Thursday, May 13, 2021

Let's Watch a Movie

I'm taking a little break from poetry today, but you get some science instead.

A Beautiful Mind

I saw this piece about meaningful movies and was intrigued. How could watching meaningful movies help people cope with life's difficulties? What movies were considered meaningful and where could I stream them? It took some reading through a fairly boring research paper, but here are a few things I gleaned from it. 

First, I learned a new word — eudaimonic. It means the type of happiness or contentment that is achieved through self-actualization and having meaningful purpose in your life. In psychology, this is opposed to hedonic happiness, which is achieved through experiences of pleasure and enjoyment. It's not the kind of word I'll be able to casually use in a sentence, but still interesting. 

Next, results showed that people who recalled a meaningful movie were more likely than 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."

Meaningful films were also more likely than the other movies to help viewers accept the human condition. Participants recalling these movies said that the film left them with the feeling that "both happy and sad experiences give meaning to our life"

How did meaningful movies have these positive effects? The study found that the key elements of these films were their poignancy, the mixture of happiness and sadness; their emotional range; and their ability to make people feel elevated and inspired by watching them.

Gran Torino

Lastly, what movies did the researchers consider more and less eudaimonic? Here you go:

I think that overall I would agree with many of these classifications. I love The Shawshank Redemption, A Beautiful Mind, Good Will Hunting, and Gran Torino. I also like The Big Lebowski and The Princess Bride, and I could argue that they might be somewhat meaningful. There are also plenty of these movies that I haven't seen, so I will be looking for Slumdog Millionaire, Up, and The Usual Suspects. 

The Princess Bride (It's hard to believe that the Princess Bride became Claire Underwood!)

"We found that people felt better able to make sense of difficulties in their own life when they recalled a movie that focused on values that were important to them," Michael Slater (one of the authors of the paper) said. "That happened even when the movie was classified as one of the less meaningful films."

So basically, the message might be "just watch a movie." You might feel better!

What are your favorite movies, eudaimonic or not?


  1. That article is really interesting! I did not know what eudiamonic meant either so thank you for the new vocabulary word! The Pianist is one of my all time favorite movies on that list.

    And if we are talking about non-eudiamonic all time favorite movies... hands down The Godfather.

  2. Slumdog Millionaire and Up are both very good, though there are some very sad moments in both. Thank you for adding a new word to my vocabulary today!

    I'd say my favorite movies are the ones I can always watch if I happen to catch them on TV: A League of Their Own, Dirty Dancing, Little Women (the '90s version), Father of the Bride.

  3. How interesting Bonny and count me as another who did not know the work eudaimonic. I"m not much of a movie person (or TV - I tend to get antsy), but there are a couple of movies that I really do love: Gone With the Wind, Out of Africa, Cross Creek and True Lies.

  4. Interesting! I love a good new word. ;) The Shawshank Redemption is one of my all-time favorites!

  5. I was going to say exactly the same as you did about Princess Bride and Big Lebowski! Forest Gump is one of my all time favorites. Slumdog Millionaire is great, too.

  6. This is a great post!! Thank you. Interestingly I've seen 11 of the more eudiamonic movies and only 2 of the less eudiamonic movies

    1. Thanks! I've also seen more of the more eudaimonic movies. We must be more concerned with our higher purpose! :-)

  7. I love a LOT of those movies -- from both lists! Whenever Tom and I can't decide what to watch - and especially if we're feeling a little bit "off" - we watch The Shawshank Redemption. Who knew we were tapping into the "eudaimonic" by doing so??? I love this, Bonny. Thanks so much for sharing your findings.

  8. Well, this is fascinating, Bonny. Although I must say this makes sense to me. Some movies just leave you with a less than hopeful feeling when it is over. I had to think about this since I have seen 16 movies from each list. I think it is much more difficult these days to find a "feel good" movie that is not for children. Have a great weekend, and find some more eudaimonic movies!

  9. favorite movies? little miss sunshine, blades of glory, all the HP movies and the LOTR movies, any musical and a lot of the Christmas movies. Oh and Nacho Libre...I love to laugh.

  10. I hate to admit this but I am not a big movie fan. My husband and I have quite different tastes in movies. He likes a good spy thriller while I prefer movies like "You've got Mail" and classic stories like Little Women and old musicals. Interesting post.


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