Why learn English with films?

Watching films is a lot more fun than studying with a textbook! It can also be just as useful. Here is why sitting down with a movie in English will improve your fluency:

REAL ENGLISH – Textbooks are great for learning vocabulary or grammar, but nothing is better than listening to real native English. By watching British and American films, you can listen to native English actors speaking the language in a natural way. This will help you learn modern English and sound more like a native speaker in terms of vocabulary and style.

BETTER PRONUNCIATION – Sometimes it can be hard to know how an English word is pronounced. Hearing native speakers in movies will teach you the correct way to say things. Dialogues in films also provide good examples of how sounds in words change in connected speech.

LIVE CONTEXT – When you learn a word, it can be difficult to remember what it means or how to use it. In films, words are used as part of a story and this context helps you to learn and remember them more effectively.

NATIVE ACCENTS – Across Britain and America there are many different accents used to speak English. When watching films, you will hear many regional accents being used and this will help you to understand them better. Textbooks seldom provide information about English accents.

EXPLORE CULTURE – You can learn about the culture behind the language when you watch movies in English. Language and culture are closely connected. Why not study both at the same time by watching original films?

Tips to learn English through movies

  1. Only choose interesting films!
    This sounds obvious, but the most important thing when using films to study English is to watch movies you will enjoy. If you choose a boring film, then you may lose interest and pay less attention to the language it uses! To find interesting films by genre, title, actor/actress or date of release, you can visit IMDB.
  2. Avoid movies that are too difficult
    When you are watching a film in English, it is important that you understand enough to follow the storyline. Try to choose a movie that suits your current level of English. If you are a beginner, you may want to start with simple cartoons or children’s films, like Toy Story. On the other hand, if you understand 99% of the dialogue between characters in a movie, it may be too easy for you.
  3. Aim to understand 70% or more
    When learning English with films, you should aim to understand the general meaning and not every single word. Do not worry if you miss some words or phrases or do not understand the accent of a character in a movie. You can pause or rewind the film sometimes and write down new vocabulary, but avoid doing this too often. Remember that watching movies should be fun!
  4. Repeat your favourite lines!
    If you hear a line that you really like, write it down and repeat it! If you say it aloud, you are more likely to remember it. Sometimes, you will hear phrases that sound cool and are used in everyday English in the UK or America. Textbooks do not usually teach these informal expressions, but movie do!
  5. Use subtitles in the right way
    When you are watching a film in English, it is a good idea to turn the subtitles on. With most video players you can do this via the settings tab. On YouTube, press the ‘CC’ button in the bottom right corner and then select ‘English subtitles’. If you really like a movie, perhaps try watching it once with subtitles and then again without. Avoid subtitles in your own language.

What movies/TV shows you shouldn’t watch

Movies and TV shows where people talk very quickly or where the story is very complex are not good for improving your English, because it’s easy to get confused with them. Also, movies or TV shows which use vocabulary which is either very intellectual (e.g. Woody Allen movies again) or use a lot of street/slang English (e.g. The Sopranos) are not good for learning English from either.

Although you can watch most types of movies or TV shows (e.g. action, horror etc…), there are two types that I don’t recommend you watch:

  • Comedies: British or American humour is very difficult for people learning English to understand. Also, comedies use strange expressions.
  • Gangster movies: Normally, gangster movies and TV shows use a lot of street/slang vocabulary and expressions which are difficult to understand and not commonly used.

What movies/TV shows to watch

The most important thing is to watch something that you are interested in. If you find something boring, stop watching it because you won’t learn much English.

You can improve your English watching most types of movies or TV shows, but try to watch movies or TV shows which have simple stories and use simple vocabulary.

In our experience, the best movies and TV shows for adult learners of English to watch are those which have been made for teenagers (people between 13 – 19 years old) or are normally watched by them. They have stories which are not complex and the best have stories which adults can enjoy.

Cuadro de texto:  Watching a movie or TV show in English which you have already seen in your own language (and isn’t complex) is also a very good idea.

Learning a language is much easier when you’re enjoying yourself – and what better way to pass the time than watching movies (with a tub of popcorn in hand, of course)!

Harry Potter (2001-2011)

Harry Potter is one of England’s greatest national treasures. Everyone loves it!

The movies are about Harry Potter, a wizard, and all of his magical adventures. The Harry Potter films are a must-see if you are learning English! All of the main characters go to a magic school called Hogwarts. The wizarding world of Harry Potter has its own animals and history, and it uses language from basic English to magical words made up by author J.K. Rowling. Some of these nonsense words are even used by fans! For example, ‘muggle’, which is an insult meaning ‘someone who cannot perform magic’.

The Sound of Music (1965)

‘Doe, a deer, a female deer; Ray, a drop of golden sun.’

This enduring American musical is a great tool to increase your level of spoken English.

From Julie Andrews’s perfectly clear enunciation to Christopher Plummer’s charismatic delivery of the film’s quotable lines, The Sound of Music makes it easy to pick up everyday speech. And of course, the catchy soundtrack is bound to be music to your ears.

