English vocabulary for movies

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English vocabulary for movies

On this page, we will look at some of the more difficult English vocabulary for movies. Let’s start with the different roles people have in the film industry. You should already know words like actor, but here are some of the other jobs:

Roles in the film industry:

  • Protagonist – the leading character in the film (note that is not the same as ‘hero’ – the protagonist might be a negative character).
  • Director – the person who works with the actors, directs the camera people and is responsible for the overall look and feel of the film.
  • Producer – they are like project managers, looking after the budget for the film and coordinating all parts of the film.
  • Screenwriter – the person who either writes the script and dialogue or edits the script (for example, when turning a book into a movie).
  • Gaffer – the person responsible for the lighting.
  • Boom operator – the person who holds the microphone as close as possible to the actors but not so it shows on the final movie.
  • Stunt double – the person who does the dangerous scenes (such as jumping off a building). The difference between a stunt person and a student double is that the double is chosen because they look similar to the main actor in height and size.
  • Casting director – the person who chooses which actor should play which part in the movie.
  • Agent – the person who tries to get the actor into a role in the movie.
  • Editor – the person who organises the film into the right sequence, cutting out parts of the film that are not required. Note that this is a different role to a magazine or newspaper editor who chooses which articles are included or rejected.
  • Crew – all the people responsible for making a movie behind the camera.


Vocabulary used in the film industry (see below the list for examples)

  • The soundtrack – the music used in the film.
  • A trailer – the short clips of other movies shown before the main movie, normally 2 or 3 minutes long giving an idea of what the movie is about.
  • To shoot / shooting – in the film industry, this filming. “This film was shot in Spain.”
  • On location – this means the movie was filmed in a real-world place (not in a studio).
  • A blockbuster – a widely publicised, popular movie which is often expensive to make but is expected to be commercially successful (make a lot of money).
  • An indie movie – short for ‘independent’, this kind of film is often made on a small budget and doesn’t involve the large commercial companies.
  • A premiere – the first time a movie is shown in the cinema (often attended by some of the actors in the movie)
  • The credits – the list of names at the end of a movie that show who did what.
  • A sequel – the follow up movie that comes after the original
  • A prequel – a movie made after the first movie but showing what happened before the first movie.
  • Dubbing – when the speaking in the movie is changed to another language.
  • Voice over – when someone is narrating something but they are not seen on screen.
  • The cast – the people that were in the film.
  • A cameo appearance – a short appearance by a famous person (this could be another actor or some other celebrity)
  • Outtake – a part of the movie that gets cut from the final film and is not used
  • A cult following – when there are a lot fans who repeatedly watch the movie and quote phrases from it
  • A synopsis – a short summary of a movie
  • Artistic licence – when something is not 100% factual or accurate but is changed for dramatic effect.

Here are some examples of the words used above:

I saw a movie last night that I think you’d love. It had a great soundtrack, with music from Taylor Swift and Kanye West, and it was shot on location in New Zealand, so the scenery was amazing. It had quite a low budget and hasn’t been advertised very much, so it’s not the kind of blockbuster movie you normally like, but you should at least read the synopsis online – it’s a really interesting story! The movie was actually made about 3 years ago, but I didn’t know nothing about until last week. Apparently there was a premiere of the movie in New Zealand when it was released, and 5 or 6 members of the cast were there. There were so many good actors in it too, people I really like to watch on screen – actually, the credits looked like a list of my favourite people in the movie industry, with so many great names! It has the same scriptwriter and director that worked together on the Lord of the Rings movies back in 2004.

Although it wasn’t well-known when it was first released, it has gained something of a cult following now. It’s has been dubbed into 4 or 5 different languages, and they are now making a sequel showing what happened after they got married. I’ve seen the trailer for it, and there is a voice over from the main actor talking about what has happened since the end of the first movie . I don’t know if that would be very interesting though – I’d much prefer to find out what the character was like before they met, so I’d be more keen on a prequel if they’re going to make another movie.