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Behind the Scenes: An Exploration Into the Greatest Movies of All Time


Literature on Film 1 -High School ELA

In this 14-week class students will explore literature through film commonly taught in American high schools. Students will be expected to watch each movie before class each week. All abilities welcome and accommodated.
Courtney Runchey
29 total reviews for this teacher
3 reviews for this class
Completed by 22 learners
  There are no upcoming classes.
year old learners
US Grade Level
learners per class


per week
Charged weekly
Meets 1x per week
Over 14 weeks
50 minutes per class
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Class Experience

Students will gain a base knowledge of the literature covered in class. Including overall plot, themes, major characters, and what was exceptional about this to make it a staple of high schools. 
I have worked in education for over 15 years, the last 9 as a homeschool parent. My passion is helping students create a deeper understanding of complex material by examining different perspectives. The stories that are told matter, even more in today's world. Understanding another perspective and story can help us relate. I love sharing new diverse literature that is engaging and expands students' understanding. History can come alive using both novels and primary source materials in my classes. When examining history there are many factors that we will discuss including socioeconomic, religious, bias in narration and understanding who the narrator is. Critical thinking is a skill that all students will work on, while we engage in discussions about the topics covered students will be questioned to consider different perspectives and reasons for events or choices.  

I have taught at a local homeschool co-op for over 7 years (in person and online) During that time one of my favorite classes has been running the middle and high school book clubs. Beside introducing books to students; I have been facilitating the discussions around difficult topics. I have attended many teacher professional developments over the years focusing on how to handle these difficult topics with sensitivity and care.

I started my schooling with a B.B.A. from Northwood University. After several years in the corporate climate I decided to go back to school to get a teaching degree. I attended Eastern Michigan University and finished my classes and testing required for the teaching degree. The semester I was to start student teaching one of my children became seriously ill. Once they were recovered I was starting to homeschool my children and never went back to finish the program. 
While I have taught at several homeschool groups and co-ops. My experience at the high school has focused on several topics: English, History, Finance, and Engineering. With my love of books I ran the middle and high school book clubs for over 5 years. During this time I have also taught classes on essay writing, short stories, grammar and mechanics of writing and novel analysis. I ran the book club and novel analysis class together exploring a new book each month.  The class was split into two, one with a middle grade selection and one with a YA book selection. I worked hard to select new books that were diverse, own voices, and covered many genres.(24 books a year) I facilitated discussions about the books we read. This included plot, themes, symbolism, character development, and more. My students have also participated in NaNoWriMo and Camp NaNoWriMo. 

I created the Literature through film series at the request of students. While we were reading excellent books and engaging with the primary source material. Students, especially my reluctant or slow readers, wanted to learn about the "classics" without giving up the book club. Some of these students had just started to enjoy reading or couldn't complete 2 novels a month. By using film students were exposed to 14 book-to-film adaptations in one semester.  We were able to still discuss all the major elements of our novel analysis. I used passages from the text to discuss unique grammar usage. Some students enjoyed it so much they even read a book or two after watching the movies. 

With my History classes I use a combination of primary sources, articles, reference materials, and videos to teach students. I teach students to evaluate the bias of the author, the purpose of the piece of writing, and who's points of views are put forth. We were often trying to look at marginalized peoples stories that may not always be highlighted. I have taught both Howard Zinn's History for Young People, Big History Project, and History through film. 

The classes I taught under Finance, Entrepreneurship and Accounting. While covering the topics themselves I find that students do well with hands-on application of studies. For example my Finance class besides learning the basics of finance. Students researched careers, living locations, wages, housing expenses, job growth or decline projections in the area of their chosen field and living location. With that information they made a budget, calculated mortgage rates, loan interest rates, amount of student loan debt they anticipated and payment schedules. They considered the impact of credit scores and of credit card debt at different interest rates. We also did a class long mock investment tracking, investments over time, and retirement series. 

