23 English Movies to Teach You How the Language Works
If you’re learning English and you like watching movies, why not try combining your learning with something you enjoy?
That’s right, you can learn English by watching English films!
Here are 23 English movies sure to keep you entertained while you learn the language.
- English Movies for Beginner Learners
- English Movies for Intermediate Learners
- English Movies for Advanced Learners
- Why Learn English with Movies and Films?
- Tips to Learn English Through Movies and Films
Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)
English Movies for Beginner Learners
1. Toy Story
Genre: Children’s movie, adventure
Description: This is an animated (cartoon) movie that follows a young boy called Andy who loves playing in his room with his toys.
He especially loves to play with his cowboy action figure called Woody.
When Andy disappears, the toys come to life and Woody is the leader that ensures all the toys are being good.
Andy’s mom gives him a new toy for his birthday, a space superhero called Buzz Lightyear. Buzz soon takes Woody’s place as Andy’s favorite toy and Woody becomes jealous.
Woody decides he’s going to get rid of Buzz, but as the two toys begin to fight they get lost. This story follows their adventure as they try to make their way back to Andy.
Why this movie is great for English learners:: Animation movies such as “Toy Story” are usually written for and aimed at a younger audience which means the story and vocabulary used is not complicated.
Even though the movie is mainly for kids, it doesn’t feel like it. The director made it attractive for adults too, by including a little bit of adult humor in it.
2. Cast Away
Description: This is an American adventure drama that follows Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks), a systems analyst, who has to travel around the world fixing problems at Fedex centers.
Chuck is called up at Christmas time to go to Malaysia on business and is forced to leave his girlfriend Kelly (Helen Hunt) behind.
His plane hits a terrible storm and it crashes somewhere into the Pacific Ocean. Chuck manages to escape the crashed plane and holds on to a life raft in the cold sea.
Eventually he washes up onto a deserted island the next day and isn’t able to find much but a volleyball that washed up from the crash along with him.
Chuck names the ball Wilson and talks to him every day to fight his loneliness. The movie follows Chuck and Wilson as Chuck struggles to survive being stranded.
Why this movie is great for English learners:: Most of the dialogue in this movie is a monologue (one person speaking), so it’s very easy to follow.
Tom Hanks is also known for his clear and slow voice, which is perfect for any English learner to understand.
3. (500) Days of Summer
Genre: Romantic comedy
Description: This movie shows a young architect called Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) meeting Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel).
He falls in love with her right away, and over the next few months they spend a lot of time together, even though Summer tells him she doesn’t believe in love.
Despite how much time they spend together, Summer doesn’t feel the same about Tom.
A couple of years later they meet again and she explains that he was right about the idea of love and that she has met someone.
Why this movie is great for English learners: The English is very simple to understand and it’s a narrative from one person’s perspective so it’s easy to follow. It’s not your typical love story and it catches the audience’s interest from the beginning.
4. Despicable Me 3
Genre: Adventure, comedy
Description: The “Despicable Me” films in English have become one of the most loved animated movie series in the world.
The yellow minions, which are actually side characters in the films, even have their own movie now.
In the earlier films, Gru started out as the world’s most evil super-villain (bad guy). In this part of the series, Gru is going through a crisis of identity. He no longer knows who he is.
In the beginning of this movie, he is now part of the anti-villain squad. But pretty soon he is kicked out of the squad when he fails to do his job.
Then one day he is visited by his mysterious twin brother, who now wants to become a villain himself and asks for Gru’s help.
Why this movie is great for English learners: Even though the main story is about Gru, the real stars of this movie are the three girls who are adopted by him. Agnes, the youngest sister, is the most adorable character in the world.
Her lines are short but very funny. This makes her a good model for English learners who are just starting out.
Overall, this is one of the best movies to learn English the way American speakers use it. But it may be best for beginners to focus on the three sisters and their speech, as most of the other characters have accents that are not considered standard for English.
5. The Boss Baby
Description: Tim Templeton is a 7-year-old child who gets all the love and attention from his perfect parents. But one day, he discovers that his parents have brought another baby to their house.
Over time, Tim is ignored by his parents as the strange suit-and-tie-wearing baby takes away all their affection.
Then, both the brothers have to put aside their rivalry (competition for the same thing) and join to fight a common threat—puppies.
