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Top 5 Movies That Had a Real World Impact

"When Politics and Cinema Collide"

Action director Michael Bay, famously known for his love of explosions and the American military – is currently in between Transformers movies. Because of this free time, Mr. Bay was allowed to make a true-life thriller about the 2012 attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. Based on a book by Mitchell Zuckoff 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, the film looks at a private security team who get caught up in the action and the failing of the State Department.

Right-leaning audiences will be hoping that 13 Hours derails Hilary Clinton’s Presidential Campaign and convinces Americans not to vote for her. However this is extremely unlikely, particularly by the time the Presidential Election comes about. It is still a good time to look at some movies that actually had a real world impact – whether political, social, cultural or financial.

5. V for Vendetta
v for vendetta revolution
Based on Alan Moore’s excellent graphic novel, the film adaptation of V for Vendetta updated the story from Thatcher’s Britain to a war-to-terror tale where a fascist government has taken control of Britain and a lone mysterious freedom fighter, V, attempts to incite a revolution.

V for Vendetta quickly became a cult hit and is considered one of the best adaptations of Moore’s work: if a loose one. The use of the Guy Fawkes Mask has become very popular with protest movements around the world – being used by Occupy and anti-government protests around the world from Thailand to Turkey to Brazil. The organization Anonymous also used the Guy Fawkes Mask as their logo and arranged the annual Million Mask March on Guy Fawkes Night.

Ironically the popularity of the mask for anti-Capitalist protestors has ended up being a very profitable endeavour for Time Warner.

4. JFK

JFK Conspiracy Industry

The political thriller JFK is considered one of Oliver Stone’s best movies, being nominated for eight Oscars and winning two of them. Based on two books, On the Trail of the Assassins by Jim Garrison and Crossfire: The Plot That Killed Kennedy by Jim Marrs JFK focuses on Jim Garrison, a District Attorney in Louisiana – the only man who has brought a prosecution against someone suspected of being involved with the Kennedy Assassination.

Stone made a very manipulative movie – altering and ignoring facts – such as Lee Harvey Oswald’s background to suit his insane theory that the American government, including Lyndon B. Johnson, arranged Kennedy’s assassination because Kennedy wanted to withdraw American forces from Vietnam, while the Military-Industrial Complex wanted more involvement.

Despite JFK being historically suspect, Stone showed the movie to Congress in December 1991, and the movie has been credited for helping pass the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992 – which authorized the release of all US government records about the Kennedy Assassination.

3. Blackfish
blackfish still
Blackfish was a critically acclaimed documentary about treatment of killer whales held in captivity focusing mainly on Tilikum – a bull orca that killed three people – including experienced trainer Dawn Bracheau during a live show. Blackfish highlighted the plight of orcas held at SeaWorld – from how the creatures are captured and are psychologically broken – interviewing former trainers and fishermen to achieve this.

Since the release of Blackfish, SeaWorld has suffered from constant PR disasters – attendances are down and their stock price fell by 44% in 2014. Southwest Airlines ended a 26-year relationship with the company and politicians in New York and California introduced legislation to end whale shows, including breeding and banning their captivity and the US Congress updated the Animal Welfare Act regarding the welfare of cetacean (whales and dolphins) in captivity. When the Orlando Business Journal ran an online poll about the impact of Blackfish, it turned out many votes came from IP addresses associated to SeaWorld.

After the documentary’s release even more former SeaWorld trainers and employees have spoken to the press about the treatment of the animals – not just orcas but also the Bulgar whales, dolphins, walruses and penguins. The website The Dodo has been running a campaign against SeaWorld with the hashtag Empty the Tanks.

Even the film world has been affected – the sequel to Finding Nemo, Finding Dora has changed its depiction of marine animals in captivity because of Blackfish and the Young Adult comedy-drama Paper Town cut a scene set in SeaWorld because of the bad publicity.

2. The Birth of a Nation

Actors costumed in the full regalia of the Ku Klux Klan chase down a white actor in blackface in a still from 'The Birth of a Nation,' the first feature-length film, directed by D. W. Griffith, California, 1914.

The Birth of a Nation is often cited as one of great revolutionary movies of the silent era and the birth of American cinema. But it is also one of the most controversial movies in American history. Based on the novel The Clansman, the 1915 movie is a three hour epic set during The American Civil War and the Reconstruction era. It is a movie noted for its battle scenes and its use of techniques like wide shots, night photography, color tinting, montages and how it used classical music.

The Birth of a Nation has a very dark legacy because of its portrayal of African-Americans. The Birth of a Nation used negative stereotypes and iconography of political cartoons from the Reconstruction era to show freed slaves to be lazy, stupid and violent – seeking reprisals against the white population after The Civil War. Many of the actors who played African-Americans were white actors in blackface. The movie portrayed the Ku Klux Klan being formed as a response and that they brought back law-and-order to The South by attacking African-Americans and freed slaves.

The Birth of a Nation was the most expensive movie to be made for its time and was a huge hit. It also  has the distinction of being the first movie to be shown in The White House. But the NAACP protested the release of the movie and demanded a ban and cuts. The movie was banned in some cities like Chicago and Los Angeles.

The movie helped romanticize the idea of the Lost Cause of Confederacy and showed the KKK as noble heroes instead of what they really are. The movie was considered partly responsible for an upturn in KKK membership.

Director D. W. Griffith responded to accusations of racism and glorifying the KKK with his follow-up movie Intolerance – an epic movie set across four time periods where prejudice tears four societies apart. It is also considered a masterpiece of the silent era.

1. Innocence of Muslims
Innocence of Muslims still
Say what you will about The Birth of a Nation, but it is a movie that can be admired for it technical achievements and was a big hit for it to have an impact. None of this can be said for The Innocence of Muslims a highly offensive 15 minute long ‘trailer’ that showed the persecution of Coptic Christians in modern Egypt and portrayed the Prophet Muhammad as a womanizer, child abusing, warmonger thug.

Innocence of Muslims was an extremely low budget short that has appalling acting, directing and production values and would have even been ignored by fans of so-bad-its-good cinema: but because of its subject matter it sparked a worldwide backlash across the globe. There were protests in major European cities, like Sydney and across predominately Muslim countries. American embassies were attacked across the Middle East and North Africa – in Cairo the American flag was torn down and replaced with a black Islamic flag, four protesters were killed in Sana’s, Yemen, 35 guards and another four protesters were killed and 46 protesters injured in Tunis, Tunisia. Hezbollah issued a Fatwa against the filmmakers and the Pakistani Railways Minister Ghulam Ahmad Bilour offered a $100,000 bounty for the filmmaker’s death.

Innocence of Muslim also sparked a debate on free speech in Western nations and the trailer on Youtube was blocked in numerous nations such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Brazil. One of the actresses in Innocence of Muslim, Cindy Lee Garcia, sued Youtube and Google for them to take down the video because her work was altered without her knowledge or consent.

This was a short designed to provoke a reaction and it was unfortunately very successful in achieving this.

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