Philadelphia (1993)



Critic Consensus: Philadelphia indulges in some unfortunate clichés in its quest to impart a meaningful message, but its stellar cast and sensitive direction are more than enough to compensate.

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At the time of its release, Jonathan Demme's Philadelphia was the first big-budget Hollywood film to tackle the medical, political, and social issues of AIDS. Tom Hanks, in his first Academy Award-winning performance, plays Andrew Beckett, a talented lawyer at a stodgy Philadelphia law firm. The homosexual Andrew has contracted AIDS but fears informing his firm about the disease. The firm's senior partner, Charles Wheeler (Jason Robards), assigns Andrew a case involving their most important client. Andrew begins diligently working on the case, but soon the lesions associated with AIDS are visible on his face. Wheeler abruptly removes Andrew from the case and fires him from the firm. Andrew believes he has been fired because of his illness and plans to fight the firm in court. But because of the firm's reputation, no lawyer in Philadelphia will risk handling his case. In desperation, Andrew hires Joe Miller (Denzel Washington), a black lawyer who advertises on television, mainly handling personal injury cases. Miller dislikes homosexuals but agrees to take the case for the money and exposure. As Miller prepares for the courtroom battle against one of the law firm's key litigators, Belinda Conine (Mary Steenburgen), Miller begins to realize the discrimination practiced against Andrew is no different from the discrimination Miller himself has to battle against. The cast also includes Antonio Banderas as Andrew's partner, Joanne Woodward as Andrew's mother, and Stephanie Roth as Joe's wife. ~ Paul Brenner, Rovi
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Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

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Tom Hanks
as Andrew Beckett
Denzel Washington
as Joe Miller
Antonio Banderas
as Miguel Alvarez
Jason Robards
as Charles Wheeler
Mary Steenburgen
as Belinda Conine
Ron Vawter
as Seidman
Joanne Woodward
as Sarah Beckett
Robert Ridgely
as Walter Kenton
Paul Lazar
as Dr Klenstein
Bradley Whitford
as Jamey Collins
Tracey Walter
as Librarian
John Bedford Lloyd
as Matt Beckett
Andre B. Blake
as Young Man in Pharmacy
Robert W. Castle
as Bud Beckett
Molly Hickok
as Molly Beckett
Daniel Chapman
as Clinic Storyteller
Dan Olmstead
as Randy Beckett
Ann Dowd
as Jill Beckett
Elizabeth Roby
as Elizabeth Beckett
David Drake
as Bruno
Obba Babatundé
as Jerome Green
Charles Napier
as Judge Garnett
Charles Glenn
as Kenneth Killcoyne
Roger Corman
as Mr. Laird
Roberta Maxwell
as Judge Tate
Buzz Kilman
as `Crutches'
Karen Finley
as Dr. Gillman
Anna Deavere Smith
as Anthea Burton
Stephanie Roth
as Rachel Smilow
Warren Miller
as Mr. Finley
Dodie Demme
as Jury Member
Kenneth Utt
as Jury Member
James B. Howard
as Dexter Smith
Charles Techman
as Ralph Peterson
Jim Roche
as `Not Adam and Steve'
Daniel von Bargen
as Jury Foreman
Kathryn Witt
as Melissa Benedict
Jane Moore
as Lydia Glines
Adam Le Fevre
as Jill's Husband
Jordan Cael
as The Jury
Harry Northrup
as The Jury
Steve Vignari
as The Jury
Donna Hamilton
as Angela Medina
Tony Fitzpatrick
as Bartender
Ira Flitter
as Andrew's Friend
Gene Borkan
as Bailiff
Lucas Platt
as Robert
Lewis Walker
as "Punchline"
Randy Aaron Fink
as E.R. Doctor
Lisa Summerour
as Lisa Miller
Paul Moore
as Hospital Patient
Gary Goetzman
as Guido Paonessa
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Critic Reviews for Philadelphia

All Critics (50) | Top Critics (9)

Philadelphia may not be the film Demme's fans expect--its emotionalism is unfiltered by cool. But it has the power to open more than a few blinkered hearts.

Full Review… | March 13, 2015
Top Critic

[An] extremely well-made message picture about tolerance, justice and discrimination is pitched at mainstream audiences, befitting its position as the first major Hollywood film to directly tackle the disease.

Full Review… | October 9, 2008
Top Critic

Safe and apolitical it may be, but Philadelphia succeeds as a deeply affecting humanist drama.

Full Review… | June 23, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

"Philadelphia" mostly succeeds in being forceful, impassioned and moving, sometimes even rising to the full range of emotion that its subject warrants. But too often, even at its most assertive, it works in safely predictable ways.

May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

This AIDS courtroom drama is so pumped full of nitrous oxide, you could get your teeth drilled on it.

Full Review… | December 31, 1999
Washington Post
Top Critic

Philadelphia breaks no new dramatic ground ... And yet Philadelphia is quite a good film, on its own terms.

Full Review… | December 31, 1999
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Philadelphia

One of the first movies to deal with delicate matters like AIDS, homosexuality and intolerance at the time of its release. Although not altogether memorable, this is a praise-worthy effort that relies on some great performances and proves to be a deeply touching experience.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

Philadelphia is heartfelt and well-performed despite the simple plot. Tom Hanks & Denzel Washington provide remarkable charisma and chemistry in this film along with a creative direction from Jonathan Demme, making this piece an underrated film of the 90s. 4/5

Eugene Bernabe
Eugene Bernabe

Super Reviewer

Upon its release, this was a very important and groundbreaking film since it was the first major Hollywood effort to deal with the medical, social, and political issues of AIDS. The story revolves around lawyer Andrew Beckett who is fired (he is told) for incompetence. He thinks the real reasons he is fired is because he is gay, but more importantly, because he is dying of AIDS. He feels an injustice has been done, so he teams up with an ACLU lawyer to take his former employers to court. Tom Hanks won his first of two consecutive Oscars with this role as Andy Beckett, and yeah, he is wonderful. He gives a moving and sensitive performance- really highlighting what it is like to experience the stigmas surrounding the AIDS virus, especially at that time. As his lawyer, Denzel Washington is also top notch. I like how Washington's Joe Miller openly admits his dislike of homosexuals, but comes around when he realizes that Beckett really was unjustly let go. The film's primarily a courtroom drama, but it's not nearly as gripping as something like A Few Good Men. I appreciate the way the film handles the subject matter, but I can't help but feel it gets a bit too heavy handed, preachy, and pretentious at times, though thankfully it's largely nuanced for a lot of it. If going solely by the acting, this would get at least 4.5 stars, but as an overall experience I think 4 is pretty fair. It is an important work, but I think it's a bit rough around the edges, being groundbreaking and whatnot. All in all though, I do recommend it, because it is very affecting and touching.

Chris Weber
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

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