The baby tells Tim about a plan the puppies have to take all the attention of adults away from children. They go through a funny and adorable journey to save the children from being ignored.
Why this movie is great for English learners: The film is a unique mix of casual English and business lingo.
As the baby is supposed to be a manager in a business corporation, he uses words like “closers” (people who finalize a business deal) and “power nap” (sleeping for a short time to energize yourself for work).
At the same time, Tim and the rest of the babies use basic English language typical of children.
6. The Son of Bigfoot
Description: Adam is a boy who lost his father when he was a baby and grew up to be a lonely teenager who has few friends in school.
Despite being bullied at school, he pretends to be happy so his mother does not worry about him. But one day, he discovers a secret pile of letters written by his dad.
He finds out that his father is alive and that both his parents were keeping this a secret from him.
Adam sets out to meet his father and learns that his dad is in fact Bigfoot (a giant ape-like creature who is believed to have human intelligence)!
Why this movie is great for English learners: In the beginning of the movie, you can learn the informal, often rude, language of school students.
You will also see how school authorities like principals use special words like “detention” and “suspended” to assert their power. There are scenes where a lot of marketing words are used along with scientific terms, making this movie best for high-beginner to intermediate level learners.
7. The LEGO Batman Movie
Genre: Action, comedy
Description: This movie tries to give a funny twist to the story of Batman, one of the best known superheroes in the world.
In this film, Batman is faced with a challenge from Joker, his worst enemy.
Batman discovers that he cannot stop the Joker alone and has to team up with others in Gotham City. He also finds out that he has accidentally adopted an orphan boy as his son.
Batman goes through the same kinds of problems as he always does, but this time it looks funny rather than serious. He is challenged by his loneliness, and he also learns a lot about responsibility and relationships.
Like with all LEGO movies, the whole movie looks like it is made out of LEGO bricks (a famous toy used to make various structures like buildings). This gives the movie a ridiculous look and makes it even more humorous.
Why this movie is great for English learners: Most of the movie uses casual English. But some characters, like Alfred, always speak with a formal, British accent.
Learners who like comics a lot and are fans of superheroes will love this movie. It features Superman and other super-villains like Harley Quinn, Catwoman, Riddler and even Voldemort from Harry Potter.
This film is also a great introduction to American humor. Learners from other cultures will instantly notice that the jokes, actions and events are uniquely American and might not be funny in other countries.
English Movies for Intermediate Learners
8. The Social Network
Description: This story tells the story of the young Mark Zuckerberg, a geeky Harvard student, who wants to revolutionize the way we communicate with other people.
The story shows how Zuckerberg accidentally finds fame and becomes a multi-millionaire – but there is a price.
Many of his old friends and people he’s connected with over the years want him to fail.
Mark Zuckerberg shows us he’s got everything in terms of material things but very little in terms of friends.
Mark Zuckerberg finds himself in court a number of times and the movie questions whether it was really Mark Zuckerberg or not who first created the world’s largest social network, Facebook.
Why this movie is great for English learners: This is an award winning movie written by Aaron Sorkin. He’s famous for his natural dialogue and funny lines, which makes this movie really enjoyable to watch and easy to follow.
You’ll also be able to pick up a lot of great English vocabulary related to computers, technology and social networks.
9. The Hangover (2009)
Description: Four male friends go to Las Vegas for a bachelor party a couple of days before their friend’s wedding.
They find themselves in so much trouble, it’s unsure whether they are going to make it back in time for the wedding or not.
The story follows the friends as they try to clean up their messes and make it back for the wedding.
This movie is packed with lots of inappropriate humor and is definitely not for kids, but it is really funny.
Why this movie is great for English learners: Because it’s a comedy and we rely a lot on the visuals to understand, it makes it a lot easier to understand the dialogue between the characters.
All of the characters use everyday English, which makes this movie an awesome way of learning modern American slang. You’ll hear common phrases such as “stag party” (bachelor party) and “all-nighter” (staying up all night without sleep).
10. The Hunger Games
Genre: Dystopian Action
Description: This story is set in the future and set in a futuristic nation called Panem, which is broken up into twelve districts.
Every year there are two people who are chosen by a lottery to represent their district in the Hunger Games fight.
The Hunger Games is a fight to the death where only one competitor will survive and be named a victor.
