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Movies can be great sources of insight on how to deal with real life situations. They can show us how to stand up to bullies, win the heart of the girl/boy next door, or change small-town politics with the power of dance. Of course, real life isn't always like fiction, and there are plenty of areas where cribbing off of whatever's new on Netflix is a really, really bad idea. Like hostage negotiation. Or shaping government policies. This article is about that second thing.

5
Dallas Buyers' Club Pushed The U.S. Government To Pass New Healthcare Laws.

Focus Features

In a thousand years, AIDS will still be known as that horrible, inexplicable plague that popped up in the '80s and ruined drunken anonymous sex forever. Fortunately, the battle against AIDS and HIV has taken great strides since then, mainly because the people in charge have finally stopped covering their ears and shouting "lalalalalala" every time it's brought up. Here in progressive 2016, politicians are much more aware of the plight of AIDS sufferers than their backward '80s counterparts. In fact, U.S. government officials recently pushed through a big political breakthrough on treating AIDS patients. And all it took was Matthew McConaughey winning an Oscar for portraying a sex-crazed, drugged-up Southern cowboy.

Focus Features
Fortunately, he'd been method acting that role since high school.

Back in the 1980s, a gentleman named Ron Woodroof was diagnosed with AIDS and told that he had little more than a month to live. Angered by the "just die already" approach to people with AIDS back then, Woodroof decided to take matters into his own hands. In a matter of weeks, he was smuggling mass amounts of unregulated drugs and medicine into the US in an effort to keep himself and others alive a little bit longer -- which he succeeded in for years. Inspired by his rebellious heroism, Hollywood laid claim to the rights to Woodroof's life story, and a couple of decades later, Dallas Buyers' Club was born.

The film sparked debates about making it legal for certain patients to experiment with medications before they are FDA-approved. Some believed that the dying had a "right to try" anything that could offer hope in their final hours, while others saw the practice as reckless and dangerous. Federal lawmakers joined in the newfound interest in terminally ill patients' rights. and soon a motion dubbed the "Dallas Buyers' Club Bill" was put forward. Only a year after the movie's release, a handful of states already began adopting said bill. After two years, half the United States had taken up the controversial policy, paving the way for a national law. The Dallas Buyer's Club movement even allowed for such a shift in perspective that some are now advocating that patients should receive aid in affording their experimental treatments. Thanks, Obama. No, seriously.

Win McNamee/Staff/Getty Images
"Alright, alright, alright."

The story of Ron Woodroof offers real hope that the system can be changed by one voice. All you have to do is fight the power, not back down, and wait 20 to 30 years for Hollywood to make a sorta-kinda-true movie about your life. Oh, and die of AIDS in the meantime.

Bureaucracy: It can work.

4
Dr. Strangelove Forced The Pentagon To Change Its Security Policy

Columbia Pictures

Director Stanley Kubrick is widely known for his meticulous attention to detail, whether he's making a movie about space flight, cabin fever, or a fake Moon landing. He brought this same zeal when he directed 1964's lengthily titled Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb, a brilliant satire about how the U.S. military might accidentally start World War III. Much to the chagrin of the military. Not because Kubrick was making them look bad, but because he was right.

Columbia Pictures
"Who loaned them a B-52?!"
"They said it was for a student film!"

One of the most important themes of Dr. Strangelove is how anyone with the right clearance code could initiate a nuclear attack, and nobody could stop them. Audiences were immediately terrified and angry with the government and their apparent lack of safety protocols which allowed for a scary amount of access to the nation's nuclear launch codes, forgetting for a moment they got that information from a comedy. The government staunchly denied Kubrick's accuracy, maintaining that the country was and always would be in the safest of hands, even going as far to make a propaganda film to combat Dr. Strangelove ...

... though a quick look at the American Film Institute's Top 100 American Films of All Time shows which movie came out on top.

Of course, you can't keep a good conspiracy-laden rumor down for long, especially if it's more or less true. Eventually, government officials, including Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, began worrying about the copious opportunities for unintended nuclear war. The Pentagon finally gave in and set about changing their nuclear policy to ensure that no one would ever have full access to launch codes at any given time, instead spreading bits and pieces of the codes around to different members of personnel. All because of Slim Pickens riding a nuke down to the earth.

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3
Nixon Might Have Invaded Cambodia Because Of The Movie Patton

20th Century Fox

U.S. General George S. Patton was a controversial figure. He was a brilliant strategist who was too impatient. He was a devout man of God who couldn't stop swearing. He was both a cat and a dog person. It was this dichotomy that filmmakers Franklin J. Schaffner and Francis Ford Coppola wanted to capture in their 1970 epic Patton, portraying the general as a talented leader who was so obsessed with war that he was willing to sacrifice the lives of his soldiers just for the glory of it. "Do we really want to be like our heroes if they're as broken as General Patton?" the movie asks. For president and real-life caricature of himself Richard Nixon, the answer was a resounding "yes." Which is not something you want to hear from a commander in chief -- especially one who's deciding whether to invade another country at the exact same time.

20th Century Fox
Be glad he was out of office before Darth Vader could give him any ideas.