Our group was lucky enough to have access to Lego Education Kits. I taught several classes with engineering challenges and using the kits materials.  My Outschool engineering classes are based on those I taught at the homeschool groups but do not require a kit. 
Students need to watch the movie for that week before class. For graded students they will have 4 projects of their choice to complete by the end of the class. Depending on the project time required will vary.
Students are required to watch each movie before class. All are available online (many for free on streaming services) or at a library.
In addition to the Outschool classroom, this class uses:
Students are graded 20% per project (80% total), 20% class participation. 
Students only need to do 4 projects.
If you have any questions or need accommodations please contact me. Everyone can be successful in my classes. 
50 minutes per week in class, and an estimated 2 - 4 hours per week outside of class.
While I did choose films that are rated PG-13 or lower they are a work of their times. What does this mean? What our society thinks of as acceptable has changed over time. In these films you will see things that may not be shown if they were remade today. That includes language, smoking, drugs, drinking, nudity, unplanned pregnancy, rape, abortion, guns and more. Please review the movies, parent "need to knows", and suggested ages from Common Sense Media listed under each film in the before registering for class. https://www.commonsensemedia.org/

 Week                                                                                          Movie

               1                                                                         Pride and Prejudice 
                                                                                                       Rated PG 2005 2hrs 7min
                                                                                          Common Sense Media says 11+ Parents say 11+ Kids say 10+

Parents need to know that Pride & Prejudice, based on the novel by Jane Austen, includes discussions of marriage for money. Set in 19th-century England, it offers a mostly gentle, sometimes incisive critique of class and gender systems. Characters drink at a party, make mild sexual allusions, and argue with one another concerning money and romance.

               2                                                                         To Kill Mockingbird
                                                                                                        Not Rated 1962 2hrs 9min
                                                                                          Common Sense Media says 12+ Parents say 12+ Kids say 10+

Parents need to know that To Kill a Mockingbird is the award-winning 1962 film adaptation of the classic Harper Lee novel. Its powerful evocation of racism and bigotry in 1930s Alabama remains relevant today, as do the themes of empathy, compassion, and justice sought by Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck). The "N" word is used as a weapon by the lead villain, and when young Scout Finch (Mary Badham) uses the word because kids at her school are using it, her father explains why she should never use it. In the movie's powerful courtroom scenes, the rape of an impoverished young White woman is discussed in detail, and over the course of the trial, abuse (and possibly incest) is implied at the hands of her father. The film should inspire family discussion of not only racism and injustice, but also how values such as empathy and compassion can be used to educate against bigotry and profound ignorance.

            3                                                                           The Great Gatsby
                                                                                                        Rated PG-13 2013 2hrs 22min
                                                                                          Common Sense Media says 14+ Parents say 14+ Kids say 13+

Parents need to know that director Baz Luhrmann's (Moulin Rouge) take on The Great Gatsby is a decadent, dizzying version of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic American novel. The movie is true to the book, featuring scenes with lots of drinking -- often to excess -- and smoking. There's not too much swearing (though some soundtrack song lyrics include infrequent use of "s--t" and "f--k"), but expect some violence (a man punches another, a car hits a woman head-on, and a character shoots another) and sexuality. Couples -- including people married to others -- are shown kissing and in bed (bare shoulders). Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, and Carey Mulligan star; that, plus the movie's hip soundtrack and lush style, are likely to make it very appealing to teens.

               4                                                                         The Perks of Being a Wallflower
                                                                                                        Rated PG-13 2012 1hr 45min
                                                                                          Common Sense says 15+ Parents say 15+ Kids say 14+

Parents need to know that The Perks of Being a Wallflower (based on the same-named book by Stephen Chbosky) is an edgy, moving, and layered coming-of-age dramedy that's frank about the troubles and exploits of teenagers. You see them fret over their futures, push back against parental intervention, drink, make out, and use drugs. One girl also blithely jokes about being bulimic. Expect to see couples (both same- and opposite-sex) making out, teens bullying each other, and plenty of swearing. There's also a big reveal about a major, tragic trauma.

               5                                                                         The Secret Life of Bees
                                                                                                        Rated PG-13 2008 1hr 54min
                                                                                          Common Sense Media says 13+ Parents say 13+ Kids say 13+ 

Parents need to know that this emotional, 1960s-set drama includes multiple scenes of a man reacting violently toward his wife and daughter. The child witnesses her father's assault on her mother (resulting in off-camera gunshots and death); as a young teen, the same child is the victim of heartless physical and mental punishment. The unexpected discovery of a beloved character's dead body is intense and may be disturbing to some young viewers. African-American characters suffer at the hands of prejudiced white Southerners in many scenes. Racial hatred is illustrated by ugly name-calling (including use of the "N" word) and two beatings. But in spite of all of the above, the filmmakers don't exploit or maximize the action. They show only as much as necessary to provide the desired impact.

