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‘Les Miserables’ Is Not the Saddest Movie In the World, Scientists Say

Anne Hathaway cries as her hair is about to be cut, it looks like

Anne Hathaway is very sad in Les Miserables. Maybe sad enough to win an Oscar… but not sad enough for scientists!

Their choice for true clinical sadness may surprise you:

In 1995, [scientists Robert Levenson and James Gross] came up with a list of 16 short film clips able to elicit a single emotion, such as anger, fear or surprise. Their recommendation for inducing disgust was a short film showing an amputation. Their top-rated film clip for amusement was the fake orgasm scene from When Harry Met Sally. And then there’s the two-minute, 51-second clip of [Ricky] Schroder weeping over his father’s dead body in The Champ, which Levenson and Gross found produced more sadness in laboratory subjects than the death of Bambi’s mom.

Photo of Jon Voight in The Champ

Yes, The Champ: the 1979 film with Angelina Jolie‘s dad, Jon Voight, as a boxer who gets killed making one last comeback.  

Sadder than the death of Bambi’s mom. That’s thermonuclear sad. Here’s a link to the scene in all its glory.

Just how sad is The Champ?

The movie has been used to test the ability of computers to recognize emotions by analyzing people’s heart rate, temperature and other physiological measures. It has helped show that depressed smokers take more puffs when they are sad.

…Other researchers kept test subjects up all night and then showed them clips from The Champ and When Harry Met Sally. Sleep deprivation made people look about as expressive, the team found, as a zombie.


A photo of Ricky Schroeder crying and being comforted by his mother

Ricky Schroder, the crying kid, went on to star in the TV series Silver Spoons and be a dependable backup in NYPD Blue and other series.  The Champ was his first film — he was nine years old.

Memo to Anne Hathaway: never go up against dogs and kids. You can’t win. (But good luck on Sunday!) The Saddest Movie in the World »

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