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Films and Movies that can be adapted for Therapeutic Use

updated 10-3-09

Movies are sometimes shown to clients and to students to assist them in understanding of a particular issue and for other educational purposes. If you would like to add to this list, please email Charlie Dixon at charlie* (replace * with @ before emailing me)

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Film Title


About a Boy (2002) Overcoming Challenges
Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert Boogie Nights (1997) Homosexuality
Agnes of God (1985) mental illness
A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001) Overcoming Challenges
And the Band Played On (1993) discovery of AIDS
Angie (stars Geena Davis) It's about a woman becoming a single mother.
Amadeus Good scenes of mental hospitals in Mozart's time.
Andromeda Strain (1971) one character has seizure disorder
Antwone Fisher (2002) A young sailor, Antwone Fisher (Derek Luke), is ordered to see a Navy psychiatrist (Denzel Washington) who helps him get a handle on debilitating anger that causes many shipboard scraps
A Patch of Blue (1965) blindness/racial issues
As Good As It Gets Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
The Aviator (2004) Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Awakenings use of L-Dopa to treat catatonia
Baby Girl Scott (1987) TV premature birth/ethical issues
Backstreet Dreams (1990) Autism
Bad Ronald Mentally ill teen lives in hiding under stairs after mother dies and house is sold.
Bastard out of Carolina Starring Jennifer Jason Leigh, directed by Angelica Huston - about child abuse (sexual, physical, emotional). It's pretty heavy but well acted. Child abuse issues. Rated R.
Beaches death of best friend
A Beautiful Mind (2001) John Forbes Nash Jr. (Russell Crowe) was a brilliant economist -- when his mind was clear. But life changed forever with the revelation that he was a schizophrenic. Nash's brilliance persisted amidst the anguish his mental illness caused for him and his wife (Jennifer Connolly), and 40 years after his diagnosis, he won the Nobel Prize for economics.
Being There mental retardation/assumptions
Bend It Like Beckham (2003) Overcoming Challenges
Benny & Joon (1993) mental illness
Best Boy (1979 documentary) Philly, who at the age of 52, prepares for life away from his parents.
Best Little Girl in the World Child abuse issues; eating disorder
Bill (w/ Mickey Rooney) true story--deinstitutionalization
Billy Elliot(2000) Self-Esteem
Birdman of Alcatraz (1962) life in prison
"Birdy" staring Matt Modine
Blossoms in the Dust (1941) story of Edna Gladney/orphanages
Boone Two men, drug addict and her brother kidnap girl in France.
Boogie Nights (1997) Homosexuality
Born On the Fourth of July (1989) Vietnam Vet w/ paraplegia
Boxing Helena (1993) Drama. Julian Sands, Sherilyn Fenn. Surgeon operates on object of his obsession.
The Boy Who Could Fly Autism
The Boys In The Band (1970) Homosexuality
This Boy’s Life Conduct Disorders
Boys On the Side AIDS
The Breakfast Club Peer Relationships
Brian's Song (1971) TV cancer death of football player; Loss and Grief issues
Bridge to Silence (1989) deafness
Brief History of Time, A (1992-docu) Life of Stephen Hawking-ALS
Brokeback Mountain (2005) Homosexuality
Brother Sun, Sister Moon The story of St. Francis of Assissi and PTSD
Butterflies Are Free blindness
Charles Bukowski Tapes (1987-docu) Celebrated underground writer captured in semi-alcoholic stupor
Charly (1968) mental retardation
Child of Rage (1992) child sexual abuse/adoption
Children of a Lesser God (1986) deafness; Self-Esteem
Children Of Loneliness Homosexuality
City of Angels Loss and Grief issues
City of Joy (1992) people w/disabilities in Calcutta
Clean and Sober substance abuse
Coach Carter (2005) Samuel L. Jackson plays the titular, controversial coach, a hardliner who firmly believes that scholarship and a sense of ethics go hand in hand with excellence on the basketball court.
