Movies On Autism

Movies On Autism

Movies on Autism

Movies are one of the most successful visual media to have a wide audience in the contemporary world. While autism remained a barely understood condition. When a movie revolves around an autistic character and attempts to represent the life around them; Do they portray their struggles in the real world? Do they create erroneous stereotypes of autistic characters? Does it dispel misconceptions about autism or create new myths? Let us explore a few movies to know how the most successful mass media represented autism.

Autism is considered a disability from a legal point of view. This is because Autistic people need access to extra support, care, and government aid. Since each person with Autism is unique, their need for support also varies.

1. Rain Man

Rain Man

While talking about movies and autism, one can’t ignore the Tom Cruise starer “Rain Man”, released in 1988. It was one of the first mainstream movies to portray the condition. It is a road comedy-drama about two siblings – one, the selfish and abrasive younger brother who wants to inherit his departed father’s estate; and the other, the elder brother with autism and savant syndrome. The plot is about their transformation and bonding on their journey to Los Angeles.

The movie was successful in dispelling numerous myths about autism. It has exposed the failure of public systems in accommodating people with autism. Although it was effective in creating awareness about autism, unfortunately, it created stereotypes that people with autism typically have savant skills. It is unwise to expect everything about autism in a single movie. Although “Rain Man” was one of the first mainstream movies to portray the condition, it didn’t throw the limelight on how was autism largely understood by society in the 20th century.

2. Temple Grandin

Temple Grandin

Temple Grandin”, released in 2010, based on the real-life character with the same name, brought attention to how was autism misunderstood as an untreatable mental disorder and required institutionalization in the early 20th century. It also notes the severe discrimination and harassment against them. It brings forward the struggles through her college and workspace; and how she excelled in her career as an animal behaviourist despite the challenges. It shows her strength as a visual thinker and learner, and her struggle with socialization and understanding social clues. It also brings light to the perseverant efforts put by her mother and her teacher Dr Carlock, in helping Grandin realize her potential. This movie breaks away many misconceptions, thus bringing the audience closer to their everyday challenges in society, without victimizing their role completely.

3. My Name is Khan

My Name is Khan

In 2010, a dramatic movie was produced in Bollywood, bringing attention to an autistic character to the Indian audience. It was “My name is Khan”, starring Shahrukh Khan. It was one of the first Bollywood movies to portray a protagonist with Asperger’s Syndrome. The movie revolves around the context of racial discrimination against Muslims in the US post 9/11. The movie brilliantly portrays the innocence, determination, and unprejudiced mind of an autistic character.

4. Barfi


And it is a long list of movies. The heart-warming Bollywood movie “Barfi” (2012), shows the little things the autistic character loves and finds beautiful.

5. Life animated

Life animated

The documentary film “Life animated” (2016) narrates Owen’s relationship with Disney movies. It shows how Disney movies helped him to understand and express himself better

More Movies on Autism

Change of Habit (1969)

It is a crime drama musical otherwise, starring Elvis Presley as Dr Carpenter, is a movie about three incognito nuns preparing for their final vows and one of them eventually falling in love with the doctor. However, the movie shows them trying to assist a boy with a speech impediment and a girl who is non-verbal and autistic.

The Boy Who Could Fly (1986)

It portrays a non-verbal autistic teen, Eric Gibb, who is obsessed with birds and his dream to fly.

Little Man Tate (1991)

It is an emotional roller-coaster about a child prodigy, Tate, and his single working-class mother’s struggle to provide the support and stimulation he needs.

House of Cards (1993)

House of Cards is a drama film directed by Michael Lessac and starring Kathleen Turner and Tommy Lee Jones that was released in 1993. It follows a mother’s struggle to reconnect with her traumatised daughter after her father’s death. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 1993 before being picked up for distribution by Miramax Films in June of that year. It is about an unconventional journey of a mother, who struggles to enter her autistic daughter’s mind and comprehend the seemingly bizarre things she perceives.

Killer Diller (2004)

It is about the friendship between Wesley and Lucan Black. Wesley is a car thief and musician, and Lucan Black is an autistic piano player. The movie narrates their journey to create the Killer Diller Blues band.

Mozart and The Whale (2005)

It is a love story between two savants who have Asperger’s syndrome and their mutual struggle to cope with their condition and fragile relationship.

Snow Cake (2006)

It is a thought-provoking movie revolving around the relationship between an autistic woman and a man who was traumatized after a fatal car accident.

Yuvvraaj (2008)

It is an Indian drama about two brothers. The story revolves around the inheritance left by their deceased father to their eldest sibling with special needs.

Adam (2009)

It is a comedy-drama which portrays the enigmatic relationship between Adam and Beth. Adam is a lonely man with Asperger’s syndrome and Beth is his neighbour, a writer with a painful past.

Ocean Heaven (2010)

It is a heart-wrenching story of a terminally ill father, who tirelessly loves his autistic son. This movie is about his attempts to teach his son essential life skills.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (2011)

It is an adventurous drama about a nine-year-old child with a developmental disorder and his search within New York City for a message when he comes across a mysterious key left behind by his father.

Some of these movies have misrepresented and exaggerated the autistic personality. Being part of mass media these movies have successfully brought the limelight to autism spectrum disorder. These movies portrayed their challenges and intentions in everyday life.

Autistic people are neurodiverse. Further, it simply means they are different than you and me. Additionally, Autistic people have different ways of social interaction. They communicate differently than the rest of us. Further, some autistic adults and children may speak or use gestures to communicate. Furthermore, they have diverse responses to sensations and much more.

You can also read about the books on autism here.


Hima Bindh
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