Below you will find a guide to the prescribed films for junior cycle English for the student cohorts commencing Junior Cycle in 2021, 2022 and 2023, including a synopsis, themes and the film trailer.
* Please note the following films are available to rent or buy on several platforms and websites.
As the Voyager probes leave Earth’s solar system, this beautifully shot documentary charts the Voyager 1 and 2 missions of the late 1970's from conception to launch and then examines what has been learned through their voyages across interstellar space.
As part of the mission, astronomer Carl Sagan oversaw the production of a gold record that would provide a snapshot of humanity should the probes be discovered by an alien race. The record contains over two hours of material including music, greetings in different languages and data on humanity and Earth.
Setting: The documentary features contemporary and archival footage and interviews of those involved with of the launch and monitoring of the Voyager probes
Genre: Scientific documentary
Some Themes: Human endeavour, exploration, communication, curiosity and the pursuit of knowledge, science and technology
The official NASA website of Voyager 1
[2018 - Running Time: 1hr 56mins]
Bitten by a radioactive spider in the subway, Brooklyn teenager, Miles Morales, suddenly develops mysterious powers that transform him into the one and only Spider-Man. When he meets Peter Parker, he soon realizes that there are many others who share his special, high-flying talents. Miles must now use his newfound skills to battle the evil Kingpin, a hulking madman who can open portals to other universes and pull different versions of Spider-Man into our world.
Setting: Brooklyn, New York City – however, it is also set in the Marvel Multiverse, a collection of alternate universes where Miles Morales lives on Earth-1610.
Genre: Superhero sci-fi
Some Themes: Resilience, good versus evil, relationships, friendships, family life
Q&A with the cast
Q&A with the directors
Adapted from a stage play, the film, shot in black and white, centres on badly disfigured John Merrick, ‘elephant man,’ who was born with a congenital disorder. He is rescued from performing as a freak in a fairground show, by Dr. Treves who brings him to hospital. Treves introduces Merrick to Dr Carr-Gomm and Merrick lives in the hospital as the medics try to help him. Initially, he doesn’t speak and wears a hood over his head to hide his deformity. He is introduced to London society and befriends an actress Madge Kendal but is then kidnapped by the fairground owner and taken on a tour of Europe performing again as a freak. He manages to return to London but his health worsens and his condition deteriorates. The film stars John Hurt, Anthony Hopkins, Anne Bancroft, John Gielgud and Wendy Hiller amongst others.
Setting: Late 19th century London
Genre: Historical drama
Some Themes: Good versus evil, love, dark versus light, disability
Interview with the director, David Lynch
Guy, a tennis star and fledgling politician and Bruno, a recluse, meet for the first time on a train. Despite the contrast in characters, the two men hit it off and exchange life stories and commiserate over their domestic difficulties. Arising from the conversation, Bruno makes a shocking suggestion: murdering the difficult, awkward person in the other person’s life. Since both men are strangers, no one, suggests Bruno, will suspect the other, of the crime. Guy does not take the conversation seriously, and when the two men part, he is sure he will never hear from Bruno again. Bruno, however, believes the men have an agreement and proceeds to kill Guy’s wife. Bruno believes Guy should now uphold his end of the bargain.
Setting: The train, amusement parks, the Mortons’ home
Some Themes: Relationships, light and dark, appearances, double lives, fear, deceit, social structures, politics
Film guide from Intofilm
The latest film version of the classic novel from Louisa May Alcott is heart-warming. Told in the present, and in flashbacks to the past, it centres on the lives of the March family. In the years after the American Civil War, Jo March lives in New York City as a writer, while her sister Amy March studies painting in Paris. There, Amy has a chance encounter with Theodore "Laurie" Laurence, a childhood crush who proposed to Jo many years ago. Their eldest sibling, Meg, is married to a schoolteacher, while shy sister, Beth, develops a devastating illness that brings the family back together once again.
Setting: Concord, MA and New York City, USA
Genre: Period melodrama
Some Themes: Friendship, love, relationships, overcoming adversity, family, the role of women/gender roles
Interview with the cast (courtesy of CinemaBlend)
Adventure, Comedy, Family - A fairy tale adventure about a beautiful young woman and her one true love. He must find her after a long separation and save her. They must battle the evils of the mythical kingdom of Florin to be reunited with each other. Based on the William Goldman novel The Princess Bride which earned its own loyal audience.
