Philadelphia (film)

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Philadelphia imp.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJonathan Demme
Written byRon Nyswaner
Produced byJonathan Demme
Edward Saxon
CinematographyTak Fujimoto
Edited byCraig McKay
Music byHoward Shore
Clinica Estetico
Distributed byTriStar Pictures
Release date
  • December 14, 1993 (1993-12-14) (Los Angeles)
  • December 22, 1993 (1993-12-22) (United States)
Running time
126 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$26 million
Box office$206.7 million[1]

Philadelphia is a 1993 American legal drama film written by Ron Nyswaner, directed by Jonathan Demme and starring Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington.[2] It is notable for being one of the first mainstream Hollywood films to acknowledge HIV/AIDS.

For his role as Andrew Beckett, Hanks won the Academy Award for Best Actor at the 66th Academy Awards, while the song "Streets of Philadelphia" by Bruce Springsteen won the Academy Award for Best Original Song. Nyswaner was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, but lost to Jane Campion for The Piano.


Andrew Beckett is a senior associate at the largest corporate law firm in Philadelphia, Wyant, Wheeler, Hellerman, Tetlow, and Brown. He hides his homosexuality and his status as an AIDS patient from the other members of the firm. A partner in the firm notices a lesion on Beckett's forehead. Although Beckett attributes the lesion to a racquetball injury, it indicates Kaposi's sarcoma, an AIDS-defining condition.

Shortly thereafter, Beckett stays home from work for several days to try to find a way to hide his lesions. While at home, he finishes the paperwork for a case he has been assigned and then brings it to his office, leaving instructions for his assistants to file the paperwork the following day, which marks the end of the statute of limitations for the case. Later that morning, he receives a call asking for the paperwork, as the paper copy cannot be found and there are no copies on the computer's hard drive. The paperwork is finally discovered in an alternate location and is filed with the court at the last possible moment. The following day, Beckett is dismissed by the firm's partners.

Beckett believes that someone deliberately hid his paperwork to give the firm an excuse to fire him, and that the dismissal is actually a result of his diagnosis with AIDS as well as his sexuality. He asks ten attorneys to take his case, including African-American personal injury lawyer Joe Miller, whom Beckett previously opposed in an unrelated case. Miller appears to be worried that he could contract Beckett's illness. After declining to take the case, Miller immediately visits his doctor to find out if he could have contracted the disease. The doctor explains that the routes of HIV infection do not include casual contact.

Unable to find a lawyer willing to represent him, Beckett is compelled to act as his own attorney. While researching a case at a law library, Miller sees Beckett at a nearby table. A librarian approaches Beckett and announces that he has found a case on AIDS discrimination for him. As others in the library begin to first stare uneasily, the librarian suggests Beckett go to a private room. Seeing the parallels in how he himself has faced discrimination due to his race, Miller approaches Beckett, reviews the material he has gathered, and takes the case.

As the case goes before the court, the partners of the firm take the stand, each claiming that Beckett was incompetent and that he had deliberately tried to hide his condition. The defense repeatedly suggests that Beckett brought AIDS upon himself by having gay sex, and is therefore not a victim. In the course of testimony, it is revealed that the partner who had noticed Beckett's lesion, Walter Kenton, had previously worked with a woman who had contracted AIDS after a blood transfusion and so should have recognized the lesion as relating to AIDS. According to Kenton, the woman was an innocent victim, unlike Beckett, and further testified that he did not recognize Beckett's lesions. To prove that the lesions would have been visible, Miller asks Beckett to unbutton his shirt while on the witness stand, revealing that his lesions are indeed visible and recognizable as such. Over the course of the trial, Miller's homophobia slowly disappears as he and Beckett bond from working together.

