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. In the Pennsylvania State Museum
1811 – c. 1813 Members of the City Troop and Other Philadelphia Soldiery John Lewis Krimmel Watercolor, gouache, and graphite
1819 Declaration of Independence John Trumbull Oil on canvas. In the U.S. Capitol rotunda, Washington, D.C.
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. In the Philadelphia Museum of Art[1]


Date Title Author Notes
1795 Der Gaukler der Könige (The Conjurer of Kings) Marion Philadelphia A biographical novel on the life of Jacob Philadelphia
1798 Wieland Charles Brockden Brown
1844 Morning on the Wissahiccon Edgar Allan Poe
1845 The Quaker City, or The Monks of Monk Hall 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
1994 Third and Indiana Steve Lopez
1994 Flyy Girl Omar Tyree Features the character Tracy Ellison
1988–2003 Badge of Honor 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 The Woman in the Wilderness Johnathan D. Scott About the life of Johannes Kelpius
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
1900? "Off to Philadelphia" Unknown Traditional Irish Song perhaps most famously recorded by John McCormack
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.
1984 "The Heart of Rock & Roll" Huey Lewis and the News "The Liberty Town" refers to Philadelphia
1985 "Punk Rock Girl" The Dead Milkmen Lyrics reference Zipperhead and the Philly Pizza Company, both on South Street
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 Lyrics mention several streets in Philadelphia, along with the line 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; 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
1994 "Freedom of '76" Ween
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"
1998 "Miami" Will Smith Contains the line "And we all know that L.A. and Philly stay jiggy"
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 Featured song on Philadelphia rapper's 2005 album Feast or Famine
2007 "Ms. Philadelphia" Musiq Soulchild
2007 "Goodbye Philadelphia" Peter Cincotti
2019 "Trouble in Town" Coldplay Partially inspired by a stop and frisk encounter that two blacks had with Philadelphia Police back in 2013

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 Just Friends (Sunny) Musiq Soulchild
2000 Gettin' In the Way Jill Scott
2001 A Long Walk Jill Scott
2001 Floetic Floetry (UK duo)
2005 "Who Says You Can't Go Home" Bon Jovi Music video depicts Habitat for Humanity project with Bon Jovi and Philadelphia Soul arena football team building homes in a low income neighborhood. Philly sports fans, firefighters of the Philadelphia Fire Department, and police officers of the Philadelphia Police Department make appearances in the music video as well.
2003 "Alright" Allen Anthony


