How Smartphones Have Ruined Movies Forever

Ben Stegner 30-04-2015

While smartphones have had some awesome effects Why Smartphones Are Awesome: The Case For Checking Email All The Time A few weeks ago, we had a post published where Yaara wrote why she thinks many people use smartphones way too much, and why they may not be all that great. While many of Yaara’s... Read More , it’s not all sunshine and rainbows when it comes to our pocket devices. Some people are addicted to their phones Are You Addicted To Your Smartphone? At one time, landlines and payphones were all we had--and we survived just fine, thank you very much. But now, it’s almost laughable if you don’t own an iPhone or Android, and for some of... Read More , and some argue that smartphones are ruining users’ lives How Smartphones Are Ruining Your Life Your smartphone could be ruining your life, or at least have the capacity to do so in the future. Read More .


Even if you don’t struggle with using your phone too much, it’s hard to deny that these devices have had an irreversible effect on other spheres of life. Let’s take a look at just one example: movies.

Thanks to smartphones…

Movie Theaters Can Be Annoying

It’s a problem as old as cellphones themselves: you go to the cinema to see the latest blockbuster, and some idiot in front of you takes a phone call and chatters for 20 minutes. These disturbances are a huge reason movie theater attendance is on the decline Cinema Is Dying: How Movie Theaters Can Ensure Their Survival Movie theaters need to offer more than just a way of watching the latest films. They need to stop competing on "convenience" and start focusing on "experience." Here's how. Read More , but smartphones have made this problem even worse.

Instead of calling someone, people who aren’t interested in watching the movie surf aimlessly on their smartphones instead, checking Facebook or doing who knows what else. Of course, these jerks never have the courtesy to turn their brightness down The 5 Best Apps to Manage Screen Brightness on Android Improper screen brightness settings can cause your eyes to strain and fatigue. That's why you should be using one of these Android screen brightness apps. Read More , resulting in a reduced fun factor for everyone else in the movie theater.

We have previously examined how to make theater phone-checking less annoying 5 Non-Annoying Ways to Check Your Smartphone in the Movie Theater What are the three most annoying behaviors in the world? People who interrupt. People who don't allow you to merge into traffic. People who use their smartphone in the movie theater. Read More , but do everyone a favor: if you’re going to spend $7 or more to go see a movie, get your money’s worth and keep your phone stowed away in your pocket for two hours. If you’re really addicted, use it as an exercise to work on your attention span Reclaim Your Focus: 5 Ideas To Deal With Short Attention Spans We have more information available than every before, but this ironically has damaged our ability to absorb any of it. However, you can take action to improve your attention with a few simple steps. Read More . Everyone else will thank you, and perhaps people will start going to cinemas again.


We Watch Movies on Tiny Screens

Part of the appeal of services like Netflix Hulu Plus vs. iTunes vs. Netflix vs. Amazon Instant Video: Which Is Best? Hulu. iTunes. Netflix. Amazon Instant Video. The lifeblood of online cinema and television. The new wave of home media. The providers of endless entertainment in which pants are not necessarily required. They are the contenders... Read More is that they have apps for almost any device How To Access Netflix On Almost Every Platform Known To Man I don’t like horror movies. Classic horror I can cope with; I enjoy Alfred Hitchcock’s psychological horror, for instance, but I’m not a fan of scares and gore, as a rule. My wife, on the... Read More . No matter if you’re on a PC, smart TV, PlayStation 4, tablet, or smartphone, you can access its catalog of films and TV shows. However, this access has degraded the quality of your movie experience.

Blu-Rays Blu-Ray Technology History and The DVD [Technology Explained] Read More and other “full HD” What’s the Difference Between HD Ready & Full HD? Television and computer monitor manufacturers can be a sly bunch, using different acronyms to disguise hardware capabilities. Well, worry no more. We've explained what HD Ready really means. Read More media have provided a viable alternative to the aggravation of the cinema; these are typically viewed on a big-screen TV that allows the viewer to take in all the details of the film.

Now, most people are content with watching a full-length film on their little smartphone screen, perhaps on a long ride or in the comfort of their own bed. Even when using phablets Fabulous Phablets: The 5 Best Big-Screen Smartphones You Can Buy If you're going to buy a big-screen phone now, and by that, we mean something that's larger than a 5.5-inch screen and smaller than a 7-inch tablet, these are your best options. Read More , watching a two-hour movie on your 6-inch screen can’t really be that enjoyable.


For one, your face has to be so close to the screen that you’ll be suffering from eye strain 4 Ways To Prevent Computer-Related Eye Strain Without Losing Productivity Do you spend many hours in front of a computer screen? If you do, you’re probably familiar with the inescapable eye strain that comes with it. Headaches, burning eyes, itchiness and just being tired, are... Read More by the end. That’s not to mention that the picture has to be shrunk down – going from a 50-inch television set (or bigger) to a 6-inch phone (or smaller) makes a huge difference!

On your phone, you just aren’t going to get the same level of detail that you would watching it on a TV, and that hinders the experience that the filmmakers intended for viewers.

Major Plot Problems Often Arise

So far we’ve looked at how smartphones have affected us as viewers of movies, but the devices have also caused problems in the actual films themselves. You don’t have to look far to find examples of this. Such as how horror movies cheaply disables their characters from being able to use their phones with the “no service” excuse.

As a whole, though, smartphones have become a sort of “magic box” in movies. Need to hack a complex system that would probably take days in real life? It’s cracked in two minutes with a smartphone!


