De Laura McWilliams , Responsable académique, British Council

23 novembre 2021 - 10:24

Apprendre l'anglais avec des films de noël

Joshua Herrera (unsplash)

Last December I blogged about Christmas traditions in the UK and mentioned my family’s favourite Christmas movie “The Snowman”, but there was one problem: because there is no speaking in it, it didn’t help your English! Several people asked for some more film recommendations that are both fun and useful, so here you go: five film recommendations as my Christmas present to you!

1. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) - (La vie est belle)

The holiday classic to define all holiday classics, this film is the top “Christmas movie” on review site I watch this one almost every year. 

At first, this movie might not seem like a heart-warming Christmas feel-good movie. The lead character, George Bailey, has given up on his dreams, is severely depressed, and thinking about suicide on Christmas Eve. Doesn’t that sound cheerful? 

His guardian angel then appears to show him what would have happened if he had never been born – the beautiful small town instead becomes a crime-ridden nightmare, his younger brother has died in a childhood accident that George would have prevented, and his wife is unhappy and alone.

I won’t spoil the ending, other than to say if you don’t cry, you have no heart and we can’t be friends anymore.

Watch this if… …you love being emotionally destroyed by fictional characters.
Develop your English by… …thinking about all the advanced conditional sentences the alternative timeline means you need to use! For more help with conditionals, check out this page on our website.

2. Die Hard (1988)

Not everyone likes to get sentimental at Christmas, so if you prefer something more adrenalin-packed with thrills, spills, gun-toting heroes and sinister bad guys, I have the ultimate movie for you: Die Hard. This is the best holiday action film available. 

Die Hard stars major movie star Bruce Willis as a New York policeman who, while visiting Los Angeles to spend Christmas with his estranged wife and their children, gets involved in what seems like a terrorist plot to take over the giant skyscraper where she works.

However, Alan Rickman steals the show as the charismatic villain “Hans Gruber” whose Machiavellian plots and ruthless violence routinely win him a top spot on lists of the greatest movie villains of all time.

As a bonus, there’s a sequel: Die Hard 2, also set at Christmas!

Watch this if… …you like your Christmas to go with a bang! (from all the C4).
Develop your English by… …learning some new swear words. (This is not one to watch with the younger children!)

3. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1967) and (2000) or The Grinch (2018)

Maybe I’m cheating giving you three options – but it’s like mince pies: one is never enough!

Dr. Seuss, the children’s author, was known for his creative use of language, and his mean green Christmas-hating creature, “The Grinch”, has become a byword for someone who likes to spoil the pleasure of others. We don’t know how he invented the name, but perhaps it’s related to the French word “grincheux”? The character is so “grincheux” that he lives alone in a cave, from where he decides to ruin Christmas for his Whoville neighbours by posing as Santa Claus and stealing presents. Oh no!

The book has inspired three versions of the movie. The 1967 version is charming, the 2018 version has fabulous CGI, and the 2000 live action version has the wacky antics of lead actor Jim Carrey – you can’t go wrong, whichever one you pick!

Watch this if… …you want to snuggle up on the sofa and watch a movie with your kids that will leave you all with hearts full of Christmas cheer.
Develop your English by… …using your voice as expressively as Jim Carrey and Benedict Cumberbatch. Listen carefully and repeat their lines mimicking their emphasis and intonation patterns.

4. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) (L'étrange noël de Monsieur Jack)

Maybe this is more a Halloween movie than a Christmas one, but I love it so much it’s on my list anyway. This animated film, in the iconic visual style of Tim Burton, follows the story of Jack Skellington, the king of Halloweentown, who becomes disenchanted with his annual routine and then accidentally finds a magical door to “Christmas Town”. He falls in love with the holiday, even though he doesn’t really fully understand it. This leads to chaos as he gets his townspeople to try and take over the celebrations with disastrous results!

Plus there’s plenty of catchy songs – you will be humming the tune “This is Halloween” until at least New Year!

Watch this if…

…you like your movies a little more quirky and unusual – but still love a happy ending.

Develop your English by… …singing along. Singing in a foreign language is great for improving your pronunciation. If you love to sing, you can also check out more Christmas songs in this blog.

5. Scrooged (1988) (Fantômes en fêtes)

Often called a “cult classic”, this movie’s black humour might not be for everyone, but I find it the perfect antidote to too much forced Christmas jollity. 

I’m sure you all know the famous Charles Dickens story “A Christmas Carol” (Un chant de noël)? This is a modern retelling, with Bill Murray playing the title role of Scrooge, a successful television executive with extreme ambition and a prickly temper (you might say he’s a bit of “a grinch”! ). 

Following the plot of the original book, having pushed away the love of his he is visited on Christmas Eve by a series of ghosts who help him to look at his life in a different way, and give him the chance to change his future.

Watch this if… …you like Charles Dickens’ fabulous stories, but recognise you need to listen to some English that is a bit more up-to-date.
Develop your English by… …picking up lots of new vocabulary about television and the media. Then use that new language to write a film review. The best way to remember new words is to try and use them straight away!

Have you already watched any of these movies? Do you have any others we should add to the list? Do let us know!

Biographie de l'auteur

Laura McWilliams

Responsable académique, British Council

Laura a été la responsable académique des cours d'anglais pour les secondaires au British Council France de 2017 à 2022. Elle gère aujourd'hui l'ensemble des programmes pour les enfants pour le British Council à travers l'Égypte, le Soudan et la Jordanie - mais son amour permanent pour la France fait qu'elle revient toujours bloguer pour nous !

Elle détient le  CELTA, du CELTYL, du DELTA ainsi que de la qualification de l'ELT management, et elle forme au TYLEC et DELTA. 

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