ABCs 4 SLPs: A is for Autism - Autism in the Movies

ABCs 4 SLPs: A is for Autism - Autism in the Movies image
As I have stated before, one of my other favorite subjects other than speech-language pathology is film. I remember one of my first assignments in my Introduction to Communication Disorders class was related to watching a film that was about a person with a communication disorder. The film had to be fictional. Then, we had to discuss if the communication disorder was accurately portrayed or not in the film. I cannot recall the film in which I chose to analyze, but from then on, I made it a goal to watch as many films about people with communication disorders as I could. There are many different types of communication disorders shown in films, and one of these is autism spectrum disorders. Therefore, I thought it would be great to compile a list of films/documentary related to autism spectrum disorders or that have a character with autism/aspergers. Keep reading to see my list.

ABCs 4 SLPs Movies Featuring ASD

Movies With a Character Who Has Autism/Aspergers:

Adam (2009; PG-13):

Adam poster

This film is about a man named Adam who has Asperger's syndrome of whom begins a relationship with his neighbor in the upstairs apartment.

Backstreet Dreams (1990; R)

Backstreet Dreams

This film is about a husband and wife who have a son (Shane) who has autism. When the husband catches his wife cheating on him, he kicks her out raises his son on his own. However, things aren't easy as his past is strewn with backstreet deals, but the psychologist who diagnosed Shane continues to play an important role in his life and urges him to begin a better life for himself and his son.

The Black Balloon (2008; PG-13)

The Black Balloon

This film is about a teenage boy named Thomas who has an older brother with autism. Thomas is embarrassed by his brother, especially due to the fact that his brother is disrupting his various trials to date a girl in his swim class.

The Boy Who Could Fly (1986; PG)

The Boy Who Could Fly

This film is about a boy (named Eric) who has autism who becomes friends with the girl next door who has just moved in. In addition, his parents had died in a plane crash when he was five, so he lives with his uncle. Eric is non-verbal and often stands on the rooftop and pretends that he is flying. His teacher as well as his new friend are both advocates for him, but are helpless when he is institutionalized after social workers remove him from his drunken uncle's home.

Fly Away (2011)

Fly Away

This film is about a single mother who has a teenage daughter with autism. The mother is having a difficult time with her daughter growing up and the challenges that come with it. She also tries to figure out how to prepare her daughter for the future as well as her place in her daughter's future.

Mary and Max (2009)

Mary and Max

This clay-animated film is about an eight year-old Australian girl named Mary who writes a letter to a random person from the phone book, who happens to be 44 year-old New York native, Max (diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome). They both write to each other for two decades. Mary becomes a psychologist who writes a book about Asperger's syndrome, which makes Max upset to the point of breaking their correspondence.

Mercury Rising (1998; R)

Mercury Rising

This film is about an FBI agent (played by Bruce Willis) who is assigned to protect a nine-year old boy who has autism. The boy is the target of assassins after he cracks the NSA's top secret unbreakable code called "MERCURY".

Molly (1999; PG-13)


This film is about a woman named Molly who has autism and has lived in an institution since she was young. This is due to the fact that her parents died in a car accident. The institution closes due to budget cuts, leaving Molly with her older brother, Buck. The two decide to undergo an experimental sugery to help her "recover" from her autism and at first it helps her become more social and verbal, but then she begins to regress.

Mozart and the Whale (2005; PG-13)

Mozart and the Whale poster

This film is about a man and a woman, both who have Asperger's syndrome, who meet at a support/therapy group for people with Autism Spectrum Disorder/Asperger's syndrome. They start a relationship, and it's not always easy.

My Name is Khan (2010; PG-13)

My Name is Khan poster

This film is about a man named Rizwan Khan who is a Muslim with Asperger's syndrome. He is detained by airport security after 9/11 who mistake his disability for suspicious terrorist activity. He then meets with a therapist to help him towards his goal of meeting with President Bush and clearing his name.

Rain Man (1988; R)

Rain Man

This film is about a man named Charlie whose father left three million dollars to his brother Raymond, who has autism. Charlie kidnaps Raymond on a trip across the country to become his guardian and get part of the inheritance. Through the journey, Charlie learns a lot about his brother and his perspective changes considerably.

