Sometimes, when I watch a (real good) movie, I feel like the movie "sucks me into the screen". I feel that I am really inside the movie, really watching real persons acting in real situations. I do not really see what happens around me anymore, I get some kind of tunnel view and see only the screen. It's like being in John Malkovich's Head, just not seeing the borders that are around me from that weird cave.

I wanted to know if there is a word or longer expression for this kind of experience. Also, I'd like to know if there is a word for "re-gaining" reality. After a few seconds or minutes in this weird state, I feel like my field of vision is growing larger and larger (just as if I was about to leave Malkovich) and then I'm "back in reality".

It's a hard to describe experience for me, not only because my mother tongue is not English but German, but also because, as far as I know, German lacks words for this, too. But when I have the English words, I believe, I may find the German ones as well.

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    I lose myself in a good movie. Apr 21, 2014 at 23:20
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    Disagree strongly with 'pathetic fallacy.' Storytelling is the probably the oldest form of entertainment (right alongside violence, I suppose). You're really missing out if you've never lost yourself in a good film, book, or play. +1 to you, user70037.
    – Patrick M
    Apr 22, 2014 at 4:21
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    @PatrickM: Your response suggests you misunderstand "pathetic fallacy" as a put-down (via the everyday meanings of the words "pathetic" and "fallacy"). See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pathetic_fallacy. Apr 22, 2014 at 4:58
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    @echristopherson I certainly did misunderstand. My apologies! Never heard that term before. I still disagree that it applies. The coinage of the term makes it sound like a dressed up, derogatory term for anthropomorphism, which I feel can't be applied to an interactive experience like storytelling. Also, "to attack the sentimentality that was common to poetry" and "original definition is “emotional falseness”" both seem really off the mark from an engaging, engrossing fiction.
    – Patrick M
    Apr 22, 2014 at 5:16
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    I've always referred to it as 'immersion in the story'. A story that punctures my suspension of disbelief will interfere with that immersion (as will distractions like people using their phone).
    – Glen_b
    Apr 22, 2014 at 11:38

16 Answers 16


Consider immerse.

My role is to make people completely immersed in the movie.


In fact, some "Avatar" fans, better known as "Avatards," have become so immersed in the movie that they suffer from withdrawals when it ends.

My Daily News

The word for "regaining" reality is "emerge."

When we finally emerged from the movie we re-enacted the commercial.


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    Yes, this is common terminology for this effect. The noun form is immersion. Apr 21, 2014 at 22:50
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    I think immersion became a much more popular word for this experience ever since video games became more popular. It is much easier, (for me anyway), to get that feeling from games where you are taking part in the action rather than movies where you just watch. Apr 22, 2014 at 16:32
  • @OP Sounds like you've found the English answer to your question. Please mark it as answered, and let us know if you think of the German equivalent!
    – user7626
    Apr 23, 2014 at 21:03
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    I've always interpreted "emerged from the movie" as referring to the physical act of leaving the theater, but maybe that's just me.
    – JLRishe
    Apr 24, 2014 at 8:14
  • +1 In our mother tongue (Kannada), We use a word with similar meaning "ಮುಳುಗು".
    – Keshava GN
    Apr 24, 2014 at 10:45

In psychology, this experience is known as spatial presence or spatial immersion.

Briefly, spatial presence is often defined as existing when “media contents are perceived as ‘real’ in the sense that media users experience a sensation of being spatially located in the mediated environment.”

The idea is just that a game (or any other media from books to movies) creates spatial presence when the user starts to feel like he is “there” in the world that the game creates.

Also, there is a newly coined term called "experience-taking" which roughly means losing yourself in a fictional character. This phenomenon specifically occurs when you are reading.

Researchers at Ohio State University examined what happened to people who, while reading a fictional story, found themselves feeling the emotions, thoughts, beliefs and internal responses of one of the characters as if they were their own - a phenomenon the researchers call “experience-taking.”

Re-gaining reality and leaving the spatial immersion (or the thing causes this) is usually called "immersion-breaking". This term is usually used in gaming world.

You can also use "snap out of immersion" or "snap back to reality"

snap out of something Fig. to become suddenly freed from a condition. (The condition can be a depression, an illness, unconsciousness, etc.)

Furthermore, here is explained the difference between immersive experience and spatial presence: (from the book "Handbook of Digital Games" edited by Marios C. Angelides, Harry Agius)

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Additional information from the book "Visual Representations and Interpretations edited by Ray Paton, Irene Neilsen":

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  • Please replace the images with transcriptions of the text. Images cannot be searched and are inaccessible to people who use screen readers or who need to use large fonts. Apr 22, 2014 at 16:12
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    @DavidRicherby - You could transcribe the text for the user too. Apr 23, 2014 at 7:03
  • @ermanen - very interesting article from the Ohio State University. Thank you for sharing.
    – Keneni
    May 7, 2014 at 18:58

One criterion for judging the quality of a movie, at least from your perspective, is the degree to which the movie helps you "suspend disbelief," if only for a short time.

