Culture

Good Movies for ESL Students to Watch  

Ranker Film
635 votes 184 voters 19.4k views 47 items

List Rules Vote up good films for people learning English or to screen for students in an ESL class.

Walk into any classroom in the United States where they are teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) and you will find teachers using film to help instruct their students. Good movies for ESL students vary greatly in terms of style and content and selecting the right films largely depends on how far along your students are in their studies. Below, you'll find a list of suggested films to help you make the right choice for your classroom. 

Films with a familiar premise and minimal dialogue are a great place to start, particularly so if students have seen these movies before in their native language. Things like Bambi and WALL-E, for example, are perfect for beginners. As your students' language continues to improve, however, you can move on to more dialogue-heavy films like Casablanca and The Fault in Our Stars to help immerse your students in English. It can also help to pick films about situations that may be familiar to your students, such as movies like My Big Fat Greek Wedding where two cultures collide. Vote up the best movies for learning English below and feel free to add anything you think is missing! 

list ordered by
1
Forrest Gump is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Good Movies for ESL Students to Watch
Tom Hanks, Kurt Russell, Sally Field
Forrest Gump is a 1994 American epic romantic-comedy-drama film based on the 1986 novel of the same name by Winston Groom. The film was directed by Robert Zemeckis and stars Tom Hanks, Robin ...more

More Forrest Gump

#2 of 347 The Best Movies Based On Booksfeaturing The ‘Forrest Gump’ Book Is Weirder And More Offensive Than The Movielisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

2
Harry Potter and the Sor... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Good Movies for ESL Students to Watch
Emma Watson, Daniel Radcliffe, Julianne Hough
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (released in the United States, India and Pakistan as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone) is a 2001 fantasy film directed by Chris Columbus based on ...more

More Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

#40 of 347 The Best Movies Based On Books #30 of 409 The Best Rainy Day Movies #50 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies

3
Big Hero 6 is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Good Movies for ESL Students to Watch
Jamie Chung, Maya Rudolph, Génesis Rodríguez
Big Hero 6 is a 2014 American 3D computer-animated superhero action comedy film produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures. It is the 54th film in the Walt ...more

More Big Hero 6

#19 of 599 The Best Animated Films Ever #9 of 87 Animated Movies That Make You Cry the Mostlisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

4
WALL-E is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Good Movies for ESL Students to Watch
Sigourney Weaver, Laraine Newman, Kathy Najimy
WALL-E is a 2008 American computer-animated science-fiction comedy film produced by Pixar Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures. Directed by Andrew Stanton, the story follows a ...more

More WALL-E

#6 of 599 The Best Animated Films Everfeaturing The Most Fascinating Facts You Didn't Know About WALL-Elisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

5
Willy Wonka & the Ch... is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list Good Movies for ESL Students to Watch
Gene Wilder, Jack Albertson, Tim Brooke-Taylor
Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory is a 1971 musical fantasy film directed by Mel Stuart, and starring Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka. The film, a film adaptation of the 1964 novel Charlie and ...more

More Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory

#6 of 59 Every Movie Coming To Netflix In January 2020 #6 of 347 The Best Movies Based On Booksfeaturing There's A Theory That 'Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory' Is Actually About A Tormented Killer

6
To Kill a Mockingbird is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list Good Movies for ESL Students to Watch
Robert Duvall, Gregory Peck, William Windom
To Kill a Mockingbird is a 1962 American drama film directed by Robert Mulligan. The screenplay by Horton Foote was based on the 1960 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name by Harper Lee. ...more

More To Kill a Mockingbird

#4 of 347 The Best Movies Based On Booksfeaturing 'To Kill a Mockingbird' Quotes That'll Change How You Thinklisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

7
Divergent is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list Good Movies for ESL Students to Watch
Kate Winslet, Shailene Woodley, Ashley Judd
Divergent is a 2014 American science fiction action film directed by Neil Burger, based on the novel of the same name by Veronica Roth. The film is the first installment in The Divergent Series ...more

More Divergent

#1,316 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #13 of 78 The Best Film Adaptations of Young Adult Novels #73 of 86 The 35+ Greatest Dystopian Action Movies

