In our society, there has always been misunderstandings about the cinema and the theatre.
The cinema is a place where films are shown to the public. People often say that the cinema is Haraam, Haraam, Haraam.
The reason some people say this is because when your parents were your age, the cinema was predominantly used for films which contained songs and dance. For this reason, the cinema was looked at as Haraam and those who went there were told that they should not.
Today, we have television inside our houses, and can see anything we want to. Thus the question of watching or not watching does not apply any more, it is rather a question of what we watch.
Think of it as a restaurant. To go to a restaurant to eat becomes Haraam only if the food they serve is Haraam. However if the restaurant serves halal food, then there is no problem to go and eat there. Therefore it doesn't matter whether we go to a restaurant or a not, it is what we have to eat that is important.
In the same way it doesn't matter whether we go to the cinema or not, but it is IMPORTANT what we watch there.
If we go to see a film which shows offensive scenes such as people acting shamelessly, wearing hardly any clothes, then of course it becomes Haraam.
If we go to watch films which are of educational interest or for fun, where we actually gain in some way without seeing anything Haraam, then we are allowed to see those films.
We should not go so often that we just pass our time, and waste it.
Unfortunately, the majority of films today are aimed at the desires of the youth. These films show scenes which encourage youngsters to think and practise those thoughts which should be kept under control by the youngster's own will power. These films are Haraam because they influence the actions of the one who watches them. They make the desires of the nafs so strong that it becomes very difficult to control, and eventually, the mind will give in and become the slave of our desires rather than our intellect.
One point which people often bring in, is that today, all films and programmes contain music. If the film contains music such that the music is one of the important parts of the film, then those programmes should be avoided.
However if the music is in the background, and is not the central theme of the programme, then it is permissible to watch them. This is because according to the fatwa (verdict) of both Ayatollah Al Khomeini (may Allah rest is soul) and Ayatollah al Khui (may Allah keep him well), background music is allowed.
This also applies to watching television in our own homes.
At the end of the day, if we want to go to see a film, we must ask ourselves why. If the film will be fun, but will still contain sections which would go against our principles, then we should avoid them. In the cinema, you are exposed to whatever is on the screen, you can not switch it off like a television, nor can you forward it like on a video. It is very rare to find a film that contains no sections which should be avoided.
You can't trick yourself by saying, I don't know what its about. There are films which are obviously funny, but make jokes which are filthy and crude. Those are not the films you should watch, since they provide a negative influence over you.
Then there are films which are decent, and respectable, where you will gain an insight into human behaviour, develop your imagination, or learn and at the same time have fun. Those films are allowed since they have a positive effect.
In this way Allah has given you a test, can you control your nafs from tempting you to watch X rated films, or will it control you?
There is no 18 certificate or Adult rating in Islam, if a film is obscene, shameless or pornographic than it is Haraam for all to see, whether they are 5 years old or 50.
You will notice, at first it will be very difficult to refrain, but as soon as you make your mind up and be firm, you will feel as if your character has improved a hundred times, and you will not even be tempted any more. You will ask yourself, how can I have let that nafs of mine have so much control over something which I can now see to be so childish and so material?