Autism in Film

As an independent study at Keene State College, I am making a documentary on how Autism is represented in film. I am really excited about this project so I thought I would share my progress.

First I had to find films with characters with Autism to watch. I decided to limit films to fiction full-length live-action films. No documentaries, no shorts, no animated films, no television shows. That still left me with a long list that keeps growing.

Here is the list of films I plan to watch for this project. Please feel free to post films you think I should add to this list.

The Accountant (2016) 128min | Action, Crime, Drama | 14 October 2016 (USA) Summary: As a math savant uncooks the books for a new client, the Treasury Department closes in on his activities, and the body count starts to rise.
Countries: USALanguages: English, Indonesian, French
Adam (2009) 99min | Comedy, Drama, Romance | 28 August 2009 (USA) Summary: Adam, a lonely man with Asperger's Syndrome, develops a relationship with his upstairs neighbor, Beth.
Countries: USALanguages: English
After Thomas (2006) 93min | Biography, Drama | TV Movie 26 December 2006 Summary: A true story about a couple's struggles to meet the challenges of their son's autism.
Countries: UKLanguages: English
Backstreet Dreams (1990) 96min | Crime, Drama, Romance | 24 August 1990 (Canada) Summary: Petty criminal Dean struggles to raise his autistic son alone, and his life appears to be going off-track until psychologist Stevie arrives to help them both.
Countries: USALanguages: English
Ben X (2007) 93min | Drama, Thriller | 26 September 2007 (Belgium) Summary: As an alternative to getting bullied at school, an autistic teenager retreats into the world of online role-playing games.
Countries: Belgium, NetherlandsLanguages: Flemish, Dutch
The Black Balloon (2008) 97min | Drama, Romance | 6 March 2008 (Australia) Summary: All Thomas wants is a normal adolescence but his autistic brother, Charlie, thwarts his every opportunity. Will Thomas, with the help of his girlfriend, Jackie, accept his brother?
Countries: Australia, UKLanguages: English
Bless the Child (2000) 107min | Crime, Drama, Horror | 11 August 2000 (USA) Summary: Cody, a little girl abandoned by her mother and raised by her aunt, a nurse, is kidnapped. The girl's guardian, aided by an F.B.I. agent, learn that Cody has supernatural abilities, and the abductees are a Satanic cult willing to do anything to gain them.
Countries: USA, GermanyLanguages: English
A Boy Called Po (2016) 95min | Drama, Fantasy | 1 September 2017 (USA) Summary: After his wife dies of cancer, an overworked engineer struggles to care for his son with autism. His son in response to bullying regresses into a fantasy world escape.
Countries: USALanguages: English
The Boy Who Could Fly (1986) 114min | Drama, Fantasy, Romance | 15 August 1986 (USA) Summary: An autistic boy who dreams of flying touches everyone he meets, including a new family who has moved in after their father dies.
Countries: USALanguages: English
Change of Habit (1969) 93min | Crime, Drama, Music | 21 January 1970 (USA) Summary: An incognito nun tries to help a doctor clean up an inner city ghetto, with the pair growing closer as time goes on.
Countries: USALanguages: English
A Child Is Waiting (1963) 102min | Drama | 11 January 1963 (USA) Summary: Psychologist Dr. Matthew Clark is the head of the Crawthorne State Training Institute, one of the first boarding schools for developmentally challenged children. Dr. Clark is sympathetic ... See full summary »
Countries: USALanguages: English
Chocolate (2008) 110min | Action, Drama | 6 February 2008 (Thailand) Summary: An autistic girl with powerful martial art skills looks to settle her ailing mother's debts by seeking out the ruthless gangs that owe her family money.
Countries: ThailandLanguages: Thai, Japanese, English
God's Ears (2008) 117min | Drama | 2008 (USA) Summary: Noah Connelly is a boxer with a tireless opponent: Autism. But when he meets a dancer named Alexia, the two discover together that the toughest fight may be not be of the body, but of the heart.
Countries: USALanguages: English
Cries from the Heart (1994) 120min | Drama | TV Movie 16 October 1994 Summary: Michael, a young autistic boy who has trouble with verbalization but a real talent for technology, uses a computer to plead for help after being molested at his school.
