20 Most Essential Jonathan Demme Movies

From serial-killer thrillers to 'Stop Making Sense,' mob comedies to a feature-length monologue – the Demme films you need to see ASAP

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'Philadelphia' (1993)

In the present day, it's easy enough to file away Demme's A-list courtroom drama as a historical artifact or an Oscars factoid. (As a persecuted gay lawyer, Tom Hanks earned the first of his back-to-back Best Actor wins.) But beyond Hollywood’s wake-up call to the AIDS epidemic, both the film and the bond between Hanks and Denzel Washington's legal counsel act as the director's most lasting referendum on the grave importance of understanding, forgiveness and solidarity. Some will say it did not go far enough in terms of its portrayal of the plague that was still gutting the LGBT community, and it may not be Demme's "coolest" film. But it just might be his most deeply empathetic – and what's cooler than compassion for your fellow man? CB

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