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Some see cinema as a form of “escapism,” while others see it as a social reflection. A powerful form of mass communication, cinema has the ability to impact and bring about change through its compelling and intense storytelling. Movies are often touted as a reflection of society—for society and by society. Since its inception, mainstream cinema has given us some of the most exceptional cinematic displays, which we will be talking about in this article. Here are 10 movies that prompted change in our society.
- Philadelphia (1993): A legal drama, Philadelphia raised the issue of homophobia and was one of the first mainstream Hollywood movies to talk about the originality of the AIDS epidemic and the stigma that gay people face. The movie stars Tom Hanks, who won an Academy Award for the role of a gay man named Andrew Beckett, who sues his employers after they fire him for discovering that he has AIDS. Philadelphia sparked the right debate on this issue, causing a worldwide storm in which people became more accepting of gay people and those with AIDS. The world embraced those suffering from AIDS, which helped to de-stigmatize homophobia.
- Forrest Gump (1994): Again starring Tom Hanks, Forrest Gump told the story of an orphan, inspired millions of people worldwide, and raised the issue of people with special needs. A man who has a strong will can conquer anything in the world, as was inspiringly displayed by Tom Hanks. The film challenged stereotypical notions about people with special needs, thereby establishing proper discourse. Forrest Gump’s character inspired millions across the globe, and the film has seen many official adaptations, the latest being Laal Singh Chadha, an official Indian adaptation.
- Parasite (2019): Becoming the first international movie to win the Best Picture award at the Oscars, Parasite is a wonderful film, both metaphorically and cinematically. Just for background, Parasite told the story of the Kim family, who are struggling to make ends meet. Vance’s luck has it that they enter a wealthy family, each taking up a different profession under the same roof, and then develop parasitic pustules. The movie taught the world about human ambitions and greed in an unprecedented manner.
- Schindler’s List (1993): Oskar Schindler (The Schindler’s List) Liam Neeson’s iconic portrayal of Oskar Schindler is one of the best roles we will ever watch. The true story of how Oskar Schindler, a German businessman, saved thousands of Polish-Jewish people during the Holocaust by employing them in his factories is told in “Schindler’s List.” The character shows humanitarian values in a world full of bigotry with an ideal and awe-inspiring spirit. The film depicted the deprivation that the Jewish people faced during the Holocaust while also reminding the world of the evils of fascism.
- The Pursuit of Happyness (2006): Will Smith’s portrayal of Chris Gardner in a biopic based on businessman and motivational speaker Chris Gardner is a priceless character trait that every man should engrave in his personality. The Pursuit of Happyness is a perfect reciprocation of the proverb, “Tough times don’t last, but tough people do.” What could be worse for a man than being homeless with his toddler son and sleeping in public restrooms? Well, this is actually what happened to Chris Gardner before he made it big. The story and character played by Will Smith emotionally moved audiences worldwide. Lessons learned: Never Give up, Be focused, and pursue your goals diligently. Your character speaks volumes. All these traits, which Chris Gardner personifies in the movie, can inspire men to overcome situations that are rigid and unprecedented.
- Jai Bhim (2021): Jai Bhim is an Indian legal drama about a lawyer and activist who becomes the voice of the voiceless (Dalits and Tribals). The movie’s themes include unjust atrocities against the tribals and the marginalised depiction of real incidents. Jai Bhim’s story hit the mark, enlightening the masses about oppressed people. The movie won many accolades and was praised for picking up on this bold topic.
- The Birth of a Nation (1915): Unlike many of the movies on the list, The Birth of a Nation is on the list for all the wrong reasons. The film, set in the American Civil War, was made in 1915, many decades after the war was over and the Klu Klux Klan’s numbers were drastically dwindling following the victory of the American Union and the abolition of slavery. However, The Birth of a Nation showed the Klu Klux Klan as saviours and incited far-right audience members to join the group. The movie delved into the issue of white supremacy and denigrating the black population. The movie told through the eyes of a white supremacist changed the world in a paradoxical way.
- A Girl in the River (2015): The Price of Forgiveness (2015); A Girl in the River is a 2015 Oscar Award-winning documentary featuring the life of a girl whose only fault is that she loved somebody. The documentary takes up the issue of honour killing in an unprecedented way and is a shocking revelation. The movie made the then-Prime Minister of Pakistan pitch for a change in the laws of honour killing.
- Born into Brothels (2004) : Born into Brothels: Calcutta’s Red Light Kids is a 2004 Indian-American documentary film about the children of prostitutes in Sonagachi, Kolkata’s red light district. The widely acclaimed film, written and directed by Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman, won a string of accolades, including the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 2005. The movie was instrumental in this issue being reflected on the world stage. Since the documentary’s release, there has been a heated debate about the lives of children in such situations.
- Get Out (2017): Get Out is a psychological horror film that garnered critical acclaim upon its release. Chosen as the best script of the 21st century by the Writers Guild of America, “Get Out” is one of the most thought-provoking movies, that explores the issue of black slavery in an intimidating way. Its script is its main USP. Get Out scares and talks about social evils simultaneously.