Setting: The fictional medieval Kingdom of Florin
Genre: Romantic adventure
Some Themes: Love, betrayal, revenge, courage, good versus evil
Dedicated film website - https://www.princessbrideforever.com/
Shula, an eight-year-old orphan village girl, is denounced as a witch after a minor misunderstanding by an anxious neighbour. Following a witch-trial, she is found guilty and sentenced to life on a state-run witch camp. There, she is anchored to a long white ribbon and told that if she ever tries to run away, she will turn into a goat. As time passes, Shula settles into her new life but she is forced to make a tough decision- resign herself to life on the camp or take a risk for freedom.
Setting: A remote village in Zambia
Some Themes: Gender, superstition, identity, social structures
Interview with the director, Rungano Nyoni:
Ken Wardrop’s award-winning documentary sees seventy women of all ages tell the camera their feelings about the men in their lives. Adopting a sequential structure from youngest to oldest, this affectionate film traces a range of feelings these women hold towards their partners, boyfriends, husbands and sons, creating a love story that reaches back almost a century and resonates across the years.
Setting: Ireland, mainly the Irish Midlands
Genre: Documentary where 70 women, all from the Irish midlands, arranged in ascending order of age, tell stories about the men in their lives
Some Themes: Relationships, love, gender, culture
Interview with the director from IFTN
Director Ken Loach's powerful coming-of-age story set in the late 1960's, focuses on Billy Casper (David Bradley), a working-class boy from a mining community in the north of England. Billy seems to have little hope for his future: school is an alien, hostile place, and at home, his older brother is a brute. But when Billy begins training a kestrel that he finds on a nearby farm, he forms a close bond with ‘Kes’ and for the first time in his life, feels he has a purpose. The film has a documentary feel, as the dialogue is so naturalistic, and Loach uses several non-professional actors in the cast.
Setting: South Yorkshire, late 1960s
Some Themes: Familial bonds, relationships, childhood, education systems, class structure, nature
Newcomer Ferdia Walsh-Peelo plays 1980's teenager Conor, who moves to a tough, inner city school after his parents can no longer afford to pay his private school fees. Struggling to fit in, Conor meets the mysterious and beautiful Raphina (Lucy Boynton) and invites her to star in his band’s music videos. There’s only one problem: he’s not actually part of a band yet! Including fresh and lively songs, this uplifting coming-of-age comedy drama shows us a fantasy-tinged world where music has the power to transform lives.
Setting: 1980s Dublin
Genre: Musical coming-of-age comedy drama
Some Themes: Growing up, identity, dreams versus reality, the importance of music, relationships, education
Study guide from The Danske Institut (a 20 page downloadable pdf)
London, 1912. The Suffragette movement, led by Mrs Pankhurst (Meryl Streep), have been engaging in peaceful protest to achieve votes for women – all to no avail. Pankhurst calls for her followers to be more militant in their actions and prepare to use violence to achieve their goals. Laundry worker Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan) like many other working women, becomes involved in the struggle and soon realises that she risks losing her job, home, family and even her life in the fight for equality. This is a gripping, inspirational drama that tracks the story of the foot soldiers of the early feminist movement.
Setting: Set in London across the late 19th and early 20th century, the film focuses on a turning point of the Suffragette campaign
Some Themes: Gender inequality, power, poverty and conflict, friendship, loyalty and police brutality
Interview with the director
10-year-old Wadjda lives in a suburb of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Although she lives in a conservative world, Wadjda is fun-loving, entrepreneurial and is always pushing boundaries. After a fight with her friend Abdullah, Wadjda sees a beautiful green bicycle for sale. She wants the bicycle desperately so that she can beat Abdullah in a race. But Wadjda's mother won't allow it, fearing repercussions from a society that sees bicycles as dangerous to a girl's virtue. When Wadjda hears of a cash prize for a Koran recitation competition, she is determined to win the cash so that she can buy the bicycle herself. This is a feelgood drama that celebrates individuality and challenges gender stereotypes.
Setting: Riyadh, the Saudi Arabian capital in the early 2000s
Some Themes: Gender inequality, discrimination, unconditional friendships, traditions
Teaching guide from journeysinfilm.org (an 86 page resource on the film)
Set in the 1960's on an island off New England, Sam and Suzy, both aged 12, ’fall in love’ and decide to run away together - something of a challenge on such a small island. The film follows their misadventures as the adults in their lives make efforts to search for them. This is a warm, coming-of-age, quirky comedy from the director of Fantastic Mr Fox and The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Setting: A fictional island off the coast of New England called New Penzance
Genre: Comedy adventure film
Some Themes: Growing up, family, imagination, young love/sexuality, resilience
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During the 1994 Rwandan conflict, five-star-hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle) sets out to save his family as his country descends into chaos. But when he sees that the world will not intervene in the massacre of minority Tutsis, he opens his hotel to more than 1,200 refugees. With a rabid militia at the gates, he must use his wits and cunning to protect his guests from certain death. Don Cheadle and Sophie Okonedo star in this powerful and moving true story of one man's brave stand against savagery.
