34 Philadelphia Movies to Stream Right Now
Sure, you can rewatch all six Rocky films. But there are plenty of other movies made or set in Philly to help you pass the time. Here’s our list.
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So you suddenly find yourself stuck in the house with a little bit of time on your hands? And you’ve caught up on every Netflix, Prime and Hulu show you needed to catch up on? And you’ve finally worked your way through all the best cinematography, best costume and best animated short Oscar winners since 1950?
We say it’s time to go deep on some other movies — specifically, Philadelphia movies. What do we mean by that phrase, “Philadelphia movies?” Okay, stay with us here: we mean movies either set or filmed in Philadelphia (bonus points for movies that check both boxes). There are lots of them out there, and we’ve done you the favor of rounding up several dozen below.
Most, if not all, are available on the major streaming platforms (just Google the title to see where). And if not every one of them will make the American Film Institute’s next list of classics, there are still plenty of good ones on the list — plus more than a few opportunities to blurt out, hey, isn’t that Rittenhouse Square?
21 Bridges (2019)
Chadwick Boseman plays a New York City police detective who shuts down the bridges and tunnels leading into Manhattan in order to catch two suspected cop killers. What’s that have to do with Philly? Much of the movie was shot here, with our town standing in for the Big Apple. (Fun fact: The crew spent a full day shooting in Philly Mag’s Washington Square offices, but the scenes got cut. Damn.)
They sing! They dance! They start their own nation! The movie version of the Broadway musical was a box office dud, but it’s an entertaining look at America’s founding fathers. The movie’s strength is in transforming the FFs from Great Men Worthy of Statues into real guys who argue, debate, and frequently slay each other with biting one-liners. Though the movie is set in Philly (of course), the bulk of it was shot on a studio lot in L.A.
Atlantic City (1980)
For a place that’s long considered lounge acts to be culture, it’s ironic that Atlantic City has inspired not one but two great works of popular art: Bruce Springsteen’s powerful song, and Louis Malle’s unforgettable film. While Springsteen’s “Atlantic City” is a metaphor for death and renewal, Malle’s view is more romantic, with the Boardwalk as a place for dreamers — including small-time gangster Burt Lancaster, who gets one last chance at love with Susan Sarandon.
Oprah, Danny Glover and Thandie Newton star in Jonathan Demme’s film version of Toni Morrison’s novel about a slave haunted by a ghost and a visitation from her reincarnated daughter. The movie – which got solid reviews but was a box office bomb — was shot in various locations around the region (including a Philly soundstage.)
Best In Show (2000)
Okay, this deadpan mockumentary from Christopher Guest barely qualifies as a Philly film. The action — about oddballs at a dog show — is set in Philadelphia’s fictional Taft Hotel, but the film was shot mostly in L.A. and would have worked equally well if the setting had been Cincinnati or Saskatchewan. But it makes this list because it’s really, really funny — and proof that the best way to create great comedy is to play it like it’s Shakespearean drama.
Is a wounded mind worse than a wounded body? Director Alan Parker explores that theme in this offbeat drama about two Philly teens just back from the Vietnam War. Shot in South Philly (where William Wharton, author of the novel on which the film is based, grew up), Birdy isn’t the kind of film that leaves you whistling a happy tune. But with strong performances by Matthew Modine and Nicolas Cage, Birdy is a testament to the power of friendship in the face of fear.
The Blob (1958)
For a few weeks in 1957, a local movie company called Valley Forge Films hauled its cameras to Downingtown, Phoenixville and other Chester County sites, shooting a low-budget film about a mass of alien goo terrorizing a town. More than 60 years later, The Blob’s special effects look a little hokey, and 28-year-old Steve McQueen looks way too old to play a teenager. But as a portrait of mass panic, The Blob still connects.
Blow Out (1981)
In early 1981, fresh off the hit Dressed to Kill, director Brian De Palma dusted off a script he’d written years earlier about political corruption. He gave it a new setting (Philadelphia instead of Montreal) and a new title (Blow Out, a nod to Michelangelo Antonioni’s film Blowup) — and made the best movie of his career. With John Travolta as a movie sound engineer who records a car crash that kills a political candidate, Blow Out brings to mind everything from Chappaquiddick to Watergate. Some cool and gritty shots of early ’80s Philly; plus, longtime Action News weather guy Dave Roberts plays a TV newscaster.
Creed (2015) and Creed II (2018)
Filmmaker Ryan Coogler rebooted the Rocky franchise, putting the focus on Apollo Creed’s son, and delivered the best Rocky movie since the original. The sequel is a notch below, but Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone (who got an Oscar nomination for the first Creed) still make it worth watching.
