Do you want to learn more about people with Developmental Disabilities, rather than their conditions? This list of TV and Movie Recommendations is for you!

This TV and Movie Recommendations list was developed from suggestions made by Communitas staff & families.

Television Series

Atypical, Netflix Series

Atypical is a coming of age story that follows Sam, an 18-year-old on the autistic spectrum as he searches for love and independence.

Born This Way, A&E Series

Honesty, humor and heart are at the center of this original documentary series, which highlights the outgoing personalities and amazing abilities of seven young adults born with Down Syndrome. Hour long episodes follow the Southern California residents as they pursue passions and dreams, explore friendships and romantic relationships, and generally defy society’s expectations. The series also allows the parents to talk about the joy their children bring to their family, and the challenges they face in helping them live as independently as possible.

On Tour with Asperger’s Are Us. HBO Series

Challenging themselves to leave their comfort zones, Noah, Ethan, Jack and New Michael embark on their most ambitious venture yet: a six-week, multi-city journey from Boston to Los Angeles, along the way sharing their unique perspectives on life as an “Aspie” and the community they’ve found in performing together as a comedy troupe. As they travel in an old RV that often leaves them stranded, the four endure highs and lows, playing for alternately enthusiastic audiences and nearly empty houses.

Love on the Spectrum

Finding love can be hard for anyone. For young adults on the autism spectrum, exploring the unpredictable world of dating is even more complicated.

Movies

The Peanut Butter Falcon (2019)

An adventure story set in the world of a modern Mark Twain that begins when Zak (22), a young man with Down Syndrome, runs away from the nursing home where he lives to chase his dream of becoming a professional wrestler by attending the wrestling school The Salt Water Redneck. Through circumstances beyond their control Tyler (32), a small-time outlaw on the run, becomes Zak’s unlikely coach and ally. Together they wind through deltas, elude capture, drink whisky, find God, catch fish, and convince Eleanor (28), a kind nursing home employee with a story of her own, to join them on their journey

Wonder (2017)

This film is based on the bestselling novel of the same name, which tells the story of August Pullman, a boy with facial differences caused by Treacher Collins syndrome who enters fifth grade and confronts the challenges of attending a mainstream elementary school for the first time. 

Temple Grandin (2010)

American biographical drama film directed by Mick Jackson and starring Claire Danes as Temple Grandin, an autistic woman who revolutionized practices for the humane handling of livestock on cattle ranches and slaughterhouses.

Wretches & Jabberers (2009)

Two men with autism embark on a global quest to change prevailing attitudes about disability and intelligence.  Growing up, Tracy Thresher, 42, and Larry Bissonnette, 52, were presumed “retarded” and excluded from normal schooling. Now able to communicate by tying, Thresher and Bissonnette put a new face on autism as they travel and meet others with autism in Sri Lanka, Japan and Finland.  This global buddy movie gives viewers an eye-opening perspective on autism, done with compassion and humor.

Riding the Bus with My Sister (2005)

Beth is a spirited woman with developmental disabilities, who spends nearly every day riding the buses in Philadelphia. The drivers, a lively group, are her mentors; her fellow passengers are her community. When Beth asks her sister Rachel to accompany her on the buses for one year, they take a transcendent journey together that changes Rachel’s life in incredible ways and leads her to accept her sister at long last—teaching her to slow down and enjoy the ride.

The Horse Boy (2009)

An autobiographical book and a documentary feature film that follow the quest of Rupert Isaacson and his wife to find healing for their autistic son Rowan. After discovering that Rowan’s condition appears to be improved by contact with horses and other animals, the family leave their home in Texas on an arduous journey to seek help from the traditional shamans in Mongolia.

Profoundly Normal (2003)

Donna Selby (Kirstie Alley) and Ricardo Thornton (Delroy Lindo) were two developmentally disabled children who were taken from their parents and institutionalized. Donna was angry and afraid; she hated the heavy medications, uncompassionate staff, and had difficulty coping. Then Donna met cheerful and optimistic Ricardo, who had a calming effect on her. Their friendship blossomed over 20 years. Then they were told that the institution was closing. Patients were re-assigned to other institutions, group homes and apartments.

Monica and David (2010)

The love story of two adults with Down syndrome and the family who strives to support their needs. Monica and David are blissfully in love and want what other adults have an independent life. Full of humor, romance and everyday family drama, the film uses intimate fly-on-the wall footage to reveal the complexity of their story. While Monica and David are capable beyond expectations, their parents, afraid of mainstream rejection of adults with intellectual disabilities, have trouble letting go.

Best Boy/Best Man, (1979/1999)

                  Academy Award®-winning, BEST BOY is a profoundly touching story of love, overwhelming courage, and human dignity.  In a style that is both sensitive and engaging, BEST BOY follows Philly Wohl, a cheerful and loveable 52-year old man who’s been mentally handicapped since birth and still lives with his parents.  Take the journey with Philly as he takes his first steps into the wider world, building a new life and relationships.  BEST MAN revisits Philly 20 years later and continues to tell his amazing story.

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter (2008)

A father separates his son from his twin sister at birth to prevent him and the mother from knowing she was born with Down syndrome.  Based on the novel by Kim Edwards.

How’s Your News? (2004)

Five out-going reporters with developmental and physical disabilities hit the road, traveling coast-to-coast in a hand-painted RV and interviewing everyone they meet. Follow the How’s Your News team as they explore hony-tonk bars in Nashville, alligator farms in Arkansas, the Grand Canyon and the wild streets of America’s cities and towns.  Unassuming, funny and genuine to the core, it’s not your typical news show.

Autism is a World, Documentary (2005)
CLIP: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U1wsiVYCqn0

This Oscar-nominated documentary is a collection of thoughts written by autistic 26-year old Sue Rubin who takes viewers on a poignant journey into her world to educate the public while empowering the autistic community toward their potential. “This is not my voice, but these are my words,” begins Rubin.

Gork! (2010)

Follow the life of Adam Terrill, a loud, charismatic, flag-twirling redhead with a complex mix of creative talents and developmental disabilities.  From his early years as a foster child, through high school and graduation, to his present placement in a group home in Iowa, the film explores the conflict, humor, hopes and frustrations that rise within his family.

For Once in my Life, PBS Independent Lens (2010)

Made up of 29 musicians and singers who all have severe mental and physical disabilities, the Spirit of Goodwill Band is a raucous home-away-from-home where members are free to display their talent, humor, and tenacity. For Once in My Life challenges preconceived notions of what it means to be disabled.

Autism, the Musical, HBO (2008)

Follows five autistic children as they work together to create and perform a live musical production.

Body and Soul: Diana and Kathy, PBS (2009)

The film Body & Soul: Diana & Kathy chronicles the lives of two of the country’s most remarkable advocates for people with disabilities. Diana Braun, who has Down syndrome, and Kathy Conour, who has cerebral palsy, met three decades ago and vowed to fight to live independent lives. Fearful of being shut away in a nursing home or forced into a state-run institution, Diana and Kathy broke the rules, escaped the system, and modeled a grand experiment in independent living.

Freedom Machines, PBS/POV

An unprecedented look at disability in the age of technology, presenting intimate stories of people ages 8-93, whose talents and independence are being unleashed by access to modern, enabling technologies. Nearly twenty years after the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, the film reflects on the gaps between its promise and the realities for our largest minority group – 54,000,000 American with disabilities. Whether mainstream tools or extraordinary inventions such as stair-climbing wheelchairs, Freedom Machines reveals the power of technology to change lives.