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Social bonding through movies: the emotional magic behind watching movies together

Movies can be an excellent social bonding experience in a variety of settings, including first dates, family movie nights, group visits, couples therapy, and professional settings. Learn about the emotional dynamics behind watching movies together.


Movies are not only a source of entertainment but also have the power to promote social bonds and create shared experiences between individuals.

Whether it’s getting together at a friend’s house on a weekend evening, a first date at the movies, or keeping up a family tradition of watching the same movie during the holidays, watching movies together is one of the most common ways we make contact with others.

But what is the psychology behind these cinematic connections? Let’s look at the many social benefits of watching movies and how they can improve our relationships in several different social settings.

Shared experiences

Every time you press play on a new movie, you begin a collective journey with the person you’re watching with. No one knows what will happen, so you enter the unknown together and experience it for the first time.

Each film is a roller coaster of different emotions – joy, laughter, surprise, fear, tension, disgust, sadness, anger – and everyone experiences those emotions together as a “hive mind.”

Research shows that emotions are contagious, and when multiple people experience the same emotion at the same time, feelings often are too strengthened more than if you just experienced it yourself.

Movies create new shared experiences that mark new chapters in our relationship. “Remember that one time we saw Wolf on Wall Street? That was fun!”

A memorable movie can become a standout event in the storyline of our relationship, especially if it symbolizes a special day, such as a first date, birthday, or anniversary, and gives us a positive memory to look back on and make memories pick up.

Watching movies together doesn’t require much work, it effortlessly creates a sense of unity among the people watching. Even if everyone hates the movie, it still creates a shared bond: “Wow, that movie was really stupid!” and then you can all laugh about it.

Icebreaker and conversation starter

Watching movies together acts as an excellent icebreaker, especially in situations where individuals are meeting for the first time or are trying to strengthen new connections.

Often considered a classic first-date location, the movie theater provides a natural conversation starter. After the credits roll, starting a conversation becomes as easy as asking, “Did you like the movie?” Why or why not?” Ask about favorite scenes and if they have seen other movies with the same actor or actress.

Use the film as a springboard to other topics to talk about. If you’re adept at conversation, you should be able to take one thing from the movie and delve into more important topics.

If it’s a movie about music, ask about their musical preferences and whether they play an instrument. For sports-themed movies, explore their favorite sports or childhood sports experiences.

Icebreakers aren’t exclusive to first dates; they are equally useful in building connections in different scenarios, whether it’s getting to know a colleague outside the office or deepening a friendship.

A fair criticism of movies as a bonding experience is that you can’t talk much during the movies. It is a passive experience, not an active one.

But this also has advantages: it’s a shared experience with little effort (no pressure, just sit and watch), and it gives you a handy overview starting point for a more meaningful conversation later.

Nostalgia and tradition

For many, watching movies together is not just an occasional activity, but a cherished tradition that spans generations.

Family movie nights play a crucial role in strengthening bonds between parents and children. Holiday movie marathons, especially during the holidays, lift our collective spirits and enhance the joyful atmosphere. Revisiting favorite childhood films creates a deep sense of nostalgia, keeping us connected to our past.

A popular family tradition can be during Christmas such as having A Christmas story play in the background while you decorate the tree or watching It’s a Beautiful Life every Christmas Eve.

These traditions are about more than just the movie; they are about creating a whole family experience. Put your unique spin on it by turning it into a game, baking homemade cookies before watching, or just enjoying jokes and good company.

The film itself is just one aspect of a complete family ritual and bonding experience.

When families embrace these shared traditions, they contribute to a deep sense of connection and unity. These rituals become the threads that weave together the fabric of family ties and friendships over long periods.

Team building and group bonding

In addition to personal connections, watching movies together can be an effective team-building activity in a professional setting.

For many companies, achieving organizational unity can be difficult, especially when employees have radically different jobs and skills, often working within one department of a company but disconnected from the organization as a whole.

Movie nights and screenings can be an effective way to give employees a stronger sense of unity and camaraderie. Different departments that normally do not see each other cross-pollinate and make connections with faces they do not often see.

Planned events like these can foster a team mindset, connecting different departments into a cohesive whole.

Perhaps certain films portray an idea, philosophy, or mentality that an organization would like to embrace more. Requiring every employee to watch a movie together is more than just making friends at work; it can also tap into a deeper meaning behind the organization’s mission and purpose.

Relationship Therapy

Movies can serve as a starting point for important conversations between spouses and loved ones.

It’s not always easy to bring up certain topics of conversation, but through film, you can organically delve into topics that might not otherwise come up in everyday discourse, such as mental health, sex, intimacy, or the experience of sadness after a tragedy or loss.

It is common for a relationship therapist to recommend a specific movie to their clients. Maybe you already know a movie that you want to share with someone. You can also ask friends online or look for recommendations.

Ask yourself, “What do I want to talk about with my partner?” and then, “What’s a good movie that can introduce this topic?”

A powerful movie can help couples process their relationship more clearly. It shows the universality of humanity – you are not alone in whatever you are going through – and brings out ideas that need to be expressed or discussed.

An exercise you can try together is to take notes or complete a film analysis worksheet while watching.

Common bonds and bridging social differences

On a larger scale, watching films can help bridge cultural and social divides, as well as be used as a tool for community bonding.

Social events such as public screenings, outdoor screenings, film festivals, or drive-thru theaters are great places to watch a movie with a large and diverse group of people within your community.

Nowadays, most people watch movies comfortably at home, but there was a time when movie-watching was an intrinsically social activity done in public spaces.

As we continue to see a decline in a sense of community, movies can be a way to bring people back together as a cohesive group.

One idea is for local organizations to host more public events with movie screenings to celebrate holidays or special events — or you could put a projector on your garage door and invite some neighbors over for a weekend of movie-watching.

Conclusion

Watching movies together is more than just a passive form of entertainment; it is a dynamic social activity that brings people together and creates lasting bonds and shared memories.

Films are universal connectors. Whether with family, friends, or colleagues, watching a film together automatically creates a bond and a feeling of unity.

Are you a big movie watcher? In what situations can you use movie watching to improve your relationships with family, friends, loved ones, or colleagues?


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