Movies, books, and songs to capture the essence of Philadelphia and get you in the mood for travel
Movies and TV Shows
A small-time boxer and part-time hood is plucked from obscurity for a shot at the title—and self respect. “Everybody who cheers Rocky is cheering South Philly, too.”—Irv Slifkin, author, Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies.
The Philadelphia Story (1940)
As a petulant socialite readies for a second marriage to a stuffed shirt, her rakish ex appears on the scene with a tabloid reporter intent on deflating the upper crust.
Trading Places (1983)
A highfalutin investor and a street-smart bum find their lives reversed, the result of two millionaires’ bets on what makes a man: breeding or upbringing. “A story of brotherly love. Makes no difference whether you’re blue collar or blueblood, everyone rows this boat together.”—Carrie Rickey, film critic, The Philadelphia Inquirer.
The Sixth Sense (1999)
A child psychologist seeking meaning after a violent encounter with a former patient tries to help a boy who sees dead people.
12 Monkeys (1995)
It’s 2035 and only one percent of the population has escaped the plague. A survivor living under the desolate city volunteers to go back in time to find the source of the epidemic—but winds up in the wrong year. “The insane asylum is really Eastern State Penitentiary.”—Irv Slifkin.
An attorney fired because he has AIDS sues his conservative law firm. In addition to the jury, he must win over his homophobic counsel, the only lawyer who would take his case.
My Architect (2003)
Documentary on renowned architect Louis Kahn by his son, born into one of Kahn’s two secret families.
Cold Case (CBS) There’s no statute of limitations on murder, as the spunky detective who leads this fictional team of hardboiled Philly cops shows.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (FX)
Four unapologetically self-absorbed chums open a bar. City son Rob McElhenney is the writer, producer, and star, as well as the guy who screams at skyscrapers at the corner of 19th and Market.
Suggested reading from Steven Rothman, president of the Philobiblon Club, a group of librarians, printers, binders, and book lovers founded in 1893.
The Autobiography of Ben Franklin (1791)
Originally penned as a memoir for his son, Franklin “captured colonial Philadelphia and the nuances of daily life in wonderful detail.”
Kitty Foyle: The Natural History of a Woman, by Christopher Morley (1939)
A successful career gal of humble origins is torn between beaus from the Main Line and Main Street. “Fascinating portraits of the privileged Main Line and working class Frankford.”
Black Friday, by David Goodis (1954)
Melancholy, hardboiled noir thriller about a guy on the lam who shows up broke in the middle of a Philly winter. “A look at the skid row and pawn shops and seamy side of the city in the early 1950s.”
The Philadelphian, by Richard Powell (1956)
“A bitingly accurate look at the post-war years in the city as it follows an Irish family whose fourth generation makes a bid for both success in a Philadelphia law firm and society.”
God’s Pocket, by Pete Dexter (1983)
A fading, alcoholic newspaperman tries to interpret an insular working class neighborhood, where folks don’t welcome insights from outsiders.
The Price of a Child, by Lorene Cary (1995)
Novel based on a woman’s true-life escape from slavery in 1855 to the City of Brotherly Love, a stronghold of Quaker abolitionists.
In Her Shoes, by Jennifer Weiner (2002)
“Young professionals living and loving in Center City.”
Three Tenors of Soul: All the Way From Philadelphia
Teams lead singers from three celebrated groups: Russell Thompkins, Jr. (the Stylistics), Will Hart (the Delfonics) and Ted “Wizard” Mills (Blue Magic). Local popsters Hall and Oates perform on the title track, which they also wrote.
Walt Disney’s Fantasia
Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra provided musical magic in 1940 with such classics as “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.”
Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince—Greatest Hits
DJ Jazzy Jeff and Will Smith in a West Philly collaboration that serves up such jiggy flights of fancy as “Parents Just Don’t Understand” and “I Think I Can Beat Mike Tyson.”
Philadelphia: Music From the Motion Picture
As diverse as the city, the score includes “Please Send Me Someone to Love” by Sade, Maria Callas’s rendition of “La Mamma Morta” and Neil Young’s elegiac title track.
“History is cool but music defines the energies and spirit of Philadelphia,” says Jerry Blavat, a disc jockey and radio personality since 1962. Here are his picks, and a few other local faves.
1. “Sailing to Philadelphia” by Mark Knopfler
2. “The Twist” by Chubby Checker
3. “Streets of Philadelphia” by Bruce Springsteen
4. “Gonna Fly Now” by Maynard Ferguson
5. “Fall in Philadelphia” by Hall and Oates
6. “South Street” by The Orlons
7. “Off to Philadelphia” by The Irish Tenors
8. “T.S.O.P. (The Sound of Philadelphia)” by The Three Degrees
9. “Bandstand Boogie” by Barry Manilow
10. “Philadelphia Freedom” by Elton John
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