Culture

Good Movies for ESL Students to Watch  

Ranker Film
531 votes 142 voters 13.1k 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
2
Harry Potter and the Philosoph... 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 is a 2001 fantasy film directed by Chris Columbus and distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. It is based on the novel of the same name by J. K. Rowling. ...more
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
4
My Big Fat Greek Wedding is listed (or ranked) 4 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
5
WALL-E is listed (or ranked) 5 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
6
Miss Peregrine's Home for Pecu... is listed (or ranked) 6 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.
7
Casablanca is listed (or ranked) 7 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
8
Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Fa... is listed (or ranked) 8 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
9
To Kill a Mockingbird is listed (or ranked) 9 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
10
The Fault in Our Stars is listed (or ranked) 10 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
11
The Princess Bride is listed (or ranked) 11 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
12
12 Angry Men is listed (or ranked) 12 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
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
14
Bambi is listed (or ranked) 14 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
15
Divergent is listed (or ranked) 15 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
16
The Book Thief is listed (or ranked) 16 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
17
The Maze Runner is listed (or ranked) 17 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
18
Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stol... is listed (or ranked) 18 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
19
Beauty and the Beast is listed (or ranked) 19 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
20
Star Wars Episode V: The Empir... is listed (or ranked) 20 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
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
22
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list Good Movies for ESL Students to Watch
Clint Eastwood, Viggo Mortensen, Mark Strong
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
23
Hercules is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list Good Movies for ESL Students to Watch
diaosigui added Danny DeVito, James Woods, Charlton Heston
Hercules is a 1997 American animated musical fantasy film produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation and released by Walt Disney Pictures. The 35th animated feature in the Walt Disney Animated ...more
24
Hercules and Xena – The Animat... is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list Good Movies for ESL Students to Watch
diaosigui added Lucy Lawless, Kevin Sorbo, Renee O'Connor
Hercules and Xena – The Animated Movie: The Battle for Mount Olympus is a 1998 American animated action adventure direct-to-video film starring the voices of Kevin Sorbo, Lucy Lawless, Michael ...more
25
Star Wars Episode I: The Phant... is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list Good Movies for ESL Students to Watch
diaosigui added Natalie Portman, Keira Knightley, Ewan McGregor
(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