Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Film and Movie

Film and movie are two terms that often mean the same but used in distinctive ways. When used interchangeably, they both refer to a motion picture, a series of pictures projected onto a screen in such a way that viewers see an illusion of motion. Still, the words are not exactly synonyms. A person speaking or a written article would not use the two words at the same time, unless of course discussing the nuances of the words themselves. The distinctions often increase when the two are used in phrases. There seems to be a difference between a film critic and a movie critic. We say movie-goer and film viewing but we do not mix and match these two phrases.

When two words with the same meaning are used differently, the difference is usually due to changes in a language or due to demographics; this is true for ‘film’ and ‘movie’ as well. And because of the same meaning but nuanced usage, the two terms developed connotations and attitudes towards the words and the people who use them. More about these two words and their differences are discussed in the succeeding sections.


What is Film?

A film is a motion picture, and is an older term for it. Aside from its technical definition, a motion picture is a medium used to express stories, ideas and even feelings. As a medium for expression, it has evolved its own form of art called cinematography. Film is also the various, plastic materials, such as celluloid film, that serve as media where these motion pictures are imprinted, as opposed to the more modern digital media.

When referring to motion pictures, film is the preferred term among the people who work in the industry, such as producers and directors. It is also more often used by people outside of (but work closely with) the industry, such as the press and academics, especially in the written word. People in non-English speaking European countries such as Germany, France, and Italy also more commonly use film to refer to motion pictures.

Specific genres also use the term strictly, as in a documentary or a biography. Genres with a small audience or has a cult following also use the word film, such as an independent film. For other genres, being categorized as a film gives the motion picture an air of being well-produced and artistic. As a vehicle for ideas, films are made with a goal in mind and the result is usually educational, informative, or thought provoking. This usage of the word often gives films the connotation of artistry and formality but also a negative attitude of pretentiousness towards how the word is used in this sense.


What is Movie?

A movie is a motion picture, and the word itself is an American slang and shortened form of the phrase “moving pictures”. Even though it started as a slang term, it has come to wide acceptance and use, even in more formal settings. Movies also refer to the place where motion pictures are shown, used to mean the same as the movie theater, or the cinema.

The term is mostly used by consumers, the movie-goers. It is also mostly used in the spoken language rather than the written form. Non-native English speakers throughout the globe also use movie to refer to motion pictures, in large part due to the rise of Hollywood and the influence of American culture.

Movie genres usually take on nicknames, often uncomplimentary. For example, a romantic movie is often classified as a chick flick while a horror movie is called a scream fest. For a motion picture to be called a movie gives the motion picture the air of a low quality and low budget production. Movies are also generally produced for entertainment and profit. With how it is used, the term and the motion pictures themselves take on a connotation of commercialized momentary pleasures that are entertaining at best but are crass vulgar nonetheless.


Difference between Film and Movie


Film is an older term for motion pictures while movie is a newer term and is a short for moving picture.

Other definitions

Film is also the thin, plastic material, called celluloid, where pictures are imprinted while movies also refer to the place where motion pictures are shown.


Film is used more often in the written format while movie is more often used in the spoken language.


Film is used more often used by those who work in the industry, people who work closely with the industry and by non-English speaking European countries. Movie is used more often by consumers, Americans, and non-native English speakers.


Documentaries, biographies and motion pictures with cult followings such as indie films are often classified as films. Motion pictures that get pejorative monikers such as chick flicks and scream fests are often classified as movies.


A film is made usually with an educational, informative, or thought-provoking message. A movie is usually made to entertain and make a profit.


Usage of the word film has an artistic but pretentious connotation while usage of the term movie has a commercialized and crass connotation.

Film vs Movie



  • Film and movie are two words with the same meaning with different usage. They both refer to motion pictures, a medium of expression where a series of pictures give the illusion of motion when projected onto a screen.
  • Film is more commonly used by those who work in the motion picture industry while movie is more usually used by consumers.
  • Although the trend moves towards equal frequency in usage, film is still more often used in the written format while movie is more commonly used in the spoken language.
  • The nuanced usage of the two words gives films an artistic but pretentious connotation and movies an entertaining but crass commercialized production.


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References :

[0]Image credit: https://www.pexels.com/photo/1-movie-2-signage-under-white-clouds-1200450/

[1]Image credit: https://pixabay.com/de/illustrations/film-kino-video-kamera-filmkamera-1155439/

[2]Follows, Stephen. "Film vs movie – Which is the best term to use?" Stephen Follows: Film Data and Education. August 8, 2016. https://stephenfollows.com/film-vs-movie/ (accessed November 7, 2019).

[3]Hardy, Robert. "The Difference Between 'Films' and 'Movies'." Filmmaker Freedom. August 10, 2016. https://filmmakerfreedom.com/blog/films-vs-movies (accessed November 7, 2019).

[4]Jenkins, David. "Film v movie - which side are you on?" The Guardian. September 9, 2014. https://www.theguardian.com/film/filmblog/2014/sep/09/film-vs-movie-sex-tape-high-art-low-culture (accessed November 7, 2019).

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