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STEM Movie Spotlight: Inside Out

By Rital Miller and Joslyn Stamp


Inside Out gives an alluring point of view of how humans react to certain situations in life. 11-year-old Riley moves from Minnesota to San Francisco, California. In her brain are five characters representing five basic human emotions: anger, disgust, fear, sadness, and joy. The five characters help Riley get through her homesickness and help her grow to love California while preserving her most precious memories.


When Riley is struggling with moving away and into a new city, all her happy memories she once had started to become sad. Sadness, one of the people in her head, would try and look/touch these memories and when she did they would affect how Riley saw her most joyous memories. Joy tries to help Riley not think of these experiences as lost but instead directs her to seek out happy memories. Sadness gives her empathy and sympathy in times of loss. Riley has a set of core memories that all the emotions believe should remain happy. But at the end of the movie, Sadness makes the memories sad which ultimately helped Riley get out her emotions and move fowards.


Most aspects discussed in this movie are SEL based. This movie is targeted toward a younger audience to help them understand how emotions can work. No, we don’t have 5 little people in our heads who represent our emotions and control them. But it shows that our happiest memories can become sad since we can miss them. When the emotions in Riley’s head start to get mixed and out of control since all her happy memories began to turn sad, it results in Riley becoming moody and separated from her family and new possible friends at her school. And this is very accurate to how most kids, especially teenagers, handle their emotions. This promotes a sense of understanding of how kids can act and how adults, as well as other kids around, should understand how everyone goes through hard times. This movie also uncovers how strong childhood memories can be, and without happy ones, it leads to trouble in home life. When Riley starts to get upset about her moving and all her memories begin to turn sad, she runs away from home thinking that was the cause for her being upset. She ultimately learns that the memories she had growing up will help her in the future so she shouldn’t dwell on the past.


As the film was centered around emotion, the career path of psychology in the brain is highlighted. Psychologists work on social processes and behavior in humans. We would recommend this film for kids ages 8-12 since these are ages really close to Riley’s age so the audience can understand her more. But for older teens and adults, it is also good for them to watch this movie as it can help individuals understand the emotions of younger kids.

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