Six activities to do with film titles

The other day I was browsing through the Oscar nominees (as usual in Spain I’ve hardly heard of half of the films as they are usually just coming out) and I remembered all of a sudden some activities I had done with film titles in the past. Thought I would share here…

1 Title jumble. Write the words of several film titles all jumbled up on the board. Students must try and put them back into titles. For example, can you find the film titles in the words below? Good for work on lexical chunks actually.

hurt the locker air up in the education an this it is

2 Pattern analysis. In Scott Thornbury’s excellent book Natural Grammar he shows how keywords of English help build understanding of the language. On of his exercises focuses on the keyword “of” in noun phrases for film titles. Think about it, there are an awful lot of phrases like that (two in the last two sentences in fact). Gather a group of them, split them in half, and get students to put the halves together using “of the”.

List A: Lord / Planet / Return / The Silence etc.

List B: the Apes / the Jedi / the Lambs / the Rings

3 Translations. Compare how they are translated into other languages. Ask students to research films that have  a different title in their language to the English title (this could be English films translated into their language, or vice versa). They should bring these to class and compare the titles. For some reason my students (and I) have always found it really interesting to know how titles get changed. Did you know the Hurt Locker in Spanish is “En Tierra Hostil” (In Enemy Territory) and in French is “Mineurs”

4 Work with synopses. Get a bunch of film titles and short synopses (from imdb.com for instance). Ask students to match the film title to its synopsis. Students then write alternate titles for the films and compare.

5 Have a laugh with them. Find a film title generator and you or your students create funny film titles. My favourite currently is this one (It’s an Action Film Title Generator. The last three I got were: Extreme Overkill, Fist of Retaliation and Triple Justice. I’d love to get students to write the synopsis for one of these! There is also, for the higher levels perhaps, the following Movie Title Puns Competition which is good for a groan.

6 Work on idioms. Many film titles use an idiom or fixed expression. Ask your students to find (in their coursebook or dictionary) examples of expressions that they have recently learnt. They must then imagine one of these is a title of the next Oscar-winning film. They must write a thirty word synopsis for the film. It’s best if they have already seen some examples of film synopses to give them examples of the genre.

Have any of you done activities with film titles? Feel free to share…

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Published in: on March 17, 2010 at 2:14 pm  Comments (8)  
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8 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I saw somewhere that the French title for Jaws was Les dents de la mer – Teeth of the sea 🙂

  2. The Movie Title Pun Competition reminds me of those typical Spanish jokes beginning with ‘Se abre el telon y… bla bla bla… como se titula la pelicula?” (the theatre curtain opens and… bla bla bla… what’s the title of the movie?). Maybe you could get your Spanish students to make similar jokes in English?

    Great ideas, all of them!

    • I meant to write ‘the curtain goes up.’ They don’t open in English, right?

    • Hi Paola,
      Yes that was what I was thinking of with the puns activity. I love the “se abre el telon” jokes, they were always very clever. I think curtains in English open if they are in houses and go up in theatres btw (to answer your other question)

      • Thanks for the explanation. It’s tough when you’re bilingual!

        BTW, I’d like to submit a guest post, too, like the Slovakian teacher. How can I do so?

  3. I decided to take advantage of all the talk about the Oscar awards and give my students awards. Every student was given an award according to his/her strengths.
    Some of the categories were: most imaginative writing, best film critic (for writing good film reviews) etc

    Each student then had to prepare a quick Thank You speech. It was a great opportunity to revise words such as proud, appreciate , support, encourage , devote.
    Weaker students were allowed to read it while the more confident ones tried without the help of their notes.

    It’s worth a try and a great way to encourage students

    • Thanks for the idea. It sounds great!

  4. Really good ideas. I’m going to try some of them out with a group who are learning English through cinema. I’m sure they’ll like them.

    The mis-translation of film titles from English into Spanish can be a real problem as the students often don’t know which film I’m referring to, especially if it’s an old film, even though they’ve seen it. The worse translations I’ve come across are for Some Like It Hot which in Spain is “Con faldas y a lo loco” and in Una Eva y dos Adanes in Mexico and Argentina. Very confusing, but it can be great fun talking about the differences.


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