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Disability in Film

by Max
JULY 2013 EDIT — I am going section by section trying to clean the list up and finally create sub-lists for all the categories. July 19 — I began working on the Alzheimer’s section. July 20 — Amnesia I am an undergraduate Communication Sciences and Disorders major at my university and am also a fan of film (obviously). Beginning about a year ago (Spring 2010), I have been letting professors in my department borrow films that I own. One of them suggested that I compile a list of these films and other related films as somewhat of a project. As a number of these films are not on The Auteurs, I will try to find a YouTube video or something… Read more

JULY 2013 EDIT — I am going section by section trying to clean the list up and finally create sub-lists for all the categories.
July 19 — I began working on the Alzheimer’s section.
July 20 — Amnesia

I am an undergraduate Communication Sciences and Disorders major at my university and am also a fan of film (obviously). Beginning about a year ago (Spring 2010), I have been letting professors in my department borrow films that I own. One of them suggested that I compile a list of these films and other related films as somewhat of a project. As a number of these films are not on The Auteurs, I will try to find a YouTube video or something for the ones not on here yet. I will try to categorize the list as best I can. If you can think of any films that I should add, let me know.

Disclaimer: I know that there is a lot of controversy surrounding whether or not deafness is a disability, but for the sake of this list, I will include films such as Children of a Lesser God and Sound and Fury, because they are very important films on their respective areas regarding communication barriers.

January 2011 UPDATE: I’m attempting to make the list more aesthetically pleasing by creating separate pages for separate topics. I will provide bolded links as the titles for each disability, which will lead you to the external list.

This list is a work in progress.

Alzheimer’s disease:
-Gray Sunset (1985)
-Age Old Friends (1989)
-Beautiful Memories (2001) by Zabou Breitman
-A Song for Martin (2001)
-Iris (2001) by Richard Eyre
-The Notebook (2004) by Nick Cassavetes
-A Moment to Remember (2004)
-Thanmathra (2005)
-Aurora Borealis (2006)
-Away From Her (2006) by Sarah Polley
-My Name is Lisa (2007)
-The Savages (2007)
-Lovely, Still (2008)
-U Me Aur Hum (2008)
-The Family That Preys (2008) by Tyler Perry
-The Alzheimer’s Project (2009)
-Barney’s Version (2010) by Richard J. Lewis
-Poetry (2010) by Lee Chang-dong
-Mai (2013)

-Spellbound (1945) by Alfred Hitchcock
-Overboard (1987)
-Total Recall (1990)
-Regarding Henry (1991)
-Clean Slate (1994)
-The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996)
-Dark City (1998)
-Memento (2000) by Christopher Nolan
-Mulholland Drive (2001) by David Lynch
-The Majestic (2001)
-The Bourne Identity (2002)
-Finding Nemo (2003)
-50 First Dates (2004)
-The Bourne Supremacy (2004)
-Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
-The I Inside (2004)
-The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
-The Music Never Stopped (2011)
-The Vow (2012)
-Total Recall (2012)

Autism Spectrum Disorders:
-Rain Man (1988) by Barry Levinson
-A is for Autism (1992)
-The Station Agent (2003) by Thomas McCarthy
-Autism is a World (2004)
-Mozart and the Whale (2005)
-Autism: The Musical (2007)
-Her Name is Sabine (2007) by Sandrine Bonnaire
-Adam (2009) by Max Mayer
-Mary and Max (2009) by Adam Elliot
-The Magic of J-Mac (2009)
-Temple Grandin (2010)

-City Lights (1931) by Charles Chaplin
-Blind (1987) by Frederick Wiseman
-Scent of a Woman (1992) by Martin Brest
-The Color of Paradise (1999) by Majid Majidi
-Dancer in the Dark (2000) by Lars von Trier
-The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi (2003) by Takeshi Kitano
-Ray (2004)
-Blindsight (2006) by Lucy Walker
-Blind Loves (2008) by Juraj Lehotský
-Blindness (2008) by Fernando Meirelles
-Snowblind (2009) by Vikram Jayanti

Cerebral Palsy:
-My Left Foot: The Story of Christy Brown (1989) by Jim Sheridan

-Cousin (1998) by Adam Elliott
Cousin is a short animated film by Adam Elliott about his cousin with cerebral palsy, and their relationship over the years.

