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Good Movies for ESL Students to Watch

Updated June 14, 2019 1.8k votes 250 voters 25.5k views47 items

List RulesVote 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! 

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  • 1
    Forrest Gump
    91
    28

    Forrest Gump

    Tom Hanks, Sally Field

    Released1994

    Directed byRobert Zemeckis

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  • 2
    Casablanca
    63
    32

    Casablanca

    Ingrid Bergman, Humphrey Bogart

    Released1942

    Directed byMichael Curtiz

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  • 3
    The Terminal
    39
    9

    The Terminal

    Catherine Zeta-Jones, Tom Hanks

    Released2004

    Directed bySteven Spielberg

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  • 4
    Big Hero 6
    65
    37

    Big Hero 6

    Jamie Chung, Maya Rudolph

    Released2014

    Directed byChris Williams, Don Hall

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  • 5
    12 Angry Men
    36
    12

    12 Angry Men

    Henry Fonda, Jack Klugman

    Released1957

    Directed bySidney Lumet

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  • 6
    Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
    63
    42

    Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

    Emma Watson, Daniel Radcliffe

    Released2001

    Directed byChris Columbus

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  • 7
    Bambi
    40
    23

    Bambi

    Sterling Holloway, Sam Edwards

    Released1942

    Directed byJames Algar, Samuel Armstrong, Paul Satterfield, Bill Roberts, Norman Wright

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  • 8
    To Kill a Mockingbird
    31
    15

    To Kill a Mockingbird

    Robert Duvall, Gregory Peck

    Released1962

    Directed byRobert Mulligan

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  • 9
    My Big Fat Greek Wedding
    43
    30

    My Big Fat Greek Wedding

    Nia Vardalos, Andrea Martin

    Released2002

    Directed byJoel Zwick

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  • 10
    WALL-E
    46
    34

    WALL-E

    Sigourney Weaver, Laraine Newman

    Released2008

    Directed byAndrew Stanton

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  • 11
    Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory
    36
    25

    Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory

    Gene Wilder, Jack Albertson

    Released1971

    Directed byMel Stuart

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  • 12
    Divergent
    40
    30

    Divergent

    Kate Winslet, Shailene Woodley

    Released2014

    Directed byNeil Burger

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  • 13
    The Princess Bride
    29
    18

    The Princess Bride

    Billy Crystal, Robin Wright

    Released1987

    Directed byRob Reiner

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  • 14
    Cast Away
    32
    23

    Cast Away

    Tom Hanks, Helen Hunt

    Released2000

    Directed byRobert Zemeckis

    Cast Away is a 2000 American adventure drama film directed and produced by Robert Zemeckis and... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 15
    Beauty and the Beast
    34
    26

    Beauty and the Beast

    Angela Lansbury, Frank Welker

    Released1991

    Directed byGary Trousdale, Kirk Wise

    Beauty and the Beast is a 1991 American animated musical romantic fantasy film produced by... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 16
    The Fault in Our Stars
    34
    28

    The Fault in Our Stars

    Shailene Woodley, Willem Dafoe

    Released2014

    Directed byJosh Boone

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  • 17
    Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
    37
    32

    Directed byTim Burton

    Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is a 2016 American 3D dark fantasy film directed... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • 18
    Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas
    24
    19

    Released2000

    Directed byRon Howard

    This film is a 2000 American musical fantasy comedy Christmas film from Universal Pictures and... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button

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  • 19
    The Book Thief
    25
    21

    The Book Thief

    Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson

    Released2013

    Directed byBrian Percival

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  • 20
    Gravity
    21
    16

    Gravity

    Sandra Bullock, George Clooney

    Released2013

    Directed byAlfonso Cuarón

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  • 21
    The Maze Runner
    19
    16

    The Maze Runner

    Kaya Scodelario, Dylan O'Brien

    Released2014

    Directed byWes Ball

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  • 22
    Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
    13
    9

    Released1980

    Directed byIrvin Kershner

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  • 23
    The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
    11
    9

    The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

    Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach

    Released1966

    Directed bySergio Leone

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  • 24
    Jumanji
    9
    7

    Jumanji

    Kirsten Dunst, Robin Williams

    Released1995

    Directed byJoe Johnston

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  • 25
    Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
    8
    8

    Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

    Natalie Portman, Keira Knightley

    Released1999

    Directed byGeorge Lucas

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