Can Some Movies Change Your Life? Maybe

By Cara Murez
HealthDay reporter

FRIDAY, May 14, 2021 (HealthDay News) – A good movie can be more than just entertainment: it can also help you feel better prepared for life’s challenges and be a better person, suggests a new study.

Maybe that’s why people sometimes choose movies with difficult subjects or ones that make them sad, researchers say.

“Meaningful movies actually help people cope with the challenges in their own lives and help them want to pursue bigger goals,” senior author Jared Ott, graduate student in communications at Ohio State University, told Columbus.

Many studies have looked at how people react to movies or movie clips in a lab, said co-author Michael Slater, professor of communications. This one was designed to see how movies affect people in the real world.

“We wanted to know how people experience these movies in their everyday lives,” Slater said.

For the study, the researchers created two lists of 20 Hollywood films made after 1985 that received high ratings from viewers.


One contained films like “Hotel Rwanda”, “Schindler’s List” and “Slumdog Millionaire” – which the IMDb movie site described as poignant, inspiring or meaningful.

The other films included what the researchers called the “less significant” fare, such as “Ratatouille,” “Fight Club,” and “Pulp Fiction.”

Almost 1,100 adults were recruited online to receive either list and then report the films they had seen. They were then asked to take a survey about one of these films, which the researchers chose at random.

People who remembered a meaningful movie were more likely than others to say that the movie helped them understand life’s difficulties. Meaningful films were also more likely to help viewers come to terms with the human condition, the researchers said.

Participants recalling meaningful movies were also more likely to say the movie motivated them to be a better person, to do good things for others, and to seek out what really matters in life.

The key elements of these films were their touching character, the mix of happiness and sadness, their emotional range, and their ability to make people feel uplifted and inspired while watching them.


The researchers said it was still possible to find meaning, even in fares that were supposed to be more entertaining than inspiring.

Participants were asked to select and rate the importance of three values ​​from a list of 16 that they saw represented in their film, including “personal success and success”, “love and intimacy. “And” courage and bravery “.

“We found that people felt better able to make sense of the difficulties in their own lives when they recalled a movie that focused on values ​​that were important to them,” Slater said. “This happened even when the film was ranked as one of the least significant films.”

The results were recently published online in the journal Mass communication and society.

Ott said the findings suggest why some people view movies as more than entertainment.

“There are movies that can help people cope and grow during difficult times in their lives,” he said. “And people can recognize this effect years after seeing a particular movie.”

More information


The newspaper Nature has more research on movies and psychology.

SOURCE: Ohio State University, press release, May 12, 2021

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