Sci-fi setting, romance, comedy and a pinch of nudity – the formula for the perfect film is revealed

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Research shows what we’re after in our movies, as Direct Line and Sundance launch short film competition

A new mathematical formula revealed today shows that in order to appeal to a universal audience the perfect film should fall within the science fiction genre, have a romantic subplot, include comedic moments, at least one plot twist, action sequences, chase scenes – and depending on your gender – some sex/nudity. Oh, and it should have a happy ending too.

The formula, based on research of 2,000 UK adults, was created by TV psychologist Professor Geoffrey Beattie on behalf of insurer Direct Line to mark the launch of 40 Seconds Straight, a film competition fronted by comedian Chris Addison. The competition calls for 40 second long film entries which depict making a complicated situation straightforward.

Formula for the perfect film:

Function {Nm[5(PT+AS)+3 (SC+CC)+2 (HE+CO+CH+ST+SE+NU) ] +Nf[5( PT )+4 (HE)+3 (AS)+2 (SC+CO+ SO+TE)]}

Nm : Number of males; Nf : Number of females; PT : Plot twist; AS : Action sequence; SC : Scary ‘jump out of your seat’ moment; CC : Car chase; HE : Happy ending; CO : Comedy sidekick; CH : General chase scene; ST : ‘Stand off’/confrontation scene; SE : Sex scene; NU : Nude scene; SO : Song/dance number; TE : Sad/tearjerker scene

Unsurprisingly, men and women have different asks when it comes to their ideal flick. Both sexes agreed that a plot twist was an integral part of any movie (54 per cent for both) but disagree on sex scenes, with men twice as likely to want one in their ultimate film (25 per cent compared with 12 per cent). Women are also far more interested in a happy ending, with almost twice as many women wanting to see a happily ever after (47 per cent compared with 26 per cent).

Science-fiction films were the most popular genre amongst men (17 per cent), whereas romantic comedies are top of the box office for women (19 per cent) – so a flawless film must be a combination of the two to keep everyone happy. More than half (54 per cent) of men feel an action sequence is essential to their perfect film, compared to women who prefer a happy ending (47 per cent) to explosions and violence.

At the other end of the scale, film viewers are turned off by an overly-complicated plot (33 per cent) torture/gore scenes (31 per cent), being unbelievable (33 per cent) and the inclusion of talking animals (25 per cent).

Professor Beattie commented: “From a psychology perspective, this research shows that the perfect film needs to engage the mind – particularly with a plot twist – as well as the emotions. Films are important to people because they provide a narrative and a meaning to experiences, either similar to our own or very different to our own, and we often draw upon these narrative structures when we explain aspects of our own lives. Films take us on an emotional journey and allow us to feel a range of different emotions both positive and negative in a safe environment and when we have finished watching a film we often feel a degree of psychological satisfaction.”

Matt Owen, spokesperson for Direct Line, which commissioned the research, said: “Our research shows that people are very clear about what they like – and especially what they don’t like – in films, with overly-complicated, lengthy movies being the worst offenders. In terms of what makes a perfect film, the most recent Star Trek movie may be the closest modern movie to fit the bill and may well have boldly gone where no film has gone before.”

Direct Line has teamed up with Raindance, the UK’s largest independent film organisation, to today launch 40 Seconds Straight, a film competition to find new UK filmmaking talent. Judges for the competition include comedian and actor Chris Addison and film critic and TV presenter Alex Zane. Visit for more information.

Notes to editors
The research was conducted by Opinium Research, of 2,000 UK adults from 31st May – 2nd June 2011. It is a nationally representative sample of UK adults.

To create this formula, Professor Beattie looked at a range of 24 elements that UK adults would like to see included in their perfect film, then cross-referenced this with their preferences on setting and genre. The formula ignores those elements/scenes which were mentioned by less than 20% of the sample.

For more information, please contact Natalie Wheeler at Unity on 0207 440 9819 or Megan John on 020 7440 9823.

Direct Line
Started in 1985, Direct Line became the first UK insurance company to use the telephone as its main channel of communication. It provides home, travel, pet and car insurance cover direct to customers by phone or online.

Direct Line is part of RBS Insurance, the second largest general insurer in the UK and is wholly owned by the Royal Bank of Scotland Group. Customers can find out more about Direct Line products or get a quote by calling 0845 246 3564 or visiting

Direct Line Insurance plc is authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority. Registered office: 3 Edridge Road, Croydon, Surrey CR9 1AG. Registered in England and Wales no. 01810801. The Financial Services Authority's Register can be accessed through

About Professor Beattie
Professor Geoffrey Beattie is Head of School and Dean of Psychological Sciences at the University of Manchester. He obtained his PhD in Psychology from the University of Cambridge (Trinity College) and is a Fellow of the British Psychological Society (BPS). He was awarded the Spearman Medal by the BPS for 'published psychological research of outstanding merit'. Geoffrey was President of the Psychology section of the British Association for the Advancement of Science.

Geoff was also the resident psychologist on ten 'Big Brother' series. His television credits also include 'Child Of Our Time' (BBC1), 'Diet Trials' (BBC1), 'Tomorrow's World' (BBC1) and numerous documentaries on ITV and Channel 4. On the run up to the General Election in 2005 he had a regular slot on the main ITV news at 10.30 called 'The Body Politic', in which he analysed the body language of all the senior politicians involved in the election. He has also been a regular contributor to 'Richard and Judy', the 'Lorraine Kelly Show', 'GMTV', the 'Extreme Celebrity' shows, 'BBC News 24' and 'Sky News'. Geoff has been keen to show how psychology can illuminate many aspects of human experience and has written for a diverse range of newspapers and magazines including: The Guardian, The Times, The Independent, The Sunday Telegraph, The Observer, The New Statesman and Marie Claire.

About Raindance
Raindance exists to discover, foster and champion new talent and audiences, the lifeblood of the industry. Since 1992 it has promoted all aspects of independent cinema in the UK, from guerrilla style low-budget shorts to international indie blockbusters.

Raindance Film Festival is Europe’s largest independent film festival. Premières have included Memento, Ghost World, Blair Witch Project, and Pulp Fiction. We satisfy the public’s thirst for bold, original filmmaking through diverse international programming.

Created in 1998, the British Independent Film Awards celebrate excellence and achievement in independently funded British films, honour new talent and are dedicated to maximising promotion of British independent cinema here and abroad.

Raindance Film Training takes filmmakers from first principles to post-production and beyond. Our intensive masterclasses and evening classes are taught by working industry professionals. Thousands of students each year leave informed and inspired, with the confidence and knowledge to embark on their first film or script. is our latest venture, hosting over 500 films and providing quality content for over a dozen partner platforms. As well as promoting filmmakers and their films, we support them through viewing royalties.


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