Educational Movies to Show In Class (With Lesson Plans!)

Posted by Sydney Myers

October 31st, 2017

Visual aids can be powerful tools in the classroom. Illustrations in a textbook and drawings on a whiteboard are examples of how helpful these tools can be. Similarly, educational movies can be used in the classroom to drive home important lessons or to spark a lively discussion.

The following educational movies cover a variety of school subjects. Along with each film are links to a suggested lesson plan from, a free resource for teachers.

Teach With Movies provides free lesson plans and teaching guides to help teachers use movies as teaching aids. The site also provides movie permission slips and age guidelines for each movie. We encourage you to use both as you decide whether or not to use these films in your classroom.

English Language Arts/Literature: Cast Away

Cast Away makes use of many literary devices, including symbols, motif, and exposition

Cast Away incorporates many literary devices. Watches and clocks become a motif in the film. This raises an opportunity to explore how the film-makers used that element to develop the character of Chuck. The film is also full of symbolism – Wilson, the angel wings, and delivering a final package.

Teach With Movies provides a complete lesson plan to use with Cast Away. The lesson plan includes discussion questions and assignments. Teachers can also download a “Set-Up-the-Sub” lesson plan with detailed instructions and worksheets.

U.S. History: Lincoln

It’s important to note that this movie gives a “narrow focus on the legislative process during January of 1865”, not the full historical account from every angle. However, in the events and characters that it depicts, Lincoln is well-researched and historically accurate. It can be used to spark a conversation about the impact of the 13th Amendment on U.S. history.

Teach With Movies suggests using the film as a helpful piece of a larger lesson plan. The provided lesson plan for Lincoln offers an outline of topics for student reports that will help create a context for the film. The lesson plan includes topics for final student reports that can be assigned after watching the movie.


Health/Science: Contagion

Contagion follows six main characters, thus offering a wide view of the impact of a pandemic

Contagion depicts the rise of an influenza pandemic. The film follows healthcare and government officials as they search for the source of the virus and try to find a cure. It also gives a view of the public’s reaction to the pandemic.

Teachers can use Contagion as part of a lesson plan that teaches what influenza is, how it spreads, and what usual treatments are. The movie provides a unique opportunity to analyze the possible outcomes of a pandemic and the impact it could have.

The Contagion lesson plan from Teach With Movies includes an outline for research projects on pandemics and influenza, questions for a classroom discussion on handling a pandemic situation, and a study worksheet.

Music/Dance: Swan Lake

There are many Hollywood films that discuss the dedication and passion of dancers and musicians. However, Swan Lake is a good movie to watch if your goal is to educate students on music and dance as art forms and examine their story-telling components.

Teach With Movies explains, “There is no spoken word in ballet. Performances are given to large audiences and the dancers must communicate their emotions to everyone in the theater.” Therefore, the use of music and movement to tell a story is highlighted in a ballet like Swan Lake.

Teachers can use the Swan Lake lesson plan from Teach With Movies to discuss the use of symbols and metaphors in music and dance or to dive into the history of Romantic ballet. The lesson plan provides worksheets and questions to use in a class discussion.



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