Thailand

The Top 5 Movies & Documentaries You Need to Watch Before Teaching English in Thailand

Ntobeko Ntombela

Ntobeko Ntombela

March 18, 2019

Thailand is undoubtedly one of the most fascinating countries in the world, the best way to describe it is everything, everywhere, all at once, all the time. But there’s more to Thailand than bustling Bangkok and sipping cocktails on the beach. Behind the curtain of luxury beach resorts and full moon parties, are real people with traditions, customs, and amazing stories.

Our Teach English in Thailand program is the best way to see the real Thailand. It allows one the opportunity to fully immerse themselves in Thai culture while also helping local kids gain valuable English language skills.

Below we’ve listed five movies and documentaries that will give you an intro to Thailand and its extraordinary history and culture. 

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Anna and the King

IMDb: 7/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 88%

The first movie on our list is a controversial classic. Based on author Margaret Landon’s story (Ann and the King of Siam) of the adventures of 19th-century British schoolteacher Anna Owens (Irene Dunne), this is a romantic drama that tells the story of Anna’s influence on the life of the majestic and arguably arrogant King of Siam: Mangkut. This is the king who tried to modernize the country, while simultaneously staying true to its cultural traditions.

When Anna arrives in Bangkok, she quickly realizes that she’s not prepared for the role she just took up. As in any monarchy, a new face is met with resistance at first, but through her sheer desire and refusal to give up her British customs, over time she becomes valued in the royal palace, especially by the proud king.

The movie and the novel have always struck controversy in Thailand. For a very long time both Anna and the King and The King and I (the musical based on the same story) were banned in the country as they portrayed the former king, King Mongkut, as stubborn, arrogant and as a male chauvinist. Criticizing the monarchy is not something that is taken lightly in Thailand – even to this day, it is seen as the highest form of disrespect and the consequences can be quite severe.  

Bridge over the River Kwai (1957)

IMDb: 8.2/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 95%

The second movie on our list is a critically acclaimed war film on torture, betrayal, and revenge. This was director David Lean’s first epic movie and epic it was!  The Bridge on the River Kwai stars Alec Guinness and William Holden as prisoners of war working to build and destroy a bridge for the Japanese during World War II. The film won seven Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor, not to mention a handful of Golden Globes, BAFTAs, and even a Grammy nomination for its soundtrack

The Beach (2000)

IMDb: 6.6/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 20% 

The third movie on our list, The Beach, is easily the most famous contemporary movie made about Thailand. This cult classic is timeless as it takes us through the journey of young adults in a quest to find a connection with someone, or something real. Richard, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, is an American who finds himself backpacking through Thailand in search of a life-changing adventure. This leads him to a mystical Eden called the beach (Maya Beach)

Unfortunately, due to the hundreds of thousands of tourists who’ve been flocking to this location over the years, Maya Beach has now been closed to the public. But don’t be alarmed, check out these awesome unspoiled islands in Thailand as worthy alternatives!

Railway Sleepers (2016)

IMDb: 6.9/10

The fourth on our list is a documentary, directed by Sompot Chidgasornpongse, Railway Sleepers explores the close connection between Thai people and the Thai railway; it’s a celebration and a record of what it is like to live in Thailand today. Through various activities and scenes inside and outside the moving train, the film turns the train into the center of life in Thailand during these changing times. 

Gringo Trails (2013)

IMDb: 7.8

According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, the industry’s total contribution to the global economy has risen to 9.5% of global GDP and 1 in 11 of all jobs in the world are travel related. The $7 trillion industry is growing faster than sectors such as financial services, transportation, and manufacturing. According to the World Tourism Organization, there is now a record 1.5 billion international travelers and this number is rapidly increasing.

Gringo Trails is a documentary filmed to explore the impact global tourism has on the communities, economy, cultures and the environment of the destinations. Although the film is not merely focused in and on Thailand, as one of the biggest tourist destinations in the world, it’s interesting to see the effects tourism has had on the region.

Watching Gringo Trails will definitely prepare you to be a more responsible traveler and is well-worth watching before embarking on any journey abroad!

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