Countries: USALanguages: English
David and Lisa (1962) 95min | Drama | 9 September 1963 (Sweden) Summary: The emotional story of a young man in a mental institution for teens who begins to understand his psychosis in the environment of others with mental and emotional problems. He finds ... See full summary »
Countries: USALanguages: English
David's Mother (1994) 92min | Drama | TV Movie 10 April 1994 Summary: A woman estranged from her husband and family insists on caring for her autistic son alone.
Countries: USALanguages: English
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (2011) 129min | Adventure, Drama, Mystery | 20 January 2012 (USA) Summary: A nine-year-old amateur inventor, Francophile, and pacifist searches New York City for the lock that matches a mysterious key left behind by his father, who died in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
Countries: USALanguages: English
Family Pictures  | TV Mini-Series (1993) 183min | Drama | TV Mini-Series (1993) Summary: Nina Eberlin comes home to visit her now-divorced parents and while looking through a collection of pictures taken by her father and herself, she reflects on how the pictures illustrate the... See full summary »
Countries: USA, CanadaLanguages: English
Fly Away (2011) 85min | Drama | 26 April 2011 (USA) Summary: The poignant yet humor filled story about a single mother of a teenager severely impacted by autism, forced to reckon with her daughter's future. As her child becomes an adult, what used to... See full summary »
Countries: USALanguages: English
If You Could Say It in Words (2008) 110min | Romance | 8 October 2008 (USA) Summary: An unapologetically romantic tale about an adulterous young woman struggling to rebuild her life and a painter suffering from undiagnosed Asperger's syndrome.
Countries: USALanguages: English
Jack of the Red Hearts (2015) 102min | Drama, Family | 6 May 2015 (USA) Summary: A teenage con artist tricks a desperate mother into hiring her as a live-in companion for her autistic daughter.
Countries: USALanguages: English
The Lighthouse of the Whales (2016) 110min | Biography, Drama, Romance | 16 December 2016 (Spain) Summary: A mother with an autistic child travel from Spain to Argentina looking to help her son to connect with his emotions.
Countries: Spain, ArgentinaLanguages: Spanish
Marathon (2005) 117min | Biography, Drama, Sport | 27 January 2005 (South Korea) Summary: An autistic boy discovers he has a talent for running and with the help of the mother participates in a major marathon.
Countries: South KoreaLanguages: Korean
Mercury Rising (1998) 111min | Action, Crime, Drama | 3 April 1998 (USA) Summary: Shadowy elements in the NSA target a nine-year old autistic savant for death when he is able to decipher a top secret code.
Countries: USALanguages: English
A Mile in His Shoes (2011) 89min | Drama, Family, Sport | TV Movie 5 September 2011 Summary: Mickey Tussler, an autistic pitcher, joins a minor-league baseball team and has a profound effect on the team and manager Arthur "Murph" Murphy over the course of a season.
Countries: CanadaLanguages: English
Miracle Run (2004) 120min | Biography, Drama | TV Movie 9 August 2004 Summary: A mom is alone with her fraternal twin sons after they're diagnosed with autism. She tries to give them a normal childhood.
Countries: USALanguages: English
Molly (1999) 102min | Comedy, Drama, Romance | July 1999 (Norway) Summary: A bachelor becomes the unwilling guardian of his autistic, intellectually disabled sister; then an experimental treatment works a dramatic change in her brain and his attitude.
Countries: USALanguages: English
Mozart and the Whale (2005) 94min | Comedy, Drama, Romance | 2 February 2006 (Turkey) Summary: A love story between two savants with Asperger's syndrome, a kind of autism, whose conditions sabotage their budding relationship.
Countries: USALanguages: English
My Name Is Khan (2010) 165min | Drama | 12 February 2010 (USA) Summary: An Indian Muslim man with Asperger's syndrome takes a challenge to speak to the President of the United States seriously and embarks on a cross-country journey.
Countries: India, USA, United Arab EmiratesLanguages: Hindi, English
Ocean Heaven (2010) 96min | Drama | 18 June 2010 (China) Summary: Explores the subject of parental love and autism in kids.
