Film as Literature

From: $98.00 / month for 8 months

Grades:  10th–12th

Live Class:  Wed 12:30–1:30 p.m. ET

Dates:  Aug 26, 2024–May 16, 2025

Prepaid:  $699

Instructor: Farrar Williams

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Course Description

Syllabus coming soon. Some content may not be appropriate for all students. Selected films can be reviewed at Common Sense Media. See Required Texts tab for more details.

At the heart of a film is a good story. In this course, students will view a wide variety of classic and recent films to consider that question: What makes a good story? How do they help us understand the world and ourselves? In order to do that, we’ll tackle both the language of literature and the language of film. We’ll consider genre, theme, plot, characterization, motifs, allusions, metaphors, and other core elements of literary analysis. We’ll also look at lighting, sound, cinematography, acting, special effects, and other elements of film analysis. Topics will also incorporate film history and adaptation.

Discussion and writing are cornerstones of the course. In addition to guidance on writing, students should expect to learn tools for class discussion and enter into a lively discussion during most weeks. While the focus of the course is film, there are several readings, including short stories, articles, and two full books. Writing focuses on developing student voice and clarity of communication. Assignments include film reviews, thesis-based literary analysis papers, personal narratives, and creative writing.

Course Structure

Our course is broken into four units:

  • Introduction to Film
  • Coming of Age
  • Speculative Stories
  • Justice

Each unit includes five films and one polished, longer writing assignment. Students read one book each semester: one in the Coming of Age unit and one in the Justice unit. Students should expect to watch a full film on their own time most weeks. All other readings and assignments are short.

Who should enroll?

Students in grades 10-12 who would like an alternative core English course or an English or film studies elective. At heart, it’s a course for students who like movies and enjoy discussing films.

Please note! I welcome students who struggle with reading and would appreciate an alternative English course as a result. I also welcome lovers of literature who want a different type of English class or an elective. All students should note that there are readings for class that include essays and two full books (audiobooks are acceptable). Students are asked to participate in discussions without exception (via chat or microphone are both acceptable). There are also several essay assignments and writing is a core part of the course.


This is a high school course for students grade 10 and up. All students should understand the basics of how to write an analytical essay.

Technology Requirements

  • High-speed broadband Internet
  • Sound card and microphone (for live sessions)
  • Streaming video capabilities to watch recorded lectures and films
  • Students may be asked to scan or take pictures of certain assignments for submission

Note that there is no subscription film service required for this course, but students must have access to all films. Additionally, we will do a group film watch over Watch Party once per semester and students are strongly urged to participate.

Evaluation and Feedback

My goal as an educator is always to help your student move forward in their skills with reading, writing, and critical thinking. Students start in different places. This is why I give extensive feedback on key writing assignments and make myself available to talk students through tricky assignments if they ask for help. The back and forth of the classroom is a big part of how we learn.

Classes are live and interactive. Participation is part of the grade for this course. Assignments are marked and returned in a timely fashion. I respond to student messages promptly and make myself available for students to schedule short help sessions for assignments and try to reach out to students who are struggling with work.

Rubrics are provided for all writing assignments. Grades reflect completion of all work as well as quality. Revision is a focus of the writing in this course and students will be expected to revise all major assignments.


I communicate with students via Canvas and email. I usually respond quickly to questions and I urge students to reach out any time they need help.

Required Texts

Please note that film availability shifts constantly these days, with films moving from one streaming platform to another with little notice. All listed films are available widely online for purchase, rental, or through a major subscription service. As of writing, all films can be rented through Amazon Prime. You may also be able to borrow films from your library. It is up to families to gain access to all films before the viewing deadline.

Families should not enroll a student in the course unless they are comfortable with the materials. I have tried to choose films that will suit a wide audience and elicit reflection and discussion from students. This is a high school course and some films include sensitive subjects such as violence, sexuality, drug use, and prejudice. Several films are rated R. You can find reviews of all films on Common Sense Media. I’m also happy to answer any questions about choices or potentially sensitive content. I do excuse students from up to one or two films. Students will have an alternative assignment if parents ask to skip a particular film. However, families should feel comfortable with the overall content of the course.


  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee OR Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
  • There is an additional choice reading book for the Coming of Age unit. Students will have a wide variety of choices.


  • North by Northwest
  • 1917
  • Citizen Kane
  • Pan’s Labyrinth
  • Clueless
  • Emma
  • Spirited Away
  • Stand By Me
  • Ladybird
  • Coda
  • Hunt for the Wilderpeople
  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Just Mercy
  • The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
  • Shawshank Redemption
  • All the President’s Men
  • Gattaca
  • Black Panther
  • Star Wars
  • Arrival
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey


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Instructor Bio

Farrar Williams

Farrar Williams is a longtime educator with experience teaching in a variety of settings and levels. She has her undergraduate degree in history from Mount Holyoke College and her master’s in education and teaching from Goddard College. Farrar spent many years as a humanities teacher and administrator at a small Quaker middle school, where she honed her belief that education is a process, not a product, and that the goal is to bring out each student’s individual light. For the last decade and a bit, she has been homeschooling her sons, writing, and teaching in homeschool co-ops and drama groups. In addition to teaching, she’s currently an educational consultant and works with homeschool families on college admissions. When not teaching or working, Farrar is probably solving sudoku, reading a YA novel, or trying to resist putting in another batch of peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. She lives in Washington, DC. Contact: fwilliams[at]


All classes taught by Farrar Williams