Off-the-beaten-track films for fun and vocabulary

After weeks of lockdown children have worked their way through many films. That may be no bad thing depending on what they have been watching – good films can be excellent vocabulary builders. Here are suggestions for films they may not have seen yet.

Some are in languages other than English, one is in black and white, but they are all entertaining and not just for younger viewers – you’ll enjoy them too.

Harvey (1950) stars James Stewart, who spends his free time talking to his best friend – a 6-foot imaginary rabbit. Funny, clever and imaginative, making its eccentric character far more sympathetic than the apparently smart people who surround them.

The Red Balloon (1956). Actually, it’s Le Ballon Rouge because it’s a French film, though there is little need to worry about subtitles as the eponymous red balloon stands for the imagination and hope of children of all ages.

My Neighbour Totoro (1988) is just one of many from Japanese animation masters Studio Ghibli, combining beautiful images and sensitive storytelling.

Also try Spirited Away (2001) and see how 10-year-old Chihiro copes when her parents are turned into pigs by a witch.

The Optimists of Nine Elms (1973) stars Peter Sellers and Bella. The dog belonging to Sellers’ character Sam, a music hall performer whose time has come and gone, who plays beautifully against two schoolchildren who share Sam’s estrangement from society.

My Life as a Dog (1985) sees 12-year-old Ingemar come of age amongst welcoming eccentrics in a Swedish village in the late 1950s.

Spellbound (2002) might just improve your child’s spelling but is more likely to open their eyes to real-life stories on screen, as this documentary takes us into the homes of children keen to win the national spelling competition in Washington DC.

If documentaries might be a popular format try He Named me Malala (2015).

Yellow Submarine (1968) is also included in this list because we wanted to show that musicals don’t start and finish with The Greatest Showman. No one knows what this is about but here is a 90-minute music lesson featuring the greatest band ever.

If your audience enjoys musicals then try West Side Story (1961) to see how dance is more than just people dancing.

Fantastic Voyage (1966) involves American heroes reduced to the size of a microbe in order to remove a blood clot in a Russian deserter’s brain. Will they succeed and escape before a white blood cell attacks their tiny submarine?

Wadjda (2012) is notable as the first feature film to be directed by a Saudi woman and shows the story of a young girl determined to raise the money to buy a bike, telling an inspirational story with humour and emotion.

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