* AudienceAlienatingPremise: Hanks has addressed this in interviews, talking about how his casting was a deliberate step to get people to see "the movie about a lawyer with AIDS over the big puppet show" or some other less intense option.
** A number of the previews made it clear it was a legal drama but gave no hint whatsoever of the actual subject matter of the movie.
* CrowningMusicOfAwesome: Creator/BruceSpringsteen's "''[[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4z2DtNW79sQ Streets of Philadelphia]]''". In both the music video and the opening of the movie, Springsteen shows the city in all its aspects -- both the bright, shiny downtown landmarks, and the poor areas -- minority, homeless, urban blight, and decay. And he ties it all together with this song. Streets of Philadelphia, indeed.
** "''[[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IHpQFF_Et4s Philadelphia]]''" by Music/NeilYoung. Doubles as a TearJerker.
*** Young and Springsteen were asked to write these songs to appeal to a mainstream audience -- this was not just a "gay movie". Demme asked for one of Young's roaring anthems about injustice, but Young sent a poetic hymn that had the production team crying. Demme said "Oh my God, Neil trusts this film more than I do." The song was changed very slightly for the film.[[note]][[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kb5GC9F5yyE here's the original if you want to hear it]][[/note]] It was nominated for an Oscar -- but lost to Springsteen's "Streets of Philadelphia".
* FairForItsDay: Inverted, in that the film's main flaw is that Beckett is pretty much sanctified simply for having AIDS.
** Played straight in how it's gay ButNotTooGay. It was still a huge step forward for queers in the media. The party scene is pretty gay, though.
* RuleAbidingRebel
* SomeAnvilsNeedToBeDropped: Similar to the ''WesternAnimation/{{Captain Planet|and the Planeteers}}'' episode that also dealt with this issue (albeit in a cleaned-up manner, as it is a kids' show), this movie drops the anvil that gay people and people with HIV or AIDS are no different from anyone else (a lesson that needed to be dropped back in the early 1990s, as a lot of people still had misconceptions about homosexuality and dealing with HIV and AIDS).