Dressed to Kill (1980)
Director Brian DePalma grew up in Philly and returned to shoot many of the scenes in this slasher classic (though the movie itself is set in New York). Dressed to Kill contains more than a few nods to Hitchcock’s Psycho – which means it’s likely to startle the bejesus out of you more than few times.
High School (1968)
For 30 years, Frederick Wiseman’s documentary about life in Northeast High School was the film that dared not speak its name in Philadelphia. After granting Wiseman, a Northeast High grad, unfettered access to the school, city and school district officials were so appalled by his film that they forced him not to show it within 50 miles of the city. (It finally had its public Philly premiere in 2001.) But knowing that it was banned only adds to the power of the film, which brilliantly captures the day-to-day monotony of high school and the eternal tension between generations.
In Her Shoes (2005)
Jennifer Weiner’s best-selling book — about the relationships between two sisters (Cameron Diaz and Toni Collette) and their grandmother (Shirley MacLaine) — was set and shot mostly in Philly. The movie’s a decent enough comedy-drama, but it’s the Philly locations (Rittenhouse Square, the Art Museum steps, Jamaican Jerk Hut) that will really capture your attention.
The Mark Wahlberg vehicle is about as Philly as a movie gets. Wahlberg plays Vince Papale, the local working stiff who gets an improbable shot to try out for the Eagles — and not only makes team but turns into a special teams standout (not to mention a local legend). The movie takes plenty of liberties with Papale’s real-life story, but it hits so many of feel-good sports-movie moments that it’s tough to care about the inaccuracies.
Kitty Foyle (1940)
Released the same year as The Philadelphia Story, this Ginger Rogers tearjerker never achieved the level of immortality that Katharine Hepburn’s classic did. But Rogers’s fantastic performance (she beat out Hepburn for the best actress Oscar) as a working-class woman wooed by a wealthy Main Liner and the film’s sharp look at class tensions make it a great Philadelphia story in its own right.
Law Abiding Citizen (2009)
Solid-if-predictable thriller starring Jamie Foxx and Gerard Butler about guy seeking justice for the murder of his family. Philly locations abound in the movie, including City Hall and an intimidating-looking Holmesburg Prison. And look for a quick cameo by then-mayor Michael Nutter.
What can you say about a movie that stars Andrew McCarthy, Kim Cattrall, James Spader and Estelle Getty? And whose theme song, Starship’s “Nothin’s Gonna Stop Us,” was actually nominated for an Oscar? And that was shot largely inside what was then Wanamaker’s (and is now Macy’s) in Center City? Just that it’s a guilty pleasure and cult classic for a certain generation of Philadelphians.
Marley and Me (2008)
Then-Inquirer columnist John Grogan hit pay dirt with a bestselling memoir about his wife, his family and their incorrigible but lovable mutt Marley. The book’s on the treacly side, but the movie — starring Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston — has its charm. And, yes, you’ll bawl your eyes out at the end.
Mikey & Nicky (1976)
Mention Elaine May when you’re talking about movies, and people think of Ishtar, the May-directed Dustin Hoffman-Warren Beatty debacle considered one of the biggest turkeys in Hollywood history. But 11 years earlier, Philadelphia native May had crafted one of the most affecting buddy dramas of the decade. With John Cassavetes and Peter Falk as two mobsters bumbling their way around Philadelphia, Mikey & Nicky is an underrated gem.
My Architect (2004)
Nathaniel Kahn’s moving documentary about his famous but elusive father, Philadelphia architect Louis I. Kahn. The younger Kahn, who grew up outside Philadelphia, goes on a tour of his father’s extraordinary buildings, and ultimately comes to terms with the fact that genius doesn’t always come wrapped in attractive packages.
National Treasure (2004)
Only a handful of scenes were shot in Philly (looking good, Independence Hall), but we absolutely claim this entertaining, Nicholas Cage-led family action movie as a Philadelphia film — if only because we can’t skip past it whenever it shows up on cable.
It’s easy to forget how much courage it took, even in the 1990s, for Jonathan Demme to create a big-budget Hollywood blockbuster about an AIDS-afflicted gay man. In going where no one had gone before, Demme created not only one of the great Philadelphia movies, but also one of the best movies of the decade — a film that helped open eyes and change hearts.
The Philadelphia Story (1940)
If the words “smart,” “witty” and “charming” didn’t already exist, someone would have had to invent them to describe The Philadelphia Story. The cast (led by Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart) plays off one another like a perfectly coached basketball team and a sparkling script keeps you guessing until the very end. Most of all, The Philadelphia Story creates an incomparable, irresistible mood that’s as fresh and hip as the day it was released 80 years ago.
