Movies & Documentaries Starring People with Disabilities
When movies star or feature individuals with disabilities, it gives a voice to the disability community through representation. The relatable stories are sure to entertain. More importantly, we can learn about our differences, normalize those differences, and feel less alone in the world.
Below is a list of movies about people with disabilities, many of them starring someone who actually has a physical disability.
The Peanut Butter Falcon (2019)
Starring: Zack Gottsagen, Shia LaBeouf, Dakota Johnson
The Peanut Butter Falcon is a 2019 drama adventure film written and directed by Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz. It’s the story of the disarmingly sweet and funny Zak, who lives with Down syndrome and dreams of a career as a professional wrestler. The character is played by Gottsagen, who also has Down syndrome. Zak is running away from his care facility when he meets Tyler who is also on the run, but from the law. Together, they start a journey to make Zak’s dream a reality, meeting a whole cast of characters and growing their friendship along the way.
The Theory of Everything (2014)
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, David Thewlis
This is a movie about the life of brilliant theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking. It begins as a simple love story between Stephen and Jane. When Hawking is diagnosed with a motor neuron disease, ALS, at age 21 and told he has two years to live, the complexity grows. He tries to cut Jane out of his life, but she is steadfast. The film follows their journey navigating family, ALS, and Hawking’s rise to fame as a world-renowned physicist.
The Intouchables (2011)
Starring: Francois Cluzet, Omar Sy
The Intouchables is about the friendship between a wealthy, white man who is quadriplegic and the young black man, from a working-class neighborhood, who is hired as his caregiver. The two men overcome the differences of their backgrounds and personalities to appreciate each other for their authentic selves and become lifelong friends.
My Left Foot (1989)
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Brenda Fricker, Christy Brown
Christy Brown was born with a severe form of cerebral palsy that only allows him limb control in one of his legs. He is faced with many who make assumptions about his mental ability and worth, but he eventually becomes a talented painter, poet and author with determination and some help from his mother and teacher.
You and Me – The David ‘Barney’ Miller Story (2016)
Starring: David Miller, Kathryn Southwell, Mick Fanning
This is the story of David “Barney” and Kate Miller. A car accident leaves David - a vibrant, active sports enthusiast - unable to use his arms or legs. Though this leads him into a dark and challenging period in his life, he finds a new joy with the help of his family and friends. When he is ready to embark on forever with Kate, he vows to kneel when he proposes to her and stand to dance at their wedding.
Starring: Steve Gleason, Mike Gleason, Scott Fujita, Mike McKenzie
This is a documentary about the life of former New Orleans Saints football player Steve Gleason. At 34, he is given two to five years to live after an ALS ( Lou Gehrig’s disease) diagnosis. When he discovers shortly after his diagnosis that his wife is pregnant, he begins recording a journal for their child. The video becomes more than a diary and acts as a chronicle of Steve’s journey to make the most of his time, adapt to his changing body, and help other ALS patients in their journeys.
Tin Soldiers (2015)
Genre: Perspective Film
Starring: Matthew Hawkins, Jeff Bourns
Tin Soldiers is an independent film that illuminates the world of adaptive sports. The athletes documented are those with paralysis, cerebral palsy, spina bifida and amputees. The physical levels and adaptive needs vary, as do the ages of those shown, with one story following a 3- year- old. The common thread is passion, drive, and commitment to their sports.
Body of War (2007)
Starring: Tomas Young, Robert Byrd, Cathy Smith, Nathan Young
Tomas Young is paralyzed by a bullet to his spine shortly after enlisting to serve the United States in Iraq. At 25, he returns home and navigates life with a disability alongside life as a veteran. His passion for protecting his country post 9/11 develops into a powerful voice against war through his unique experiences. The film is an honest and raw perspective on modern war and the controversy of the war in Iraq, specifically.
With: Galen Buckwalter, Ernie Wallengren and Vicki Elman
Dr. Gretchen Berland asks three separate people who use wheelchairs to record their daily activities in Los Angeles. The three represent different paths- one has a spinal cord injury, one lives with ALS, the other is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Berland is a physician known for using real-life footage from those who know first-hand to chronicle issues of importance in patient care.
Certain Proof: A Question of Worth (2011)
Starring: Kay McMillen, Josh Werner, Colin Schneider
Certain Proof follows three children with cerebral palsy as they journey through a public school system. This is a look at the reality of a free and appropriate education, as mandated in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1975. It is a story about proving you matter in a world that wasn’t built for your abilities.
Rising Phoenix (2020)
Starring: Jean Baptiste Alaize, Ryley Batt, Ellie Cole, Ntando Mahlangu, Tatyana McFadden, Jonnie Peacock, Matt Stutzman, Bebe Vio, Cui Zhe
Rising Phoenix feels like a familiar sports documentary but depicts the power of Paralympians. It covers a wide variety of sports and ability levels, highlighting the personal and athletic journeys of the specific athletes as well as the history of the games themselves. It is filmed to further emphasize the strength, ability, and beauty of these athletes, as they do what they love.
Right Footed (2015)
Starring: Jessica Fox
Motivational speaker and disability activist Jessica Fox was born without arms. She shares how she learned to do all the things she wanted to do, including driving and flying a plane with her feet. In the film, Jessica shares her story and her passion for traveling to cities around the U.S. and the world to talk to kids and young adults with disabilities about their own journeys and experiences.