The Top 10 Disabilities-Involved Films of the Decade
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In the film industry, the relevance and advancement of representation and diversity continues to resonate. When it comes to my own personal interest in disability in film, now is as good a time as any!
One should not focus on the previous two years or so (when representation and diversity were really pushed to improve) because the entire decade contains a wide variety of excellent films that examine a wide range of disabilities, from blockbuster movies to French cinema. Let’s get to the list now, and if something catches your eye, don’t be afraid to give it a try. There’s nothing better than watching a wonderful film while learning something new about a topic you care about.
Honorable Mention: Skyscraper – 2018
Even if this isn’t one of the most visually appealing films, it nonetheless deserves a place on this list for a number of other reasons. That a big studio approved a popcorn action film in which the main character needs a prosthetic leg is the first example. We have brain-dead explosions that at least imply that action heroes don’t need fully working limbs when Dwayne Johnson, also known as The Rock, is cast in that position and shows some vulnerability. Aside from its various ludicrous set pieces, Skyscraper’s focus on disabilities is also a big help.
10. The Intouchables – 2011
Philippe, François Cluzet’s paraplegic character, is in desperate need of a caregiver after a skydiving accident leaves him unable to speak or walk.
An interesting dynamic is created when a daredevil suddenly loses his ability to move, resulting in a depressive state and suicidal ideas. In addition to Phillipe’s uplifted spirits and newfound zest for life thanks to caretakerDriss (Omar Sy), the Intouchables has a romance subplot that is framed by letters and ultimately reveals something really sad and true about dating for many physically challenged people. As far as I know, the subplot and the rest of the primary story stay intact in the American remake of the film released in January of this year renamed The Upside (a significantly more humorous approach due to the hiring of Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart). In any case, the story has certainly resonated with a global audience.
9. Chained for Life – 2019
In contrast to a number of films on this list, Aaron Schimberg’s Chained for Life uses a movie-within-a movie framing device to examine the way in which people with disabilities are treated by the rest of the world, and how it affects their own lives and the lives of others around them.
Adam Pearson’s Rosenthal and Jess Weixler’s Mabel are at the heart of the on-screen film (a schlocky European horror period tale about Germans removing bodily deformities). One of them is a classic beauty, while the other has been diagnosed with neurofibromatosis (essentially, facial tumors), and both are accompanied by a diverse cast of supportive characters to help them out (everything from Siamese twins to giants)
Adam Pearson, a standout among the films on this list, is actually afflicted. Relationship dynamics begin to develop that, while they are never simple, point to able-bodied beliefs that are erroneous. Self-deprecating and charming, Pearson is soon embraced by Jess Weixler’s character, who is eager to lend a helping hand to Pearson’s character. Although the framework of the two movies is unclear and vague, there are several poignant moments in the film that include Rosenthal’s bitterness about romance and an intimate nude scene between the two characters that is both awkward and lovely for a variety of reasons.
While Chained for Life isn’t as as essential viewing as some of the other films on our list, it’s still a worthwhile experience for those who are able-bodied and will most certainly improve their outlooks on life for those who aren’t.
8. Wonder – 2017
The mainstream version of the above is here, too. Disabilities are not an invitation to harmful derision, and it is crucial to convey this message to the world’s children. Auggie Pullman (Jacob Tremblay), a young child born withTreacher Collins syndrome, is the focus of Wonder, a film adaptation of R. J. Palacio’s novel (which basically translates to severe facial deformities). As Owen Wilson and Julia Roberts’s characters, the boy’s parents are justified to be wary of enrolling him in public school. Bullying ensues, but it’s quickly replaced by a touching display of compassion. As an added bonus, the movie was a big hit at the box office, raising awareness of this ailment while also providing an enjoyable and heartfelt story about the importance of what’s inside.
7. The King’s Speech – 2010
Here’s a nominee for Best Picture at the Oscars. Lionel League’s (Geoffrey Rush) therapist Lionel League (Colin Firth) bond with King George VI (Colin Firth, who also won an Academy Award) helped him overcome a stammer to the point where he was able to read declarations of war. Tom Hooper’s direction and David Seidler’s script (both Oscar winners) similarly disregarded stuffiness, including George’s ability to speak properly when cursing, which resulted in a comic moment with a lot of F-bombs. It’s a great film on not allowing one’s disability to define one’s identity.
