English is a notoriously tricky language to learn, so if you’ve decided to take on the challenge, it’s very likely you will spend quite a bit of time bent over a textbook and listening to pre-recorded conversations.
So why not have a bit of fun with your study instead, and use English language films to improve your English language skills?
How Can English Language Movies Help Me Learn?
Learning through movies can be an enjoyable and effective way to learn English, assisting with pronunciation, conversational English and colloquial (“slang”) speech. It can also be a great way to understand the different cultures of English-speaking nations.
English language movies also provide more natural ways of speaking than what you might hear in your English lessons. While films still use a script, a good actor can deliver their lines in a way that is much more native-sounding in terms of vocabulary and style. The context of film can also help you to memorise words, since they come couched in a memorable experience (rather than just some boring audio with no visuals!).
Lastly, English language films will expose you to various English accents including Australian, British and American.
What Are Some Good English Language Films?
When you’re looking for movies to learn English, the best thing you can do is hunt about in the genre you’re interested in. Films that are exciting or thought-provoking are more likely to keep your attention and better increase your chances of learning through movies.
If you aren’t sure where to start, IMDb (Internet Movie Database) is your go-to site for film. Once you’ve made your choice, watch the film with English subtitles, but avoid subtitles in your own language.
If you’re after some film recommendations, here are eight you can begin with.
1. Toy Story (1995)
While we could have put almost any Pixar film on this list, Toy Story takes the spot for being the first animated film of its time and an absolute classic. If you have only recently begun to learn English, Toy Story is a great place to start, as it was written for children and therefore uses simpler language. However, it was also written with adults in mind, so it has the right balance of humour that adults can enjoy as well.
The story is simple enough to follow as well: the toys in Toy Story are alive, but never reveal this to any human, including their owner Andy. Toy Story is also a great choice as it makes use of American slang. Even phrases like “how ya doin’?” give an insight into more casual language, instead of the more formal “how are you?”. It also has plenty of pop-culture references scattered throughout its four films.
2. The Social Network (2010)
The Social Network is an interesting movie. Although it’s an English language film, it tackles a subject matter that almost every person in every country is familiar with: social media.
The Social Network stars Jesse Eisenberg as Harvard University student, Mark Zuckerberg, the real-life current CEO of Facebook. As Zuckerberg establishes a social network that will go on to be one of the most dominant forms of media in the current age, he is being sued by twins who claim he stole their idea, as well as the co-founder who was eventually ousted from the business.
The familiarity of the subject matter is bound to be helpful to those learning English, especially when trying to understand the context and gravity of this film in a new language.
3. Jurrasic Park (1993)
Jurassic Park is a ridiculously entertaining movie and memorable due to its impressive special effects, sweeping score and some of the most iconic scenes in modern cinema history. After dinosaurs are brought back to life using DNA samples, a park is opened where the beasts can roam. Paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) is invited to inspect the park before it is opened, but when a storm knocks out the park’s power and security systems, the dinosaurs are let loose and the race to escape the park is on.
If you have been learning English for some time already, Jurassic Park is one of the great movies to learn English too, with some fancy scientific terminology thrown in that can really open up your vocabulary. The sheer entertainment factor will have you coming back again and again for more in-depth learning.
4. Australia (2008)
Directed by iconic Australian filmmaker Baz Luhrmann, Australia is a fantastic choice for learning through movies for various reasons. Set in northern Australia before World War II, Australia follows the journey of English aristocrat Lady Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman) as she comes to Australia and reluctantly teams up with stock-man Drover (Hugh Jackman) in order to protect her newly inherited property from a takeover plot. This sees them drive 2,000 cattle across the harsh Australian Outback.
Australia is a great movie that can be used as a tool to understand the English language, Australian accents, and unique slang, and the many facets of Australian culture.
5. The King’s Speech (2010)
The King’s Speech is a fantastic introduction to British accents and is a rare film that focuses on an individual’s manner of speech – which is rather important when you’re the king of England and World War II is approaching. It almost works as an English lesson on its own, as King George (Colin Firth) works under a speech therapist (Geoffrey Rush) to tackle his stammer.
This highly acclaimed film is another that does more than cover the English language; it also brings in plenty of colloquialisms (get ready to hear “bloody” used in a new context!) and a rich lesson in British history.
6. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Considered to be one of the best English movies of all time – perhaps the best – The Shawshank Redemption is a long film, but a must-see if you’re learning English and want to appreciate an absolute classic. The story follows two imprisoned men and their years spent in an American prison, and the ways that they deal with their torturous lives.
A highly emotional film, The Shawshank Redemption might be difficult to follow until the advanced stages of English, but regardless it is a film that all English-speakers should one day see.
7. Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone (2001)
With seven movies to follow the first, Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone. is a fantastical look into a hidden wizarding world and the magical school of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. With a cast made up almost entirely of UK actors, it gives you excellent exposure to many English, Scottish and Irish accents and a great sense of British culture as well as fun words that are entirely unique to the Harry Potter franchise, such as “Muggle” (a non-magical person) – and plenty of British slang, too.
The film’s plot is thoroughly enjoyable and easy to follow but eventually builds in intricacy as the franchise goes on.
8. Forrest Gump (1994)
This charming and funny film follows the life of Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks) and his unknowing involvement in parts of America’s history, including the Vietnam War and teaching Elvis Presley how to dance. Due to the simpler way Forrest speaks throughout the film (as is part of his character), he is easy to understand, especially for those who are new to learning English, although he does speak with a strong southern American accent.
As you can see, English language movies are an excellent aid in becoming a proficient English-speaker – and it’s a lot more fun than staring down at a textbook all day! And when it comes time for you to test your understanding of English, Pearson PTE can help to set you up for the future.