If last week’s tragic shooting in Colorado showed us anything, it’s that movies may play a bigger part in our lives than we’d like to admit.

It can be harmless entertainment for some, but life-changing for others.

For Listed this week we run through the good and the bad of cinematic influence. Whether it’s running across the country or shooting the president, these flicks definitely inspired something in their audience.

8. Money Train (1995)


Most crime movies take steps to avoid being instruction manuals – Tyler Durden’s formula for explosives in Fight Club (1999) is essentially bunk, for example. The Wesley Snipes/Woody Harrelson robbery caper Money Train, however, featured a particularly unique type of crime.  

In the film, a violent killer robs a subway ticket booth by inserting a hose and dousing the collector with gasoline. The victim survives, but that wasn’t the case when two youths tried the same stunt days after the movie opened. An attendant was killed, with the perps eventually convicted of murder. 

7. Forrest Gump (1994)


In the third act of Forrest Gump the slow-witted title character grows despondent after losing the love of his life, Jenny, for like the 12th time. He decides to run and doesn’t stop for three years. His personal marathon becomes a news sensation.

The subplot inspired numerous “real-life” Gumps. The most timely and notable was certainly Terry Hitchcock, a 57-year-old widower. In 1996, despite his age and health problems, Hitchcock ran from Saint Paul, MN to Atlanta, GA in 75 days. That’s about 2000 miles, on average a marathon’s length every day.

6. Rock Around the Clock (1956)


Moral outrage over rock and roll is a quaint notion these days — those damn kids and their swinging hips! But in 1956, lawmakers had some legitimate concern after a screening of the music picture Rock Around the Clock, featuring Bill Haley and his definitive title song, started a riot in England. A few thousand delinquents broke loose, stepping on biscuits, spilling tea, and whatever else angry English kids do.

Despite being a particularly crappy movie, Rock Around the Clock was nevertheless banned in major U.K. cities for fear it would inspire more teens to dance provocatively. 

5. Taxi Driver (1976)


Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver is the story of an ordinary man driven to violence by urban isolation. Though central character Travis Bickle only attacks criminals in the film, a subplot follows his aborted attempt to assassinate a presidential candidate. This is apparently what inspired John Hinckley, Jr. to riddle Ronald Reagan and his entourage with bullets in March 1981. The President and all other victims survived.

Hinckley was obsessed with Taxi Driver and reportedly viewed it multiple times in succession. His plan was to impress the film’s co-star Jodi Foster by becoming a “historical figure.” He was ruled not guilty by reason of insanity and remains locked up.

4. Seconds (1966)


In 1966 the mental state of Beach Boys songwriter Brian Wilson had begun to deteriorate. Factors including professional disappointment, drug abuse and schizophrenia were contributing to his withdrawal from the public eye. If he hadn’t attended a screening of John Frankenheimer’s Seconds it’s possible this breakdown could have been, if not avoided, at least held at bay.

Seconds follows a depressed man named Arthur Hamilton who undergoes a radical procedure to change his identity, physically and legally becoming Tony Wilson. Eventually his new life as Wilson becomes just as unbearable, but the shady organization behind the procedure is unwilling to give him another chance. Brian Wilson found his shared name and themes of persecution, paranoia and identity extremely difficult to handle. He came to believe the film had been made precisely to upset him, and would later cite it as a turning point in his illness.

3. The Flapper (1920) / 2. The Wild One (1953)


In 2012, it’s hard to believe an entire generation could be influenced by one movie. But it’s happened, at least twice. In 1920, the silent comedy The Flapper single-handedly introduced the freewheeling, alcohol-soaked lifestyle to women and their men alike across the Western world.

Thirty-three years later, Marlon Brando donned a motorcycle jacket and sideburns to play a young rebel in The Wild One. Elvis Presley was one of many young folks to see the movie — he copped Brando’s look, and managed to influence even more kids in his wake.

1. The Battle of Algiers (1966)


Gillo Pontecorvo’s The Battle of Algiers broke from traditional war films by depicting conflict driven by guerilla strategy, covert missions and urban violence. It demonstrated how oppressed/occupied people can defeat larger enemies by using carefully planned attacks in familiar surroundings, and integrating “soldiers” into a crowd.

Sure enough, the next few decades of war proved it right. Revolutionary groups like the Black Panthers, IRA, JKLF and Red Army Faction have all cited it as an inspiration. The Bush Administration’s apparent surprise that Iraqi forces did not stand around in uniforms waiting to be shot at could have been countered with an Intro to World Cinema class.

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