Whether you love it or hate it, Disney’s newest animated movie “Frozen” is one of the top 10 most popular films of all time.
“Frozen” is just one of the many English animated films that the world has loved over the years. No matter where you are in the world, you probably know about Disney, have watched one of the three “Toy Story” films and have seen at least one movie by DreamWorks.
English animated movies deal with themes and ideas that are universal—anyone in the world can understand and enjoy them. That is why watching English animated movies is one of the many ways you can make learning English more fun and exciting.
If you thought animated movies were just for kids, check out our list of 15 awesome animated English movies!
Why would you even learn English with animated movies? Well…
Learning English with Animated Movies
Movies are a way to see the English language being used, without needing to find native speakers near you. You can stop, go back and repeat any part as much as you want. No wonder movies are such a great learning tool!
What about animated movies, then? You might think that animated movies are not as good for learning English as regular movies, but you can actually learn a lot from animations too!
Animated movies are great for learning English because…
- The pronunciation and speech are both very clear.
- Voice acting (putting the voices in the animation) is a type of acting, so there is usually a lot of emotion and variety in the speech. You can really hear the different ways of saying something in English by watching animated movies.
- You can learn to pronounce words by watching the animation.
- Like many other movies, they usually have conversations, vocabulary words and just a general exposure to the language.
Animated movies are especially great for learning English pronunciation. Why? Because animated characters can teach you how people move their mouths!
What Speaking English Looks Like
In animation, the characters’ mouths need to move in a way that is close enough to reality to be recognizable, but not so detailed that the animations take forever to create.
The style makes a difference, too. Some animated movies have a very simple style without using too many lines, and other animated films are so detailed that they use actual people to model for the animation.
No matter what kind of animated movie you are watching, there is one thing that is usually the same: The mouth shapes.
When we speak, we move our mouths in very specific ways to make certain sounds. Knowing what shapes to form with our mouths leads to making the right sound. So if you are having trouble with English pronunciation, animated films can help you. Just watch the characters talk! Their simplified mouth shapes can make it easier for you to get the shape right when you are talking.
Of course, there are other things that go into making a sound (like the position of your tongue and teeth), but getting the correct mouth shape is a good start.
You can find a list and explanation of the few simple mouth shapes animators use at this link.
The 15 Best English Animated Movies by Disney, Pixar, DreamWorks and More
There are many different animation studios (film companies that make animated movies), but some of the most well-known and popular are DreamWorks, Disney, Pixar (which is also a part of Disney), Warner Bros. and Sony.
Each of these animation giants has its own style and type of animation, and you can learn different things from each.
DreamWorks is known for animal and fantasy animations. You will not find too many humans in their movies, so if you would like to learn English by watching people speak, find your movies somewhere else. Watching animals and fantasy creatures speaking is as informative as watching people talk though, and it is really fun to see how the studio makes animals talk even without any lips!
1. “Shrek” (2001)
There is just a huge variety in accents and dialects in “Shrek,” including Scottish, British, African American and others. This is a must-watch movie for hearing different English pronunciations.
2. “How to Train Your Dragon” (2010)
This DreamWorks film actually has humans, and you can also catch a couple of different accents—but the best parts are the main characters’ voices, which are clear but very natural sounding. The movie might be an epic tale about dragons, but it is also a great place to learn what conversational English sentences sound like.
3. “Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit” (2005)
One character is a dog who does not speak, and the other is an inventor who makes up crazy gadgets. It is always fun to watch Wallace and Gromit for their silly gadgets and adventures, but if you are learning English, you can always watch it for the British accents and phrases.
Princesses, family, friendship, and love…these are the main themes Disney movies deal with. You can expect a couple of catchy songs in each movie, as well!
Disney’s classic movies (like “Snow White,” “Cinderella,” “The Lion King” and others) are beautiful and worth watching, but for an English learner the newer movies have even more to offer.
4. “Frozen” (2013)
You have probably heard “Let It Go” from the famous song from Disney’s newest film. You might have even watched “Let It Go” on FluentU with interactive subtitles. This song is awesome, but it is just a tiny part of the fantastic story. “Frozen” is full of fast-talking characters and fun dialogues with a very natural way of speaking—so it is perfect for practicing your understanding of quickly spoken English.