Rocky (1976) and Its Sequels
Set the original Rocky anywhere else, and it’s a quirky tale about a bum fighter who gets one big chance. Set in Philadelphia, however, it’s about an entire city and its way of life. Rocky isn’t fighting for the title so much as he is for his own dignity — the idea that every life can and should mean something. The sequels run the gamut from ridiculous (Rocky V) to touching (Rocky Balboa), but there will never be a character more associated with our city.
The superhero film comes to Philly. Set in our fair city (though filmed mostly in Canada), the DC Comics film tells the story of teenager Billy Batson, who transforms into a superhero by saying the word … wait for it … “Shazam!” The movie earned mostly positive reviews (90% from critics, according to Rotten Tomatoes), but for Philadelphians another reason to watch is the array of Philly visuals, including some great overheads of the city, a couple of scenes at the Art Museum (complete with Rocky references), and an unforgettable moment when a SEPTA bus smashes through a barrier and dangles off the highway.
Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
What makes us love Jenkintown ex-pat Bradley Cooper more: his narration of the Eagles’ hype videos, or his role in this Oscar-nominated movie about a young man who struggles to rebuild his life after a stint in a mental institution? A critical and commercial success, the movie is based on a novel by Haddonfield writer Matthew Quick.
Sixth Sense (1999) and the Entire M. Night Shyamalan Oeuvre
Night’s thriller put Philadelphia — featured prominently throughout — back on the filmmaking map. Shyamalan’s thriller rightly gets praised for its mind-blowing ending, but it doesn’t get enough credit for its strong performances — from Bruce Willis as the troubled child psychiatrist, Haley Joel Osment as the boy who sees ghosts, and Toni Collette as Osment’s mother. The rest of Shyamalan’s work — from Unbreakable and Signs to The Visit, Split and Glass — has been up and down, but give him credit for being uber loyal to Philly and filming the bulk of his movies right here.
Stealing Home (1988)
Long before NCIS, Mark Harmon co-starred with Jodie Foster in this film about a washed-up baseball player who returns home to deal with his past. Shots of Philly abound, including Chestnut Hill, Springfield, Roxborough and the Vet.
Stone Reader (2002)
There have been great movies about movies and great movies about music, but there had never been a great movie about books — until this captivating documentary from Mark Moskowitz. A Chester County political consultant by trade, Moskowitz became obsessed with an obscure but highly praised 1972 novel called The Stones of Summer — and with what happened to its author, who vanished after the book’s publication. As director and protagonist, Moskowitz succeeds not only in creating a great mystery, but also in exploring the life-altering power that great fiction can have.
Trading Places (1983)
John Landis’s satire contains the greatest bet in movie history: The Duke brothers (Don Ameche and Ralph Bellamy) wager what will happen when Society Hill-dwelling blue blood Dan Aykroyd is forced to switch places with ghetto-dwelling con man Eddie Murphy. The grand stakes: $1. Trading Places is a blast to watch not only because of all the cool Philadelphia locations (the Union League, the Curtis Institute, Rittenhouse Square), but also because Murphy, for one of the few times in his career, actually had a real movie behind his hysterical ad-libs. Fun facts: the film was conceived as a vehicle for Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder; G. Gordon Liddy was offered the role of Clarence Beeks.
Twelve Monkeys (1995)
Terry Gilliam’s grim sci-fi thriller — with Bruce Willis trying to save the world from a devastating plague — is one of those love-it/hate-it movies that inspire heated debate. But whatever its flaws, Twelve Monkeys captures Philly in a warped, imaginative way, from the dank gloom of Eastern State Penitentiary to the creepy views of City Hall.
This cop drama from director Peter Weir (the Australian’s first Hollywood film), about an Amish boy who witnesses a murder, starts out with some extraordinary scenes of 30th Street Station before moving to Lancaster County. What makes it work are beautiful cinematography and near-perfect performances from Ford and McGillis.
The Woodsman (2004)
Proof that a movie doesn’t need a hockey-mask-wearing psycho killer to create unbearable tension and suspense. Produced by Philadelphian Lee Daniels (who shot the movie here after failing to get backing anywhere else), The Woodsman contains a great performance by hometown hero Kevin Bacon as a pedophile just released from prison.
The Young Philadelphians (1959)
“When you rip the upper crust off any city, you’ll find raw flesh underneath.” That was the tag line for this classic 1950s melodrama, and while it may not be the most appetizing movie appeal we’ve ever heard, it certainly captures the film’s delicious tone. Paul Newman plays a young Philadelphia lawyer who puts his career and social position at risk by taking on a controversial murder case. Beneath the soap opera is a great look at Philadelphia social circles of the 1950s.