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 U.S. Silent film based on the play by George Kelly; stars Ford Sterling [1]
1933 42nd Street U.S. Busby Berkeley musical, ending takes place in Philadelphia [2]
1934 The Show-Off U.S. Based on the play by George Kelly; stars Spencer Tracy [3]
1939 The Old Maid U.S. Based on the play by Zoë Akins [4]
1940 The Philadelphia Story U.S. Stars Jimmy Stewart, Katharine Hepburn, and Cary Grant; takes place on the Main Line, based on a play[2] [5]
1940 Kitty Foyle U.S. Based on a 1939 novel[2] [6]
1941 The Big Store U.S. Stars the Marx Brothers [7]
1946 The Show-Off U.S. Based on the play by George Kelly; stars Red Skelton [8]
1949 That Midnight Kiss U.S. Opera Singer Mario Lanza's first role. [9]
1957 The Burglar U.S. Based on the book by David Goodis [10]
1959 The Young Philadelphians U.S. Based on Richard P. Powell's novel The Philadelphian; stars Paul Newman and Robert Vaughn [11]
1964 Marnie U.S. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock [12]
1967 The Happiest Millionaire U.S. Musical about Anthony Joseph Drexel Biddle, Sr. [13]
1968 High School U.S. Documentary [14]
1972 1776 U.S. Adapted from Broadway musical [15]
1973 Trick Baby U.S. Stars Kiel Martin and Mel Stewart [16]
1976 Rocky U.S. Written by and starring Sylvester Stallone[5] [17]
1978 Dawn of the Dead Italy/USA Sequel to Night of the Living Dead; directed by George A. Romero [18]
1979 Rocky II U.S. Written by and starring Sylvester Stallone [19]
1981 Blow Out U.S. Directed by Brian De Palma[5] [20]
1981 Bustin' Loose U.S. Stars Richard Pryor and Cicely Tyson [21]
1982 Rocky III U.S. Written by and starring Sylvester Stallone [22]
1982 Fighting Back U.S. Vigilante Picture [23]
1983 Trading Places U.S. Stars Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy[5] [24]
1984 Birdy U.S. Directed by Alan Parker [25]
1984 The Philadelphia Experiment U.S. Based on the urban legend of the Philadelphia Experiment [26]
1985 Rocky IV U.S. Written by and starring Sylvester Stallone [27]
1985 Witness U.S. Stars Harrison Ford[5] [28]
1986 The Bombing of Osage Avenue U.S. 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 [29]
1987 Mannequin[5] U.S. [30]
1988 Stealing Home U.S. Starring Mark Harmon and Jodie Foster [31]
1990 Downtown U.S. Directed by Richard Benjamin; stars Anthony Edwards and Forest Whitaker [32]
1990 Rocky V U.S. Written by and starring Sylvester Stallone [33]
1991 Mannequin 2 U.S. [34]
1993 Money for Nothing U.S. Stars John Cusack [35]
1993 Philadelphia U.S. Stars Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington[5] [36]
1995 Twelve Monkeys U.S. Directed by Terry Gilliam[5] [37]
1995 Two Bits U.S. Directed by James Foley [38]
1996 Up Close & Personal U.S. [39]
1998 Wide Awake U.S. Directed by M. Night Shyamalan [40]
1998 Fallen U.S. Directed by Gregory Hoblit, starring Denzel Washington [41]
1999 The Sixth Sense U.S. Directed by M. Night Shyamalan, stars Bruce Willis and Haley Joel Osment[5] [42]
2000 Best in Show U.S. Mockumentary about five entrants in a prestigious Philadelphia dog show; directed by Christopher Guest [43]
2000 Unbreakable U.S. Directed by M. Night Shyamalan, stars Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson[5] [44]
2001 A.I. Artificial Intelligence[citation needed] U.S. Directed by Steven Spielberg, stars Haley Joel Osment [45]
2002 Confessions of a Dangerous Mind U.S. Based on the autobiography by Chuck Barris; directed by George Clooney; stars Sam Rockwell [46]
2002 State Property U.S. Stars Beanie Sigel [47]
2003 Death by Association U.S. Written and directed by Anthony L. Fletcher [48]
2003 My Architect: A Son's Journey U.S. Documentary on architect Louis Kahn [49]
2004 The 24th Day U.S. [50]
2004 Fat Albert U.S. Based on the animated television series by Bill Cosby [51]
2004 National Treasure U.S. Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, stars Nicolas Cage[5] [52]
2005 E-A-G-L-E-S: The Movie U.S. Documentary on the Philadelphia Eagles' 2004 season [53]
2005 A History of Violence U.S. Directed by David Cronenberg, based on a graphic novel [54]
2005 In Her Shoes U.S. Directed by Curtis Hanson, starring Cameron Diaz[5] [55]
2005 Shadowboxer U.S. [56]
2005 State Property 2 U.S. Stars Beanie Sigel [57]
2005 Train Ride U.S. [58]
2006 10th & Wolf U.S. Directed by Robert Moresco[6] [59]
2006 Invincible U.S. 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 [60]
2006 Lady in the Water U.S. Directed by M. Night Shyamalan [61]
2006 Rocky Balboa U.S. Written by and starring Sylvester Stallone [62]
2006 The Shame of a City U.S. Documentary on the 2003 Philadelphia mayoral campaign between John F. Street and Sam Katz [63]
2007 Pride U.S. Directed by Sunu Gonera, starring Terrence Howard;[7] based on the life of swimming coach Jim Ellis [64]
2007 Shooter U.S. Directed by Antoine Fuqua, starring Mark Wahlberg[8] [65]
2008 Cover U.S. Starring Aunjanue Ellis [66]
2008 Then She Found Me U.S. Directed by Helen Hunt, based on the novel by Elinor Lipman [67]
2008 Marley & Me U.S. 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 [68]
2008 Baby Mama U.S. Starring Tina Fey [69]
2008 The Happening U.S. Directed by M. Night Shyamalan [70]
2009 Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen U.S. Directed by Michael Bay [71]
2009 Law Abiding Citizen U.S. Directed by F. Gary Gray [72]
2010 Devil U.S. Directed by John Erick Dowdle [73]
2011 Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles U.S. Directed by Jon Foy [74]
2012 Silver Linings Playbook U.S. Directed by David O. Russell [75]
2015 Creed U.S. Directed by Ryan Coogler [76]
2019 The Irishman U.S. Directed by Martin Scorsese, based on the book I Heard You Paint Houses by Charles Brandt [77]


