films Surprisingly Measurable Ways Movies Impacted The World  

Cheryl Adams Richkoff
51 votes 30 voters 11 items Embed

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

When it comes to discussing the impact of cinema, the ways movies impacted the world cannot be understated. Films that had real-world consequences went much further than just simply being inspiring films, they also led to tangible changes in the lives of people who might never even see them. 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 both brought all sorts of changes to the world, and these changes arrived in ways both big and small.

Some of the famous films below caused spikes in certain types of trends or products, shifting human behavior on a more personal level. On the other side, certain movies led to shifts in discussion about politics, disease, and the environment. All of them likely didn't realize the scope of influence they would eventually create, but in their aftermaths, there remains no doubt of their impact upon the modern world.

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The Day After Tomorrow Woke Many To The Dangers Of Climate Change

The Day After Tomorrow Woke Ma... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Surprisingly Measurable Ways Movies Impacted The World
Photo: 20th Century Fox

The shocking scenes of a devastated New York City within the The Day After Tomorrow's (2004) first hour certainly introduced many filmgoers to the threat of global warming and its impact on the environment. According to environmentalist Anthony Leiserowitz, the film generated ten times the news coverage of a major environmental report released in 2001. Some scientists, including Michael Molitor, agreed. 

"This film could do more in helping us move in the right direction than all the scientific work and all the U.S. Congressional testimonies put together," Molitor said. "Nothing I have done in the 23 years of my climate change career may have a greater impact than this film." Leiserowitz further stated the film "led moviegoers to have higher levels of concern and worry about global warming ... and to shift their conceptual understanding of the climate system toward a threshold [or tipping point] model.”

The film also is said to have played a role in the rise in people willing to actively participate in bringing about political work regarding the environment. In a survey asking people their choices for president in 2004, respondents who saw the film responded as more likely to vote for John Kerry than George W. Bush.

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Philadelphia Opened Minds And Hearts To The AIDS Epidemic

Philadelphia Opened Minds And ... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Surprisingly Measurable Ways Movies Impacted The World
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 led only exacerbated the crisis. Irrational fear and suspicion pervaded American culture at every mention of HIV or AIDS. And yet, a major and trusted Hollywood star, Tom Hanks, took on the role of an AIDS patient. 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."

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All The President's Men Turned Many On To Politics

All The President's Men Turned... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Surprisingly Measurable Ways Movies Impacted The World
Photo: Warner Brothers

Films dealing with politics never felt all that personal or significant until the 1976 film, All The President's Men arrived to theaters. The portrayal of then recent events - the Watergate scandal - seemed surreal in all its corrupt glory. Through the eyes of two major newsmen of the time - Bob Woodward (played by Robert Redford), and Carl Bernstein (played by Dustin Hoffman), a curious public saw the corruption and abuse of power by President Richard Nixon and his administration. With its earnest and compelling depiction of the scandal, All The President's Men is credited with a rise in enrollment at journalism schools and a stronger public interest in politics that still resounds today. Additionally, some also note its political impact upon the press itself, leading more liberally-minded citizens to favor the press while more conservative people began to distrust it.

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Casablanca Influenced U.S. Foreign Policy

Casablanca Influenced U.S. For... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Surprisingly Measurable Ways Movies Impacted The World
Photo: Warner Brothers

According to film critic, Emanuel Levy, the classic, 1942 film, Casablanca, is "easily one of the most influential movies in American film history." He cites the timing of the film's release and the state of a world at war as a tipping point for the American public. The film encouraged an American involvement on the world stage, shrugging off the isolationist policies of the '20s and '30s. Casablanca portrayed intervention in foreign affairs as a natural and necessary aspect of U.S. policy, and Levy suggests the tradition inspired by Casablanca continues even today in how the U.S. government perceives itself in the world.