TriStar Pictures | Release Date: December 23, 1993
7.9
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Generally favorable reviews based on 90 Ratings
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6
SpangleNov 19, 2016
After catching flack for his portrayal of transsexuals in The Silence of the Lambs (still my favorite film), director Jonathan Demme returned two years later with Philadelphia. An urgent and deeply important film about raising awareness toAfter catching flack for his portrayal of transsexuals in The Silence of the Lambs (still my favorite film), director Jonathan Demme returned two years later with Philadelphia. An urgent and deeply important film about raising awareness to individuals suffering from AIDS and pulling back the stigma surrounding the illness, Philadelphia is an often powerful film for this very reason. Yet, make no mistake, this film is hardly a full-throated endorsement of gay rights by Demme. Rather, it is a step. It is a step towards acceptance of the lifestyle, as the film essentially argues that it is not unnatural to be gay, nor is it something to be looked down upon. Homosexuals are people like anybody else and deserve to be treated as such, even if you do not approve of their lifestyle. As of 2016, we have obviously come much further with gay rights, but for 1993, Philadelphia was practically a revelation. In spite of its previous timeliness, however, Philadelphia is a largely predictable and typical courtroom drama that rides on great acting to really accomplish anything whatsoever.

As with all courtroom dramas, Philadelphia's conclusion is clear from the beginning. If you do not know that Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks) will win the case, then you have never seen a courtroom film before. As such, reaching the conclusion is inherently tedious when rarely (if ever?) has a courtroom film ended up by reversing the cliche. The protagonists win and the antagonists lose. End story. Thus, while the film spends a lot of time in the courtroom, this only hurts the end product. The drama is outside of the court, not inside of it and, often, Demme loses sight of this in the film. After a certain point, he just settles into showing us testimony and the prejudiced beliefs of those around him in the office and that was why he was fired. While it was a wrongful termination, the film scores no dramatic points for this.

Also hindering the film is the opening. Slow and meandering, the film really never hits its emotional stride until after Andrew meets with Joe Miller (Denzel Washington). In the opening, Hanks' acting is spotty at best and the film is largely just an introduction to his illness and his life as a whole. While these moments are effectively told, they are simply never that intriguing, as it is merely the foundation of the case which, again, is never that interesting.

However, once that meeting between Andrew and Joe does happen, Philadelphia hits its stride quite solidly. Here, we find Andrew - a gay man suffering from AIDS - opening up the worldview of his lawyer, Joe Miller. Deeply anti-gay and bigoted, Joe has a violent hatred for homosexuals and finds their lifestyle deeply disgusting. Once he meets Andrew, however, his world begins to change and he sees gays completely differently. In many ways, Joe is intended to mirror the audience in 1993 who, entering the film with extreme prejudice, wind up leaving with an understanding and compassion for gays worldwide. While they may not fully accept them yet, there is no longer that hatred, which is an important hurdle to cross. To be clear, Joe does not like gays or understand them by the end of the film, but he is more accepting of their lifestyle and no longer carries the weight of hatred he once held.

Denzel Washington brings Joe to life brilliantly, from the man filled with vile hatred to the man who learns compassion from his encounters with Andrew. Meanwhile, Hanks brilliant as Andrew Beckett. Though initially spotty, once the disease begins ravishing Andrew, Hanks really begins to shine. He compassionately brings to light the suffering experienced by AIDS patients and does a terrific job capturing this pain and torment. This is where Demme's film is so truly important, as it humanizes the suffering and does not make it appear other. It shows the suffering of AIDS patients to be no different than anybody else's suffering. They may be gay, but that is okay and it is not a reason for them to suffer, which was previously a belief held by many. The film does not spare us the gory details of the toll AIDS has on the body and, for this, it makes it far more intimate and hits close to home for everybody in the audience.

