Dunkirk Movie Discussion Questions

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

'Dunkirk' is a 2017 film by writer and director Christopher Nolan based on the true story of the Dunkirk evacuation during World War II. This asset provides classroom discussion ideas about this movie.


Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk provides students with some insight on what it might have been like for Allied soldiers who were surrounded by German troops in Dunkirk, France during World War II. The following questions support secondary classroom discussion about this historical fiction drama.

Tommy's Story

  • In the opening scene, why are the British soldiers watching through Dunkirk? How does this scene express how desperate the situation is? How does Tommy survive the attack by the German soldiers in town? What are your beliefs about the randomness of life and death?
  • Describe the relationship between Tommy and Gibson. How do they support each other? What motivates them to stick together? What are some different reasons people become friends? What are the reasons behind your closest friendships?
  • Why do you think Gibson avoids going to the lower decks on the British Red Cross ship? How does Gibson's uneasiness work to Tommy and Alex's advantage? To what extent would you feel obligated to a person who saved your life?
  • Why is Gibson singled out to be sacrificed when German soldiers shoot holes in their boat? What is revealed about Gibson during this scene? What did you learn about Dunkirk through Gibson's revelation?

Dawson's Story

  • What extreme measures does the Royal Navy take in their attempt to evacuate stranded soldiers? Why do Mr. Dawson and Peter take their ship to Dunkirk? Why does George want to join them? Why do you think Mr. Dawson agrees to allow George on his ship? What would you have done?
  • Why does Mr. Dawson pick up the shell-shocked soldier? What are some doubts Peter has about the soldier? How do you know? Why doesn't Peter follow through on his instincts? What are the consequences? Connect this to a time that your instincts warned you about someone or a situation. Did you listen to your instincts? Why? What were the results?
  • What are the recent events in the Dawson family that contribute to their decisions? Do you agree with their decisions? Explain your answer.
  • Why does Peter spare the soldier from knowing what happened to George? Was this the right thing to do? Why? How does Peter honor George's memory?

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