6. The Theory of Everything – 2014
The Theory of Everything, by James Marsh, covers the story of Stephen Hawking, a renowned physicist who was afflicted with ALS in his early age and had a growing relationship with Jane Hawking. The book is self-explanatory (Felicity Jones). There’s no better moment than now for a movie like this, which addresses Stephen Hawking’s tenacity and determination to live and lead in his field through the lens of his personal life. It’s impossible not to shed a few tears towards the end of the story.
5. The Peanut Butter Falcon – 2019
Tyler Nelson and Michael Schwartz, two debut filmmakers, have created a magical realism scenario involving a Down syndrome man in the style of a Mark Twain novel.
To find a legendary wrestler from the 1980s that he idolizes, Zak, who has no family of his own, breaks out of the nursing home where he lives (with some help from Bruce Dern, who plays a supporting role). Zack Gottsagen, who plays Zack Gottsagen in The Peanut Butter Falcon, actually has Down syndrome, resulting in a lifelike portrayal that is both heartwarming and heartbreaking. Shia LaBeouf’s character, a rebel who is first reluctant to join him on a journey, builds a bond with him as he and Zak’s guardian, Dakota Johnson, work out what’s best for the youngster. I can’t stop thinking about it.
4. Shazam! (2019)
ShazamFreddy !’s Freeman storyline may have piqued the interest of most comic book fans, but the story of Billy Batson (a teenager who is given the ability to turn into an adult with superhuman skills) is more compelling.
On crutches, Jack Dylan Grazer portrays the young man who is compelled to watch his best buddy squander the authority and responsibility bestowed upon him, something the young man would dearly desire to possess, never mind walking unassisted. It’s still one of the year’s best scenes when Freddy gets to be a superhero. A superhero picture about a person with a disability is a tantalizing notion, and I hope Warner Bros. spends some of that Joker money to give Freddy his own feature.
3. Stronger – 2017
In terms of Oscar nominations, Jake Gyllenhaal may be the most snubbed actor (since Leonardo DiCaprio finally broke his curse and actually won a golden statue, anyway). Jeff Bauman, a real-life Boston Marathon bombing victim, is portrayed by him in Stronger as an amputee who is fighting to accept his new identity as a symbol of resiliency. So unsurprisingly, persons with disabilities want to be characterized by their disability, but Stronger argues that it is up to them to show that they can inspire others when they are given that status by an act of terrorism and tragedy. A delicate balancing act is required, and life has a hard time adapting. While Jake Gyllenhaal’s intense treatment is also featured in the film, it’s not the only emphasis of the story. It’s a grueling and frightening job.
2. Rust and Bone – 2012
Films about guys dealing with their circumstances, performing heroic deeds, or inspiring others appear to be the common theme in this list. With Rust and Boneas, director Jacques Audiard reverses that story. A pro-sexual nightclub aficionado and whale trainer, Marion Cotillard portrays Stephanie in the film. A freak accident (during the latter) takes both of her legs away. In the meantime, her new friend Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts), an angry and violent street fighter, displays a compassionate side by taking her to the beach and helping her move on from the emotional depression and rediscover that life is still worth living. Also, he aids in reviving her sexual drive (the urge is still there, but she isn’t sure whether or not she can still have sex).
It doesn’t take long for these two polar opposites to understand how much they care for and influence each other. Also, the wide-angle pictures of the dismembered body in Rust and Bone, which convey sexual intimacy in all its glory, are a big assist. Rage and passiveness are brilliantly juxtaposed to focus on family (Ali has a son) and admiration of the human body.
1. The Shape of Water – 2017
The Shape of Waterlanding at the top of this list is noteworthy because both Elisa (Sally Hawkins) and the Amphibian Man (Doug Jones) may be considered crippled. Her closeted companion (a great taboo in the 1970s) is played by Richard Jenkins and she works as a janitor at a government laboratory. The former is mute and uses sign language to communicate; she lives alone and was abandoned by her family (alongside her friend played by Octavia Spencer bringing some comedic levity). Meanwhile, Col. Richard Strickland (one of Michael Shannon’s cruelest villains to date) discovers and holds the Amphibian Man for cruel research.
As a result, Guillermo del Toro has created a timeless cinematic fairy tale based on acceptance (and not just for those who have physical limitations). The intimate passages between Elisa and the Amphibian Man were executed as indelible beauty. This contrasts with the sex scenes between Michael Shannon and his character’s wife, which may be making a statement on the nature of love and sexuality. While Guillermo del Toro’s masterwork and 2017’s Best Picture winner, The Shape Of Water, is a love story between two outcasts, it is a realistic fairy tale illustrating that true love is achievable for everybody.