We all know the power that a film can hold. It can inspire, enlighten, and even, at times, enrage. The ability of film to invoke strong emotions from a worldwide audience is seen time and again through successful film phenomenon: these are the kind of films that take the world by storm, grab our attention, and never let go. But can a film actually change the world? If we’re talking documentary, the answer is a resounding yes. Documentary films have played an integral role throughout the history of the world. Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will stands as the most influential propaganda films of all time, inspiring Nazi supporters to return Germany to the status of a great country. Errol Morris’ The Thin Blue Line even had an innocent man on death row cleared of his charges.
Yes, the proof that documentaries change the world is clear… but what about non-documentary and genre films? This year’s Academy Award for Best Picture went to The King’s Speech, a film that chronicles one man’s struggle with stuttering. Both local and national groups who work with individuals who stutter acknowledge that the film has raised awareness for the disorder, and even empowered those who stutter. While the effect may not be as far-reaching as with documentaries (Fahrenheit 9/11, An Inconvenient Truth, Super Size Me), entertainment movies hitting cineplexes across America and the world can also certainly change the social landscape of society.
I have to admit, films that spurn social consciousness give me butterflies. I find is amazing that an industry that’s stereotyped as shallow, vain, and recklessly extravagant can produce movies that connect with humanity. Not only that, but the connection can fuel change. Below I have complied a list of films that not only changed people’s opinions and perceptions, but also inspired audiences to take concrete action – to actually do something.
So tonight, as you sit down to pump out 10 pages of your screenplay, perhaps you’ll be inspired. Maybe you will put down the whoopee cushion (don’t get me wrong… I love whoopee cushion jokes just as much as the next girl), and instead take up an issue. Hey, you never know when you might change the world. Here’s to the writer’s with a message.