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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)
2,940 ( 327)
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
See  »

Did You Know?


One of Robin Williams' favorite films of his own. See more »


When Nurse Costello approaches Nurses Margaret and Beth, Margaret says, "The patients have all been given their morning medication." The program the nurses are watching is "Days Of Our Lives," which in 1969 was broadcast at 2PM in NYC; well into the afternoon. See more »


Margaret: Miriam, there's no easy way to tell you this, so - your husband - he was granted a divorce from you in 1952.
Miriam: Oh, thank God!
See more »


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

A wonderful and touching film
6 December 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

It's a tale about a doctor(Robin Williams) taking on a new job in the Bronx. His new patients are something of the unusual. A handful of them share an unexplainable disease. The rare disease has left these people frozen in time. One of his main patients is a man named Leonard Lowe, played by Robert Deniro. Doctor Sayer begins a diligent study. To the present day, there are still many questions surrounding this strange disease. During one amazing season in the late 60's, a miracle happened.

In my opinion, both Robin Williams and Robert Deniro should have won Oscars for this film. I always say that Williams with a beard equals an amazing performance. His role as the meek Dr. Sayer is heartwarming. He plays perfectly off Deniro's character. Robert Deniro is golden as Leonard, the disease afflicted patient that gives all of his consciousness to help Dr. Sayer. With the help of a large dose of medicine and care all the patients and hospital staff have awakenings.

One of the most important words spoken in the film is: LEARN.

This film teaches me to appreciate life a little more every time I see it. It hopefully sends us the message to enjoy life. To love and embrace what we have and perhaps learn not to take the natural joys in life for granted is the message.

43 of 45 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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