In honor of Hollywood’s award season, I’ve put together a list of the silver screen’s greatest disabled characters. For their passion, brilliance, and humor, this coveted distinction goes to…
5) Cole Holland, Mr. Holland’s Opus
(played by Nicholas John Renner, Joseph Anderson, Anthony Natale)
As the deaf child of a music teacher, Cole Holland had a difficult time connecting to his father. In one pivotal scene, however, he gives voice to a lifetime of hurt and frustration. As his mother translates his sign language so that his father can understand, we see a passion and eloquence behind his anger. Perhaps best of all, Cole ends his argument with the perfect teenage parting shot (cursing out your dad in sign language is both easy and effective). The complex emotions show that he’s a fleshed-out character rather than a token complication.
4) Nemo, Finding Nemo
(voiced by Alexander Gould)
As a young clownfish with one fin smaller than the other, Nemo is the only cartoon to grace the list, and he’s certainly the most adorable example of disabled animation I’ve ever seen (take that, Quasimodo!). As he learns to trust his abilities, Nemo shows his killer combo of a strong will and big heart. His inspiring attitude hooks the audience and reels us in (I couldn’t resist…), but it’s the non-overly-sentimental way the issue of disability was handled that makes this movie stand out.