Does watching Chinese movies with English subtitles help a beginner level Mandarin student to learn and improve the language?
From my experience, I would say no. The translations for movie subtitles are usually too loose to be of much use.
However, if you watch a Chinese movie with Chinese subtitles, that definitely helps. You can see exactly what they're saying, so you can test your hearing and work on your hanzi recognition at the same time.
In my opinion it definitely helps. It improves your listening skills (you get used to the hearing the sounds of the language spoken as they are spoken in a regular conversation).
You'll only distinguish a word once in awhile, but there are words that are used over and over again so you'll especially exposed to words that are more frequent, which is great for beginners. The subtitles may help, especially if the movie has both hanzi and pinyin hardcoded and english subs (non-hardcoded).
This is a good habit. Go for it every time you can.
Im sure it is, just like reading is a great way.
But if you are watching the movie translated into English, then it'll be less helpful. Try with the Mandarin subtitles option. I know that if I put on English subtitles on an English speaking movie, then what they are saying shows below in text form, and it is not translated or disrupted, the exact words are shown below.