Science reveals what makes a feel-good movie

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What makes a feel-good movie good? Scientists reveal how Love Actually, Amelie and Pretty Woman all find the right mix of humor, plot emotion and happy ending

  • Research has determined the science of feel-good movies to see what type of elements are needed to cheer up viewers
  • Scientists found that they all contain elements of humor and classic happy endings
  • Most plots are aimed at an outsider looking for love and a place to belong
  • Movies considered feel-good include Love Actually and Pretty Woman

A new study delves into the science behind ‘feel-good’ movies to reveal why movies like ‘Love Actually’ and ‘Pretty Woman’ make viewers laugh and smile, even when worries fill their real-world lives.

A team from Max Planck Society found that such films contain an element of humor, a classic happy ending, and certain recurring plots and characters.

According to researchers, this typically includes an outsider seeking love, proving himself and fighting against adverse circumstances until he finds an appropriate role in the community.

At the same time, these characteristics are often embedded in a fairytale setting, which is another typical aspect of the genre and contributes significantly to the perceived lightness – and the combined elements make for a feel-good film.

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A new study delves into the science behind 'feel-good' movies to reveal why movies like 'Love Actually' and 'Pretty Woman' make viewers laugh and smile, even when worries fill their real-world lives

A new study delves into the science behind ‘feel-good’ movies to reveal why movies like ‘Love Actually’ and ‘Pretty Woman’ make viewers laugh and smile, even when worries fill their real-world lives

While entertaining, movies can evoke a variety of emotions in viewers, ranging from happy to sad to terrified.

Comedies have been shown to lower stress and blood pressure, while horrorflix makes the heart beat faster and the adrenaline rushes.

With this in mind, the Max Planck Society team wanted to see what a feel-good movie is and why people are fascinated by it.

Scientists conducted a study with nearly 450 participants from Germany, Austria and the German-speaking regions of Belgium and Switzerland.

Feel good movies feature an outsider, like Vivian (Julia Roberts), who is looking for love, which she finds with Edward Lewis (Richard Gere

The study found that romantic comedies have a particularly high potential for emotional revival, which can be found in all of the different stories in Love Actually

A team from Max Planck Society found that such films have an element of humor, a classic happy ending, and can also be identified by certain recurring plots and characters

Their responses indicate that romantic comedies have a particularly high potential for emotional revival.

The feel-good films that typified them include ‘Love, Actually’, ‘Pretty Woman’, ‘Amélie’ and ‘The Intouchables’.

The findings of the study provide clues as to what substantive and formal characteristics films must have to make the audience feel particularly good while watching.

However, these uplifting films are not just films with romance and humor – they also contain a little drama.

The research showed that scenes and plots with a strong emotional effect are also considered feel-good films.

Combine all these elements into a fairytale setting and you have a movie that is sure to draw your heart.

The stud emphasized the fact that many people watch feel-good movies especially to relax and cheer up.

“Many of the study participants agreed that feel-good movies may be sentimental, but not kitschy and above all, technically well-crafted,” researchers shared in a statement.

“In that respect, the positive use of the genre label by viewers differs significantly from the predominantly negative perspective that professional film critics bring to it.”

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