Disabled Britain on Film

From a rare portrait of the first spokesperson of the UK disability rights movement to a reimagining of becoming blind, this selection of mainly fictional films covers a range of representations of being disabled. Crucially, some of the films are authored by disabled people themselves, while others feature non-disabled actors taking on the role of a disabled character.

The idea of 'cripping up' - the equivalent of 'blacking up' - where a non-disabled actor takes on the role of a disabled person, is gaining ground in current debates about how disabled people want to be represented in film. Reflecting on the Oscar-winning performances of films like My Left Foot raises questions about what a rebooted version might look like, and whether the film industry needs to challenge itself about how to cast disabled actors into these kind of roles.

Graham Findlay (disability equality consultant)

Please note: titles in this collection may contain language or other content that reflect views prevalent in their time but that may cause offence today. They are included here for historical reasons and are in no way endorsed by the BFI or its partners.

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Rent for £4.50

Is There Anybody Out There?Is There Anybody Out There?

Documentary202387 minsDirector: Ella Glendining

Highlighting the importance of being seen, Ella Glendining invites us on a personal journey as she sets out to find others with the same rare disability as herself.

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Notes on BlindnessNotes on Blindness

Documentary201687 minsDirector: James Spinney and Peter Middleton

James Spinney and Peter Middleton's highly original documentary uses cinematic interpretations and textured sound design to express a ‘world beyond sight.’

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The Possibilities Are EndlessThe Possibilities Are Endless

Documentary201483 minsDirector: Edward Lovelace and James Hall

A moving and haunting account of singer Edwyn Collins’s long and difficult recovery from a stroke.

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A Space in TimeA Space in Time

Documentary202188 minsDirector: Nick Taussig and Riccardo Servini

Candid and intimate portrait of one family’s journey to transcend a fatal muscle wasting disease, Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

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Documentary197498 minsDirector: Stephen Dwoskin

The account of a close, personal relationship as experienced by a disabled man.

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The Reason I JumpThe Reason I Jump

Documentary202182 minsDirector: Jerry Rothwell

Award-winning director Jerry Rothwell's compelling documentary is a rare cinematic and sensorial insight into the world of non-speaking autistic people.

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My Feral HeartMy Feral Heart

Drama201683 minsDirector: Jane Gull

A young man with Down's syndrome is forced into care after his mother dies, in this sensitive, poignant and naturalistic drama.

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Trying to Kiss the MoonTrying to Kiss the Moon

Animation & Artists Moving Image199496 minsDirector: Stephen Dwoskin

Autobiographical film by the veteran disabled experimental filmmaker, Steve Dwoskin.

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Drama197433 minsDirector: Alan Parker

Mollie has been left with highly sensitive hearing after an attack. In her boarding house room she "witnesses" a murder by hearing strange footsteps.

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Drama200825 minsDirector: Ian Clark

A girl in love, a pop star in peril and a gang on the run - watch it play out!

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The OutsiderThe Outsider

Medical drama193991 minsDirector: Paul L. Stein

Paul L. Stein's gripping and romantic The Outsider features a famed osteopath (George Sanders) who treats a young disabled woman (Mary Maguire) with his unconventional methods - only to fall in love with her.

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Some VoicesSome Voices

Comedy200197 minsDirector: Simon Cellan Jones

Daniel Craig impresses in a tough but sensitive portrait of a man living with schizophrenia

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The Raging MoonThe Raging Moon

Drama1971112 minsDirector: Bryan Forbes

Sensitive and ground-breaking romance between couple who are both wheelchair users, played by Malcolm McDowell and Nanette Newman.

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Drama198273 minsDirector: Stephen Frears

Ian McKellen stars in Stephen Frears' TV play as Walter, a man with learning difficulties who's put in an institution after the death of his mother.

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Walter and JuneWalter and June

Drama198365 minsDirector: Stephen Frears

Ian McKellen and Stephen Frears reunite for the sequel to their TV play Walter. The titular character (McKellen) meets a young mother (Sarah Miles) who is suicidally depressed; the two support one another to cope with life in a closed institution.

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My Left FootMy Left Foot

Biopic1989103 minsDirector: Jim Sheridan

Daniel Day-Lewis won an Oscar for his extraordinary performance as Christy Brown, the disabled Dubliner who became a writer and painter.

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Drama195293 minsDirector: Alexander Mackendrick

Alexander Mackendrick's drama about a deaf girl and her unstable family life is remarkably unsentimental while still packing an emotional punch.

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