Cocoon, I & II aging
Color Purple Abandonment issues
Coming Home (1978) Vietnam Vet/paraplegia/sexuality
Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt: (1990 docu) In this movie AIDS becomes a shared ground for survivors of loved ones. This stirring documentary is not only a tribute to the dead and dying, it is a study of how parents, lovers, and friends of victims have learned to deal constructively with loss.
Corrina, Corrina Loss and Grief issues
Dad bereavement/prostate cancer
Dangerous Minds at-risk youth
Days of Wine and Roses alcoholism
Do You Remember Love? Alzheimer's Disease
Dead Poets Society (1989) John Keating (Robin Williams) is an unconventional English teacher who lives by a simple motto: Seize the day!; Self-Esteem issues
Dolores Claiborne child abuse issues
Die Laughing paranoia
Dodes 'Kaden (1970-foreign) Akira Kurosawa's first color film, chronocaling the lives of Tokyo's slum dwellers. Includes children, alcoholics, and the disabled. Illusion and imagination are their weapons as they fight for survival.
Dominick & Eugene (1988) acquired brain injury
The Dream Team psychiatric patients out on the town... Comedy
Driving Miss Daisy (1990) aging/racial issues/CVA (stroke)
Drug Store Cowboy  
Dying Young (1991) cancer
Educating Rita Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Edward Scissorhands (1990) allegory about disability
Ever After bully issues
Eye On the Sparrow blind couple want to adopt
The Fisher King  
Folks (spoof) Alzheimer's Disease
Forest Gump mental retardation/AIDS?/amputation/self-estem
Four Weddings and A Funeral (1994) one character is deaf
Frances actress Frances Farmer is lobotomized
Fried Green Tomatoes (1992) long-term care/amputation/death
Gallipoli Loss and Grief issues
Genie (PBS-TV) abused child without language
Gaby--A True Story (1987) author Gabriela Brimmer has CP
Genie The wildchild who was strapped to a potty chair for the majority of her first 10 years of life
Girl, Interrupted mental illness, borderline personality disorder
The Glass Menagerie
Grand Canyon (1990) character has deaf daughter
The Great Santini
Grey Gardens (1976-docu) Portrait of two eccentric recluses.
Harold and Maude
Harvey mental illness/hallucinations
Heidi (various versions) recovery from hysterical paralysis
Harold & Maude suicide
Holes (2003) Nerdy teenager Stanley Yelnats (Shia La Beouf) is sent to a Texas detention camp for stealing a pair of sneakers.
Hoop Dreams Peer Relationships
HOPE FLOATS Covers shame, divorce, death, abandonment (emotional), recovery, healing relationships
Hush ... Hush, Sweet Charlotte: 1964 Horror, Bette Davis, OIivia de Havilland. Half-mad Charlotte lives in mansion with cousin and doctor.
I Am Sam mental retardation
I Never Promised You a Rose Garden schizophrenia
Ice Castles (1979) skater overcomes visual impairment
I'm Dancing As Fast As I Can prescription drug addiction (?)
In the Mouth of Madness (1995) Horror, Sam Neill, Julie Carmen. Horror novel drives insurance investigator insane.
Iris (2001) Alzheimer's Disease
It's A Wonderful Life Adjustment Disorder - With Depressed Mood
Jane Eyre (1983) child abuse issues
Joni quadriplegia
King of Hearts, The (1966-foreign) City taken over by inmates of an insane asylum after the town's residents have deserted it.
Last Wish assisted suicide of Betty Rollin's mother
Leaving Las Vegas graphic: alcoholism
Let There Be Light: (1944-docu) Documentary commissioned by the U.S. gov't, filmed by John huston, about shell-shocked soldiers, was suppressed because it would discourage enlistment
The Light that Failed: 1939 Drama, Ronald Coleman, Walter Huston.
Kipling's Dick Heldar going blind, tries to finish painting
La Cage Aux Folles / The Birdcage Homosexuality
Like Normal People (1979) TV couple with MR prepare to marry
Little Man Tate (1991) child prodigy
Litte Miss Sunshine (2006) family dysfunction
Longtime Companion (1990) AIDS
Lorenzo's Oil (1992) ALD (adrenoleukodystrophy)
Lost In Yonkers (1993) mental retardation ?
