This paper examines how several different movies portray people with intellectual disabilities. A central question is: how should film productions represent people with intellectual disabilities? What are common themes in these representations? How do productions go about ensuring faithful representation? Has representation and visibility improved?

The movies Rain Man, Forrest Gump, I am Sam, Peanut Butter Falcon, and Music, were all examined and researched. The way they were produced and the way that actors researched to play the roles of intellectually disabled characters were examined.

It was found that while many themes were shared, as were visual cues to indicate an intellectual disability, the methods of preparing and researching to represent people with intellectual disabilities varied greatly. While some productions and actors were able to reach out and meet with people who had intellectual disabilities, others researched less and had little to know contact with disabled people. Another trend is that more actors with intellectual disabilities are being hired to play characters with intellectual disabilities. Still, some producers and directors are continuing to cast actors without disabilities in those roles. In an attempt to make good films that includes well-researched representations that don't belittle people with disabilities, it would make good sense to cast intellectually disabled people in the roles of intellectually disabled characters.

Semester/Year of Award

Spring 5-1-2023


Tricia, Kelley

Mentor Department Affiliation


Access Options

Restricted Access Thesis

Document Type

Bachelor Thesis

Degree Name

Honors Scholars

Degree Level