Movies About Rare Diseases and Disorders

Movies That Prove the Power of Cinema

Disease and illness are often the subject of sappy, poorly-produced, made-for-TV movies. That's not the case with these five feature films. Each of these films focuses on rare diseases and disorders that are integral to the film's plot; not just flimsy afterthoughts and plot devices.

A few of these films were very popular amongst moviegoers and are critically-acclaimed works, while others were generally overlooked by the public; mere blips on the radar. Still, each of these films is worth seeing. They are sure to change your perspective for the better in the way you view and discuss serious, yet little known, rare diseases and disorders.

The Elephant Man (1980)

The Elephant Man movie
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"The Elephant Man" is a 1980 film starring John Hurt, Anthony Hopkins, Anne Bancroft and John Gielgud. Just about everyone who's seen this movie likes it, in which John Hurt portrays Joseph Merrick, nicknamed “the Elephant Man” due to the disfiguring effects of what was most likely Proteus syndrome. Merrick's deformities made him a human anomaly. Hurt shines as he portrays the intelligent, sensitive man behind the mask.

Lorenzo's Oil (1992)

This 1992 film stars Hollywood heavyweights Susan Sarandon and Nick Nolte. "Lorenzo's Oil" tells the story of parents Augusto and Michaela Odone’s struggle to find treatment for their son Lorenzo's adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD), a deadly genetic disease. The films offers a touching, emotional portrayal of this progressive neurological disorder, but there are some inaccuracies. Nevertheless, you'll cheer for the family's successes.

The Tic Code (1998)

"The Tic Code" stars Christopher Marquette, Gregory Hines and Polly Draper. A 10-year-old boy (Marquette) and a saxophone player (Hines) meet and discover they both have Tourette syndrome. However, each deals with it in his own way. The boy has adjusted to his tics, but the older man tries to hide his and resents the boy’s accepting attitude.

The Mighty (1998)

"The Mighty" is a fantastic film you've probably never even heard of, starring Sharon Stone, Gena Rowlands, and Harry Dean Stanton. Kevin is a bright 13-year-old with Morquio syndrome, a progressive disease, and Max, a slow-moving child with low intellect - he feels he looks "like Godzilla" - has dyslexia. The two form an unlikely friendship when Kevin becomes Max's reading tutor.

The Sixth Happiness (1997)

This 1997 film starring Firdaus Kanga and Souad Faress was released in the United Kingdom. It's based on the autobiography of Kanga, titled "Trying to Grow." Kanga actually plays himself in this film. The film tells the story of a boy named Brit growing up in India. He has been born with a disease that makes his bones brittle and never grows taller than 4 feet. Brit is a charming, funny, and very realistic character who struggles with his sexuality and life’s problems in his own unique way, but his parents have very different attitudes towards his disability.

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