Movie 1: Carol of the Bells (2019)
If you enjoy ugly crying but also want to feel like glitter is exploding inside you, then I highly recommend this film. RJ Mitte, an actor with cerebral palsy, plays a young man with a traumatic past who has searched his whole life for his biological mother, played by Andrea Fay Friedman. Finally, he finds his mother but learns that she has Down Syndrome and lives in a care facility. He’s overwhelmed by the news, so his wife takes matters into her own hands to heal the bond between their families. I hope you enjoy this lovely movie as much as I did.
Trigger Warnings: The film opens up with a violent car crash, and later it is implied that a character committed suicide.
Streaming On: Amazon Prime
Movie 2: Christmas Ever After (2020)
Fans of cheesy holiday TV movies rejoice! A famous romance novelist, played by Ali Stroker, deals with deadlines and writer’s block when she meets a handsome man who looks just like the main character of her books. Sparks fly, the two engage in holiday festivities, and writer’s block is cured. Full disclosure: I haven’t had a chance to watch this, and the plot sounds kind of goofy, but I will definitely have watched it before the end of the year because I love dumb Christmas movies.
Streaming On: Lifetime, or on Vudu for $0.99
Movie 3: Noelle (2019)
Santa’s daughter, Noelle, has to go on an adventure to find her brother Nick and bring him home in time for Christmas. For some reason, this movie takes place in Phoenix. Along the way, she meets many new people, including Michelle, played by Shaylee Mansfield, a young deaf girl who communicates through American Sign Language. “Noelle” is cute, and… that’s about it. It’s not a great movie, but it’s a fun use of two hours.
Streaming On: Disney Plus
Movie 4: The Muppets Christmas Carol (1992)
Really, any iteration of Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol” is perfect for the holiday season, but the Muppets version is one of the best. Tiny Tim is a significant character in Dickens’s story, and through his character, we learn about the importance of kindness and compassion. Scholars have proposed that Tiny Tim had renal tubular acidosis, and as the story goes, Tim was able to make a full recovery with the help of Ebenezer Scrooge. “A Christmas Carol” is a thoughtful reminder of the importance of helping each other, especially during this time of year. Straight up, it is one of my favorite books, and I reread it almost every year because of how good it makes me feel.
Streaming On: Disney Plus
In addition, I recently came across this article from Yale that studied how children with autism interact with and respond to puppetry. I thought it was fascinating and worth sharing!
Movie 5: Our Christmas Journey (2021)
This upcoming holiday movie is the first Hallmark movie (and one of the first Christmas films ever) to cast an actor on the autism spectrum in a leading role. The film, starring Holly Robinson Peete and Nik Sanchez, is about a single mother and her teenaged son dealing with life and love during the Holidays. It looks like a special movie, and I’m looking forward to watching it!
Streaming On: The Hallmark Channel, though hopefully it’ll be possible to watch this film on one of the major streaming services
Special Mention: Last Holiday (2006)
This movie gets a special mention because, technically, the main character is misdiagnosed, but as that leads to her going on a fabulous journey of life-affirming self-love, I had to put it on the list. Queen Latifah stars as Georgia Byrd, a shy woman hiding from the world until her diagnosis puts her life into perspective. She books a flight to Karlovy Vary and spends the next week living her best life, eating whatever she wants, fearlessly going on adventures, and speaking her mind. It’s an utter joy to live vicariously through Georgia, and I highly recommend adding this movie to your Holiday rotation.
Streaming On: Showtime, but I bought the DVD because I knew I was going to watch it over and over again
Not A Movie But Still Good: Call the Midwife
This lovely show about midwives in London during the 1950’s baby boom is already incredibly heartwarming, but the show has also made a point of hiring disabled actors. Some of these actors, like Daniel Laurie, play a significant role in the show and are heavily featured in holiday episodes. It’s a wonderful show and I recommend it to anyone looking for something heart-warming this season.
Streaming On: Netflix and probably BBC but I don’t really know how to access that
Skip It: Netflix’s A Christmas Prince
Honor Kneafsey, an able-bodied actress, plays Princess Emily, a character who uses a wheelchair. This movie is terrible for a lot of reasons, but the fact that Princess Emily’s character exists primarily to make the main character look good is disappointing. Get it together, Netflix.
Streaming On: Netflix, but I don’t recommend this movie, so watch Hjem til Jul instead.
I had a lot of help with putting together this article, so I’m going to list my sources below for anyone interested:
- Kozma, L. (2019, December 6). ‘A christmas prince’ star honor Kneafsey’s lack of disability sparks debate. Distractify. Retrieved December 1, 2021, from https://www.distractify.com/p/is-honor-kneafsey-disabled.
- Appelbaum, L. (2020, December 10). Why holiday movies should be inclusive of people with disabilities (guest column). Variety. Retrieved December 1, 2021, from https://variety.com/2020/film/opinion/holiday-christmas-movies-disabilities-1234850127/.
- Heasley, S. (2021, September 23). Hallmark movie to feature actor with autism. Disability Scoop. Retrieved December 1, 2021, from https://www.disabilityscoop.com/2021/09/23/hallmark-movie-to-feature-actor-with-autism/29501/.
- Mauch, A. (2020, December 6). Ali stroker says bringing a character with a disability to Christmas ever after ‘means so much’. PEOPLE.com. Retrieved December 1, 2021, from https://people.com/tv/ali-stroker-christmas-ever-after-lifetime-movie-character-with-disability/.