               6                                                                         Murder on the Orient Express
                                                                                                         Rated PG-13 2017 1hr 54min
                                                                                          Common Sense Media says 13+ Parents say 12+ Kids say 12+

Parents need to know that Murder on the Orient Express is based on Agatha Christie's classic novel. Kenneth Branagh both directs and stars as iconic detective Hercule Poirot; the rest of the star-studded cast includes Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Daisy Ridley, Josh Gad, Michelle Pfeiffer, Penelope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, and more. It's a murder mystery, so you can expect violence: Guns are shown (and fired once), and there's a little blood (mostly dried, on a corpse), plus a minor stabbing and some fighting and chasing. There's a verbal description of a terrible crime, the kidnapping and death of a child. Language is very minor -- nothing stronger than "damn." A prostitute is shown and referred to in one scene, and there's a bit of flirting and innuendo. Characters drink alcohol socially on the train, and one of them appears to "need" a drink more than the others (his hands shake). Another character takes a barbiturate called Barbital and seems to be addicted. Characters smoke. The film is smart, colorful, and entertaining in a classical way, which means it may feel a little old-fashioned to some. Christie's book was previously adapted into a film in the 1970s.
               7                                                                         Jane Eyre
                                                                                                        Rated PG-13 2011 2hrs
                                                                                         Common Sense Media says 13+ Parents say 14+ Kids say 12+

Parents need to know that Jane Eyre is a haunting romantic drama based on Charlotte Brontë's classic novel. It doesn't have any strong sexual content (kissing/embracing is as steamy as it gets), foul language, or graphic violence, but the story at its core is still quite adult. The tale of a young governess -- a role that, in the 19th century, was neither seen as a servant nor as lady of the house, which made for a difficult situation in a class-based society -- who falls in love with her mysterious employer might seem tame by today's standards, but it's filled with complexities. The film is often somber and sometimes spooky, and some scenes depicting how wayward children were treated in those days may seem downright cruel.

               8                                                                        The Kite Runner
                                                                                                        Rated PG-13 2007 2hrs 8min
                                                                                         Common Sense Media says 15+ Parents say 16+ Kids say 12+

Parents need to know that although this often-harrowing drama set primarily in Afghanistan focuses on children's experiences, the themes are mature. Children are repeatedly in peril, and there's a disturbing, though not explicit, scene in which a young boy is raped by older boys (close-ups of faces and a belt being unbuckled indicate what's going on). Several scenes show warfare (explosions, gunfire, bloody bodies) during the Soviet invasion; others depict Taliban oppression (a public stoning, beatings, taunting of civilians). One hanged body is visible on the street. A brief tirade features several uses of "f--k" in a row; other language includes "hell" and "damn."

               9                                                                        The Personal History of David Copperfield
                                                                                                        Rated PG 2019 1hr 59min
                                                                                         Common Sense Media says 10+ Parents say 10+ Kids say 10+

Parents need to know that The Personal History of David Copperfield is a brilliantly funny retelling of the classic Charles Dickens novel. Though the movie is largely comedic, there are moments of violence -- although even they are often played for laughs. In one scene, a young David Copperfield (Ranveer Jaiswal) is beaten by his stepfather, Mr. Murdstone (Darren Boyd) -- a character whose cruelty extends to informing Copperfield of his mother's death only after her funeral. In another scene, Betsey Trotwood (Tilda Swinton) and Uriah Heep (Ben Whishaw) repeatedly slap each other across the face before an older Copperfield (Dev Patel) punches Heep to the floor. While at sea during a vicious storm, a character falls from his boat and drowns. His body is seen laid out on the shore. There's some depiction of being unhoused, with Mr. Micawber (Peter Capaldi) and his family evicted from their home. Characters drink regularly, and Mr. Wickfield (Benedict Wong) is portrayed as being dependent on alcohol. Director Armando Iannucci's "color blind" approach to casting means that this take on the classic story is far more diverse than those that have come before. Several characters aspire to climb in social class, which sometimes leads to them acting deceitfully -- and, in one case, illegally. But the overall messages are of generosity, friendship, family, and recognizing what's really important in life.

              10                                                                        Romeo and Juliet
                                                                                                        Rated PG-13 1996 2hrs
                                                                                          Common Sense Media says 16+ Parents say 13+ Kids say 13+

Parents need to know that this film features a considerable amount of blood, violence, and explicit references to sex. Prostitution, brief nudity, teen sex, gang-related deaths, car assaults, bloody fistfights, and a gangster pointing a pistol directly at a child's face, makes this film inappropriate for kids under the age of 17. There's a strong emphasis on guns that can easily be seen as glamorization: characters sport decorated pistols and fashionably threatening jewelry (skull rings, dagger belts), not to mention an ad for bullets. Background scenery makes much use of billboards, posters, and license plates designed to mimic soda, liquor, and cigarette ads.

