Illustration by Edpuzzle Staff
As teachers, we’re big on facts, so here’s a doozy for you. Worldwide, Netflix users spend 140 MILLION hours a day watching content. Minds blown? Ours were!
Chances are, your students contribute to those 140 million hours, and you probably do, too. Where videos in the classroom are concerned, long gone are the days of rolling the TV cart into your room and popping in a VHS.
Remember that excitement you felt when your teacher announced you were going to watch a video? It’s still there! Students engage with YouTube videos to learn new skills, gobble up series and movies on Netflix and communicate with their friends via video with apps like Snapchat or Instagram.
So why fight the trend? Why not ride the wave and have fun while you’re doing it?
Just make sure that you’re following copyright laws by visiting Netflix’s Media Center, navigating to “Only on Netflix” and clicking on “ALL ALPHABETICAL”. Select the movie you’d like to show, and check if it says “GRANT OF PERMISSION FOR EDUCATIONAL SCREENINGS.” If not, you can have your students watch at home or just show clips or trailers in class.
Copyright rules on Netflix are subject to change, so feel free to take the titles on our list as simply recommendations. And if you have any questions about permissions, you can always call Netflix (scroll to the bottom of the page) to double-check.
We’ll show you how to make Netflix at school a possibility with our list of the best educational shows and movies for your students, whether it’s in the classroom or for some fun homework. Get the popcorn ready.
Netflix Movies Based on Books
The first category of movies is perfect for language arts classes. What better way to bring to life the book you’re studying in class than watching the film once everyone’s done the required reading?
Whether you’re going off of a reading list, or you’re letting your students choose their own books, you’ve got tons of options! For younger students, there are more TV shows which are great for shorter attention spans, while older students like high schoolers can enjoy full feature-length films.
Starting with the best Netflix shows for elementary students, check out:
- Llama Llama: Great for young elementary kids, the adorable animals in this show teach values like conflict resolution.
- The Magic School Bus and The Magic School Bus Rides Again: Learn about science with the classic books and TV series plus the new reboot! It’s perfect for kindergarteners and 1st graders.
- The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That! Another great sciencey option for young students is this new series set in the Dr. Seuss universe.
- The Epic Tales of Captain Underpants: Do your students need a good laugh? These books have been favorites since they were published back in the late ‘90s and your 1st and 2nd graders will love the cartoons!
- A Series of Unfortunate Events: Based on the Lemony Snicket book series, this new Netflix series is great for 3rd-5th graders.
- Geronimo Stilton: This series about an adventurous mouse are great first chapter books for young readers, especially when you can accompany them with this series!
- The Little Prince: The latest take on this famous children’s book comes in the form of a Netflix series
- A Wrinkle in Time: This classic book by Madeleine L’Engle was made into a Disney film that’s perfect to watch with your 3rd-5th graders.
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: Who didn’t grow up reading Roald Dahl’s children’s novels? This updated version stars Johnny Depp, and kids still love it!
If you’re a middle school teacher, some of the best Netflix shows for middle schoolers include:
- Little Women: With a new movie version, you can read the book and then compare it with the 1994 version that’s available on Netflix.
- White Fang: Jack London’s novel has been on reading lists maybe since you were in school, and the animated film version is a great way to finish your unit studying this classic!
- Anne with an E: The Anne of Green Gables series probably best appeals to younger middle schoolers, and this incredibly well-done series is the perfect way to reward your students’ reading!
- The Golden Compass: This book series by Philip Pullman is popular with boys and girls, and the first film is available for you to stream on Netflix!
- The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Inspirational and a true story, this film makes for an incredible watch for STEAM learning.
- The Boy in the Striped Pajamas: Set during the Holocaust, this story seen through the eyes of children is an age-appropriate introduction for your students, even though it’s a very emotional watch.
- The Breadwinner: Perfect for history or geography class, this gorgeous animated film gives a peek into the life of a girl living in Afghanistan.
- Stardust: Based on the book by the prolific fantasy writer Neil Gaiman, this fantasy adventure movie is a great way to reward your students before the holidays!
High school teachers can choose from tons of amazing films, and some of our favorite options are:
- Emma: One of Jane Austen’s masterpieces is also a great movie starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Toni Collete. If you’re looking for a modern-day interpretation, you can also stream Clueless!
