Watching English movies is a great way for your child to improve English while enjoying stories and music!  Some parents might associate television programming with “brain drain,” but with the right show, it doesn’t have to be.

Movies are a way to see the English language being used, without needing to find native speakers near us.  We can stop, go back and repeat any part as much as we want. In movies, your child will hear natural pronunciation, everyday vocabulary, spoken grammar, common idioms, slang, and be exposed to various accents.  Even better, she will learn these from interesting and emotional stories. And because there are countless movies based on an infinite amount of things, you can use them to introduce or spark discussions about a certain topic, be it a historical event, a time period or the culture of a foreign country.  At Everest Education, we love using English movies as a great teaching tool in our classrooms!

1. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

(1971 Movie – 100 min) and (2005 Movie – 115 min)
(Book by Roald Dahl)

What is it: The story is about Charlie Bucket, a hardworking and lovable boy from a low-income family that lives near the famous Willy Wonka chocolate factory.  For reasons unknown, the factory has been shut down for years. And then one day, to everyone’s surprise, Willy Wonka announces the reopening of the factory and invites five children who win a golden ticket as guests to the factory.  Charlie is one of the five children who wins a free one-day tour inside the chocolate factory. This movie is based on Roald Dahl’s book ‘Charlie & The Chocolate Factory’.

Why it’s great: Based on Roald Dahl’s popular book, the movie charmed audiences everywhere with its great portrayal of the characters, as well as creating a world that allowed the viewers to be fully immersed.  Dahl’s writing is clear and highly accessible to children, and his books remain beloved even decades later. In terms of vocabulary, this is certainly more complicated than Dr. Seuss’ books, but frequent illustrations help make it clearer.  Also, even though students may have difficulties with certain words, this can be a good introduction to reading for gist and understanding unknown vocabulary from context. Parents should emphasize that they need not understand every single word, as long as they understand the general idea.

The importance and spirit of honesty is the cornerstone of the movie.  When Charlie wins the golden ticket to enter Willie Wonka’s chocolate factory, he has every chance to leak the secrets of the factory and let go of his poverty.  But he stays honest and true and wins the grand prize as a result of it. As kids grow up, teaching them the importance of honesty and the importance of truth can be quite difficult, but a movie like this will teach them everything.

Suitable age: Your child needs to be at least 8-years-old to understand the film clearly.

2. Back to the Future

(1985 Movie – 116 min)

What is it: “Back to the Future” is about 17-year-old Marty McFly, who is incidentally sent 30 years back into the past, through the time-traveling machine invented by a scientist. The movie is about how he finds his way back to the past and encourages his teenage parents to meet and fall in love, while convincing the scientist of his invention in the future.

Why it’s great:  This is an action-packed science fiction movie which makes a great addition to a child’s English learning.  The movie may be hard for younger children to understand, but is good for elementary school and junior high school students.  The conversation is simple and the characters speak with a native English language accent.

Children who dislike studying will often pay attention to a movie if they like the story and characters.  It is a good idea to watch the movie in subtitles first, so that they can understand the story. The story is inspiring and entertaining and shows a teenager’s battle against time to preserve his future without disturbing the past.  “Back to the Future” also won the Sound Effects Editing award in the 1986 Oscar.

Suitable age: 10 years old and above

3. Spellbound

(2002 Movie – 97 min)

What is it: Eight dedicated young Americans vie for the title of National Spelling Bee champion in this film, which brings the realities of academic competition into focus. 

Why it’s great: This entertaining documentary is an inspiration for everyone and it’s actually quite riveting.  Your kids can’t help but root for all eight finalists while following them as they rise through the ranks of spellers.  It’s surprisingly competitive and the kids are beyond determined to do their best and be the best. This story offers messages about hard work, sportsmanship and the sacrifice and rewards involved in pursuing dreams.  As a bonus, your kid will enhance her vocabulary and learn to spell some incredibly challenging words after watching “Spellbound”. And she’ll see, spelling is cool!

Suitable age: 8 years old and above

4. Toy Story

(1995 Movie – 81 min),  (1999 Movie – 92 min), (2010 Movie – 103 min), (2019 Movie – 100 min)

What is it: One of the greatest animated educational movies for kids, Toy Story, which is popular with boys, is another good movie choice for learning English.  This is a series of animated movies, about the “secret life of toys’ when people are not around. 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. With so many different toys playing characters, most children are guaranteed to be glued to the screen.