When we are really enjoying what we consider to be a good movie, we know, of course, that what we are seeing is not real. If, however, all the pieces (however you define them) come together in a pleasant (or even unpleasant) way for us, then we have effectively suspended disbelief and consequently enter into the story. Call it identification, if you will. We identify with what we are seeing portrayed for us.

I say "unpleasant" because for fans of horror movies, they may in fact become very uncomfortable and frightened by what they see on the big screen, but some folks like the horror genre precisely because they enjoy being scared!

For fans of other genre of films, they may be looking for sheer escapism, laughs, the romantic warm and fuzzies, satisfaction when the "bad guy" is caught and punished, relief when the underdog is triumphant, and so on.

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    +1 for "suspension of disbelief". Happens for books and plays too.
    – keshlam
    Apr 22, 2014 at 2:29
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    The opposite extreme from suspension of disbelief is self-referentialism and breaking the forth wall, both often for comedic effect. See also the tvtropes.org for those terms. A lesser effect than breaking the forth wall is dramatic irony, if it causes you to stop and reflect on the storytelling itself (particularly if it's done poorly).
    – Patrick M
    Apr 22, 2014 at 4:18
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    Suspension of disbelief is the act of overlooking obvious flaws in the realism of a story (i.e., whether the story is consistent with reality, not the same as whether you can't differentiate between the story and reality). It has nothing to do with being immersed in the story. Apr 22, 2014 at 4:39
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    Suspension of disbelief has been identified as one of the prerequisites for becoming immersed in the reality of the medium; it is not the state of immersion itself. Apr 22, 2014 at 16:01
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    @PatrickM - "fourth wall", not "forth"!
    – AAT
    Apr 23, 2014 at 12:56

You can say:

I was so completely absorbed by the movie that when it finished it was like being thrown back into the real world.


Becoming engrossed:

  1. having all one's attention or interest absorbed by someone or something. "they seemed to be engrossed in conversation"

The first word I thought of was mesmerized.

hold the attention of (someone) to the exclusion of all else or so as to transfix them.

Google has tons of pages for the exact match "mesmerized by the movie".

  • Mesmerized sounds more like a state of hypnosis where the viewer cannot look away vs a feeling of being part of the story. Apr 23, 2014 at 0:50

The changes in perception and attention you describe are consistent with trance states. One word to describe the experience is entrancement, an altered stat of consciousness involving heightened focus on limited stimuli--the movie--and reduced attention or awareness to other stimuli. The sometimes sudden shift back to normal consciousness can be called reorienting to reality. Another term for very intense focus is engrossment.


The most common description of your experience is called "suspension of disbelief." It refers to the state of surrendering your knowledge of how the world works (or more specifically, doesn't work) and accepting what the author/director/whatever puts before you.

J. R. R. Tolkien held a different view, called secondary belief. In his description of why he developed this separate idea, he states that the moment that disbelief even appears, you've already lost. In secondary belief, it is the writer's (or whatever) goal to create a world so immersive, not that you suspend your disbelief for its sake, but rather that you mentally enter into it and actively believe it. It's a more powerful statement on the role of the imagination in viewing art.

Further reading: Suspension of Disbelief Secondary Belief


You can use this word - captivated

captivate - attract and hold the interest and attention of; charm.

like in,

I was so captivated by the movie.

I've experienced same feeling as yours and I normally use sentences like this,

I was completely engaged by the movie.

I was entirely absorbed by the film.

And I've observed using the word "engage" in many instances like,

Engage the audience in some way.


Dereism: Fantasy, condition of being lost in

Fantast: Fantasy, person indulging in; to the exclusion of reality

-Reversicon: a medical word finder. . Schmidt, J. E. (Jacob Edward), 1903-


What about being totally engulfed in a movie?


I would say that rapt describes exactly what you are describing:

  • Deeply engrossed or absorbed
  • Transported with emotion
  • Carried off spiritually to another place, sphere of existence, etc.

transfixed? I would think the experience you describe is being transfixed.


Transported [to another time / place]

From Cambridge Dictionary:

If something transports you to a different time or place, it makes you feel as if you were in it:

  • The film transports you back to the New York of the 1950s.

( virtually Transferred ) into the movie probably can define in reality what you experience, like the expression in fiction movies transferred in time by a time machine like the movie (back to the future) that we all remember. You are remounted and virtually transferred by the involved mind senses into the movie.


In my opinion, suspension of disbelief is the best name for it. Cheers.

  • 2
    What does this add to the answer already given by rhetorician?
    – MetaEd
    Apr 23, 2014 at 16:12

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