This follows the story of Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence), a 16-year-old girl from District 12 as she unexpectedly volunteers for the Hunger Games when her sister’s name is taken out of the lottery.
Why this movie is great for English learners:: This is a very visual movie and what you miss in the dialogue, you’ll be able to be filled in by the visual action.
While the actions are fast, the language is relatively easy to understand. The accent is a clean North American one so you’ll have no problem understanding what the characters say.
Genre: Romance, fantasy
Description: Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) is a teenager who has always been different from other people. She never cared about being a part of the cool group of girls.
When her mom remarries, Bella chooses to live with her dad in a small town in Washington. It’s a boring rainy town and nothing interesting ever happens until she meets a mysterious and very good-looking guy called Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson).
Edward is like no other guy she’s ever met–he’s handsome, intelligent and witty. Bella eventually finds out that he’s also a vampire.
The story follows Edward and Bella’s forbidden love and struggle to be together.
Why this movie is great for English learners: This movie is aimed at teenage and young adult audiences and uses everyday English.
The language is typically American and the accents of the characters are clear and easy to understand.
12. The Break-up
Genre: Romantic comedy
Description: Gary (Vince Vaughn) and Brooke (Jennifer Aniston) meet at a Chicago Cubs game. They’re attracted to each other immediately and Brooke loves Gary’s humor.
They begin dating and soon buy a condo together. Gary is a bus tour operator and Brooke manages an art gallery. Their backgrounds are very different, and after living together they find out that they have different interests.
They decide to break up, but they can’t agree on what to do with their condo, so they decide to live together as roommates.
Gary goes back to living like a single guy, throwing parties and inviting women around to the home. This breaks Brooke’s heart (makes her sad) even more.
Brooke decides to quit her job and travel around Europe. On her return, Gary understands the mistakes he’s made and tries to win back her heart.
Why this movie is great for English learners: This movie is full of everyday slang language which is used in many social situations.
You’ll learn language related to communicating with a partner and also some common lines used in an argument.
It’s a funny movie that is easy to understand and the humor that’s used is simple and clear which will allow even non-native English speakers to understand the inside jokes.
13. Forrest Gump
Description: Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks) is waiting at a bus stop where he begins telling his past story to some strangers waiting for the bus.
His sad story begins with him as a child when he had a problem with his legs and had to wear braces. He suffered a lot from other kids bullying (making fun of him) him.
Finally he meets Jenny as a young girl (Robin Wright). He falls in love with Jenny and they become the best of friends.
One day while he’s running away from the kids bullying him, his leg brace breaks. He suddenly discovers he’s very fast at running, which wins him a scholarship to college (even though he’s not very smart).
That scholarship results in him living through all kinds of crazy experiences from going to war to running across the country.
Why this movie is great for English learners: This is a perfect movie to learn English as the speech is slow due to Forrest Gump’s mental problems.
The language is simple and uncomplicated and it’s really easy to follow. It will also teach you some important parts of U.S. history and culture.
Genre: Family drama
Description: It is always difficult to stand out in a group. We often try to hide our differences so that others do not think we are strange.
We find similarities between ourselves and others when trying to make new friends. But what happens when you cannot keep your differences a secret? This movie seeks to answer this question in the most touching way possible.
It is a story about Auggie, a boy who was born with a different face. He usually wears a helmet so that others do not notice his face. But when he enters school for the first time, he finds that sometimes differences can also bring people closer together.
Why this movie is great for English learners: This film focuses on interactions between school children and families. By watching it, you can also learn the common names of objects found in a classroom, observe how a typical American school functions and see how people talk to each other there.
See if you can notice the differences between how adults communicate in the movie and how children do. Note the difference in tone, vocabulary and also pace.
15. Beauty and the Beast
Genres: Fantasy, fairy tale
Description: This is an old classic that has been remade by Disney. The story follows Belle, a beautiful young woman who loves to read living in a village with her father.
Her father is eventually kidnapped by a monster, so she goes to the castle where this monster lives and is forced to stay there to save her father.
In reality, this monster is actually a prince who has been cursed to be an animal, or a “beast.”
Only true love can turn him back into a human being, so he wants Belle to stay near him and to eventually fall in love with him to break his curse.
Why this movie is great for English learners: This is an old story that has been passed on from generation to generation and is loved by people across the world.
Most of the characters speak with a British accent, as that accent tends to be connected with older times in English-language films.
