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Awakenings (1990)

PG-13  |   |  Biography, Drama  |  11 January 1991 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.8/10 from 85,435 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 6 wins & 5 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
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Did You Know?


The lullaby that Leonard's mother sings to him at the hospital is called "Slumber Boat". See more »


The chocolate custard that is made for Leonard and Dr. Sayers is first shown to be crooked and off centered. Yet in the next shot, the cones handed to them are perfectly symmetrical. See more »


Dr. Sayer: His gaze is from the passing of bars so exhausted, that it doesn't hold a thing anymore. For him, it's as if there were thousands of bars and behind the thousands of bars no world. The sure stride of lithe, powerful steps, that around the smallest of circles turns, is like a dance of pure energy about a center, in which a great will stands numbed. Only occasionally, without a sound, do the covers of the eyes slide open-. An image rushes in, goes through the tensed silence of the frame- only to ...
See more »


Referenced in 2 Broke Girls: And the Piece of Sheet (2013) See more »


You Made Me Love You
Written by Joseph McCarthy and James V. Monaco
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User Reviews

3 September 2003 | by See all my reviews

Besides when I was a child, I never actually cried during a movie. I've felt the urge to cry during some of them or had tears forming in my eyes, but they never really came out. Before I viewed "Awakenings," "Schindler's List" was the closest one to making me cry. Now, "Awakenings" has done it.

Another great thing about "Awakenings," is that it truly teaches us to appreciate the simple things in life that we take for granted, from taking a walk by yourself or reading a book or even just brushing your teeth.

I don't care what anyone says, both Robin Williams' and Robert DeNiro's performances were excellent and touching. I found this more touching then "Patch Adams." (But I guess "Patch Adams" is more of a Comedy/drama).

Give this great film a try. Grab the Kleenexs during Robert De Niro's first dance.

56 of 63 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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