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Do you know someone who has Asperger’s syndrome or who is on the autism spectrum?
If so, then this list might be able to help you understand them better. We have gathered 25 of the best movies about Asperger’s and autism. Some are from the autistic person’s point of view, while others are from the neurotypical person’s point of view.
This mental condition may be difficult to comprehend, but it is definitely worth learning about, just like all the other mental illnesses. We hope you’ll be able to find a few films that can help you better understand the autism spectrum.
Let’s check them out!
What You Will Learn
- 1. My Name Is Khan
- 2. Mozart and the Whale
- 3. Temple Grandin
- 4. Rain Man
- 5. Adam
- 6. I Am Sam
- 7. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
- 8. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?
- 9. Ben X
- 10. The Accountant
- 11. Please Stand By
- 12. Ocean Heaven
- 13. The Lighthouse of the Orcas
- 14. Little Man Tate
- 15. A Brilliant Young Mind
- 16. Snow Cake
- 17. Nathan’s Kingdom
- 18. Keep the Change
- 19. A Boy Called Po
- 20. Mercury Rising
- 21. Life, Animated
- 22. The Horse Boy
- 23. The Story of Luke
- 24. Mary and Max
- 25. The Other Sister
- Final Words
1. My Name Is Khan
This film aims to break stereotypes about Muslims and people with Asperger’s syndrome.
The movie follows the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Khan is being discriminated against for being a Muslim, while at the same time struggling with Asperger’s syndrome. Although he is a talented man, his roots seem to be more important to the people around him.
We recommend watching this film if you want to learn more about politics, religion, and mental health. It will definitely open your mind to the damage that racism and prejudice can do.
2. Mozart and the Whale
This film is a love story. If you have seen the trailer (watch it above) and the poster, you know that it is going to involve a lot of romance. After all, Mozart and the Whale is a true story based on the memoir of lovers Jerry and Mary Newport.
But this is also a movie about how two people with Asperger’s syndrome were able to overcome the challenges standing in the way of their love. While they both have the same condition, they also have their differences, which is what makes their bond even stronger.
3. Temple Grandin
This award-winning film tells the life story of one of the most admired women in the world—Temple Grandin.
This movie helps the audience understand that not all superheroes wear capes. Some of them live amongst us and are even on the autism spectrum. They are special in ways that many of us cannot begin to comprehend.
Temple Grandin has a PhD in animal science. She is also one of the top scientists in the livestock industry. This film tells her story.
4. Rain Man
Ready for some Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman action? This classic film tells the story of two brothers—one with a conniving attitude and one who is an autistic savant.
Rain Man is one of the most popular movies about autism, largely due to the acting prowess of both lead actors.
Adam is another love story, except this time only the male character has Asperger’s. He falls in love with his new neighbor, Beth, but has a hard time building a connection with her.
On the surface, this seems like a typical romance story that touches on mental health. If you look closely, however, you will understand why and how difficult it is for people with autism to open up about their feelings. In fact, you will learn why feelings are such a challenge for them in general.
6. I Am Sam
I Am Sam is one of the greatest films ever made about autism and fatherhood. If you are in the mood for heavy drama and a few social topics, such as stereotyping and legal issues, then you are in for a treat. We highly recommend watching this film.
7. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close was originally a novel. It was adapted into a movie in 2011, starring Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, and Thomas Horn. It also featured performances by Viola Davis, Zoe Caldwell, Max von Sydow.
The story follows Oskar, a young boy with autism. His father dies during the 9/11 attacks, and Oskar later finds a key in one of his father’s vases. He goes on a journey to find what the key unlocks, and along the way starts building connections with people who have great stories.
8. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?
If you are looking for a movie that portrays autism from another perspective, then we recommend giving this film a shot. In addition to looking at the disorder from the autistic person’s view, it is also helpful for those who are trying to understand the disorder better.
Starring Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio, this film shares the heartwarming story of a man who had to give up a lot in life to take care of his younger brother with special needs.
9. Ben X
Ben X is a difficult film to watch. It portrays a lot of bullying and stereotyping, but it may be helpful for parents of kids who are diagnosed with Asperger’s or autism.
This film helps the audience understand how a lot of people think about autism spectrum disorder. It will make you care a lot more about how your children might be treated in school or other public places and teach you how to tend to their needs in the most appropriate manner.
10. The Accountant
What happens if a parent refuses to seek help for their autistic child’s needs? That is exactly the question this film aims to answer.
Ben Affleck gives a superb performance in his role as “the accountant.” He plays Christian Wolff, a gifted bookkeeper for the deadliest criminals in the world. This is a job his father trained him for as a child.
We won’t say much more, because we believe that this film is worth watching without any spoilers. But if you want to know what can happen when autism disorder is neglected, we suggest watching this film.
11. Please Stand By
Have you ever met a person who has so much talent, but who can’t seem to reach their potential because they are being limited by their illness?
If so, then you might be able to relate to this film. Dakota Fanning plays the role of a young woman who has a dream of becoming a scriptwriter, but who can’t seem to accomplish this due to her autism.