-Door to Door (2002)
William H. Macy stars as Bill Porter, a man with cerebral palsy who is determined to become a salesman.
Trailer available here:

-Oasis (2002) by Lee Chang-dong
Korean director Lee Chang-dong’s drama begins on the day that Jong-du (Sol Kyung-gu), a mentally handicapped young man, is released from prison. He is immediately arrested again for being unable to pay a restaurant bill, and his brother bails him out and sets him up with a menial job and a place to live. The crime that originally landed Jong-du in prison was a hit-and-run accident that resulted in the death of an old man. One day he goes to visit the victim’s family, and meets Gong-ju (Moon So-ri), the man’s daughter, who has cerebral palsy. After a disastrous first meeting, the two begin an unlikely love affair that exposes the callousness and uncomfortable secrets of both of their families. —allmovie guide
Thanks to user CRAP MONSTER for suggesting this film for addition.

-Rory O’Shea Was Here (2004) by Damien O’Donnell
When the kinetic Rory moves into his room in the Carrigmore Residential Home for the Disabled, his effect on the home is immediate. Most telling is his friendship with Michael, a young man with cerebral palsy and nearly unintelligible speech. Somehow, Rory understands Michael, and encourages him to experience life outside the confines of home. – IMDb Summary

-Johnny Belinda (1948) by Jean Negulesco
Starring Jane Wyman in an Oscar winning performance, the film takes place in post-war Cape Breton, where a doctor’s efforts to tutor a deaf/mute woman are undermined when she is raped, and the resulting pregnancy causes scandal to swirl. Jane Wyman’s Best Actress acceptance speech is allegedly the shortest of all Best Actress acceptance speeches: “I won this award by keeping my mouth shut and I think I’ll do it again.”

-Deaf Sam-ryong (1964) by Shin Sang-ok
A good and deaf servant, Samryong (Kim Jin-kyu) faithfully serves Oh Saengwon and his family who has looked after him. One day, Soon-deok (Choi Eun-hee) comes to get married for money to Kwang-shik (Park No-shik), the son of Oh Saengwon. Attracted by a maid Choo-wol (Do Geum-bong), Kwang-shik treats Soon-deok badly. Feeling pity for Soon-deok who cries every night for her husband, Samryong secretly loves her. Samryong witnesses the love affair of Choo-wol and Kwang-shik, and when he informs Choo-wol’s husband, he gets kicked out from the house. On that day, a fire occurs as Oh’s, and Samryong saves Soon-deok. When she panics and tells him that Kwang-shik is still in the house, Samryong goes into the fire again and never comes out. —Shin Sang-ok Collection

-The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1968)
Singer is a deaf-mute whose small world brings him in contact with a young girl, Mick, who cherishes a seemingly hopeless dream of becoming a concert pianist. At first hostile, Mick soon becomes friends with Singer, hoping to enlarge his small world. Three other central characters come to Singer for help also, each of them seeing in him a powerful force. Simply because he is a deaf mute, they are able to create their understanding of his being from their own desires. -IMDb Summary by alfiehitchie

-Children of a Lesser God (1986) by Randa Haines
Featuring an Oscar-winning performance by Marlee Matlin, Children of a Lesser God explores the relationship between a hearing man (William Hurt) and a deaf woman (Marlee Matlin).

