10 Common English Idioms with Examples from Movies

Teaching English with authentic content, such as movies and TV shows, is an effective way to increase engagement in your classroom. English language learners can learn new expressions by watching their favorite films, sitcoms, and cartoons online.

Students can easily access free content via YouTube and through paid streaming services like Netflix or Amazon Prime Video.

Learning English Idioms with Movies on Tablets
Learning English Idioms with Movies on Tablets
Tablets and other video devices can be used to enhance the language learning experience.

The Best Video Content for Learning Idioms

It is important to use videos that match skill levels as well as students’ interests. Topics of interest will improve motivation to learn and increase attentiveness. For instance, younger learners may enjoy cartoons more while adults will likely prefer popular sitcoms, TV series, or specific movie genres.

Presenting the dialog in text form, along with the video and audio, will help with students’ language acquisition. Moreover, integrating multiple receptive skills speeds up the learning process.

With this method, learners can (1) use visual cues from the scene, (2) listen to the authentic dialog, and (3) read subtitles of the spoken words.

Common English Idioms with Examples

Below are 10 English idioms with examples from classic movies, films, and cartoons. Each idiom is bolded within the actual dialog that the characters say from each movie scene. After reading the script, you can see the meaning of the expression explained.

face the music

There are two kinds of people in this world… those who stand up and face the music, and those who run for cover. Cover is better.

  • Scent of a Woman (1992)

Idiom Meaning: deal with the consequences

X factor

Have you ever met someone, and you knew right away she was gonna be important to you? Not just because of her looks, but you know, that X factor?

  • Hitch (2005)

Idiom Meaning: a special talent

rise and shine

Rise and shine, Adam. You’re probably wondering where you are. I’ll tell you where you might be. You might be in the room that you die in.

  • Saw (2004)

Idiom Meaning: wake up

water under the bridge

Honey, Frank the Tank is not coming back, okay? That part of me is over. Water under the bridge. I promise.

  • Old School (2003)

Idiom Meaning: previous events that are no longer important

tip of the iceberg

Listen to me, kid. If she doesn’t reach over and lift up that button so that you can get in, that means she’s a selfish broad and all you’re seeing is the tip of the iceberg. You dump her and you dump her fast.

  • Quote from A Bronx Tale (1993)

Idiom Meaning: a small part of a larger problem

a dime a dozen

You can print money, manufacture diamonds, and people are a dime a dozen, but they’ll always need land. It’s the one thing they’re not making any more of.

  • Superman Returns (2006)

Idiom Meaning: very common and with no unique value

an arm and a leg

All the things you’ve done, have put you right here with me. To life… life is The Dream. The only Dream. Cost a lot to be here. Cost you an arm and a leg.

  • The Bad Batch (2016)

Idiom Meaning: very expensive

head over heels

I say, fall head over heels. Find someone you can love like crazy and who will love you the same way back.

  • Meet Joe Black (1998)

Idiom Meaning: in love

get rid of

Six straight hours of horror movies. Little Lindsey Wallace won’t know what hit her. My dad! Get rid of this! Laurie, stop coughing. What’s the matter with you? Jesus. Just be natural. There he is. Just be natural, Laurie.

  • Halloween (1978)

Idiom Meaning: throw away

veg out

Let’s watch old movies all night. We’ll just veg out in front of the TV.

  • Pretty Woman (1990)

Idiom Meaning: eat a lot

neck of the woods

Hi there. From my neck of the woods, eh? Sorry if I took a snap at you at one time. Fish gotta swim. Birds gotta eat.

  • Finding Nemo (2003)

Idiom Meaning: local neighborhood

Reviewing Idioms and Learning Suggestions

After reviewing each idiom example, there are some effective methods for reinforcing language acquisition.

For example, students can practice creating their own sentences using each expression. They could write an example sentence with each idiomatic expression and share it with a partner. Next, students could take turns reading their partner’s sentences aloud.

Doing pair work and group work in this way helps reinforce the meaning of each idiom.

Writing Common English Idioms
Writing Common English Idioms
Creating sentences with idiomatic expressions improves language acquisition.

More Tips on Learning English Idioms with Examples

For more resources on learning English idioms through authentic content, visit the Movie Idioms website. Also, visit ESL Expat to discover other fun ESL games and English language resources.

Do you have any other tips for learning idiomatic expressions?

Please leave a comment below and join in on the discussion.

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