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Awakenings (1990)

PG-13  |   |  Biography, Drama  |  11 January 1991 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.8/10 from 86,813 users   Metascore: 74/100
Reviews: 169 user | 35 critic | 18 from Metacritic.com

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 <jlvogel@comcast.net>

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
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Did You Know?


Robin Williams and Max von Sydow would appear together one more time in What Dreams May Come (1998). See more »


The orientation of the eyeglasses when Dr. Sayer attempts to hand them to new patient Lucy. See more »


Paula: [reading to her father] ?the Mighty Mets stormed their locker room shortly after nine o'clock on their night to remember. Released from bondage and ridicule after seven destitute seasons, they raised the roof of Shea Stadium - while their fans attempted to dismantle it - in one of the loudest, wildest victory celebrations in baseball history
See more »


Referenced in Animaniacs: Video Review/When Mice Ruled the Earth (1993) See more »


Sing, Sing, Sing
Written by Louis Prima
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User Reviews

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.

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