Beckett eventually collapses during the trial and is hospitalized. After this, another partner, Bob Seidman, who had also noticed Beckett's lesions, confesses that he suspected Beckett had AIDS but never told anyone and never gave him the opportunity to explain himself, which he regrets very much. During his hospitalization, the jury votes in Beckett's favor, awarding him back pay, damages for pain and suffering and punitive damages, totaling over $5 million. Miller visits the visibly failing Beckett in the hospital after the verdict and overcomes his fear enough to touch Beckett's face. After the family leaves the room, Beckett tells his partner Miguel Alvarez that he is "ready." At the Miller home later that night, Miller and his wife are awakened by a phone call from Alvarez, who tells them that Beckett has died peacefully. A memorial is held at Beckett's family home following the funeral, where many mourners, including Miller and his family, view home movies of Beckett as a happy child.



Daniel Day-Lewis was offered the role of Andrew Beckett, but turned it down.[3][4] Bill Murray and Robin Williams were considered for the role of Joe Miller.[5][6] John Leguizamo was offered the role of Miguel Álvarez, but turned it down to play Luigi in Super Mario Bros.[7]


The events in the film are similar to the events in the lives of attorneys Geoffrey Bowers and Clarence Cain. Bowers was an attorney who, in 1987, sued the law firm Baker McKenzie for wrongful dismissal in one of the first AIDS discrimination cases. Cain was an attorney for Hyatt Legal Services who was fired after his employer found out he had AIDS. He sued Hyatt in 1990, and won just before his death.[8]


Bowers' family sued the writers and producers of the film. A year after Bowers' death in 1987, a producer, Scott Rudin had interviewed the Bowers family and their lawyers and, according to the family, promised compensation for the use of Bowers' story as a basis for a film. Family members asserted that 54 scenes in the movie were so similar to events in Bowers's life that some of them could only have come from their interviews. However, the defense said that Rudin had abandoned the project after hiring a writer and did not share any information the family had provided.[9] The lawsuit was settled after five days of testimony. Although terms of the agreement were not released, the defendants did admit that "the film 'was inspired in part'" by Bowers' story.[10]


Theatrical release[edit]

Philadelphia premiered in Los Angeles on December 14, 1993 and opened in limited release in four theaters on December 22, before expanding into wide release on January 14, 1994.[11][12] The L.A. premiere was a benefit for AIDS Project Los Angeles, which netted $250,000 APLA Chair Steve Tisch told the LA Times.[13]

The film was the first Hollywood big-budget, big-star film to tackle the issue of AIDS in the U.S. (following the TV movie And the Band Played On) and signaled a shift in Hollywood films toward more realistic depictions of people in the LGBT community. Extras cast in this film included 53 people who were AIDS-infected as of the time of shooting the film. By the end of 1994, 43 out of those 53 people had died - demonstrating the close linkage between fiction and fact.[14][15] According to a Tom Hanks interview for the 1995 documentary The Celluloid Closet, scenes showing more affection between him and Banderas were cut, including one with him and Banderas in bed together. The DVD edition, produced by Automat Pictures, includes this scene.[16]

Home media[edit]

Philadelphia was released on VHS on June 29, 1994[17] and on DVD on September 10, 1997.[18] Philadelphia was later released on Blu-Ray on May 14, 2013.[18] In conjunction with the film's 25th anniversary, the film was released on 4K Blu-Ray on November 27, 2018.[19]

The screenplay was also republished in a novelization by writer Christopher Davis in 1994.[20]


Box office[edit]

Philadelphia was originally released on December 22, 1993, in a limited opening of only four theaters, and had a weekend gross of $143,433 with an average of $35,858 per theater. The film expanded its release on January 14, 1994, to 1,245 theaters and went to number one at the US box office, grossing $13.8 million over the 4-day Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend, averaging $11,098 per theater. The film stayed at number 1 the following weekend, earning another $8.8 million.

In its 14th weekend, the weekend after the Oscars, the film expanded to 888 theaters, and saw its gross increase by 70 percent, making $1.9 million and jumping from number 15 the previous weekend (when it made $1.1 million from 673 theaters), to returning to the top ten ranking at number 8 that weekend.

