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How to prepare for a movie discussion with young people


How to prepare for a movie discussion with young people.


Like music, it is important to discuss movies with young people. They are seeing them at the theater, as television specials, and with VCRs. Movies make a dramatic impact on us. They provide excellent springboards for constructive discussions of our dreams, fears and hurts that might not come out in other conversation. They can also instigate expressions of beliefs and doubts and confused values.


In preparing to discuss movies with young people, consider these things:

  • Who is in your group, their background and interests, their special needs and hurts.
  • The setting for such discussion. If it is a church, make sure your pastor and the parents of your young people are behind you and use of the film you are discussing.
  • Obviously, be familiar with the film itself and decide what clips you are going to use.
  • Use reviews and critiques of the film from periodicals and books.

These books can really help your preparation:


Fields, D. & James, E. (1999). Videos that teach: Teachable movie moments from 75 modern film classics. Grand Rapids, MI: Youth Specialities/Zondervan of HarperCollins. This book provides readers some 250 topics and about 100 Scripture passages that can be discussed from the 75 films reviewed. Each review begins with a "Trailer" ("Are you willing to die for what you believe in? for "Braveheart," then gives a very brief synopsis of "The Movie," and then suggests "This Clip" with detailed time for starting and key words or scene. "By the Book" refers to relevant biblical passages, and "Where To Take It" provides excellent discussion questions. This is well worth getting and using.


McDonald, A. (1992). Movies close up: Getting the most from film & video. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. This free-lance writer, teacher of drama and writer of radio and drama scripts, and film lover begins this short book with a discussion of movies as popular art. He wants to bring a greater appreciation, understanding and discrimination to the viewing of films. In such a short book, he offers remarkable insights into romantic, sci-fi, war, adventure, and other kinds of movies. This is more background than instructions for discussion.


Vermann, D. (ed.). (1992). Video movies worth watching: A guide for teens. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House. Parents or youth leaders will find this very useful. Several reviewers help you prepare programs using 83 popular movies. For each you will find the Title of the film, its rating, minutes and date, Synopsis and Review in several paragraphs, Suggestions for Viewing entirely or possible segments, Important Scenes and Dialogue, Discussion Questions, Outline of possible Talk or Wrap-up, and Related Bible References. In some cases there are Other Ideas or Follow-up.

Interestingly, there is not much overlap in the movies chosen in these books.


In the YouthWorkers’ Encyclopedia (iExalt Software), you will find LessonMaker. This will suggest warm-up games for many of the topics covered here.

Preliminary discussion should focus interest in topics to be seen in the movie.


The books above give you excellent ideas for the discussion itself.

For discussion purposes, it is usually best to use only short clips from a movie. For lock-ins and on retreats view the whole movie only when everyone is agreed or provide alternate activities.

The idea is to promote discussion after the viewing. In a few cases the content of the movie is so intense, people will need some time before they are ready to discuss it. In most cases, discussion will come after you have shown a clip. You must be prepared to pursue the topics in depth or to range off in other directions.


Everyone who contributes to the discussion should feel affirmed even if you don’t agree with their opinion. Try to show some positive feature of what they are saying or at least paraphrase it positively.

The wrap-up talk allows for conclusion of the discussion and the presentation of a central idea for them to take away from the experience. Make sure it is appropriate, relevant, and brief. It should lead to a natural transition to your next activity.

Dean Borgman cCYS