-Deaf (1986) by Frederick Wiseman
The School for the Deaf at the Alabama Institute is organized around a belief in complete communication: sign language and finger spelling is employed in conjunction with speech, hearing aids, lip-reading, gestures, and the written word. In 164 minutes, this 1986 Frederick Wiseman documentary attempts to show almost all aspects of this comprehensive training — sign language instruction for both students and parents, psychological counseling, speech therapy, vocational training, disciplinary problems, visits from parents, sports and recreation, training in living and working independently, and money management. —allmovie guide

-In the Land of the Deaf (1992)

-Mr. Holland’s Opus (1995)
Richard Dreyfuss stars as Glen Holland, a music teacher and composer who struggles to build a relationship with his deaf son.

-Beyond Silence (Jenseits der Stille) (1996) by Caroline Link
Since the earliest days in her childhood Lara has had a difficult but important task. Both her parents are deaf-mute and Lara has to translate from sign-language to the spoken word and vice versa when her parents want to communicate with other people. Getting older and more mature she becomes interested in music and starts to play clarinet very successfully. However her parents are deaf, they cannot share Lara’s musical career. The day comes when Lara has to decide between her parents and her own ambitions. -IMDb Summary by Oliver Heidelbach
Trailer in German.

-The Country of the Deaf (1998) by Valery Todorovsky
Moscow 1998. Rita is on the run because her boyfriend can’t pay his mafia gambling debts. Jaja, a deaf nightclub dancer, offers Rita a place to hide. Jaja teaches Rita some survival tips in the hopes that she’ll dump her thug boyfriend. Rita finds herself involved in another kind of underground society – that of the deaf. While Rita adjusts to new rules and customs, Jaja dreams of a utopian land of the deaf, where kindness prevails and all inhabitants are deaf. Adapted from Renata Litvinova’s novel “Obladat i Prinadlezhat” (“To Have and To Belong”). -theauteurs synopsis

-Sound and Fury (2000)
Oscar-nominated documentary Sound and Fury explores the relationship between the families of two brothers, one hearing and one deaf, as they struggle on whether or not to choose to get a cochlear implant for their children.

-Babel (2006) by Alejandro González Iñárritu
Iñárritu’s Babel follows four interlocking stories that all share a common theme, each other, and communication barriers. Rinko Kikuchi plays Chieko Wataya, a young, Japanese, deaf girl, in an award-winning performance.

-There Will Be Blood (2007) by Paul Thomas Anderson
Daniel Day-Lewis stars as William Plainview, an oil man who travels from town to town with his son, H.W. H.W. is injured one day near an oil rig, loses his hearing, and his relationship with his father is forever changed.

-Hear and Now (2007) by Irene Taylor Brodsky
The film follows a deaf couple on the verge of retirement as they both decide to get cochlear implants.

-Sweet Nothing in My Ear (2008)
Sweet Nothing in My Ear, originally a play by Stephen Sachs, tells the story of a hearing father and deaf mother of a son who is born hearing but gradually begins to lose his auditory sense. The conflict arises when the idea of getting the child a cochlear implant is brought forth. The play was my first exposure to the deaf world that had a profound impact on me. As a senior in high school, I played the “Voice” of the deaf grandfather in our One-Act Play Production. Marlee Matlin and Jeff Daniels star as the mother and father in this 2008 Television adaptation of Sweet Nothing in My Ear.

-Little Brother (2011)
A teenager uses his hearing impairment to escape his reality and the responsibility of looking after his wheelchair-bound brother. –MIFF

-The Unconquered (1954) by Nancy Hamilton
A 1954 documentary about Helen Keller was theatrically-distributed and was revised and updated and shown on television in 1955 as Helen Keller: Her Life Story.

-The Miracle Worker (1962) by Arthur Penn

-Land of Silence and Darkness (1971) by Werner Herzog
Thanks to user NATHAN HEIGERT for suggesting this title.

-The Miracle Worker (1979)
Patty Duke, who played Helen Keller in the 1962 version, portrays Anne Sullivan in the 1979 remake.

