182 user 41 critic

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)
3,410 ( 221)
Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 6 wins & 8 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Laura Esterman ...
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

Opening Weekend USA:

$417,076, 25 December 1990, Limited Release

Gross USA:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Prior to filming, the cast members portraying patients studied films of Dr. Oliver Sacks' post-encephalitis patients, and Robert De Niro and Robin Williams spent time with Sacks in the hospital observing him and his patients. See more »


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


Leonard Lowe: We've got to tell everybody. We've got to remind them. We've got to remind them how good it is.
Dr. Sayer: How good what is, Leonard?
Leonard Lowe: Read the newspaper. What does it say? All bad. It's all bad. People have forgotten what life is all about. They've forgotten what it is to be alive. They need to be reminded. They need to be reminded of what they have and what they can lose. What I feel is the joy of life, the gift of life, the freedom of life, the wonderment of life!
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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
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User Reviews

Words Would Not Describe How Breathtakingly Amazing This Film Is...But I'll Try
18 February 2007 | by See all my reviews

I only have a handful of films i could submit as massively underrated & this would be one of them. I found myself lost for words talking about this film because they are just not enough. What i will say is that if you believe 'raging bull', 'godfather 2' or any other other film by deniro are his best performances then BOY WERE YOU WRONG! & i totally resent the statement Kate winslet made in her guest appearance in 'extras' series 1 about disabled peoples portrayal in film getting the actors an Oscar, which this film totally disproves (sadly).

'Rain man' can move over, because this truly is a worthy masterpiece that should have really got the Oscar.Deniro always seems to be typecast as a 'tough-guy' or 'wise guy' & this film goes some way to showing that he isn't all about 'that'.This film also shows us that he has one of the best smiles in Hollywood and is just one minuscule element that makes this film so endearing. Robin Williams & Robert Deniro are Hollywood's greatest actors and this may be the only film you'll see them in together, so go out and get this on DVD (its cheap!) Bare in mind that despite the films early slow pace, you'll find yourself never wanting this film to end as you draw closer to its conclusion, Deniro gives the performance of his life & i wish the Oscar film board had a resubmission/review board to correct there past mistakes/injustices so that i could fill them up in a room with this on screen & watch there faces as they walked out after watching it begging for forgiveness for not awarding it the Oscar!

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