Philadelphia eventually grossed $77.4 million in North America and $129.2 million overseas for a total of $206.7 million worldwide against a budget of $26 million, making it a significant box office success, and becoming the 12th highest-grossing film in the U.S. of 1993.[1]

Critical response[edit]

On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 81% based on 57 reviews, with an average rating of 6.8/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "Philadelphia indulges in some unfortunate clichés in its quest to impart a meaningful message, but its stellar cast and sensitive direction are more than enough to compensate."[21] Metacritic gave the film a weighted average score of 66 out of 100, based on 21 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews."[22] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.[23]

In a contemporary review for the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert gave the film three and a half out of four stars and said that it is "quite a good film, on its own terms. And for moviegoers with an antipathy to AIDS but an enthusiasm for stars like Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington, it may help to broaden understanding of the disease. It's a ground-breaker like Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967), the first major film about an interracial romance; it uses the chemistry of popular stars in a reliable genre to sidestep what looks like controversy."[24]

Christopher Matthews from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer wrote "Jonathan Demme's long-awaited Philadelphia is so expertly acted, well-meaning and gutsy that you find yourself constantly pulling for it to be the definitive AIDS movie."[25] James Berardinelli from ReelViews wrote "The story is timely and powerful, and the performances of Hanks and Washington assure that the characters will not immediately vanish into obscurity."[25] Rita Kempley from The Washington Post wrote "It's less like a film by Demme than the best of Frank Capra. It is not just canny, corny and blatantly patriotic, but compassionate, compelling and emotionally devastating."[25]

Year-end lists[edit]


Award Category Recipient(s) Result
Academy Awards Best Actor Tom Hanks Won
Best Original Screenplay[30] Ron Nyswaner Nominated
Best Makeup Carl Fullerton and Alan D'Angerio Nominated
Best Original Song Neil Young
Bruce Springsteen
("Streets of Philadelphia")
ASCAP Awards Most Performed Songs from Motion Pictures Bruce Springsteen
("Streets of Philadelphia")
Top Box Office Films Howard Shore Won
BAFTA Awards Best Original Screenplay Ron Nyswaner Nominated
Berlin International Film Festival Golden Berlin Bear Jonathan Demme Nominated
Silver Berlin Bear for Best Actor[31] Tom Hanks Won
Casting Society of America Artios for Best Casting for Feature Film, Drama Howard Feuer Nominated
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards Best Director Jonathan Demme Nominated
Best Actor Tom Hanks Nominated
Dallas–Fort Worth Film Critics Association Awards Best Actor 3rd place
GLAAD Media Award Outstanding Film – Wide Release Jonathan Demme and Edward Saxon Won
Golden Globe Awards Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama Tom Hanks Won
Best Screenplay Ron Nyswaner Nominated
Best Original Song Bruce Springsteen
("Streets of Philadelphia")
Goldene Leinwand Awards (Golden Screen) Goldene Leinwand TriStar Pictures Won
Grammy Award (37th annual) Song of the Year Bruce Springsteen
("Streets of Philadelphia")
Best Rock Song Won
Best Song Written Specifically for a
Motion Picture or for Television
Best Male Rock Vocal Performance Won
MTV Movie Awards Best Song from a Movie Nominated
Best Movie Jonathan Demme and Edward Saxon Nominated
Best Male Performance Tom Hanks Won
Best On-Screen Duo Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington Nominated
Writers Guild of America Award Best Original Screenplay Ron Nyswaner Nominated
Organization List Rank
American Film Institute AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes and Villains (Top 50 Heroes) #49
AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers: America's Most Inspiring Movies #20
National Board of Review Awards Top Ten Films (1993) #7


A soundtrack album was released in January 1994, by TriStar Music containing the main music featured in the film.[32]

Track listing[edit]

1."Streets of Philadelphia"Bruce Springsteen3:56
2."Lovetown"Peter Gabriel5:29
3."It's in Your Eyes"Pauletta Washington3:46
4."Ibo Lele (Dreams Come True)"RAM4:15
5."Please Send Me Someone to Love"Sade3:44
6."Have You Ever Seen the Rain?"Spin Doctors2:41
7."I Don't Wanna Talk About It"Indigo Girls3:41
8."La mamma morta" (From the Opera Andrea Chénier)Maria Callas4:53
9."Philadelphia"Neil Young4:06
10."Precedent"Howard Shore4:03

The album was re-released in 2008 in France only as a CD/DVD combo pack with the film itself, containing the same track listing (catalogue number 88697 322052 under both Sony BMG Music Entertainment and Sony Classical labels).[citation needed] The director deliberately asked Bruce Springsteen to make the feature song for this film in an effort to draw in those who may not know much about AIDS, so as to make their viewing of the film more comfortable, and to raise awareness overall.[25] However, Springsteen's first contribution, "Tunnel of Love," was rejected by Demme.

