Film industry generally bends and breaks things to oversimplify or glamorize when it comes to disorders and disabilities. So it is safe to say autism got its fair share from being accurately and not-so-accurately depicted in films. Seeing a not-so-accurate depiction might be frustrating to those who live with this condition day and night. However, a movie can never be perfect for everyone. When we watch a movie, we take our personal views and experiences with us. So a feature film loved by many will have its haters for sure. There will always be a point, texture and aesthetic in every movie. It would be an enlightening experience to watch movies by trying to understand the points they are making.
Here is a list of movies about autism we have gathered that can be found on streaming services and DVDs.
This documentary crashed the stereotype of individuals with autism as cold and not capable of love by depicting romantic relationships between autistic couples. There is love, heartbreak, caring and hard work and all the feelings that accompany them. The main idea in the film is that people with autism are just as capable as non-autistic individuals in terms of feeling empathy. Seeing something “typical” rather than “atypical” behavior might be charming and relieving for parents.
A father of an autistic son sets out on a 40-day trip across the United States to visit families and individuals who live with autism. The film emphasizes the diversity; the diversity and uniqueness seen in autism can also be seen in the culture, race and socioeconomic characteristics of these families. Anyone can find a relatable story in this film.
Barry Reese, the director of this documentary, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that “The number-one aim really was to create more awareness about the emotions surrounding autism.” He had the idea of making a documentary when he first encountered a friend’s son with autism while he was walking in circles before going to school. He then filmed daily life of that child’s family, Lunds. In this movie, we can see how other siblings approach the diagnosis. Also, from the parents’ perspective, you can see that not all the time you have the outcome you expected.
This famous 1988 drama certainly isn’t perfect in terms of depiction of a character with autism. However, as we mentioned before, it still provided a means for people to see and understand certain aspects of the disorder and, thus, raised awareness in a way with the popularity. This was the first blockbuster film to feature an autistic character. Yes, not all individuals with autism are autistic savants, but an expert, Dr. Darold Treffert, to whom director Levinson and Dustin Hoffman consulted, said that the film did tremendous favor by bringing autism to the public attention more than any other public-education effort could have done at that time.
The film shows Charlie’s ability to connect with his brother despite being different. Also, we see that children with autism grow up to be adults with autism and their growth and learning never stop.
This biopic starring Claire Danes shows Temple Grandin’s, now-famous autistic animal science professor, public disclosure of her life. Her speeches and 1996 book Thinking in Pictures brought greater public awareness to the disorder; and people with this disorder can very well succeed professionally and intellectually because they “think different”, as Grandin puts herself.
One of the things that makes this movie nice is that it depicts a woman. As boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed with autism, we generally don’t see examples of girls and women, the presence of women with autism may sometimes be overlooked. It is nice to see how the disorder presents itself differently in girls.
6. The Story of Luke (2012)
In this film, a 25-year-old Luke with autism finds himself in a situation where he needs to learn how to survive in an unfamiliar world when his grandmother passes away. The writer and director of the film, Alonso Mayo, stated that he was inspired by the students at the school for people with developmental disabilities that her mother owns and he wrote the script. In an interview he said, “They wanted a girlfriend, they wanted to start living life on their own. I started seeing these young adults having the same issues everyone else has around relationships and independence.”
Have you seen any of these movies? How well do you think they depict autism? Do you have other suggestions? Let us know.
- The Mighty: https://themighty.com/2015/03/7-films-that-tried-to-accurately-depict-a-character-with-autism/
- Pasific Stand: https://psmag.com/when-hollywood-gets-things-right-movies-about-autism-edition-8197289a153e
- The Art of Autism: http://the-art-of-autism.com/autism-films-streaming-on-netflix-and-on-dvd-part-1/