The phrase “happy movies” conjures up several images with many different emotions. In your mind, does it include clips from A Christmas Story or Toy Story? Is it a comedy or an emotional drama? Is it an animated film or a live-action film? These are just some thoughts that run through your mind when you think of happy movies.
A Christmas Story
Based on the poll results, people love to see happy movies. In a recent study, for instance, researchers attempted to induce happy feelings from a group of middle-aged senior citizens by showing them brief clips from A Christmas Story and An Officer and a Gentleman, both movies that have long since won eight Academy Awards. The participants who watched the movies felt significantly more happy after the exposure to A Christmas Story than they did after watching the other movies. Studies consistently show that seeing happy movies promotes feelings of happiness in viewer. But what exactly is it that makes a good movie? And how can this be so?
Psychologists have spent years trying to figure out what exactly is behind the happiness-inducing power of happy movies. According to the latest findings, it all boils down to one little trick: The trick is to make the characters in a story feel real, to have them act out activities that they would actually do. It turns out that we can evoke feelings of joy and happiness just as effectively in the present day as we did back in the days when our parents and grandparents would watch these stories.
One of the things that make happy movie’s a hit with audiences is the pace of the plot line. In any romantic comedy, for instance, the couple will go through a number of happy scenes together before a happily ever after comes around the end. This happy ending is not typical of all rom-coms, however; it is common to see one of the characters sleeping with the woman (in one scene or another) before the romance is consummated. The reason for this is to illustrate that the couple will be together for a long time, and the sexual interaction was not the catalyst for their relationship; it was something incidental, or a happy coincidence. Most rom-coms that I have seen have the happy couple sleeping together onscreen, and if I missed them, I have been lucky; most of the plots in today’s modern comedies take place in bedrooms, not on sidewalks or back porches.
Another reason that we feel so connected to happy movies is that the characters are usually very well-balanced. They are symmetrical in their happiness and sadness; they have opposing but compatible personalities. The good guy is usually the caring, responsible individual, while the bad guy is the crude, undisciplined, and greedy. Most of us want to avoid these types of people in our romantic relationships, but we are drawn to them anyway, because they make us feel good about ourselves, even when they are wrong.
The third on my list is Easy Rider, a great film about a rambunctious young man who robs banks on his first day of working. This film follows Randall Park, a loner who robs banks without hesitation, and gets sentenced to ten years in jail. The movie follows his transformation from a calculating criminal to a realist, as he teams up with the gorgeous young masseuse and goes to work in her office. The happy couple have a wonderful time together, and their eventual escape from jail is the highlight of the film. I would definitely recommend this movie.