Last year, it felt like the entire industry shook under the weight of 'Barbenheimer.' There was fan art, costumes, memes, and the term even became part of the cultural lexicon, as each of the movies that inspired it hurdled over a billion dollars at the box office.

One of the things that stood out to me was that this was not a new phenomenon.

It feels like every year, a movie scene or term enters popular culture and has an impact; sometimes, the thing it inspires is more popular than even the film itself.

I'm talking about something like 'Sliding Doors', the phrase versus the film in that instance.

Well, this all got me thinking—what are some of the most iconic film scenes, and what was their impact on popular culture?

Let's dive into that together.

The History of Film and Pop Culture

The History of Film and Pop Culture

Avengers: Infinity War


The intersection of film and pop culture has historically shaped societal trends, norms, and our collective consciousness.

It's why you can quote lines to your friends and laugh, and what invades Halloween costumes every year.

This relationship underscores cinema's profound influence on popular culture, reflecting and informing each other's evolution from the early 20th century to the digital age.

This interplay, manifesting in fashion, language, behavior, and societal norms, embeds films and their iconic elements deeply into the cultural fabric.

Early Cinema and the Birth of Pop Icons

With the advent of cinema in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, audiences were introduced to figures like Charlie Chaplin's The Tramp.

This character entertained but also resonated with the era's underdog spirit, becoming an early example of film's influence on popular culture.

The bowler hat and cane associated with Chaplin's persona became emblematic of the time, embodying the social struggles and aspirations of the era.

The Golden Age of Hollywood and Glamour

The Golden Age of Hollywood and Glamour


20th Century Fox

When it came to tying movies to popular culture, the stars of the 50s and 60s did most of the heavy lifting.

Golden Age of Hollywood icons such as Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, and Audrey Hepburn transcended their roles on screen to influence fashion, beauty standards, and moral values.

Monroe's look and Dean's rebel persona were emulated globally, showcasing cinema's capacity to dictate contemporary trends and ideals.

And their tragic deaths swept a nation whose emotional journey was reflected in their work.

The 70s and 80s: Blockbusters and Merchandising

The 70s and 80s: Blockbusters and Merchandising

Star Wars


The emergence of blockbusters in the 1970s and 80s, highlighted by films like Star Wars and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, marked a new era where movies extended their influence through merchandise, conventions, and fan cultures.

They helped launch the potential for film to create immersive worlds for fans to engage with beyond the cinema, influencing not just hobbies and fashion, but also introducing new terms into everyday language.

The 90s and 2000s: Digital Age and Globalization

What Are Some Iconic Movie Scenes That Impacted Pop Culture?

The Matrix behind the scenes

Warner Bros.

The advancement of technology and globalization in the 90s and 2000s allowed for the rapid spread of film-related content, memes, and fan theories, making cinema's impact on pop culture more immediate and pervasive.

Films like The Matrix introduced concepts that transcended their narratives to influence fashion, philosophy, and cyberculture, reflecting the era's technological and societal shifts.

Social Media and Viral Trends of Today

Currently, social media platforms have amplified cinema's influence on pop culture, enabling viral trends, challenges, and widespread engagement with cinematic content.

Films such as Black Panther have become not only commercial successes but also cultural milestones, influencing fashion, sparking discussions on representation, and inspiring social movements.

Platforms like TikTok have seen users recreate scenes, dances, and dialogues from films, showcasing cinema's enduring impact on daily life and pop culture.

And let's not forget the memes!

What Are Some Iconic Scenes and What Was Their Impact on Pop Culture?

As you can see, cinema has long been a mirror reflecting societal trends, emotions, and the zeitgeist of its time.

Film have an impact, but so do individual scenes as well.

They can become those TikTok, or SNL clips, or just be something people mimic or reference. Certain scenes have transcended their narrative context to become iconic symbols recognized worldwide.

So let's go over some more films I think are important in this conversation.

  • Psycho (1960): Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho features one of the most iconic scenes in cinema history—the shower scene. This moment not only revolutionized horror filmmaking but also introduced a new level of suspense and psychological thrill. Its impact is evident in the way suspense is built in movies and TV shows today, with the scene often parodied or homaged in various media.
  • The Sound of Music (1965): Julie Andrews twirling on the mountaintop as Maria in The Sound of Music is a moment of pure joy and freedom that has profoundly influenced the musical genre. This scene has inspired countless advertisements and fashion editorials, promoting a whimsical, free-spirited style that continues to resonate.
  • Alien (1979): The unexpected horror of the chestburster scene in Ridley Scott's Alien has been etched into the collective consciousness, influencing not just the sci-fi and horror genres but also how shock value is perceived and utilized in entertainment, inspiring numerous imitations and parodies.
  • Pulp Fiction (1994): Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction revitalized the cool of the 60s through its dance scene with John Travolta and Uma Thurman. This scene impacted fashion with the revival of bolo ties, slim suits, and bob haircuts, showcasing the cyclical nature of fashion trends.
  • Titanic (1997): Leonardo DiCaprio's exclamation on the bow of the Titanic, "I'm King of the World!" has become a cultural touchstone for expressing a feeling of triumph. This scene has been mimicked and referenced in countless ways, highlighting the movie's impact on popular culture.
  • The Matrix (1999): The Matrix introduced the visual effect of bullet time, revolutionizing action sequences in films. The iconic bullet-dodge scene has influenced not just filmmaking techniques but also video games and memes, becoming a symbol of overcoming seemingly insurmountable challenges.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002): Gollum's obsession with the One Ring and his iconic utterance of "My Precious" has permeated popular culture, symbolizing addiction and obsession. This scene has inspired countless memes, merchandise, and has been used in various contexts to describe unhealthy obsessions.
  • Spider-Man (2002): The upside-down kiss between Spider-Man and Mary Jane is one of the most iconic romantic scenes in cinema history, influencing the superhero genre and romantic gestures in popular culture, inspiring parodies and homages in film and television.
  • The Dark Knight (2008): Heath Ledger's portrayal of the Joker and his chilling delivery of "Why so serious?" has become synonymous with the character, influencing the portrayal of villains in cinema and becoming a popular phrase used to challenge the status quo or in moments of levity.
  • Frozen (2013): Elsa's powerful ballad and transformation in Frozen sparked a cultural phenomenon, influencing fashion with Elsa-themed dresses and empowering a generation to embrace their uniqueness. The song itself has become an anthem of liberation and self-acceptance.
  • Avengers: Infinity War (2018): Thanos's snap, which erased half of all life in the universe, became an immediate cultural touchstone, symbolizing the impact of loss and the stakes of power. Memes, theories, and discussions about the snap dominated social media, reflecting its deep impact on pop culture.
  • Joker (2019): Joaquin Phoenix's dance down the stairs as the Joker became an instant iconic moment, symbolizing transformation and descent into madness. This scene has influenced fashion, with the Joker's suit becoming a popular Halloween costume, and has been recreated and parodied numerous times.

The intersection of film and pop culture reflects society's evolution, embodying the hopes, fears, and dreams of each era.

As cinema evolves with technological advancements and societal changes, its relationship with pop culture ensures it remains a vital force in shaping collective identity and trends.

This relationship highlights storytelling through film's power to influence, reflect, and sometimes predict societal shifts, solidifying cinema's role as a cornerstone of cultural discourse.

Let me know what you think in the comments.