We’re all looking forward to a little downtime over the holidays, and relaxing on the couch and watching movies is usually on our list of top activities. In that spirit we’ve curated eight movies that speech-language pathologists will enjoy—and even be inspired by—from recent movies about survivors of stroke or brain injury, to classics that show how communication disorders were treated in the past. So, grab the popcorn (and a box of tissues) and scroll down for eight amazing movies that are entertaining, thought-provoking, and in many cases, heart-rending.
1. The Diving Bell and The Butterfly – 2007
This one seems to make it onto everyone’s list. It tells the true story of French Elle editor Jean-Dominique Bauby, who suffered a stroke at age 43, and lost movement in every part of his body except his left eye. His recovery team includes his SLP, who ultimately teaches him to communicate again using a system where he spells out words by blinking his left eye. Amazingly, Claude decides to use his newfound communication skills to write a book, a commitment he had made to himself before his stroke. Needless to say, this French film won awards at the Cannes Film Festival, the Golden Globes, and received four Academy Award nominations. Prepare to be inspired.
2. Rocket Science – 2007
A coming-of-age film, where the main character, Hal Hefner, has a stutter which significantly impacts his high school experience in suburban New Jersey. He meets top debate team star Ginny (played by Anna Kendrick), who recruits him to the debate team, despite his stutter. As she mentors him and helps him prepare for the the state tournament, a bond develops between the two, and well... the rest is history, as they say.
3. Regarding Henry – 1991
This Mike Nichols film, starring Harrison Ford as the main character, packs a punch. It's an emotional roller coaster where the emotions range from anger to sympathy to frustration to triumph. The title character, Henry Turner, is an obnoxious but successful Manhattan attorney whose life changes in a second when he is shot at a convenience store late one night. A bullet hits his right frontal lobe, and another hits the left subclavian vein in his chest, causing excessive internal bleeding and cardiac arrest. He experiences anoxia, resulting in brain damage. While he survives the shooting, initially he can’t move or talk and he suffers amnesia. Working through therapy with his clinicians, he slowly regains speech and movement, but when he tries to return to his former life, he discovers he doesn’t like the person he was before his accident.
4. The King's Speech – 2010
Set in Depression-era England, this movie focuses on the relationship between Albert, the soon-to-be King George VI (played by Colin Firth) and his speech therapist, Lionel Logue. Albert—or Bertie, as he is called by his family—was the shy, sickly second son of King George V, who grew up with a debilitating stutter. He and Lionel work through a sometimes-contentious, sometimes-chummy working relationship that culminates in an inspiring speech made by the king on the evening of September 3, 1939, the day Britain declared war on Germany—a speech which Bertie could not have made had it not been for his speech therapist.
5. The Theory of Everything – 2014
Thought-provoking and true story of brilliant physicist Stephen Hawking (played by Eddie Redmayne) and his relationship with his wife, Jane Wilde. The film is adapted from Jane’s novel about their life and highlights the love and persistence necessary to care for someone with significant degenerative physical disabilities. Hawking, who passed away this year, contracted ALS in 1963 and was given two years to live. Despite that initial prognosis, he went on to combine family life (three children and three grandchildren) with world-renowned research in theoretical physics, and an extensive schedule of travel and public lectures.
6. The Miracle Worker – 1962
Classic but inspiring movie about author, activist and lecturer Helen Keller and her first teacher (who we’d now call a speech therapist), Annie Sullivan. If you’ve never seen this classic, put it at the top of your list, as it is a brilliantly-acted true story of triumph over extreme hardship. In 1887, Annie Sullivan travels from the Perkins School in Boston to Tuscumbia, Alabama, to undertake what seems like an impossible task of teaching a deaf, blind, and non-verbal 7-year-old named Helen Keller. Blind herself as a child and hardened by years in cruel Victorian-era orphanages, Annie realizes that if Helen is to be helped she must be removed from her pampering mother and dominating father. Annie is given two weeks with Helen in a small garden house on the property, and during that time, Helen learns to dress herself, eat with a fork, and understand the alphabet through touch – allowing her to finally break out of the solitary confinement that was her life. Bring tissues to this one.
7. My Beautiful Broken Brain – 2014
This documentary film traces the emotional journey of Londoner Lotje Sodderland after she suffered a hemorrhagic stroke in 2011 at the age of 34, losing her ability to read, write, and speak coherently. The film covers the daily challenges that Lottje experienced with dysphasia and apraxia, as well as memory deficits, confusion, sensory perception changes, fatigue, and frustration—typical effects of stroke. Lottje’s recovery team included OTs, SLPs, PTs, psychiatrists and more, as she transitioned from inpatient to outpatient rehabilitation and therapy. Amazingly, Lotje began recording video of herself with her phone, a few days after the stroke and while still in the hospital, and the film uses this material extensively.
8. Sound and Fury – 2000
This Academy Award-nominated documentary film follows the heart-rending tale of the Artinians, a family with deaf and hearing members across three generations. Together they confront new technology (cochlear implants) that would help their 5-year old daughter and her 1-year old cousin to hear, but may also threaten their deaf culture, a highly visual and artistic culture in its own right. The film looks at the choice between the hearing and the deaf worlds—a debate which is still going on today.
BONUS MOVIE: Welcome To Marwen – Opens December 21, 2018
Mark Hogancamp (played by Steve Carell) suffers a vicious attack which causes a brain injury that wipes away his memory. No one expects recovery. As his own form of art therapy, he creates an amazing model WW2 town where he can heal and be heroic. Based on a true story. Getting good advance reviews.