Should teachers show more movies in class?

With Oscar season now gaining momentum, my mind turns to my favorite movies of the past year, as well as to my favorite movies of all time. And it's got me thinking: What should the role of film be in education? How should movies compare to, say, the role of books? Movies still play a robust part of culture, but they have made (relatively) little impact in mainline academic settings. Is it because film remains primarily a medium of entertainment, and not education? I suppose one could say the same thing about many novels, and yet novels are still central aspects of a student's curriculum. 

For most teachers, film remains, from what I can tell, a limited aspect of the course of studies. Movies are shown sporadically, maybe once or twice a semester (if at all). A lot of students still treat movies as a break from normal rigor. As one who admires great screenwriting and appreciates quality movies (see here for my review of "Silver Linings Playbook"), I wonder: is there a more significant place for film within traditional American education, especially high schools and universities, or will it always hold a marginal place?


I haven't worked through the questions entirely myself. Books and readings are my default vehicle for inspiring inquiry, but I know that the well-placed and intentionally chosen film can make a big impact. I usually show at least one film a semester, but I'm open to adding more.   

What do readers think? For educators out there, what films have you shown in your classes, and for what reasons? How do you use movies or screenplays to advance your pedagogical goals?

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J Cosgrove
3 years 12 months ago
If you want to be popular, show movies especially if there is some esoteric misunderstood point in it that the teacher can look good by explaining it. When I was in business school, we were shown two movies on successive weeks for our organizational behavior course. There was a theme of 12, namely, "Twelve O'Clock High" and "Twelve, Angry Men." They formed interesting discussions the next time we were in class. In later years the legal consensus was that the guy was guilty in Twelve Angry Men and the character played by Henry Fonda led the jury to a very bad decision. We agreed with the Fonda character when we watched the movie. This might be a good class experiment. To see how they react and then present the legal analysis. As a suggestion for showing in class, I recommend Groundhog Day and also the reading of the ebook by the author on the writing of the screen play for this movie especially the reaction of people to the movie conveyed to him after it was released. One of the great moral movies of our time.
Bob Baker
3 years 12 months ago
I had my 8th grade students Cronin's The Keys of the Kingdom as an in-class reading book for religion. Our urban school had a number of Korean students, but I found a Korean book store that sold the book in Korean. This helped my students to understand what they were reading in English. At first, the administration thought it too hard for my class, but they changed their minds when I was able to demonstrate that, as an in-class book where everyone read a couple of paragraphs, that they were more than capable to understand it all. (A quiz over every chapter actually helped them by keeping them on task.) We viewed the movie with Gregory Peck after we finished the book and they were able, on the final quiz, to point out the differences from the book. The students liked the book and students in succeeding classes began to read it on their own during the summer before they started 8th grade. This effort proved a lot to everyone, parents, teachers and administrators. With time and effort, students can and will excel.


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