Some movies overplay/over-do certain elements to make viewers feel emotional - cheesy lines, music and others. I've read a review which used a word to convey this pithily but I can't seem to remember for the life of me!

An example would be: I'm not sure I want to see the new movie. It is XXX.

Edit: added sample sentence.

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    Welcome to ELU. Could you supply an example sentence where you want to use this word? It will help get you better answers. – Brian Hooper Jan 3 '16 at 10:16
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    Your example sentence suggests that you are looking for an adjective. ...the movie.... is sentimental / cliché / sappy / soppy / a tear-jerker etc. etc. There's nothing in that sentence to suggest you are looking for an expression or term that suggests the producers' aim is to evoke sentimentalism. – Mari-Lou A Jan 3 '16 at 10:31
  • @Mari-LouA, thank you for the suggestion. Sorry I couldn't express it correctly but Martin Smith has the word I'm looking for. – Hasan Ali Khan Jan 3 '16 at 11:09
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    You're the OP, and I'm glad you got the answer you wanted but how does mawkish fit the criteria you were looking for Sappy is what is in the movie. I'm looking for a phrase that would mean "put in a lot of effort to make it sappy" How does mawkish suggest that someone put in a lot of effort to make it "mawkish"? – Mari-Lou A Jan 3 '16 at 11:14
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    The movie is a "tear jerker". – Hot Licks Jan 3 '16 at 15:00

12 Answers 12


I like the word mawkish

sentimental in an exaggerated or false way.

An Example Usage

The Best Of Me, film review: Terminally mawkish tearjerker is hard to stomach

Much of the dialogue for this terminally mawkish tearjerker sounds as if it has been taken directly from a Dolly Parton or Whitney Houston song ...

The etymology of this word is

mawkish (adj.) 1660s, "sickly, nauseated," from Middle English mawke "maggot". Sense of "sickly sentimental" is first recorded 1702.

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    It's a good enough answer that I won't downvote it, but I have to say I've maybe heard this word once or twice in my life - it's so rarely used I won't upvote this either. – Todd Wilcox Jan 4 '16 at 14:59
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    @ToddWilcox - Might be more something that you would see in a UK broadsheet than the US? Some examples Mawkish tabloid fare: how the Amy Winehouse film fails Fathers and Daughters review – mawkish twaddle meets ripe platitudes Mr Morgan's Last Love, review: 'mawkish fluff' – Martin Smith Jan 4 '16 at 15:08
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    Ah, it is probably a US/UK thing. Sometimes it's almost enough to want to separate this stack into two - US and non-US. – Todd Wilcox Jan 4 '16 at 15:27
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    Isn't UK English supposed to be the default English? So I suppose, English and 'everything else derived' sounds more appropriate! (:P No offence, just being cheeky) – Marvin Jan 4 '16 at 19:59
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    @ToddWilcox Sometimes? My decline in posting here is in a direct relationship to my better understanding of the fact that AmE and BrE (will always) have irreconcilable differences. English has way too many dialects for it not to be a required tag and any site that attempts to encompass all of them is on tenuous ground at best. I'm sure there's some juicy stuff buried here on SE, where we've tried to reach across the pond and strangle each other. – Mazura Jan 5 '16 at 2:42

'Melodramatic' - most commonly used for movies where emotions interspersed with exaggerated characters, cheesy lines, catchy music and background scores are used to create sensations.

"It makes me sick when movies with unrealistic and melodramatic endings become huge hits."

Others words can be - saccharine, sugary, maudlin, sloshy, sloppy, rabble-rousing

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  • @Théophile My bad :) – Kyle Jan 4 '16 at 19:03

Schmaltz was mentioned earlier.

I submit sappy:


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  • Sappy is what is in the movie. I'm looking for a phrase that would mean "put in a lot of effort to make it sappy". Does that makes sense? – Hasan Ali Khan Jan 3 '16 at 10:26
  • @hsnk: As in "pandering to the gutter" or something? – Ricky Jan 3 '16 at 10:31
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    every trick of the trade? – Mari-Lou A Jan 3 '16 at 10:42
  • @Mari-LouA: Yeah, well, I shouldn't always assume the worst. – Ricky Jan 3 '16 at 10:46
  • @HasanAliKhan That makes sense, but doesn't jive with your example sentence. – DCShannon Feb 5 '16 at 21:55

Oh, come on! It's a tearjerker!!

a story, song, play, film, or broadcast that moves or is intended to move its audience to tears

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    In some senses it definitely fits, but I don't know if I've seen it used with the overtly-manipulative or negative connotations that seem to fit some of the alternatives. – Jeff Bowman Jan 4 '16 at 16:58
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    @JeffBowman - I don't think I've ever seen it used in a case where "manipulation" of audience emotions was not implied. – Hot Licks Jan 4 '16 at 20:13
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    I think this term is used when the correct amount of emotion is used, not when there's too much. – DCShannon Feb 5 '16 at 21:54

Perhaps the word you are looking for is schmaltz:-

  1. Informal

a. Excessively sentimental art or music.

b. Maudlin sentimentality.

[American Heritage Dictionary]

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How about corny? I have used it to talk about movies that are sappy, too sentimental, or try hard to make you feel something. It's a bit dated but still works.

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More technical terms would include "emotionally manipulative" and "sentimental."

More informal terms, however, would stretch from "cheesy" to "sappy."

There are so many specialized words for this though, you can even find words that hone in on what particular emotion the movie is milking--sad, happy, heartwarming, etc.

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I would also compare cloying, from cloy (v):

To cause distaste or disgust by supplying with too much of something originally pleasant, especially something rich or sweet; surfeit. [source: AHD]

For example, used in this New York Times review of The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996):

Or so it often seems during "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," the latest and most uncertain of Disney's animated efforts, with its manic mood swings and cloying, none-too-cuddly hero.

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Adjective 1. obviously planned or forced; artificial; strained:

Use in a sentence:

A contrived story.

Source: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/contrived

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I'd suggest,


informal Excessively sentimental: a mushy film ODO


Mawkishly sentimental ODO

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  • Why not just sentimental then? – Mitch Jan 3 '16 at 14:01
  • @Mitch Because "sentimental" doesn't necessarily imply "sappy." A movie can be sentimental without being mawkishly sentimental. – Elian Jan 3 '16 at 14:10

Another word commonly used in reviews is Camp which according to M-W means:

"style or mode of personal or creative expression that is absurdly exaggerated and often fuses elements of high and popular culture"

In this case however the emotion being invoked is frequently humor or nostalgia through over the top references to other eras, styles, cliches, etc. Many movies fit this criteria, a couple examples would be Expendables 2 and Thankskilling

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Do you mean cliche?

from wikipedia:

A cliché or cliche (/ˈkliːʃeɪ/ or /klɪˈʃeɪ/) is an expression, idea, or element of an artistic work which has become overused to the point of losing its original meaning or effect, even to the point of being trite or irritating, especially when at some earlier time it was considered meaningful or novel.

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    Cliche could be nearly anything, this is too vague. – Thomas Shera Jan 4 '16 at 14:26

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