- The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society: Great for English or history class, this WWII drama takes place on the island of Guernsey in the English Channel.
- The Imitation Game: Based on the book Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges, this film also takes place during WWII as it follows the real-life of Alan Turing, one of the world’s most famous code breakers.
- Mudbound: Dealing with the United States’ complex relationship with racism is an important theme for discussion with high-schoolers. This film set in the 1940’s follows a black family as well as a white family. Screen it first to make sure your school approves as it’s not an easy watch due to the subject matter.
Netflix Documentaries for Students
The documentary genre has come a long way in the past couple of decades. There’s nothing boring or dry about these documentaries, and it’s one of the most exciting ways to introduce your students to the world around them!
Whether you teach history or science, art or P.E., you can find some fantastic educational content on Netflix! Here are a few examples to give you some inspiration:
- Blackfish: This critically acclaimed documentary explores the polemic issue of animals in captivity. A great watch for debate!
- Bill Nye: Science Guy: Watch the famous scientist talk about climate change and how it affects the world we live in today.
- How the Beatles Changed the World: Great for history or music class and to pair with the new release of the fictional movie Yesterday, this docu will teach your students about the most popular band in history.
- He Named Me Malala: One of the most inspirational and influential figures in modern history, watch this documentary to learn about how Malala rose from adversity to international recognition.
- The Nova Series: There are tons of options to choose from for every subject area. Check out NOVA: Poisoned Water about the crisis in Flint, Michigan, or NOVA: First Face of America about a 13,000-year-old skeleton.
- The Story of Us With Morgan Freeman: Perfect for a philosophy or debate class, watch this excellent documentary as it follows Morgan Freeman around the world searching for answers about our humanity.
Foreign Language Films on Netflix for Your Class
Teaching a foreign language is an uphill battle. Your students most likely only get to speak and hear the language they’re learning while they’re in your class, which is far from total immersion!
Take your class one step further by exposing your students to TV shows and movies in the language you teach. The fabulous thing about Netflix is that you can add subtitles in the same language so your students can follow along with the words as they listen and watch – it’s the best way to learn!
For young students, you can choose from among Netflix’s many animated series and then set the audio to the language of your choice. Some favorites include Masha and the Bear, Octonauts and Llama Llama.
For more advanced students, here are a couple of watching suggestions broken down by language:
- Coco: Set the audio to Spanish and play the story set in Mexico on the Día de los Muertos – all ages will love it!
- 100 Meters: This movie will inspire your students as they watch the main character, a man diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, train for an Ironman marathon.
- The Invisible Guest: This murder mystery stars Spanish heartthrob Mario Casas and will keep your older high schoolers on the edge of their seats.
- The Lighthouse of the Orcas: Based on a true story, this movie takes place in Patagonia where a mother brings her young autistic son to see if a pod of orcas can help him connect with the world around him.
- April and the Extraordinary World: This gorgeous animated film follows April as she searches for her scientist parents throughout Paris.
- The African Doctor: A doctor and his family emigrate from Congo to a small village in France in this story about cultural differences.
- The Climb: Watch as a Senagalese-French man takes on Everest with no training… all to impress a girl!
- Paris is Us: This unconventional love story shows what happens inside the female protagonist’s mind after she narrowly avoids tragedy.
- West Coast: Four teenage boys obsessed with American rap culture end up going on an adventure in this French film.
- Rock My Heart: Great for middle schoolers, this is the story of a girl with a heart condition as she trains for a major horserace.
- Berlin, I Love You: Made up of a series of vignettes with A-list actors, you can pick and choose the stories to show your class.
What to Do if Netflix is Blocked at Your School
While this might all sound great to you, what do you do if Netflix is blocked at your school due to security filters? There are still some great options you can use to harness the power of videos in your class.
The first is to download the movie or show you want to screen at home in advance and then watch that way. You can project the video using a Chromecast or Apple TV if you have either of those options.
Another idea for those who might not be able to access Netflix in the classroom or are worried about taking up too much class time is showing shorter clips and trailers.
If you can’t stream Netflix, use Edpuzzle to find the trailer, clip or full film you want to show. If you show just a part in class, you can assign watching the whole movie or show for extra credit.
However you choose to use video in your classroom, your students’ learning will be better for it. Get excited to use video in your class!