Setting: This film centres around the Rwandan genocide of 1994
Genre: Hotel Rwanda is a drama depicting the true story of Paul Rusesabagina - a man who put his own life on the line to save over a thousand refugees who faced certain death at the hands of their own countrymen in a tribal civil war in the African state of Rwanda in 1994
Some Themes: Genocide, political corruption, and the repercussions of violence, racism, discrimination, chaos and order, the will to survive
Teacher's resource from filmeducation.org (6 page pdf)
On August 7th, 1974, Frenchman Philippe Petit stepped out on a wire illegally rigged between the New York World Trade Center twin towers. After dancing for nearly an hour on the wire, he was arrested, taken for psychological evaluation and brought to jail before being finally released. This is a gripping, suspenseful documentary that incorporates Petit’s own film footage, and shows just how he managed to achieve the artistic crime of the century.
Setting: Man on Wire and follows the high-wire stunt between the Twin Towers of New York’s World Trade Centre by Philippe Petit in 1974
Genre: British-American biographical documentary film
Some Themes: Life and death, dangerous stunts, illegal activity, fame and consumerism and extreme sports, relationship breakdown
Interview with Philippe Petit from Chicago Humanities Festival
Ricky (Julian Dennison) is a defiant young city kid who finds himself on the run with his grumpy foster uncle (Sam Neill) in the wild New Zealand bush. A national manhunt ensues and the two are forced to put aside their differences and work together to survive in this hilarious and heartfelt coming-of-age adventure.
Setting: Auckland, New Zealand
Genre: Adventure comedy-drama
Some Themes: Family, survival and self-reliance, loss, resilience, growing up, nature
Interview with the director
Interview with cast members
Below you will find a guide to the prescribed films for junior cycle English for the student cohorts commencing Junior Cycle in 2018.2019 and 2020, including a synopsis, themes and the film trailer.
Director Ken Loach's powerful coming-of-age story set in the late 1960s, focuses on Billy Casper (David Bradley), a working-class boy from a mining community in the north of England. Billy seems to have little hope for his future: school is an alien, hostile place, and at home, his older brother is a brute. But when Billy begins training a kestrel that he finds on a nearby farm, he forms a close bond with ‘Kes’ and for the first time in his life, feels he has a purpose. The film has a documentary feel, as the dialogue is so naturalistic, and Loach uses several non-professional actors in the cast.
Newcomer Ferdia Walsh-Peelo plays 1980s teenager Conor, who moves to a tough, inner city school after his parents can no longer afford to pay his private school fees. Struggling to fit in, Conor meets the mysterious and beautiful Raphina (Lucy Boynton) and invites her to star in his band’s music videos. There’s only one problem: he’s not actually part of a band yet! Including fresh and lively songs, this upliftingcoming-of-age comedy drama shows us a fantasy-tinged world where music has the power to transform lives.
London, 1912. The Suffragette movement, led by Mrs Pankhurst (Meryl Streep), have been engaging in peaceful protest to achieve votes for women – all to no avail. Pankhurst calls for her followers to be more militant in their actions and prepare to use violence to achieve their goals. Laundry worker Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan) like many other working women, becomes involved in the struggle and soon realises that she risks losing her job, home, family and even her life in the fight for equality. This is a gripping, inspirational drama that tracks the story of the foot soldiers of the early feminist movement
Set in the 1960s on an island off New England, Sam and Suzy, both aged 12, ’fall in love’ and decide to run away together - something of a challenge on such a small island. The film follows their misadventures as the adults in their lives make efforts to search for them. This is a warm, coming-of-age, quirky comedy from the director of Fantastic Mr Fox and The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Released in 1984, Amadeus is the story of Mozart’s life, successes and troubles, told by a jealous rival composer, Antonio Salieri, who also claimed to have poisoned Mozart. The film was adapted from Peter Shaffer’s hit play and when it was released, won 8 Academy Awards including Best Film. No ordinary biopic, the film is a powerful, compelling drama that also celebrates the genius of Mozart’s timeless music.
Set in New Zealand’s Maori community, the story centres on Pai (Keisha Castle-Hughes) who believes she is destined to be chief of her patriarchal Maori tribe. But her grandfather is intent on choosing a male leader. Pai must challenge tradition to prove her worth and fulfil her destiny. Whale Rider explores cultural values, gender politics and humanity’s relationship to the natural world. Eleven-year old Castle-Hughes was Oscar-nominated for her powerful performance.
