Do you love cinema? Or do you just want to find some topics to talk about in English? Either way this will be a fantastic lesson for you, because we’re going to look at how to have interesting conversations about film and cinema in English. We’ll look at how to talk about movies in English, and you can also learn useful English vocabulary to talk about different kinds of movies in English.
The easiest way to start talking about films is to ask:
What’s your favourite film?
I can tell you about myself. My favourite film is ‘Apocalypse Now’. If you were talking to me, you could follow this question by asking
Why do you like it?
For me, I like this film because it has an interesting plot. It also has great cinematography and some amazing performances.
Plot is another word for story. Cinematography refers to the imagery of the film—how it looks and how it was shot. ‘Apocalypse Now’ has great cinematography because it has many beautiful, shocking and memorable scenes, which I’ll always remember.
Performance means how an actor acts. You can say things like:
Edward Norton’s performance in Fight Club was surely one of the best of his career.
Steven Spielberg always gets good performances out of his actors.
What else can I say about this film?
If you haven’t seen it, or you don’t know what it is, I could give you some more basic information, such as:
It’s a war film.
It’s set in Vietnam during the war.
It was directed by Francis Ford Coppola.
It’s based on a book by Joseph Conrad.
What about your favourite film? You could use these sentences to talk about it:
It’s a ________ film.
It’s set in _________.
It was directed by ________.
It’s based on ________.
What else can you say about your favourite film? Can you make one or two sentences to explain why you like it? Pause the video and practice if you want.
Next, do you know what the word for a style of film is? We use the word genre. It’s pronounced with a /ʒ/ sound which sounds like the ‘s’ in television. You can also talk about types of film or kinds of film. The meaning is the same.
What genres of film do you like or dislike? Next, you’re going to learn how to talk about different types of film in more detail.
Shall we begin with some feel-good films?
2. Feel-Good Movies: Comedies, Musicals and Animations
This is Charlie Chaplain, one of the first producers of comedy films.
His style is called slapstick and this means that silly things happen to him, like slipping on a banana. Slapstick is usually simple, physical comedy.
Some other famous comedies are ‘Ace Ventura: Pet Detective’, ‘The Hangover’ or ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’.
These are different types of comedy. ‘The Hangover’ is more of a gross-out comedy. Its jokes are based on disgusting ideas or images. ‘Monty Python’ is a famous surreal comedy. It’s surreal because its humour is based on strange situations and weird jokes.
If you laughed or enjoyed the film you would say the film is funny or amusing. If you laughed a lot you could say something like:
‘The Hangover’ was hilarious.
You could also describe how much you laughed – for example:
When was the last time you saw a moving film. Was it a romance or perhaps a drama?
Often, romance films follow a simple structure: boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl.
What language can we use to describe these types of films?
If it made you cry you can say that it brought you to tears or that you cried all the way through:
‘Titanic’ was a moving film; it brought me to tears.
I cried all the way through ‘Titanic’; romantic films always make me emotional.
We can also talk about the chemistry between the two characters. This means that you can feel the passion between the two main actors.
There was so much chemistry between Leonardo Dicaprio and Kate Winslet.
‘Titanic’ is also an example of a drama. A drama is a film where the characters are realistic. The story focuses on their relationships and problems. Some other famous examples of dramas are ‘The Godfather’ or ‘The Shawshank Redemption’.
Drama is a very broad genre. Dramas can be positive and uplifting like ‘The Shawshank Redemption’, which has a happy, optimistic message, but some dramas can be dark and bleak, like ‘Twelve Years a Slave’, which deals with more unpleasant, negative themes.
Maybe the film really made you think about life. Sometimes the film has an open ending. In these cases you would say that the film was thought-provoking or you could say that it left you thinking.
‘The Shawshank Redemption’ left me thinking.
‘Citizen Kane’ was thought-provoking.
Some dramas are based on true stories or real historical events. For example, ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ is a historical drama about real people and events. Have you seen it? It’s nearly four hours long!
This makes it an epic. Epics are films which have very big, broad stories. Epics often have many different characters and sub-plots.
Do you remember what plot means? Then you should be able to guess the meaning of sub-plot. A sub-plot is a mini-story, maybe involving minor characters. For example, the main plot of a film might be about the hero’s battle against evil, while there could be a sub-plot about his/her love interest.
Epic films often have many sub-plots, which can make them very long. Most epics are over two hours long.
Some other famous epics are ‘Ben Hur’, ‘Braveheart’ or ‘Gangs of New York’. Epics are usually big-budget films: they cost a lot to make.
The budget for ‘Ben Hur’ must have been huge.
Some epics, like ‘Braveheart’, contain a lot of exciting action scenes.
This brings us to…
4. Exciting Movies: Horror, Sci-Fi and Action
Some films try to scare you: these are horror films.
Who is this?
For most people it’s Frankenstein but technically it is Frankenstein’s monster.
