Wondering what the best movies for English learners are?
Movies are hard to understand, right?
So, in this post, I’m sharing three movie genres and six movies, plus some bonus suggestions, that are easier for learners to understand.
That way, you’re more likely to actually learn something when you watch them.
Best Movies For English Learners: Movies With Narration
The first type of movie that tends to be more accessible for English learners is movies that have a narrator. This is because monologue is usually easier to understand than dialogue, making movies where the film contains narration a good choice.
This rule isn’t 100 percent foolproof. You will, of course, find counterexamples of movies with narration that are difficult because the narrator speaks fast or uses vocabulary that’s difficult.
And, of course, all movies with narration will also contain some parts with dialogue.
I’m not sure if there are films out there with 100 percent narration. Although if you find one, please let me know!
But the good thing about films that have narration is that you get a break from the fast-paced dialogue. And usually they will talk a bit more slowly, a bit more clearly than they do in the scenes with dialogue.
I checked out a few movies containing narration. And I’ve picked a few that I think will suit you.
My first suggestion for a movie containing narration is 2003’s Big Fish, directed by Tim Burton and starring Ewan McGregor. The film is actually based on a book of the same name.
Another tip, read the book to help you understand the movie.
It’s about a man called Will who goes to see his dying father Edward.
Will fell out with Edward because Edward tells a lot of wild stories about his life. And Will doesn’t really know his father because he doesn’t know what’s true and what’s not true as the stories are pretty unbelievable.
In the movie we see flashbacks of Edward’s life and Edward narrates these flashbacks to tell his life story.
The only thing that might be a bit tricky in this film is that Edward is from Alabama in the south of the U. S. So his accent is a bit unusual. You might not be used to it.
But, if you watch this movie and you’ll spend a lot of the movie listening to him, I’m sure that you’ll adapt and you’ll be able to understand it.
Stranger Than Fiction
One of my favorite films ever with plenty of narration is 2006’s Stranger Than Fiction, starring Will Ferrell and Emma Thompson.
I love watching Will Ferrell when he’s being silly. And I also love watching him when he’s being more serious as he is in this film.
In Stranger Than Fiction, Will Ferrell plays Harold Crick, a tax man who lives a pretty boring life, until one day he hears somebody narrating every single thing that he’s doing.
It’s pretty weird. And it gets much, much worse when he understands that this person is also narrating his upcoming death. Very worrying.
It actually turns out that this person narrating his life and eventual death is author Karen Eiffel, played by Emma Thompson. What’s good though is that Emma Thompson’s, speech, is super clear when she’s narrating Harold’s actions.
So you should have no problem understanding her. I’ve worked with students on films where Emma Thompson plays in them and sometimes she can be hard to understand. Sense and Sensibility is a good example.
But here, particularly in the narration scenes (there are also scenes where she has conversations) she’s very clear and easy to understand.
The Best Movies For English Learners: Stand By Me
Another rather famous movie containing narration is 1986’s Stand By Me, which is a coming of age movie directed by Rob Reiner and starring some big names as young kids: Will Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman and Jerry O’Connell.
The movie is actually another adaptation of a book. This time it’s a novella by Stephen King called The Body. And it’s called The Body is because Stand By Me is about four friends in the summer of 1959 going on a hike together to find the body of a local boy who has gone missing.
Gordie, played by Will Wheaton, is the narrator of the movie. But he’s narrating from his adult perspective. So they got Richard Dreyfuss to do the narration
Other Movies With Narration
If you’re looking for other movies with narration so that you can take a break from listening to dialogue all the time, there are tons.
A few that might be suitable, or might not be, as you’ll be the judge, are Days of Heaven, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, The Shawshank Redemption, Fight Club and Annie Hall.
So enjoy those movies if you try watching them and enjoy the narration as a break from the dialogue.
Best Movies For English Learners: Movies With One Character On Screen
Have you ever watched a movie where there’s only one character on the screen?
It doesn’t happen that often, but it does happen. And when movies are shot this way, it’s much easier for you as an English learner to understand them. That’s because you only have to deal with one voice, one accent, one person to concentrate on.
And often there will be less dialogue because, well, somebody on their own doesn’t talk that much. Although they do, of course, talk to themselves.
Some famous movies with only one character on screen most of the movie, include Life of Pi, The Martian, and Gravity. But perhaps the most famous movie of this one person on screen genre is 2000’s Castaway, starring Tom Hanks.
In the movie, Tom Hanks plays Chuck Noland, who works for FedEx and has to travel the world for his job.
He needs to go to Malaysia. So even though it’s Christmas, he drops everything, leaves his girlfriend and his family, and he heads off on a plane for work.
Unfortunately, the plane crashes somewhere in the South Pacific during the trip. And Chuck is the only survivor. He washes up on the shore of an uninhabited island, and he has to figure out a way to survive.
So, we see scenes where he talks to himself. The packages from the plane he was on start to wash up on the shore, and he opens them. One famously contains a volleyball from the Wilson brand. He ends up naming it Wilson and talking to it.
So you can enjoy the one-sided discussions between Chuck and his volleyball friend.
Of course, not all the scenes only contain Chuck. There are scenes at the beginning and end, with other characters. But for the most part, this film is just going to be you, Chuck, and maybe Wilson. And plenty of silence but also some one-sided dialogue as well.
Best Movies For English Learners: Short Movies
Are you short on time? Do you find movies hard to understand? Well, what if you could watch them over and over and over again until you understood them perfectly?
Well, you can if you stop watching feature films and start watching short movies instead. A short movie is any movie that has a running time of 40 minutes or less. In fact, most short movies tend to be between 5 and 25 minutes long.
I have a colleague, Alexandra, who used to run the website Visual English School and she taught through short movies. The website isn’t updated anymore but it’s still online and you can go there and look through the archives of the short movies that she recommends. She embeds them in the blog posts and then uses them to teach you various aspects of English grammar or vocabulary.
I’ve actually made a couple of videos that teach you how to understand short movies. Because they’re so short, I can take you through them line by line until you understand absolutely everything and catch all the fast speech.
One of those movies is Sockdown, which is actually a film that my cousin Mark made during the coronavirus pandemic. It’s a short horror film about people turning into sock puppets. So you can check that out. It’s only a few minutes long and I’ll help you understand the whole thing.
Another short movie that I’ve made a video about is a recommendation from Alexandra called Prime Minister’s Resignation. it’s a funny short movie about text message etiquette and how to message the American president. Or how not to message the American president!
Prime Minister’s Resignation
Best Movies For English Learners
So there you have it – the best movies for English learners.
It’s really hard to choose a best genre or best film because we’re all so different. We have different tastes and not everything is going to suit us. And motivation is a huge part of it.
But with this post, I hope to show that there are certain genres and movies that tend to be more accessible for English learners.
By the way, if you’re still struggling to understand fast paced movie dialogue, I have something for you. It’s my free guide, Understand Movies in English, and you can find the link to it below.
Otherwise, let me know in the comments, what are some movies in English that you have found a bit easier to understand and why? And which ones have you found hard?
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