“What movie should I watch to improve my English?”
How many times have you asked yourself that question?
In this post I'll recommend 20 movies for English learners.
But before I do that, let me tell you that if you're a movie lover who wants to improve your English skills through movies, you MUST check out Cara Leopold's website.
Cara is the most qualified and passionate English teacher I know who can help you improve your English listening and conversational skills through films.
That said, let's dive into the 20 best movies for English learners.
For a quick overview, or to skip to the movie that interests you most, check out the table of contents below. Otherwise, keep scrolling to discover these movies for English learners.
Table of Contents
1. Forrest Gump (1994)
“Forrest Gump” is one of my favourite movies. I watched it when I was a child, when I was a teenager and I watched it last week too.
This is a heartwarming and iconic film that will take you on a journey through the extraordinary life of Forrest Gump, the main character played by a young Tom Hanks.
The plot unfolds as Forrest tells his life story to strangers while sitting on a park bench.
You’ll see Forrest being bullied, becoming a ping pong champion, falling in love, fighting in the Vietnam War, running nonstop around the world and embarking on many other amazing adventures.
The movie is set in Alabama, US, so the characters speak with a southern American accent. I don’t think you’ll have a lot of trouble understanding Forrest as he speaks slowly and uses simple language.
The story also covers important events, so you can learn about the history and culture of the US while practicing your listening skills.
2.The Lion King (1994)
I’m sure you’ve already seen this movie. “The Lion King” is one of the most popular animated movies by Walt Disney.
The main character is Simba, a young lion who goes through a lot of adventures to become king. You’ll meet his girlfriend, friends, family members and enemies.
All of them are animals, of course. In fact, you’ll only see animals from Africa in the film: lions, zebras, hyenas, monkeys, tucans, warthogs, meerkats, and many others.
What makes it a good movie for learning English? It’s animated, so you’ll be able to match characters and actions with the dialogue. This can also help you understand the story even if there are some words you don't know.
And if you’re up for an extra challenge, you can go to the theatre to see the musical. I saw it in London in December 2022 and will never forget it!
3.The Truman Show (1998)
If you're learning English, “The Truman Show” is a movie you should definitely check out.
You’ll see a guy named Truman, played by Jim Carrey, who discovers that his whole life is actually a TV show. Everyone around him is acting and nothing is real.
How would you react if you found out your best friend has been following a script? I’d be devastated!
The story is interesting and funny (the best Jim Carrey from the 90s is the main character – how could this movie not be funny?!).
It’s a thought-provoking movie too as it delves into the ethical implications of manipulating someone's life for entertainment.
“The Truman Show” was released in 1998 but the theme is still very much relevant today. There’s definitely a lot that this movie will make you think about.
But what about the language? Since it all revolves around Truman's life being broadcasted on TV, you’ll get exposed to a lot of everyday expressions and hear people talking like they would in real life.
That's super helpful for expanding your colloquial English.
4.Big Fish (2003)
“Big Fish” is a movie by Tim Burton, a renowned film director in the US.
Picture this: there's a guy named Will, played by Ewan McGregor, who goes to see his dying father, Edward. The storyline unfolds as Will grapples with his father's wild and unbelievable stories about his life.
The cool thing for you as a learner is that this movie is narrated. You’ll hear Edward talking about his adventures in a slow and clear way. This can give you a break from speedy conversations.
Just a heads up, though: Edward has a bit of a different accent because he's from Alabama in the southern U.S. It might sound a bit strange at first, but don't worry – you'll get used to it as you watch.
5. Stranger Than Fiction (2006)
In this film, you’ll follow Harold Crick, played by Will Ferrell. Harold is just a regular tax man with a pretty ordinary life. But one day, he starts hearing a voice. Not just any voice – it's a voice narrating every little thing he does.
Imagine someone narrating your morning routine. How annoying would that be? Incredibly annoying if you’re a person like my partner: she hates people in the morning!
Like “Big Fish”, the cool part for you as a learner is that when Emma Thompson, the narrator, talks about Harold's actions, she speaks slowly and clearly.
This is like a helpful English lesson within the movie as you can associate the language of the narrator with the actions of the actor.