Clueless (1995)

With a 90s revival in full swing, the best way to brush up on your retro teen slang is with Clueless, set in a Los Angeles high school and featuring some of the most iconic fashions of the 1993-1996 era. Fun fact: it’s based on the novel Emma by Jane Austen.

Dead Poets Society (1989)

This 1989 movie tells the tale of an English teacher who sparks joy in his students through poetry. Aiming to make their lives extraordinary, they live their life through the Latin expression carpe diem — seize the day.

As professor John Keating (played by Robin Williams) said, “Avoid using the word ‘very’ because it’s lazy. A man is not very tired, he is exhausted. Don’t use very sad, use morose.” Who knew watching a movie could greatly improve your vocabulary?

Jurassic World (2015)

The fourth instalment of the Jurassic Park film series is set 22 years after the events of the first entry, but the stakes are higher now as a fearsome genetically-engineered dinosaur escapes and wreaks murderous havoc.

Hollywood stars Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard speak in everyday language used in daily situations, which makes it easy to follow the movie. Some scientific jargon is thrown into the mix, resulting in an interesting selection of new words to learn and include in your vocabulary.

Jurassic Park (1993)

OK, so everyone’s already seen this – and if not, shame on you. It’s the perfect movie for learning some slightly complicated scientific words in a thoroughly entertaining context. It also happens to be my favourite film ever. Call me biased.

My Fair Lady (1964)

Here’s another movie where you’ll feel like you’re learning to speak English along with the protagonist. Flower seller Eliza Doolittle is taken under the wing of arrogant phonetics professor Henry Higgins as he bets he’ll be able to turn the poor Cockney girl into an elegant Edwardian London lady.

After singing along to the film’s famous musical numbers such as ‘The Rain in Spain‘ and ‘Just You Wait‘, you’ll find yourself having lots of fun speaking in a posh upper-class English accent.

The Hunger Games (2012)

Easy-to-understand American accent? Check. Jennifer Lawrence? Check. Handsome male lead? Check. Tension-filled fight scenes? Mega check. If you’re a fan of sci-fi adventures with some romance and post-apocalyptic politics thrown in for good measure, get watching.

The King’s Speech (2010)

Quite conveniently, this film focuses on England’s King George, who had to overcome a speech impediment to deliver a speech to the British people – so it’s not only entertaining but there’s actually a whole pronunciation lesson in there too. Win!

This British historical drama starring Colin Firth as the royal who stammers is a great movie for those eager to improve their English as you will learn how to enunciate letters and pronounce words correctly together with the King. Such a fancy English class, no?

Notting Hill (1999)

If you’re not sure whether to learn British or American English, this movie offers both in one perfect romantic comedy package. Set in London, it follows a nerdy bookshop owner who falls in love with an American movie star. The ending will make you feel all warm and fuzzy.

Akeelah and the Bee (2006)

If you struggle to spell correctly and often mess up the right order of letters, you’re not alone.

However, a viewing of the inspirational American drama film Akeelah and the Bee about an 11-year-old girl who signs up for a National Spelling Bee — and wins — will make you sit up straight with newfound determination to spell ‘xanthosis’ correctly. After this movie, you too will be able to confidently spell ‘pulchritude’ flawlessly.

The Wizard of Oz (1939)

One of the world’s most famous and iconic films, The Wizard of Oz is one of those movies you can’t say you’ve never seen. The story follows a girl called Dorothy, transported to a magical world which she’s destined to save. There are also songs, which is always nice.

Toy Story (1995)

Apart from pulling at your heartstrings and making you roar with laughter to infinity and beyond, Toy Story also benefits your command of the English language!

Here’s how — Woody’s lines are easily understandable thanks to Tom Hanks’s distinctive clear voice. Paired with Buzz Lightyear’s voice actor Tim Allen, the duo comes to life, conversing in witty dialogue.

The Queen (2006)

Keeping the royal theme, you can learn some seriously refined British English accents in this movie based on the UK Royal Family’s reaction to the death of Princess Diana. Full of drama, expensive sets and actress Helen Mirren doing her best impression of the Queen (and her very posh accent!).

The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

“Florals? For spring? Groundbreaking!”

“By all means, move at a glacial pace. You know how that thrills me.”

Short, snappy lines like these make The Devil Wears Prada an extremely fun watch — and a good movie to learn how to be witty.

The 2006 comedy-drama film about the high fashion world sees college graduate Andy Sachs — who is used to the low-key life — change drastically as she quickly adapts to the glitz and glam of the fashion industry. However, she’s forced to make a decision that will set her life in stone, and she has to choose between living her initial dream of journalism or the attractive world of fashion.

Men in Black (1997)

Not only is the English in Men in Black really easy to understand, it’s also relatable (as far as secret agents hunting aliens goes, at least). Will Smith stars as the lead, using language that’s clear but also totally hip and cool because, you know, he’s Will Smith.

