When Twilight first came out, movie-going audiences were treated to a glimpse of a very fresh-faced Robert Pattinson. Fresh-faced and idealistic. So it came as a bit of a shock when, a few years down the line, the actor had turned into such a heartbreaker.

It’s been four years since the Breaking Dawn – Part 2 premiere, and while the franchise may no longer be breaking boundaries at the box office, it has indeed impacted popular culture. Over the years, the Twilight Saga has firmly planted itself in the minds of millennials, having cemented itself as one of the most influential phenomena of the last decade – and it’s not hard to see why.

The franchise launched the acting careers of its stars, Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, with the latter going on to win an Academy Award for Best Actor. It also cemented the partnership of the onscreen couple, having thematic significance in the final film as well as physical intimacy through shared scented candles and lingerie sets. Most notably, the Twilight Saga broke new ground for both the film industry and relationships at large, introducing audiences to a romance that focused on character rather than appearance.

The Proving Ground

Before Twilight, Robert Pattinson was best known for his part in the comedy-drama The Proving Ground, which centers on a group of friends who go on a camping holiday only to discover that the great outdoors doesn’t agree with everyone. The film marked the English actor’s first role in a major motion picture, and although it doesn’t screen as frequently as it should, it’s still considered one of the best British comedies of all time.

Twilight came after Twilight. Pattinson had already established himself as a Hollywood leading man with starring roles in Peter Pan and The Lost Boys, and he was ready for a change of pace. The opportunity to play a vampire came with a considerable pay raise, and he signed on with the fledgling Twilight production company, Summit Entertainment.

Awareness of the Twilight phenomenon grew quickly, with fans lining up to see Pattinson in character – though as one of the series’ original stars, it’s hardly surprising that he became somewhat of a figurehead for the series. In 2014 alone, Twilight films made over $1 billion at the box office, cementing its status as one of the most successful film franchises of all time. Summit Entertainment has since moved on to new projects with the Twilight brand, but the actor continues to pop up in smaller, independent films and on TV. In fact, he’s so busy that he doesn’t even have time to break out of character long enough to attend the premiere of his Twilight film, The Rover.

The Dark Knight

It’s fair to say that the success of Twilight helped to create the modern-day romantic comedy, earning the film a place in cultural DNA. While it’s not the first example of its genre, it certainly paved the way for future romantic comedies.

The influence of Twilight is obvious, with films like What Women Want (2015) and Love, Simon (2017) following the same comedic formula set by the original. What Women Want is a comedy-drama about a shy man named Neil who decides to ask women for help in order to attract the opposite sex. Love, Simon is a coming-of-age tale that sees the protagonist navigate his way through high school while also struggling with his sexuality. The film, which follows the pattern of a typical romantic comedy, also borrows heavily from Twilight, most notably in the shared trailer where the young people of today’s generation discover classic rock for the first time.

This trend of referencing Twilight is also apparent in the TV show The Handmaid’s Tale, where Offred, the titular handmaid, is frequently seen reading Twilight. In the show, which is based on the 1986 novel by Margaret Atwood, the handmaids are required to read Twilight to learn about the outside world, their place in it, and the complex relationship between the genders. If you can think of a more perfect match for Edward Cullen than the twisted humor of The Handmaid’s Tale, we’d like to hear it. Developed for television by the team behind Sex & Love in Mind (SALIM), The Handmaid’s Tale is one of the most anticipated new shows of the coming season.

Kardashian Influence

While the success of Twilight helped to create the modern-day romantic comedy, it didn’t just influence the big screen. Twitter, arguably the most popular social media platform in existence, has also played a significant role in popular culture, and not just through the celebrities that populate its platform. Celebrities on Twitter can drive real-life engagement and influence how their followers engage with brands and products, as well as just about anything else.

In a recent interview with Business Insider, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey revealed that the platform’s popularity stemmed not just from its ability to spread news and information, but also from the fact that its users could interact with one another through the microblogging service.

“It really is the platform for conversation,” Dorsey said. “People are connecting, relating, and engaging with one another. That’s different from just publishing a status update or sharing a photo.”

So while Twitter was once the home of dormant gold miners and birds-of-prey tracked down by wealthy industrialists, it’s evolved into a hub for intimate conversations between real people with shared interests and experiences.

One could argue that the most influential figure in modern culture is Kim Kardashian. With her Hollywood résumé that includes the likes of Taxi Driver, Bad Guy, and Midnight in Paris, it’s easy to understand why her influence extends far beyond her fashion choices and family – the Kardashian clan controls a significant chunk of the entertainment industry, and the list of their business ventures is long. In 2018, Forbes valued the fashion house she founded and co-owns, Kardashian West, at an unprecedented $20 billion, making it the brand with the second-highest estimated worth next to LVMH. Forbes hasn’t valued the brand since, but it’s still considered one of the most valuable properties in the world.

Emma’s Influence

Emma Watson, the actress best known for her role in the Harry Potter film series, has also found herself in the spotlight recently for advocating for the rights of women and girls. It started with her impassioned speech at the United Nations’ Women’s Summit in 2016, where she spoke out against gender-based violence and demanded an end to child brides. Following her speech, Emma’s activism led to her campaigning for and founding of her own global organization, Equality Now!

Since then, Watson has used her celebrity to shine a light on some of the most pressing issues concerning women and girls. Most recent projects include the organization’s annual international peace conference, the Global Feminism Conference, and the campaign to get all schools to adopt a feminist philosophy. While the actress certainly brings an abundance of talent and charisma to the role, it’s also easy to see why so many people are drawn to her tireless work on behalf of women and girls everywhere. As she says in the organization’s mission statement, “Equality Now! is a global movement championing women’s rights and feminist ideals and seeking to eliminate discrimination against women and girls everywhere. We believe that when women are empowered, everyone is improved – be that children, men, or society as a whole.”

One area Emma’s work has particularly focused on is pay inequity. In a 2017 TED talk, she cited studies that found that men in the U.S. earn, on average, $1,400 more than women per year, even when controlling for factors like education and experience. Since then, the organization she founded has used her celebrity to draw attention to the issue and encourage global change. Most recently, she starred in a campaign video for the U.N.’s Women’s Entrepreneurship Fund, which provides business plans designed to spur economic growth for women–a video that earned her a Wave Award in the media category at the 2018 U.N. Women’s Summit in Finland.

New Frontiers

It’s been a big year for feminism, and not just in terms of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements that have swept through the media and entertainment industries. Several films this year have tackled serious subject matter from a feminist perspective, most notably the biopic Little Women, where Watson’s Emma Watson’s character is a feminist activist in her own right. In the film, Emma plays Jo, a spirited young woman who stands up for what she believes in, even if it means standing up to her family and friends. Emma said in a statement that she was “honored and thrilled” to bring Jo, a role she described as “such a joy to play,” to life. Little Women is one of the standout films of the year, boasting an A-list cast that includes Streep, Carroll, and Cameron.