University of Texas at Austin evolutionary psychologist David Buss, PhD, says he's a huge fan of movies that cover the same territory he studies in his lab, including a good love story.
"I'm drawn to the extremes of human nature, especially in the mating domain, from the glorious heights of love to the despair of sexual treachery," he says.
He suspects he's not alone. In line with evolutionary psychology theory, he believes people gravitate to films that delve into the emotionally charged territory of survival and mating.
"Humans have evolved psychological adaptations whose function is to attend closely to events that have profound impacts on evolutionary fitness," such as sex and murder, he says. gradPSYCH asked Buss to share his favorite films.
Blade Runner (1982)
"A futuristic vision of a man who returns from retirement to hunt down and kill ‘replicants'— androids who seek to track down their creators to discover the key to extending their brief lives. The film brilliantly poses some of the great questions of life: Who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going? How long do I have?"
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
"Few things in life create more psychological anguish than romantic breakup and the loss of love. Would you choose to erase those painful memories if you could? One couple chooses to do so. In the process, they discover the great love that they had and struggle to reverse the loss."
Straw Dogs (1971)
"A film that reveals some very dark truths about human nature, such as the brutality of sexual rivalry and sexual violence, the ruthlessness of mate poaching, the despair caused by failures at mate retention and the horrors produced by our in-group, out-group psychology. The film reveals that dormant within even the most peace-loving people lie psychological adaptations that can be activated for inflicting appalling violence on other humans."
"A poignant film, complex and subtle, about a quirky Parisian girl who discovers life and love through the joy of making other people happy, and in the process achieves [happiness] in her own life. Amélie highlights the generosity of the human spirit and the celebration of life. It shows what I know to be true, but cannot prove scientifically — that although few experience it, true love exists."