From ‘Titanic’ (1997) to ‘The Lion King’ (1994), through: ‘Schindler’s List’ (1994), ‘The Boy in the Striped Pajamas’ (2008), ‘Forrestgump’ (1994) or that mythical scene from ‘Bambi’- yes, that of the mother, we all know it- (1942) the truth is that all these films have made us shed a tear (or more than one) and it sure has happened to all of us But why do we cry when we watch a movie? What are the “ingredients” that a film must have so that we end up glued to a box of tissues, then we will discover all the ins and outs about the emotion that these types of films transmit to us that touch the heart.

Why do we cry when we watch a movie?

Let’s be honest, at some point we have all had to cover our faces so that we do not notice that we are crying in the middle of the cinema, we have even secretly wiped those tears with our shirts – in the absence of handkerchiefs, of course – even if it was not a tragedy to use, we could even be watching an animated movie for children, however, something made us excited. It is nothing bad, we all know that, on the contrary that denotes that you have a great capacity to be empathetic and also possess great strength.

Crying makes us more human. But why does this happen to us? It’s all due to the structure of our brain, but also to the movie itself. When we watch a movie that strikes a chord with us, our brain releases an important neurotransmitter called oxytocin. This release of said neurotransmitter is what allows us to empathize and connect even more with others, this usually manifests itself through crying.

This situation occurs when we see certain films in which the actors have been able to adequately represent their characters, to such an extent that our brain is not able to distinguish the representation of real emotions. When a character is well represented, we are able to put ourselves in their shoes and get excited with what they transmit to us, even when we feel identified with a character we are able to activate the brain areas that we would need to carry out the activities of the character that we see on the screen.

The emotion that a movie transmits to us is manifested through crying and manages to increase our empathy towards others.

Who are more likely to cry when they watch a movie?

Surely you have thought of that specific person, who always sheds a tear as a result of the emotion that a movie (or all of them) has transmitted to him. But this does not only happen to a few people, as a recent study showed that around 92% of the people surveyed had cried with a movie. Although, at first it was thought that women were more prone to crying when watching a movie, this was completely ruled out, as it is just as widespread in men as in women. The result was that men claim to watch fewer movies romantic or with a high load of emotion, to avoid this situation, due to the great myth that crying makes us “weak” as we have seen, crying in a natural reaction of the human being, of which we should not be ashamed at all.

What is true is that young children are more likely to cry when watching a movie that excites them. That’s not to say that those who don’t cry when watching a movie lack empathy.

What kinds of movies increase our empathy?

Those films in which we will need more tissues to dry our tears are the ones that have a great emotional charge. An example could be those in which they tell us a tragic story, which is also based on real events; ‘Schindler’s list’, ‘Always by your side (Hachiko)’, ‘The impossible’, ‘Titanic’ … among many others. Another type of movies that can increase our empathy and connect more with others, can be those that tell romantic stories that everyone can live; ‘Pd: I love you’, ‘Before dawn’, ‘Noah’s diary’, ‘Five hundred days together’, ‘Love actually’, ‘The bridges of Madison’ … here the list can be extended to unsuspected limits.

And of course, we must not forget the animated films, without any doubt, these were the first films that contributed to increase our empathy; Dumbo, The Lion King, Bambi, Pinocchio, Todd and Toby … well at those ages we were all excited.

So you know, that a movie moves you and you end up crying, it is the most natural thing . The next time you go to the movies and shed a tear, do not hide and offer a handkerchief to the person next to you, because they will surely be just like you. 

Elle Mcdonald

I am Elle Mcdonald Specializations in Psychology . Graduated in psychology from the University of Tennessee in 2000. Diploma of Advanced Studies in the Department of Personality, Evaluation and psychological treatments with excellent results.

First Level of Master in Clinical Psychology at the Center for Behavioral Therapists (recognized with a scientific-professional nature by the College of Psychologists)

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