But anyone who says you can’t reach your dreams if you are autistic is in for a wakeup call, as our protagonist in this movie proves that person wrong.
12. Ocean Heaven
We are so used to seeing Jet Li in action films that this movie might come as a shock to some viewers. Ocean Heaven is a heavy drama and demonstrates Li’s diverse talent as an actor.
What would you do if you suddenly discover that you have an incurable disease and will die in the next months? Would you be able to leave your son who is living on the autism spectrum?
This is what this movie is all about. Although it has a relatively simple storyline, it is both heart-warming and heartbreaking at the same time. Get ready for a river of tears.
13. The Lighthouse of the Orcas
This list is full of films about father-child relationships, so here’s one for our brave and ever-loving mothers.
The Lighthouse of the Orcas is a film about a mother, Lola, who is willing to do anything for her son, Tristan. Tristan has autism and has found a special connection with whales, so they travel to the coast of Patagonia in Argentina to pay the whales a visit.
The film is based on a true story, which makes it even more special. Moms will surely relate to our main protagonist in terms of sacrificing anything and everything for their children’s happiness.
14. Little Man Tate
Little Man Tate tells the story of a young genius diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. He is a child prodigy in music and mathematics but has some problems dealing with and communicating with other people. The only person he connects with is his mother.
His mother has to decide whether he should live a normal life or develop his genius abilities. If you were the mother, would you let your child be the person he is meant to be, or protect him by encouraging a normal life?
15. A Brilliant Young Mind
This is a film that depicts personal growth and friendship. It follows the story of a young math genius who has a hard time connecting with other people. Like most films about autism, it will help you understand what it feels like for people with the disorder to not be able to connect and build relationships.
16. Snow Cake
Snow Cake features wonderful performances from Alan Rickman and Sigourney Weaver. You can tell that they researched their roles exhaustively. Weaver even received training to help her understand autism better.
The film is about building friendships in the most unlikely circumstances. It is a story about love in all its forms and the importance of healing.
17. Nathan’s Kingdom
Nathan’s Kingdom is the story of two siblings—a brother and a sister—who overcome challenges to live together in happiness and peace. The brother is on the autism spectrum, while the sister is a drug addict. Although their circumstances are difficult, they believe that being together is better than being separated.
18. Keep the Change
Keep the Change is a romantic comedy about an aspiring filmmaker and a free-spirited woman, both of whom are on the autism spectrum.
While the film doesn’t focus on autism itself, we believe that it is still worth watching. If you know someone who has autism and is afraid of joining therapy groups, you can watch this movie with them while explaining the benefits of counseling.
19. A Boy Called Po
Here’s another father-and-son film to fill your movie night with tears and love. A Boy Called Po is the story of a single dad with an autistic child. What would you do if your child had autism, but you couldn’t focus solely on him because you need to work to support your family? That is the challenge this film focuses on.
20. Mercury Rising
The government would obviously be alarmed if they found out that a nine-year-old autistic savant was able to break the adamantine code of the NSA. But is assassinating him the right move?
If you are looking for an action-packed movie, then this is a great choice. Although it is full of guns and fighting, it also tackles the topic of autism. Art Jeffries (played by Bruce Willis) finds himself trying to understand a young child with a brilliant but complicated mind.
21. Life, Animated
Life, Animated is a good place to start if you are trying to understand autism. It is a documentary about a boy who learned how to connect with the world, despite his autism, through Disney films.
The film is based on a book by Ron Suskind that bears the same title. It is also the true story of his son, Owen, who is on the autism spectrum.
22. The Horse Boy
Here is another good documentary that helps viewers understand autism. The Horse Boy is based on the struggles of Rupert Isaacson and his family as they try to help their son, Rowan, overcome the barriers raised by autism.
Rowan throws tantrums all the time, especially when nobody understands what he is trying to say. He is able to overcome this, however, through the help of horses and other animals.
23. The Story of Luke
Seth Green shines in this film about being on the autism spectrum. His character is young and enthusiastic, but he finds it hard to connect genuinely with people. Nonetheless, he ultimately chooses to be brave and live independently.
This film is about self-help and self-discovery for those with mild autism symptoms. Can they live a “normal” life and overcome the limitations of their disorder? Watch and find out!
24. Mary and Max
Although this film is animated, it is intended for adults who want to learn more about autism. It can still be watched by kids, but just be aware that it is a bit dark. There is a lot of bullying in the film, which portrays how many people with Asperger’s are treated and misunderstood.
25. The Other Sister
When you watch this film, you might wonder if the mother is being overprotective, or if she is in denial about having a child with autism. The Other Sister is a romantic comedy starring Juliette Lewis, Giovanni Ribisi, Diane Keaton, and Tom Skerritt. It is the story of a young woman who seeks independence, but who is challenged by a mild mental disability.
Asperger’s Syndrome and autism spectrum disorder can be quite challenging for those who are living with them, and also challenging to understand for those who aren’t. We hope that these films can help you understand the condition a little better. We also hope that you will use your understanding to advocate for mental health awareness.