10 Movies That Accidentally Impacted The World

List Rules
Vote up the films with the greatest impact outside the theater.

Plenty of films change the movie industry, maybe with the development of a new type of special effect or maybe through the work of a brilliant new filmmaker, but what often gets overlooked is how movies can actually change the world. While many great films take inspiration from real life, a select few managed to do the inverse, becoming movies with real-world consequences. Both the Hollywood of old and the cinema of today brought all sorts of changes to the world, and these changes arrived in ways both big and small, both bad and good, and almost all were completely uninentional.


  • 1
    560 VOTES

    Philadelphia Opened Minds And Hearts To The AIDS Epidemic

    Philadelphia Opened Minds And Hearts To The AIDS Epidemic
    Photo: Tri Star Pictures

    The 1993 film, Philadelphia, arrived in the midst of the AIDS epidemic, during a time when a distinct lack of education about the disease only exacerbated the crisis. It can't be overstated how devastating the lack of communication and education about the AIDS crisis was in the 1970s and 1980s. Irrational fear and suspicion pervaded American culture at every mention of HIV or AIDS.

    Roger Ebert said it best in the opening to his review of the film: "More than a decade after AIDS was first identified as a disease, 'Philadelphia' marks the first time Hollywood has risked a big-budget film on the subject." He continues to applaud the film's bravery and stealthy progressiveness by saying that "for moviegoers with an antipathy to AIDS but an enthusiasm for stars like Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington, it may help to broaden understanding of the disease. It's a ground-breaker like "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" (1967), the first major film about an interracial romance; it uses the chemistry of popular stars in a reliable genre to sidestep what looks like controversy."

    Yep. All it took was the charming Trojan Horse of two of our generations greatest and most beloved actors to spread the message. Tom Hanks took on the role of an AIDS patient who believes he was wrongly terminated as a result of his diagnosis and Denzel Washington portrayed his homophobic lawyer, the only person willing to take the case. Philadelphia, aside from winning two Oscars and making more than $100 million at the box office, also brought newfound awareness to the disease and humanity to those suffering from it.

    More than two decades later, film and culture experts believe the film literally changed the national conversation about HIV-AIDS. Filmmaker Jonathan Demme expressed a gladness to "see that AIDS doesn't bear really remotely the stigma which was quite overwhelming at the time, that it did 20 years ago."  

    HIV patient, Raphael Alvarez, 25, agreed the film made a major impact on the public's understanding of the epidemic. "It definitely put in perspective why we have to fight and change," Alvarez said. "The work we've done, we have changed HIV. We genuinely have done that. Healthcare has changed it. But there's so much work to be done. And that's what it [the movie] has affirmed for me."

  • 2
    420 VOTES

    Finding Nemo Ironically Increased Sales Of Tropical Fish

    Finding Nemo Ironically Increased Sales Of Tropical Fish
    Photo: Pixar

    Seriously, if Finding Nemo (the story of a neurotic but big-hearted clownfish father going to enormous lengths to find and rescue his adorable, tiny-finned son) failed to pull on your heartstrings, do you even have a heart? The phenomenally successful 2003 film resonated with millions of viewers, yet its central messages of environmental conservatism apparently failed to land with the same impact.

    According to National Geographic, demand for clownfish tripled in the wake of the Pixar film. In fact, demand grew so high that a clownfish conservation website, SavingNemo.org, formed as a response. According to their website, more than one million clownfish are taken from their coral reef homes and sold to aquarium keepers around the world. Nearly half of them wind up in the United States. Experts say the colorful fish is functionally extinct or nearly so in parts of southeast Asia where they previously thrived.

    This is especially ironic because the human who first finds Nemo and puts him in a fish tank is the antagonist of the movie! Children across America saw the movie that is solely about reuniting a young clownfish with his father and getting home to his natural environment and concluded "Cool! I want a Nemo, too!"

    Another unforeseen impact came from fish owners already in possession of clownfish, who out of sympathy began releasing their clownfish into environments vastly different than their usual habitats. Furthermore, the release of Finding Dory lead to increased sales of the blue tang, a fish experts say cannot be bred in captivity and is not a "beginner's fish." It's time for Pixar to right this wrong and make a Finding Nemo 3 where the plot is just that fish live quiet lives in the ocean and humans leave them alone. Maybe invent a human protagonist character that adopts and raises a pet rock, or something harmless like that.

  • 3
    423 VOTES

    Jaws Led To The Over-Hunting Of Sharks

    Jaws Led To The Over-Hunting Of Sharks
    Photo: University Pictures

    Hollywood hosts an impressive track record of creating long-lasting boogie men. Perhaps one of the longest-lived among those is the specter of the murderous Great White shark from the 1975 movie, Jaws. The shark from Jaws is one of the most menacing and effective movie monsters.

    Maybe too effective, in fact. Ever since the huge success of Jaws, sharks continue to suffer an undeserved and negative reputation as bloodthirsty predators with human flesh on their minds at all times. Christopher Neff, a lecturer at the University of Sydney, Australia, says the public often fails to distinguish fictional monsters from reality. "No great white shark has ever acted like the one that terrorizes Amity Island [the community portrayed in Jaws]."

    The irrational fear inspired by the film led to shore side communities around the world to implement punitive laws against sharks who happen to stray close to shore. Over the years, these laws resulted in the unnecessary deaths of thousands of sharks, and also encouraged a trend in hunting sharks as trophies or parts to be sold to certain culinary markets in Asia. Estimates give an upwards of 100 million sharks killed each year, resulting in a shark population somewhere between six and eight percent. 

    In the underwater, shark-version of Hollywood, we imagine they play a completely different horror movie every year. The story of one confused shark who accidentally strays too close to shore and then his entire family gets murdered by a group of humans who are thirsty for shark blood. It's called Quint, and they play it every summer and it terrifies every little shark child in the sea.

  • 4
    317 VOTES

    JFK Inspired A Law That Reopened The Kennedy Assassination

    JFK Inspired A Law That Reopened The Kennedy Assassination
    Photo: Warner Brothers

    The release of the 1991 film, JFK, did not mark the beginning of conspiracy theories surrounding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. But the film managed to renew interest in "what really happened in Dealy Plaza" into high gear. The film's director, Oliver Stone, was roundly criticized for proposing alternative theories to the established story of Lee Harvey Oswald as the lone killer. But Stone took the criticism in stride and continues standing by the premise of his film to this day.

    The cultural influence of the film, however, cannot be denied. George H. W. Bush, who, ironically is often pointed at by conspiracy theorists as having played a role in the JFK assassination, signed into law the JFK Act, which allowed the government's investigation of the assassination to be reopened. A wide-reaching exploration of all the information, including newly released documents pertaining to the event, ensued and interest in discovering the "truth" about the assassination rose to an all-time high. Nearly thirty years after the release of JFK, more than sixty percent of the American population believes that the whole story of the tragic event has not been revealed.