Silent Fall (1994; R)

Silent Fall

This film is about a boy who has autism who witnesses the murder of both of his parents. A therapist then tries to get information out of the boy to solve the case of his parents' murders.

Snow Cake (2006; NR)

Snow Cake

This movie is about a man named Alex who allows a young hitchhiking woman into his car only to get involved in a car accident which kills her. He then decides to tell the woman's mother about the accident. The mother has high-functioning autism and invites him to stay with her while he arranges her daughter's funeral.

What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993; PG-13)

What's Eating Gilbert Grape

This film is about a young man named Gilbert who has to be grown up enough to care for his brother Arnie, who has autism, as well as his own widowed, obese mother. His life is consumed by his family until he meets a young woman and her grandmother who are stranded in town until they get their car working again.

Documentaries About Autism

Autism: The Musical (2007)

Autism: The Musical

This documentary follows five different autistic children and their families as well as therapists who are working to create and perform a musical about autism. The program which made the experience possible is called "The Miracle Project".

Loving Lampposts (2010)

Loving Lampposts

This film is about a father who is looking for more information about autism. He meets with parents of children with autism, attends conferences, learns about therapies, and more throughout the documentary.

A Mother's Courage: Talking Back to Autism (2009)

A Mother's Courage: Talking Back to Autism

This documentary follows a mother from Iceland who has a child diagnosed with autism. She went on a journey to learn more about autism, diagnosis and treatment of autism, others' stories about autism, attend conferences on autism, learn about research and statistics related to autism, and traveled across the world to meet with experts and conduct interviews with people who knew a lot about autism. Throughout the film she also shares her own story about her son and remains as optimistic as possible about her son's prognosis.

The Horse Boy (2009; NR)

Horse Boy

This film is about a family who travels to find a way to heal their son who has autism. They are searching for a Mongolian shaman who they believe can help. This documentary discusses autism, horses, shamanism, and Mongolian culture.

Temple Grandin (2010; TV PG)

Temple Grandin

This film is a biopic of Temple Grandin, a person who has autism and is a professor at Colorado State University with a Ph.D. Temple Grandin, herself, helped write the film. Claire Danes plays Temple Grandin in the film and portrays her life growing up with a love for animals as well as some struggles with social situations and anxiety. The film shows not only her life as a child but on through adulthood and how she developed humane conditions for cattle processing plants.

Wretches & Jabberers (2011)

Wretches and Jabbers

This film is about two men who have autism and are traveling the world to change peoples' attitudes about autism spectrum disorders. They meet with other people who have autism, speak at conferences, and discuss important issues/misconceptions in regards to autism and intelligence/independence/etc.

Made For Television Films With a Character Who Has Autism

After Thomas (2006)

After Thomas

This film is about a couple who have a son with autism and the everyday challenges it brings.

David's Mother (1994)

David's Mother

This film is about a single mother who is fighting to keep her son with autism with her instead of in an institution.

Cries From the Heart (1994)

Cries From the Heart

This film is about a seven year-old child who has autism. When his mother sends him to a school where he is taught how to type his thoughts onto a computer, he states that one of the people at his school has sexually abused him. The case is brought to court to determine the evidence of what was typed.

Fielder's Choice (2005)

Fielder's Choice

This film is about a man whose sister has died and upon passing, left custody of her eight year-old son with autism to him. He has to learn how to juggle being a father with his competitive career.

Miracle Run (2004)

Miracle Run

This film is about a woman who has twins diagnosed with autism. At first she struggles with the diagnosis and then decides not to tell her sons' school about the diagnosis so that they may be treated like any other child. This causes some debate and difficulty, but she keeps trying to prove that her sons can do what any other child can do.

Under the Piano (1996)

Under the Piano

This film is about a child who has autism and is over-protected by her angry mother. The childs' sister eventually helps her to lead a more normal life.

There are many other films out there where characters in the film show characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorders. I have not listed them on this list. However, if I have missed any films that have out-right stated that the character has been diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or a documentary about ASD, I would love to hear about them! Feel free to type them in the comments below the post! I'm always looking for new films to watch!


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