16 Movie Scenes to Teach Irony and Other Literary Elements

I love breaking up the monotony of a lesson with a quick video, visual, or audio example of whatever it is we’re doing in class. One of my go-tos is Disney since I have a three-year-old son. But do not let these too-cool-for-school high school students fool you; they love the these classic movie clips. They also usually know the movies by heart. My reluctant students who have trouble keeping up with The Kite Runner, can easily speak about the literary elements when used in the context of a Disney movie.

Here’s a list of what I like to use in my classrooms when teaching irony (and a few other elements) to the students before we apply those same concepts to whatever it is we are reading in class. They know these movies by heart and can concentrate solely on what is ironic and why.

Finding Nemo

  • Verbal irony: Mostly Marlin with Dory. I use the clip right after the shark intervention, when they are swimming in the dark. Dory asks if Marlin is her conscience and he uses a bit of verbal irony in his smart reply back. (YouTube video link)
  • Situational irony: Lots of examples, but I use the clip at the beginning when Mr. Ray and Marlin are arguing about who can better watch Nemo so he doesn’t get in trouble. It is during this argument that Nemo is able to wander off and gets into trouble. (YouTube video link)
  • Dramatic irony: The dentist office scene when Nemo fakes his death. Not only do we know he’s not dead, but the audience also knows what is really happening in the office versus the people in the waiting room who are thinking it’s the world’s worst cavity drilling. (YouTube video link)

Monsters

  • Verbal irony: Roz speaking to Mike. Mike is about to go on a date but doesn’t have his paperwork. Roz sarcastically mentions she’s sure he’s submitted his paperwork before leaving work for the day. The comments continue but her dry tone makes it clear she’s being ironic and not sincere. (YouTube video link)
  • Situational irony: The whole concept of the movie with monsters afraid of little kids. I like to show the opening scene. My students act like they are annoyed watching the “kids’” movie, but they always laugh when the fake little boy shoots up in bed and the monster freaks out. (YouTube video link)
  • Dramatic irony: Sullivan thinks Boo is in the trash compactor, but really she fell out of the trash can and toddled off. Sullivan has all sorts of funny reactions watching the different parts of the compactor smashing up the trash. (YouTube video link)

Frozen  

I actually did these using just gifs if you find yourself without time or without an Internet connection.
  • Verbal irony: Olaf is just coming out of the woods after being chased by the monster Elsa created in her castle. When the monster comes into view, Olaf calls him Marshmallow even though he is anything but sweet and fluffy.
  • Situational irony: There are a few examples, but I go with Olaf loving the summer time. There’s something very comical about the song and dance he does.
  • Situational irony: If your students aren’t the type to enjoy song and dance, there is the scene where they are approaching the castle and Olaf comments how he is sure Elsa is really sweet and wouldn’t hurt anyone. At the same time, he runs into one of the pointing icicles surrounding the castle and impales himself.
  • Dramatic irony: We know Elsa has powers and Anna does not. I show the clip after the parents died and both sisters were back-to-back at the door. Elsa’s side was full of ice and snow. I was worried the students would revolt if I played the song about building a snowman.

Here’s a list of what I like to use in my classrooms when teaching irony (and a few other elements) to the students before we apply those same concepts to whatever it is we are reading in class. They know these movies by heart and can concentrate solely on what is ironic and why.

Toy Story

  • Dramatic irony: Again, the whole movie with the toys being alive and none of the humans knowing it. I showed the quick clip of the beginning where Andy throws Woody on the bed and leaves, and all of the toys start to get up once the coast is clear.
  • Dramatic irony: Another favorite of mine is with Buzz’s arm. Woody is trying to convince everyone Buzz is okay and that they are friends now so the toys will save Woody and Buzz from the neighbor, Sid. From Sid’s window Woody is shaking Buzz’s hand (his arm broke off when Buzz tried to fly) while Buzz is actually on the floor away from the window completely. The toys are convinced but then Woody accidentally moves the arm so that the toys can see it is not connected to Buzz anymore. The dinosaur vomits off to the side thinking Woody killed Buzz.

Aladdin

This is a great example to use as an assessment to see if students get the different types of irony because it has all three in a very brief clip. It also is a great example for how irony helps develop theme.

  • Verbal irony: Jasmine has just snuck out of the castle and meets Aladdin who is taking her up to his sleeping quarters. He pulls back the curtain to show the palace and talks about how great it is, and Jasmine says, “Oh, it’s wonderful all right,” and we can clearly tell from her body language and tone (and since she just ran away) she does not mean it. It’s further elaborated when she lists all the things she hates about the palace.
  • Situational irony: In this same scene both characters complain about being trapped. Jasmine feels trapped living the rich, palace life; Aladdin feels trapped since he is poor and has no opportunities. (This is a perfect example of irony contributing to theme since part of the theme in Aladdin is about how we shouldn’t be greedy and how money can’t buy happiness)
  • Dramatic irony: We know who Jasmine really is, but obviously Aladdin does not.

The Incredibles

  • Situational irony: The opening scene where Mr. Incredible gets sued for hurting someone while saving that person’s life. We also see the setup of the future irony where his arch enemy is Buddy, his former number-one fan.
  • Foreshadowing: There is a bit of foreshadowing in this scene as well since we see Buddy’s reaction and facial expression when Mr. Incredible scolds him. It hints at his future evil attitude towards superheroes in general and Mr. Incredible in particular.

The Lorax

  • Satire: The opening scene where everyone is happy to have only technology and no actual nature. One kid swims and turns green, but is still smiling; a man drives a giant car; a tree needs dozens of batteries to operate. And because of all this, everyone needs to buy clean air for their houses. I play the clip for the visual, but the song is really quick so I give my students a copy of the transcript as well for them to reference. The social commentary here being that we need to nix the technology and get back to nature.
  • Situational irony: In the same scene as above, the most powerful man in the city is also the smallest.

Cars

  • Literary Foil: Lightening McQueen is very serious and only thinks about racing. Racing is his life. He has no friends and he has no fun. Mater only likes fun and is very laid back. The foil for the two is apparent in the cow tipping scene.

Sample Irony Powerpoint

Click here for the irony Powerpoint I use with my high school students as a quick review before reading irony filled short stories such as “The Necklace,” “The Gift of the Magi,” or “The Story of an Hour.” I print out the notes outline of the Powerpoint so students can take notes as we go.

There are many more, I’m sure. But these are the ones I always get the best results from. The Emperor’s New Groove has nothing but biting verbal irony; however, very few of my students have ever seen it. This defeats the purpose of using the movies to begin with. I want to teach the literary element only; I don’t want to explain anything about the plot or characters.

Have some more to add? Please, leave a comment!

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2 Replies to “16 Movie Scenes to Teach Irony and Other Literary Elements”

  1. Wonderful material! Thank you so much for sharing!
    *The website provided is not published yet because I’m just now creating it for my students. Switching from weebly to a google site…it’s a process!

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