Philadelphia (1993) was directed by Jonathan Demme. The AIDS epidemic started in the early 1980's, and movies about AIDS started to appear in the mid-1980s. However, to my knowledge, Philadelphia was the first high-budget, mainstream film about AIDS to appear on the screen.
TriStar certainly provided the funds to attract an all-star cast. Tom Hanks portrays brilliant lawyer Andrew Beckett. When Beckett is fired from his high-prestige law firm, no lawyer wants to touch his case for wrongful dismissal. Denzel Washington plays Joe Miller, who agrees to represent Beckett. (Joe is himself uncomfortable with AIDS. However, he knows injustice when he sees it.) Antonio Banderas plays Beckett's loving partner, Miguel Alvarez. Jason Robards is perfectly cast as Charles Wheeler, Beckett's mentor until he becomes Beckett's enemy. All four men are superstars, and it's easy to see why.
The film doesn't just have star power in the leading roles. Great actors like Roberta Maxwell and Joanne Woodward have small supporting roles.
The movie is courageous in facing AIDS directly. In the 1980's and 1990's, people distinguished between "good AIDS" and "bad AIDS." Good AIDS was AIDS that people contracted from blood transfusions. So, the thought was that these people were innocent victims.
Bad AIDS came from (mostly) men having sex with men. In retrospect, we can see the moral error in this good vs. evil judgment. But, at the time, gay sex was considered evil, and many people thought that gay men with AIDS deserved the disease.
How this prejudice played out inside and outside the courtroom represents the plot of the movie. It's very strong and truly heart-wrenching.
We saw this film at the excellent Dryden Theatre at George Eastman Museum in Rochester, NY. It was shown at Rochester's wonderful ImageOut, the LGBT Film Festival. Almost all of the movies shown at ImageOut are new, cutting-edge films. Philadelphia was shown under the heading, "ImageOut of the Archives." The movie was made almost 25 years ago, and it's being shown again to mark that anniversary.
Philadelphia is an important film, and shouldn't be missed. It will work very well on the small screen. Find it and watch it. (Or, as I did, watch it again.)
P.S. Mary Steenburgen has a supporting role as Belinda Conine, the attorney representing Beckett's former law firm. I can't remember when an actor has made so strong an impression in a relatively small role. She's just what you'd expect in this context--brilliant, eloquent, with a heart that has no room for conscience or remorse. She knows that the law firm had dismissed Beckett because he had AIDS. However, that's not going to stop her in the least. It's not even going to slow her down.