Philadelphia, the 1993 film about the HIV/AIDS epidemic, presented its topic in a new way for many people. According to Columbia professor Rita Charon, whose organization honored the movie for its impact in 2013, it was "one of the first mainstream movies to address HIV/AIDS, homophobia, and discrimination."
The film stars Tom Hanks as a successful corporate attorney who is fired after contracting AIDS. Denzel Washington plays his homophobic lawyer, who ultimately gains empathy for Hanks' character after spending time with him and his partner and helping him fight for his rights. Jodie Howard of Cinema of Change notes that casting Hanks, an extremely popular heterosexual actor, in the role of a gay man with AIDS helped prejudiced audience members relate to the character. Howard notes that at the time of the film's release, many people, including powerful public figures, looked down on people with the disease and didn't understand it.
The movie won two Oscars and introduced and explained the issues at the core of the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the time, which helped reduce discrimination, hostility, stigma, and incorrect views about the illness and about gay people.