Contributed by Debbie Clason, staff writer, Healthy Hearing
Pop a bowl of popcorn, turn down the lights, and pop in one of these movies or documentaries featuring deaf and hearing-impaired actors and subject matter.
Mr. Holland’s Opus (1996)
Starring Richard Dreyfus, Glenne Headly, Olympia Dukakis
Richard Dreyfus won an Oscar nomination for Best Actor in his role as Glenn Holland, an aspiring musician who reluctantly takes a job as a music teacher to provide for his family. During his 30-year career, he teaches a lot about music and life to the thousands of students who take his class; however, has trouble connecting with Cole, his deaf son.
The Miracle Worker (1962)
Starring Patty Duke, Anne Bancroft, Inga Swenson
Patty Duke portrays Helen Keller in the movie adaptation of William Gibson’s Broadway play which is based on the true story of Helen Keller, an Alabama girl who lost her hearing after a childhood illness. Anne Bancroft plays Anne Sullivan, Helen’s teacher, who separates her from her over-protective parents and teaches her sign language.
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1968)
Starring Alan Arkin, Chuck McCann, Sondra Locke
In her movie debut Sondra Locke is Mick, a teenage girl who forms a friendship with her father’s roommate, John Singer (Alan Arkin). Singer is deaf and has moved to town to be closer to his institutionalized friend (Chuck McCann). Although Singer cannot hear music, he introduces Mick to classical music, which he can feel.
The Legend of the Mountain Man (2008)
Starring Chuck Baird, Scott Berdy, Sean Berdy
The movie uses American Sign Language (ASL) to tell the story of a dysfunctional family of five who encounter a strange creature during summer vacation on their grandparent’s ranch. The adventure takes viewers on a heartwarming journey as they navigate difficult family dynamics.
Starring Jenny Agutter, Barry Newman, Kathleen Nolan
Jenny Agutter plays a young housewife in the early 1900s who leaves her comfortable lifestyle to teach sight and hearing-impaired students. Produced by Disney studios and featuring deaf actors in student roles.
For mature audiences
Children of a Lesser God (1986)
Starring Marlee Matlin, William Hurt, Philip Bosco
A renegade speech teacher (William Hurt) ruffles feathers with his teaching methods in a small New England School for the deaf and falls in love with the school’s deaf custodian (Marlee Matlin) in this 1986 adaptation of Mark Madoff’s play. Marlee Matlin won a Best Actress Oscar for her role in this film.
Johnny Belinda (1948)
Starring Jane Wyman, Lew Ayres, Charles Bickford
Jane Wyman won an Academy Award for her portrayal of Belinda, a deaf-mute who leads a lonely existence on her father’s farm in Nova Scotia. When a newly arrived doctor (Lew Ayres) takes a special interest in Belinda and teachers her sign language, she learns how to communicate with others.
Listen to Your Heart (2010)
Starring Alexia Rasmussen, Kent Moran, Cybil Shepherd
Inspired by deaf Ariana (Alexia Rasmussen) to write a series of ballads that she will never hear, New York City singer/songwriter Danny (Kent Moran) falls in love. As Ariana fights for independence from her controlling mother (Cybil Shepherd), Danny realizes he’s met the love of his life.
Love is Never Silent (1985)
Starring Mare Winningham, Cloris Leachman, Cid Caesar
Mare Winningham stars as a young girl with deaf parents who begins her quest for independence after a close family friend (Cid Caesar) questions whether she is sacrificing her own happiness to take care of her family. The parents are played by Ed Waterstreet and Phyllis Frelich, members of the National Theater for the Deaf. Originally presented as a Hallmark Hall of Fame special, Love is Never Silent won two Emmys: one for Outstanding Directing in a Miniseries or Special and one for Outstanding Drama/Comedy Special and was nominated for two others: Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Special and Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries.
...And Your Name is Jonah (1979)
Starring Sally Struthers, James Woods, Jeffrey Bravin
Sally Struthers and James Woods star as parents who struggle to establish a relationship with their son (Jeffrey Bravin) who has been diagnosed as mentally retarded and institutionalized. Frustrated by medical professionals, the parents teach their son sign language and open up his world intellectually and emotionally. The movie won a 1979 Christopher Award.
A Summer to Remember (1985)
Starring James Farentino, Louise Fletcher, Sean Gerlis
Young Toby Wyler (Sean Gerlis) is bitter after losing his hearing to meningitis until he meets a highly trained escaped orangutan named Casey who teaches him sign language. His parents, played by James Farentino and Louise Fletcher, do not believe his stories.
See What I’m Saying (2009)
The documentary follows four deaf artists – actor Robert DeMayo, singer T.L. Forsberg, drummer Bob Hiltermann, and comic C.J. Jones – as they try to cross over into mainstream culture.
Sound and Fury (2000)
The movie follows three generations of Artinian family of Long Island, New York as they work through the controversies surrounding cochlear implant technology. When one set of parents agrees to a cochlear implant for their infant daughter, her older deaf cousin becomes interested in having an implant, too, sparking an argument between the two families.
Lost and Sound: This is Your Brain on Music (2012)
The story follows three people with varying degrees of hearing impairment and their relationship to music. One has been deaf since birth and is finishing her degree at an elite London dance school, one has cochlear implants and is an aspiring pianist, and the other is a middle-age music journalist who suddenly goes deaf in one ear.