-The Miracle Worker (2000)
The 2000 Disney remake.

-Black (2005) by Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Debraj Sahay is a teacher to Michelle McNally who is both deaf & blind, he meets her as an eight year old, who doesn’t understand anything. She is violent, confused and unable to comprehend her life. Her world is BLACK. Debraj leads her from this darkness and confusion into light and hope, how he makes her discover her an identity, this makes her feel human rather than someone inferior with a disability. He is her teacher, her Guru, the one who leads her from darkness into light. -IMDb Summary by screen

Dissociative Identity Disorder:
-The Three Faces of Eve (1957)
Joanne Woodward stars as a woman with dissociative identity disorder, then referred to as “multiple personality disorder,” in an Academy Award winning performance from 1957.

-Sybil (1976) by Daniel Petrie, starring Sally Field

-Sybil (2007)
A remake of the 1976 film of the same name.

Down Syndrome:
-Educating Peter (1992)

-Duo: The True Story of a Gifted Child with Down Syndrome (1996)
Duo is the story of a boy with Down syndrome who falls in love with a violinist and dreams of becoming her accompanist. -IMDb Summary

Praying with Lior (2007)
Praying with Lior asks whether someone with Down syndrome can be a spiritual genius. Many believe Lior is close to God - at least that’s what his family and community believe — though he’s also a burden, a best friend, an inspiration and an embarrassment, depending on who is asked and when. As this documentary moves to its climax, Lior must pass through the gateway to manhood – his Bar Mitzvah. -IMDb

-Dance Like Nobody’s Watching (2009) by Elizabeth Collins
Paul, a young man with Down syndrome, undertakes a journey to discover everything he can about what it is like to have Down syndrome in Australia in the 21st Century. This journey raises questions about diversity, equality and the acceptance of difference within our society. A moving, socially important and uplifting film everyone should see. -IMDb Plot Summary by Anonymous user

-Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire (2009) by Lee Daniels
Though not a central theme to the film, the protagonist, Claireece “Precious” Jones, has a child with Down Syndrome. The child is not present through much of the film, but she does appear in a couple of scenes. This is relevant because it depicts how a lower-class family with a lot of conflict and friction might approach children with disabilities. In the book and in the film, the child is referred to as “Mongo” and is cared for by Precious’ grandmother.

Feral Children:
-The Jungle Book (1967) by Wolfgang Reitherman
Not quite as realistic as some of its non-animated counterparts, The Jungle Book, much like Tarzan, is one of those films that viewers can look back on as introductory to the topic. For instance, if you encounter someone who is unfamiliar with feral children, mention of The Jungle Book or Tarzan would ease the establishment of common ground.

-The Wild Child (1970) by François Truffaut

-The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (1974) by Werner Herzog
Thanks to KENJI for suggesting this film for inclusion

-Tarzan, The Ape Man (1981) by John Derek

-Nell (1994)
Jodie Foster, Liam Neeson, and Natasha Richardson star in Nell, the story of a girl who grew up in isolation an created her own language with her twin sister.

-The Apple (1998) by Samira Makhmalbaf
Thanks for user Q for suggesting this film for inclusion on the list.
The film is available to watch on YouTube. Here is the link for the playlist:
Embedding the video is disabled.

-Tarzan (1999) by Chris Buck and Kevin Lima
Disney’s Tarzan is a classic tale of a child raised in the wild. While the film is definitely a far cry from realism, it is a great introduction to the world of feral children for younger audiences. Tarzan, as well as The Jungle Book, cannot be denied access to this list as important films on the topic.

