Friday, July 19, 2013

Movie Mayhem

I know there is quite a bit of controversy out there about movies in the classroom...some schools have even banned movies altogether (what do you do the day before Spring Break?? Kidding...Sort of.) Our school hasn't totally banned movies, but we do have to fill out paperwork ahead of time regarding each movie we are going to show, and it has to go through an approval process with the curriculum committee before being shown...this includes YouTube videos (which really ticked of the Social Studies department) and any other video-based clips (this is what happens when the French teacher shows French movies that show naked breasts and lesbian love scenes...yes. that happened.)

So anyway, here is the list of movies that I am putting together for the curriculum committee...

Romeo and Juliet, 9th grade: I've taught R & J for 7 years now, and although in the past I used clips from both the Franco Zefferelli and Baz Luhrman versions, I've found that students much prefer the one by Zefferelli.  First of all, Romeo looks like Zac Efron, and frankly, that kind of makes all the difference.  I do use a clip from the balcony scene of the Luhrman version...but mostly because I like to see Claire Danes in her wings.

The Odyssey, 9th grade: I use just a few clips from this one, including Scylla and Charybdis eating the men, and Odysseus killing all of Penelope's suitors almost single-handedly.  I always skip Odysseus on the islands of Circe and Calypso, because frankly, as much as I appreciate Vanessa Williams, no 15 year old boy needs to see that much of her body while sitting in my classroom...awkward (*said in high pitched, sing-song voice)

Madagascar, 9th grade: This one is my favorite.  I usually end freshmen year with a study of Lord of the Flies, and we usually finish it right before exams.  I have the students watch it and make a list of all of the similarities between the movie and the book...once you watch it again, you will be amazed at how many similarities there are (a dead parachutist, a "fun" side of the island, a fire that burns out of control, Alex the Lion returning to his basic primal state.)  I always award a prize to the person that has the most, legitimate similarities.

Dead Poet's Society, 12th grade Brit Lit: I love this movie!  I don't show it every year, but when I have the time, I make sure to get it in during our study of Romantic Poetry.  Even if I don't have enough time for the whole movie, I make sure to show the clip where John Keating bashes the traditional textbook study of poetry and tells his students to just listen to the beauty of the words...powerful.  I also like to pair this with a reading of Emily Dickinson's "Much Madness"...basically a "go against the grain" type of lesson.

Macbeth, 12th grade Brit Lit/AP Lit: I use Roman Polanski's version.  It was Rated R in 1972, but every time I tell my students that it's a bit graphic they start laughing, a prop-like ax stuck in the back of Fleance does nothing for them in this day and age of horror and bloodfest movies.  Either way, I usually skip the naked-witches scene (because really, who wants to watch 100, naked, 80-year old hags (Shakespeare's word, not mine) dance around a cauldron...umm...not me.) But in truth, every student really needs to watch Shakespeare acted out in order to actually understand the alleviates the "I have no idea what's going on" comments, and often, I show each act of the play in movie form as we go along, instead of reading the whole thing and then watching the movie.

Pride and Prejudice, AP Lit: Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy...'nuff said. Sigh.

Oh, there are a few more movies and YouTube clips out there, Les Miserables for one, my AP students read it over the summer, and now that Hugh Jackman is in it, I'm sure we will try to watch it at some point this year, but in general, the 6 movies above are ones that I continually show year after if only I could get the curriculum committee to approve The Notebook...that would pretty much make my day!

What movies are you using in your classroom? Any other suggestions? Let me know!


Mrs. V.


  1. When I can, I always like to show The Outsiders. I try to read the book with my freshmen and they love to laugh at the "Do it for Johnny, MAN!". I also torture them with the parts of speech songs from School House Rock! and I show a video from about writing an essay, as a How-NOT-To. (

    1. My students do love The Outsiders when I show it! Ugh...when Dally pulls out the unloaded gun and gets shot down...waterworks. The Outsiders goes in and out on the Freshman curriculum. I'm not teaching it this year, but I better put it on the list so I don't get in trouble if I show it later on :)

      Thanks for the YouTube clip!

  2. I love the Zeffirelli Romeo and Juliet-- and the Luhrmann. My girls are always in love with Zeffirelli's Romeo, and they're horrified when they Google him and realize how OLD he is now.