Why it’s great: We recommend the movie for children who have started to learn English.  While all four Toy Story movies are great, the second movie has its special place in the trilogy.  It very smartly explains the concepts of loyalty and friendship, by expanding on the meaning of family.  Kids will have a great time in understanding why ‘Woody’ finds all the old toys to be his family, even when he belongs to a different set and could lead a better life with them.  And the friendship that Buzz and Woody share also teaches the importance of friendship.

Suitable Age: Kids from five-years-old or even preschoolers can enjoy the film.

5. Lion King

(1994 Movie – 88 min) 

What is it: The story is about a lion cub named Simba, who is next-in-line to be king after his father, King Mufasa.  However, his envious uncle Scar conspires a plot to kill both the father and son to take over the kingdom. 

Unfortunately, Mufasa gets killed, while Simba manages to escape.  Feeling responsible for his father’s death, he flees from the kingdom. But, as he reaches adulthood, he finds out about the conspiracy and sets out on a journey to reclaim the kingdom from Scar.

Why it’s great: There’s a reason why this film was worthy of an Academy Award.  It is one of the top educational movies for kids to learn about honor and responsibility.  It also gives out a strong message that no matter how hard the journey, one can still find a way back to the destination.  Simba is a character that kids can instantly fall in love with. Kids get to see him grow up, face troubles, and return back to claim what’s rightfully his.  It can teach the importance of love and friendship and show that it has no boundaries. Finally, it also lets children get comfortable with facing their worst fears and win in the end.

Suitable Age: Although young kids will love the film, kids who are aged eight and above will understand it better.

6. How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

(1966 Movie) (2000 Movie) (Book by Dr. Seuss)

What is it: In this live-action adaptation of the beloved children’s tale by Dr. Seuss, the reclusive green Grinch decides to ruin Christmas for the cheery citizens of Whoville.  

Reluctantly joined by his hapless dog, Max, the Grinch comes down from his mountaintop home and sneaks into town to swipe everything holiday-related from the Whos. However, the bitter grump finds a hitch in his plans when he encounters the endearing Cindy Lou Who, a six-year-old girl who believes in the spirit of the festival.

Why it’s great: Dr. Seuss’ books and silly rhymes have entertained children for decades.  It’s hard to go wrong with Dr. Seuss, especially when working with kids or beginners.  The language Seuss used may indeed throw in some invented words, with fantastical and features characters that are out of this world, makes for great stories.  And speaking of the language, the rhymes and rhythm of the story are fun and can help students learn pronunciation.

Suitable Age: 8 years old and above

7. Harry Potter

Yes, of course, Harry Potter!

What is it: The movies are about Harry Potter, a wizard, and all of his magical adventures.  The Harry Potter films are a must-see for anyone, not just your kids, anyone who is learning English! All of the main characters go to a magic school called Hogwarts.  

The wizarding world of Harry Potter has its own animals and history, and it uses language from basic English to magical words made up by author J.K. Rowling. For example, ‘muggle’, which is an insult meaning ‘someone who cannot perform magic’.  There are eight Harry Potter films which are based on the seven books by J.K. Rowling, but it is best to start with the first (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone).

Why it’s great:  Harry Potter is always on top of useful films to learn English as a family as often children and adults alike can appreciate the story. It’s interesting for everyone as it has magic, action, suspense and romance.  Harry Potter philosophy has lots to teach kids. More than magic, there’s real life wisdom in the books. A recent study, published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, found that J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter is helping our children to understand why there’s no need for prejudice in this world.  The research was divided into three separate studies, which determined that kids who read Harry Potter were more tolerant than those who hadn’t become engrossed in the Hogwarts adventures.

Suitable Age: 8 years old and above

Parting words

A child’s development does not depend on schooling and books alone, playtime and movies help in his development too. Fun educational movies can help in the overall development of the child as these movies render important life lessons that cannot be taught through books.  Good movies can impart great moral lessons to children, while giving their language skill a boost. So next time, do not stop your child from watching movies, but choose the ones that are worth their time!

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