-Mockingbird Don’t Sing (2001)
Based on the true story of famous American Feral child, Genie.
<embed id=VideoPlayback src= style=width:400px;height:326px allowFullScreen=true allowScriptAccess=always type=application/x-shockwave-flash>

-Wild Child: The Story of Feral Children (2002)
This TLC documentary was one of the first educational experiences I had with the topic of Feral children. Having already been in college when I saw it, I was able to get more out of it than I was able to get from Tarzan or Nell on my initial viewings. I cannot seem to find the documentary online or for sale anywhere, but it is worth noting that the children they mention in the film are Oxana, the girl in the beginning of the video below, Edik, the boy who is briefly shown in the video, and Genie, perhaps one of the most well known feral children of the 20th century. According to, Oxana and Edik aren’t necessarily feral, but severely neglected children.

Hansen’s Disease:
-The House is Black (1963) by Forugh Farrokhzad
The House is Black is a 20-minute documentary film by Iranian poet Forugh Farrokhzad about a leper colony and is considered one of the key films of the Iranian New Wave. The entire film is embedded below.
Thanks to KENJI for suggesting this title.

-Kingdom of Heaven (2005) by Ridley Scott
Edward Norton portrays Baldwin IV of Jerusalem, a supporting character in the film and a victim of leprosy.

Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities:
-Freaks (1932) by Tod Browning
Thanks to jessica bauer for recommending this film for inclusion on the list.

-The Rain People (1969) by Francis Ford Coppola
Embedded below is Part One of the film. The rest of the film is currently (6/12/2010) available on YouTube from the same user that uploaded Part One. See related videos.

-Handicapped Future (1971) by Werner Herzog
Thanks to user NATHAN HEIGERT for suggesting this title.

-One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) by Milos Forman

-Best Boy (1979)
Best Boy, the Academy Award winning documentary from 1979, tells the story of a man with intellectual and developmental disabilities who has been living with his parents his entire life. The parents are aging, the father’s health is declining and the family must figure out what will happen to their son when they can no longer watch over him. Part 1 of the documentary is embedded below. Parts 2-11 are available from the same user that posted part 1.

-Being There (1979) by Hal Ashby
Thanks to user jessica bauer for the recommendation.

-Of Mice and Men (1992)
John Malkovich stars as Lennie and Gary Sinise as George in this 1992 film adaptation of John Steinbeck’s classic novel.

-What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? (1993) by Lasse Hallström

-Forrest Gump (1994) by Robert Zemeckis

-The Boys Next Door (1996)

-Girl, Interrupted (1999) by James Mangold

-The Other Sister (1999)
In The Other Sister Juliette Lewis portrays Carla, a girl with a developmental disability, who struggles with gaining independence from her family and the grasp of her mother (Diane Keaton). Carla also finds a romantic relationship in Daniel (Giovanni Ribisi). The Other Sister is a romantic tale of overcoming adversity.

-I Am Sam (2001)
Starring Sean Penn as Sam, the film’s protagonist, a father with an intellectual and developmental disability who fights for custody of his 7-year-old daughter, played by Dakota Fanning.

-Pauline and Paulette (2001) by Lieven Debrauwer
Thanks to user DEN for suggesting this title.

Misunderstood Minds Searching for Success in School (2002)
From the Product Description: "As many as one in five families are coping with children who struggle to learn. Many of these children don’t fit any clinical diagnosis, but for some reason, they aren’t learning. Though these children may be suffering from debilitating learning problems, they are often mistakenly called “lazy” or “stupid” by teachers, classmates, and even by their families. But learning specialists believe that they now possess a key that will ultimately help struggling students, their parents, and teachers better identify and manage learning problems - each mind works differently and has its own unique strengths and weaknesses. Misunderstood Minds illustrates the emerging view that specific identification and customized management of learning problems is the key to success for the millions of children struggling in school. Misunderstood Minds features leading experts in the field of learning problems, including Mel Levine, M.D., G. Reid Lyon, Ph.D., Edward M. Hallowell, M.D. and Richard D. Lavoie, M.A. M.Ed."
Part 1 of the film is embedded below. The rest of the film is available on YouTube from the same user who posted the video below.

