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Original film poster
Directed by Jonathan Demme
Produced by Jonathan Demme
Edward Saxon
Written by Ron Nyswaner
Starring Tom Hanks
Denzel Washington
Jason Robards
Antonio Banderas
Joanne Woodward
Mary Steenburgen
Music by Howard Shore
Cinematography Tak Fujimoto
Editing by Craig McKay
Distributed by TriStar Pictures
Release date(s) December 23, 1993
Running time 125 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget US$26,000,000 (est.)
Gross revenue $206,678,440[1]

Philadelphia is a 1993 drama film. It was one of the first mainstream Hollywood films to acknowledge HIV/AIDS, homosexuality and homophobia. It was written by Ron Nyswaner and directed by Jonathan Demme. The film stars Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington. It was inspired by the story of Geoffrey Bowers, an attorney who in 1987 sued the law firm Baker & McKenzie for unfair dismissal in one of the first AIDS discrimination cases.



The film tells the story of Andrew Beckett (Hanks), a senior associate at the largest corporate law firm in Philadelphia. Although he lives with his partner Miguel Álvarez (Antonio Banderas), Beckett is not open about his homosexuality at the law firm, nor the fact he had contracted HIV. On the day he is assigned the firm's newest and most important case, one of the firm's partners notices a small lesion (Kaposi's sarcoma) on Beckett's forehead. Shortly thereafter, Beckett stays home from work for several days to try to find a way to hide his lesions. While at home, he finishes the complaint for the case he has been assigned and then brings it to his office, leaving instructions for his assistants to file the complaint in court on the following day, which marks the end of the statute of limitations for the case. Beckett suffers from bowel spasms at home and is rushed to the hospital. Later that morning, while still at the ER, he receives a frantic call from the firm asking for the complaint, as the paper copy cannot be found and there are no copies on the computer's hard drive. However, the complaint is finally discovered and is filed with the court at the last possible moment. The following day, Beckett is dismissed by the firm's partners, who had previously referred to him as their "friend", but now question his professional abilities in light of the misplaced document.

Beckett believes that someone deliberately hid his paperwork to give the firm a pretext to fire him, and that the firing is actually as a result of his diagnosis with AIDS. He asks several attorneys to take his case, including personal injury lawyer Joe Miller (Washington), with whom he had been involved in a previous case. Miller, who is admittedly homophobic and knows little about Beckett's disease, initially declines to take the case and immediately visits his doctor to find out if he could have contracted the disease through shaking Beckett's hand. The doctor explains the methods of HIV infection. The doctor then offers to take a sample of Miller's blood, suspecting that Miller was asking about AIDS because he suspected he had contracted it and was trying to hide it. Miller dismisses the request by laughing it off, thinking it a joke. Unable to find a lawyer willing to represent him, Beckett is compelled to act as his own attorney. While researching a case at a law library, Miller sees Beckett at a nearby table. After a librarian announces that he has found a book on AIDS discrimination for Beckett, others in the library begin to first stare and then move away, and the librarian suggests Beckett retire to a private room. Disgusted by their behavior, Miller approaches Beckett and reviews the material he has gathered. It is obvious he has decided to take the case. Upon receiving a summons by Miller, the head of the firm, Charles Wheeler (Jason Robards), worries about the damage the lawsuit could do to his business and reputation, although one partner (Ron Vawter) unsuccessfully tries to convince them to settle out of court with Beckett.

As the case goes before the court, Wheeler takes the stand, claiming that Beckett was incompetent and claiming that he had deliberately tried to hide his condition. The defense repeatedly suggests that Beckett had invited his illness through promiscuity and was therefore not a victim. In the course of testimony, it is revealed that the partner who had noticed Beckett's lesion had previously worked with a woman who had contracted AIDS after a blood transfusion and so would have recognized the lesion as relating to AIDS. To prove that the lesions would have been visible, Miller asks Beckett to unbutton his shirt while on the witness stand, revealing that his lesions were indeed visible and recognizable as such.

During cross-examination, Beckett admits that he was originally planning to tell his law colleagues that he was gay, but changed his mind after hearing them make homophobic jokes in the sauna of a health club. When asked about the truth of how he got infected, he confirms that he engaged in anonymous sex with another man at a pornographic movie theater. However, he and Miller gain an advantage when the partner who advised settling out of court confesses he long suspected Beckett had AIDS but never said anything, and how he regrets his inaction. Upon hearing this testimony, Wheeler turns to one of his law partners with a smirk; while the implication is subtle, Wheeler could be harboring his own suspicions about the testifying partner's sexual orientation that perhaps are now confirmed.

Beckett collapses during the end of the trial. During his hospitalization, the jury votes in his favor, awarding him back pay, damages for pain and suffering, and punitive damages. Miller visits Beckett in the hospital after the verdict and overcomes his fear enough to touch Beckett's face. After Beckett's family leaves the room, he tells Miguel that he is ready to die. A short scene immediately afterward shows Miller getting the word that Beckett has died. The movie ends with a reception at Beckett's home following the funeral, where many mourners, including the Millers, view home movies of Beckett as a healthy child.



Philadelphia was well received by critics,[2] and grossed over $200 million worldwide.[1]

Awards and nominations

The film won Academy Awards for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Tom Hanks), and Best Music, Song (Bruce Springsteen for "Streets of Philadelphia").

It was also nominated for another Best Music, Song award (Neil Young) for "Philadelphia", as well as Best Makeup (Carl Fullerton and Alan D'Angerio), and Best Original Screenplay (Ron Nyswaner).[3]

This film's protagonist, Andrew Beckett, is listed at number 49 among the heroes on the AFI's list of the Top 100 Heroes and Villains.

