Watch and learn: Movies that educate and entertain
Movies can be a great way to learn while having a break from the books. Source: Jeshoots/Unsplash

Sometimes you just need a break from reading. Spending all day, every day, leafing through endless pages can be tiresome, and you might want to switch up your learning technique.

Movies can be a great way to learn when you need a break from the books. Whether you want to delve deeper into your subject or are looking to broaden your knowledge beyond your studies, there are plenty of films that can help you learn and give your brain a break from all the jargon.


Obviously the film you watch depends on the language you already speak and the language you want to learn, but here are a few to spark some inspiration:

My Neighbour Totoro (Japanese)

This is the film to watch if you want your heart warmed while picking up some Japanese. It’s a Studio Ghibli animation that explores the story of two young sisters moving to a new home and meeting their mysterious new friend Totoro. Magic, music, cat buses and Japanese language – this film has it all!

Blue is the Warmest Colour (French)

This beautiful French film explores the relationship between two girls in high school, one who is unsure of her sexuality while the other is more confident and mature. This is an excellent film to watch if you want to learn some colloquial French phrases and grapple with French attitudes towards sexuality.

Pan’s Labyrinth (Spanish)

Pan’s Labyrinth explores a girl’s otherworldly journey through a mythical labyrinth in Spain, 1944. You’ll learn some history about what Spain was like around this time, while also learning how to escape from monsters and navigate the underworld using Spanish phrases – surely this will come in useful at some point…


There are plenty of films that explore philosophical ideas. If you want to hear about a particular philosopher, try typing their name into YouTube. If you’d rather explore various concepts and broaden your perspective, these films are a good place to start…

Waking Life

This film explores many philosophical ideas from the relationship between the waking world and dreams, to the human role in the natural world, what happens when we die and the philosophy behind political theories.

If you want a deep overview of different philosophies, this is the film for you. There isn’t so much of a plot as the character bumbles through different scenarios, but this doesn’t take away from the mental gymnastics it puts you through.

Captain Fantastic

Telling the story of an unconventional family that live life on the road, Captain Fantastic explores the joys and hardships of alternative ways of living. The family live by the anarchist philosophy of Noam Chomsky as independent from the state as possible.

The film explores the relationship between family members, the joys and sorrows of unconventional living and parental responsibility. It’s a good film to watch if you want to be introduced to new ideas – but be prepared for some tears at the end.

Just a small snapshot of Captain Fantasic’s parenting. Source: Giphy

Environmental Studies

There are plenty of films that investigate the impact of human activity on the environment, offering insightful predictions on how the situation will develop through the coming years. Whether you’re studying the environment or just want to be clued up on the world, here are some movies you might want to watch:

Before the Flood

This National Geographic documentary analyses the effect of fossil fuels on the environment and how this is likely to progress in future years. Prepare to be shocked at the devastating impact human activity has had on the world, and all the problems we will face in the future unless we do something to turn it around.

Environmental science students and those with a general interest in the environment will find this factual documentary enlightening, helping you make valuable changes to prevent further devastation.


Combining the environmental effects of rearing animals for food with political motivations to keep this information under wraps, Cowspiracy reveals the impact of eating meat on air quality, land use, water use and our bodies.

Although slightly biased, it opens up the discussion for the role of global governments in protecting economic growth over environmental improvement and calls on the individual to take responsibility for their own consumption.


Twelve Years a Slave

Based on the memoir of the same name, Twelve Years a Slave follows the life of Solomon Northup who was abducted from New York City as a child and sold into slavery in 1853. The film explores the treatment of black people during the time of slavery before its legal abolishment and Northup’s release.

It’s been named as one of the most moving films of all time. Source: Giphy

If you want to learn about the US in the 1800s and the journey towards so many innocent people’s liberation, this film offers a gruelling depiction of life as a slave and how it came to an end.

Saving Private Ryan

Often touted as the best war film, Saving Private Ryan explores the trials and tribulations of fighting the front line in World War II. Holding no prisoners, this film offers a brutally honest account of warfare and its impact on the human spirit.

As entertaining as it is factual, the film offers an alternative history lesson to the usual textbook account. While it may not be as informative as real accounts, it’s a great way to learn while having a semi-break.


There are many films about physics, from informative documentaries to Hollywood blockbusters. Some explore physical theories, while others touch on concepts. Here are two movies to watch depending on what you’re in the mood for:

Source: Giphy

Particle Fever

Despite its sensationalist title, Particle Fever explores the work going on at CERN – the biggest particle laboratory in the world. From discussing the role of the ‘God particle’ to walking you through the first experiments in the Large Hadron Collider, Particle Fever attempts to shed light on the beginnings of the universe and the conceptual framework behind the work at CERN.

Combining experimental outcomes with theoretical background, Particle Fever opens physics up to those with no knowledge of the subject, or even those who want to take it back to basics.


While it may not be the most educational of films, it explores concepts with physics such as time travel, parallel universes, outer space and the relationship between our world and reality. If you apply your theoretical knowledge to the film, you will likely find answers to this infamously confusing film, allowing you to entrench your knowledge further during study breaks.

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