If you're up for a quirky and interesting story that also helps you with your English, “Stranger Than Fiction” is definitely the way to go.
6. Cast Away (2006)
In “Cast Away”, Tom Hanks plays Chuck Noland, a guy who works for FedEx and travels the world. Chuck's life takes a dramatic turn when his plane crashes somewhere in the South Pacific.
Don’t worry, Chuck doesn’t die. But he finds himself on this deserted island.
“Who’s he going to talk to? Is this a silent film?” you may wonder.
It’s not. Chuck has a talking buddy: his name is Wilson. The problem, however, is that Wilson can’t talk. Not because he has some sort of speech problems but because he doesn’t have a mouth. Wilson is a volleyball.
Can you guess why this is an awesome movie for you as a learner? For a big chunk of the movie, you’ll only hear Chuck talking to himself (okay, and to Wilson too). So there’s no fast-talking conversation between different people. You’ll only hear one man speaking.
It’s like listening to a monologue. This can help you adjust to the accent of the main character so you might be able to understand more and more as you go along with the story.
Enjoy the simplicity!
7. Fight Club (1999)
This is a cult movie. It’s a dark and thought-provoking exploration of modern consumerism and society.
The main character is played by Edward Norton. He's the average American citizen who’s drowning in the monotony of daily life. He’s also the nameless narrator in the movie.
Then you have the handsome Brad Pitt from the late 90s, who plays Tyler Durden. Tyler isn’t your typical buddy though; he's a man that’s got some rebellious ideas and a keen interest in creating chaos.
Together, Tyler and Edward create an underground club where men meet up to punch each other. Not your usual weekend pastime, I guess.
Some people (me) are into stories and language learning, some others like less intellectual activities – that’s the beauty of living in the world of humans.
Anyway, this secret club becomes a space where men challenge the rules of society. The club has a clear rule and you may know what this is already as it became a famous catchphrase.
It goes like this: “The first rule of Fight Club is: you do not talk about Fight Club.” (I just hope Tyler doesn’t mind me blogging about it.)
Although this is a challenging film as it contains slang and colloquial expressions (it all takes place in an urban setting), this is another great movie for you as the narrator talks to you directly.
And if you read the book “Fight Club” is based on, you may enjoy the story even more. Whether you decide to watch this film or not, please don’t punch anyone.
Be an Olly, not a Tyler.
8. Stand By Me (1986)
This is a timeless film based on Stephen King's novella “The Body.”
The story takes place in the summer of 1959 and revolves around four young American friends – Gordie, Chris, Teddy, and Vern. They go on a mission to find the body of a local boy who went missing.
Will they find him? I can’t tell you.
This is a good movie if you’re learning English because the events are narrated by Gordie. You won’t hear the voice of a young boy though. Gordie narrates the story from his adult perspective so this can give you a break from listening to dialogue all the time.
“Stand By Me” is another great choice for a movie if you want to improve your English.
9. Braveheart (1995)
Freeeeeeeeeeeeedooooom! Albaaaa gu bràààààààààààth!
Oh man, I had to stop writing this post to watch the motivational speech William Wallace gave to his men before the battle against the English army.
“Braveheart” is one of my all-time favourites. It tells the story of William Wallace, a quiet Scotsman who wants to live a peaceful life in his little village among the hills of medieval Scotland. William wouldn’t hurt a fly.
So why does he turn into a furious bloodthirsty rebel fighting against the English for freedom? I won’t spoil it for you. You’ll have to find out by yourself!
“Braveheart” is great if you’d like to expose yourself to the Scottish accent, one that even some native speakers of English find hard to understand.
The story is set in the Great Britain of medieval times so you’ll also get plenty of Queen-like British pronunciation and expressions. Forget about modern suburban British slang!
Five Oscars, a great story and an even greater Mel Gibson.
Two words: watch it.
10. The King's Speech (2010)
I remember seeing this in a cinema as soon as it came out.
This is a historical drama set in the 1930s that talks about the inspiring true story of Prince Albert.
Prince Albert is about to become king. But he has a problem: he suffers from a severe speech impediment.
