Our Relationship with Movies

Welcome to the Labragirl Film Project‘s weekly classroom film literacy discussion. Each Monday morning we provide a resource, activity, or methodological discussion to help incorporate film analysis into your classroom.

Last week we talked about how to use movies as primary sources in history classrooms. This week we discuss how to think critically about our interactions with movies.



Classroom Discussion: It’s Not Just a Movie

Classroom Discussion Synopsis: This simple, straight forward introductory discussion is designed to help students engage in critical thinking discussions about the ways we interact with movies.

The following questions shape this conversation:

How do we interact with movies?
How does our interaction with film shape the ways movies influence us?
What roles do movies play in society?
How do these roles shape the way we are influenced by film? 

Grade Level: K-16

Educational Goals & Objectives: 

  • Introduce students to film analysis
  • Encourage students to think critically about the ways we interact with film
  • Illustrate how film images shape the way we see and understand the world around us
  • Help students navigate critical thinking discussions about how they interact with movies
  • Enable students to see and discuss the roles movies play in our society

Exercise Philosophy:

The goal of our “It’s Not Just a Movie” discussion is to help students think critically about their interactions with film. Because movies are considered solely entertainment we oftentimes dismiss the influence films have on us.

Later discussions will delve into how films shape the way we see and act towards others. However, “It’s Not Just a Movie” is meant to be an introductory conversation to help students thinking critically about the ways they interact with movies.

Exercise Activities and Process: 

Over the years, when introducing students to film analysis and reading, I’ve found this general and open-ended discussion to be a successful ice-breaker conversation.

1. Contextualize and explain the purpose of the conversation.

Below are a few of the questions I use to begin this discussion.

How do you interact with movies?

Does thinking about movies as entertainment prevent you from looking at them critically? 

Do we interact with movies differently when we watch them in school than with a group of friends? How so? 

Does the type of device you watch a movie impact the way you interact with a movie? How so? 

2. Provide Examples

I suggest a few ways that films have influence – even physiological influence—on us.

A. Scary Movies

Movies can remain in your mind far after you’ve left the theater or shut off the DVD player.

How many of you have watched a scary movie and for some time afterwards you jump when you hear something or see a shadow? 

How many of you have screamed during a movie? When? What were the circumstances? 

B. Music

The elements of a film can have a physiological impact on us.

Has your heart ever started to beat faster when watching Jaws? Or, have your hands ever start to sweat when watching Psycho?

When you hear the music from Jaws what comes to mind? Do you think others have the same experience? 

Do you have any other examples of music shaping your reactions? 

Jaws theme music

C. Personal Examples

Sometimes I share my personal examples with students. It oftentimes helps students to open up with their stories.

Additional Questions

Below are some additional questions I use in this discussion. Let us know in the comments below if you have other questions. If you used these questions in class, how did it go?

What are the elements that make up a movie? How do you engage with these elements?

How do the norms of the movie theater shape our movie watching experience? 

How do movies make you feel and/or think?

Why do we have actual physiological reactions to movies?

Once students see that they are indeed influenced by film—it will be much easier to look at other historical, social, and academic influences.

A note about viewing clips: I don’t recommend screening clips for this particular conversation. I have found that helping students reflect on the ways they’ve interacted with film in the past is beneficial for this exercise.

A note about grade level: Because the ultimate goal of this exercise is to help students thinking about the ways they interact with film the conversation and questions can be scaled to the age group that you teach.

Did you use any of these questions in class? How were your discussions? Do you have any related questions or issues you’d like to discuss? What other questions did you use in class?

Comment below or discuss with us on .

Let’s talk film images,


*Disclaimer: All movie clips are suggestions for class use, only. All instructors should screen clips to determine if they are appropriate to use in their classrooms. 


UP NEXT 2/18: A classroom resource suggestion to help students think globally

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Previous Blog Entries

Moving Past Historical Accuracy

Images Telling Stories

Film Shaping History

Think Film Images


Bring Labragirl into your classroom. Contact us at info@labragirlfilmproject.org or fill out our Interest & Inquiry Form.


©2013 Labragirl Film Project. All rights reserved.


2 thoughts on “Our Relationship with Movies

  1. Good stuff here, Laurie. I like to also discuss, during the first part of the term, thinking about what visual and aural narratives accomplish, and how engaging with them in a critical fashion is imperative to be literate in our present culture. Students are shocked when I say I really am not that interested in “accuracy,” but instead want to interrogate why films are structured how they are and how/why they create historical narratives that can be read critically. I enjoy your posts, keep ’em coming.

    • Thanks, Dave. Those are both great conversations to have. I’ve heard wonderful things about your use of film in the classroom from both profs. and students. Perhaps you’ll consider writing a guest blog to discuss your approach to film literacy? 😉

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