Philadelphia is a slight and cliche film about an important topic, which is really unfortunate. Though Denzel Washington and Tom Hanks are terrific in the film, Philadelphia never diverts from courtroom drama cliches enough to really breathe life into the film. Yet, what does breathe some life into the film is Demme's sensitive handling of a very timely and vitally crucial issue: the AIDS epidemic. Bringing to light the suffering of those with AIDS, Philadelphia manages to play an important role in raising awareness to the issue of gay rights in America.
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8
BerCMay 28, 2016
The artistic medium of film is very subjective. Every audience member has a different set of criteria they use to measure their viewing experience. Not everyone shares the same set of criteria. If we did, what a bland and uninspired worldThe artistic medium of film is very subjective. Every audience member has a different set of criteria they use to measure their viewing experience. Not everyone shares the same set of criteria. If we did, what a bland and uninspired world this would be.

What I Personally Liked About "Philadelphia":
This film plays on all the right emotions and it's not ashamed in doing so. It took guts bringing this subject material to light in a time when many people didn't even want to hear mention of the word AIDS, let alone be confronted by the consequences of the virus in their theatrical entertainment. Even though it blatantly plays on said emotions of its audience members, it does so with respect and sympathy for both its viewers and those victims afflicted with the deadly virus. Another thing I truly enjoyed about this film was Tom Hanks' portrayal of Andrew Beckett. Many people in today's jaded cinematic climate believe Hanks was merely Oscar-baiting with his performance, but in 1993 it was a revelation to see such heartfelt, dramatic skill on display from an actor who at that point was best known for light romantic comedies such as "Big" and the recently released "Sleepless in Seattle." I am particularly moved during Hanks' explanation of Maria Callas' rendition of "La Mamma Morta"; his passion and intensity gripping me every time I watch the film.

What I Personally Disliked About "Philadelphia":
In its attempts to display reverence to its subject material, the film does have a tendency to gloss over certain particulars of Beckett's life. It also makes a few leaps of logic in its courtroom sequences which don't necessarily sit well. Since this is essentially a courtroom drama, this does tend to lessen the impact of some scenes; enough to knock my personal rating down a couple of notches on the numerical meter. Plus, I can't get Bruce Springsteen's opening song out of my head. Okay, that's not exactly a dislike in regards to the song itself. I just dislike the fact that every time I hear the piece it stays with me for a few days after no matter how hard I try to shake it loose.

My Overall Impression of "Philadelphia":
What the film gets right is a testament to its belief that people should be treated fairly and with dignity no matter how they choose to live their personal lives. That testament is enough to ensure that this remains one of my personal favorite films from 1993.
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8
FilmClubMar 27, 2016
“Philadelphia” is an ideal film for people who have never known anyone with AIDS. In other words, this extremely well-made message picture about tolerance, justice and discrimination is pitched at mainstream audiences, befitting its position“Philadelphia” is an ideal film for people who have never known anyone with AIDS. In other words, this extremely well-made message picture about tolerance, justice and discrimination is pitched at mainstream audiences, befitting its position as the first major Hollywood film to directly tackle the disease. Intelligent but too neatly worked out in its political and melodramatic details, Jonathan Demme’s follow-up to his Oscar-winning “The Silence of the Lambs” is fronted by a dynamite lead performance from Tom Hanks, but will need top reviews and a superior marketing campaign to make it a must-see for members of the general public whose idea of a night out might not be to see a movie about a man dying of AIDS.

Even if the format and arc of Ron Nyswaner’s script constitute a familiar one of outraged justice resolved by courtroom fireworks, the story is seductive, its concern for humanity unavoidably stirring. The picture feels compelled to signal in a hundred ways that its heart is in the right place, although that doesn’t change the fact that it is. The impulse behind the film seems to be to make people who haven’t had to deal with AIDS face up to the illness, and it dramatizes the issue grippingly enough to probably succeed at that aim.

Hanks stars as Andrew Beckett, a rising young attorney at a powerful Philadelphia law firm. But as soon as he’s made an associate and assigned to an extremely important case, he displays the first visible signs of AIDS. Suddenly and shockingly, he’s fired by the firm over a bit of alleged incompetence that might have cost them the case, but Andrew knows he was dismissed because of his illness.

