In April 2020, stuck at home and looking for a way to continue teaching despite the lockdowns, I emailed some students with the idea of creating a Movie Club.
My initial idea was to do it for just a month. But it went so well, and new people kept joining. So here we are three years later having watched and discussed over twenty-five movies.
As you can imagine, over the years, there have been some memorable moments. In “Movie Club” my students are the stars of the show. It’s their energy, enthusiasm and observations about the movies we watch, that make the club a special place to build confidence in your listening and speaking skills through film.
So in no particular order, here are the top five moments from the last three years in the club.
1. Having Watch Parties Together
In the autumn of 2020, after the club has been running for a few months, we added a new element – watch parties.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, I read a blog post called 7 Ways To Stay Connected To Friends While “Social Distancing”. One of the suggestions on the list was to have a watch party.
The idea is simple: you and a group of friends all agree to watch the same movie together, but apart. So you each watch on your device at home, and then you text each other about it.
I suggested we try it in the club, and the members were motivated.
The parties created a deeper sense of connection as we reacted in real time to what was happening on screen. They also let club members ask me and the others questions during the film about new words and expressions or cultural elements that surprised them. Popcorn optional, fun guaranteed!
2. Discovering British Christmas Culture (& More) Through Film
Movies can be a fantastic gateway into the culture of a new country.
As a British person, I’ve learned a lot about the USA from watching American movies and TV shows. In one of our 2023 films, The Mule, we discovered the work of the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) and the US justice system.
When you watch a movie by yourself, you might not understand the aspects of the culture that you see on screen.
That’s why watching movies together is so wonderful – you can share what you noticed and ask about it.
The example here, British rom-com “Love Actually”, gives great insights into the different aspects of a classic British Christmas such as Christmas parties, carols, cards, decorations and more.
3. CF’s Reaction To “Inside Llewyn Davis”
Some club members participate a lot in our WhatsApp group, while others are a little quieter. And that’s absolutely fine. Movie Club member CF was in the quiet camp.
Well, at least he was until we watched “Inside Llewyn Davis” as part of our movies by the Coen Brothers theme in 2022. The Coen Brothers are the directors (and sometimes writers) behind iconic movies such as “Fargo”, “The Big Lebowski” and “No Country For Old Men”.
“Inside Llewyn Davis” is a movie they made in 2013 about a folk singer, Llewyn Davis, who is struggling to make an impact in the New York folk scene in the 60s. In fact, Llewyn’s life is a bit of a mess and he’s trying to figure out whether to stick with music, or go back to the merchant navy.
We watch as Llewyn struggles to get by, relying on help from friends and strangers, but also getting into more and more difficult situations.
As CF describes, the film is really good at putting you in Llewyn’s shoes and making you feel what he’s feeling.
4. Reactions To Behind-The-Scenes Material: Movie Reviews, Actor Interviews etc
In the week 1 movie club document, I send not only a list of discussion questions about the movie, but also a list of “behind-the-scenes resources” such as the trailer, the IMDb page, movie reviews, interviews with the actors/director etc.
When I first started doing this, I just considered it best practice. If you want to learn English with Netflix, it helps to familiarise yourself with the movie before you watch it, by watching the trailer or reading a short plot summary.
Also, this is something we do this in our native language when we want to know more about a film.
But it turned out that these “behind-the-scenes” resources are one of my students’ favourite aspects of the “Movie Club”.
Of course, these resources help them prepare to watch the movie or to check if they understood it after.
More than that though, these extra resources are the chance to discover more about the movie, such as:
- how it was filmed
- the inspiration behind it
- crazy stories from the set
And of course, the behind-the-scenes resources are another chance to immerse yourself in authentic English.
These resources have also helped me as I’m a listening skills specialist, not a film school graduate or film critic.
Thanks to searching for material for my students, I’ve discovered a whole world of movie bloggers and movie YouTubers who help the club members and I understand more about the films we watch – about their deeper messages and hidden meanings.
And that gives us even more to talk about together!
5. Discovering & Loving Films You Wouldn’t Normally Watch, Like “Robocop”
When you join “Movie Club” you need to have an open mind. Why? Because you’ll watch a variety of different movies and some might not be ones you usually watch.
This was the case when we watched a series of movies set in Detroit. One of those films was “Robocop” a 1987 sci-fi action movie by Paul Verhoeven, a director known for making violent movies.
Before seeing this film, I just thought it was a stupid action movie. But, as one person put it in the comments under a clip on YouTube, it’s the greatest movie ever made about what it means to be a human.
And it certainly surprised some of the club members, who started off a little horrified, but quickly realised what a brilliant movie it is, with so many deep messages and themes to discuss.
Join Us For More Amazing Movie Club Moments
“Movie Club” is a supportive and friendly community of movie lovers where you can learn and practice your English in a safe space. The club opens for enrolment three times a year. The next round, May to July, will open in April to new members. Find out more and join us.