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Best Buddies Canada

Entertainment for All: Movies that Celebrate Friendship and Inclusion

Looking for representation of disabilities? Here are five movies that transcend barriers and highlight the power of inclusion!

Champions (2023)

Champions is a feel-good comedy about a washed up, former minor-league basketball coach, Marcus (Woody Harrelson), who receives a court order to manage a team of players with intellectual disabilities. The team – named “The Friends” – slowly improves over the course of the season, and Marcus begins to form personal relationships with the players. Through hard work, determination, and a lot of fun, “The Friends” make it to the Special Olympics finals where they face off with a rival team. The movie stars individuals with IDD like Madison Tevlin, a Best Buddies Ambassador and an advocate for Down syndrome awareness, who plays Cosentino and steals the show with her witty one liners and snarky comebacks. Champions not only includes individuals with IDD; the movie celebrates them and carves a space in blockbuster film for disability representation and awareness.

The Fundamentals of Caring (2016)

Paul Rudd plays a retired writer turned caretaker named Ben in this touching comedy-drama. Ben is introduced to Trevor (Craig Roberts), a teenager with muscular dystrophy who uses a wheelchair. The two characters set off on a road trip and become close friends in the process. The movie’s themes focus on friendship, acceptance, and forgiveness. It portrays Trevor’s disability tactfully without resorting to stereotypes. It’s a great movie to watch if you’re looking for something that’s as equally heartwarming and thoughtful as it is funny.

The Peanut Butter Falcon (2019)

The Peanut Butter Falcon is a movie that explores themes of friendship, freedom, and pursuing one’s dreams against all odds. A young man with Down syndrome named Zak, played by actor Zack Gottsagen, dreams of becoming a professional wrestler. He escapes from the care home where he lives and meets Tyler, played by Shia LaBeouf, who is also on the run. The two become friends and set off to fulfill Zak’s dream of wrestling. Zak’s determination challenges the other characters’ perceptions of disability and highlights the power of human connection. Gottsagen received widespread acclaim for his role and the movie went on to win multiple awards.

Temple Grandin (2010)

Claire Danes stars in this biographical drama that tells the true story of Temple Grandin, an autistic woman who became an expert in animal science and a significant advocate for autism awareness. It follows Temple throughout her life; she struggles to fit in with her peers and faces discrimination for her disability. Through Temple’s determination and resilience, she pursues a career in livestock and, because of her unique ability to understand and empathize with animals, revolutionizes practices for the humane handling of livestock. In real life, Temple is an advocate for autism awareness and has helped to break down stigma. 

Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution (2020)

Crip Camp is a documentary produced by Michelle and Barack Obama that tells the story of a group of teenagers that attended Camp Jened, a summer camp for teens with disabilities, in the summer of 1971. At the camp, the teens could experience freedom, friendship, and acceptance in an environment free from societal judgement. The movie uses archival footage and interviews to show the impact that the camp has on the campers both then and in the present. Several attendees became leaders in the disability rights movement and helped to pass federal regulations ensuring the rights of disabled individuals. “Crip Camp” is a testament to power of community and the importance of advocacy.