little Bill CBS cartoon.
2000 - 2006 Strong Medicine Lifetime Television medical drama. [104]
2001 Carmen: A Hip Hopera MTV made-for-television musical, starring Beyoncé Knowles and Mekhi Phifer. Modern interpretation of Georges Bizet's opera Carmen, set in modern Philadelphia and Los Angeles. [105]
2001 - 2002 Philly ABC drama. [106]
2002 - 2005 American Dreams NBC drama. American Bandstand's presence in Philadelphia in the 1960s is central to the major premise of the series. [107]
2002 - 2004 Hack CBS drama. [108]
2003 - 2010 Cold Case CBS drama. [109]
2004 The Big House ABC sitcom. [110]
2004–present Living It Up with Patti LaBelle TV One lifestyle show. Moderate number of the episodes highlight persons and places from the host's hometown of Philadelphia. [111]
2004 - 2005 The Real World: Philadelphia MTV reality series. [112]
2005 Live 8 Multi-venue benefit pop music concert held on July 2, 2005 as a means of pressuring the G8 nations to: increase aid to Africa, negotiate fairer trade rules, and cancel the debt of the world's poorest nations. One of the major venues was the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Concert was broadcast intermittently in the United States on MTV and VH1. [113]
2005 The Amazing Race: Family Edition CBS reality series. The first leg of the race ended in Philadelphia. [114]
2005–present It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia FX sitcom. [115]
2006 - 2007 The Class CBS sitcom. [116]
2006 - 2010 'Til Death Fox sitcom. The characters have telephone numbers with area code 215, indicating that the setting is the Philadelphia metropolitan area. [117]
2008 American Idol 7 Fox reality series. Northeast regional auditions held at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia. Aired on January 15, 2008. [118]
2008 Parking Wars A&E Network reality series spotlighting the Philadelphia Parking Authority. [119]
2009 Halls of Fame Upcoming drama series inspired by the Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts. To be produced by Starz Media. Chris "Ludacris" Bridges will serve as co-executive producer. [120]
2011–Present Body of Proof ABC drama. [121]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Salisbury, Stephan (November 11, 2006). "City art icon about to be sold". The Philadelphia Inquirer. [dead link]
  2. ^ a b c d e f Wainwright, Nicholas; Russell Weigley and Edwin Wolf (1982). Philadelphia: A 300-Year History. W.W. Norton & Company. p. 334. ISBN 0-393-01610-2. 
  3. ^ Rosenberg, Amy (March 8, 2007). "The warped world of 'Lio'". The Philadelphia Inquirer. 
  4. ^ Hiltbrand, David (November 21, 2006). "Guy goes into a bar, in Philly airport.". The Philadelphia Inquirer. [dead link]
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Brookes, Karin; John Gattuso, Lou Harry, Edward Jardim, Donald Kraybill, Susan Lewis, Dave Nelson and Carol Turkington (2005). Zoë Ross, ed. Insight Guides: Philadelphia and Surroundings (Second Edition (Updated) ed.). APA Publications. pp. 78–79. ISBN 1-58573-026-2. 
  6. ^ Atkinson, Michael (August 22, 2006). "'10th & Wolf'". The Village Voice. 
  7. ^ Rea, Steven (March 23, 2007). "'Pride' lacks pride of place". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Archived from the original on 2007-07-02. 
  8. ^ Rea, Steven (March 23, 2007). "A good soldier, suitable for framing". The Philadelphia Inquirer. 

External links[edit]