I’ve found myself on holiday in Philly! To celebrate, I’ve put together a list of the best films set in the City of Brotherly Love…
The Rocky Series
Starting with the most famous of Philadelphia’s cinematic exports, the boxing series is going strong after 40 years, and is now due an 8th film with Creed II set to release imminently. It’s hard to narrow it down to one movie in particular; they’re all basically the same film and the stories aren’t exactly complex – rags to riches to rags to riches again via lots of boxing. What works though, is that they’re told so earnestly that you can’t help but root for Rocky Balboa and everyone in his corner. Also, you’ve never seen a movie montage until you’ve seen a Rocky IV montage.
I’ll admit I cheated a bit here. Terry Gilliam’s time travel sci-fi classic mostly takes place in Baltimore, Maryland; however, the scenes in the apocalyptic future are filmed and set in Philadelphia. It’s a film that gets a lot of acclaim though isn’t talked about much, which is a shame as it features both Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt’s best performances. Philly has never looked so run-down on screen before or since 12 Monkeys.
Oh, Trading Places. One of the best comedies ever made, and easily the best Eddie Murphy film ever. Two incredibly wealthy brothers make a bet to prove if people are good by nature or nurture, and test this by taking low-level crook Billy Ray Valentine (Murphy) and commodities trader Louis Winthorpe III, and putting them in each other’s lifestyles. The film is almost entirely set in Philly – up til the finale that takes place in Wall Street – and director John Landis manages to soak up every bit of the city’s rich/poor divide on camera. It’s also painfully funny, which helps.
Best in Show
It’s a substantial understatement to say Christopher Guest has made some great films. This is Spinal Tap is one of the best films ever made, and there is a very quick reference to Philadelphia in the film – “a real rock ‘n’ roll town” – as part of their US tour in the film. However, the most underrated of Guest’s movies, which conveniently enough is set wholly in Philly, is his dog show comedy Best in Show. As with the rest of his filmography, Guest puts a focus on improv to get the laughs, and it certainly pays off.
The Sixth Sense
M Night Shyamalan gets a bad rep these days. Granted, that’s because he’s been churning out a whole bunch of rubbish since Signs, but there was a point where Shyamalan was a very promising filmmaker.
The majority of the films he’s made are Philadelphia based – being a native Philadelphian himself – and his first film is still very much his best. Of course everyone knows the story and the big twist, but it’s still a very well put together thriller. Here’s hoping old M can get his groove back, things look promising post-Split and who knows, Glass may well be his triumphant return. We can only wait and see.