Determined to spend the rest of his life, if necessary, fighting this gross injustice, Andrew, in desperation, is finally able to recruit Joe Miller (Denzel Washington) as his attorney. A somewhat flashy lawyer who advertises on TV, Joe initially refuses the case and goes in panic to his doctor to see if he’s in danger merely from superficial contact with Andrew. “I admit it. I’m prejudiced, ” Joe confesses. “I don’t like homosexuals.”

Nevertheless, Joe begins to see that discrimination is discrimination, and signs on, even if he still can’t buy Andrew’s lifestyle.

By the time the trial begins, at the 45-minute point in the film, Andrew has lost weight and gone gray. In court, Joe broadens the issue to talk about the public climate of prejudice, while the defense remains adamant that Andrew didn’t measure up professionally.

On a scene-by-scene basis, in terms of performance and the grave issues under consideration, the film is quite absorbing. Through the character of Joe, Nyswaner and Demme have found a shrewd way of dealing with the audience’s discomfort with the subject of AIDS, and it’s both realistic and dramatically admirable that Joe never comes around entirely to an enlightened perspective.

Filmmakers have also neatly avoided showing the conventional emotional moments that would be the designated high points of a by-the-numbers TV movie — the announcement of the verdict, the big death scene, and so on. The screenplay has been extremely well worked out, but too much so, because every piece fits so perfectly that there are no rough edges, no moments when the raw, devastating reality of the situation registers with total force.

Pic’s rainbow coalition of sympathies is impeccably tidy — Andrew’s lawyer is black, his “partner” is Spanish, one trial witness is a woman who contracted AIDS “innocently” through a transfusion, the defense attorneys are a woman and a black man, Andrew’s family is unfailingly loving and supportive, and the bad guys are big-shot WASP lawyers anyone can root against.

Film’s biggest gap is its non-portrait of Andrew’s private life. The basic outline of his biography is easily surmised, but there are no intimate scenes between him and his mate, Miguel (Antonio Banderas), to illuminate the personal side of his struggle. Rather, in a sequence that’s intended as a tour de force but really doesn’t work, Andrew plays his favorite operatic aria for Joe and wrenchingly attempts to explain what it means to him.

Still, Hanks makes it all hang together in a performance that triumphantly mixes determination, humor, perseverance, grit, energy and remarkable clearheadedness. Whatever else might nag about the film’s treatment of a difficult subject, Hanks constantly connects on the most basic human level.

Washington is also first-rate as the attorney dragged reluctantly to an awareness of others’ sensibilities and problems.

