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May 21, 2010 1:18 PM   Subscribe

Name a movie (fictional, so no documentaries or historical retellings) that gave you some factual insight into the world.

I'm not looking for street smarts or human relations knowledge, but academic ideas, facts, etc. Sadly the best example I can think of is a TV show: Cheers taught me that Albania is on the Adriatic Sea long before I knew anything about European Geography.
posted by soelo to Media & Arts (26 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Waking Life taught me a whole lot about the mystical aspects of the life of Philip K. Dick.
posted by griphus at 1:21 PM on May 21, 2010

Best answer: The movie The Wind that Shakes the Barley gave me a rudimentary understanding of the Irish Civil War. A subject I didn't even know existed before I sat down to watch it.
posted by afx237vi at 1:24 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Sadly the best example I can think of is a TV show: Cheers taught me that Albania is on the Adriatic Sea long before I knew anything about European Geography.

Yes! because of that song! I can't believe someone besides me remembers this.

Period pieces, whether something like Pride & Prejudice or Band of Brothers, have given me a lot of insight into life in other eras.
posted by something something at 1:31 PM on May 21, 2010

Best answer: Three Kings taught me about sepsis. Mr. Baseball taught me that first you wash, then you bathe. The Last Emperor taught me how to urinate in a bucket quietly.

Albania's chief export is chrome.
posted by RobotHero at 1:37 PM on May 21, 2010

Best answer: 1900 by Bertolucci for the history of the 1st half of the 20th century in Italy starring Robert De Niro, Gérard Depardieu, Dominique Sanda, Donald Sutherland, Sterling Hayden and Burt Lancaster.
posted by readery at 1:38 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Where in the wold is Carmen Sandiego. Best cartoon ever.
posted by valoius at 1:41 PM on May 21, 2010

Funny that someone mentioned 1900, I was going to say The Last Emperor, but that might qualify as a "historical retelling" since it's a fictionalized, but fairly accurate film about Puyi. That's the first film I remember seeing that got me interested in a particular subject.
posted by SugarAndSass at 1:46 PM on May 21, 2010

Not a movie, but an episode of The Animaniacs taught me the location of Lake Titicaca.

(It's on the border of Bolivia and Peru. Why do we sing of its fame? Because we like saying the name.)
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:52 PM on May 21, 2010

Best answer: I once impressed the hell out of my mom when I was 8 or 9 by correctly identifying the Carpathian Mountains as one of the geographic borders of historic Moldavia while we were watching Jeopardy. The movie I learned that from? Ghostbusters II. No, seriously!

Fight Club didn't exactly teach me about soap, but it definitely reminded me about the various chemical processes involved to make it.
posted by Diagonalize at 2:18 PM on May 21, 2010

This isn't a movie, but written fiction: I stunned my parents by knowing what a vestal virgin was at the age of 12 because I had been going through my Anne Rice phase and read all of The Vampire Chronicles.
posted by millipede at 2:36 PM on May 21, 2010

Copycat taught me about American serial killers.
posted by Houyhnhnm at 3:26 PM on May 21, 2010

Also, Six Feet Under taught me a lot about what it's like to be a funeral director, especially in the first two seasons when Nate is studying to get his license. There's a lot of information about embalming procedures, regulations, standards of cleanliness, grief counseling techniques, etc.
posted by Houyhnhnm at 3:31 PM on May 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

Little Big Man taught me that General Custer was a bad guy.
posted by philip-random at 3:32 PM on May 21, 2010

almost anything by Robert Mitchner (probably the books more-so than the movies or tv adaptations)
posted by HuronBob at 3:36 PM on May 21, 2010

Not a movie (a TV show rather), but Animaniacs taught us every country in the world.
posted by Kippersoft at 5:35 PM on May 21, 2010

There's a lot of factual inaccuracies (a lot) in Amadeus, but I learned which parts were true and how the other parts weren't, because I was interested and looked it up.
posted by Busoni at 6:11 PM on May 21, 2010

Also: Across the Universe introduced me to a number of songs from the Beatles catalogue.
posted by Busoni at 6:17 PM on May 21, 2010

Best answer: Speaking of Burt Lancaster, Il Gattopardo taught me about Italian history in the nineteenth century.

The Battle of Algiers
taught me about the unraveling of French colonies in the Maghreb.

Tarkovsky’s Andrei Rublev taught me about the famous Russian icon painter, Andrej Rublëv.
posted by vkxmai at 7:04 PM on May 21, 2010

Can't believe no one has mentioned QI.
A British Television show that has nigh impossible questions being answered by comedians. Learning was never more fun.
posted by Lucubrator at 9:12 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

From Pee Wee's Big Adventure, I learned that The Alamo has no basement.
posted by motown missile at 12:20 AM on May 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

"Once were warriors" taught me something about contemporary Maori/New Zealand society [warning: it's pretty depressing viewing, and I can't vouch for its accuracy]
posted by melisande at 9:32 AM on May 22, 2010

and I can't vouch for its accuracy]

Interesting. After making my comment about Little Big Man and General Custer, I did a quick wiki-read and came up with the following ...

His actions before and during the battle remain intensely controversial to this day though even revisionist historians agree he was largely sympathetic to the cause of the Indian population and publicly opposed, to the detriment of his own career prospects, to the Grant Administration's policy of expansion into Indian lands.

So, in revision of the initial historical revision, Custer maybe wasn't such a bad guy after all. Which gets me rethinking what I learned from Little Big Man. Not that Custer himself was evil, but the white man and his government most definitely were, with the good ole Cavalry doing the dirty work.

Either way, ever since I saw Little Big Man, the natives (the First Nations, the "Human Beings" as they called themselves in the movie) have always been the good guys.
posted by philip-random at 10:07 AM on May 22, 2010

The Wire taught me everything from how drug selling and police sting operations work at various levels, to how to trick a suspected drug dealer with a Xerox machine, to why that kid would be selling drugs in the first place, along with hundreds of other things, ranging from very small--the Simpson PTP is the Cadillac of nail guns--to very big (spoliers) --"You come at the King, you best not miss," "A man must have a code," "The game is rigged, but you cannot lose if you do not play," "You start to follow the money, and you don't know where the fuck it's gonna take you," "You juke the stats, and majors become colonels," "The bigger the lie, the more they believe," "The King stay the King."
posted by sallybrown at 11:50 AM on May 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Watership Down has lots of information about the lives of rabbits. I learned that a female rabbit can reabsorb her fetal young into her body if food is scarce.
posted by irisclara at 2:01 PM on May 22, 2010

Best answer: Croupier and Casino were enlightening about the inner workings of casinos.
Frost/Nixon taught me some things I didn't know about the Watergate era.
posted by chaff at 7:19 PM on May 22, 2010

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