3 Movies About Adult Autism That You Need To Watch

The issue of adult autism is not a new one, but a deep one and has been debated in the world with concern, passion and a lot of frustration, as for many years there was this general shared opinion among doctors and specialists that when they grow up, children with autism become… something else. There have been many efforts to acknowledge the real drama of these adults, awareness and lobby campaigns have been developed, governments striven to make all the necessary changes that these people to benefit from the proper care and the specialized support they need.

Cinema has this interesting role to either transport us in a fictional universe, purely for our entertainment or our education, but sometimes it has also the spark of genius to present us real stories inspired by real people, or at least to turn reality into a form of fiction that is meant to open our eyes to the problems existing maybe two feet a distance from us. Autism in the movies has had its share of representations and some movies overcame their need to entertain with the strange and the uncommon, but also to depict in the hard-core way a reality we may not be very well aware about.

Statistically speaking, movies depicting children with autism are a bit more than the movies about adult autism, but this category also has some truly incredible pieces of art that you should see, not because the subject is interesting or educational, but mainly because if they would have had the same marketing as blockbusters do, they would too have become icons in cinema history. So let’s see 3 movies about adult autism and take the opportunity to learn something about life.

1. The Black Balloon (2008) – because different doesn’t mean alien

the black balloon

This is maybe one of the most disturbing movies about adult autism you will get, and if Rain Man was your idea of how autistic adults behave, you should need to explore more. Charlie is a true, by the book, all bad symptoms showing autistic teenager. The movie makers weren’t at all shy or prude in presenting you with all the gory details of what an autistic adult’s family may go through. This is a story about accepting the different in our lives and coming to terms with a reality that is ten times more painful than any movie could describe.

2. Snow Cake (2006) – When Ripley meets Metatron

snow cake

This may have been one of the best and emotional shattering interpretations that Sigourney Weaver has ever gave on the silver screen. Forget everything you know about Aliens and forget everything you know about Alan Rickman’s soft spot for epic movies and comedies, and tune in to this true work of art. Linda is the autistic adult and her everyday routines, her tantrums and her scares, her authentic display of emotions will make your skin crawl, as she can be your neighbor, or the woman behind the counter at your local store.

3. Mozart and the Whale or how movies about adult autism can make you believe in love

mozart and the whale

This is a lighter one, a movie about a love story between a girl who meets a boy. The problem is that they both present Asperger’s Syndrome characteristics and the fun part is, they present it the real way, not the overly dramatized Hollywood style. The tribulations of the two, the funny situations that they have to deal with and the awkwardness that surrounds them both make this movie not only a fun and interesting thing to watch during a rainy day, but it will teach you a thing or two about compatibility, love, acceptance and a few compromises any relationship seems to need.

These three movies about adult autism aren’t the only ones. The Temple Grandin biopic is as real as life can get, while others, more inclined to the fictional side, add also great value to the ways we look at autistic adults, their families and the challenges they have to face every second of every day, for the rest of their lives.


  1. Hi Paul,

    The representation of autism in movies is an interesting and not unproblematic issue. It’s great that you chose to introduce this topic in this post. My own blog is actually entirely devoted to discussing the depiction of autism in movies.
    I haven’t watched The Black Baloon yet (it’s next on my list!), but to the other two films that you mentioned, and many others, I have been given quite a lot of attention. To be perfectly honest, I found both Snow Cake and Mozart and the Whale to do a rather clumsy job at representing autism, particularly in mostly ignoring the subtleties of how autism is experienced by those who are themselves autistic. Instead, they offer a somewhat stereotypical and shallow view of this form of diversity, mostly just treating it as a plot vehicle.
    But they’re both very decent movies nonetheless.
    Other films depict autism in a much more honest, thoughtful, and complex way.
    If you’re interested in reading more, do visit http://theautismanthropologist.wordpress.com/.

    Have a great weekend,

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