Mary Poppins (1964)

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. It’s more than a rare skin condition, it’s a lifestyle. Mary Poppins is a 1964 American musical film directed by Robert Stevenson and starring Julie Andrews (The Sound of Music) and Dick Van Dyke (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang).

Tips for using TV series and Netflix to learn English

  1. Choose shows with shorter episodes so that you don’t get too overwhelmed with all the new vocabulary.
  2. Watch the TV shows with English subtitles NOT subtitles in your own language. Reading and listening to English at the same time is the best way to get your brain to absorb new vocabulary.
  3. Try not to pause and look up words you don’t understand, as this will stop you from enjoying the plot. Instead, try and work out the word’s meaning from the show’s context.

Best British TV Series to Learn English


  • What is the show about? The Crown retells the life story of England’s longest-reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II.
  • Why is it useful? The Crown is considered one of the best shows on Netflix and one of the best TV shows of all time. It features British actors speaking Standard English with impeccable (perfect) grammar and pronunciation.


Much like the Crown, if you find ‘the Queen’s English’ easiest to understand then Downton Abbey is the perfect TV show for you. Despite being set in Yorkshire, all of the character’s speak with clipped, posh British accents making it easy to follow the show’s plot.  


Call the Midwife follows the lives of British midwives in the 1950s and deals with a lot of issues that British women faced in the 20th century. The cast speak clearly and slowly, helping you to understand the story – you’ll also find out a lot about the history of the UK!


  • What is the show about? Peep Show is a comedic show about two flatmates (roommates), Mark and Jeremy, living in London. Mark is an uptight office worker, while Jeremy is an unemployed musician and free spirit.
  • Why is it useful? Peep Show is full of British history and pop culture references. The casual, informal conversations also utilize hundreds of British colloquialisms.


The Great British Bake Off is an excellent example of British Television. Twelve amateur bakers compete for the title of Britain’s best baker. There’s drama, competition and a lot of innuendos. Not only will you learn a lot about British food, but you’ll also learn a lot about British humour on the way!


  • What is the show about? Black Mirror is another one of the best British TV shows on Netflix. It is a science fiction anthology show (each episode has a new setting and characters) that explores the darker side of technological advancement.
  • Why is it useful? Black Mirror works well for advanced English learners, as it examines complex themes and relies on technical vocabulary.


  • What is the show about? Fleabag is a comedy-drama that tells the story of a London woman who has to deal with her disapproving family and underwhelming (disappointing) romantic partners.
  • Why is it useful? Fleabag features natural, fast-paced English conversations on a wide range of topics.


Get to know an iconic British literary character in a fun and modern format. Although Benedict Cumberbatch might speak pretty quickly, the show is a great example of British Television that you’ll find too captivating to turn off.

Best American TV Series to Learn English


  • What is the show about? Friends follows a group of 6 friends (go figure!) as they navigate their careers and relationships in New York City.
  • Why is it useful? Not only is the show full of funny American pop-culture references, but it also relies heavily on different tones, like sarcasm, cheerfulness, sadness, etc.


  • What is the show about? The American remake of The Office focuses on Michael Scott (the inept regional manager of a paper supply company) and his unenthusiastic employees. The show is a mockumentary (parody of a documentary) that pokes fun at “office culture” in the United States.
  • Why is it useful? Even though the characters discuss a wide range of topics throughout the series — from rabies to beet farms — The Office is a great way for English learners to pick up business lingo.   

Stranger Things

You’ve probably heard of the addictive SCI-FI series, Stranger Things, but have you thought about watching in its original English? Yes, some of the kids’ slang words might be a little bit hard to understand, but, in general, children speak a lot slower and clearer than adults, making the series pretty easy to follow.

Refers to: The parallel universe that is opened in the show. You can also get started with this awesome guide to Stranger Things slang from Collins Dictionary. 

Grace and Frankie

Grace and Frankie follows the story of an unlikely friendship between two older women after their husbands leave them. Not only is this show completely hilarious and totally cute, but it also has super short episodes making it easy for people new to learning English!


  • What is the show about? Much like The Office, Modern Family uses the mockumentary format for comedic effect. The story follows three generations of a diverse family living in Los Angeles.
  • Why is it useful? Modern Family addresses a lot of issues that families face on a daily basis, which can help English learners develop useful vocabulary and understand common grammar structures.


  • What is the show about? As the only American drama on this list, Breaking Bad is a much darker show than the others. This English TV series is about a cancer-stricken teacher who decides to start producing and selling drugs to provide a good life for his family.
  • Why is it useful? Unlike sitcoms (situational comedy shows), Breaking Bad relies on realistic dialogue and (generally) serious interactions between the characters.


  • What is the show about? Glee follows the lives of a high school music teacher and the students who sing in his glee club (choir).
  • Why is it useful? Not only does Glee use a lot of popular American lingo and idioms, but it also features dozens of English songs. As a result, it combines the benefits of practicing English with both music AND television!

We hope you found these lists helpful!


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