Relaxing on the couch and watching movies is usually on everyone’s list of top activities. In that spirit, we’ve curated 10 films that deal sensitively with the topic of brain injury and brain disorders that will educate and inspire. Topics include TBI, Alzheimer’s, stroke, concussion, aphasia, and more. We recommend grabbing the popcorn and adding these films to your list.
Are there any you would add? Let us know in the comments.
- The Crash Reel – “I don’t think anybody gives their brain enough time to heal after a concussion because your brain doesn’t tell you it’s still injured.” So says elite snowboarder, Kevin Pierce, about his TBI incurred from an accident on the slopes. This inspiring documentary shows how Kevin and his family and friends adapted to his “new normal” after his injury.
- The Diving Bell and The Butterfly – This film makes the top lists in this category. 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 teaches him to communicate again using a system where he spells out words by blinking his left eye. Amazingly, Claude uses his newfound communication skills to write a book. This French film won awards at Cannes, the Golden Globes, and received four Academy Award nominations.
- Concussion – This true story, starring Will Smith, tells the tale of what happened to Dr. Bennet Omalu, the courageous Nigerian-born pathologist who tried to bring the issue of brain damage in retired NFL players (known as CTE) to the forefront.
- Regarding Henry – This Mike Nichols film, starring Harrison Ford as the main character, packs a punch. The title character is an obnoxious but successful Manhattan attorney whose life changes 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. 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 rehabilitation therapy, 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.
- The Theory of Everything – 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 and cognitive disabilities. Hawking, who passed away in 2018, contracted ALS in 1963 and was given two years to live. Despite that initial prognosis, he went on to combine family life with world-renowned research in theoretical physics, and an extensive schedule of travel and public lectures.
- Away From Her – Julie Christie was Oscar-nominated for Best Actress for her portrayal of Fiona, a woman with Alzheimer’s who voluntarily enters a long-term care facility to avoid being a burden on Grant, her husband of 50 years. Bring the tissues.
- My Beautiful Broken Brain – This documentary film traces the emotional journey of Londoner Lotje Sodderland after she suffered a hemorrhagic stroke in 2011 at 34, losing her ability to read, write, and speak coherently. The film covers the daily challenges that she experienced with dysphasia and apraxia, as well as memory deficits, confusion, fatigue, and frustration—typical effects of stroke. 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.
- Welcome To Marwen – Mark Hogancamp (played by Steve Carell) suffers an attack that 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.
- Still Alice – This movie is based on Lisa Genova’s 2007 bestselling book of the same name. Julianne Moore stars as Alice Howland, a professor diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Sensitive and enlightening, the film shows how Alzheimer’s impacts the lives of the affected person as well as their family members and friends.
- Caris’ Peace – Tells the story of New York theater and film actress Caris Corfman, who on the brink of stardom, loses her short-term memory as a result of a brain tumor. Robbed of her ability to learn and recite lines, her career seems over. But it’s not. Filmed over 10 years, the film documents her triumphant return to the New York stage.