Countries: ChinaLanguages: Mandarin
Please Stand By (2017) 93min | Comedy, Drama | 26 January 2018 (USA) Summary: A young autistic woman runs away from her caregiver in an attempt to submit her 500-page manuscript to a "Star Trek" writing competition in Hollywood. On her journey there, she must conquer an unknown world full of challenges.
Countries: USALanguages: English, Klingon
Power Rangers (2017) 124min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi | 24 March 2017 (USA) Summary: A group of high-school students, who are infused with unique superpowers, harness their abilities in order to save the world.
Countries: USA, Hong Kong, Japan, Mexico, Canada, New ZealandLanguages: English, Mandarin
Rain Man (1988) 133min | Drama | 16 December 1988 (USA) Summary: Selfish yuppie Charlie Babbitt's father left a fortune to his savant brother Raymond and a pittance to Charlie; they travel cross-country.
Countries: USALanguages: English, Italian
Randy's Canvas (2018) 102min | Comedy, Drama, Romance | 18 September 2018 (USA) Summary: A coming-of-age love story about an aspiring artist with autism.
Countries: USALanguages: English
Roaming (2013) 80min | Drama, Romance | 10 April 2013 (Canada) Summary: A socially introverted game designer named William Borchert has barely left his house in years. Once reunited with Olivia, the girl he had loved since high school, he fights to live with ... See full summary »
Countries: CanadaLanguages: English
Silent Fall (1994) 101min | Drama, Mystery, Thriller | 28 October 1994 (USA) Summary: An autistic boy witnesses his parents' double murder. A controversial therapist seeks to probe the child's mind in order to solve the case.
Countries: USALanguages: English
Snow Cake (2006) 112min | Drama, Romance | 8 September 2006 (UK) Summary: A drama focused on the friendship between a high-functioning autistic woman and a man who is traumatized after a fatal car accident.
Countries: Canada, UKLanguages: English
Son-Rise: A Miracle of Love (1979) 120min | Drama | TV Movie 14 May 1979 Summary: A young couple is overjoyed when they find out that, after having had two girls, the wife is pregnant again, and this time it will be a son. However, the boy turns out to autistic. Unhappy ... See full summary »
Countries: USALanguages: English
Stand Clear of the Closing Doors (2013) 102min | Drama | 5 April 2014 (USA) Summary: The story of an autistic youth named Ricky who, after a particularly difficult day at school, escapes into the subways. It's here that he starts his real journey, on a days-long voyage of ... See full summary »
Countries: USALanguages: English, Spanish
The Story of Luke (2012) 96min | Comedy, Drama | 5 April 2013 (USA) Summary: Sheltered by his grandparents, Luke, a young man with autism, is thrust into a world that doesn't expect anything from him. But Luke is on a quest for a job and true love. And he isn't taking no for an answer.
Countries: USALanguages: English
Suzie (2009) 94min | Drama | 17 April 2009 (Canada) Summary: Suzie, a 58 year old depressed taxi driver on the night shift. On Halloween, she finds a 10 year old autistic boy in the back seat of her taxi with 50$ and an address. As Suzie arrived at ... See full summary »
Countries: CanadaLanguages: French
Temple Grandin (2010) 107min | Biography, Drama | TV Movie 6 February 2010 Summary: A biopic of Temple Grandin, an autistic woman who has become one of the top scientists in the humane livestock handling industry.
Countries: USALanguages: English
What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993) 118min | Drama | 4 March 1994 (USA) Summary: A young man in a small Midwestern town struggles to care for his mentally-disabled younger brother and morbidly obese mother while attempting to pursue his own happiness.
Countries: USALanguages: English
White Frog (2012) 93min | Drama, Romance | 2 August 2013 (Vietnam) Summary: Twilight's Booboo Stewart plays a neglected teen trying to make it through each day after tragedy strikes.
Countries: USALanguages: English
A Brilliant Young Mind (2014) 111min | Drama, Romance | 11 September 2015 (USA) Summary: A socially awkward teenage math prodigy finds new confidence and new friendships when he lands a spot on the British squad at the International Mathematics Olympiad.
Countries: UKLanguages: English, Mandarin