During the Great Depression of the 1930s, Ben Harper (Peter Graves) is a bank robber awaiting execution. He shares a prison cell with villain Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum) who overhears Harper revealing that the stolen cash is hidden somewhere around his house. On release from prison, Powell poses as a preacher and worms his way into Harper’s family to get his hands on the money. Powell marries, then murders Harper’s widow while her two children, John and Pearl, realise Powell’s evil intentions and escape down river, with Powell in hot pursuit. Charles Laughton’s film is part fairy tale, part Gothic nightmare and is eerie, stylised and suspenseful.
During a move to the suburbs, young girl Chihiro’s family stumble across a mysterious restaurant. When Chihiro wanders off she meets a boy who warns her to leave the strange land. Chihiro then discovers that her parents have peculiarly morphed into pigs. To save her family, she must embark on an adventure through the magical realm of Japanese mythology. From Japanese animation studio Ghibli, this coming-of-age story has an unusual plot structure, unforgettable characters and beautiful animation.
A gentle extra-terrestrial is left stranded on Earth where he’s discovered by a troubled 10-year-old boy. The pair form an unlikely friendship, but soon realise that Earth is not a safe place for the alien and devise a plan for ET to return home. The highest grossing film of the 1980s, this emotional and imaginative tale succeeded in becoming one of the world’s best loved family movies, as well as cementing Spielberg’s reputation as a great director.
Set off the coast of Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina, the film tells the story of six-year old Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis) who lives with her father Wink (Dwight Henry) and other survivors in marshlands known as The Bathtub. This isolated, poverty-stricken community live in ramshackle, tin roofed huts and grounded boats ready to float when the water rises. Hushpuppy thinks it ‘the prettiest place on Earth’. Director Behn Zeitlin expertly merges dream-like imagery and mystical creatures with the harsh realities of life in a community left to their own devices. Nominated for four Oscars, the film’s child star, Quvenzhané Wallis, became the youngest Best Actress nominee in history.
Below are some suggested short films and resources to use with junior cycle English classes.
This short comedy follows an 8 year old schoolboy who is so besotted with his teacher that he challenges her boyfriend to a duel…to the death.
This short animated comedy is about discovering the magic in what we see every day - sometimes you just have to look hard enough. The director got the idea for Signs when he noticed the boy in a ‘children crossing’ sign had been replaced with a Grim Reaper.
Based on a short by Roddy Doyle this poignant and comedic short film deftly captures the experience of being the new boy in school through the eyes of Joseph, a nine-year-old African boy.
Kelvin Kind, a wonderful loser with a heart of gold, is blissfully unaware of his own loneliness. But when a beautiful girl moves into the apartment across the hall, Kelvin’s solitary world is turned upside down. As he tries in vain to get the girl’s attention, Kelvin is soon forced to realise that being in love isn’t easy for nice guys…
The White Dress is the story of a girl on her communion day, but unlike most other little girls, she is making her communion all on her own.
A creative person often seems weird, funny and a little bit crazy. Even his friends and family do not always understand him and often feel ashamed of him. But sometimes he can create a real miracle - merely from garbage.
Meet Roy, Ireland’s only living animated character, born into an ordinary ‘live action’ family. Roy is intelligent but unfortunately for him he is badly drawn. His failure to gain steady employment finally leads him to Hollywood in search of fame, fortune and corrective surgery.
When Damien is forced to serve as an altar boy at an important mass in his local parish he faces a difficult choice: conform to the status quo or serve an extended ban from his passion in life… football. Full film can be viewed here.
Yu Ming Is Ainm Dom (My Name Is Yu Ming) is the story of a young Chinese man, who is disillusioned with his dead-end job at a supermarket. A spin of the globe leads him to choose Ireland as the destination for his new life and further research informs him that the official language of that country is Gaelic. Arriving in Dublin speaking the language, he is puzzled when nobody can understand him.
Purl is a ball of yarn that goes to work in a male dominated start up company called B.R.O. Capital. Antics ensue as Purl seeks to gain acceptance in the fast-paced environment.
Winner of the 2017 Oscar for best live-action short film, The Silent Child is the story of a deaf 6-year-old girl named Libby lives in a world of silence until a caring social worker gives her the gift of communication.
An old lady just wants to eat her cookies in peace, but a teenage boy has other plans for them.
In a busy life, Copi is a father who tries to teach the right way to his son, Paste. But ... what is the correct path?
You can also explore and discover a variety of suitable short films to explicitly teach with junior cycle English classes at the following websites:
The following workshop from Online Cluster CPD 2020/21 may support you in the English classroom.