They never run out of battery power 10 Proven and Tested Tips to Extend Battery Life on Android Suffering from poor battery life on Android? Follow these tips to get more juice out of your Android device's battery. Read More or get plagued by annoying notifications, and tracking and map features How to Use an Android Phone as a GPS Tracker Device Need a GPS tracker? Use your Android phone! Here's how to turn yours into a makeshift GPS tracker device. Read More are often greatly exaggerated as well. Somehow, smartphones provide movie characters with others’ exact locations inside buildings and elsewhere that wouldn’t work in real life.

Essentially, smartphones are able to do anything in movies that the filmmakers want them to do, and that’s a problem since they’re a real-world object with limitations we’re all well aware of. This never happened with landline phones.

Classic Movies Would Have Been Ruined

To wrap-up, let’s look at a few classic movies from the past that could have been ruined or greatly changed if the characters had been carrying smartphones.


In Memento, a man with no short-term memory searches for his wife’s killer using a system of Polaroid photos and body tattoos. With a smartphone, Leonard could have taken photos with a phone instead of the bulky camera, and wouldn’t have had to use tattoos. Instead, he could have chronicled his journey on Twitter 5 Ways To Use Twitter As An Online Private Diary Read More or used Google Keep to take permanent notes 4 Google Keep Tips And Tricks For Better Notes, Lists And To-Dos Read More . Ruined!

In Home Alone, a young boy is left at home while his family travels, a scenario that could have been completely avoided if Kevin had owned a smartphone. He would have called his family immediately, and even kept up with them via video chat Sick of Skype? 7 Best Free Skype Alternatives Skype alternatives can free you from mediocrity and greatly improve the video chat experience. This article covers eight options. Read More . It’s safe to say this film firmly belongs in the 1990s. Ruined!

In The Santa Clause, Scott Calvin accidentally witnesses Santa Claus die and unknowingly assumes his role, and some of his friends understandably refuse to believe Scott’s tale. However, had he and his son Charlie carried smartphones, they could have shot a Vine 8 Ways to Discover the Best Instagram & Vine Videos Online Neither Vine nor Instagram offer a good way to search and find videos., but there are a few ways to search for Instagram and Vine videos from the comfort of your computer. We've already introduced... Read More of their activities at the North pole, or live-streamed from the sleigh on Christmas Eve. Thus, clearing up the misconceptions right away. Ruined!

Furthermore, the plot of every single romantic movie in existence would be nullified if the separated lovers were able to send texts and poke each other on Facebook 2 Cool Ways To Poke Someone On Facebook Read More every day. What reason would there be for celebration when they finally meet again? Ruined!

Moviegoers Are Worse Off: Discuss!

As we have discovered, smartphones aren’t without their drawbacks. Unfortunately, as with most technologies, there is no going back from here, so we’re unlikely to see most of these trends reverse anytime soon.

Thankfully though, some theaters are cracking down on phone usage, and you can still choose to view your movies on a huge TV as they were meant to be seen. All we can do to tackle the other points raised here is hope that Hollywood picks up on the fact that smartphones aren’t magical. But let’s be honest – they’ll do whatever is necessary to advance the plot of their films however they want to.

If you’re saddened by this list and ready to enjoy some movies, check out the 42 best geek movies of all time 42 of the Best Geek Movies of All Time: How Many Have You Seen? Geeks are people too. I am one, you're probably one, and we're a growing army that can no longer be ignored. Not even by Hollywood. Geek movies FTW! Read More or eight other brilliant technology-focused flicks 8 Movies Featuring Technology All Geeks Should Watch What follows is a list of 8 movies featuring technology which all geeks should watch at least once. Read More .

And now it’s over to you. In your opinion, have smartphones affected movies for the better or worse? What other film plots would have been completely trashed by smartphones? Drop us a comment below and let’s expand on this list!

Image Credits: cinema screen with audience Via Shutterstock

Related topics: Blu-ray, Cinema, Filmmaking, Netflix, Television.

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  1. Michael
    May 16, 2016 at 8:48 pm

    What bugs me is people make excuses to watch movies on phones over a laptop or computer. I rather watch a movie on a laptop or computer than a smartphone any day. Screen is way too small to even tell what is going on, then you end up watching a movie with captions and you even lose more of the screen with that. It is like, OMG!, how stupid do you have to be to be using a smartphone for stuff like that? Not trying to be mean but just trying to look at a 3.5 inch smartphone for a movie is beyond annoying. I guess it depends on the person, because I think I am going to try once with my phone but probably never again because even gaming on the phone is so tiny it is hard to tell what to do.

  2. dark passenger
    April 30, 2015 at 7:17 pm

    So true. People who surf on their phones at the movies will slowly drive out every other customer until they are sitting there by themselves. Then they'll finally realize they can actually look at their phones anywhere, and stop buying $15 movie tickets for no reason! As a person who actually really watches movies, and used to line up on opening nights many times, I much prefer watching them at home now.

    As for plots, I think good writers can overcome phones and new technology. Shows like Person of Interest can completely revolve around those devices, without much difficulty. Probably the hardest job would be converting an older screenplay to modern times with all the new technology. Maybe that's why remakes suck so much?

  3. Elton Woo
    April 30, 2015 at 6:17 pm

    Besides the high cost of movies, this is the *single greatest deterrent to going to see a movie*. Turning off your phone for a couple of hours will not bring about the end of the world . I read sometime ago that a new theatre somewhere in California was being built like a rather large Faraday cage... effectively blocking cellphone signals when one is in the theater.

    Mobile phones can be extremely useful tools, but it's becoming too much of a nuisance factor. Why go for a meal with someone, only to totally ignore them so that you can surf the web or text so someone? I could give other examples, but I've said enough.

    • Ben S
      April 30, 2015 at 6:31 pm

      I totally agree, Elton. I'll never understand how you can sacrifice the human companionship of being with someone, especially a significant other or family member, to be on your phone. It's really sad.