-Radio (2003)
Cuba Gooding, Jr. stars as a man with intellectual and developmental disabilities who develops a close friendship with a high school football coach, played by Ed Harris.

-My Flesh and Blood (2003)
My Flesh and Blood is a documentary film that follows Susan Tom of Fairfield, California and her 11 adopted special needs children.
Part 1 of the documentary is embedded below – the rest of the film is available on YouTube from the same user who posted Part 1.

-Yellow Brick Road (2005)
This documentary follows a group of actors with physical, intellectual and developmental disabilities who come together to perform a one-night performance of The Wizard of Oz.

-Music Within (2007)
The true story of Richard Pimentel, a brilliant public speaker with a troubled past, who returns from Vietnam severely hearing -impaired and finds a new purpose in his landmark efforts on the behalf of Americans with disabilities. -IMDb

-Billy the Kid (2007) by Jennifer Venditti
Thanks to user SADIE for suggesting this title.

-Secret Life of Bees (2008) by Gina Prince-Bythewood

-Just Like Anyone (2008)
“Just Like Anyone” gives us a glimpse into the lives of 5 families that are doing their best to help their sons succeed, even though they are faced with severe developmental disabilities. It explores the journey that all these families have been through to get to the point to where they could first accept their sons as who they are, and then begin to work as a family to help them reach ever increasing goals. -IMDb (Anonymous user)
Below is part 1 of 6 parts on YouTube. The playlist URL is:

-The Soloist (2009) by Joe Wright

Locked-in Syndrome:
-The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007) by Julian Schnabel
An incredible film about Jean-Dominique Bauby and based on his memoir of the same title, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is a unique cinematic experience in which the viewer is able to see through the eyes of Bauby in his condition. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is one of my favorite films because of its exploration of the inner thoughts and visions of someone with locked-in syndrome and also because of its inclusion of speech and physical therapy as well as detailing the method in which Bauby was able to communicate.

-The Piano (1993) by Jane Campion

-Coming Home (1978) by Hal Ashby

-Born on the Fourth of July (1989) by Oliver Stone
Thanks Sonja

-The Waterdance (1992) by Neal Jimenez and Michael Steinberg
Thanks to SONJA for suggesting this film for inclusion on the list.

-Live Flesh (1997) by Pedro Almodóvar
Pizza delivery man Victor is having an argument with Elena, whom he met a few days ago, but she was high then and doesn’t want to hear about him. Reacting to the noise, two cops, young David and older Sancho, arrive at the scene, the gun accidentally goes off.. Four years later David is a wheelchair basketball star, he’s married to Elena, Victor is released out of prison and their destinies begin to cross again. -IMDb Summary

-Whole (2003)
Thanks to GREY DAISIES for the recommendation.

-Aaltra (2004) by Gustave de Kervern and Benoît Delépine
Thanks to GREY DAISIES for suggesting this title.

-Murderball (2005) by Henry Alex Rubin and Dana Adam Shapiro

Quid Pro Quo (2008)
Thanks to GREY DAISIES for the recommendation.
Public Radio reporter in New York City. When he was eight, his mother and father died in an automobile accident that left him in a wheelchair.
On air, Isaac recounts how he recently received an anonymous tip from someone identified only as “Ancient Chinese Girl.” She tells him a perfectly able-bodied man walked into an emergency ward downtown, and attempted to bribe a doctor into amputating his leg.
As Isaac investigates the eerie tip, he encounters Fiona (Vera Farmiga) who, through her own quandary, leads Isaac to a netherworld of people afflicted with a perverse desire to be disabled. Like a contemporary noir detective film, QUID PRO QUO follows Issac as he embarks on a dream-like journey to pull back the layers of what makes people feel whole. —YouTube

-Avatar (2009) by James Cameron

-Benny & Joon (1993) by Jeremiah S. Chechik

-A Beautiful Mind (2001)

-Noise (2007) by Matthew Saville

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