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Good Movies for ESL Students to Watch

Updated June 14, 2019 1.8k votes 252 voters 26.1k 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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  • Forrest Gump1
    91
    28

    Forrest Gump

    Tom Hanks, Sally Field

    Released1994

    Directed byRobert Zemeckis

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  • Casablanca2
    63
    32

    Casablanca

    Ingrid Bergman, Humphrey Bogart

    Released1942

    Directed byMichael Curtiz

    Casablanca is a 1942 American romantic drama film directed by Michael Curtiz and based on... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • The Terminal3
    39
    9

    The Terminal

    Catherine Zeta-Jones, Tom Hanks

    Released2004

    Directed bySteven Spielberg

    The Terminal is a 2004 American romantic comedy film directed by Steven Spielberg and starring... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • Big Hero 64
    65
    37

    Big Hero 6

    Jamie Chung, Maya Rudolph

    Released2014

    Directed byChris Williams, Don Hall

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  • 12 Angry Men5
    38
    12

    12 Angry Men

    Henry Fonda, Jack Klugman

    Released1957

    Directed bySidney Lumet

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  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone6
    63
    42

    Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

    Emma Watson, Daniel Radcliffe

    Released2001

    Directed byChris Columbus

    Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (released in the United States, India and Pakistan as... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • Bambi7
    41
    23

    Bambi

    Sterling Holloway, Sam Edwards

    Released1942

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

    Bambi is a 1942 American animated drama film directed by David Hand, produced by Walt Disney... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • To Kill a Mockingbird8
    31
    15

    To Kill a Mockingbird

    Robert Duvall, Gregory Peck

    Released1962

    Directed byRobert Mulligan

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  • My Big Fat Greek Wedding9
    43
    30

    My Big Fat Greek Wedding

    Nia Vardalos, Andrea Martin

    Released2002

    Directed byJoel Zwick

    My Big Fat Greek Wedding is a 2002 Canadian-American romantic comedy film written by and... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button

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  • WALL-E10
    46
    34

    WALL-E

    Sigourney Weaver, Laraine Newman

    Released2008

    Directed byAndrew Stanton

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  • Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory11
    36
    25

    Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory

    Gene Wilder, Jack Albertson

    Released1971

    Directed byMel Stuart

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  • Divergent12
    40
    30

    Divergent

    Kate Winslet, Shailene Woodley

    Released2014

    Directed byNeil Burger

    Divergent is a 2014 American science fiction action film directed by Neil Burger, based on the... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button

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  • The Princess Bride13
    29
    18

    The Princess Bride

    Billy Crystal, Robin Wright

    Released1987

    Directed byRob Reiner

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  • Cast Away14
    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

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  • Beauty and the Beast15
    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
  • The Fault in Our Stars16
    34
    28

    The Fault in Our Stars

    Shailene Woodley, Willem Dafoe

    Released2014

    Directed byJosh Boone

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  • Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children17
    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
  • Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas18
    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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  • The Book Thief19
    25
    21

    The Book Thief

    Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson

    Released2013

    Directed byBrian Percival

    This film is a 2013 American-German drama film directed by Brian Percival and starring... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • Gravity20
    21
    16

    Gravity

    Sandra Bullock, George Clooney

    Released2013

    Directed byAlfonso Cuarón

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  • The Maze Runner21
    19
    16

    The Maze Runner

    Kaya Scodelario, Dylan O'Brien

    Released2014

    Directed byWes Ball

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  • Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back22
    13
    9

    Released1980

    Directed byIrvin Kershner

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  • The Good, the Bad and the Ugly23
    11
    9

    The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

    Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach

    Released1966

    Directed bySergio Leone

    The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is a 1966 Italian epic Spaghetti Western film directed by... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • Jumanji24
    9
    7

    Jumanji

    Kirsten Dunst, Robin Williams

    Released1995

    Directed byJoe Johnston

    Jumanji is a 1995 American fantasy adventure film directed by Joe Johnston. It is an... more on WikipediaAmazon buy button
  • Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace25
    8
    8

    Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

    Natalie Portman, Keira Knightley

    Released1999

    Directed byGeorge Lucas

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