How to Describe Films

How to Describe Films

“A lot of movies are about life, mine are like a slice of cake.”

Alfred Hitchcock, an English film director and producer

Did you like the latest Godzilla reboot and the live-action adaptation of Aladdin? Would you like to watch the Men in Black spinoff and the upcoming animated version of The Addams Family? No matter what you choose to watch, we hope your viewing experience is always positive. Read this blog to know how to talk about films, and to learn useful collocations and idioms related to the topic.

  • reboot – a new interesting version of a film (or a TV show)
  • live actionaction involving real people or animals, not models, or images that are drawn, or produced by computer
  • adaptationa film (book, or play) that has been made from another film (book, or play)
  • spinoff – a film (book, or TV series) that comes after and is related to a successful film (book, or TV series)


A story shown in moving pictures, shown at the cinema or on television is a film (mainly British English) or a movie (mainly American English + informal British English):

“Titanic” is my favourite film. (British)

“Titanic” is my favourite movie. (British informal)

“Titanic” is my favorite movie. (American)

A building where you go to watch movies is a cinema (mainly British English) or a movie theater/house (mainly American English):

They are knocking down the old factory to build a cinema.

How old is this movie theater/house? – It’s 35 years old.

You can talk about the cinema (mainly British English) or the movies (mainly American English) when you are talking about seeing a film in a cinema:

They decided to spend an evening at the cinema.

Why don’t we go to the movies tonight?

Cinema is the business and art of making films:

I love French cinema.

This technique was used in the early days of cinema.


“The Disaster Artist” has audiences rolling in the aisles.

Rolling in the aisles – (of an audience) overcome with laughter

It is Will Smith who steals the show.

To steal the show – to draw the most attention or admiration, especially unexpectedly

The plot will keep you on the edge of your seat.

If you are kept on the edge of your seat, you are excited and interested in what happens next.

This horror movie will send shivers down your spine.

If a movie sends shivers down your spine, it makes you feel very frightened or excited.

“Godzilla: the King of the Monsters” brings the true definition of the popcorn movie to life in a fun and unique way.

A popcorn movie is a film that is perceived as entertaining but lacking in depth or artistic merit.

“The Dark Knight” is a film that lives up to the hype.

If a film lives up to the hype, it is as good as expected. Hype is extravagant or intensive publicity or promotion.

“Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of The Black Pearl” still holds up as one of the most exciting adventure flicks in recent memory.

A flick is a film (informal American English + old-fashioned British English). A chick flick (informal + humorous) is a film about relationships, love, etc. that attracts mainly women. A skin flick is a film that shows sexual acts in a way that is intended to cause sexual excitement but that would be considered unpleasant and offensive by many people. 

The “Home Alone” franchise jumped the shark.

A franchise is a series of films that have the same or similar titles and are about the same characters. 

To jump the shark is to reach a point where something stops becoming more popular or starts to decrease in quality.

Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Margot Robbie lead this starstudded film.

There are a lot of famous people in a star-studded film.

“Back to the Future” is my favorite feel-good movie.

A feel-good film is a film which presents people and life in a way which makes the people who watch it feel happy and optimistic.

There is a great feel-good movie on! Shall we go? – No, I’m not much of a moviegoer.


  • An epic film is in the style of an epic: This is an epic film about the Roman Empire. An epic is a film which is long and contains a lot of action, usually dealing with a historical subject: “Troy” is my favorite epic. 
  • An independent film/movie (indie film/movie) is a feature film or short film that is produced outside the major film studio system, in addition to being produced and distributed by independent entertainment companies: “American Beauty” may be the best indie movie of all time. 
  • A feature (feature-length/theatrical/full-length) film is a film that is usually 90 or more minutes long: Quentin Tarantino’s first full-length feature film was “Reservoir Dogs.”
  • A G-rated movie is a movie for general audiences. It is characterized by a lack of violence, obscenity, or sexual explicitness: “The Wizard of Oz” is a G-rated movie.
  • A PG-rated movie contains some mild violence and implied sexual activity (PG – parental guidance): “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” is a PG-rated movie. 
  • A PG-13 rated movie is a movie which contains some material inappropriate for children under 13: “Venom” is a PG-13 rated movie.
  • An R-rated movie contains some adult material (R – restricted): “Us” is an R-rated movie. 
  • An NC-17 rated movie is clearly adult (NC – no children (under 17)): “American Pie” is an NC-17 rated movie. 
  • To shoot a film is to make/produce a film: The film was shot on location in Kenya.
  • To screen a film is to show/broadcast a film: The film was finally screened after weeks of protest by religious groups.
  • To ban a film is to censor it: “Brokeback Mountain” is banned in China. 

Of course, there is much more vocabulary which learners should know to talk about various cinema-related subjects. That’s why you may want to check out “Film Review Vocabulary” to expand your vocabulary even more. Don’t forget to subscribe to our blog not to miss similar articles. Thank you for reading!

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