5. “Tangled” (2010)
The main characters from “Tangled” are both not a normal part of society, so their style of speaking is casual. There are some great vocabulary words in the movie, and you can find one from just the trailer: smolder, which means to give off heat (yep, his “smolder” look is his “I’m so hot” look).
6. “The Princess and the Frog” (2009)
Unlike most of the other recent Disney films, “The Princess and the Frog” is not 3D animated. Instead, it uses the traditional flat animation of Disney’s older films. This movie also features wonderfully voiced Cajun accents (from the Louisiana area of the US) and some slang phrases and grammar.
Pixar is a part of Disney. While Disney’s films will make you smile, Pixar’s will make you cry with emotion. The studio has a wide range of movies, but all of them are heartwarming. The beautiful animations make it easy to focus on the pronunciation, vocabulary and anything else you are trying to learn, even when the characters are not even living things.
7. “Toy Story” (1995)
“Toy Story” is a classic movie that is worth watching before the recent (and just as beloved) sequels. Every toy is from a different background, so you can pick up many different kinds of phrases related to space, cowboys, dinosaurs, soldiers, fairy tales and much more.
8. “Inside Out” (2015)
“Inside Out” follows the emotions of a teenager as she deals with her everyday life. Each emotion has a unique way of talking, and much of the speech in the movie uses very casual dialogue. If you are looking to practice conversational English skills, this movie is a great starting point.
9. “The Incredibles” (2004)
For a movie about superheroes, “The Incredibles” actually has a lot of family conversations. Expect some science fiction, some everyday dialogue and one fantastic German accent.
Warner Bros. Animation
Warner Bros. is best known for their animated superhero movies. From Batman to Superman and everything in between, expect tons of action and some awesome one-liners (these are one sentence phrases that are fun to quote!).
10. Batman (various years)
You can never go wrong with Batman! The dark knight fights crime during the dark night, and there are lots of movies and TV shows that feature him. That means if you like to watch a movie with a dark atmosphere, you can watch “Batman: Gotham Knight.”
If you do not like so much darkness, you might like the silly “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” (see the ridiculous musical clip below).
The dialogue is usually as quick and to the point as the punches, though the language is sometimes a bit unnatural and dramatic. Listen carefully to these movies for the unique vocabulary and phrases.
11. “The Lego Movie” (2014)
How well do you know your modern pop culture? “The Lego Movie” is full of references and characters from other movies like “Batman,” “Terminator” and “Star Wars.” The film is a really fun movie to just watch and enjoy, but it is also a great way to test your knowledge of American films and culture.
12. “The Iron Giant” (1999)
“The Iron Giant” is a classic animated movie about a boy and his giant robot from outer space. The conversations between the young boy and the giant use simple words to explain important ideas, so it is a good movie for the less advanced English learners to begin with.
Sony Pictures Animation
Sony’s animated movies are more varied than the other big animation producers (that means there are more different kinds of movies), but they usually have two things in common: they are full of adventure and they have some sense of fantasy.
13. “The Adventures of Tintin” (2011)
Is this movie animation or reality? It is hard to tell because it blends the two! Full of adventure, British accents and really detailed facial movements (remember those simplified mouth shapes?), “The Adventures of Tintin” is a blast whether you are casually watching or really working hard to learn all the language.
14. “Hotel Transylvania” (2012)
“Hotel Transylvania” uses exaggerated, or much larger than necessary, face and mouth movements when characters speak. Having trouble forming the right sounds? Just watch the main boy and girl characters of this movie! You can even learn a bit from the monsters. Just do not give the father vampire too much attention: he has a strong accent, and his mouth seems much more flexible than any normal person’s mouth!
15. “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” (2009)
Puns are a play on words, and this movie’s full of them (and the sequel has even more)! Even the title is a kind of pun: it is a silly version of the phrase “cloudy with a chance of rain.” Like many other Sony animation films, you can really see how to move your mouth thanks to the expressive mouths most of the characters have.
Now you have your movies! Grab the pen, paper and popcorn—it is time to watch and learn!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn English with real-world videos.