I’ve never been a king but I wouldn’t want to be in such a high position of authority and not be able to speak clearly, naturally and fluently. I’m sure you wouldn’t either.
So what does Albert do? He seeks the help of an unorthodox speech therapist, Lionel Logue.
Don’t be too sorry for the king though because his stammer is great news for you! You’ll get to see a movie where the main character doesn’t speak at the speed of light!
The film also offers you a glimpse into the historical and cultural context of 20th-century Britain and exposes you to some formal language typical of the Royals.
And it’s a movie I’d personally rewatch too.
11. Home Alone (1990)
“Home Alone” has become a holiday classic to watch over and over during the Christmas period.
The movie is about 8-year-old Kevin McCallister, who accidentally gets left behind when his family goes on vacation for Christmas.
Kevin doesn’t mind though. In fact, he’s over the moon he hasn’t got his family members around the house anymore! He’s now free and feels proud for having made his family disappear.
But then things change when Kevin has to defend his house against burglars Harry and Marv.
This is a great movie for learners of English for two reasons.
- Reason 1: the plot is simple. You don’t need to get your head around any intricate sequences of events.
- Reason 2: Most of the time you’ll see only Kevin talking. He’s an 8-year-old so the language he uses is fairly straightforward.
I watch “Home Alone” at least once a year. This is a movie you simply can’t miss, especially at Christmas time!
12. Inside Out (2015)
“Inside Out” is the story of Riley, an 11-year-old girl, who goes through major life changes when her family moves to a new city.
Most of the story takes place inside Riley’s mind, where Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust live.
These five “people” living in her head are her emotions. Anger is the red one. Joy is yellow and she’s as bright as the sun. Sadness is blue and always depressed. Fear is purple and he’s the one who prevents Riley from getting into trouble.
And then you have Disgust. She’s green and was born when Riley ate Broccoli for the first time. Each emotion influences Riley’s actions and memories.
Isn’t this intriguing already?
“Inside Out” is truly a clever animated movie that will make you think about the nature of human psychology.
It’s also a great film for improving your English as the characters speak with a clear and expressive American accent.
And because the dialogue is cleverly written to reflect the distinct personalities of each emotion, you’ll get a lot of opportunities to notice how different intonation patterns are used in English.
Want to sound angry? Listen closely to how Anger speaks. Want to sound sad? Tune in to Sadness’ speech and mimic her accent.
I’m sure you’ll love “Inside Out” no matter how old you are.
13. The Hole (2001)
“The Hole” is a psychological thriller that centres around four teenagers – Liz, Mike, Geoff, and Martyn – who decide to spend a weekend exploring an abandoned underground bunker.
What a group of naughty teens. They think nothing bad can happen to them. And nothing indeed happens – until they get trapped inside the bunker.
Spoiler alert: you’ll see disgusting scenes and some of them can be quite disturbing. So this isn’t a movie for you if you’re not into this kind of film experience.
The film also contains scenes of sex, nudity, violence, gore, and profanity. This is a movie for adults only!
So why would such content make a great movie for learners then?
Like many other films I discussed in this post, the plot is simple and most of the story takes place in a bunker. Plus, you only have a bunch of characters to listen to. All this makes it easier for you to understand.
Let me warn you one more time though: this is not a movie for kids!
14. The Cube (1997)
This is a science fiction horror film. In the opening scene, you’ll see a group of five strangers awakening to find themselves trapped in a mysterious cube-shaped room.
Each person has a skill. Quentin is a police officer, Holloway is a doctor, Worth is an architect, Leaven is a math student and Rennes is an escape artist.
They soon discover that each room has doors on its six faces and each door leads to other cube-shaped rooms.
But here’s what’s interesting: some of these rooms contain lethal traps. So be ready to see some gory scenes!
This is a relatively easy movie to watch as you have few characters to listen to and only one location (the cube). You’ll also get plenty of breaks from listening as the movie contains many scenes of suspense.
15. Jumanji (1995)
“Jumanji” is a light adventure comedy movie filled with action that you might have already seen in your first language. This is one of my favourites too, not least because the great Robbie Williams is in it.
The film tells the story of two siblings, Judy and Peter, who discover a magical board game in the attic of their new house. The board game is called Jumanji and brings its dangers, past players and wild creatures into the real world.
