Itinerary: Philadelphia in the Movies

'Rocky' might be one of the more famous Philadelphia-based movies, but it's far from the first or last.

Making Great Movies

Even if it’s your first visit to Philadelphia, front stoops and train stations tend to feel familiar — because they are familiar. East to west, from river to river and beyond, Philly is a hugely popular choice for Hollywood producers and screenwriters. 

From fighting off an invisible Transformer to cheering on the home team, why not spend a day reenacting a few memorable scenes from some favorite big screen features?

Start at the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, which Nicolas Cage drives across in a sweeping aerial shot in National Treasure. The world’s longest suspension bridge at its 1926 opening, the bridge and its 1.5-mile pedestrian walkway also star in Transformers 2Twelve Monkeys and Denzel Washington’s Fallen.

Stay in Old City and proceed to where troubled Cole sought sanctuary in The Sixth Sense. Above the red doors inside the magnificent St. Augustine Church is the scripture “Come to me all ye that labor and are burdened and I will refresh you.” (243 North Lawrence St.)
You can also grab a bite at Butcher & Singer, the location of the final scene from the film.

Venture across Market Street to Independence Hall. Although not actually shot here, musical theater aficionados will recognize the hall as the setting of the campy 1972 film “1776.” Like its 1969 Broadway predecessor, the movie covers the Continental Congress’ debates about American Independence and stars William Daniels, who would later land another Philly-set role, Mr. Feeny in ABC’s “Boy Meets World.” Timed tickets must be obtained from the Independence Visitor Center.

Take a delicious detour south to the Famous 4th Street Delicatessen, 700 S. 4th St., known for its massive portions, fantastic cookies and a cameo in the dramatic Philadelphia — both Santa Claus and Denzel Washington’s character Joe Miller stop in here one snowy evening. The deli’s previous owner, David Auspitz, and his teen daughter, Debra, were extras in the scene.

Next, head to the very center of Philadelphia. Since justice is the theme of 2009 thriller Law Abiding Citizen, it’s no wonder the iconic Philadelphia City Hall plays a major role. The film, starring Gerard Butler and Jamie Foxx, was shot throughout the city with the old Broadmeadows prison, Rittenhouse Square’s popular Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse and even former Mayor Michael Nutter all playing a part.

Proceed into the heart of the Philadelphia skyline, featuring Two Liberty Place‘s sparkling towers full of over 60 shops and restaurants. They’re well worth Brad Pitt’s heroic efforts in the blockbuster World War Z.

Turn south to trés chic Rittenhouse Square. In a wintry scene, police busted Eddie Murphy’s not-so-blind, not-so-homeless and not-so amputated Billy Ray Valentine at 18th and Walnut after he pestered the late Don Ameche and other passersby in the funny classic Trading Places.

Head over to the University of Pennsylvania’s Franklin Field, 235 S. 33rd St., which stood in for the razed Veterans Stadium during Mark Wahlberg’s portrayal of Eagles wide receiver Vince Papale in Invincible. Bruce Willis’ Unbreakable security guard also worked here.

Stick around UPenn and see The Perelman Quadrangle, or “the Quad,” 3417 Spruce St., which is near the center of the campus. Modeled largely after buildings at British universities, its 19th- and early 20th-century Philadelphia architects could’ve never anticipated an Autobot named Bumblebee coming to protect Shia LeBeouf in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Break out of the business district entirely with another local sports legend. Pride shares the true story of Philadelphia Department of Recreation coach Jim Ellis and his youth swim team, who overcame resistance in the pool and in life, earning athletic scholarships and invitations to the U.S. Olympic trials. Costarring the late Bernie Mac, Terrence Howard portrays Ellis in his earliest coaching years at the then-Sayre Recreation Center, 5835 Spruce St.

Finally, drive to the edge of Philly and refuel at the Llanerch Diner, star of hometown actor Bradley Cooper’s Silver Linings Playbook, 95 E. Township Line Road.

Seven Philadelphia-made blockbuster stopped $200 million at the box office:

  • “The Village” ($255 million)
  • “Philadelphia” ($201 million)
  • “Unbreakable” ($249 million)
  • “Signs” ($408 million)
  • “National Treasure” ($338 million)
  • “The Sixth Sense” ($662 million)
  • “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” ($402 million)


Some stars who grew up in Philadelphia:
Kevin Bacon, Bill Cosby, Richard Gere, Will Smith, Bradley Cooper, Tina Fey. Musicians who found their groove here: Boyz II Men, Cinderella, Disco Biscuits, G. Love, Hall & Oates, Patti LaBelle, Pink and Ween.

Actors with the most PHL film credits:

  • Sylvester Stallone – 5
    This fighter proves there’s just no keeping a good man (or role) down. Nearly every time he rose from the mat, a new visit to Philly was in order. Pick one: Rocky, Rocky II, Rocky III, Rocky V and Rocky Balboa.
  • Mark Wahlberg – 5 
    Before Wahlberg played the father of a murdered young girl in The Lovely Bones, he starred as a hometown football player in Invincible, an ex-marine in Shooter, a teacher in The Happening and Charlie Croker in The Italian Job.
  • Bruce Willis – 3 
    He helped stave off an epidemic in 12 Monkeys before his startling revelation shocked audiences in The Sixth Sense and he discovered his own special gift in Unbreakable.
  • Toni Collette – 2 
    Her onscreen son’s Sixth Sense reconciled her memories of her mother before she made amends with a wayward younger sister in In Her Shoes.
  • Denzel Washington – 2 
    His Philadelphia lawyer overcame homophobia to befriend Tom Hanks in the landmark film. Then he played a Philly cop fighting the supernatural in Fallen.

PHL on the small screen:
Created by a Philadelphia-native in 2005, the wildly popular FX comedy series “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” stars Danny DeVito and focuses on the troubles of four egocentric friends in the city.

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