Film Vocabulary

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This guide provides you with the movie words needed to navigate and appreciate the fascinating world of the film industry. The following list promises to enrich the film vocabulary of every language learner.  
Film Vocabulary

General Film Industry Terminology

Before diving deep into the specific aspects of the film industry, let's look at some general terms. These are the film vocabulary words that you'll often hear in conversations about movies.

  • Feature Film: A full-length movie typically lasting between 70 and 210 minutes.
  • Short Film: A film that is significantly shorter than a feature film, usually under 40 minutes.
  • Screenplay: The script of a film, including dialogue, character descriptions, and action scenes.
  • Director: The person responsible for overseeing the creative aspects of a film.
  • Producer: The person who oversees the production of a film, from financing to post-production.
  • Cinematographer: Also known as a Director of Photography (DP), they oversee the camera and light crews.
  • Editor: The person who cuts and pieces together the film to create the final product.
  • Cast: All the actors and actresses appearing in a film.
  • Crew: The technical staff working behind the scenes to create the film.
  • Box Office: The total revenue a movie generates from ticket sales.

These basics will provide a solid foundation for your further exploration.

Names of Film Genres

Movies can be categorized into different genres based on their content, tone, and narrative structure. Understanding these film vocabulary terms can help you articulate your movie preferences better.

  • Action: A genre typically involving fast-paced plots, physical feats, and stunts.
  • Comedy: Films that aim to provoke laughter and amusement.
  • Drama: Films that focus on serious, emotion-driven narratives.
  • Horror: A genre designed to scare, shock, or startle viewers.
  • Thriller: Films characterized by suspense, tension, and excitement.
  • Romance: A genre focusing on the theme of love and romantic relationships.
  • Sci-Fi: Short for Science Fiction, these films often explore speculative, futuristic concepts.
  • Fantasy: Films that incorporate elements of magic, mythology, or the supernatural.
  • Documentary: Non-fiction films that present factual information about a person, event, or issue.
  • Animation: Films that are made up of animated, rather than live-action, images.

You can now identify and articulate the different types of film genres. This will surely enhance your understanding and appreciation of the diverse world of cinema vocabulary.

Film Production Vocabulary

Film production involves a complex process, from the inception of a story idea to the release of the movie. Here are some key movie terminology list terms associated with film production.

  • Pre-production: The planning stage before shooting begins, including scriptwriting, casting, and location scouting.
  • Production: The filming stage, where the movie is actually shot.
  • Post-production: The editing stage after shooting ends, including video editing, sound editing, and special effects.
  • Principal Photography: The phase of production where the majority of the movie is filmed.
  • Storyboard: A sequence of drawings representing the shots planned for a film.
  • Shot: A single, uninterrupted piece of film; the building block of a scene.
  • Take: A single continuous recorded performance of a scene.
  • Cut: A transition from one shot to another in a film's editing process.
  • Wrap: The end of shooting for the film or for a particular actor.
  • Release: The distribution of a movie to the public.

With the knowledge of these film production terms, you'll have a deeper understanding of what goes into creating the movies you love.


Movie Characters Terminology

A film's characters are integral to its narrative. These vocabulary terms will help you understand the roles characters play in a movie.

  • Protagonist: The main character, who the story revolves around.
  • Antagonist: The character who opposes the protagonist, often a villain.
  • Supporting Character: Characters who help to elaborate the story and assist the protagonist.
  • Character Arc: The transformation or inner journey of a character over the course of a story.
  • Narrator: The character or voice that relates the story's events to the audience.
  • Sidekick: A loyal and supportive character who accompanies or assists the protagonist throughout the story. 
  • Antihero: A complex and flawed character who lacks traditional heroic qualities but is the central focus of the story. 
  • Femme Fatale: A seductive and mysterious female character who manipulates or deceives others, typically leading them into dangerous or compromising situations. 
  • Stock Character: A stereotypical or formulaic character type that is often used as shorthand to quickly establish a character's role or purpose in the story.

You've learned about different types of characters and their roles in a story. This understanding will add a new layer to your viewing experience, helping you appreciate the intricate storytelling elements in films.

Film Making Techniques List

Film-making techniques are the methods filmmakers use to convey meaning and evoke emotions. Knowing these film vocabulary words will enable you to critique and appreciate the artistry of film.

