Films/Movies (they mean the same thing) and TV shows are an easy, good and interesting way to help your English. But you have to choose the right type of film to watch and know how to watch them if you want to improve your English from them.

In this article, I'll first explain in what ways movies can improve your English and tell you the best way to watch them to do this. I'll then tell you how to decide what movie, film or TV show to watch. At the end, there is a link to a list of films which are both interesting and good for improving your English.

Movies are not good for listening

Watching movies or TV shows is not the best method for improving your listening in English. It is easy when watching a movie in English to get distracted by the moving images, stop listening and start to invent your own story from what you are seeing. Which is not good for either improving your English or enjoying the movie.

If you want to improve your listening skills in English, there are better ways to do it than by watching movies. Listening to the radio or podcasts in English is a lot better for this.

Watch a movie like you read a book

The best way to improve your English from movies is by using subtitles (in English of course). With subtitles you'll understand better what is happening in the movie and they help you to both understand and improve your English vocabulary and grammar.

Movies are like reading a book but with moving images. It is easier to understand what an expression or a word means in English in a movie than in a book, because you can see the situation with your eyes.

If you don't understand what a word or expression means, pause the movie and watch the part again or look the word/expression up in a dictionary. You can also makes notes (on your mobile phone or on a piece of paper) of the new vocabulary you see and learn.

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 my 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.

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.

What movies/TV shows you shouldn't watch

Movies and TV shows where people talk very quickly (e.g. Woody Allen movies) or where the story is very complex (e.g. Inception or The social network) 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.

My recommended movies for you to watch

I've created a list of movies which I have used with my own students and has helped them to improve their English.

To see the list of the films that I recommend you to watch, click on the link below:

The 20 best movies to improve your English

In addition, if you want to learn the English vocabulary to talk about and describe movies and TV shows, try the below vocabulary exercises on blair english:

Vocabulary for Describing Films/Movies

How to Describe a TV Program/Show Vocabulary