spinach cinema
n. Movies that are not very exciting or interesting, but that one feels one must see because they are educational or otherwise uplifting.
Barmak's film "Osama" got a kind of affirmative-action boost from being the only movie from Afghanistan anybody in the West has ever seen (it's just the 43rd Afghan feature ever), but it's been playing in the United States for six weeks and keeps spreading to more cities. It's now apparent this is one of those little foreign films that won't quit, and if you've seen it you understand why. If you haven't seen it because it sounded too much like spinach cinema, I'm here to tell you not to miss out.
—Andrew O'Hehir, “Beyond the Multiplex,” Salon.com, March 25, 2004
The sad fact is, adventure will always be more fun than contemplation. Eating a candy bar will always be more fun than eating broccoli. Not that the French release "Place Vendome" is spinach cinema, but watching this thoughtful film starring Catherine Deneuve does require a contemplative turn of mind.
—Chuck Graham, “Movie Review,” Tucson Citizen, January 01, 2001
1996 (earliest)
That has opened the door to some fresh filmmakers who believe memorable stories and compelling characters are more important than explosions, car chases and special effects.

And these young turks are far from the kind of stuffy, film school academics Middle America associates with ''spinach cinema'' (movies that are supposed to be good for us but that we actually hate).
—Russell Evansen, “Declaration of independents might save us,” Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, WI), April 17, 1996
The use of the word spinach here is meant to remind us that these movies, like the vegetable, are good for us, but not particularly palatable. (This will no doubt seem a libelous association to those of you who enjoy spinach.) The spinach modifier is fairly common: for example, spinach television (1996) and spinach book (2001). It's sometimes seen in longer form as eat-your-spinach (for example, one writer described the Norwegian dramatist Henrik Ibsen's work as "eat-your-spinach literature").

Thanks to Lois Ambash for sending me this phrase.
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