A movie sites tour in Philly? Well, duh. My hometown has provided the backdrop to several of the most beloved films through the years. Let me convince you, the same way I did my children.
It all started as we watched the Oscar. I pointed out a clip from Silver Linings Playbook to my children. “See that movie?” I said, still pointing to our TV screen. “It was filmed in Philadelphia.”
The kids looked a bit skeptical. “Mom, most movies are made in California. Or New York,” my daughter said, kindly. (There are consequences to correcting your elders, of course.)
“Or Bollywood,” added her older brother, a bit mockingly. (Some kids like to push to push the envelope.)
But I ignored their gentle correction. “No, seriously. They’ve made a lot of films in Philly. Like Rocky.”
“Well, yeah, Rocky,” they acknowledged my hometown’s iconic hero. “But nothing much else.”
Movie Sites for Films in Philly
And that’s when I came up with the Great Philadelphia Movie Tour, a quick tour of the places that made it to film in recent years. If you’re a film buff planning to spend some time in Philly, here are the best Philly-based movies – and the places you can visit to remember them:
Rocky – well, of course. Any Philadelphia area native worth his weight in soft pretzels knows the story of the South Philly southpaw who got a chance to go the distance (and then some, in several sequels). No Philly film tour would be complete without a visit to the Philadelphia Art Museum. Not for what’s in the museum, of course, even though that’s all good (insider tip: it’s also “pay what you wish” the first Sunday of each month). But many people think the real treasure is outside, those famous 78 steps leading up to the museum. Remember how Rocky Balboa ran up those steps and bobbed up and down in victory as the sun rose over the Ben Franklin Parkway? Well, visitors to the city (and a lot of natives) try the same run all the time. We encourage humming “Gonna Fly Now” while making the climb or, if you’re not in shape (or have a stroller to push), stay at the bottom and get your picture taken with the Rocky statue at the bottom of the stairs. (A bit of trivia – Rocky won the Best Picture Oscar in 1976. Yo, we’re just saying.)
Philadelphia – the dark drama about AIDS prejudice won a well-deserved Oscar for Tom Hanks. But our city was also a star, from the opening montage (featuring the Ben Franklin Bridge, Liberty Place and the Liberty Bell) to the film’s climatic courthouse scene, which was filmed right in City Hall in Center City. Visitors flock to City Hall, which is topped with its famous statue of old Ben and is known as one of the most impressive examples of the architecture of its time. (More trivia – Bruce Springsteen won an Oscar for the film’s theme song, “The Streets of Philadelphia,” but the grainy, memorable video for the song was filmed across the river in Camden, NJ.)
National Treasure – when it comes to history, Philly can’t be beat, which made it a natural setting for this Nicolas Cage thriller. In the pivotal point in the movie, Cage’s character ventures to Independence Hall to find something belonging to Benjamin Franklin. (The Liberty Bell is just a walk across the lawn, so check it out while you’re in the neighborhood.)
The Sixth Sense – you may not see dead people, but you’ll see where this M. Night Shyamalan flick comes alive. The little boy with the scary sixth sense is from northwest Philly, but a lot of the filming takes place in Society Hill and the historic Old City neighborhoods. Hey, if you’re looking for ghosts, why not look for old, patriotic ones?
Trading Places – we do drama, we do horror, and of course we do comedy, like this classic starring SNL alums Dan Ackroyd and Eddie Murphy. The film opens with shots of the Schuylkill Expressway and Boathouse Row, and features 30th Street Station, the old Fidelity Bank Building and Rittenhouse Square, where Eddie Murphy’s character was famously begging.
Finding these sites (and many others) are an easy Google search. If you want a more structured experience, you can check out Philadelphia Movie Site Tours, which promises 50 movie sites in its 2 and a half hour bus tour.
Or you can just run through the streets. After all, that’s the way Rocky Balboa did it – and he ended up with Oscar gold.