Describing Movies and Books 2

by Kate Woodford


Last month we looked at the language that we use to describe books and movies, focusing on words that mean enjoyable, interesting and exciting. This week, we’re looking at adjectives and phrases that describe other qualities and aspects of books and movies.

Some adjectives describe the number of things that happen in a book or movie. If it is action-packed, it is full of exciting events: an action-packed movie. In UK English, the adjective pacy is also used to describe a book or movie in which the events happen quickly: The movie is adapted from Green’s pacy thriller.

An expression that is sometimes used of books or movies where there is a lot of action and everything happens very quickly is fast and furious: The pace of the movie is fast and furious. Meanwhile, one that is slow has little action or excitement: I liked the novel but I found the movie a bit slow.

Some books and movies are intended to be entertaining, but they do not have a serious message. The adjective light is often used to describe these: I just wanted some light reading for the summer. The adjective lightweight emphasizes this point even more, sometimes in a negative way:  She’s the author of some fairly lightweight historical novels./He’s starred in any number of lightweight movies. Another adjective with this meaning is frothy: It’s a typically frothy romantic comedy.

Books and movies such as these may make you happy, giving you very positive feelings about life. If so, you might describe them as life-affirming or heartwarming: It’s a wonderful, life-affirming read./a heartwarming tale  A movie with this quality may also be described as a feel-good movie: This is surely the ultimate feel-good movie.

Of course, not all books and movies are happy. One that is harrowing is extremely sad and upsetting: a harrowing tale of family breakdown. A similar adjective, meaning ‘causing great sadness’ is heartbreaking: Whyte’s first novel tells the heartbreaking story of his mother’s early death. The adjective moving is also used to describe a very sad story. It means ‘causing strong feelings of sadness’: I thought it was a wonderful film and found it very moving.

Finally, a book or movie that makes you think deeply about its subject may be described as thought-provoking: This thought-provoking book offers fresh insights into the subject. Have you read any thought-provoking books recently?

19 thoughts on “Describing Movies and Books 2

  1. Pingback: Describing Movies and Books 2 – Cambridge Dictionary About words blog (Oct 05, 2016) | Editorial Words

  2. Pingback: Describing Movies and Books 2 | Editorials Today

  3. Beibei Huber

    I only knew “Fast and Furious” as a name of movie starred by Vin Desel. Didn’t know it is a phrase as well. Thank you!

  4. phudit puangmalai

    Please bring more terms in casual and formal genres in your blogs. it’s very fun to learn new words. I also can apply them on my daily conversations with expats from English-speaking countries. Thank you very for such a useful online lesson!

  5. M.Saghir

    Waw . It’s really awesome words to describe movies . I really be happy to learn that . Thanks for this article . Best wish

  6. Bhupinder

    Waw . It’s really awesome words to describe movies . I really be happy to learn that . it will be good if given artical on day routine.Thanks for this

  7. Hello,

    Thank you very much for your post.

    It seems a bit quirky, at least for me, that the quantifier ‘any’ is used in an affirmative clause here: ‘He’s starred in any [sic] number of lightweight movies.’ I reckon ‘many’ would be the correct one. Could you please have a look on this?

    Thanks again.

    1. Kate Woodford

      Hi Nifras. Actually, ‘any number of x’ is perfectly correct – it’s a phrase meaning ‘a lot of x’. But I agree that it might seem a little odd if you don’t know the phrase! Best wishes!

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