Meaningful films make us feel more prepared to deal with life’s challenges, study claims 

Watching meaningful movies such as Up or Slumdog Millionaire can help us feel more prepared to deal with challenges and want to be a better person, a new study shows.

Ohio State University researchers created two lists of films made after 1985 with high viewer ratings – one with meaningful and one with less meaningful movies.  

They then had 1,098 volunteers watch either the meaningful or less meaningful list of movies, before filling in a survey on their thoughts and reaction to the films.

Watching meaningful films – those that we find moving and poignant – can make us feel more prepared to deal with life’s challenges, the authors found.

The team say this could explain why people turn to movies that make them both sad and happy and explore difficult subjects they may not always find uplifting.

Among the movies on the meaningful list was Stephen Spielberg’s Schindler’s List, which follows the story of Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist who saved over 1,000 mostly Polish-Jewish refugees from the Holocaust. 

The team say this could explain why people turn to movies that make them both sad and happy and explore difficult subjects they may not always find uplifting

Watching motivational movies such as Up or Slumdog Millionaire can help us feel more prepared to deal with challenges and want to be a better person, study shows

Watching motivational movies such as Up or Slumdog Millionaire can help us feel more prepared to deal with challenges and want to be a better person, study shows

MEANINGFUL MOVIES 

The Shawshank RedemptionForrest GumpThe Pursuit of HappynessInto the WildThe Green MileEternal Sunshine of the Spotless MindSchindler’s ListA Beautiful MindThe PianistSlumdog MillionaireGran TorinoRain ManGood Will HuntingSaving Private RyanDead Poet’s SocietyBraveheartHotel RwandaMillion Dollar BabyGladiatorUp

 

Researchers found that when people recalled watching meaningful films like The Shawshank Redemption and Up, they reported a variety of positive reactions.

These reactions included being better able to accept the human condition and make sense of problems in life, study authors explained.

Those positive experiences were less likely to be reported when people thought about watching Hollywood fare like The Big Lebowski or Catch Me if You Can.

‘Meaningful movies actually help people cope with difficulties in their own lives, and help them want to pursue more significant goals,’ said Jared Ott, lead author of the study and a graduate student in communication at The Ohio State University.

While many studies have looked at how people react to watching meaningful films or clips from films in a lab setting, this research was designed to see how these films affect people in the real world, said co-author Professor Michael Slater.

‘We wanted to find out how people experience these movies in their everyday lives,’ Slater said. ‘There hasn’t been much research on that.’ 

To find out just how much of an impact the movies can have they made two lists, each with 20 Hollywood movies made since 1985 and with a high viewer rating. 

One was a list of ‘meaningful films’ and the other of ‘less meaningful films’. 

Meaningful films, which included Hotel Rwanda, Schindler’s List and Slumdog Millionaire, were ones that user-generated lists on the movie site IMDB described using terms like poignant, inspiring and meaningful.

These films were matched with those produced about the same time and with similar MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) ratings such as G, PG and R.

This second set of films made up the less meaningful list as they not described by users with the same terms as meaningful films. Some of these movies included Ratatouille, Fight Club and Pulp Fiction.

Researchers found that when people recalled watching meaningful films like The Shawshank Redemption and Up, they reported a variety of positive reactions

Researchers found that when people recalled watching meaningful films like The Shawshank Redemption and Up, they reported a variety of positive reactions

LESS MEANINGFUL MOVIES 

Pulp FictionCasinoBlood DiamondThe DepartedThe Big LebowskiMystic RiverThe Usual SuspectsCatch Me if You CanSnatchThere will be bloodNo Country for Old MenCrimes and MisdemeanorsTrainspottingLA ConfidentialThe Princess BrideSe7enV for VendettaSin CityFight ClubRatatouille

The study involved 1,098 adults recruited online with an interest in movies.

They were then randomly selected to receive either the list of meaningful films or the list of less meaningful films. 

After being sent the list they were asked to indicate which ones they had seen. 

One of the films they had seen before was then randomly selected for each participant. 

That volunteer then responded to the rest of the survey in relation to that movie.

The survey asked a variety of questions about how each participant reacted to the movie chosen for them.

Results showed that people who recalled a meaningful movie were more likely than the others to say the film helped them make sense of difficulties in life. 

For example, the film helped them ‘feel like struggles in life are for a reason’ and ‘more easily handle difficult situations with grace and courage.’

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