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 [78]
1965–1978 The Mike Douglas Show Syndicated talk show hosted by Mike Douglas; moved to Los Angeles in 1978 [79]
1968–2012 One Life to Live ABC daytime drama (same-day rebroadcasts on SOAPnet from 2000 to 2012); set in fictional town of Llanview, Pennsylvania, modeled after the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia [80]
1969 Hey, Hey, Hey: It's Fat Albert NBC live action/animated special, precursor to the Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids animated series [81]
1970–2011 All My Children ABC daytime drama (same-day rebroadcasts on SOAPnet from 2000 to 2011); set in the fictional town of Pine Valley, Pennsylvania, described as a Philadelphia suburb on the Main Line [82]
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 [83]
1973–1986 Schoolhouse Rock! – America Rock ABC series of educational animated short films, designed to teach children about American history through song; aired between Saturday morning cartoons on a rotating basis along with other Schoolhouse Rock! short films [84]
1976–1978 The Tony Randall Show ABC sitcom [85]
1979 Blacks in America: With All Deliberate Speed? CBS News two-part documentary; 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 [9]
1979 - 1980 Angie ABC sitcom [86]
1981–1987 Dancin' on Air Dance and music show, aired locally weekdays on WPHL-TV (Philadelphia) [87]
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 [88]
1984–1989 Brothers Showtime comedy series [89]
1985 Live Aid Multi-venue benefit rock concert held on July 13, 1985 to aid famine relief in Ethiopia; a major venue was John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia; broadcast live to 1.5 billion viewers in over 100 countries [90]
1986–1991 Amen NBC sitcom [91]
1986–1993 Double Dare Nickelodeon game show for children; originated from the studios of PBS member station WHYY-TV (Philadelphia) [92]
1987 Frontline PBS documentary series; episode "The Bombing of West Philly" examines the 1985 bombing of the MOVE house by the Philadelphia Police Department; aired May 5, 1987 [93]
1987–1988 Bustin' Loose Syndicated sitcom, based on the Richard Pryor film [94]
1987–1991 thirtysomething ABC drama [95]
1989–1991 Shannon's Deal NBC drama [96]
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 (mentioned in the theme song) [97]
1992 You Bet Your Life Syndicated game show hosted by Bill Cosby; a remake of the original, hosted by Groucho Marx [98]
1993–2000 Boy Meets World ABC sitcom [99]
1994 The Oprah Winfrey Show Syndicated talk show; episode highlighting Philadelphia aired May 23, 1994 [100]
1994 Philly Heat ABC miniseries about members of the Philadelphia Fire Department [101]
1995–1997 Brotherly Love NBC/The WB sitcom [102]
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 [103]
1998 Africans in America: America's Journey Through Slavery PBS miniseries/documentary; part 3, "Brotherly Love", examines colonial Philadelphia and its community of free African Americans [104]
1998 The Garbage Picking Field Goal Kicking Philadelphia Phenomenon ABC made-for-television movie [105]
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 [106]
1999–2004 Little Bill Nick Jr. cartoon
2000–2006 Strong Medicine Lifetime medical drama [107]
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 [108]
2001–2002 Philly ABC drama [109]
2002–2005 American Dreams NBC drama; American Bandstand's presence in Philadelphia in the 1960s is central to the major premise of the series [110]
2002–2004 Hack CBS drama [111]
2003–2010 Cold Case CBS drama [112]
2004 The Big House ABC sitcom [113]
2004–present Living It Up with Patti LaBelle TV One lifestyle show; some episodes highlight people and places from the host's hometown of Philadelphia [114]
2004–2005 The Real World: Philadelphia MTV reality series [115]
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; a major venue was the Philadelphia Museum of Art; broadcast intermittently in the United States on MTV and VH1 [116]
2005 The Amazing Race: Family Edition CBS reality series; first leg of the race ended in Philadelphia [117]
2005–present It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia FX sitcom [118]
2006–2007 The Class CBS sitcom [119]
2006–2010 'Til Death Fox sitcom; characters have telephone numbers with area code 215, indicating the Philadelphia metropolitan area [120]
2008 American Idol 7 Fox reality series; northeast regional auditions held at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia; aired on January 15, 2008 [121]
2008 Parking Wars A&E Network reality series spotlighting the Philadelphia Parking Authority [122]
2010–2014 Boardwalk Empire HBO Series – Based on the real life of Enoch "Nucky" Johnson of Atlantic City with much of the story involving Philadelphia prohibition-era gangsters. [123]
2011–2013 Body of Proof ABC drama [124]
2013–present The Goldbergs An ABC comedy about a boy's coming of age in the Philadelphia suburb of Jenkintown, Pennsylvania. Multiple Philadelphia sports teams are referenced throughout the show, including the Philadelphia Eagles and the Philadelphia Flyers. [125]
2014–present How to Get Away with Murder ABC legal drama [126]

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Video games[edit]

Date Title Notes
2000 Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2
2004 Tony Hawk's Underground 2
Street Racing Syndicate
2007 Tony Hawk's Proving Ground
2010 Heavy Rain Cited by the designers as strongly influenced by Philadelphia
2013 Splinter Cell Blacklist
2015 Homefront: The Revolution

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Salisbury, Stephan (November 11, 2006). "City art icon about to be sold". The Philadelphia Inquirer.
  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.
  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.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  6. ^ Atkinson, Michael (August 22, 2006). "'10th & Wolf'". The Village Voice. Archived from the original on October 12, 2008.
  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.
  9. ^ Fearn-Banks, Kathleen; Burford-Johnson, Anne (2014). Historical Dictionary of African American Television. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 67. ISBN 9780810879171.

External links[edit]