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The Best Films to Watch Over Winter Break: English Major Style

As an English major, one of the most rewarding things we get to see is the way our favorite authors and books come to life on film, whether that's through direct adaptions or creative spins on original plots. Winter break is approaching, so I have compiled a list of some of the best movies to watch during the much-needed free time. Since all of them pertain to certain books and authors, it’s also a great excuse to pull out that literature, watch the adaptations, and get nerdy.

1. "Midnight in Paris" 

I have only recently discovered this movie, but it has quickly wormed its way into my top 10 favorites. The movie follows the story of a writer visiting Paris with his fiancée. One night as he wanders the streets of Paris by himself, he hops into a car and is suddenly taken back in time to Paris during the 1920s. He stumbles upon F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Gertrude Stein as he explores, and even receives advice on how to write his own novel. Every English major wants their favorite author to critique their work and discuss books with them, and this movie makes that dream a reality. 

2. "Pride and Prejudice"

The romance of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy remains one of the favorite romantic stories in English literature. It’s the story of the prejudiced Elizabeth who changes the heart and behavior of the proud Mr. Darcy, resulting in him becoming a better man. While so much can be said about the novel—Jane Austen truly was a genius— the movie is its own masterpiece. From the cinematography to the acting, the movie is beautiful in so many ways. You can enjoy it even more after you have read the novel, and watch how the director weaves together the original work with his own vision.

3. "Little Women"

Louisa May Alcott, author of "Little Women," lived in Concord, Massachusetts, which is very close to where I live. She wrote the novel loosely based on her experiences with her three sisters, telling stories of their adventures growing up. "Little Women" follows Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March, as they grow up and face issues that young girls commonly experience. Despite the fact that the book and movie are the perfect story for growing up, Alcott keeps her audience engaged with each of the girls’ stories and the choices they make to become women. As students studying English, we can gain inspiration from Alcott on how to write such compelling tales.

4. "Dead Poet’s Society"

This film remains a favorite of many audiences, not just within the English realm. It’s a tear-jerker, probably even more so now that one of the leads, Robin Williams, has passed. Williams stars as John Keating, the new English teacher of the all-male Welton Academy. He encourages the boys to take control of their own lives, using poetry to inspire them. While Keating is the one to give the boys renewed hope, he does it through literature. Like many of us, literature provides constant inspiration to write and create. I think we can all connect to the boys as we watch this movie and relate to their growing passions for the humanities.

5. "The Great Gatsby"

The most recent adaption of this classic novel is a unique one. Starring Oscar winner (finally) Leonardo DiCaprio, this film brings to life F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book through stunning cinematography, costumes, and a modern soundtrack. The movie received mixed reviews from critics, but either way, I believe every English major should give it at least one watch to form their own opinion.

6. "Easy A"

A modern comedy based on Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter," Emma Stone stars as Olive, the film's protagonist who pretends to sleep with a guy to protect him from bullies. She embraces her newfound reputation as the school tramp and begins wearing slutty clothes and the scarlet A, continuing to pretend to sleep with other boys in exchange for gift cards. It is creatively reminiscent of the classic novel that every high schooler has to read in English class, and it’s fun to pick up on references to the book.

7. "Bright Star"

This movie follows the romance between poet John Keats and Fanny Brawne. Throughout the film, we learn how Brawne inspired a lot of Keats' work. It’s another tear-jerker (every movie list should have a couple of those), but it tells the story of how love and passion gave power to a poet, which is likely what most writers want to experience, as well. Even for those that dislike poetry (including me), it’s a film that is hard to forget.

8. "A Christmas Carol"

In honor of this holiday season, I've topped off this list with the movie based on Charles Dickens' famous "A Christmas Carol." The protagonist, Ebenezer Scrooge, is visited by three ghosts throughout the night who each try to save his soul before he dies. Between Dickens' ingenuity and a fun soundtrack, this film is an absolute must-watch for the holiday break.

Images/GIFs: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

Anastasia Armstrong. English Major at UMass Amherst.
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