The film was ranked #20 on AFI's 100 Years... 100 Cheers.


The film was the second Hollywood big-budget, big-star film to tackle the issue of AIDS (following the TV movie And the Band Played On) in the United States and also signaled a shift in the early 1990s for Hollywood films to have more realistic depictions of gays and lesbians. In an interview for the 1996 documentary The Celluloid Closet, Hanks remarked that some scenes showing more affection between him and Banderas were cut, including a scene showing him and Banderas in bed together. The DVD edition of the film, produced by Automat Pictures, however, includes that scene.[4]

The family of Geoffrey Bowers sued the writers and producers of the movie, claiming that they deserved compensation. One year after Bowers' death, producer Scott Rudin had interviewed the Bowers family and their lawyers and, according to the Bowers family, promised them compensation. Family members claim that 54 scenes in the movie were very similar to events in Bowers' life, and that some of the information in the movie could only have come from their interviews. The defense said that Rudin had abandoned the project after hiring a writer and did not share any information that had been provided by the Bowers family.[5] The lawsuit was settled after five days of testimony. Although terms of the agreement were not released, the defendants did admit that "the film 'was inspired in part'" by Bowers' story.[6]

See also


  1. ^ a b Philadelphia (1993), Box Office Mojo
  2. ^ Philadelphia at Rotten Tomatoes
  3. ^ Cante, Richard C. (March 2009). Gay Men and the Forms of Contemporary US Culture. London: Ashgate Publishing. ISBN 0754672301. Chapter 3: Afterthoughts from Philadelphia...and Somewhere Else. 
  4. ^ Philadelphia. Dir. Jonathan Demme. Perf. Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington. TriStar Pictures, 1993.
  5. ^ Pristin, Terry (March 11, 1996), "Philadelphia Screenplay Suit to Reach Court", New York Times,, retrieved 2008-02-25 
  6. ^ "Philadelphia Makers Settle Suit", New York Times, March 20, 1996,, retrieved 2008-02-25 

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Philadelphia is a 1993 film about a man with AIDS who is fired by a conservative law firm because of his condition. He hires a homophobic small time lawyer as the only willing advocate for a wrongful dismissal suit.

Directed by Jonathan Demme. Written by Ron Nyswaner.
No one would take on his case... until one man was willing to take on the system.tagline


Joe Miller

  • We're standing here in Philadelphia, the, uh, city of brotherly love, the birthplace of freedom, where the, uh, founding fathers authored the Declaration of Independence, and I don't recall that glorious document saying anything about all straight men are created equal. I believe it says all men are created equal.
  • Now, explain it to me like I'm a four-year-old.
  • Some of these people make me sick, Philco. But a law's been broken. You remember the law, don't you?


Librarian: Wouldn't you be more comfortable in a research room?
[Andrew looks up and sees people in the library staring at him]
Andrew Beckett: No. Would it make you more comfortable?

Joe Miller: The Federal Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination against otherwise qualified handicapped persons who are able to perform the duties required by their employment. Although the ruling did not address the specific issue of HIV and AIDS discrimination...
Andrew Beckett: Subsequent decisions have held that AIDS is protected as a handicap under law, not only because of the physical limitations it imposes, but because the prejudice surrounding AIDS exacts a social death which precede... which precedes the physical one.
Joe Miller: This is the essence of discrimination: formulating opinions about others not based on their individual merits, but rather on their membership in a group with the same characteristics.

Andrew Beckett: What do you call a thousand lawyers chained together at the bottom of the ocean?
Joe Miller: I don't know.
Andrew Beckett: A good start.

Joe Miller: Have you ever felt discriminated against at Wyatt Wheeler?
Anthea Burton: Well, yes.
Joe Miller: In what way?
Anthea Burton: Well, Mr. Wheeler's secretary, Lydia, said that Mr. Wheeler had a problem with my earrings.
Joe Miller: Really?
Anthea Burton: Apparently Mr. Wheeler felt that they were too..."Ethnic" is the word she used. And she told me that he said that he would like it if I wore something a little less garish, a little smaller, and more "American."
Joe Miller: What'd you say?
Anthea Burton: I said my earrings are American. They're African-American.

Judge Garrett: In this courtroom, Mr.Miller, justice is blind to matters of race, creed, color, religion, and sexual orientation.
Joe Miller: With all due respect, your honor, we don't live in this courtroom though, do we?

Joe Miller: What do you love about the law, Andrew?
Andrew Beckett: I... many things... uh... uh... What I love the most about the law?
Joe Miller: Yeah.
Andrew Beckett: It's that every now and again - not often, but occasionally - you get to be a part of justice being done. That really is quite a thrill when that happens.

Andrew Beckett: Do you like opera?
Joe Miller: I'm not that familiar with opera.
Andrew Beckett: This is my favorite aria. This is Maria Callas. This is "Andrea Chenier", Umberto Giordano. This is Madeleine. She's saying how during the French Revolution, a mob set fire to her house, and her mother died... saving her. "Look, the place that cradled me is burning." Can you hear the heartache in her voice? Can you feel it, Joe? In come the strings, and it changes everything. The music fills with a hope, and that'll change again. Listen... listen..."I bring sorrow to those who love me." Oh, that single cello! "It was during this sorrow that love came to me." A voice filled with harmony. It says, "Live still, I am life. Heaven is in your eyes. Is everything around you just the blood and mud? I am divine. I am oblivion. I am the god... that comes down from the heavens, and makes of the Earth a heaven. I am love!... I am love."


  • No one would take on his case... until one man was willing to take on the system.


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