Film / Philadelphia

Philadelphia is a film from 1993 about a man named Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks), who is an up and coming lawyer until his employers figure out that he has AIDS. Then an important complaint is suddenly misplaced and his contract is terminated on that account. Suspecting that his disease was the true cause of his firing, Andrew approaches an old rival lawyer named Joe Miller (Denzel Washington) to plead his case in a lawsuit for discrimination. The two eventually team up to fight Andrew's firm while Joe struggles with his own homophobia and Andrew himself fights a losing battle against his disease.

Philadelphia is notable as one of the first Hollywood movies with a large-scale distribution to bring up the subject of AIDS, as well as Tom Hanks' first non-comedic role, a practice he's continued enough to earn its own trope. It won two Academy Awards: Tom Hanks' first for Best Actor in a Leading Role (he won another one year later for playing the title role in Forrest Gump), and Bruce Springsteen for Best Original Song ("Streets of Philadelphia").

Not to be confused with the 1940 film The Philadelphia Story starring Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and Jimmy Stewart, nor with It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.


  • Ambulance Chaser: Joe, as we see in his first courtroom encounter with Andrew.
  • Amoral Attorney: Andrew's former employers.
  • Audience-Alienating Premise: The film's makers were aware this might happen due to the film's subject matter, hence the casting of Hanks in the lead.
  • Birth/Death Juxtaposition: Just count the babies at that funeral
  • Bittersweet Ending: Andrew wins his case, but is unable to be present when it happens and dies soon after.
  • Bury Your Gays: Andrew.
  • But Not Too Gay: It received (and continues to receive) a lot of criticism for this, to the point where Tom Hanks addressed the issue in The Celluloid Closet by explaining this was because of Executive Meddling, and that if they hadn't allowed for the edits the studio wanted, the film might never have gotten a release.
  • Camp Gay: Several of the guests during the party that Andrew and Miguel hold. Quentin Crisp, who is a real-life example of a Camp Gay, also makes an appearance, though doesn't have any dialogue. However, Andrew also shows shades of this in a scene where he puts on opera music and explains it for Joe.
  • Catch Phrase: Joe: "Explain it to me like I'm a six-year old".
  • Character Development: Joe Miller came a long way.
    • Let's compare: When Andy discloses to Joe that he has AIDS, the latter immediately gets far away from the former. Then, at the hospital, Joe straightens Andy's mask with a relaxed tenderness.
  • Courtroom Antics: Joe has a couple of these in his toolbox, such as questioning the defendants' sexual orientation,
  • Cut Himself Shaving: Andrew explains the first mark on his face as a bruise caused by a racquetball.
  • Evil Lawyer Joke: "What do you call a thousand lawyers chained together at the bottom of the ocean?" "A good start."
  • Fan Disservice: Andrew opening his shirt to show the jury his sores.
  • Five-Token Band: Well, it was The '90s, after all.
  • Gay Aesop: Likely the Trope Codifier in film.
  • Good Victims, Bad Victims: Invoked. When Andrew is suing his former firm for AIDS discrimination and brings up a woman working at the firm who also had AIDS, Andrew's former co-workers point out that she had contracted HIV from a blood transfusion. They make it clear that they reserve their sympathy for those who contracted the disease "through no fault of their own."
  • Happier Home Movie: Andy's family reminisce with a few clips after he gets fired.
  • The Hero Dies: Andrew himself at the end.
  • Ill Man: Andy Beckett is dying of AIDS.
  • Inspirationally Disadvantaged: Andrew can be seen as this.
  • Ivy League for Everyone: Andy is a graduate of Penn, and so is the only student that we run into.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Joe Miller is shown to be homophobic and believes in some of the stereotypes regarding gays (i.e. the conversation with his wife). He even initially disagreed to help Andy because of this prejudice. However, Miller does agree to help Andy because he witnessed Andy going through discrimination. And begins to see the error of his ways during and after the trial.
  • Love Redeems: The theme of Maria Callas' aria. Joe takes it to heart.
  • Magical Queer: The main character of the film is arguably Joe, as he is the one to go through character development. Andrew opens up his world (and the viewer's) by being endlessly patient and humble with both his disease and any prejudice surrounding it and his sexuality. He shares his wisdom and his loving family and social circle, and any lingering detractors (both in and out of story) is dealt the coup de grace when he dies peacefully in the end.
  • Manly Tears: As Andrew translates the words of Maria Callas' aria, he is openly weeping, and you can just barely see tears in Joe's eyes.
  • Meaningful Name: As is lampshaded in the film, Philadelphia is from the Greek for "City of Brotherly Love". The plot centers around a man who is ostracized and fired for being gay.
  • Nice Guy: Andy is this. Even with the (initial) prejudice he received from Miller, Andy still remains patient and respectful.
  • Obligatory Joke: It's a movie centering on lawyers, so at least one Evil Lawyer Joke is expected.
  • Phrase Catcher: Joe Miller, "the TV guy."
  • Pun: The intro shows a store named "Condom Nation". At a costume party, Joe wears a suit covered in pages torn from a law book. Or, as he describes it: A Law Suit.
  • Punch Clock Villain: The lawyers representing Andrew's former employers.
  • Satellite Character: Arguably Andrew's entire family.
  • Straight Gay: Andy and Miguel act more like best friends than lovers. The student who tries to proposition Joe in the drug store is also an example.
  • Title Drop: Just about inevitable, given the setting.
  • Troubled Sympathetic Bigot: Joe is himself quite homophobic at the outset. Getting to know Andrew over the course of the trial changes this.
  • Wham Shot: Andrew's sudden collapse in the middle of the trial. Also, Andrew showing the court the lesions on his chest at the film's climax.
  • Write What You Know: Compare the fluidity of the gay characters' scenes to the hand waved dialogue for the straight characters, who have no lives beyond baseball and hating gays.
  • Your Cheating Heart: It's revealed in the trial that Andy had anonymous sex with another man at a pornographic club. While he was still living with Miguel.