Why these movies?

If you’ve already browsed the list of films that are treated on this web site, the first question you may ask is “Why these movies?”. Indeed, many of my friends have asked this as well, and then, before allowing me to answer, proceed to give me their own list of the definitive, absolutely necessary movies that must immediately be included on this site. I’ve therefore decided that I should explain my logic. In brief, all of the synopsized films on this site will generally meet the following criteria:

  1. The dialog contains a lot of useful, colloquial English.
  2. The movie itself reflects various aspects of modern American life.
  3. It was popular enough to be widely available on video.
  4. I personally think it’s a good or even great movie.
  5. Most of my ESL students would agree with me on all of the above.

Of course, there may be several hundred films that could meet these standards, but that’s OK, since I hope to keep synopsizing more and more films. For now, it’s fair to ask whether there is anything in particular that the movies have in common? More specifically, is there a theme here?

I would say that these motion pictures offer advanced ESL learners, and particularly those foreigners who are living in the United States, a pretty decent look into the lives, culture and language of the American people (Of course, because we are talking about movies, it’s fair to say that few real people experience as much excitement as many of the protagonists do in these films). As a group, they often explore the consistent themes that form the foundation of the so-called American dream, as well as the dilemmas that people face when that dream turns sour.

Thus, many of the movies take serious and not-so-serious looks at our endless pursuit of material wealth, as well as the various social issues of our day, from crime and punishment to the break-up of the family to the fight against AIDS. In so doing, they explore Americans from all walks of life in their constant struggle to better their situations. Within these films we see characters who “seize the day” with their enthusiasm and spirit, and underdogs who can only serve to inspire us with their courage and decency. Of course there are those who disgust us, some who simply amuse, and some whose very lives point out the absurdity of the human condition.

Taken together, these films hint at the enormous diversity of background and life experience that form the American people, and to that extent, they are windows into a multidimensional society that you may want to know more about. Indeed, if you eventually get to see a lot of them (after studying your synopses!), you should end up with a much greater familiarity with the English language, as well as with the American culture in which it is spoken.