Can movies really help you to learn English?

Why, the answer is definitely “yes”! Films contain live and modern (unless you’re watching some historical one) colloquial (spoken) language. It’s one of the best ways to improve listening skills too! Besides, you don’t watch boring films (I hope), so watching them keeps learning process entertaining. However, as an experienced teacher of ESL I have a few “do-not”s for those who watch movies to learn English.

Number one: do not watch movies in English with foreign subtitles (or vice versa). You want to enjoy the movie, don’t you? And making your brain constantly compare two languages is tough. In addition to that, don’t forget that words in English often have weird spelling, so the way a word is pronounced might be totally different from how it’s written and vice versa. So, English subtitles. Only.

Number two: do not watch just any film. Choose something interesting, something you’d enjoy watching, or perhaps a movie you’d watched before (you’ll be amazed how different it is in English!). If you push yourself towards watching a so-so film, you’ll end up spending all the energy on keeping yourself awake. So, interesting movies. Only.

Number three: do not forget about your level of English: if you decide to watch a drama film and you’ve got “Elementary” – Houston, we have a problem. So what the actors and actresses are charming – you don’t understand 90% or more of the language! My advice is to start with cartoons, comedies and action movies – they are usually the simplest. Then move on to drama and thrillers. So, movies for your level of English. Only.

Number four: do not give up. It will be difficult at first. Many actors and actresses have accents which you will need to get used to. Be patient, take your time. If you still fail to understand the speech, use subtitles or just change the choice of the movie altogether! So, patience is virtue. True story.

Here are some amazing movies to consider for different levels:

Easy (Elementary, Pre-Intermediate +):

  1. Pixar Animations (WALL-E, Finding Nemo, Inside Out and many more) – easy to watch, fun and suitable for (almost) any level!

  2. Indiana Jones films – legendary movies with Harrison Ford (he wasn’t always old :-D)!

  3. Terminator films – solid action movies with at least 3 must-learn quotes (I’ll be back)!

  4. Pirates of the Caribbean films (personally, my favorite) – great storyline, lots of humor and awesome cast.

More difficult (Intermediate +):

  1. Harry Potter films – although it doesn’t appear difficult at first (it’s based on a teen book after all!) but the amount of unknown words can be a challenge.

  2. Forest Gump (one of my favourite films) – “Run, Forest, run!” (don’t tell me you haven’t heard this quote!). Drama movie – you’ll need to have solid language skills if you want to keep up with the story. But you’ve probably watched it in your native language, so it shouldn’t be extremely difficult.

  3. The Hangover – this is one of the few comedies I’ve actually enjoyed. Warning: a lot of American slang, be prepared!

The most difficult (Upper-Int. +)

  1. Guy Ritchie’s films (“Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”, “Snatch”, “Rocknrolla etc.) – very dynamic, fast and gripping movies starring mainly British actors. If you’re on the quest to improve your pronunciation – these will 100% help you!

  2. A Beautiful Mind – biographical drama movie about John Nash (played by Russel Crowe).

  3. Inception – chemistry of genres (sci-fi, thriller, action and heist) has worked successfully in one of the best movies ever (true stuff!). Leo DiCaprio is also perfect - as he always is.

Don’t forget about famous series too: Big-Bang Theory, How I met your mother and of course, Game of Thrones! You might get hooked by it and spend a week or so watching 10 episodes in one day…

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