How the human brain reacts to the best movies:
According to neuroscientist Paul MacLean, “as human beings evolved from the lower animals, our brains never abandoned the more primitive structures possessed by our ancestors. Instead of changing the brain completely, evolution simply added new layers on top of that which already existed, like scoops added to an ice cream cone. Though still a topic of debate amongst scientists, this theory can suggest much about our film-viewing experience.”
Lust, fear, survival, starvation, power. These are all primal urges that can excite the reptilian mind that has been with us since the beginning.
When the audience can empathize with a character, they connect with emotion, and react with and from the character’s actions, which satisfies the Paleo-mammalian part of the brain.
“When stories stimulate curiosity, problem-solving skills, or the desire to seek out greater meaning behind physical events, the audience experiences intellectual pleasure.” This satisfies the Neo-mammalian brain layer.
A film with an intellectually satisfying, emotional, visceral experience (and story) will also be timeless.