We love it when movies have an inclusive and diverse set of characters.
Check out these five films where characters with a disability are not just the token extra, but are part of the main cast. From the leader of a group of mutants, to a teenage charmer with one leg, to a punk in a wheelchair – these guys will totally make you forget that they even had any limitations.
This is an incredibly inspiring Academy Award-nominated documentary following the American national wheelchair rugby team, and their journey towards representing their country in the Athens Paralympics. Be prepared to be awed by the raw physicality of the sport: players can be sent sliding across the court after a hit!
The film also shows just how incredibly ordinary players of wheelchair rugby are. Besides their fierce sense of determination and resilience on court, you will see the players poke fun of their own disabilities, trash-talk opponents, and discuss relationship problems. If it’s one film that will change people’s perceptions of quadriplegics, and show how they’re not any different from able-bodied people, this is it.
2) What’s Eating Gilbert Grape
A heartwarming film from 1993 that gave Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio two of their early roles. Johnny Depp’s character, Gilbert, has to navigate life in the small town of Endora, Iowa, with a morbidly obese mother and a mentally-challenged brother with a dangerous habit of climbing the water tower. When the love of his life enters the scene, he’s faced with the challenge how to get the girl while playing guardian to his brother and mother.
While the story is centred around Johnny Depp’s character, it’s young DiCaprio that captivates us as Gilbert’s younger brother Arnie It’s an incredibly moving film that gives the audience a glimpse into the very human challenge of looking after someone with a developmental disability.
3) The Fault in Our Stars
Based on the bestselling novel of the same title by John Green, this story revolves around two cancer-stricken teenagers: beautiful Hazel Grace Lancaster (played by Shailene Woodley), who has terminal thyroid cancer, and the charming Augustus Waters (played by Ansel Elgort), who has already lost a leg to bone cancer.
Genre beats dictate that the pair must fall deeply in love despite (because of?) the knowledge that their time is limited. The message is writ large: it’s better to have loved and lost, than to never have loved at all. But the charm is in the details: Augustus is smooth-talking and incredibly likeable, so much so that you do not notice his disability, and Hazel is authentic and convincing as someone wavering between accepting a grim conclusion to life and living it to the full.
4) Rory O’ Shea Was Here
Played by James McAvoy, the titular Rory O’Shea has so much spunk and attitude, the audience will sometimes forget the severe muscular dystrophy that’s left him in a wheelchair and use of only two fingers on one hand. O’Shea meets Michael (played by Steven Robertson), a 24-year-old who has cerebral palsy, living at the Carrigmore Residential Home for the Disabled. Michael discovers that Rory can somehow understand his unintelligible speech. The two then begin a whirlwind adventure as Rory pushes Michael to experience the world outside.
The early comedy inevitably gives way to drama, as both Rory and Michael for the same girl. (And Rory has to interpret what Michael is trying to say to her.) We won’t spoil the ending. But if it’s one thing that Rory will teach you, is that your physical limitations no limitation to a zest for life (or a quick wit.)
5) X-men series
All right, we’re cheating a little here: This is not one single film, but a franchise. But the X-Men is a series that many movie-goers remember when asked for an positive portrayal of diversity and inclusivity on screen.
On the subject of disabilities, one naturally recalls Professor Charles Xavier, the wheelchair-using, non-flying, non-projectile-firing leader who also reads thoughts, creates hallucinations and paralysis, and even remove memories from his subjects. That’s right, Professor X of the X-men is a real boss–a real presence to the franchise. All X-Men movies that don’t feature him have been poorly received (just think of those terrible Wolverine spin-offs.)
Our particular pick is X-men: First Class, which gives us insight into the younger, cheekier Professor X, and the events that led him to forming the elite squad of mutant warriors, the X-men. All in all, however, most X-Men movies will make for a satisfying, popcorn-filled afternoon.