Watching films is one of the best ways to learn English, not only because they’re full of interesting vocabulary, idioms and accents but it’s also fun! Since English-speaking films are available almost everywhere (or at least with subtitles) your choice of resources are endless. There really is something for everyone, despite your taste. If you want to learn English fast, watching films in your spare time is one of the most effective ways to dive into the language, without being too tiring after a long day.
What better way to start learning a language than by watching a King do it? This film is about King George VI (Colin Firth), who famously had speech training to correct his stutter. This film includes a few swear words, so perhaps it’s not the best choice for children, but his accent is perfectly classic and his speech trainer does have some useful advice for anyone who wants to learn British English.
An oldie but a goodie, My Fair Lady is a musical about a snobby phonetics professor (Rex Harrison) who decides to train a flower girl (Audrey Hepburn) to speak ‘proper’ English so she can mingle with high society. Expect lots of singing, idioms and hilarious accents. This one also has some good speech techniques using candles!
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1964 was a good year for films! I’m sure you’ve heard of Mary Poppins – it’s a very popular children’s story about a nanny (Julie Andrews) with seemingly magical powers. This film features scenes in both cartoon and in film so is great for all the family. However, we recommend you do not use Bert’s character as accent inspiration as Dick Van Dyke is now infamous for his terrible British accent…
A classic Sunday afternoon film, full of quotes which you’ll often find people saying after a few pints of beer. The Italian Job is a witty and comical gangster film featuring the wonderful Michael Cane. Don’t be put-off by the title, you will learn British English!
Who doesn’t love Hugh Grant? Gloriously nineties and ever so cute, Notting Hill is a romantic-comedy about a bookshop owner (Hugh Grant) whose life is thrown upside-down after a famous American actress (Julia Roberts) steps foot in his shop. Naturally, as Notting Hill is a very romantic area, an affair begins to blossom. This film is especially good for hearing the difference between British English and American English whilst being pretty easy to keep up with if your listening skills still need practice.
This one is definitely an oldie, so old in fact that it’s silent, so maybe it’s not the best if you need listening practice! It is perfect for reading practice, especially if you’re interested in old-time phrases, idioms and music. Charlie Chaplin plays a tramp who falls in love with a blind flower girl does his best to help her financially. It’s very sweet, very romantic and quite slow-paced compared to more recent films, but perfect if you want to relax and swoon a little bit.
Based in Cambridge, England, this film is about the life of Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) – world-renowned physicist and cosmologist. Aside from being a beautifully-shot film, The Theory of Everything is understandably emotional and inspiring and makes you want to read more of Stephen’s work. Oxford and Cambridge are beautiful cities, and you’ll definitely want to visit after watching this. Warning: some of the language is too scientific and specific even for us native English speakers!
Another film which is not the best for children, but certainly worth watching anyway is This is England. This story is set in the 1980s and follows the story of a young boy (Thomas Turgoose) who lost his father in the Falklands war and finds friendship and respect amidst a group of skinheads. There’s plenty of history, British slang, idioms and accents for you to enjoy with this one, and a great insight to working class British culture.
We couldn’t have a list of best British films for learning English without mentioning James Bond! Diamonds are Forever is another classic, with plenty of elegance and wit to entertain almost everyone. There are many James Bond films to choose from, and they seem to be working on another one now so just be warned, you may fall into a 007 hole when you start this one! On the plus side, James Bond films are always quite international, so there’s a range of cultures and non-native speakers speaking English alongside James (Sean Connery) and his perfectly quaint English accent, which is good practice in itself.
We can’t forget about Alfred Hitchcock, so here is one of his classic Thrillers to end the list. If you like foggy London scenes, spy stories and painfully British accents, then The 39 Steps is for you. Hitchcock films are appreciated worldwide for their craft, so be sure to take note of that alongside the talented actors and beautiful cinematography.
We’d love to hear if you watched any of these films and what you thought of them!