Culture

Good Movies for ESL Students to Watch 

Ranker Film
Updated June 14, 2019 1k votes 216 voters 20.6k 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

Released: 1994

Directed by: Robert Zemeckis

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

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2
Big Hero 6 is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Good Movies for ESL Students to Watch
Jamie Chung, Maya Rudolph, Génesis Rodríguez

Released: 2014

Directed by: Chris Williams, Don Hall

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

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#19 of 590 The Best Animated Films Ever #49 of 184 The Best Superhero Movies Ever Madelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

3
To Kill a Mockingbird is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Good Movies for ESL Students to Watch
Robert Duvall, Gregory Peck, William Windom

Released: 1962

Directed by: Robert Mulligan

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

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#4 of 351 The Best Movies Based On Books 'To Kill a Mockingbird' Quotes That'll Change How You Thinklisted 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

Released: 2008

Directed by: Andrew Stanton

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

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#6 of 590 The Best Animated Films Ever The Most Fascinating Facts You Didn't Know About WALL-Elisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

5
Harry Potter and the Sor... is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list Good Movies for ESL Students to Watch
Emma Watson, Daniel Radcliffe, Julianne Hough

Released: 2001

Directed by: Chris Columbus

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

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#40 of 351 The Best Movies Based On Books #50 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies

6
12 Angry Men is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list Good Movies for ESL Students to Watch
Henry Fonda, Jack Klugman, Lee J. Cobb

Released: 1957

Directed by: Sidney Lumet

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

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#347 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #6 of 46 Every Single Movie On Rotten Tomatoes With 100% Approval, Ranked

7
Willy Wonka & the Ch... is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list Good Movies for ESL Students to Watch
Gene Wilder, Jack Albertson, Tim Brooke-Taylor

Released: 1971

Directed by: Mel Stuart

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

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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

Released: 2014

Directed by: Josh Boone

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

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#12 of 78 The Best Film Adaptations of Young Adult Novels #127 of 157 The Best Movies You Never Want to Watch Again

9
Divergent is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list Good Movies for ESL Students to Watch
Kate Winslet, Shailene Woodley, Ashley Judd

Released: 2014

Directed by: Neil Burger

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

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#14 of 78 The Best Film Adaptations of Young Adult Novels #1,317 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #11 of 258 The Best Teen Romance Movies

10
The Princess Bride is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list Good Movies for ESL Students to Watch
Billy Crystal, Robin Wright, André the Giant

Released: 1987

Directed by: Rob Reiner

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

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#9 of 803 The Greatest Chick Flicks Ever Made #44 of 1,009 The All-Time Greatest Comedy Films Inconceivable Yet Believable 'Princess Bride' Fan Theories

11
The Terminal is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list Good Movies for ESL Students to Watch
Catherine Zeta-Jones, Tom Hanks, Zoe Saldana

Released: 2004

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

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

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#445 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #213 of 803 The Greatest Chick Flicks Ever Made

12
Beauty and the Beast is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list Good Movies for ESL Students to Watch
Angela Lansbury, Frank Welker, Jerry Orbach

Released: 1991

Directed by: Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise

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

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#93 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #36 of 508 The Best Duos of All Timelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

13
My Big Fat Greek Wedding... is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list Good Movies for ESL Students to Watch
Nia Vardalos, Andrea Martin, Joey Fatone

Released: 2002

Directed by: Joel Zwick

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

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#29 of 803 The Greatest Chick Flicks Ever Made #186 of 1,009 The All-Time Greatest Comedy Films

14
Miss Peregrine's Home fo... is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list Good Movies for ESL Students to Watch
Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Chris O'Dowd

Directed by: Tim Burton

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.
15
Casablanca is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list Good Movies for ESL Students to Watch
Ingrid Bergman, Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre

Released: 1942

Directed by: Michael Curtiz

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

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#166 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #182 of 599 The Greatest Epic Movies Ever Madelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

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

Released: 2000

Directed by: Ron 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

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#129 of 351 The Best Movies Based On Books #147 of 217 Musical Movies With the Best Songslisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

17
Star Wars Episode V: The... is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list Good Movies for ESL Students to Watch
diaosigui added Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill

Released: 1980

Directed by: Irvin Kershner

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

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18
The Book Thief is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list Good Movies for ESL Students to Watch
Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson, Heike Makatsch

Released: 2013

Directed by: Brian Percival

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

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19
Bambi is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list Good Movies for ESL Students to Watch
Sterling Holloway, Sam Edwards, Cammie King

Released: 1942

Directed by: James Algar, Samuel Armstrong, Paul Satterfield, Bill Roberts, Norman Wright, + more

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

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#55 of 590 The Best Animated Films Ever #72 of 217 Musical Movies With the Best Songs

20
Cast Away is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list Good Movies for ESL Students to Watch
Tom Hanks, Helen Hunt, Chris Noth

Released: 2000

Directed by: Robert Zemeckis

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

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21
The Maze Runner is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list Good Movies for ESL Students to Watch
Kaya Scodelario, Dylan O'Brien, Patricia Clarkson

Released: 2014

Directed by: Wes Ball

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

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#11 of 78 The Best Film Adaptations of Young Adult Novels #161 of 351 The Best Movies Based On Books #76 of 160 The Best Dystopian And Near Future Movies

22
Gravity is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list Good Movies for ESL Students to Watch
Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Ed Harris

Released: 2013

Directed by: Alfonso Cuarón

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

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#108 of 157 The Best Science Fiction Action Movies #155 of 243 Critically Acclaimed Movies That Kinda Sucklisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

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

Released: 1966

Directed by: Sergio Leone

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

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#1 of 396 The Best Western Movies Ever Made #174 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #45 of 379 The 50+ Best War Movies Ever Made, Ranked

24
Jumanji is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list Good Movies for ESL Students to Watch
Kirsten Dunst, Robin Williams, Patricia Clarkson

Released: 1995

Directed by: Joe Johnston

Jumanji is a 1995 American fantasy adventure film directed by Joe Johnston. It is an adaptation of the 1981 children's book of the same name by Chris Van Allsburg. The film was directed by Joe ...more

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#98 of 351 The Best Movies Based On Books #65 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #326 of 599 The Greatest Epic Movies Ever Made

25
Star Wars Episode I: The... is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list Good Movies for ESL Students to Watch
diaosigui added Natalie Portman, Keira Knightley, Ewan McGregor

Released: 1999

Directed by: George Lucas

(32 Years Before Episode IV) Stranded on the desert planet Tatooine after rescuing young Queen Amidala from the impending invasion of Naboo, Jedi apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi and his Jedi Master ...more

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