The Lost Weekend: 1945 Drama. Ray Milland, Jane Wyman. Boozing writer lands in Bellvue with DTs.
Love Letters: 1945 Drama, Jennifer Jones, Joseph Cotton. British officer meets buddy's amnesiac widow.
Love Story (1970) terminal illness/death of spouse
Mask (starring Cher) (1985) neurofibromatosis/death/drug abuse
Mean Creek (2004) Peer Relationships
Midnight Cowboy (1969) Homosexuality
The Miracle Worker (1992) story of how Helen Keller was taught how to communicate
Mommy Dearest child abuse issues
Mona Lisa Smile (2003) At Wellesley College in 1953, the all-female student population may constitute the smartest and the best, but they're still measured by how well they marry.
Moonstruck (Cher again) one character has prosthetic hand
Mr. Jones bipolar disease
Mr. Holland's Opus Deaf child
Murderball (2005) Quadriplegics, who play full-contact rugby in wheelchairs, overcome unimaginable obstacles to compete in the Paralympic Games in Athens, Greece.
Murder or Mercy? (TV) elderly man shoots wife with dementia
Music Within (2007) Based on the life of Richard Pimentel (Ron Livingston), a brilliant public speaker with a troubled past, who returns from Vietnam severely hearing -impaired and finds a new purpose in his landmark efforts on the behalf of Americans with disabilities. One of the people he befriends is Art Honeyman (Michael Sheen) who has cerebral palsy. This movie can help educate people on these disabilities and what has been done in the past to make sure people with disabilities have access to places and jobs.
My Bodyguard bully issues
My Girl Alzheimer's Disease
My Left Foot (1989) author Christy Brown: cerebral palsy
My Life (1994) terminal cancer
My Name is Bill W. (1989) TV program. Founder of Alcoholics Anonymous
My Secret garden: 1994 Drama. English orphan helps disabled cousin in Uncle's magic garden.
Nashville one character is deaf, Lily Tomlin signs
Nell with Jody Foster and Liam Neeson, isolation/aphasic speech
Never to Love: 1940 Drama, Maureen O'Hara, Adolphe Menjou. Escaped mental patient visits wife, daughter.
Night of the Following Day, The: 1969 Suspense, Marlon Brando, Richard
Night Mother suicide
No Other Love (1979) TV program. Mental retardation
Not My Kid child abuse issues
The Notebook (2004) Alzheimer's Disease
Nuts (1988) psychiatry, competency hearing
Of Mice and Men (1992) mental retardation
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) psychiatric hospital
One True Thing (1998) deals with family dynamics as a grown woman gains a more complete picture of her parents. It also addresses issues related to caring for a dying parent.
Ordinary People (1980) bereavement/suicide
On Golden Pond Alzheimer's Disease
Outbreak! Ebola virus
Out Of Darkness (1994) paranoid schizophrenia - covers relationships with a parent, siblings, new relationships, and children. It also covers many of the reintergration barriers people with mental health issues must overcome.
Passion Fish(1993) paraplegia/substance recovery
Patch of Blue, A: 1965 Drama, Sidney Poitier, Shelley Winters. Man loves blind white teen sheltered by mother.
Pennies from Heaven: 1981 Musical Romance. Steve Martin, Bernadette Peters. Sheet music salesman escapes Depression through songs.
Philadelphia: 1993 Drama. Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington. Fired by his firm, lawyer with AIDS fights back. AIDS/protection under law
Places In the Heart one character is blind
Postcards From the Edge (1990) substance abuse
Radio (2003) A small-town high school football coach (Ed Harris) befriends an illiterate, developmentally disabled man (Cuba Gooding Jr.) nicknamed "Radio," who has always been the target of jokes and teasing.
Rain Man Dustin Hoffman. Idiot savant; autism
Regarding Henry  
Remember the Titans (2000) It looks like fourth down and long yardage when Denzel Washington replaces a well-respected -- and white -- football coach (Will Patton) in a Virginia high school rampant with prejudice, circa 1970.
