English Language Blog

Going to the movies Posted by on Aug 31, 2012 in Culture, English Vocabulary

Movie, motion picture, film, and flick.  What is the difference between all of these words?  The simplest answer to this question is there is, there is no difference.  These are synonyms, which can be used interchangeably, but there is more to the story than just that.  In this post we are going to take a closer look at these different words.

a movie – A movie is a story that is recorded by a camera and shown in a movie theater (or cinema) or on television.
For example: I can’t wait to see the new Batman movie.

a film – This is an older word, dating back to a time when movies were made on something called ‘film’.  Film is a thin sheet or strip of clear plastic on which pictures can be developed.  A long time ago film was used to record movies and then these movies were project for people to see in theaters.  Movies are no longer recorded on film, they are digital now, but this word is still used as a synonym for the word movie.
For example:  Have you see the new James Bond film?

a motion picture – This word again has origins in the beginning of the movie industry.  When movies were first recorded they were recorded on film, one picture or photo, at a time.  So, a movie consisted of a series of individual pictures that were then projected on a screen in rapid succession to produce the effect of one continuous moving.  This phrase was created to distinguish between a motion picture (which moves) and a still pictures (which are photograph).
For example:  Brad Pitt is staring in another major motion picture.

a flick – This is a slang term for a movie.  Again this word has its origin in old movies recorded on film.  These movies used to ‘flicker’ when they were being played.  To flicker means to shine unsteadily.  Old films were projected by lights that often flickered or shined unsteadily.  This is why people began to call movies flicks.
For example: Do you want to go see the new action flick with me?

Here are some more movie related terms that are good to know:

animated film – a movie that use computer (or hand drawn) graphics to tell a story

documentary – a movie that presents facts objectively without editorializing or inserting fictional information

chick flick – a film designed to appeal to women, usually with a happy ending

sci-fi – ( short for ‘science fiction’) a movie that features a futuristic ideas and adventure

western – a movie about cowboys in western North America often taking place in the 19th and early 20th centuries

What is your favorite type of movie?

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About the Author: Gabriele

Hi there! I am one of Transparent Language's ESL bloggers. I am a 32-year-old native English speaker who was born and raised in the United States. I am living in Washington, DC now, but I have lived all over the US and also spent many years living and working abroad. I started teaching English as a second language in 2005 after completing a Master's in Applied Linguists and a Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults' (CELTA). Since that time I have taught ESL in the United States at the community college and university level. I have also gone on to pursue my doctorate in psychology and now I also teach courses in psychology. I like to stay connected to ESL learners around the world through Transparent Languages ESL Blog. Please ask questions and leave comments on the blog and I will be sure to answer them.