People think of movies as a source of entertainment, but there is more to watching movies than being entertained. With the changing playing field in global business and the seas of interaction with each other, it's not a wonder that entertainment has now evolved to be "infotainment". Do we get anything else from watching movies besides entertainment? Can movies make us smarter?
Movies make us learn all kinds of things from technology to literature, history and language. Theater, known to be a "bastard of the arts" practically has all the elements of a basic education: Music, literature, production design, dance and even history and politics. Being the precursor to what later became Hollywood entertainment, the impact of theater on everyone went far beyond the glitz and glamour of the stars. It went beyond the pursuit of money. Movies became the instrument of social change, at the rate of which would make or break entire economies and even public opinion.
Instruments of social change - Movies are so powerful, there are people who take it all in hook, line and sinker, blurring the lines between fact and fiction. With social change as a powerful force, people are judged based on the kind of movies they see. Big guy down the hall loves watching mindless mayhem and gory violence on screen must be less cerebral than the guy who likes watching Robert DeNiro in more intellectual roles. However, there are valid points where watching movies can, indeed, make you smarter.
History seen through movies - You can learn a lot watching war movies. There was a time when Vietnam War movies were a big hit and almost every possible movie maker in Hollywood made a war movie. Movies are a good way of regurgitating information that would normally be a headache to remember. Coupled with an affective approach, movies make you remember names and dates far better than all of the history books and journals combined. The cinematic experience brings you to the scene where it all happened and you can practically experience the travails and torments of the Vietnam War in Stanley Kubrick's "Full Metal Jacket". Or the sacrifice of the Japanese soldiers in Clint Eastwood's "Iwo Jima". Or simply the horrors brought about by the Hutu Militia in Terry George's "Hotel Rwanda."
Language learning through movies - Probably the most common use of movies is learning another language. Movies employ dialogue that is rich in irony, paradoxes and humor which are all higher-level applications of language. To understand a movie in another language is to really stretch your comprehension and memory to get it right in one viewing. So what did Mary Poppins mean when she sang "supercalifragilisticespialidocious"? What did Dirty Harry mean when he said "Go ahead punk, make my day!"
When watching foreign movies with subtitles, one would find it frustrating that the translation doesn't relate the humor effectively. However, do these make one smarter? Maybe so. Movies also reflect the culture of its country of origin and exposing oneself to movies both local and foreign will definitely be subjected to some form of information overload. Nonetheless, it is still usable information and can significantly contribute to making you smarter.