If you wish to see which movies I have watched so far and what I have rated them, then check out my list on Letterboxd.

“Mortal Engines”, a Steampunk Remake of “Star Wars”

Mortal Engines (2018), directed by newcomer Christian Rivers, is based on a young adult novel of the same name by British author Philip Reeve. It takes place in a post-apocalyptic world that was destroyed by a “60-minute war” some thousand years ago. Those that survived created steampunk like mobile cities that go around devouring towns and minor cities for their resources, with the citizens being integrated into the dominating city.

Mortal Engines (2018) Action, Adventure, Fantasy | 128min | 14 December 2018 (USA) 6.1
Director: Christian RiversWriter: Fran Walsh, Philippa BoyensStars: Hera Hilmar, Robert Sheehan, Hugo WeavingSummary: A mysterious young woman, Hester Shaw, emerges as the only one who can stop a giant, predator city on wheels devouring everything in its path. Feral, and fiercely driven by the memory of her mother, Hester joins forces with Tom Natsworthy, an outcast from London, along with Anna Fang, a dangerous outlaw with a bounty on her head.


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The most exciting part of the story is the beginning before the title even appears when the roving city of London devours a mining town. It is filled with beautifully interesting CGI with high action chase scenes until the mining town is engulfed by London. After that point, all the action scenes seem overdone with CGI and predictable fight sequences.

The main characters, Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar) and Tom Natsworthy (Robert Sheehan) could be exciting if they were allowed to develop some depth. Hester is depicted as a revenge crazy loner who eventually learns the power of friendship. Tom is a budding historian who wants to be an aviator and who is completely lost at what to do when he is pushed off his traveling home of London.

These heroes have a lot to contend with. There is the power-hungry Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving) who throws them both off London and who has a plan to build a weapon to destroy the wall that protects Asia from cities like London. There are the cannibalistic southerners who try to sell them at auction as meat. And then there is Shrike (Stephen Lang), an undead cyborg, who raised Hester and is now trying to kill her for breaking a promise.

The story is not only predictable, but it is also highly derivative. From the budding love story between the two heroes to Hester having the only solution to save the day, it feels like they took all the tropes from good action adventure stories and made into one high adventure, overpacked, steampunk, post-apocalyptic narrative. The story is a combination of Star Wars, Mad Max, and The Terminator. After all, London is a “Death Star” destroying other settlements in a dystopian resource depleted landscape. There is even a rebel alliance, called the Anti-Traction League, that saves Tom and Hester from being auctioned to cannibals. The rebel who is most prominent is Anna Fang (Jihae) who looks like a character straight from The Matrix. The league needs Hester, an orphan with daddy issues, as she is “their only hope.” But she is too busy running away from the killer cyborg.

This film could have been great if they focused more on the main plot and less on the subplots. Shrike was more of an annoyance to the story than an exciting subplot and obstacle. He almost needs a film of his own. The southerners are superfluous to the story as they only there to add another obstacle that has nothing to do with the main plot. Supporting characters like Katherine Valentine (Leila George) and Bevis Pod (Ronan Raftery) almost get forgotten in parts, so that they can fit in Shrike and the southerners, even though they are essential to the main plotline.

If you love CGI and impressive world building and don’t mind stories that don’t have much depth, then this is a great film to watch. Otherwise, you might as well save your money and go see the next Star Wars installment.