The dialogue is fairly accessible if you’re an intermediate learner so I think you’ll be able to enjoy it.
16. Titanic (1997)
Okay, who hasn’t seen this? We all know the story of the unsinkable ship that sank in 1912.
Titanic is a movie that can really help you get exposed to lots of dialogue. You may learn some formal expressions from the first-class passengers and some more colloquial language from the third-class travellers.
It’s 3-hour long so it might be tiring to watch if you’re an intermediate learner. But I would recommend it anyway, especially if you’ve already seen it in your first language.
17. The Invention of Lying (2009)
Imagine a world where everyone tells the truth and lies don’t exist. If your colleagues think you’re a terrible human being, they won’t lie to you – they’ll tell you! How weird would such a world be?
In “The Invention of Lying”, Mark Bellison, played by the hilarious Ricky Gervais, lives in the most honest world you could ever imagine. But he then discovers how lying can change everything.
This is a great and original comedy movie that will help you expand your repertoire of conversational English expressions because most of the conversations take place in informal settings.
You’ll also get exposed to a mix of British and American accents.
Watch out for Riky’s distinctive glottal stop though. That could be tricky to understand. I’m not lying!
18. The Shining (1980)
A cult, a masterpiece, a blockbuster movie, a work of art, a gem – I don’t know what else to say. This is a fantastic horror movie for learners of English.
“The Shining” is story of a family – Jack, Wendy, and their son Danny – who go to an empty and isolated hotel in the mountains during winter.
Jack is a writer struggling with writer’s block. He gets a job as the caretaker, hoping to use the quiet time to write his novel.
Danny, Jack and Wendy’s son, has a special power called “the shining” that makes him have scary visions. Plus, the hotel has some spooky things going on. That’s enough to make you shiver.
But there’s more. As the winter goes on, Jack starts acting really strange and you’ll soon discover that the hotel has a creepy history that affects the whole family.
Like many other movies I discussed in this post, The Shining follows the story of few characters, the plot is simple and there’s not a lot of dialogue (but many creepy scenes!).
This is a perfect combination of ingredients that will make the movie a suitable for you as an English language learner.
And, in my opinion, you’ll see the best Jack Nicholson acting performance.
19. Robin Hood (1973)
This is a classic animated film by Walt Disney that you can watch and enjoy with your family.
The movie tells the timeless tale of Robin Hood and his band of Merry Men in the animal kingdom. They have one mission: standing up against the greedy Prince John and the Sheriff of Nottingham.
To be honest, “Robin Hood” isn’t an easy one to understand if you’re an intermediate learner.
But I decided to include it in this list because Robin Hood is a folk hero from the Middle Ages in England. So watching this movie can help you connect with English culture and literature.
Also, the characters speak a variety of British accents so you can get exposed to the diversity of English pronunciation.
Check the trailer and see how challenging this movie is for you.
20. The Terminator (1984)
If you say you’ve never seen this movie, sorry but…I don’t believe you!
The Terminator is a story about a robot sent from the future, played by the one and only Arnold Schwarzenegger, to kill (or “terminate” I should say) a woman named Sarah.
But, surprise! A warrior from the future, Kyle, comes to the present to keep Sarah safe.
There’s lots of action and shooting and running away in this movie – probably more action than dialogue, so this can help you appreciate the story more.
Also, Arnold’s Teutonic accent makes him easy to understand. (Arnold is a non-native speaker of English – did you know that?)
The Best Movies For English Learners
So, as you can see from this list of best movies for English learners, there’s one for every taste.
If you can’t enjoy the movie because it’s too hard for you to understand, I suggest that you find something more suitable for your level. Check out the best TV shows to learn English for ideas. Or follow the rules of StoryLearning and read short stories in English instead.
Otherwise, here are some ways to increase your understanding:
- Watch the same scene more than once.
- Watch the movie with subtitles first and then rewatch them without subtitles.
- Watch only one minute of the movie and try to understand as much as you can.
- Check out Cara’s YouTube channel!
Whatever you do, don’t feel discouraged, and keep on exposing your brain to English.
More importantly, keep learning while having fun!