Researchers Have Uncovered What Makes a Feel-Good Film Lift Your Spirits

Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics researchers said that they create a feeling of lightness.

What's better than settling in on the couch with your family members or closest friends, a bowl of fresh popcorn, a great movie? While the company you keep is often what takes an at-home movie night from good to great, a new study conducted by the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics published in the journal Projections found that there's a very good reason why your favorite feel-good films actually make you feel good: They tend to follow a certain structure, deliver just the right amount of drama, and have a strong emotional impact on viewers.

two woman watching movie on couch eating pizza
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About 450 volunteers participated in this study, which helped the team decide what types of movies people found most uplifting. The results? Participants thought romantic comedies, like Love Actually, Pretty Woman, Amélie, and The Intouchables, had the most positive impact on them. And while researchers says feel-good movies are typically ignored by serious critics, they're extremely popular with viewers because of how they make us feel while we watch them.

Experts noted that this insight helped them understand what would be considered a feel-good film. "In addition to an element of humor and the classic happy ending, feel-good films can be identified by certain recurring plot patterns and characters," Keyvan Sarkhosh, study leader and first author, said. "Often these involve outsiders in search of true love, who have to prove themselves and fight against adverse circumstances, and who eventually find their role in the community."

In addition to romantic and laughable moments, feel-good films have just enough drama to make us invested in the story. The researchers found that this drama is what provides watchers with a strong emotional connection to the film. Another key element of feel-good movies? Many take place in a fairy-tale setting, and in turn, create a feeling of lightness. The study's volunteers shared that they watch the movies to relax and lift their sprits. While they also noted that they are usually sentimental overall, the films don't come across as cheesy, and their favorites are well made.

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