Nixon first saw Patton on April 1, 1970, when the Vietnam War was reaching peak shitshow. During the next four weeks, Nixon basically did two things: He planned the invasion of Cambodia and saw that same movie six times. Of course, Tricky Dick never claimed that he let his inner Patton decide to invade Cambodia, but the people around him sure felt that way. Not only did he himself pop into the White House screening room every free night he had, but he also forced his key military advisers to watch and internalize the movie. No one was a bigger contributor to its box office numbers than Nixon.

Why did the future disgraced president glom onto a man like Patton so much? Anthropologist Margaret Mead theorized that Nixon found opposition to be a form of stimulation, and would naturally be drawn to anyone who faced similar circumstances. Henry Kissinger, Nixon's favorite diplomat and robot butler, claimed that "when [Nixon] was pressed to the wall, his romantic streak surfaced and he would see himself as a beleaguered military commander in the tradition of Patton." Never mind that he was sitting in a comfy White House chair instead of atop a tank when sending teenagers to die.

Silver Screen Collection/Contributor/Getty Images
"That's not what I mean by, 'No dumb bastard ever won a war by going out and dying for his country. He won it by making some other dumb bastard die for his country' ..."

The invasion of Cambodia was only a partial success, and did very little to prevent the U.S. from losing the war. Still, Patton did win seven Oscars. So for Nixon, 1970 was a mixed year.

2
The Plot Of The Rock Helped Justify The Iraq War

Touchstone Pictures

There are a lot of functions where it would be irresponsible to show a Michael Bay movie. Like a kid's birthday party. Or a wedding. Or anywhere within a one-mile radius of a pet store that sells turtles. But according to the British government, Bay's the ideal director to have on in the background while planning one of the most foolish and costly armed conflicts in the history of warfare.

Touchstone Pictures

In a big show of why they have a "special relationship" with the U.S., the UK has admitted that it used Bay's 1996 film The Rock, a movie in which Nicolas Cage and Sean Connery overact their way through prison to save San Francisco from a nerve gas attack, as "valuable intelligence" in their argument for going after Saddam Hussein. Because him being a power-drunk mass-murdering dictator obviously wasn't tipping the scales.

They claimed that chemical weapons were being produced and stored in exactly the same manner as in the film. In case not everyone watches The Rock on a weekly basis, this means that MI6 was claiming that Iraq was manufacturing tiny glass beads of liquid nerve gas to be used in short-distance rockets (this is not a thing that actually exists, but it looks cool in the film). When an official inquiry into the Iraq clusterfuck commenced in 2009, it was finally confirmed and put on record that starting a war over biological weapons resembling those delicious-looking bath pearls your mom's saving for a special occasion is something only an idiot of Michael Bay proportions would believe.


"From now on, we only trust Peter Berg!"

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1
Actor President Ronald Reagan Let Films Influence Him A Whole Bunch

MGM

Presidents aren't vat-grown superbeings birthed right before their first primary debate -- though both U.S. major parties are surely looking into that technology by now. That means they bring a lifetime's worth of experiences to the job. Winston Churchill had been a military officer all of his life; something that greatly helped him fend off the Nazis. Barack Obama was a professor of law before his presidency, which allowed him to know exactly which obscure rule Republicans were using to screw him over next. Ronald Reagan was a Hollywood celebrity who once acted in a movie opposite a monkey. If you've been paying attention, you now know that, out of those three, that made him the most qualified head of government of all.

Universal-International
"Be fair, It was an ape."

More than once did Hollywood's grip on the impressionable Reagan influence his presidency. The Day After, a 1983 film extolling the horrors of nuclear war, was often considered to be a hit piece on Reagan's defense policy. After watching the film, Reagan wrote in his diary that he would ensure that the world would never see a war like in that movie -- except for when they saw it in that movie. Reagan's newfound interest in nuclear war was so important to him that it even inspired him to attend a Pentagon briefing on the subject -- which shocked the generals, who didn't even think Reagan knew his way around the building after three years of presidency.

Reagan's interest in nuclear disasters continued after watching War Games, the 1983 hacker movie featuring a still-cute Matthew Broderick being the first person to break the internet. Reagan began questioning the security of the government's computers, fearing some plucky teenager could gain access to sensitive information and play Space Invaders with his nuclear bombs. Like before, Reagan proved to be exactly right, learning that national security was far from secure. He revised the policies on security, but only at the very last second, for maximum tension.

MGM/United Artists
You can take the president out of Hollywood ...

Yet Reagan's weirdest Hollywood influence happened long before then. Having watched the sci-fi classic The Day The Earth Stood Still and being so convinced by its 1951's special effects, Reagan began fearing a possible alien invasion. So when he became the 40th president of the most powerful nation on earth, he began seriously worrying about the country's line of defense against a space invasion. Reagan became so obsessed with this thought that he randomly threw it out to Mikhail Gorbachev upon meeting in Geneva in 1985, and again in his United Nations speech two years later. Though there's a silver lining to Reagan's obsession with "little green men." Instead of ordering a bunch of Martian-seeking missiles, Reagan expected that all nations' differences and bias would melt away, leaving the citizens of Earth to stand side by side, united in their battle against the foreign invaders ...

And then he would fly a fighter jet into the alien's mother ship, like in the documentary Independence Day.

Carolyn lets Hollywood dictate all of her tweets.

Also check out The 7 Most Disastrous Typos Of All Time, and 5 Stupid Bets That Changed The World.

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