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Awakenings (1990)

PG-13 | | Biography, Drama | 11 January 1991 (USA)
2:43 | Trailer

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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)
3,004 ( 64)
Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 6 wins & 8 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 ...


1969. Dr. Malcolm Sayer is hired as a clinical physician at a psychiatric hospital in the Bronx, despite he only having a research background. The job is not ideal on his side as he has difficulties relating to people which is the reason he has focused on research projects not involving human subjects, while the hospital hires him somewhat out of desperation in not finding anyone else with the qualifications who wants the job. Most of his patients are in a semi-catatonic state and are housed in what some of the orderlies coin the "garden" ward, where all they can do for the patients is water and feed them. He notices that some of the patients, despite their generally catatonic state, respond in unusual ways to certain stimuli. In doing some research, he also finds that some common bonds between these patients are that they suffered from encephalitis in the 1920s or 1930s, and that their physical states are like they have Parkinson's disease frozen in time. As such, he is able to ... Written by Huggo

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?


Based on a nonfiction book by Oliver Sacks, with the character of Sayer based closely on Sacks himself. See more »


Dr. Sayers takes the group to a dance hall. He is sitting at a table and eats the cherry that was from his drink. A woman patient pulls him to the dance floor but the cherry that he ate appears on his napkin. See more »


Leonard Lowe: Hello. My name is Leonard Lowe. It has been explained to me that I've been away for quite some time.I'm back.
See more »


References The Fly (1986) 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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User Reviews

13 June 1999 | by (North Bay, Ontario) – See all my reviews

Simply put, this is one of the greatest movies ever. This is easily the most powerful tearjerker that I've ever seen, thanks in large part to the brilliant performances by Williams and De Niro. But to be fair, the whole cast was excellent, and they were helped by a script that was nearly perfect. For me, the scenes with Miller proved to be the most emotional, but really, the whole film was heartwarming or heartbreaking on some level. I don't tend to get emotional when watching movies, but this film managed to find a way into my heart, and I can't possibly recommend this movie enough to those of you who haven't been lucky enough to see it yet.

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