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Best Movies Set in Philadelphia

The Philadelphia Eagles, my hometown football team, have advanced to compete in Super Bowl LII.

In anticipation—or, at the very least, hopes—of their upset against the New England Patriots, here are some of the best movies that not only were filmed in the City of Brotherly Love, but also make the best use of its landmarks.

Happy viewing.

And Go, Birds!

 

Twelve Monkeys (1995)

Image via Universal Studios

Terry Gilliam’s mind-bending time-travel tale sends futuristic Bruce Willis back to 1990s-era Philadelphia to trace the genesis of a global viral outbreak. Among the Philly landmarks showcased, the iconic Second Empire-style City Hall gets a lot of screen time, its imposing marble structure and distinctive tower given an eerie and appropriately post-apocalyptic makeover.

 

Trading Places (1983)

Image via Paramount Pictures

Many familiar Philly landmarks and vistas are shown during the opening credits montage, downtown plazas and area parks make for scenic backdrops, and a few prominent buildings are repurposed to serve as such locations as Duke & Duke headquarters, the Heritage Club, and the Police precinct house. More than most Hollywood productions that have been filmed in Philadelphia, Trading Places goes out of its way to make my fine hometown look good.

 

Witness (1985)

Image via Paramount Pictures

Most of the movie is concerned with a tough Philly cop (Harrison Ford) hiding out in Pennsylvania Amish country to protect a young witness of a brutal murder, but the opening sequence—a Hitchcockian slow-burn montage building up to the horrific crime that sets the plot in motion—makes terrific use of the city’s Neoclassical-style 30th Street Station.

 

Blow Out (1981)

Image via MGM Studios

There are white-knuckle suspense sequences throughout Brian De Palma’s haunting conspiracy thriller that show us varied views of Philadelphia, from serene Wissahickon Walk and the bustling Reading Terminal Market to the architecturally distinctive Penn’s Landing, Independence Hall, 30th Street Station, and City Hall. Best shot: a helicopter view follows John Travolta as he drives a jeep at high speed down Market Street, through the courtyard of City Hall, and into an oncoming Mummers parade, finally crashing into a window display of the famous John Wanamaker’s department store.

 

Rocky (1976)

Image via United Artists

Philly’s claim to Hollywood fame, Rocky is the movie that put my hometown on the movie map. Its sequels less so (the fourth film was shot mostly in Vancouver), but the training montage moments of the Italian Stallion jogging through the city and struggling up the mountainous steps of the Museum of Art continue to inspire legions of motivated movie fans to run up those same stairs triumphantly.

True to the first Rocky, the contemporary spinoff Creed and its forthcoming sequel are likewise set in the City of Brotherly Love.

 

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