              11                                                                         The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Rings
                                                                                                        Rated PG-13 2001 2hrs 58min
                                                                                          Common Sense Media says 12+ Parents say 11+ Kids say 11+

Parents need to know that The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is a classic fantasy that's full of violence and danger, including death. Horrific medieval-esque creatures kill, mostly with arrows and swords. More often, though, they get impaled, decapitated, dismembered themselves. Middle-Earth characters drink beverages that are akin to wine and beer and smoke something called "pipeweed." There's some don't-try-this-at-home playing around with fireworks.

              12                                                                         The Color Purple
                                                                                                        Rated PG-13 1985 2hrs 34min
                                                                                          Common Sense Media says 14+ Parents say 15+ Kids say 14+

Parents need to know that The Color Purple is an intense drama adapted from the novel by award-wining author Alice Walker. It deals with serious themes -- incest, marital abuse, overt racism and sexism -- that are not appropriate for young children. On the other hand, mature teenagers will benefit from seeing the movie, as it will open their eyes about the difficulties women -- especially black women -- experienced in the early 20th century. Many scenes include glimpses of violence and abuse, all against women, but here are also positive messages about the importance of women's relationships with other women, the power of the sisterly bond, and the human capacity to overcome oppression.

              13                                                                         Ready Player One
                                                                                                        Rated PG-13 2018 2hrs 20min
                                                                                          Common Sense Media says 12+ Parents say 12+ Kids say 12+

Parents need to know that Ready Player One is director Steven Spielberg's much-anticipated adaptation of Ernest Cline's near-future sci-fi adventure novel about an avid gamer (Tye Sheridan) who spends most of his time in the Oasis, a virtual reality universe/multi-user game. Expect both virtual (i.e., in the Oasis) and real-life violence, although the movie's real-world violence isn't quite as traumatic as the book's. The in-game action can get pretty intense (especially when seen in 3D) and includes over-the-top shoot-outs (with every kind of weapon imaginable), all-out attacks, large-scale battles, destructive car chases, giant monsters, and a frightening re-creation of a gory horror film that includes ax attacks, zombies, and more. Outside the Oasis, there are assassination attempts, an explosion that kills civilians and destroys homes, forced labor, a car chase, and gun threats. Characters also flirt, kiss, and touch each other suggestively, and there's quite a bit of swearing (mostly "s--t," though there's a memorable use of "f---ing"). Although fans of the book, gamers, and Gen Xers with '80s nostalgia are the most obvious audience, you don't need to have read the book to understand or appreciate the story (in fact, if you haven't read it, you're less likely to be distracted by the massive story changes made for the movie...) and its themes of teamwork, perseverance, and valuing real-life connections.

              14                                                                         Little Women
                                                                                                     Rated PG 2019 2hrs 15min
                                                                                          Common Sense Media says 10+ Parents say 10+ Kids say 9+

Parents need to know that Little Women is an all-star adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's beloved novel, directed and written by Greta Gerwig and starring Saoirse Ronan as Jo March, Emma Watson as Meg March, and Timothée Chalamet as Laurie. Set in Civil War-era Massachusetts, the tween-friendly period drama is a tribute to sisterhood, generosity, the creative spirit, and the importance of community. Although the film provides a nonstandard framing device for the story, it mostly stays true to the source material. There are some sad/tense moments, particularly when one sister falls through the ice and (spoiler alert) when another one gets ill and dies in a tear-jerking sequence. Mr. March is injured during the Civil War. The romantic storylines don't always follow the predictable route, but you can expect some kisses and longing looks and a cleavage-enhancing dress. Some characters drink -- one far more than he should -- and minor/background characters smoke. There's a reference to a "cathouse." Although the story is set in a time when gender roles were more narrowly defined, the March sisters are all worthy role models, and their journeys demonstrate the core values they were taught by their parents. This touching adaptation could become a classic for a new generation.
Gaining access to the movies is up to each student.
I will provide resources from:
LitCharts (Teacher resource for teaching ELA) https://www.litcharts.com/ 
PDF book page excerpts (This is several pages of the written work to discuss unique or interesting grammar used by author) 
video clips (this will be a screen share from films listed to discuss non-sensational scenes to orient the class for discussions)


Courtney Runchey
Lives in the United States
Curiosity is encouraged!
29 total reviews
34 completed classes

About Me

I have worked in education for over 15 years, the last 9 as a homeschool parent. My passion is helping students create a deeper understanding of complex material by examining different perspectives. The stories that are told matter, even more in... 
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