Watching meaningful movies could help people cope with difficulties in their own lives, a new study has found.
Moving and poignant films, such as 1994's The Shawshank Redemption starring Tim Robbins, and the Disney/Pixar animation Up, can help people to feel more prepared for challenges life throws at them, researchers from The Ohio State University discovered.
"Meaningful movies actually help people cope with difficulties in their own lives, and help them want to pursue more significant goals," lead author Jared Ott explained.
The researchers created two lists of 20 Hollywood films – one a list of meaningful films, including Hotel Rwanda, Schindler's List and Slumdog Millionaire – and one a list of less meaningful films, including Ratatouille, Fight Club and Pulp Fiction.
More than 1,000 adults participated in the study, which required them to watch the films at home rather than in a lab, and they were randomly selected to receive either the meaningful, or less meaningful, movies at random.
The researchers then asked participants a series of questions about their reaction to the movies.
Those who had watched a meaningful movie said the film helped them make sense of difficulties in life, and were left feeling that "both happy and sad experiences give meaning to our life".
Participants also said that the movies motivated them to be a better person.
Researchers suggested that the poignancy and emotional range of those types of movies helped to elevate and inspire viewers, and had more positive effects than less meaningful films.
"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," co-author Professor Michael Slater said.