Introduction:

Films or movies are popular all over the world. As a consequence, they are a very common topic of conversation. So it's important to know how to describe how, where, when a film was made, who the actors in a film are and what the story of the film is. In English, there is specific vocabulary which is used to do this.

In this online exercise on films/movies, we will look at the English vocabulary for describing films or movies. The focus here is on the vocabulary for talking about the different parts and roles in a film and other film related vocabulary. Most of this vocabulary can also be used for describing TV programmes or theatre plays.


Exercise: Describing a film

In the following text, Simon and Rebecca are talking about and giving their opinions about the film 'Saving Private Ryan'.

From the context, try to guess what the meaning of the words/phrases in bold are. Then do the quiz at the end to check if you are right.

Rebecca:'One of my favourite films is Saving Private Ryan. I know it's a war film, but I love it.'

Simon:'It's a classic. It's got a brilliant cast, there are so many excellent actors in it like Matt Damon, Vin Diesel etc... And of course, there is Tom Hanks as the main character Captain Miller. It's one of his best films.'

Rebecca:'Plus there are some very good cameo roles. The famous actor Ted Dansen is in the film for about 3 minutes. It's a shame that he wasn't in the film for longer. Also, do you know that although the film is set in France during the D-Day invasion, it was actually filmed in the south of England?'

Simon:'Yeah, I read it somewhere. I think it was one of the best films directed by Steven Spielberg. I love the opening scene when they are landing on the beach on D-Day. That scene has some of the best twenty minutes of action in the whole history of cinema for me. The special effects are excellent, with the explosions and the people being blown up. It looks so real.'

Rebecca:'It's an excellent scene, I always remember the stunt of the men on fire. But for me, I like the scene when the men are walking in the countryside and talking about why they have to save Private Ryan. The dialogue is excellent, I can imagine that I would say that if I were in a similar situation.'

Simon:'The film has an excellent plot. How they have to go and save a soldier whose 3 brothers have all died fighting and how they have to go behind enemy lines to do it.'

Rebecca:'I think it's a real story, although they probably changed some things. To be honest, I can't remember the film's score. Can you remember the music in the film?'

Simon:'Not really. I think there was some music with trumpets at the beginning in the graveyard. But apart from that, I only remember the Edith Piaf song at the end. But that's not part of the score. Did I tell you that when the film came out in 1998, I was living in Madrid? So, the first time I saw it, it was dubbed into Spanish. I didn't speak much Spanish then, so I didn't understand a lot. It's a shame that it didn't have subtitles, so I could have read the dialogue.'

Rebecca:'Dubbed films are strange. The voices are always very different to the original voices of the actors. Oh, by the way, have you seen the TV series Band of Brothers?'

Simon:'No I haven't.'

Rebecca:'Well, it's very similar to Saving Private Ryan. It's set during the second world war and it follows a group of American soldiers. It stars a lot of unknown young actors as the soldiers.'

Simon:'I'll have to watch the series.'



Quiz: Vocabulary for describing films/movies

Below is a definition or description of each of the 16 words/phrases in bold from the above text. Now fill in the blanks with one of these words/phrases in bold. Only use one word/phrase once and write it as it is written in the text. Click on the "Check answers" button at the bottom of the quiz to check your answers.

When the answer is correct, two icons will appear next to the question. The first is an Additional Information Icon "". Click on this for extra information on the word/phrase and for a translation. The second is a Pronunciation Icon "". Click on this to listen to the pronunciation of the word/phrase and to do a pronunciation speaking test.

When you successfully complete the quiz, you can download a free vocabulary sheet that explains how to use this vocabulary to talk about movies. To get the vocabulary sheet, click on the download button at the end of the quiz.

1. The words/lines that actors say in a film, are called    

         

Dialogue:
(noun) 'Dialogue', is the name for the words or lines that actors use in films, TV programmes or plays. Normally, this noun is used when people are giving their opinion if what the actors said in a film was good or bad, e.g. 'the dialogue in Star Wars was terrible, no one would ever speak like that'. In Spanish: "diálogo".

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Dialogue:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
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2. The music in a film, is called the    

         

Score:
(noun) A film's 'score' is the instrumental music (without lyrics or words) which is used to add emotion to different scenes in a film. This music is normally written especially for the film. The 'score' is different to a film's 'soundtrack'. The 'soundtrack' is normally a collection of individual songs that are used on a film (e.g. a song from Coldplay or something from Mozart). The difference between the two is a little confusing. In Spanish: "banda sonora".

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Score:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
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3. A verb that is used to say which actors/actresses are in a film, is    

         

Stars:
(verb) The infinitive is 'to star'. This verb is used to say who is acting in a film, TV programme or play. In general, the names of the main actors normally follow this verb, e.g. 'The film stars Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie'. 'Star' is also used as a noun to mean the best actor/actress in a film, e.g. 'for me, the star of the film was Anthony Hopkins'. In Spanish: "protagonizar".

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Stars:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
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4. The most important role/character in a film, is called the    

         

Main character:
(noun) The 'main character' is the person who the film is both about and who has the most dialogue/lines. This is used for films, TV programmes or plays. For example, in the film 'Malcolm X' by Spike Lee, Denzil Washington plays the main character Malcolm X. It can also be used in the plural 'main characters', which means the most important roles in a film. In Spanish: "papel principal".

