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Movies about PwDs - Impact and how it helped bring awareness

By, The Say Foundation Team

The movies that we watch can have a profound impact on the way we think about the world. In recent years, there have been several movies that have focused on persons with disabilities (PwDs) and shown them as complex human beings who deserve respect and understanding. 

In this list, we'll look at 5 of our favourite movies about persons with disabilities and discuss how they've helped to bring awareness to issues surrounding disability in our culture.

1. The Shape of Water

The Shape of Water is a 2017 romantic fantasy drama film directed by Guillermo del Toro and written by Del Toro and Vanessa Taylor. It stars Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon, Doug Jones, and Richard Jenkins. Set in Baltimore in 1962, the story follows a mute janitor at a high-security government laboratory who falls in love with an amphibian man being held captive there and devises a plan to help him escape.

The success of The Shape of Water has been credited with helping to spread awareness about persons with disabilities. The main character in the film, Elisa Esposito (played by Sally Hawkins), is a mute woman who communicates using sign language. Throughout the film, she faces discrimination and hurdles because of her disability but ultimately prevails thanks to her resilience and determination.

Critics have praised the film for its positive portrayal of a disabled protagonist as well as its handling of important themes such as social injustice and intolerance. In particular, the scene where Elisa stands up to her boss after he tries to take advantage of her has been lauded as an empowering moment for viewers with disabilities.

2. Rust and Bone

Rust and Bone is a 2012 French-Belgian drama film directed by Jacques Audiard from a screenplay by Thomas Bidegain and Audiard. It stars Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts. The film tells the story of a woman who loses her legs in a whale-watching accident, and the man who helps her learn to adjust to her new life.

The movie Rust and Bone was able to bring impact and helped spread awareness about persons with disabilities in many ways. One way was through the character Ali played by Matthias Schoenaerts. He was able to show how PwDs are still fully capable individuals despite their circumstances. For example, he showed how Stephanie (Marion Cotillard) was still able to be an amazing mother even though she could no longer walk. 

Another way the movie brought awareness was films like this one are important because they help break down barriers that exist between those who are abled-bodied and those with disabilities. They help show that we all have more in common than we may think, and that everyone should be treated with respect regardless of their ability or disability.

3. Stronger

Stronger is a 2017 American biographical drama film directed by David Gordon Green and written by John Pollono, based on the book by Jeff Bauman and Bret Witter. The film stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Bauman, who lost both legs in the Boston Marathon bombings, and Tatiana Maslany as Erin Hurley, his then-fiancée.

The movie does an incredible job of depicting how persons with disabilities are often misunderstood and underestimated. One scene that really drives this home is when Jeff is in the hospital after losing his legs. His mother asks him if he's sure he wants to go through with prosthetic surgery, because she doesn't want him to be "stuck" in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. This kind of thinking is all too common, and it's one of the reasons why so many persons with disabilities end up feeling isolated and alone.

The film also does a great job of showing how strong persons with disabilities can be. Despite everything that happened to him, Jeff never gives up. He learns how to walk again with prosthetic legs, and even goes back to work at the Dunkin' Donuts where he used to work before the bombing. He also becomes an advocate for other survivors of terrorism, speaking out against hatred and violence.

4. The Theory of Everything

In 2014, the film The Theory of Everything was released, based on the life story of Stephen Hawking. Throughout his life, Hawking has been an advocate for persons with disabilities, and this film helped to spread awareness about disability rights and issues. The Theory of Everything tells the story of how Hawking became one of the world’s most renowned scientists, despite being diagnosed with motor neurone disease at the age of 21. 

The film highlights both the challenges and successes that Hawking has experienced throughout his life, including his determination to continue living a full and meaningful life despite his disability. Since its release, The Theory of Everything has received critical acclaim, winning numerous awards including an Oscar for Best Actor. The film has also had a positive impact in terms of spreading awareness about persons with disabilities. 

Prior to its release, there was little mainstream media representation of persons with disabilities, but The Theory of Everything helped to change that. The film shows that PwDs can achieve anything they set their minds to, no matter what obstacles they face. It is an inspirational story that is sure to resonate with many viewers, both those with disabilities and without.

5. The Intouchables

The Intouchables is a French film that was released in 2011. It tells the true story of a wealthy, white quadriplegic man who hires a black ex-convict to be his live-in caregiver. The two men form an unlikely friendship that changes both of their lives!

The film was very popular, grossing over $400 million worldwide. It was praised for its humour, heart-warming story, and great acting performances. But it also received criticism for its portrayal of persons with disabilities and its depiction of race relations in France. Despite its flaws, The Intouchables is an important film because it brings awareness to the issues faced by persons with disabilities. 

It shows that disabled people can lead fulfilling lives if they are given the opportunity and support to do so. The movie has inspired many disabled people to pursue their dreams and live their lives to the fullest. It has also created more understanding and acceptance of disability in society. For these reasons, The Intouchables is an important film that everyone should see.


In conclusion, I think that all of these movies have had a huge impact on bringing awareness to persons with disabilities. 

The different types of disabilities depicted in these movies are ones that are rarely seen in film, and the way they were handled was so well done. I hope that you enjoyed this list, and if you did, please share it with your friends.

Please do let us know which movies impacted you (with a PwD theme or without) and how did it impact you and inspire you to achieve greatness despite your challenges.

Write to us with your story:

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