Speech Pathology at the Movies

Speech Therapy in the MoviesIn film as well as television, characters with speech impediments, particularly stuttering, have often been portrayed in a less than positive way.  Arguably, “The King’s Speech” may going forward change perceptions, both in Hollywood and the rest of society, of people suffering from various communication disorders.  Nonetheless, we would like to recommend the following movies which present some distinct teachable moments, and are entertaining as well as thought-provoking.

  • “The Music Man” (1962):  How a con artist changes a small town and himself in the process.  One of the townspeople transformed is a young boy with a lisp.  Starring Robert Preston, Shirley Jones, Buddy Hackett and Ron Howard.
  • “The Miracle Worker” (1962):  The true story of Helen Keller, a deaf-mute, her exceptional, and legally blind, teacher/therapist, Anne Sullivan, and how she learned to communicate and acquire speech.  Starring Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke.
  • “My Fair Lady”  (1964):  A professor of elocution transforms a Cockney flower girl into a lady of high society through accent modification, and in the process gets more than he bargained for.  Starring Rex Harrison, Audrey Hepburn and Wilfride Hyde-White.
  • “L’Enfant Sauvage” (The Wild Child) (1970): Acclaimed French director François Truffaut’s take on the true story of a feral child, the doctor who befriends him and, with the help of his housekeeper, attempts to teach him rudimentary speech and manners.  Starring Truffaut, Jean-Pierre Cargol and Françoise Seigner.
  • “Children of A Lesser God” (1986):  A hearing speech teacher falls in love with a female custodian at a school for the deaf who is herself deaf.  Their relationship is tested by conflicting ideologies regarding speech and deafness.  Starring Marlee Matlin and William Hurt.
  • “My Left Foot” (1989):  The real-life tale of Irish painter/port/author Christy Brown, who suffered from cerebral palsy and had control only over one part of his body, hence the title.  In a funny scene in what is otherwise a drama, his teacher/therapist convinces him to work with her in improving his speech, especially his cursing.  Starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Brenda Fricker, Alison Whelan and Kirsten Sheridan.
  • “Nell” (1994):  A beautiful, young hermit with a unique speech pattern is “discovered” by the local doctor and a visiting psychology student.  They unlock all of her secrets, including the origin of her singular language, and shield her from the intrusions of the outside world. Starring Jodie Foster, Liam Neeson and Natasha Richardson.
  • “Behind The Lines” (1997): Based on true events, the film tells the story of psychiatrist/therapist, Dr. William Rivers, who, contrary to prevailing wisdom, used humane, compassionate methods to treat the PTSD-induced speech disorders of his World War I patients, including two of England’s noted poets.  Starring Jonathan Pryce, James Wilby and Jonny Lee MIller.
  • “The Tic Code” (1998):  A young jazz prodigy with Tourette’s Syndrome meets an older musician with the same condition, but who has learned to cover up much of his disorder.  The prodigy and his mother, on the other hand, have accepted the boy’s disorder and therein lies the conflict. Starring Chris Marquette, Polly Draper iand Carol Kane.
  • “The Diving Bell And The Butterfly” (2007):  The real story of Elle magazine editor, Jean-Dominique Bauby and the stroke-induced “locked-in” condition which resulted in paralysis of his entire body except for his left eye.  It is also the story of the speech therapist who invents an ingenious way for him to communicate.  Starring Mathieu Amalric, Emmanuelle Seigner and Marie-Josée Croze.
  • “Rocket Science” (2007):  A chronic stutterer joins his high school debate team in order to impress a girl on the team.  To overcome his innate anxiety when debating, his therapist suggests that he sing or use a foreign accent.  He doesn’t get the girl, but learns a lot about life.  Starring Reece Thompson and Anna Kendrick.

We hope you enjoy this short list of communication/speech therapy-related feature films and will add your own favorites.  If you are a speech language pathologist and are inspired by any of them to search for employment in the field, please contact the Centra team at 800 535 0076 and let us put you in your next starring role.

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