  • Close-Up: A shot that tightly frames a person or object.
  • Long Shot: A shot from a distance, showing a broad view of the scene.
  • Tracking Shot: A shot where the camera moves alongside the subject.
  • Montage: A sequence of short shots edited into a coherent sequence.
  • Voice-Over: A technique where a voice is used in a movie to narrate or explain the scene.
  • Flashback: A scene that depicts events occurring before the main timeline of the story.
  • Fade: A transition between scenes where one fades out as the next fades in.
  • Cutaway: A shot that's usually of something other than the current action.

You now know some of the techniques that filmmakers use to create cinematic magic. These are the tools that transform simple stories into visual spectacles.

Film Criticism and Analysis

Film criticism involves analyzing and evaluating films. Understanding these movie vocabulary terms will enhance your ability to assess and discuss films critically.

  • Review: An evaluation or analysis of a film, often published after its release.
  • Critic: A person who professionally analyzes and comments on films.
  • Rating: A system used to classify films based on their suitability for certain audiences.
  • Plot: The sequence of events or main story in a film.
  • Theme: The underlying message or main idea of the film.
  • Subtext: The underlying or implicit meaning in dialogue or the narrative.
  • Symbolism: The use of symbols to signify ideas and qualities by giving them symbolic meanings.
  • Motif: A recurring element that has symbolic significance in a story.

By understanding these film criticism terms, you can unlock a new level of film appreciation. Now you can participate in or even initiate insightful discussions about movies.

Notable Film Awards and Festivals

Film awards and festivals play a key role in celebrating cinematic excellence and fostering new talent. Here are some of the most notable.

  • Academy Awards (Oscars): An annual American awards ceremony honoring cinematic achievements.
  • Cannes Film Festival: A prestigious film festival held annually in Cannes, France.
  • Golden Globe Awards: Awards bestowed by members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for film and television.
  • Sundance Film Festival: An American film festival showcasing independent films.
  • Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale): A leading film festival held annually in Berlin, Germany.
  • BAFTA Awards: Presented by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, they are the British equivalent of the Oscars.
  • Venice Film Festival: The oldest film festival in the world, held annually in Venice, Italy.

Recognizing these notable film awards and festivals helps you join the global conversation about cinematic achievements. This knowledge connects you to the larger world of film culture.

Popular Idioms and Fun Phrases Related to Film Industry

Just like any other industry, the film world has its own set of idioms and fun phrases. These are a few you might enjoy.

  • "Break a leg": A way to wish someone good luck without jinxing them, often used before a performance. It’s so funny that the reply to this phrase is “Thanks!.”
  • "In the limelight": Being in the center of attention, much like actors on stage.
  • "It's in the can": Refers to when a film has finished shooting and is ready for post-production.
  • "Stealing the scene": When an actor performs so impressively that they overshadow others in the same scene.
  • "A blockbuster": A highly popular, successful film.
  • "Behind the scenes": Refers to the actions or processes that happen out of the audience's view to make a film.
  • "Calling the shots": Being in charge and making decisions, much like a director.
  • "On the edge of one's seat": To be very excited and eager to know what's going to happen next in a film.
  • "A cliffhanger": An ending that leaves the audience in suspense, often used in serials or sequels.
  • "A twist in the tale": An unexpected development in the plot of a movie.

By learning these idioms and phrases, you've gained a fun and colloquial understanding of movie terminology. This makes you not just a movie viewer but a part of the wider film community.


You've now ventured through the world of film, learning about everything from general film vocabulary to specialized terms about film production, characters, and more. You've also discovered notable film awards and festivals, along with a fun collection of idioms and phrases. With this newfound movie vocabulary, you're all set to delve deeper into the realm of cinema, appreciating films on a whole new level and engaging in meaningful movie discussions.

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Ominaxon Apr 22nd, 2024
Thanks for vocabulary
PromovaMar 12th, 2024
A close-up shot is a camera shot in which the subject is tightly framed, filling the frame and emphasizing specific details or emotions. Close-up shots are often used to convey intimacy, intensity, or dramatic impact.
GiancarloMar 12th, 2024
I have a question, what is a "close-up" shot in filmmaking?
IshikaMar 10th, 2024
great!! learned a lot new thank you
kyrstinNov 6th, 2023
Awesome and very useful info.. THANKS A LOT!
Leia HudsonNov 2nd, 2023
Thanks for sharing this. It's a fantastic resource for ESL learners and cinephiles.
Director K.HariharanOct 23rd, 2023
Very thanks for your big help
Dragica KaradzinOct 16th, 2023
Dear Sir/Madam, I would like to cancel my subscription to your materials and course. Could you please stop sending me the materials and charging from my bank account. Thank you very much