Watchworthy

Good Movies for ESL Students to Watch 

Ranker Film
Updated June 14, 2019 1.1k votes 228 voters 23.1k 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! 

Data-driven recommendations based on voting from over 40 million monthly visits to Ranker. Try the free app
list ordered by
1
Forrest Gump is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Good Movies for ESL Students to Watch
Tom Hanks, Sally Field, Robin Wright

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

More Forrest Gump 

The ‘Forrest Gump’ Book Is Weirder And More Offensive Than The Movie #44 of 375 The 50+ Best War Movies Ever Made, Rankedlisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

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

More Big Hero 6 

#3 of 601 The Best Animated Films Ever #34 of 187 The Best Superhero Movies Ever Madelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

3
Harry Potter and the Sor... is listed (or ranked) 3 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

More Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone 

#65 of 599 The Greatest Epic Movies Ever Made #24 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #22 of 410 The Best Rainy Day Movies

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

More WALL-E 

The Most Fascinating Facts You Didn't Know About WALL-E #63 of 601 The Best Animated Films Everlisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

5
Divergent is listed (or ranked) 5 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

More Divergent 

#13 of 82 The Best Film Adaptations of Young Adult Novels #1,278 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #133 of 163 The Best Science Fiction Action Movies

6
Willy Wonka & the Ch... is listed (or ranked) 6 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

More Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory 

Grandpa Joe Was The Worst Person In ‘Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory,’ And We All Know It #25 of 377 The Best Musical Movies of All Time #160 of 599 The Greatest Epic Movies Ever Made

7
To Kill a Mockingbird is listed (or ranked) 7 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

More To Kill a Mockingbird 

'To Kill a Mockingbird' Quotes That'll Change How You Think #35 of 82 The Best Film Adaptations of Young Adult Novelslisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

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

More The Fault in Our Stars 

#27 of 293 The Top Tearjerker Movies That Make Men Cry #126 of 804 The Greatest Chick Flicks Ever Made #17 of 82 The Best Film Adaptations of Young Adult Novels

9
Miss Peregrine's Home fo... is listed (or ranked) 9 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.
10
Casablanca is listed (or ranked) 10 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

More Casablanca 

#29 of 375 The 50+ Best War Movies Ever Made, Ranked #156 of 349 'Old' Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch In Their Lifetimelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

11
Beauty and the Beast is listed (or ranked) 11 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

More Beauty and the Beast 

#6 of 377 The Best Musical Movies of All Time #102 of 601 The Best Animated Films Everlisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

12
My Big Fat Greek Wedding... is listed (or ranked) 12 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

More My Big Fat Greek Wedding 

#169 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #191 of 1,208 The Absolute Funniest Movies Of All Time #205 of 1,027 The All-Time Greatest Comedy Films

13
12 Angry Men is listed (or ranked) 13 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

More 12 Angry Men 

#638 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #2 of 28 28 Great Films That Didn't Win Oscars #6 of 46 Every Single Movie On Rotten Tomatoes With 100% Approval, Ranked

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

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

More The Princess Bride 

Who Would Star In 'The Princess Bride' If It Were Made Today? #27 of 349 'Old' Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch In Their Lifetime #6 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked

15
The Terminal is listed (or ranked) 15 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

More The Terminal 

#597 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #335 of 410 The Best Rainy Day Movies #790 of 1,208 The Absolute Funniest Movies Of All Time

16
Bambi is listed (or ranked) 16 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

More Bambi 

#59 of 601 The Best Animated Films Ever #428 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #48 of 293 The Top Tearjerker Movies That Make Men Cry

17
The Book Thief is listed (or ranked) 17 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

More The Book Thief 

#37 of 82 The Best Film Adaptations of Young Adult Novels #180 of 222 The Greatest World War II Movies of All Time #162 of 293 The Top Tearjerker Movies That Make Men Cry

18
Dr. Seuss' How the Grinc... is listed (or ranked) 18 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

More Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas 

#167 of 217 Musical Movies With the Best Songs #88 of 366 The Best Movies Based On Bookslisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

19
Cast Away is listed (or ranked) 19 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

More Cast Away 

#36 of 599 The Greatest Epic Movies Ever Made #118 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #45 of 410 The Best Rainy Day Movies

20
Gravity is listed (or ranked) 20 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

More Gravity 

#77 of 163 The Best Science Fiction Action Movies #188 of 581 The Greatest Film Scores of All Timelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

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

More The Maze Runner 

#14 of 82 The Best Film Adaptations of Young Adult Novels #169 of 366 The Best Movies Based On Books #69 of 161 The Best Dystopian And Near Future Movies

22
Gladiator is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list Good Movies for ESL Students to Watch
diaosigui added Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Michael Sheen

Released: 2000

Directed by: Ridley Scott

Gladiator is a 2000 American-British epic historical drama film directed by Ridley Scott, starring Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielsen, Ralf Möller, Oliver Reed, Djimon Hounsou, ...more

More Gladiator 

Gladiator Might Be One of The Most Historically Inaccurate Movies Ever #17 of 375 The 50+ Best War Movies Ever Made, Rankedlisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

23
Star Wars Episode V: The... is listed (or ranked) 23 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

More Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back 

Here's Why The Last Jedi And Empire Strikes Back Are Pretty Much The Same Movie #5 of 191 The Best Alien Movies Ever Madelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

24
Star Wars is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list Good Movies for ESL Students to Watch
diaosigui added Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill

Released: 1977

Directed by: George Lucas

Star Wars is a 1977 American epic space opera film written and directed by George Lucas. The first release in the Star Wars franchise, it stars Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter ...more

More Star Wars 

The Best Blasters in the 'Star Wars' Saga, Ranked #6 of 191 The Best Alien Movies Ever Madelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

25
The Good, the Bad and th... is listed (or ranked) 25 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

More The Good, the Bad and the Ugly 

#93 of 375 The 50+ Best War Movies Ever Made, Ranked #3 of 395 The Best Western Movies Ever Made #20 of 599 The Greatest Epic Movies Ever Made