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SUBJECTS — Science Fiction;

Age:12+; No MPAA Rating; Drama; 1966, 112 minutes; Color; Available at Amazon.com.

Description: 451 degrees Fahrenheit is the temperature at which paper bursts into flame. This adaptation of the classic novel by Ray Bradbury describes a future in which independent thought is discouraged and "firemen" burn books. The population is distracted and sedated by a combination of interactive television and mind altering drugs. But one fireman begins to read the books he's supposed to burn and the story unfolds showing the viewers the burden of individual effort in the desire preserve freedom of thought.

Rationale for Using the Movie: By showing a sterile civilization, called a dystopia, in which freedom of thought is taboo and reading books a crime, the film helps students understand the value of books and the benefits of liberty. The role of television and drugs as a means of keeping people focused on thoughtless entertainment is also explored.

Objectives/Student Outcomes Using this Learning Guide: Students will become better informed about the values associated with freedom of speech and of the press, as promised in the First Amendment. Through research and writing skills they will be able to probe deeper into these issues as they affect society today.

Possible Problems: MINOR. The hero turns his flame thrower on the captain of the fire company.



Rationale and Objectives
Possible Problems
Parenting Points

Using the Movie in Class:
      Introduction to the Movie
      Discussion Questions


Helpful Background

Additional Discussion Questions:
      Subjects (Curriculum Topics)
      Social-Emotional Learning
      Moral-Ethical Emphasis
            (Character Counts)

Other Sections:
      Bridges to Reading
      Links to the Internet
      Selected Awards & Cast

MOVIE WORKSHEETS: TWM offers the following movie worksheets to keep students' minds on the film and to focus their attention on the lessons to be learned from the movie. Teachers can modify the movie worksheets to fit the needs of each class. See also TWM's Movies as Literature Homework Project.

Additional ideas for lesson plans for this movie can be found at TWM's guide to Lesson Plans Using Film Adaptations of Novels, Short Stories or Plays.


Introduction to the Movie: XXXX.


Discussion Questions:

After the film has been watched, engage the class in a discussion about the movie.

1.  The German poet Heinrich Heine said, "Where books are burned, they will also ultimately burn human beings." What evidence is there in the film that makes it appear that Heine may have been right? Suggested Response: Some may suggest that silencing people is as important as silencing books when it comes to political activism. Students may point to the woman who burned to death in defense of her books or the use of threats and of violence to keep people from reading.

2.  For what purpose did the government in this film object to people reading books? Suggested Response: Students should note that all governments that fear loss of power or that are somehow insecure want to ban citizens from reading about alternatives systems of governing. The reasons given for banning books and the actual reasons are rarely the same.

3.  In what ways are the roles played by drugs and television in Montague's society similar to the roles played by drugs and television in the society in which we now live? Suggested Response: Answers will vary. Students will note that drugs and television distract people from reality. Be sure to point out that our government does not require using drug or watching television. Their use is now determined by consumer demand. The effects, however, may be the same in terms of how citizens.

For additional discussion questions, click here.


Any of the discussion questions can serve as a writing prompt. Additional assignments include:

1.  Make a list of six titles and authors of books that have been important or somehow impactful in your reading experience. The list may include children's literature, such as Goodnight Moon or books assigned in an English or History class. Write about how each book played an important role in helping you understand what is going on in the world or in your life. The sophistication of your understanding is not an issue; what matters is that you show how a book opened your thoughts to aspects of life you did not contemplate prior to reading the book.

2.  Conduct Internet research on books once banned in American society that are now readily available and assigned in schools. Write an expository essay on the process of freeing books for distribution in society. Be sure to offer details about when, where and why the books were banned. Conclude your essay with comment about the value of the First Amendment and its proscription that citizens have the right to read.

3.  Television producers live under strict rules that govern the content of shows and everyone more or less supports the rules that restrict what appears on TV. Cable TV faces far fewer restrictions. Society now deals with threats of censorship and limited access to information on the Internet. Using research skills, write an informative essay on the topic of Internet censorship or restriction. Be sure to look at the FCC and the regulations that have come out of this commission. Conclude your essay with your opinion about how these issues must be addressed.

See additional Assignments for use with any Film that is a Work of Fiction.


For English Language Arts classes, distribute TWM's Film Study Worksheet. Teachers can modify the worksheet to fit the needs of each class. Ask students to fill out the worksheet as they watch the film or at the film's end.

Click here for TWM's lesson plans to introduce cinematic and theatrical technique.

Select questions that are appropriate for your students.

Are you concerned that time will be wasted if you are absent from class? Worry no more  .  .  .   Check out TeachWithMovies' Set-Up-the-Sub.

Parenting Points: Your child may be required to read the novel in school and it is important that he or she completes the reading before viewing the film. The movie captures the important ideas of this classic futuristic novel and manages to stress the value of books in the process.

Reminder to Teachers: Obtain all required permissions from your school administration before showing any film.

Teachers who want parental permission to show this movie can use TWM's Movie Permission Slip.

BUILDING VOCABULARY: Fahrenheit, Celsius, censorship.

MOVIES ON RELATED TOPICS: See films listed in the Subject Matter Index under the Science Fiction category.

Last updated August 4, 2010.

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