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Renowned for deep national history and the greasiest cheesesteaks our arteries can handle, an often overlooked aspect of the culture in Philly is its rooted ties with the film and TV industry. Many generation-defining works of cinema that have been bestowed in theatres and living rooms alike have been set and cast in the city of brotherly love. Some are more obvious such as “Rocky” and the iconically titled “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” and some not as obvious, such as “Marley & Me.”
The same thematic storytelling, emotionally compelling messaging, tough love humor and deep ties to love that define Philadelphia’s culture also define its cinematic productions. These are our favorite movies and TV shows that take place in Philly and showcase the city’s vibrance, culture and brotherly love.
Of all the movies set in Philadelphia, “Rocky” is among the most beloved. Noted for the famous pose on the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum, Sylvester Stalone brings the Philadelphia working class into the sports spotlight as this origin story of a boxer, Rocky Balboa, as he strives for success among his rival and reigning heavyweight champion, Apollo Creed. This story of perseverance and internal struggles has become a cornerstone of Philadelphia culture.
A statue of the famous character was erected on the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum following the inception of the “Rocky” series’ third installment. Tourist or local, you haven’t visited the Art Museum until you’ve thrown your hands up in triumph at the top of the steps.
Rocky Balboa’s influence has been cast in a legacy with the help of many sequels. In total, the film collection includes six “Rocky” films and two “Creed” films — set in the same cinematic universe — following the son of Apollo Creed, with a third “Creed” movie on its way.
Ironically named, “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia” is one of the top TV shows set in Philadelphia and features “the gang,” a comedic, unwitty group of narcissistic owners of Paddy’s Pub with drinking problems as they unsuccessfully try to make ends meet. This hilarious group of degenerates engages in gritty schemes to make a quick buck while delivering quotable one-liners.
The featured classic takes place in a dive bar in South Philly. The Show features 14 seasons, originally airing in 2005, with the 15th set to premiere in late 2021.
“National Treasure” might not be the first movie that comes to mind when thinking of Philadelphia, but this action-packed mystery features many historical dates, locations and items, including the Franklin Institute and Independence Hall. This Action movie is great for historians and fans of historical fiction. Follow alongside Benjamin Franklin Gates as he carries on his family legacy, searching for a lost treasure hidden through the secrets of the nation’s history.
This featured film stars Nicholas Cage in one of his most iconic roles to date.
Perhaps most famous for making grown adults cry, this heart throbbing comedic drama follows Owen Wilson’s John Grogan and Jennifer Aniston’s Jennifer Grogan as the couple falls in love and leaves snowy Michigan for South Florida and later rural Pennsylvania, where John accepts a job with the Philadelphia Inquirer.
This story brings together comedy, love, familiar values and more comedy for a truly iconic movie. Great for families of all ages, “Marley & Me” showcases Wilson and Aniston at their most vulnerable state and brings together a remarkable story in none other than our own backyard.
Calling all Eagles fans — this romantic comedy bleeds green. Starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro, this unconventional romantic comedy showcases some of the best love the city has to offer.
This story follows troubled Pat Solantano, played by Cooper, who deals with the loss of his wife, job and his recent release from a psychiatric institution as he tries to reconnect with his wife. He lives with his parents, die-hard Eagles fans, and enlists the unlikely help of Tiffany, played by Lawrence, in exchange for something important.
For fans of sports and romance, this movie native to Philly is great for diverse audiences. Don’t want to take our word for it? The film scores 92% on Rotten Tomatoes.
For a more sports-centered drama, “Invincible” tells the true story of hometown hero Vince Papale as he tries out and plays for the Philadelphia Eagles after formerly being a bartender. Papale played for the Eagles from 1976 to 1978— not bad for a bartender. This movie not only takes place in Philly but showcases the true grit and compassion of Philadelphia fans finding hope and aspiration as Vince Papale attempts to be the first walk-on for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Don’t be mistaken by all the sports talk. This movie is still packed with storytelling, unlikely romance, camaraderie and dramatic plotlines.
In the category of shows that raised us, at the top of the list has to be “Boy Meets World,” another show set in Philly. The story’s setting impacts many subtle details. Throughout the show, Cory discusses his long love for the four major Philadelphia sports teams — the Phillies, Eagles, 76ers and Flyers — being filmed years before the inception of the Philadelphia Union. Morgan, Cory’s sister, is often seen wearing an Eagles Jacket.
This show features a witty teenager with two siblings, a love interest, a best friend and a caring teacher as he navigates the early years of life and grows alongside his middle school friends into adults. This story is comedic yet influential. Over the years, the show tackled tough topics such as abuse, harassment and substance abuse —a fitting display of empathy for a show set in Philadelphia.
Only lasting one season, this show still managed to be nominated for two awards, for best actress and performance. “Philly” ran from 2001 to 2002 and told the story of a new lawyer struggling to keep her distance from often-guilty clients while training to maintain a good reputation.
This legal drama stars single mother Kathleen Maquire, played by Kim Delaney, and law firm partner Wil Froman, played by Tom Everett Scott.
If “Silver Linings Playbook” and “Marley & Me” haven’t satisfied your romantic comedy cravings, “Mannequin” will certainly mix things up. This movie takes place in the 1980s with a quirky window display designer falling in love with his work only to realize she can come alive. Struggling to appear normal in the world around him, this young artist embraces his passionate love for what the rest of the world sees as an ordinary mannequin.
This movie displays many locations throughout Philadelphia, but the most notable are John Wanamaker’s department store — now Macy’s in Center City — and the Gallery at the corner of 11th and Market.
While not directly a TV show based in Philly, this show was West Philadelphia, born and raised. Will Smith’s acting career began with him playing his alter ego, The Fresh Prince. “Like Boy Meets World,” “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” was another show that provided comic relief mixed with profoundly deep messages. With a star-studded cast, it mixed Bel-Air culture with Philadelphia swagger.
The cultural contrast provides comedic relief, one-liners and relatable conflicts with the tenacity to display themes like wealth inequality, racism and adolescent masculinity. Like “Boy Meets World,” the show is a well-executed display of empathy fit for a show tied so closely to the city of Philadelphia.
There is a good reason why Philly has been cast time and time again in famous movies and television shows. This city is home to some of the richest cultures and most beautiful locations in the country. If you’re considering moving to Philly or even looking to visit, contact Streamline today for more information!