Jonathon Demme, the great film director, has died. Most of the obituaries mention “Silence of the Lambs, ” and it is indeed one of his most well know works. But Demme also made “Philadelphia,” a movie that starred an actor hitherto known for his comic roles and made him into a serious dramatic star. The actor’s name is Tom Hanks.

“Philadelphia” is very much an artifact of its times, having come out during the height of the AIDS epidemic in the early 1990s. Hanks plays a gay lawyer who was fired from the stodgy law firm he worked for essentially for contracting the deadly disease. At the time of the movie, AIDS was a certain death sentence.

Hanks’ character sues his old employer with the idea of regaining his besmirched honor before he suffers the slow, grisly death to which he has been condemned. The performance was searing, coming from an actor then best known for movies such as “Splash” and a TV series called “Bosom Buddies.” We owe every subsequent dramatic turn by Hanks, from “Forrest Gump” and “Apollo 13” to the upcoming “The Circle” to Demme allowing him to show what he could do.

As an aside, Denzel Washington plays Hanks’ lawyer, a man who had to struggle with feelings of prejudice against gay people. Washington’s performance cemented his status as a then up and coming actor of note.

“Silence of the Lambs,” for those few who do not know, made Anthony Hopkins into a superstar for his portrayal of Hannibal Lecter, the cultured, erudite, cannibalistic serial killer.

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At the time Hopkins had been a character actor for about 25 years, having first been on the big screen as Richard the Lion Heart, which he played as a gay psychopath, in “The Lion in Winter.” Lector, perhaps to Hopkins’ irritation, has become the Welsh actor’s iconic role. But he also played the gentle C.S. Lewis in a film a couple of years later.

Jodie Foster, as an FBI cadet named Clarice Starling, also shone in “Silence of the Lambs.” Foster plays a sharp but very inexperienced would be FBI agent who is thrown into close contact with the evil, manipulative Lector whose help she needs to catch another serial killer called “Buffalo Bill.” Lector takes a perverse liking to the younger woman and decides, at the end of the movie, not to have her for dinner.

Demme doesn’t have much else that is memorable in his body of work, except for a horrible attempt to remake “The Manchurian Candidate.” But two great movies like “Philadelphia and “Silence of the Lambs” are far more than most manage.