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.
The Farthest is a documentary.
It charts the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 space probe missions from their inception to launch in 1977. The documentary follows the information that has been gathered about our solar system and simultaneously explores humankind's curiosity about the world and solar system around us.
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]
Brooklyn teenager, Miles Morales, suddenly develops mysterious
powers that transform him into Spider-Man. When he meets an
alternative Peter Parker, he realizes that there are others who share
his special talents. Miles must now battle the evil Kingpin, a villain
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
The film tells the true story of Joseph Merrick, a man born with
distorted features, at the end of the 19th century. He is
discovered in a Victorian circus by surgeon Fredrick Treves.
Treves pays Mr Bytes, his owner, to take him. Merrick does not
communicate well, and Treves begins a programme of
Through a series of events, Merrick becomes well known in
Victorian society. Although he achieves almost celebrity status,
the film highlights the dehumanising impact of difference.
Setting: Late 19th century London
Genre: Historical drama
Some Themes: Good versus evil, love, dark versus light, disability
Interview with the director, David Lynch
In Alfred Hitchcock's adaptation of the popular thriller, tennis star
Guy Haines (Farley Granger) is furious by his wife's refusal to finalise
their divorce procedures so he can marry the senator's daughter,
Anne (Ruth Roman). He starts up a conversation with a stranger,
Bruno Anthony (Robert Walker), and unknowingly sets in motion a
deadly chain of events. One thing leads to another, which leads to a
murder, with Guy seen as murder suspect number one...
Setting: The train, amusement parks, the Mortons’ home
Some Themes: Relationships, light and dark, appearances, double lives, fear, deceit, social structures, politics
Film trailer from Rotten Tomatoes Classic Trailers
The story follows the March sisters through adolescence, as they
find love, and find their place in the world. Each of the March
sisters has at least one major character flaw that she struggles to
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)
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:
The film follows a sequential structure from youngest to
oldest. We begin with a toddler's perspective and end with an
elderly lady reflecting on love and life. The documentary
explores an array of feelings these women hold towards their
partners, boyfriends, husbands, and sons. As it progresses the
men that are being discussed merge into a portrait of one
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
Billy is fifteen years old and growing up in a grim town where
the economic and social backdrop is poor. Boys usually leave
school early, without qualifications, to work in the mines. Billy's
half-brother, Jud, picks on him, he is bullied by his classmates,
and he acts out in school. His outlook is not very positive. It
looks like he will follow Jud into the mines although he really
doesn’t want to. When Billy takes a kestrel from a farm it gives
him a sense of purpose. For the first time he begins to realise
there is a world beyond the mines.
Setting: South Yorkshire, late 1960s
Some Themes: Familial bonds, relationships, childhood, education systems, class structure, nature
Film guide from Intofilm
You may need to create an account to access the material.
Conor's parents are struggling financially and about to separate.
As a result, Conor has to change schools. However, big changes
are not only happening in Conor’s family, Ireland is also going
through a time of great transformation. Conor and his friends
form a band that becomes part of this, giving hope for future
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)
A young laundry worker, Maud Watts, gets accidentally
swept up in a suffragette riot. Maud's continued subsequent
involvement in the Suffrage Movement brings her into
conflict with her family and employer as she and her fellow
suffragettes campaign to secure the vote for women.
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
The plot is cleverly based around the idea of Wadjda's
fascination with owning a green bike. However, women in
Saudi Arabia are forbidden to own or ride their own bikes. Wadjda is not deterred by these laws and starts to save
up for the bike. She enters a Quran recitation
competition, along with an array of other entertaining
endeavors, all in a bid to buy the freedom of a bike and
what it represents.
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)
Moonrise Kingdom is an American coming-of-age,
It tells the story of an orphan boy (Sam) who makes an
escape from his boy scout’s camp to unite with his pen
pal and love interest. Feeling estranged from their
guardians and rejected by their peers, both Sam and Suzy
run away to an isolated beach. Meanwhile, the island's
police captain organises a search party of scouts and
family members to find the runaways.
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
Film guide from Intofilm
Inspired by true events, Hotel Rwanda is a historical drama.
In April 1994, tensions between the Hutu-controlled government and
Tutsi rebels led to civil war and genocide in Rwanda. The film
documents Paul Rusesabagina's efforts to save the lives of over a
thousand people who sheltered from from machete-wielding Hutu
militiamen during the worst of the massacres.
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)
Man on Wire is a biographical, documentary film.
The film chronicles tightrope walker Philippe Petit's daring, but
illegal, high-wire routine performed in 1974 between New York
City's, World Trade Centre - The Twin Towers. Crafted like a heist
film, it shows rare footage of the preparations for the event,
photographic stills, enactments as well as present-day interviews
with the participants. It was considered "the artistic crime of the
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
Hunt for the Wilderpeople is an adventure film.
Reclusive country folk, Bella and Hector, become foster
parents to Ricky, a problem child from the city. After some
adjustment, things go reasonably well. However, Bella's death
means that Hector must now look after Ricky himself, and
they haven't been getting along. Moreover, her death causes
Child Services to decide to send Ricky back to the orphanage.
Ricky refuses to go back and runs away, ultimately sparking a
national manhunt for him and Hector.
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 are some suggested films and resources to use with Junior Cycle English classrooms.
Please be aware that there are sensitive issues in some of these films.
We recommend that all films are watched before exploration in the classroom.
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. (15 mins approx.)
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. (3 mins approx.)
Based on a short story 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. This might be particularly suitable towards the beginning of a new school year. (12 mins approx.)
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… (15 mins approx.)
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. (4 mins approx.)
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. (8 mins approx.)
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. (22 mins approx.)
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. (13 mins approx.)
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. (8 mins approx.)
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 who lives in a world of silence until a caring social worker gives her the gift of communication. (20 mins approx.)
This comedic yet poignant short film tells the story of an old lady and her intention to eat some homemade cookies, but a teenage boy has other plans for them... (5 mins approx.)
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? (8 mins approx.)
A short film that appeals to emotions. A crush on the heart so that we all participate in the construction of a more inclusive world. (9 mins approx.)
Hair Love is a heartfelt animated short film that centres around the relationship between an African-American father, his daughter Zuri, and the most daunting task a father could ever come across – doing his daughter's hair for the first time. Please note: This film deals with particular health issues. (6 mins approx.)
In this animated family drama, we are introduced to a young boy, whose mother has just gotten him a present. As he opens it, we meet a three-legged puppy. The puppy is at first rejected by the boy, but the pair eventually warm to each other. (4 mins approx.)
This romantic comedy short is about a pair of love-struck octopuses who through a series of comical events are separated and must find each other. (3 mins approx.)
Mical is the emotionally-charged story of Mike’s dyslexia and how his mother’s persistence and determination changed everything. (20 mins approx.)
The film is a fantasy animation that centres around a young girl who is lured into an enchanted toy store. Drawn in by its beautiful collection of dolls, including one that looks just like her, this film might be particularly suitable at Halloween. (5 mins approx.)
Based on the original short story by Joseph O'Connor, Janey Mary tells the tale of a five-year-old girl in 1940's Dublin, who is sent out by her mother onto the cold and wet winter streets to beg for food. This film might be particularly suitable at Christmas time. (19 mins approx.)
This is a short animated coming-of-age film about a boy and his crush. At first he is too shy to admit to his crush how he feels. Until one day his heart pops out of his chest and chases the boy of his dreams. (4 mins approx.)
A short 3D animated film about the perseverance of a young girl who dreams of becoming an airplane engineer. One day a tiny pilot drops out of the sky and she endeavors to return him and his aircraft to the clouds again. (6 mins approx.)
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.