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Parents' Guide to


By Heather Boerner, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 14+

Moving, Oscared '90s drama fostered AIDS empathy.

Movie PG-13 1993 125 minutes
Philadelphia Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 14+

Based on 2 parent reviews

age 13+

AIDS drama has strong Hanks as the anchor

While the rest of this 90s movie is a bit predictable (and emotionally manipulative at the end), there is still no denying the strong acting power in Denzel Washington and Tom Hanks, who have a great chemistry as an odd couple of sorts. Of course, Hanks is the one you come here for, and it's a safe bet that what got him that Oscar is the opera scene, a truly heart-wrenching moment in his character's life, caught up in the beauty of something he loves so much despite his circumstances. Nowadays this type of procedural film about a man with AIDS could be studio Oscar bait, but with Hanks at the helm, giving this man a warmth and humor and relatabililty, he is fully fleshed out. I also found it a great choice that they had Denzel play this part: ironically because African-Americans have been prejudiced so much, and his character, though he defends Hanks, is strongly anti-gay. It just reveals the horrific pecking order of our society, though I'm glad to say much has changed. The language is only nasty when slurs come in the picture, so if your movie buff teen wants to see this at a younger age I think you should let them. It's great acting and a great message of tolerance.
age 15+

A "Gay Movie" for Straight People

I'm a fan of Jonathan Demme and I have an interest in LGBT themes, so I decided to check this film out. This is powerful and emotional, and very well done. The trial scenes are particularly powerful and convincing. Homophobia and AIDS discrimination are huge themes in this film. This film raises the discussion of different AIDS victims being "guilty" or "innocent" (as in, was the disease transmitted through their sexual encounters or through something they couldn't control, like a blood transfusion) which is a sensitive topic and not brought up often in film. However, you can tell that the target audience is straight people, because the lives of gay people are not portrayed with great accuracy, and it sort of sugarcoats some things. At the time, this movie was considered a shift in the way LGBT people are portrayed in Hollywood, to being more realistic. But it feels kind of staged and fake in some parts, mostly the parts involving Andy Beckett's personal life. I also heard they cut out some scenes where Andy Beckett and his boyfriend Miguel were being more affectionate, including a scene where they were laying in bed together. They probably thought the straight audience couldn't handle that. By the standards of the time that this film came out, scenes involving gay people in this movie were much more accurate than other movies. Overall I enjoyed the film.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (2 ):
Kids say (11 ):

Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington give blockbuster performances in this intense drama with a timely and compelling plot. PHILADELPHIA asks the question of how we treat people who have sexually transmitted diseases, especially AIDS and especially when they're gay. The pacing and structure of the film are designed by director Jonathan Demme to treat the viewer as the jury. The arguments are taut and compelling. And Hanks' gaunt reserve and quiet despair as he loses his battle with the disease are mesmerizing.

Sure, the film is emotionally manipulative, but many great movies are. Yet Andy isn't allowed to be anything less than the patron saint of AIDS victims. What few dark secrets he has are brushed off with the supportive look of his family. Andy is masculine, loved by his family, his partner is accepted by everyone, and Andy is, of course, rich. One wonders how viewers would think of a gay AIDS patient who had been ostracized by his family, who was effeminate, who was poor, and maybe wasn't quite as perfect of a human being. Would he be any less deserving of respect and justice?

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