12 Must-Watch Shows That Portray Inspiring Characters On The Autism Spectrum

While stereotypical, many of these award-winning films try to depict autism with sincerity and sensitivity.

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1. Rain Man (1988)

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Rain Man is a comedy-drama film that tells the story of selfish young Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise), who discovers that his estranged father has died and left a multimillion-dollar estate to his autistic older brother, Raymond (Dustin Hoffman), who he tries to manipulate into giving up the inheritance.

2. What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)

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Coming-of-age drama film What's Eating Gilbert Grape follows 25-year-old Gilbert (Johnny Depp) in the sleepy town of Iowa as he struggles to take care of his morbidly obese mother and autistic younger brother, Arnie (Leonardo DiCaprio), while attempting to pursue his own happiness.

3. Mercury Rising (1998)

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Mercury Rising stars Bruce Willis as Art Jeffries, a renegade FBI agent who one day finds a nine-year-old autistic boy, Simon, hiding in his closet. The agent comes to protect the boy after finding out he has cracked a top-secret government code, making him a target for assassins.

4. I Am Sam (2001)

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I Am Sam shows Sam (Sean Penn), a man with special needs, fighting for custody of his seven-year-old daughter (Dakota Fanning), and in the process teaches his cold-hearted lawyer (Michelle Pfeiffer) the value of love and family.

5. Temple Grandin (2010)

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Starring Claire Danes, this is a biopic of Temple Grandin, a woman and scientist who is one of the most famous figures with autism, whose innovations and ideas on cattle ranches revolutionised practices for the humane handling of livestock.

6. Taare Zameen Par (2007)

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Taare Zameen Par, also known as Like Stars On Earth in English, tells the story of nine-year-old Ishaan who, despite excelling in art, performs poorly in school. Forced to attend a boarding school by his parents, Ishaan's new art teacher, Nikumbh (Aamir Khan), discovers his learning disorder and helps him uncover his potential with patience and compassion.

7. My Name Is Khan (2010)

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My Name Is Khan, the highest-grossing Hindi film in 2010, tells the story of Rizwan Khan (Shah Rukh Khan), a Muslim man with Asperger's syndrome, who embarks on a journey to change people's perception of his community in the United States when his wife, Mandira (Kajol), experiences Islamophobic discrimination after the 11 September attacks.

8. Guang (2018)

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Guang (Chinese: 光) is a Malaysian drama film that tells the story of an autistic 27-year-old, Wen Guang (Kyo Chen), with a hidden musical talent, but struggles to find a job in an effort to ease the burden of his younger brother (Ernest Chong), who has always taken care of them since their mother died.

It won 'Best Feature Film' at the Asia Pacific Film Festival in 2020.

9. Good Doctor (2013), The Good Doctor (2017)

Good Doctor (Korean: 굿 닥터) is a South Korean medical drama TV series about Park Si-on (Joo Won), a young autistic surgical resident, who is a savant at work but often faces conflict with his peers and patients.

The K-drama was so popular that an American remake, The Good Doctor, was created in 2017 starring Freddie Highmore as Dr Shaun Murphy in San Jose, California.

10. Atypical (2017)

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Netflix TV series Atypical follows Sam (Keir Gilchrist), an 18-year-old on the autism spectrum, who decides it's time to find a girlfriend and take charge of his life, which also sends his mother (Jennifer Jason Leigh) on her own life-changing path as her son seeks independence.

11. It's Okay To Not Be Okay (2020)

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It's Okay To Not Be Okay (Korean: 사이코지만 괜찮아) is a K-drama that tells the story of Moon Gang-tae (Kim Soo-hyun), who is the sole caretaker of his autistic older brother, Sang-tae (Oh Jung-se). The brothers battle with past trauma and mental health issues as they also meet antisocial children's book author, Ko Mun-yeong (Seo Ye-ji).

12. Extraordinary Attorney Woo (2022)

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Extraordinary Attorney Woo (Korean: 이상한 변호사 우영우) is a K-drama that follows Woo Young-woo (Park Eun-bin), a young lawyer with autism who boasts a high IQ, an impressive memory, and an exceptionally creative thought process. However, despite graduating top of her class at university, she struggles at work for her odd and awkward ways of communication, and just being different from her neurotypical peers.

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