7 Great American Movies to Reinforce Vocabulary

7 Great American Movies to Reinforce Vocabulary

Everyone loves popcorn and snacks movies!

If you are having trouble getting students to practice at home, or if they need to study before an exam and have trouble memorizing their vocabulary, have them watch movies in English with subtitles (or vice versa) to reinforce word lists! It is almost as good as reading a book, and they will probably actually complete the assignments. Here are 3 vocabulary activities and 7 movie suggestions to which to correlate them.

Showing a Scene in Class with the Transcript

  • Go to a site that has movie scripts, like http://www.moviescriptsandscreenplays.com/.
  • Download the script of the movie suggested, or of one that you know your students will like.
  • Search the transcript for a part with vocabulary you want to reinforce. For example, if you want to use Finding Nemo to reinforce ocean and sea life concepts and words, look for a section heavy with “fish”, “waves”, or other words on your list.
  • Show the scene in class, and ask students to write down as many words related to the ocean that they can hear in the film.
  • Give students the transcripts and have them circle all of the sea life words, then have them compare the lists they had generated while watching.

Using the Movie as a Visual Stimulant

  • Pick out a movie with high visual stimulation for the vocabulary concept you wish to teach. Animated movies are great for this, like again, Finding Nemo, or Rio, or Avatar. It could also be a movie scene in a particular setting, like a sports field.
  • Prepare a vocabulary sheet based on things they can see in the scene. For example, if you want to reinforce restaurant vocabulary, show the scene in the diner from When Harry Met Sally and include plates, table, booth, counter, soda fountain, door, etc. on your vocabulary sheet. Ask students to describe what those elements look like in the movie scene.

Subtitle Search

  • If you have the time, or if they will invest two hours at home, have them pick a movie that they can access from a list. Tell them to watch the movie in English with English subtitles.
  • To make sure they read and pay attention, ask them to write down a set number of vocabulary words from different class concepts you are learning, like 30 “dialogue words”, “clothing”, or “directions”.
  • This can make a great exam as well and you can even incorporate grammatical concepts for more advanced students, such as 10 examples of conditional clauses!

7 Movie Suggestions

  1. 1

    Finding Nemo

    This movie is visually stunning and fun to watch. Animate movies aimed at kids for their primary audience do not use complicated vocabulary, either, so they are great for beginners. You can use this movie to reinforce sea life vocabulary or just basic dialogue skills, like “How are you?”

  2. 2


    This is a visually fantastic film that you can use to practice basic concepts of pets, birds, parades, or parks.

  3. 3


    Another eye-friendly film great for forest, wildlife, or military vocabulary.

  4. 4

    When Harry Met Sally

    This classic Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal film has great scenes on city streets, diners, and museums. The witty dialogue makes for a comical transcript lesson as well.

  5. 5

    The Godfather

    This movie has visually stunning scenes and is interesting to watch. Use Michael Corleone’s trip to Italy with subtitles in English to hunt for words about family and weddings, or use the famous restaurant scene for a vocabulary background description activity.

  6. 6


    Show a scene from the beach in Miami, the club, or a hotel for a vocabulary scene search, or use a transcript to search for words related to money.

  7. 7

    Forrest Gump

    Any number of scenes are great for a transcript activity. Use a scene of Forrest playing football at the university to reinforce sports vocabulary, for example.

Almost any movie has the potential to become a teaching tool applying one of these three activities!

These are just some suggested movies to help you begin to integrate movie media into language learning, with the end goal of helping your students practice with better results by hearing, seeing, and reading at the same time.

Like it? Tell your friends: