- Audience-Alienating Premise: Tom 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.
- Awesome Music:
- Bruce Springsteen's "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.
- "Philadelphia" by Neil Young. Doubles as a Tear Jerker.
- Young and Springsteen were asked to write these songs to appeal to a "testosterone-fueled" male audience, Demme's idea of "mainstream appeal" — this was not just a film for or about gays. 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 It was nominated for an Oscar — but lost to Springsteen's "Streets of Philadelphia".
- Fair for Its Day: Beckett is pretty much sanctified simply for having AIDS, but he's not too gay, two aspects of the story which were not lost on LGBTQ critics at the time who were still upset with Demme about the supposed Gay Panic subtext in The Silence of the Lambs, and saw this film as a flaccid apology. It's still regarded as a landmark in normalizing homosexuals in mainstream media.
- Hilarious in Hindsight: Tom Hanks plays a character named Andy in this film. Two years later, he will play a character in another film whose owner is also named Andy.
- Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped: Similar to the Captain Planet episode that also dealt with this issue, 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 and dropped hard back in the early 1990s, as a lot of people still had misconceptions about homosexuality and dealing with HIV and AIDS).
YMMV / Philadelphia