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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

July 27, 2011 at 9:50 AM

The saddest movie in the world?

Interesting: Research scientists at the University of California at Berkeley, some years ago, wanted to elicit a strong emotional response of sadness in laboratory subjects, and wanted to do so using movie clips. (Because, you know, making people sad by telling them that a loved one has just died is kind of unethical.) They considered hundreds of films, screened dozens of clips before hundreds of undergraduates, and found that one, more than any other (even more than the death of Bambi’s mother!), made subjects cry. The clip? Ricky Schroder, sobbing over the death of his father (Jon Voight) in the 1979 tearjerker “The Champ”.
The scene has since been used in numerous experiments and cited in hundreds of scientific papers. I don’t think I’ve seen “The Champ,” so can’t evaluate — do you think this is really the saddest movie scene ever? I’d link to it, but I don’t want all you P & P’ers crying over your morning coffee. In thinking of movies that make me cry, I think immediately of “Sense & Sensibility,” in which I always burst into tears right when Emma Thompson does, but those are happy tears so they don’t count. “Beginners,” quite recently, made me cry, and I remember being pretty broken up over “Iris,” “Up,” “Rabbit Hole” and a few others. How about you — has a movie made you cry lately? Or would you agree that “The Champ” is the champ?

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