Demme’s direction is constantly inventive, from the opening credit montage backed by a superb Bruce Springsteen song, the first he’s written expressly for a film, to the superior use of colorful locations and the particularly fine subjective evocation. Howard Shore’s lively score, which is abetted by numerous tunes old and new.
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6
Tss5078Aug 3, 2014
Philadelphia will always hold a place in cinematic history, as it is the first major film to really address the discrimination against Aids and Homosexuality. It also was the beginning of Tom Hanks amazing run of Academy nominated film, thatPhiladelphia will always hold a place in cinematic history, as it is the first major film to really address the discrimination against Aids and Homosexuality. It also was the beginning of Tom Hanks amazing run of Academy nominated film, that may never be duplicated. The message of the film comes across loud and clear, but not quite in the way that the film's producers intended. Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks) was a top attorney with one of Philadelphia's top law firms, when all of a sudden he's fired. Beckett believes he was set up and fired because he has Aids, but can he prove it in court? As the film goes, it is easy to see the discrimination and stereotypes that Beckett has to face on a daily basis, and weather or not you accept homosexuality, it's powerful ending will make you feel for the plight of any homosexual who suffers from this horrible disease. The majority of this film takes place in the courtroom and centers around Beckett's case against his former employer, and as someone who has studied the law, I can tell you that the case destroyed the merits of this film. There are things that both sides do, that would never be allowed in a court of law, and in my opinion neither side really makes it's case. As far as the legal aspect of this trial goes, it is very subjective and would never lead to the verdict that was handed down. As for the stars of this film, they are the ones that make it as powerful as it was. Hanks gives a performance that was absolutely worthy of the best actor award, as following him and his story is really what gave the film it's reputation. Quite ingeniously, Hanks is paired with Denzel Washington, who plays his attorney. Washington's character is meant to represent how much of the audience felt at that time, as even while representing Beckett, he speaks out about Aids and Homosexuality. The more he works to represent Beckett, the more you can see his attitude change, the same way the audiences attitudes change as the film moves alone. I loved Philadelphia for it's performances and it's message, but as far as the story goes, the trial is the majority of the film, and the trial is completely unbelievable. In my opinion the trial takes away much of the film credibility. The issue and the case should have been more clear cut and the legality of it all should have been easier for the audience to understand. That being said, if you choose to watch this film, you will be hard pressed to find better performances by a better cast, but the story will leave you feeling somewhat incomplete. Expand
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8
MovieGuysJun 18, 2014
Philadelphia is a smart, confident AIDS drama that is a very important movie in raising awareness of this horrible disease. Hanks provides a powerhouse performance, and Denzel is amazing as well. However, it's the nuances that make this filmPhiladelphia is a smart, confident AIDS drama that is a very important movie in raising awareness of this horrible disease. Hanks provides a powerhouse performance, and Denzel is amazing as well. However, it's the nuances that make this film a bit off-target sometimes; the awkward transitions from some scenes to scenes are treated like an 80's sitcom would, the beginning of the movie doesn't clearly portray if Hanks' character knows he has AIDS or not, the musical score can be a bit jaunty at times when it should be serious, and even the opening credit typeface acts like this is going to be New Jack City, not a powerful, emotional AIDS drama. Despite these little kinks, this is one must-see film, even if it is just for Tom Hanks' visceral, electrifying, Oscar-winning performance. Expand
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8
heeldavidMay 23, 2014
Director Of "Silence Of The Lambs" Johnathan Demme has great vision for this courtroom drama. It is also driven by smart performances from Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington
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8
ELJUARU22Jul 2, 2013
Very emotional, i almost cry by the beauty of this film. Denzel Washington wanted some rap opera sucks. Tom Hanks look more macho men whit the short hair.
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9
Compi24Nov 28, 2012
"Philadelphia" is the story of Andrew Beckett (Hanks), a promising young lawyer at an upscale law firm. When the homosexual Beckett suddenly contracts AIDS he is fired unfairly fired from his workplace. Beckett then seeks the help of a small"Philadelphia" is the story of Andrew Beckett (Hanks), a promising young lawyer at an upscale law firm. When the homosexual Beckett suddenly contracts AIDS he is fired unfairly fired from his workplace. Beckett then seeks the help of a small time homophobic lawyer, Joe Miller (Washington), to establish a wrongful dismissal case. Now from initial premise and the fact that I had heard Tom Hanks earned a Best Actor Oscar for his performance, I was expecting a fairly memorable movie. And I got one. Tom Hanks delivers one of his best and most moving performances with his portrayal of Beckett. Probably one of the most dynamic roles I've ever seen Hanks take on. He starts out as such a vibrant young man, yet as the film progresses, Beckett's illness does as well. Consequently, the audience witnesses the decline of a seemingly healthy man to a man who's body has been ravaged by an incurable disease. It's really quite heartbreaking. Tom Hanks worked well for this Oscar. Along side Hanks is Washington, who also gives a fine performance as the conflicted lawyer Miller. Like Beckett, Miller goes through a significant change as well - only his soul changes, not his health. It's really quite interesting to see Washington and Hanks work together on screen, as I've never seen it happen in any other film. The film also features a very well written script and a very nice direction from Jonathon Demme. The ending of this film is really quite something, and. . .yeah, I'll say it - the conclusion of this film was really intense for me to watch. Pretty emotional stuff. Overall I felt that "Philadelphia" is a poignant tale that succeeds in addressing many issues that have often been neglected in our time. I felt that it was filled to the brim with fine performances and palpable pathos. It's a great movie that I won't soon forget. Awesome. Expand
