Philadelphia Film Analysis

Philadelphia is an American drama film produced in 1993. In this film, Andrew Beckett who is both a homosexual and a person with HIV/AIDS hides his status in a prevailing Philadelphia law firm. His secret is however revealed by his colleague who spotted the disease’s symptoms. He has then fired afterward but decides to sue for discrimination and teams up the only lawyer willing to help.

This film captures the negative behaviors and attitudes related to HIV/AIDS epidemic in the workplace, therefore, allowing for a better understanding of the unexpected encounters that may happen in a professional environment. In this paper, I will discuss the ethical issues that are present in the film.

The first ethical issue evident in the film is discrimination. Most of the critical events in the film illustrate discrimination on the grounds of HIV status and sexual orientation. Beckett (the main character of the film), who works for a dominant law firm in Philadelphia, is diagnosed with HIV and does not inform his colleagues of his illness and that he is gay. He is then fired after some of his senior coworkers became aware of his illness. This shows that Beckett was unfairly dismissed because of his sexual orientation and HIV status. There is also a scene in the library where Beckett was researching his case and the librarian, having noticed that Beckett has HIV, he asks him to use a private room. These events clearly show how discrimination played a significant role in the film. Discrimination, as evidenced in the movie, is a serious ethical issue in the society which should be dealt with by promoting justice and equality of all people.


Freedom is another ethical issue in the film which appears several times. For instance, the black people in the film have freedom and are not treated differently from others. Another example is where people claim that the homosexuals should not be discriminated and that they should be entitled to the freedom to choose their sexual orientation.

Lying is another ethical issue addressed in the film where Beckett doses not inform his coworkers about his health condition and homosexuality. It was morally wrong for Beckett to hide his health issues with the company because his health could worsen any time including during a client consultation. The volatility of his illness is shown when he collapses at home because of bowel seizures. As we can conclude, Beckett’s health condition would most likely affect his ability to undertake his duties at work even if he was allowed to keep his career. Lying is, therefore, a dishonest behavior and a breach of judicial responsibility.

Another ethical issue in the film is the justice of the ruling. After his name is tarnished, Beckett is awarded his back pay and damages for pain and suffering according to the court ruling. His employer, on the other hand, is forced to pay a large amount of money in legal compensations. He also suffered a severe blow to his image. This, therefore, raises questions about the integrity of the judgment.

Determinism as an ethical issue in the film is shown where people were protesting for it since homosexuality had been banned and nobody was to talk about it.  The people who were advocating for the rights of homosexuals in the film wanted to enable others to be free in making their choices.

In conclusion, Philadelphia is a good film which shows perceptive discernments into an HIV victim sensitively in a poetic kind of way. I would recommend this film to anyone since it has moral; lessons in it.

According to me, this film presented an unbiased view of ethical issues. This is because we see ethical issues such as discrimination being solved in the end.


Ross, Z. (2004). Philadelphia. [Place of publication not identified]: Discovery Channel.


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