Certifications and sales[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Austria (IFPI Austria)[33] Platinum 50,000*
Belgium (BEA)[34] Platinum 50,000*
Canada (Music Canada)[35] 3× Platinum 300,000^
France (SNEP)[36] 2× Gold 200,000*
Germany (BVMI)[37] Gold 250,000^
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[38] Platinum 100,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[39] Platinum 50,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[40] Gold 100,000^
United States (RIAA)[42] Platinum 1,160,000[41]
Europe (IFPI)[43] Platinum 1,000,000*

* Sales figures based on certification alone.
^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Philadelphia (1993)". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on July 14, 2019. Retrieved February 19, 2020.
  2. ^ "Philadelphia". Turner Classic Movies. Archived from the original on March 31, 2016. Retrieved March 29, 2016.
  3. ^ Avery, Dave (November 4, 2013). "'Philadelphia' Screenwriter Ron Nyswaner On How The Movie Got Made, Who Passed On It, And More". NewNextNow. Archived from the original on November 7, 2013.
  4. ^ "Daniel Day-Lewis: Hollywood's most wanted". The Independent. January 7, 2003. Archived from the original on March 16, 2018.
  5. ^ Evans, Bradford (February 17, 2011). "The Lost Roles of Bill Murray". Vulture. Archived from the original on October 5, 2021.
  6. ^ Evans, Bradford (March 31, 2011). "The Lost Roles of Robin Williams". Vulture. Archived from the original on July 19, 2021.
  7. ^ "John Leguizamo Turned Down Role of Tom Hanks' Lover in 'Philadelphia' for 'Super Mario Bros.'". Yahoo!. September 13, 2020. Archived from the original on August 29, 2021.
  8. ^ Blumenfeld, Laura (January 25, 1994). "The Ghost of 'Philadelphia'". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on October 21, 2021.
  9. ^ Pristin, Terry (March 11, 1996). "Philadelphia Screenplay Suit to Reach Court". The New York Times. Archived from the original on November 5, 2012. Retrieved February 25, 2008.
  10. ^ "Philadelphia Makers Settle Suit". The New York Times. March 20, 1996. Archived from the original on March 17, 2008. Retrieved February 25, 2008.
  11. ^ "Philadelphia". AFI Catalog. Retrieved November 3, 2019.
  12. ^ Turan, Kenneth (December 22, 1993). "Movie Review: Bittersweet 'Philadelphia': Actors Deliver Strong Performances in Socially Conscious Film". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on August 24, 2019. Retrieved November 7, 2016.
  13. ^ Higgins, Bill (December 16, 1993). "'Philadelphia' Moves the Masses". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on December 18, 2019. Retrieved December 18, 2019.
  14. ^ Quinn, Edward (1999). A Dictionary of Literary and Thematic Terms. Checkmark Books. p. 10.
  15. ^ Rothman, Clifford (January 1, 1995). "FILM; 'Philadelphia': Oscar Gives Way to Elegy". The New York Times. p. 9. Archived from the original on July 9, 2018. Retrieved February 9, 2020.
  16. ^ Philadelphia. Dir. Jonathan Demme. Perf. Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington. TriStar Pictures, 1993.
  17. ^ McQueen, Max (June 11, 1994). "'Wayne's World 2' hurling your way on video". The Free Lance-Star. Archived from the original on October 21, 2021. Retrieved October 20, 2021 – via Google News Archive.
  18. ^ a b "Philadelphia DVD Release Date". DVDs Release Dates. Archived from the original on November 14, 2018. Retrieved November 13, 2018.
  19. ^ "Philadelphia 4K Blu-ray". Archived from the original on November 13, 2018. Retrieved November 13, 2018.