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9
geedupJul 4, 2012
Not sure how this film is rated so low. At the time this movie came out, AIDs had more mystery wrapped around it than Watergate did. Not only was this movie timely but gave dramatic dialog and was held together by a great cast at the apex ofNot sure how this film is rated so low. At the time this movie came out, AIDs had more mystery wrapped around it than Watergate did. Not only was this movie timely but gave dramatic dialog and was held together by a great cast at the apex of their careers. Now a days, heavy dialog movies don't play very well with audiences, but this is a classic. Expand
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9
RumblebeeloveNov 6, 2011
This movie has raw emotion and stellar performances from all of the actors involved. The subject matter is carried firmly and pulls no punches with the sadness that AIDS brings into people's lives. See this for Tom Hanks' amazingThis movie has raw emotion and stellar performances from all of the actors involved. The subject matter is carried firmly and pulls no punches with the sadness that AIDS brings into people's lives. See this for Tom Hanks' amazing transformation, but also for Denzel Washington who's character has flaws and is perhaps the most realistic personification in the entire production. Collapse
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7
jimmytancrediMay 29, 2011
It's a good movie. It should reveal the fact that some characters are caricatured as defense attorney, the exaggeration of torture by which the character of Tom Hanks is in court, among other things. It is even more important It and relevantIt's a good movie. It should reveal the fact that some characters are caricatured as defense attorney, the exaggeration of torture by which the character of Tom Hanks is in court, among other things. It is even more important It and relevant all the context of prejudices that come behind AIDS and a host of problems that are well discussed. The disease, when discovered and known to few in the 1980s, fit in socially the gays in a kneecap perverse and that still remains in the heads closer. That is the importance of the film. Expand
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4
CritiqueGirlMar 2, 2011
This movie was the beginning of the end for me going to the movies regularly. For such a serious drama it sure didn't make sense in that the ACLU didn't take the case. Please. With Tom Hanks in the witness chair I was saying to myself,This movie was the beginning of the end for me going to the movies regularly. For such a serious drama it sure didn't make sense in that the ACLU didn't take the case. Please. With Tom Hanks in the witness chair I was saying to myself, "Just have him show the lesions." And so it happened. I hate knowing what will happen or what should happen. When the lights came up in the theater, everyone was sitting their silently and looking at one another puzzled and they were no doubt saying to one another what we were: "That movie stunk. Who said it was any good. It didn't make sense." And we are from Philadelphia. Not that the title had anything to do with the movie except it was set in Philadelphia. Over the years my movie going has tapered off to the point that I can go years without going to the movies. Then I go and never want to go again. Expand
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6
ERG1008Sep 3, 2010
Successful Lawyer contracts AIDS, his company then fire him for other reasons but an unfair dismissal claim brings out the truth.
Well, I was a little disappointed with the film in general. Thought it should have had more background on
Successful Lawyer contracts AIDS, his company then fire him for other reasons but an unfair dismissal claim brings out the truth.
Well, I was a little disappointed with the film in general. Thought it should have had more background on Beckett so you got to know the character better. Instead it rushed along then straight to the old tearjerker ending, complete with video footage as a kid, etc.
Denzel Washington stood out however with a great performance as Joe Miller.
I agree with the people who says that Hanks' character was "underwritten & incomplete".
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9
RustyMay 18, 2010
This is a touching movie on a topic that at the time was swept to the background by society and the media. Demme et al were very brave to make this movie and will certainly stand the test of time for the way it is made and the issues that it This is a touching movie on a topic that at the time was swept to the background by society and the media. Demme et al were very brave to make this movie and will certainly stand the test of time for the way it is made and the issues that it tackles. Expand
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8
JayH.Sep 23, 2009
Very powerful drama, beautifully and sensitively acted by Tom Hanks. Fine supporting cast. It's a sad film, but it doesn't leave the viewer depressed. Good direction and screenplay, well photographed and an excellent score.
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5
TonyB.Jul 1, 2008
Generally well-paced and extremely well-acted but intellectually and emotionally dishonest.
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