The movie serves as a great introduction to formal British English, also known as the Queen’s English. Some characters who are from the village also speak with a Cockney accent, which is an accent usually used by working class Londoners and is considered to be casual English.
English Movies for Advanced Learners
16. Thor: Ragnarok
Description: If you love special effects, superpowers, fighting scenes and cool costumes, then this movie is great for you.
It is part of a group of films in English made by Marvel, which focuses on superhero movies.
This movie focuses on Thor, a god from Norse mythology. He returns to his birthplace after a long time to find that his father is dead and his sister is coming to rule his city.
With help from other famous superheroes like Hulk and Doctor Strange, he has to fight his sister Hela and save his people.
Why this movie is great for English learners: Unlike many other famous movies, some of the actors in this one speak in a New Zealand accent (also called a Kiwi accent).
The film has many funny moments that can help you understand what kind of humor is popular with the current English-speaking population.
It will also give you some knowledge of Norse mythology and popular superhero knowledge that could help you in having conversations with English speakers.
17. The Big Sick
Description: Love comes with many problems. One of the most common is “culture clash.”
This is when the backgrounds, the upbringing and the beliefs of two people are a main source of conflict in their romantic relationship. This movie manages to deal with this issue in a sensitive and also funny way.
Kumail Nanjiani is a comedian from Pakistan who falls in love with Emily Gardner, a college student in the US. When Emily falls sick, Kumail develops an unexpected bond with her parents.
Why this movie is great for English learners: Seeing the contrast between the Pakistani and American cultures can be very helpful for English learners.
Since the Pakistani-Americans in the movie are immigrants, they go through a journey of learning about American culture.
You can note the differences between how both the families talk and observe the rhythm, tone, pace and vocabulary of the native and non-native speakers.
Description: This movie is based on Stephen King’s well-known novel of the same name.
It is about a small town where children are being kidnapped by strange forces. When all the adults refuse to find the cause, a group of children decide to investigate.
What they find is both horrifying and thrilling. This is perhaps one of the first stories that made clowns into monsters.
Why this movie is great for English learners: The movie is pretty great for learning authentic, casual American English.
The dialogues between the children will help you understand what a normal conversation on the street sounds like.
19. Wonder Woman
Description: Diana is the princess of the Amazons, a tribe of women who train themselves to be warriors. She is raised on an isolated island with no contact with the outside world.
When she discovers a pilot and he tells her about a war that is going on, she decides to leave. Using her special powers, she becomes Wonder Woman, and hopes to stop the great war.
Why this movie is great for English learners: The first World War was a very important event for the English-speaking world, and this film tries to give you a feel of what things were like at that time.
Naturally, the characters use a lot of military vocabulary—like “no man’s land” (a piece of land unoccupied by any nation) or “snipers” (special soldiers who use a gun to kill people from a distance).
Genres: Action, superhero
Description: In “Logan,” we get to see one of the most loved movie characters trying to play the role of a father.
Wolverine, a powerful character from the X-men movies, discovers a girl, Laura, who is an incredible warrior.
After her mother dies, Wolverine promises to protect Laura from a military group. When he discovers that Laura has powers identical to him, they develop a relationship that is both loving and difficult.
Why this movie is great for English learners: The conversations between characters in “Logan” are powerful but short. Since the pace of these conversations is often fast, though, this movie is best for advanced learners.
Apart from that, American culture, geography and accents are featured heavily in this movie. The characters talk about comic books, there are scenes in public areas and various locations in the USA are an important topic of conversation.
21. Get Out
Genres: Psychological thriller, horror
Description: Chris is a black American photographer who is in a steady relationship with Rose, a white American woman.
When Rose invites Chris to stay in her family’s country house for a weekend, he has no idea what he will go through.
This is a psychological thriller, which means that mystery, suspense and surprise form the core of the movie.
Why this movie is great for English learners: This movie shows a lot of informal, intimate conversations between families and lovers.
It also highlights the differences between some speech common in African-American communities and what is considered to be standard American English.
On a cultural level, “Get Out” deals with the issue of current racism in the US, as well as the history of racism in the country.
Genre: Psychological horror
Description: Three teenage girls have been kidnapped and forcefully kept in cells by a criminal who has 23 different personalities.
The plot deals with how the different personalities interact with one another and how they can be manipulated by other people.
