The last major movie starring an actor with a disability?

I lost my sMV5BNTMzMzUyMzU4N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDMyMjgxMQ@@._V1_SY317_CR3,0,214,317_AL_ight when I was 26 years old. After that, I pretty much quit going to movies.

I can still picture movies I saw on TV or at movie theaters before then, though, and it surprises me now to think how many of them happen to center on disabilities. Some examples:

  • In Coming Home (1978) Jon Voight won an Oscar for playing a veteran who was paralyzed in the Vietnam War
  • In An Affair to Remember (1957) Deborah Kerr’s romantic rendezvous with Cary Grant is nearly derailed by a paralyzing accident.
  • In A Patch of Blue (1965) Elizabeth Hartman as a white girl who is blind and falls in love with a black man played by Sidney Poitier.
  • In Butterflies Are Free (1972) Edward Albert as a blind man attempting to break free from his over-protective mother.
  • In Johnny Belinda (1948) Jane Wyman is referred to as a “deaf-mute”
  • The Miracle Worker (1962) stars Anne Bancroft as Annie Sullivan and Patty Duke as Helen KellerMV5BMTk4MzYxODE2MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDU3ODUyMQ@@._V1_SY317_CR5,0,214,317_AL_

As you can see, ahem, disability-focused movies are nothing new. But wouldn’t you think by now, it being the 21st Century and all, far more movies would feature actors and actresses who actually have disabilities themselves? In all the movies I watched when I could still see, I can only think of one where an actor with a disability played a character with a disability: The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) featured Harold Russell (a real-life veteran who lost both hands when a defective fuse detonated an explosive he was handling) as a World War II veteran home from the war. Actress Marlee Matlin is deaf, and of course she won best actress for her role in Children of a Lesser God, but I wasn’t able to see that one – it came out in 1987, a year after I lost my sight.

October is Disabilities Employment Awareness Month, and there must be plenty of actors out there with disabilities, or who are veterans, who are looking for work. (Our friend Kyle Hausmann-Stokes from Veterans in Film and Television will attest to that!)

Can it be true that it’s been nearly 30 years since a major motion picture featured an actor or actress who has a disability? Please leave a comment and tell me I’m wrong!


Comments may not reflect Easterseals' policies or positions.

Please read our community guidelines when posting comments.

  1. Beth Finke Says:

    David and Eileen, what great comments! I’ll check out that link, David, thanks for sending. And Eileen, you are reading my mind. I *loved* Station Agent and a young woman on staff here let me know recently that the starring actor is a superstar on Game of Thrones now. Of course I recruited that young woman to write a blog post about that for us, stay tuned, it should be up shortly. Oh, and I heard about The Sessions when it first came out and thought, gee, that’d be a good movie for a blind woman like me to see –lots of dialogue. Thanks for reminding me, I’ll put it on my list of movies to rent this winter when it’s too cold to go out much.

  2. Derick Says:

    Here is a list of movies, older and some more current, that feature actors with disabilities. Yes, having an amputee play a mutilated zombie may not be the best example, but I’m just relaying the info, I didn’t create it.

  3. Eileen Dombrowski Says:

    Good point, Janine and Beth!

    Although it doesn’t have an actress with a disability, I always appreciated that “Notting Hill” had a character with a physical disability (Bella) that’s barely referenced throughout the movie. Though, to that point, it’s disappointing they didn’t just cast someone with a physical disability to play the role…

  4. Eileen Dombrowski Says:

    In terms of movies that star people with disabilities, I’d suggest a great film from 2003, “The Station Agent.” Peter Dinklage (of Games of Thrones fame), the star, has dwarfism – which the film touches on, but by no means focuses on.

    For a great movie about someone with a disability (though not played by someone with a disability), I’d recommend “The Sessions”, a movie from 2012. It’s about about a man with polio who lives in an iron lung, and is based on a true story.

  5. Beth Finke Says:

    Yes, and wouldn’t it be nice just to have a random person with a disability just sitting at a restaurant in the background in a movie from time to time, or someone with a service dog just walk by while other action is going on, you know, just like *normal*?!

  6. Beth Finke Says:

    So glad you found us. I wonder, are there many Baliwood movies with characters who have disabilities in them?

  7. Janine Desgres Says:

    Although there certainly are not a ton of movies out there with people with disabilities, there have been a few. Here a short list of titles: Radio, The Blind Side, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. I’d like to see more movies in which the storyline does not focus on the disability, the star has one, but the movie shows how the person successfully manages daily life, without it being the plot.

  8. Gautam chaudhury Says:

    I am from India & have disability.
    Gautam Chaudhury

Leave a Reply