8
The Fault in Our Stars ... is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list Good Movies for ESL Students to Watch
Shailene Woodley, Willem Dafoe, Laura Dern
The Fault in Our Stars is a 2014 American romantic drama film directed by Josh Boone, based on the novel of the same name by John Green. The film stars Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, and Nat ...more

More The Fault in Our Stars

#243 of 347 The Best Movies Based On Books #31 of 291 The Top Tearjerker Movies That Make Men Cry #128 of 157 The Best Movies You Never Want to Watch Again

9
12 Angry Men is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list Good Movies for ESL Students to Watch
Henry Fonda, Jack Klugman, Lee J. Cobb
12 Angry Men is a 1957 American drama film adapted from a teleplay of the same name by Reginald Rose. Written and co-produced by Rose himself and directed by Sidney Lumet, this trial film tells ...more

More 12 Angry Men

#348 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #10 of 264 The Best Ensemble Movies #5 of 25 The 25 Best Movies That Take Place in One Day

10
Beauty and the Beast is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list Good Movies for ESL Students to Watch
Angela Lansbury, Frank Welker, Jerry Orbach
Beauty and the Beast is a 1991 American animated musical romantic fantasy film produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation and released by Walt Disney Pictures. The 30th film in the Walt Disney ...more

More Beauty and the Beast

#11 of 599 The Best Animated Films Ever #25 of 336 'Old' Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch In Their Lifetimelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

11
My Big Fat Greek Wedding... is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list Good Movies for ESL Students to Watch
Nia Vardalos, Andrea Martin, Joey Fatone
My Big Fat Greek Wedding is a 2002 Canadian-American romantic comedy film written by and starring Nia Vardalos and directed by Joel Zwick. The film is centered on Fotoula "Toula" ...more

More My Big Fat Greek Wedding

#291 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #183 of 992 The All-Time Greatest Comedy Films #185 of 1,203 The Absolute Funniest Movies Of All Time

12
Casablanca is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list Good Movies for ESL Students to Watch
Ingrid Bergman, Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre
Casablanca is a 1942 American romantic drama film directed by Michael Curtiz and based on Murray Burnett and Joan Alison's unproduced stage play Everybody Comes to Rick's. The film stars ...more

More Casablanca

#14 of 382 The Best War Movies Ever #157 of 336 'Old' Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch In Their Lifetimelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

13
The Terminal is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list Good Movies for ESL Students to Watch
Catherine Zeta-Jones, Tom Hanks, Zoe Saldana
The Terminal is a 2004 American romantic comedy film directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Hanks and Catherine Zeta-Jones. It is about a man who becomes trapped in New York City's JFK ...more

More The Terminal

#189 of 409 The Best Rainy Day Movies #445 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #21 of 33 The Best Steven Spielberg Movies

14
The Princess Bride is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list Good Movies for ESL Students to Watch
Billy Crystal, Robin Wright, André the Giant
The Princess Bride is a 1987 American romantic comedy fantasy adventure film directed and co-produced by Rob Reiner. It was adapted by William Goldman from his 1973 novel of the same name. The ...more

More The Princess Bride

#11 of 347 The Best Movies Based On Books #34 of 336 'Old' Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch In Their Lifetimefeaturing Behind-The-Scenes Stories About André The Giant In ‘The Princess Bride’

15
Miss Peregrine's Home fo... is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list Good Movies for ESL Students to Watch
Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Chris O'Dowd
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is a 2016 American 3D dark fantasy film directed by Tim Burton and written by Jane Goldman, based on the 2011 novel of the same name by Ransom Riggs.
16
Dr. Seuss' How the Grinc... is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list Good Movies for ESL Students to Watch
Jim Carrey, Anthony Hopkins, Bryce Dallas Howard
This film is a 2000 American musical fantasy comedy Christmas film from Universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment, based on the 1957 story of the same name by Dr. Seuss. It was the first Dr. ...more

More Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas

#128 of 347 The Best Movies Based On Books #127 of 223 Musical Movies With the Best Songslisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