In the end, a hidden personality takes over the criminal’s mind and everyone has to work together to stop him.
Why this movie is great for English learners: Since the same actor has to play the roles of 23 different people, learners can see how people of different genders and age groups might talk differently.
All the characters speak American English, but the wide range of differences in the way they talk makes it clear that English is indeed a rich language.
23. Loving Vincent
Genres: Animation, drama
Description: Vincent van Gogh was one of the most influential painters of the 20th century.
He was deeply troubled in his life and had to go to mental asylums (hospitals for illnesses of the mind) many times in his life.
This movie tries to capture the last days of his life through the eyes of Armand, the son of a postman who was close to Vincent.
Before committing suicide, Vincent had given him a letter which had to be delivered to his brother Theo.
This is a hand-painted animation film which mimics the style of van Gogh’s own paintings. The film has won many awards around the world and is truly one of a kind.
Why this movie is great for English learners: Apart from its artistic brilliance, the film is perfect for showing the differences between some of the major English accents.
Its vast cast of characters speak in British, Scottish and Irish accents. Try to compare these accents with the standard American accents spoken in most of the other movies in this list.
This movie is also great for reviewing vocabulary for objects usually found in rural areas, such as “hay,” “barn” and “field.”
Why Learn English with Movies and Films?
Watching movies in English is an awesome way of improving your English – especially your English speaking and listening skills.
If you’re tired of books and learning difficult grammar and vocabulary, then take a break and watch some classic Hollywood movies. And of course, improve your English at the same time.
Here are some reasons why watching English movies to learn English is a great technique:
- Movies use natural language. So they are a great way to improve your English vocabulary by learning English idioms and common American English slang. There’s no better way to learn the everyday language that you can’t learn in a traditional classroom.
- Movies are fun. Watching a movie is a great way to jump into English when you’re too tired to do anything else (like reading).
- Watching movies in English will also give you cultural insight. You’ll be able to learn more about places you are interested in. If you go there, you’ll not only know English, but also understand the culture and history.
- If you want something to talk about with your English friends – movies are a great topic. Everyone likes to talk about movies.
- By listening to the dialogue, you’ll be able to listen to and perfect your English pronunciation.
So what are you waiting for? Grab your popcorn and your friends, relax and enjoy an English lesson.
Tips to Learn English Through Movies and Films
- Choose movies you already know. If you’re a beginner or a lower level, it’s best to choose a movie that you’ve already watched before. Since you’ll already know the plot, you can focus purely on the linguistic aspect.
- Use subtitles. You don’t have to follow with them word for word, but subtitles can be great support for when you need some additional help understanding what’s going on.
- Start small. Start with a movie that is relatively short and avoid any movie that involves a deeper level of understanding of history or culture, as its likely going to consume your thoughts and you won’t be able to focus on the language as much.
- Break it up. Watching a full movie in only English can be really overwhelming and also frustrating, so sometimes it’s better to watch it in smaller bits so you don’t get burned out.
- Listen and repeat. If there’s a part you don’t understand, rewind, listen to it again and try to repeat what is being said. This will help you grasp the situation and practice your pronunciation.
- Watch movies you enjoy. There are literally thousands and thousands of movies out there and there’s something for everyone’s taste. Choose movies you’ll enjoy, as you’re more likely to take something away from it and learn.
- Focus on movies from one country. English is spoken in different countries, and each has variations in accents and language use, so when you’re trying to learn English it’s better to stick to one area. Choose the country which interests you most and start with these movies until you become more confident.
- Watch them with friends. Do you have some buddies who also want to perfect their English skills? Pair up and catch a movie together. Then you can discuss afterwards.
- Keep a movie journal. While you watch your movies, pause the video when you hear something that you might find useful in the future and write it down in a journal. This way you’re collecting ‘authentic’ real-life phrases that you can practice and use on your English speaking friends in the future (as long as they’re not offensive of course).
- Check out FluentU. If keeping a movie journal and looking up words in your dictionary sounds like a lot of work, and you are open to watching other fun videos, you should try FluentU. FluentU has a collection of the web’s best videos for learning English, including movie trailers, music videos, and TV shows. All videos come with subtitles, definitions, and example sentences.
Now that you have 23 English movies that you can watch to learn the language, what are you waiting for?
Get some popcorn and get watching!