It’s no secret that movies possess the power to change the world. Because of movies, political systems have shifted; actions have been taken to prevent or mitigate catastrophes that may not have been public knowledge without a movie. After all, if someone with the power to effect real change sees a film, why should they be any less moved than the rest of us? Thankfully, history is awash with examples of movies that have, indeed, completely transformed the environment around us. Here are 9 examples of movies that have changed the world, in a big or small way.
1. Black Panther (dir. Ryan Coogler, 2018)
Marvel’s most politically charged superhero movie is a paean to all things Black. Portraying Wakanda as a super-state unfettered by Western interference, Black Panther also features the tragically late Chadwick Boseman as the titular character, a powerhouse performance that will go down in history. Black Panther’s effect on the world isn’t limited to race relations; after the movie’s release, there was a marked uptick in the number of black cat adoptions from shelters.
2. Twilight (dir. Catherine Hardwicke, 2008)
Love them or hate them, the Twilight movies changed society. Teenage girls suddenly found an outlet; where popular culture had been dominated by male-driven franchises such as superhero movies or Star Wars, now young women flocked to cinemas to see their romantic idols live out vampiric fantasies on screen. Twilight also gave rise to an increase in searches for the kind of classic literature Bella loves, suggesting that many young people discovered literature as a result of the movie. Take a look at this infographic from Betway for more info!
This infographic from Betway has some interesting details about a list of movies and tv shows that changed society, including Twilight.
3. Jurassic Park (dir. Stephen Spielberg, 1993)
It’s safe to say that prior to the advent of Jurassic Park, dinosaurs were a curio that weren’t as widespread and mainstream as they would become after the movie’s release. Debates regarding its accuracy aside, there’s no doubt that Jurassic Park is a roller coaster thrill ride of a movie; it arguably simultaneously kickstarted many children’s fascination with dinosaurs and the modern blockbuster era of Hollywood at the same time. It’s endlessly quotable, too. “Clever girl.”
4. Philadelphia (dir. Jonathan Demme, 1993)
There’s no doubt that the AIDS crisis is an international tragedy and one of the leading causes of death around the world. Prior to the release of Philadelphia, this was known, but there was an entirely unjustified stigma surrounding AIDS. Jonathan Demme’s movie, which starred Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington, helped to deconstruct some of the myths and legends around AIDS and normalise it for a population who didn’t fully understand what it was or what it could do.
5. Super Size Me (dir. Morgan Spurlock, 2004)
The fast food industry has never had quite so much egg (McMuffin) on its face. Morgan Spurlock’s damning indictment of the fast food industry’s lack of care towards the nutritional value of its food and the health of its patrons changed the game. As a result of the movie, McDonald’s actually removed the Super Size option from its menu, and has arguably been attempting to make more and more of a push towards healthier menu options ever since.
6. An Inconvenient Truth (dir. Davis Guggenheim, 2006)
Al Gore is arguably more famous for his part in An Inconvenient Truth than he is for his unsuccessful presidential bid in 2000. With climate change still very much on the agenda in terms of modern news, one could be forgiven for thinking very little has changed since Gore and Guggenheim’s urgent proclamation regarding the damage humans are doing to their environment. That’s not necessarily true, but time is running out, and Gore’s movie made people realise how much of an issue climate change really was.
7. Blackfish (dir. Gabriela Cowperthwaite, 2013)
Blackfish is not a movie for the faint of heart. It is an unrelenting, harrowing depiction of the cruel, awful conditions suffered by killer whales (also known as orcas) at the SeaWorld park. After Blackfish was released, stock in SeaWorld plummeted, and the company was forced to concede defeat, stating that 2016’s “current generation of killer whales” would be the last ones kept in captivity at the park. Watching this movie knowing it has a slightly happier ending than it originally did is soothing, but it won’t be a total balm for the soul.
8. The Birth of a Nation (dir. D.W. Griffith, 1915)
Not every movie that changes the world necessarily changes it for the better, although it could be argued that the academic discourse around The Birth of a Nation has recontextualised it in a very helpful way. D.W. Griffith’s epic introduced many of cinema’s most common concepts; it pioneered new approaches in narrative, music, and different shot types, among other things. It is unmistakably incredibly racist and difficult to watch by today’s standards, but it stands as a landmark both in race discourse and in cinematography.
9. Selma (dir. Ava DuVernay, 2014)
This remarkable historical drama stars the incredible David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King, Jr. during the 1965 Selma voting rights marches. It’s a stunning portrait of a time rife with racial tension and a simmering sense of injustice. The script is incredible, but Selma’s impact goes beyond its status as a movie. It aligned itself with the nascent Black Lives Matter movement (now tragically more relevant than it has ever been), and found itself at the centre of renewed conversations about how society should approach race.