Movies Are Us
This lesson was developed by Ms. Linda Leyva; Mendocino Middle School, Mendocino, CA

Here is a chance to watch a movie and learn something about the brain at the same time. Your assignment is to watch one of the following movies.

Starring, Robert De Niro, Robin Williams, Julie Kavner; released in 1990; rated PG-13; 121 minutes. Based on the book by Dr. Oliver Sacks.
Starring, Cliff Robertson, Claire Bloom, Lilia Skala; released in 1968, rated PG, 103 minutes. Academy award for Best Actor (Cliff Robertson). Based on the short story Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
"Rain Man"
Starring, Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise; released in 1988; rated R; 140 minutes. Academy awards for Best Picture, Best Director (Barry Levinson), Best Actor (Dustin Hoffman) and Best Screenplay (Ronald Bass and Barry Morrow).
"Regarding Henry"
Starring, Harrison Ford, Annette Benning, Bill Nunn; released in 1991; rated PG-13; 107 minutes.
"The Wild Child"
Starring, Francois Truffaut, Jean-Pierre Cargol, Jean Daste, Paul Ville; released in 1969; rated G; 85 minutes.

After you watch one of these movies, write a 250-300 word review. Your review should describe the main characters (age, physical traits, & personality), the setting, and briefly summarize the plot. It's important that you recognize and discuss the problem that the main character must overcome and tell the ways that are employed to solve the problem. Pay special attention to the solution of the problem (if it is solved), and the outcome of the story.

Explain what you liked or didn't like about the film, giving examples to back your statements. Don't just say it was interesting, say why it was interesting. Explain why would you or would you not recommend the movie to a friend. As a part of your review, address at least 3 of the 5 the questions below for your video.


  1. What caused the brain damage to the "frozen" people in the film?
  2. Why do you think Lucy could keep walking when the pattern on the floor continued?
  3. How was music important to the "frozen" people?
  4. What kind of music "worked?"
  5. Using the ouiji board, Leonard spelled out the name of the poem "The Panther" by Karl Rainer Rilke. What is this poem about and why is it important to Leonard?
  6. Why did Dr. Sayer have to stop using the drug L-Dopa on the "frozen" patients?
  7. What has happened to them since 1969?


  1. How did Charly change during the film, and what caused this change?
  2. This story is fiction, but do you think it would be good or bad if a drug existed that could make people more intelligent? Explain your opinion.
  3. If a "smart pill" existed, who should be allowed to use it? Why?
  4. How did Charly and the scientists use rats as test animals? Was this an acceptable use of animals as test subjects? Why or why not?
  5. Because he became "smart," Charly experienced love, joy, and self fullfillment. Do you think it was better that he had these experiences, or would it have been better if he never became smart, because of the tragedy of losing so much? Explain your answer.


  1. Raymond uses routines and rituals to make himself feel safe. Describe several of of these routines. Many normal people use routines in this way. How is Raymond's use different?
  2. Dustin Hoffman won awards for his convincing acting in this film. How did he use body language and mannerisms to show that Raymond is abnormal?
  3. Do you think it was cheating when Charlie used Raymond's savant abilities to win at poker? Explain the reasons for your answer.
  4. Both Raymond and Charlie changed during the film. Describe how each of them changed. Who do you think changed more?
  5. Raymond is "autistic." Find out and briefly describe what this means.


  1. The neurologist tells Sarah that Henry's brain damage from the bullet can be taken over by other parts of his brain, but that the serious damage is from another cause. What was this cause?
  2. How did Henry change after his injury? Compare his personality before and after the damage to his brain.
  3. Who was Bradley? How was he important to Henry's recovery both while he was in the hospital, and later on when he returned to his job as an attorney?
  4. How did Rachel teach Henry to read? Did this scene seem realistic to you?
  5. How difficult do you think it would really be for a severely brain damaged adult to relearn to read?


  1. This film is based on a true story, taken from the diary of the doctor. Why did the doctor name the "wild" boy "Victor?" Was this a good idea?
  2. When Victor first came to live with the doctor, he didn't care if he was hot or cold, had clothes on or not. How did the doctor change Victor's sensitivity to his environment?
  3. What experience made the doctor belive that Victor could tell the difference between right and wrong?
  4. How did Victor learn to ask for his milk?
  5. Nowdays people believe that Victor and other "wild children" really had a neurological disorder called "autism," that is, they were "autistic." Find out and briefly describe what this means.


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