There are many other scary films such as ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’, ‘The Exorcist’ or ‘Jaws’. Some people don’t watch horrors at all because it gives them nightmares. Do you watch them?
Good horror films should be terrifying or even petrifying. Petrifying means that something is so scary that you can’t even move.
‘The Ring’ was petrifying. I was too scared even to go upstairs by myself after I saw it.
You can also say that the film will give you nightmares.
‘Jaws’ is a terrifying film; it really gave me nightmares.
Some horror films use a lot of violence and blood to scare you, but others depend on atmosphere. These horror films are spooky or creepy. They scare you by creating a sense of the unknown.
The Blair Witch Project was so spooky. I couldn’t sleep for a week!
What about this famous horror film?
This is an alien from the film ‘Alien’. This film is a horror film, but it’s also sci-fi.
Do you know what sci-fi stands for? It stands for science fiction.
Sci-fi films show us futuristic scenarios, often with advanced technology like teleporters or faster-than-light travel. Many sci-fi films are set on other planets, or even in outer space. For example, ‘Alien’ was set on a spaceship.
This means that sci-fi films often use a lot of special effects.
The special effects in the original Star Wars were very advanced for when it was made.
Special effects can be created using models or computer graphics. Special effects which are made using computers are often called CGI—computer-generated imagery.
When a film uses too much CGI, it stops being believable.
Have you seen ‘The Matrix’? This film was famous for its CGI. It used a lot of techniques that hadn’t really been used before.
‘The Matrix’ is another film which fits into two genres: it’s sci-fi, but it’s also an action film.
Action films are typically full of fights, guns, car chases and explosions. This looks like a scene from an action film:
‘James Bond’, ‘Indiana Jones’ and ‘The Matrix’ are examples of action films.
Quite often these films have stunts in them. For example, the hero might have to jump out of a moving car, or fight someone on the roof of a moving train.
Which do you prefer: films with real stunts, or CGI? Probably real stunts, right?
However, action films aren’t the only exciting film genre…
5. Mysterious Films: Thrillers and Crime
Some films really hold your attention all the way through. You don’t know what’s going to happen, and this can make you feel excited or nervous.
These films are thrillers. ‘The Usual Suspects’ is an example of a thriller. Director Alfred Hitchcock is famous for his thrillers, including the classic film ‘Psycho’.
Thrillers are suspenseful—they make you feel excited or nervous because you aren’t sure what will happen next. In a good thriller, the suspense will keep you on the edge of your seat.
‘The Silence of the Lambs’ kept me on the edge of my seat all the way through.
A good thriller is also gripping. You can’t stop watching because you want to see what’s going to happen.
‘The Usual Suspects’ is a gripping film with a brilliant twist.
What’s a twist? Many thrillers have a twist—a very surprising change of direction.
A good twist is unpredictable. For example, you could say:
I really didn’t see the twist coming in ‘Memento’.
For a bad thriller, you might say,
I saw the twist coming a mile away. Boring!
Many thrillers and exciting films are also crime films. Crime films can be detective stories, where detectives try to solve a mystery, or they can be stories about criminals.
Like thrillers, crime films should be gripping and suspenseful.
Many crime films are also quite violent. If a film has a lot of violence, you can describe it as brutal.
‘Scarface’ has some pretty brutal scenes.
If a film is so violent that it’s difficult to watch, you might describe it as gruesome.
I couldn’t get to the end of ‘Reservoir Dogs’. It was just too gruesome.
The best crime films need a good villain. The villain is the opposite of the hero. The villain in a crime film is often the number one criminal, the bad guy.
‘No Country for Old Men’ surely has one of the best villains of any film.
However, sometimes the bad guy is the hero of the film. In this case, you can describe the main character as an antihero.
In a good crime film, you’ll sympathize with the antihero, even though they’re a criminal.
Leon is a great film. Even though he’s a professional killer, you see his human side.
So now you should be able to talk about films you like and discuss many different kinds of film in English.
There’s a lot of vocabulary in this lesson. Can you remember some of the new words you’ve heard? For example, what does bleak mean? What kind of film can be described as hilarious? What does a suspenseful film do to you?
Don’t worry if you can’t remember everything! You can always watch the video again to review the vocabulary. You can also read the full script on our website. There’s also a quiz, so you can test your film vocabulary!
That’s all from me. What’s your favourite film? What film genres do you like/dislike, and why? You can let us know in the comments on YouTube.
Thanks for watching!
Talking About Films Quiz
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I thought the open ending was quite ________.
I couldn't watch it; it was just too scary. Even the first ten minutes were totally ________.
It's a drama, ________ in France in the 19th century.
The special effects were terrible! They used a lot of ________ and it really didn't look good.
Question 4 Explanation:
CGI = computer-generated imagery
It had a great story. I really didn't see the ________ coming.
The ________ in the dance scenes was so elegant.
She won several awards for her ________ in 'Blue Jasmine'.
It was _________! I've never laughed so much in my life!
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