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Main character:

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5. When the voices of the actors in a film are replaced by those of other people, it is    

         

Dubbed:
(verb) The infinitive is 'to dub'. This is very common in countries where a film or TV programme is in a different language to their own language. Sometimes, the voices of actors are even 'replaced' or 'dubbed' even if the original film or TV programme is in the same language. In Spanish: "doblar".

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Dubbed:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
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6. A verb that says where the story of a film is located/based, is    

         

Set:
(verb) The infinitive is 'to set'. This not only means where a film, TV programme or play is located in the story, but also when it takes place, e.g. 'the film is set in the 1920's in Chicago'. This verb is generally used in the present passive simple, i.e. 'is set'. In Spanish: "está ambientada".

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Set:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
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7. An individual part of a film, is often called a    

         

Scene:
(noun) This means a part of a film, TV programme or play which is set in one location for a number of minutes. For example, in the film 'Casablanca', the most famous scene is where Humphrey Bogart is at the airport with Ingrid Bergman. In Spanish: "escena".

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Scene:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
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8. When the dialogue is written on the screen, the film has    

         

Subtitles:
(noun) 'Subtitles' are the words or lines that the actors say in a film or TV programme which are displayed on the screen. It can also be used as a verb 'to subtitle'. When using this verb to describe a film, it is normal to use the passive form, e.g. 'the film is subtitled'. In Spanish: "subtítulos".

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Subtitles:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
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9. A verb that says who the main person who made a film is, is   

         

Directed:
(verb) The infinitive is 'to direct'. It means the main person who is responsible for creating and filming a film or TV programme. The noun is 'director'. Although there are other people involved in the production of a film (like the producer), the 'director' is the most important. When describing a film, it is common to use the verb in the passive and for it to be followed by the preposition 'by' and the name of the director, e.g. 'psycho was directed by Alfred Hitchcock'. In Spanish: "dirigir".

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Directed:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
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10. A noun that means all the actors in a film, is    

         

Cast:
(noun) 'Cast' is the collective noun used to refer to all the actors that are involved in a film, TV programme or play. The people who make a film (who do the filming, editing, production etc...) but don't act, are called the 'crew'. In Spanish: "reparto".

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Cast:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
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11. A part of a film which isn't normally done by an actor because it is too dangerous, is called a    

         

Stunt:
(noun) 'Stunts' are action sequences in films or TV programmes which look dangerous, e.g. car chases, jumping from tall building etc... Normally, the actors don't do/perform these 'stunts'. These are normally done by professional 'stuntmen' who are trained to do these types of things in films. In Spanish: "escenas peligrosas".

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Stunt:

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12. The basic story of a film, is called the    

         

Plot:
(noun) The 'plot' is the basic story or summary of a film, TV programme or play. For example, the basic 'plot' of Star Wars is that after his aunt and uncle are killed, Luke Skywalker finds out that he's a Jedi. He then goes to destroy the evil empire that killed them. With the help of some other people he manages to destroy the empire's death star spaceship'. In Spanish: "trama".

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Plot:

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13. A verb that means when a film was first shown in the cinema, is    

         

Came out:
(phrasal verb) The infinitive is 'to come out'. This phrasal verb has many different meanings. In the context of films, it means when a film was originally 'released' or 'first shown in cinemas', e.g. 'Star Wars came out in 1977' or 'his new film is coming out next week'. This is a Type 1 Phrasal Verb (intransitive and inseparable with one particle). In Spanish: "estrenarse".

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Came out:

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14. A verb that is used to say where a film was actually made, is    

         

Filmed:
(verb) The infinitive is 'to film'. This means the place(s) where a film or TV programme was recorded or made. Often a film or TV programme is filmed in a different place or even county to where the story is set. For example, the TV comedy series Seinfeld was set in New York, but it was actually filmed in Los Angeles . It is normally used in the passive (is/was set) and followed by the preposition 'in'. In Spanish: "rodar".

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Filmed:

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15. Computer generated images in a film, is a type of    

         

Special effects:
(noun) 'Special effects' are the unreal or artificial images or sounds that are used in films and TV programmes to convince the audience that something is really happening when it actually isn't. 'Special effects' are used to show somebody fly in the air or space like superman, or a walking dinosaur. Nowadays, a lot of special effects are done by computers, but they are still also done by other methods. In Spanish: "efectos especiales".

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Special effects:

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16. When famous actors/actresses are in a film for a very short time, they are called    

         

Cameo roles:
(noun) This is when a well-known or famous actor or actress appears/acts in a film for a few minutes. For example, the very famous actor George Clooney had a 'cameo role' in the film 'The Thin Red Line'. Famous actors doing 'cameo roles' are common in the films of certain directors. In Spanish: "papel de estrella invitada".

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Cameo roles:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
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To learn more vocabulary on movies/films, do the exercise on 'movie genres type/name vocabulary'.



Vocabulary list PDF download

When you successfully complete the above quiz press the below button to download a PDF which explains how to use the above vocabulary to talk about movies. You won't be able to download it until you have completed the quiz.


Practice

Now that you understand the new describing films and movies vocabulary, practise it by creating your own sentences in English with the new words/phrases.