What Are The Best Movies Shot In Pennsylvania?

While most people are aware of where movies take place – even though Toronto often subs for a standard American city – it is always interesting to learn what movies are shot in your state. At PennStakes.com, we took a break from Pennsylvania sportsbooks to look at the best movies ever shot in Pennsylvania.

“Best” is, of course, a subjective term, but the 10 films mentioned below  – all from the past 30 years (except Nos. 7 and 10 from the 1970s)  – are worth watching and would make for an excellent Pennsylvania Film Festival.

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Sylvester Stallone, Tom Hanks Among Those Represented

At No. 10 is “Rocky,” directed by John G. Avildsen, and written by and starring Sylvester Stallone. Hollywood had long loved boxing movies, but “Rocky” resurrected the genre and gave our hero some Philly grit. 

In the city that gave the world Joe Frazier and Bernard Hopkins, the fictional Rocky Balboa might be the most famous fighter of them all. The movie spurred numerous sequels and sort-of-sequels, including the No. 6 film, “Creed.” The film won Oscars for Best Director and Best Picture, beating out “All the President’s Men,” “Network,” “Taxi Driver” and “Bound for Glory.”

“Philadelphia” comes in at No. 9. Jonathan Demme’s drama starred Tom Hanks as a gay, HIV-positive big-firm attorney wrongfully terminated and Denzel Washington as the less than woke small-time lawyer willing to take his case. Hanks won an Oscar, as did Bruce Springsteen for his song, “Streets of Philadelphia.” This was one of the first mainstream Hollywood movies to tackle the AIDS crisis.

“The Wrestler” (No. 8) was also shot in Philadelphia (and around New Jersey) and featured Mickey Rourke as a man struggling with coming to terms with the end of his career in the ring. With Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood. Directed by Darren Aronofsky. Rourke and Tomei both received Oscar nominations.

“The Deer Hunter” (No. 7) was shot in Western Pennsylvania and was a 3-hour look at how the Vietnam War messed with the minds of a group of friends. Michael Cimino's film was nominated for 9 Oscars and won 5, including Best Picture and Best Director. Safe to say it would have been a juggernaut across PA betting apps.

The killer cast included Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, John Savage, John Cazale, and Cazale’s then-girlfriend Meryl Streep. Cazale, famous for playing Fredo in "The Godfather" films, was ill with cancer during filming and the studio wanted him fired, but Streep fought for him to stay on. He died after the film was finished and before it was released.

Best Movies Shot in Pennsylvania

Overall Rank Movie Primary Location Average Ranking (across all categories)
1 Silence of the Lambs (1991) Pittsburgh2.6
2 The Avengers (2012) Butler5.4
3 The Sixth Sense (1999) Philadelphia6
4 The Dark Knight Rises (2012) Pittsburgh8.2
5 Silver Linings Playbook (2012) Philadelphia8.6
6 Creed (2015) Philadelphia8.8
7 The Deer Hunter (1978) Clairton9.2
8 The Wrestler (2008) Philadelphia10
9 Philadelphia (1993) Philadelphia10.8
10 Rocky (1976) Philadelphia11

Healthy Respect for Creed, Bradley Cooper

“Creed” (No. 6) brings back a much older Rocky, now training Apollo Creed’s son (Michael B. Jordan). Written and directed by Ryan Coogler (“Black Panther”). Sylvester Stallone was nominated for Best Supporting Actor, but lost to Alan Arkin in "Little Miss Sunshine." Jordan's directorial debut, “Creed III,” hits theaters in March.

“Silver Linings Playbook” (No. 5) is a romantic comedy-drama about troubled lovers, written and directed by David O. Russell and set in Philadelphia. Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Jacki Weaver and Robert De Niro star. Lawrence won the Oscar for Best Actress. The film received 7 other nominations, including Best Picture.

At No. 4 is Batman in “The Dark Knight Rises,” third in the Christian Bale Caped Crusader trilogy. Christopher Nolan directed, the bad guy is Bane (Tom Hardy) and Pittsburgh makes a convincing Gotham City. The film gained local credit, too, for Hines Ward and Ben Roethlisberger cameos.

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Hannibal Lecter Takes No. 1

M. Night Shyamalan wrote and directed “The Sixth Sense” (No. 3) using his hometown of Philadelphia as the backdrop for one of the great twist-endings in movie history. Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osment and Toni Collette star. The film was nominated for 6 Oscars, including Best Picture.

The first “Avengers” movie (No. 2) shot scenes in Butler, just outside of Pittsburgh, but a lot of the work of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes was done next door in Ohio. And on green screen. Joss Whedon wrote and directed and literally everybody in the 2012 Marvel Cinematic Universe is in it. A worldwide gross of $1.5 billion confirmed a lot of people also went to see it.

At No. 1 is another Jonathan Demme film, the one he shot before “Philadelphia.” 

Of course it is "The Silence of the Lambs.” This time Demme worked mostly in Western Pennsylvania. Anthony Hopkins is serial killer Hannibal Lecter and Jodie Foster is FBI cadet Clarice Starling, who needs Lecter’s help to catch another serial killer. This one gets under his victims’ skin in a more visceral way than Lecter gets under Clarice’s. 

The film won five Oscars, including all four big ones, plus Ted Tally for adapting Thomas Harris’s book.


PennStakes.com found the 30 highest ranked movies shot in Pennsylvania as a starting basis for the research. We then utilized the following data points – IMDB rating, Rotten Tomatoes Audience score, Rotten Tomatoes Critic score, Box Office and Oscars recognition. 

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Howard Gensler

Howard Gensler is a veteran journalist who’s worked at the Philadelphia Daily News, TV Guide and the Philadelphia Inquirer and is a founding editor of bettorsinsider.com.

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