The saddest movie in the world isn't Guy Maddin's follow up to The Saddest Music in the World, it's Franco Zeffirelli's 1979 family drama about an ex-boxer and his son -- played by the kid with the silver spoon in his mouth, Ricky Schroder. Sound plausible to you? Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley are reporting they have evidence that Zeffirelli's The Champ is the flick that produces the most tears [there are spoilers as to why in the last paragraph].
A study was conducted between 1988 through 1995 with nearly 500 participants who attended group film-viewing sessions. Psychology professor Robert W. Levenson his grad student James J. Gross tested for a variety of emotions including amusement, anger, and fear -- but as their study shows, "The Champ ... produced levels of sadness that were much greater than those for any other emotion." Smithsonian Magazine also reported on the findings, stating:
"The Champ has been used in experiments to see if depressed people are more likely to cry than non-depressed people (they aren’t). It has helped determine whether people are more likely to spend money when they are sad (they are) and whether older people are more sensitive to grief than younger people (older people did report more sadness when they watched the scene). Dutch scientists used the scene when they studied the effect of sadness on people with binge eating disorders (sadness didn’t increase eating)."
So, it's official. The climactic scene in The Champ when Ricky Schroder sobs over his father's dead body beat out the death of Bambi's mom in the Disney movie classic (the two films were studied side by side). Emotions like sadness or anger seems difficult to try to determine in a clear-cut manner, but the project took years for the research team to develop so they were definitely thorough in their findings. Check out a clip below and see if science has rightfully dubbed this the ultimate tearjerker, or tell us which movies make you more miserable. If Levenson and Gross could re-test their subjects would Dancer in the Dark, Requiem for a Dream, and Brokeback Mountain be stronger contenders than little Ricky's movie moment? Because really, I'm more likely to cry about all the horrible sweater sets he wore on Silver Spoons, or Silver Spoons in general. Also, check out the complete list of film clips and emotions that were used for the 8 year study below.
Amusement: When Harry Met Sally and Robin Williams Live
Anger: My Bodyguard and Cry Freedom
Contentment: Footage of waves and a beach scene
Disgust: Pink Flamingos and an amputation scene
Fear: The Shining and Silence of the Lambs
Neutral: Abstract shapes and color bars
Sadness: The Champ and Bambi
Surprise: Capricorn One and Sea of Love