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Films to watch for English learners of all levels

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Author: Joshua Burns

We all know that films are a great way to learn English. However, it can be frustrating when you put on a movie and find you can’t understand anything that’s going on. The fact is, not all films are made equal and some are more difficult than others. So, I thought I’d give some recommendations for films to watch depending on your current level.

Films for A1-A2 level

For those just starting out, all films are going to be difficult. So, I would suggest watching films aimed at younger audiences. That doesn’t mean that the films should be bad. There are very entertaining films for children and teenagers that adults can enjoy too.

Finding Nemo

If you haven’t seen it, this 2003 animated film is about a clown fish searching the ocean for his lost son. There are only a few main characters and even though they sometimes talk quickly, the story is easy to follow. But above all, it is a genuinely good film, even sixteen (and counting) years later.

For those of you who are finding it different, try putting the subtitles on in English and see if that helps.

Kubo and the two strings

This stop-motion picture* was made in 2016 and is again directed towards children. The reason I single it out* for this level is because the story is told not just through words but also through creative use of animation.

Parts of it will definitely be difficult, but if you’re patient and replay the scenes you find challenging, you will be sure to gain a lot of new vocabulary.

Films for B1-B2 level

At these levels, you can begin to actually enjoy films in English rather than just getting through* them. Of course, it will still be challenging but you should be able to watch the whole film and pick out the main plot points. Those of you with a higher B2 level should even get more of the subtleties.

The Harry Potter franchise

There are two reasons I picked these films: there is a lot of material and many people already know the story. This is what makes the Harry Potter films so great for language learners worldwide. Since a lot of you already know the plot, you can try and pick out more specific vocabulary – much of which is quite regional.

Forrest Gump

For me, this is one of those films where it has to be seen in the original language. Much of what makes Forrest Gump so special as a film is Tom Hank’s acting, including his accent. Luckily, his character speaks very slowly and clearly in the move so it’s a great one for someone of this level.

Films for C1-C2 level Now it’s the time for the highest levels. If you have one of the C-levels, you’re unlikely to find most films challenging when understanding what’s going on. And that’s great! You can watch almost anything and enjoy the film with or without subtitles. But sometimes you want to stretch yourself, and that’s where these films come in.

The Irishman

Martin Scorsese’s most recent film is a long three-hour exploration of the violent life of a Teamster-cumgangster. The story itself is not easy to follow as it tends to jump forward and back through time, but that’s not the reason I think it would stretch even a C2-level language learner. It is, above all, because of their closed way of talking and the use of regional vocabulary. Yes, you might find it difficult, but it really is a great move and is worth the effort.

Lincoln

Daniel Day Lewis’ portrayal of President Abraham Lincoln got him a lot of acclaim. But that’s not to say it was the easiest film to watch. The film can be most accurately described as verbose, so even though it’s a great piece of entertainment, even you highlevellers are likely to learn something new. Films are not just an enjoyable way to learn a language – they are also extremely effective. So, resist the temptation to watch the dubbed version and give the English one a go. The more you do it, the more fun it will be!

Glossary

InStop-motion picture – A type of film made where the camera is continually stopped and started

Single something out – Select it specifically

To get through – To endure

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