  20. ^ Nelson, Emmanuel S. (2009). Encyclopedia of Contemporary LGBTQ Literature of the United States. Greenwood Press. pp. 169–171. ISBN 978-0-313-34859-4.
  21. ^ "Philadelphia (1993)". Rotten Tomatoes. Archived from the original on March 16, 2020. Retrieved September 5, 2019.
  22. ^ "Philadelphia reviews". Metacritic. Archived from the original on July 21, 2020. Retrieved August 12, 2019.
  23. ^ "Find CinemaScore" (Type "Philadelphia" in the search box). CinemaScore. Archived from the original on January 2, 2018. Retrieved August 12, 2019.
  24. ^ Ebert, Roger (January 14, 1994). "Philadelphia Movie Review & Film Summary (1994)". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on February 6, 2021. Retrieved July 6, 2014 – via
  25. ^ a b c d Ryll, Alexander. "Essential Gay Themed Films To Watch, Philadelphia". Gay Essential. Archived from the original on February 6, 2015. Retrieved February 5, 2015.
  26. ^ Craft, Dan (December 30, 1994). "Success, Failure and a Lot of In-between; Movies '94". The Pantagraph. p. B1.
  27. ^ Vadeboncoeur, Joan (January 8, 1995). "Critically Acclaimed Best Movies of '94 Include Works from Tarantino, Burton, Demme, Redford, Disney and Speilberg". Syracuse Herald American (Final ed.). p. 16.
  28. ^ King, Dennis (December 25, 1994). "SCREEN SAVERS In a Year of Faulty Epics, The Oddest Little Movies Made The Biggest Impact". Tulsa World (Final Home ed.). p. E1.
  29. ^ Carlton, Bob (December 29, 1994). "It Was a Good Year at Movies". The Birmingham News. p. 12-01.
  30. ^ Cante, Richard C. (March 2009). "Afterthoughts from Philadelphia...and Somewhere Else". Gay Men and the Forms of Contemporary US Culture. London: Ashgate Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7546-7230-2.
  31. ^ "Berlinale: 1994 Prize Winners". Archived from the original on May 1, 2014. Retrieved December 29, 2011.
  32. ^ "SoundtrackINFO: Philadelphia Soundtrack". Archived from the original on June 28, 2019. Retrieved July 21, 2019.
  33. ^ "Austrian album certifications – Soundtrack – Philadelphia" (in German). IFPI Austria. Retrieved January 4, 2020.
  34. ^ "Ultratop − Goud en Platina – albums 2002". Ultratop. Hung Medien. Archived from the original on March 8, 2021. Retrieved October 26, 2018.
  35. ^ "Canadian album certifications – Various Artists – Philadelphia - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack". Music Canada. Retrieved October 26, 2018.
  36. ^ "French album certifications – B.O.F. – Philadelphia" (in French). Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique. Retrieved October 26, 2018.
  37. ^ "Gold-/Platin-Datenbank (O.S.T. - Various; 'Philadelphia')" (in German). Bundesverband Musikindustrie. Retrieved October 26, 2018.
  38. ^ Salaverri, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (1st ed.). Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE. p. 937. ISBN 84-8048-639-2.
  39. ^ "The Official Swiss Charts and Music Community: Awards (Soundtrack; 'Philadelphia')". IFPI Switzerland. Hung Medien. Retrieved October 26, 2018.
  40. ^ "British album certifications – Soundtrack – Philadelphia". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved October 26, 2018.
  41. ^ Basham, David (February 7, 2002). "Got Charts?". Mtv. Archived from the original on January 21, 2020. Retrieved July 9, 2019.
  42. ^ "American album certifications – Soundtrack – Philadelphia". Recording Industry Association of America.
  43. ^ "IFPI Platinum Europe Awards – 1996". International Federation of the Phonographic Industry. Retrieved February 2, 2020.

External links[edit]