Leaving an Impact: Blockbuster Movies That Changed the World

The biggest movies can have a huge impact on the world around us, but it’s not always in the way you would think.

Sometimes, a movie will give a boost to the sales of an item it references. Other times, a film can cause a fundamental shift in society.

Let’s take a look at some of these surprisingly influential movies.

1 – JAWS

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After the enormous popularity of Jaws in 1975, people left the theater with a new perspective on sharks. Unfortunately, this led to the misconception that sharks sought out humans to attack and eat them.

As a result, there was a rise in sharks being slaughtered by humans for simply existing. The phenomenon is known as “The Jaws Effect.” Dr. Christopher Neff, a professor at the University of Sydney, coins the term.

Jaws had a significant impact. Great white sharks became villains overnight. It was now impossible for me to swim in a pool without fearing the illogical presence of a great white in the deep end.


Jurassic Park
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The beloved 1993 film Jurassic Park was behind a surge in aspiring paleontologists. It also drove a rise in museum attendance. But unfortunately, there was an increase in the illegal collection of dinosaur bones and fossils.

Jurassic Park wasn’t the first time dinosaurs appeared on the big screen. But it was the first time they were shown using lifelike animatronics and CGI. Seeing dinosaurs in such a realistic light stoked a fire in the hearts of countless individuals.


The Karate Kid
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The popularity of the 1984 film The Karate Kid caused a spike in kids’ interest in taking karate classes.

The idea of being a badass martial artist who could put every bully in their place was the dream of many after watching The Karate Kid. The many sequels, reboots, and now top-rated Netflix series Cobra Kai are partially responsible for the continued interest in martial arts.


The Avengers
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Everyone remembers the ending of the first Avengers movie. Watching our favorite heroes in the post-credits scene gathered around a table in a messy restaurant enjoying shawarma at Tony Stark’s recommendation was a sight to behold. It resonated so deeply with people that some restaurants and delis reported as much as an 80% increase in their shawarma sales!


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In the weeks following the 2009 release of Avatar, some viewers came forward to say they were experiencing “depression and suicidal thoughts.”

The beauty and wonder of the fictional world, Pandora, consumed their every thought and led to “post-Avatar depression.” Many of those affected sought therapy and psychiatric help and even founded a support group called Kelutral.

Hopefully, with the recent release of the long-anticipated sequel, Avatar: The Way of Water, those affected will find some relief.


Image Credit: Lionsgate.

In 2012, with movies like Brave, The Avengers, and, more specifically, The Hunger Games in theaters, interest in archery was at an all-time high amongst young girls.

Archery range owners noticed a significant uptick in the attendance of young girls and women. Thanks, Katniss Everdeen!

7 – BABE

Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Babe is a movie about an adorable pig who desperately wants to be a sheepdog and, in doing so, wins the hearts of millions. For that reason, the sale of pork dove a reported 25% during the year of the film’s release.

The movie was also responsible for making the human lead, James Cromwell, return to his vegan ways along with many other viewers. They are referred to as “Babe Vegetarians.”

Unfortunately, like many animal-centric films, it also drove people to buy animals they were unprepared to care for. This led to a surge in abandoned pigs around the country.


The Interview 
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As far as real-world impact is concerned, The Interview might have one of the most insane receptions in the last decade.

The movie centers around two characters, played by James Franco and Seth Rogen. They try to secure the interview of a lifetime with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The CIA intervenes and requests that they make an assassination attempt on Jon-un.

As you can imagine, this movie didn’t sit well with North Korea. Shortly before release, North Korea threatened action against the United States if Sony released the film. This resulted in a delayed release and re-editing of the film. Additionally, a North Korean cybercrime group hacked into Sony’s computer systems.

In addition, they threatened terrorist attacks against theaters showing the film, leading to major theater chains opting out of showcasing it. In response to all the threats, Sony released the film online digitally for rental and purchase. It became Sony’s most successful digital release at the time.


blackfish orca
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At first glance, this might seem like a charming documentary about Orca whales. But if you look again, you’ll see that it centers around Tilikum, an orca held by SeaWorld that was involved in the deaths of three people.

This documentary was made to show the truth behind the orcas captured, bred, and forced to perform under tremendous stress.

In response to this film, legislation was put in place that ensured the welfare and safety of orcas, banning entertainment-driven orca captivity. Just a few short years after the release of this film, SeaWorld’s stock and attendance had plummeted.

They announced in 2016 that they would end their orca breeding program and cease all live performances using orcas. It’s a shame their decision was based on profit loss, not morality.

10 – E.T.

ET the extra terrestial
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Can you imagine the iconic Reese’s Pieces scene in E.T. being done with M&M’s instead? Well, that was almost the case until Mars decided to turn down the brand deal with Universal Studios. Instead, the deal ended up being offered to Hershey’s.

This one-million-dollar deal saved Reese’s Pieces from being discontinued and skyrocketed the candy to legendary heights. There’s no E.T. without Reese’s Pieces!


movies that changed the world
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The movies listed above are just a handful of examples of media impacting the world around us, both big and small. It’s hard to say how the film in theaters today will impact us in the coming years. I guess we’ll have to wait and see!

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The Fugutive
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Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

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