Of all the big-city backdrops for movies, Philadelphia has had its fair share of starring roles. With an endless supply of iconic landmarks and a wealth of history, Philly has long been a favorite choice of settings for screenwriters including Sylvester Stallone and M. Night Shyamalan, both of whom used Philadelphia and surrounding areas in multiple films. From famous landmarks, parks and museums to local eateries and everything in between, we can’t imagine any of these top films without Philadelphia as its backdrop. While not every scene from the flicks noted here was shot in the City of Brotherly Love, plenty were, and we’ll share some of the more popular spots with you.
While the house depicted as the Philadelphia childhood home of Benjamin Franklin Gates, played by Nicolas Cage in “National Treasure” is actually in California, several of the film’s key scenes were indeed filmed in the City of Brotherly Love. In the movie, we see Cage’s character cross the Delaware into Philly from New Jersey via the Ben Franklin Bridge. Key scenes were filmed in the Franklin Institute as well as inside Independence Hall, as Cage’s character scrambles to find a clue he believes is hidden with the Liberty Bell. In another scene, you see Cage’s character crossing Washington Square on his way to Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market at 12th and Arch Street, which was the backdrop to a nail-biting chase scene.
Set in the city of the same name, the movie “Philadelphia” tells the story of Andrew Beckett, a corporate lawyer battling his former employer, the largest law firm in the city, for firing him because he has AIDS. Denzel Washington is Hanks’ legal counsel in the film, and Antonio Banderas plays the part of Hanks’ life partner. The movie begins with a montage of Philly’s iconic settings, including the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, the Philadelphia skyline and the Liberty Bell. The doctors’ office where Hanks’ character is getting a check-up is in a building opposite the Pennsylvania Convention Center, and Hanks’ former law firm is housed in Philadelphia’s prestigious Mellon Building. Denzel Washington’s character works out of a small law office that is located on the corner of Chestnut and 19th streets, and other locations include the Spectrum Sports Arena (long gone now), and Philadelphia City Hall, where Beckett’s case against his former employer is tried.
Rocky Film Series (1976, 1979, 1982, 1985, 1990, 2006, and 2015)
Everybody knows that Rocky and Philadelphia go together, thanks to that iconic scene on the stairs of the Philadelphia Museum of Art – and to the popular Rocky Balboa statue at the base of the stairs. Countless scenes from the “Rocky” films, the seventh of which is due out in theaters in November of 2015, were filmed in locations throughout Philadelphia, and are popular tourist attractions. In addition to the Art Museum, popular sites where the movies were filmed include the Italian Market in South Philly, which is the nation’s largest (and oldest) working outdoor market and home to Esposito’s Meats, the site of the famous boxing a side-of-beef scene. Some of the many training scenes were filled with Boathouse Row, Penn’s Landing, and Independence Hall in the background, and other famous scenes include shots from the Philadelphia Zoo, Rittenhouse Square, and historic Laurel Hill Cemetery off Kelly Drive – all backdrops to scenes featuring Rocky and Adrian.
“Silver Linings Playbook” is about a man who suffers from bipolar disorder, Pat Solatano (played by Bradley Cooper), who moves back in with his parents after being released from a psychiatric hospital. Cooper’s character is determined to win back his ex-wife, and plots to do so with the help of a young widow played by Jennifer Lawrence. The film is shot in the Philly suburbs of Upper Darby, Ridley Park and Lansdowne, and key scenes involve the Philadelphia Eagles and the 2008 NFL football season. The Llanerch Diner, located in Upper Darby, is the location for the one of the more memorable moments between the characters played by Cooper and Lawrence. The quintessential Philly area diner is where the “non-date” dinner takes place, and if you’re willing to wait, you may be able to dine in the actual booth that Cooper and Lawrence occupied for the scene.
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“I see dead people,” is that unforgettable line from the supernatural thriller “The Sixth Sense,” starring Bruce Willis and Haley Joel Osment, but if you watch closely, you’ll also see plenty of Philadelphia. Director M. Night Shyamalan was raised in the area and is known for using the City of Brotherly Love as a backdrop to his stories. While the plot could have unfolded anywhere, Philadelphia provides the perfect spooky setting dotted with historic, pre-Revolutionary War buildings, monuments and cemeteries. Both interior and exterior shots are used as backdrops to the storyline, from the characters’ homes – St. Alban’s Place for young Osment, Society Hill for Willis – to the boy’s sanctuary, St. Augustine’s Roman Catholic Church on 4th Street. The foreshadowing restaurant scene where Willis’ character met his wife at a table with a single place setting was filmed at the Striped Bass, which is now the Butcher and Singer Steakhouse located on Walnut Street, and you’ll also see a couple of shots that filmed in the nearby suburb of Bryn Mawr, including the exterior of the grocery store and the house of a murdered girl that Osment’s character travels to by bus to visit on the day of her funeral.
Related: 24 Hours In Philadelphia
Christy Ayala covers sports, recreation, the outdoors, and leisure activities in the Philadelphia area. She earned a masters degree in recreation administration from George Williams College and managed programs in the Midwest, Hawaii, and Pennsylvania. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.