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Awakenings (1990)

PG-13  |   |  Biography, Drama  |  11 January 1991 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.8/10 from 85,550 users   Metascore: 74/100
Reviews: 169 user | 35 critic | 18 from

The victims of an encephalitis epidemic many years ago have been catatonic ever since, but now a new drug offers the prospect of reviving them.



(book) (as Oliver Sacks M.D.) , (screenplay)
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Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 5 wins & 6 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Ruth Nelson ...
Barton Heyman ...
George Martin ...
Laura Esterman ...
Dexter Gordon ...
Jayne Haynes ...


A new doctor finds himself with a ward full of catatonic patients. He is disturbed by them and the fact that they have been catatonic for decades with no hope of any cure. When he finds a possible chemical cure he gets permission to try it on one of them. When the first patient awakes, he is now well into his 50s having gone into a catatonic state at 20 years of age. The film then delights in the new awareness of the patients and then on the reactions of their relatives to the changes in the newly awakened. Written by John Vogel <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


There is no such thing as a simple miracle.


Biography | Drama


PG-13 | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

11 January 1991 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Despertares  »

Box Office


$52,096,475 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Dr. Sayer treats the comatose Leonard with a drug called Levodopa (L-DOPA). This was the same drug used to treat Robin Williams' own Parkinson-like symptoms shortly before his death in August 2014. See more »


When Doctor Sayer and Leonard are driving through the streets, the New York City Buses are GMC RTSs which were not produced until 1979. The film takes place in the 1960s. See more »


Dr. Peter Ingham: Most died during the acute stage of the illness, during a sleep so deep they couldn't be roused. A sleep that in most cases lasted several months. Those who survived, who awoke, seemed fine, as though nothing had happened. Years went by - five, ten, fifteen - before anyone suspected they were not well... they were not. I began to see them in the early 1930's - old people brought in by their children, young people brought in by their parents - all of them complaining they weren't themselves ...
See more »


Referenced in Hollywood's Top Ten: Best Actor Oscar Winners (2011) See more »


O Soave Fanciulla
from "La Bohème"
Written by Giacomo Puccini
Performed by Mirella Freni and Nicolai Gedda
Orchestra of the Opera House, Rome
Conducted by Thomas Schippers
Courtesy of Angel/EMI, a division of Capitol Records, Inc.
by arrangment with CEMA Special Markets
See more »

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Can someone please tell me WHY??
26 February 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Can someone please tell me WHY Penny Marshall never received an Academy Award nomination for this? This is an excellent movie. A truly great film. My opinion? DeNiro's best role to date. He was superb. While I loved "Schindler's List," I think DeNiro's role by far out muscled Liam Neeson as an Oscar contender. (No disrespect to Neeson intended.) But I'm still disappointed over that one.

Robin Williams was wonderful, as well. As was Julie Kavner. Can't believe we never saw much of her after this role. She's a definite talent. Excellent casting by Marshall.

For anyone out there who hasn't seen it, RUSH to your video store TODAY! It's truly one of those "Don't Miss" films. It will definitely give you some life perspective.

As for Ms. Marshall - I believe one of these days, we are going to be seeing an Oscar with her name on it. "Best Director!" She gives all women in film something to strive for.

113 of 149 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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