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SUBJECTS U.S./1812-1860, Diversity & Missouri; Literature/U.S;
SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING Breaking Out; Running Away; Friendship;
MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS Trustworthiness and Caring.

Age: 10+; MPAA Rating: Rated PG for some mild violence and language; Drama; 1993; 108 minutes; Color; Available from Amazon.com.

Description: The film recounts most of Mark Twain's classic story of an errant boy and his adventures on the Mississippi River prior to the Civil War. Huck can be seen as a young hero in a successful search for true individuality.

Rationale for Using the Movie: Mark Twain's novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn reveals the process by which a boy comes to the realization that despite the teachings of peers and elders, slavery is wrong and that true friendship transcends race and age. The 1993 version of the film holds the attention of young people and enables them to understand several of Twain's powerful lessons whether or not they have read the book.

Objectives/Student Outcomes Using this Learning Guide: Using the discussion questions and writing assignments set out below students will be introduced to the themes of Mark Twain's classic story and exercise analytical and writing skills.

Teachers seeking a more in-depth analysis might want to look at:
(1) TWM's Adventures of Huck Finn Film Study Worksheet

or, since Huck was engaged in a Hero's Journey of internal growth and development,

(2) TWM's Huck Finn Hero's Journey Worksheet.

Possible Problems: Mark Twain's novel faces considerable controversy because of the language, specifically the word "nigger." The meaning of the word has changed over time and is now considered offensive hate speech or, ironically, a cool part of hip hop culture. The character of Jim is somewhat stereotyped as an ignorant slave but he is also shown as a father who wants to be reunited with his family.



Rationale and Objectives
Possible Problems
Parenting Points

Using the Movie in Class:
      Discussion Questions


Helpful Background
      Introduction, River, Background

Huck Finn in the Classroom
      Film Study Worksheet
            with Suggested Responses

Additional Discussion Questions:
      Social-Emotional Learning

Huck Finn on a Hero's Journey
      Hero's Journey Worksheet
            with Suggested Responses
      Hero's Journey Assignments

Other Sections:
      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.



Discussion Questions:

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

1.  Jim and Huck are alike in that both have run away in order to gain freedom. How are their journeys similar and how do they differ, either in motivation, physical circumstance or social consequence. Suggested response: Here are a few suggestions. Students will come up with others. Both Huck and Jim are fleeing abusive situations; they both have to learn how to survive in nature and they both must watch out for unscrupulous people and the law. In terms of differences, although Huck is young and therefore in considerable danger as a runaway, he is white and thus safer than Jim whose skin color makes him suspect as the run-away slave that he is. Huck is running from family relationships whereas Jim is running in pursuit of family — Jim wants to make it to a free state and earn enough money to purchase his family and thereby re-unite them. At the beginning of the story, Huck thinks it is a crime to be a runaway slave whereas Jim thinks slavery itself is a crime.

2.  Jim and Huck learn important lessons in their adventure together. Describe one lesson for each and how that lesson was learned. Suggested response: Answers will vary. The discussion should include a description of how Jim learns that white people can be righteous because Huck treats him that way and because a white person, the Widow Douglas, gives Jim his freedom. Huck learns that slavery is wrong because he cannot deny Jim's humanity and once he accepts Jim as a human being, Huck sees the evils of slavery.

3.  Some think that Huck's story is about a boy who matures into what it takes to be a true individual freed from the restraints of undue social norms. What is your opinion of this viewpoint? Suggested response: Answers will vary. All reasoned and supported answers are acceptable.

For more discussion questions, see the Prompts for the Student Handout and the Social Emotional Learning Questions in the Supplemental Materials. In addition, TWM's Standard Questions for Use With Any Film That is a Work of Fiction and Lesson Plans Using Film Adaptations of Novels, Short Stories or Plays contain questions to help stimulate student interest and assist in the exploration of characterization, plot, theme, and other literary devices.


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

1.  Twain's criticism of society and its values are an important part of the narrative found in the novel and in the film. The following is a list of topics for his criticism. Select three of the topics as they are addressed in the film and then research commentary about Twain's values that clarify and explain his position. Write an expository essay in which you refer to the topic as it appears in the film and then deepen the understanding of the topic with references to the commentaries you researched.
  • religion
  • superstition
  • racism
  • slavery
  • social rules
  • hypocrisy
  • social and personal morality
  • justice
  • classism
  • lying

2.  Freedom is a constant motif in both the novel and the film and is clearly symbolized by the Mississippi River. Write an essay in which you analyze this river in terms of what it means to Jim and to Huck, two individuals who define freedom in very different terms. Cite the imagery as well as dialogue about the river and the action that occurs as the two characters move along its reaches.

3.  Write a narrative about some time in Huck Finn's future, more than 25 years after Huck and Jim complete their adventure. Describe setting, characters and circumstance that show what has become of Huck as he moves into middle age. Be sure to address the social changes that would have happened in the passage of time. Show meaning through action, dialogue, comparison, thoughts and descriptive language.

4.  Huck tries to flee from those who would "civilize" him. They want him to be less primitive, and become refined and mannerly. Yet he lives in a time and place in which "civilized" society supports slavery, feuding, and narrow-mindedness and in which his father is an outlaw who imprisons and beats Huck. Irony can be seen in these facts. Write an essay in which you look into this irony. End your essay with a clear statement of your opinion about whom or what in the story actually is in need of "civilizing."

Appropriate writing assignments can be presented to the class as oral reports by one or a group of students. See also TMW's Assignments for use with any Film that is a Work of Fiction and TWM's guide to Lesson Plans Using Film Adaptations of Novels, Short Stories or Plays.


Select questions that are appropriate for your students.

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Parenting Points: Give your child age appropriate background about slavery in the U.S. and some geographical information about the Mississippi River. You may want to prepare your child for the use of the word "nigger" and make it clear that this word is never to be used, no matter the intention.

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.

This Learning Guide written by James Frieden and Mary RedClay. The Guide was last updated on September 5, 2012.

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