Pop culture is also known as ‘people’s culture’ – the specific aspects of life that people are most actively involved in.
Originally, the popular culture term was used to describe anything that was enjoyed by the masses, as opposed to ‘high culture’ activities that were preferred by the upper and ruling classes, but nowadays the term is used to describe any thoughts, ideas, images, videos, music, movies or attitudes that the mainstream population prefers.
A movie makes it into the list of being a pop culture icon when it is not only representative of the time it is set – in terms of fashion, ideals, and staging – but also when the movie becomes mentioned in other media later on. This can include parodies as well as direct quotes, mentions of the movie as something a character in a show, book, or film has seen and/or enjoyed, and a reference point for discussing other movies in the same genre.
The movies in this list come from different decades, but each have had a pervasive and lasting effect on cinema and in popular culture.
Released back in 1972, The Godfather is widely recognized as one of the greatest films of all time.
A mob drama based on the Corleone family from a book by Mario Puzo, The Godfather was directed by Francis Ford Coppola and starred both Marlon Brando and Al Pacino.
This film has been referenced in so many places, especially in cartoons like The Simpsons, that for many millennials it is likely that they would have seen a spoof of the film before they actually saw the real thing.
From iconic scenes like waking up to a horse’s head in a bed to classic lines like ‘an offer you can’t refuse’, The Godfathercould be one of the biggest influences in pop culture when it comes to mafia language and American-Italian stereotypes.
The Breakfast Club
Released in 1985, The Breakfast Club is not only an iconic coming-of-age movie that defined a generation of teenagers, it also represented a very ‘80s high school and the archetypal characters that we still see in movies today. The athlete, the brain, the criminal, the princess, and the basket case are five character types that form the basis of many tropes when it comes to films.
The very ‘80s clothing and style, including huge shoulder pads and blue jean shorts, are only part of the draw. The Simple Minds song Don’t You (Forget About Me) evokes many memories for the teenagers who had their lives defined by the movie, and even the original poster has been parodied time and time again – most recently in Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Quentin Taratino is often described as a visionary, even when his visions are deep and dark. Pulp Fiction is no exception to this. Met with both acclaim and controversy when it was first released in 1994, this hybrid crime drama and black comedy had an all-star cast and dealt with some interesting concepts.
The film itself is packed full of cultural references to the period it is set in; with everything from The Flintstones to It’s a Wonderful Life, but what makes it iconic is how eminently quotable it is too.
References to Pulp Fiction abound in movies, TV shows, and books, including Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
What Makes Pop Culture?
These days, pop culture can be used as a phrase to describe almost anything that is popular, from the more usual music, movies, and TV shows to the more arcane things like slang and even viral videos and memes.
In fact, a great way to determine if a movie has had an impact on pop culture is to see whether scenes and/or phrases from a movie have been made into memes – and if the answer is yes, then that is something that you could call a pop culture movie.
Garon Cockrell is the Founder and Editor of Pop Culture Beast and host of The Pop Culture Beast Show. He founded the site over seven years ago to have a place on the internet to write about the things he loved. Since then, Garon has become a best-selling author (Demonic and Other Tales), an award winning screenwriter (Best Screenplay 2013 Motor City Nightmares Film Festival), and a cast member on the top rated podcast, Never Not Funny.