17
Bambi is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list Good Movies for ESL Students to Watch
Sterling Holloway, Sam Edwards, Cammie King
Bambi is a 1942 American animated drama film directed by David Hand, produced by Walt Disney and based on the book Bambi, A Life in the Woods by Austrian author Felix Salten. The film was ...more

More Bambi

#54 of 599 The Best Animated Films Ever #113 of 347 The Best Movies Based On Books #1,043 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies

18
Star Wars Episode V: The... is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list Good Movies for ESL Students to Watch
diaosigui added Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill
The Empire Strikes Back is a 1980 American epic space opera film directed by Irvin Kershner. Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan wrote the screenplay, with George Lucas writing the film's story ...more

More Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

#16 of 336 'Old' Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch In Their Lifetimefeaturing Here's Why The Last Jedi And Empire Strikes Back Are Pretty Much The Same Movielisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

19
The Maze Runner is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list Good Movies for ESL Students to Watch
Kaya Scodelario, Dylan O'Brien, Patricia Clarkson
The Maze Runner is a 2014 American science fiction dystopian action thriller film directed by Wes Ball, based on James Dashner's 2009 novel of the same name. The film is the first installment in ...more

More The Maze Runner

#162 of 347 The Best Movies Based On Books #11 of 78 The Best Film Adaptations of Young Adult Novels #55 of 86 The 35+ Greatest Dystopian Action Movies

20
The Book Thief is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list Good Movies for ESL Students to Watch
Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson, Heike Makatsch
This film is a 2013 American-German drama film directed by Brian Percival and starring Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson, and Sophie Nélisse. The film is about a young girl living with her ...more

More The Book Thief

#199 of 347 The Best Movies Based On Books #116 of 220 The Greatest World War II Movies of All Time #180 of 291 The Top Tearjerker Movies That Make Men Cry

21
Gravity is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list Good Movies for ESL Students to Watch
Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Ed Harris
Gravity is a 2013 science fiction thriller film directed, co-written, and produced by Alfonso Cuarón. It stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as astronauts, and sees them stranded in ...more

More Gravity

#109 of 157 The Best Science Fiction Action Movies #248 of 582 The Greatest Film Scores of All Timelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

22
Cast Away is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list Good Movies for ESL Students to Watch
Tom Hanks, Helen Hunt, Chris Noth
Cast Away is a 2000 American adventure drama film directed and produced by Robert Zemeckis and starring Tom Hanks as a FedEx employee stranded on an uninhabited island after his plane accident ...more

More Cast Away

#258 of 304 The Greatest Soundtracks of All Time #38 of 409 The Best Rainy Day Movies #150 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies

23
The Good, the Bad and th... is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list Good Movies for ESL Students to Watch
Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach, Lee Van Cleef
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is a 1966 Italian epic Spaghetti Western film directed by Sergio Leone, starring Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, and Eli Wallach. The screenplay was written by Age ...more

More The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

#45 of 382 The Best War Movies Ever #130 of 630 The Greatest Guilty Pleasure Movies #1 of 396 The Best Western Movies Ever Made

24
The Pink Panther is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list Good Movies for ESL Students to Watch
Peter Sellers, Claudia Cardinale, David Niven
The Pink Panther is a 1963 Technicolor American comedy film filmed in 70mm Super Technirama directed by Blake Edwards and co-written by Edwards and Maurice Richlin, starring David Niven, Peter ...more

More The Pink Panther

#9 of 376 The Greatest Movie Themes #144 of 460 The Most Quotable Movies of All Time #37 of 992 The All-Time Greatest Comedy Films

25
Star Wars Episode III: R... is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list Good Movies for ESL Students to Watch
diaosigui added Natalie Portman, Ewan McGregor, Samuel L. Jackson
(19 Years before Episode IV) Three years after the onset of the Clone Wars, the noble Jedi Knights have been leading a massive clone army into a galaxy-wide battle against the Separatists. When ...more

More Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

#219 of 630 The Greatest Guilty Pleasure Movies #51 of 157 The Best Science Fiction Action Movies #190 of 409 The Best Rainy Day Movies