A River Runs Through It Loss and Grief issues
Road to Wellville, The: 1994 Comedy. Anthony Hopkins, Bridget Fonda. Story set in a wellness resort.
Ryan White Story child abuse issues
Silence Like Glass deals with a young woman discovering she has cancer
Silent Fall: 1994 Mystery. Richard Dreyfuss, Linda Hamilton. Psychiatrist works with autistic murder witness.
Silverlake Life: (1993-docu) Two companions face life, and death of AIDS.
Shadowlands Loss and Grief issues
Steel Magnolias diabetes
Stranger in the Family: 1991 Docudrama. Teri Garr, Neil Patrick Harris. Mother pushes her amnesiac teen son to remember.
The Sweet Hereafter Loss and Grief issues
Sybil child abuse issues
Taxi Driver Schizotypal Personality
The Three Faces of Eve: 1957 Drama. Joanne Woodward, Lee J. Cobb. Psychiatrist treats housewife with three personalites.
Truly, Madly, Deeply Loss and Grief issues
12 Monkies Brad Pitt plays a mentally ill person
Unfinished Life (2005) When her husband dies, Jean Gilkyson (Jennifer Lopez) moves herself and her daughter, Griff (Becca Gardner), into the Wyoming home of her estranged father-in-law
Vincent: The Life and Death of Vincent Van Gogh. (1987-docu)  
What Dreams May Come Loss and Grief issues
What's Eating Gilbert Grape Dysfunctional family and mental retardation; eating disorder
When a Man Loves a Woman: 1994 Drama. Andy Garcia, Meg Ryan. San Francisco couple face alcoholism and recovery.
Who Are The Debolts and Where Did They Get 19 kids: (1978-docu) Family made up of adopted muliply disabled children.
Feeling Good Feeling Proud - 27 min Developmental Disabilities (mental retardation primarily). Discusses "Theater Unlimited" - a popular program in San Fran.,California in which the actors are people w/ disabilities acting out perceptions, issues, etc. that pertain to their lives.
Out of the Shadow Various disabilities. Demonstrates how recreational therapy can manifest via many mediums (i.e., grocery store, music, drama, arts & crafts, H2O, restaurants); the potential skills attained are discussed for each as well (socialization, ROM, gait efficiency, etc.)
National Sports Center: For the Disabled at Winter Park Various Disabilities (visually impaired, cancer, down syndrome etc.) Discusses what activities such as skiing, rock climbing, rafting, etc may provide for clients that utilize them.
Day in the Life of Bonnie Consolo 17 minutes. A woman without arms - congenital. An inspirational movie that shows this woman functioning in her society with the "I Can" philosophy.
Get it Together 20 minutes. Parapalegia. Individual involved in accident demonstrates adaptation techniques (i.e., tennis, driving, softball, etc).
Handicaps & Technology 9 minutes. Various disabilities. Brad Parks (tennis) is in a segment of the film. Technologies such as nerve innervention for walking and fine motor skills are demonstrated. Intrinsic barriers and environmental barriers are discussed in relation to why people w/ disabilities refrain from social events (i.e., sporting events, movies)
Shady Acres Cerebral palsy. Camp development and importance stressed
Mountain Tops Paraplegia. Demonstrates capabilities typically unobserved by people using wheelchairs (i.e., rock climbing, 3-wheeling, horse ridding, mountain climbing, hopping around on the grass for extended periods of time with arms, etc.
Nobody's Burning Wheelchairs 18 minutes ADA legislation Discusses importance of attitude adjustments in relation to legislation. Legislation is only "a" tool - not "the" tool.
Life Climb Geriatric - Discusses how individual with 3 previous myocardio infarctions, fused vertebraes, and cancer abusing substances (i.e., amphetamines, alcohol, tranquilizers, etc) turned to cognitive therapy via climbing mountains (all over the world).
Learning to Play, Playing to Learn: Recreation as a Related Service 20 minutes. Information about the role recreation plays in promoting the education of students with disabilities plus recreation as a related service from PL 94-142 to IDEA.
National Parks System: Planning for the Disabled Systematic Approach to Access Planning


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