Skip the drama: Researchers reveal the appeal of ‘feel-good’ movies

MUNICH, Germany — Some nights people just aren’t in the mood for a good scare, or an action-packed journey as heroes save the world. Sometimes, TV viewers just want a light-hearted, feel-good movie to cap off the day. Now, a new study is revealing which factors make feel-good movies so appealing.

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics asked a group of participants which movies are prototypical examples of a feel-good film, as well as which factors ultimately make them so uplifting.

Movies frequently cited by study subjects include “Love Actually,” “Pretty Woman,” “Amélie,” and “The Intouchables.”

“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,” explains study leader and first author Keyvan Sarkhosh in a university release. “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.”

No shocking plot twists in my feel-good film please

Big moments of drama are also a major aspect of feel-good films, researchers say. That being said, the overall mood of most of these movies is pretty light, so even during those tense moments, there’s still an element of overall lightness to the story. The audience knows no one is going to die or suffer some other horrible fate.

In summation, study authors say a delicate mix of all these elements combine to create the quintessential “feel-good” film.

Why does anyone watch a feel-good movie? Well, to feel good. So it makes sense that most people don’t want grand philosophical questions out of their feel-good fare. However, researchers also stress that these movies have to be done well to have their intended effect. A bad movie is bad no matter what.

The study appears in the journal Projections.