Home > Deaf History > Sign Language in Movie

Sign Language in Movie

November 7, 2011

By Bug

Have you seen the movie: Children of a Lesser God, Love is Never Silent, The Hammer, Switched at Birth, Versa Effect, The Legend of the Mountain Man, and Beyond Silence?  They are using sign language and most of them are Deaf.

This is a list of all of the well-known Deaf actors/actress in the past and today’s cinema and t.v. . I have no idea why I chose to put this list together, but I think this provides a good counterpoint to everyone who thinks that the deaf person  is too often misrepresented in movies.

These outstanding actors are a great example of our ability to succeed on the big screen.

If I left anybody out, by all means let me know or just write your comment in here.

List of films with Deaf actors and actresses:

• A Lot Like Love (2005) – A really sweet and fun movie. The male lead has a deaf brother, who is portrayed as a real person who just happens to be deaf.
• A Summer to Remember (1985) – bitter deaf boy befriended by signing chimp.
• Actions Speak Louder Than Words (British SL, 1992, 22 mins.) “Six deaf performers–three women, three men–are brought together to devise staged pieces on the intersection of gay and deaf cultures, and the highly politicized nature of both.”
• After Image (2001)
• Ai rabu yû (“I Love You” 1999, Japanese SL & Japanese) – directed by Yutaka Osawa and Akihiro Yonaiyama
• Aino ja yhdeksän ihmettä (“Aino and Her Nine Miracles”, Finnish SL, 2000)
• Amy on the lips (TV Film)
• And Your Name is Jonah (1979)
• Animal Facts (2002) (V)…aka Andrew Byrne’s Amazing Animal Facts (2002) (V) (Canada: English title: complete title)
• Avenue X (2004)
• Beyond Silence
• Breaking Through (1996)
• Breaking Through (1996) (TV) …aka After the Silence (2000) (TV) (UK)
• Bridge to Silence (1989)
• Children of a Lesser God (USA, 1986) Directed by Randa Haines Adapted from a play script by Mark Medoff, the film brings us to the encounter between a teacher for the deaf (William Hurt) and a cleaning woman, deaf since birth (Marlee Matlin). The two protagonists converse in ASL (American Sign Language) throughout the film. Golden Globe and Oscar Award for Marlee Matlin.
• Children of Silence (English & British SL??, 1993?) – part of Desmond Wilcox’ “The Visit” series of documentaries
• Choices
• Compensation (1999)
• Dead & Breakfast (2004)
• Dead Silence (1997) …aka Silence de mort (1997) (TV) (Canada: French title)
• Deaf Mute Recitation (1901) …aka Deaf Mute Girl Reciting ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ (1901) (USA: copyright title)
• Deafula (Peter Wolf, 1975)
• Dear Frankie (English and British SL, 2004 ) Mostly in English, but a wonderful movie, so for the moment i’ll include it here
• Dietro il Mondo (“Beyond the World”, Daniele Le Rose, Italian SL, 2004)
• Dietro il mondo 2 (“Beyond the World 2” Daniele Le Rose, Italian SL, 2005/post-production) “a fiction depicting the everyday life for Deaf students in Padova”
• Dr. Hand (Gary Brooks, 2005) a fantasy/adventure from Blue Apple Productions
• Dummy
• Entrevista Com o Surdo Gay (Brazilian SL, 2004)
• Family Stone, The (2005)
• FDTV: Volume One (2004) (V)
• Flesh and Fury (1952)
• Forever Blues (2005)
• Four Weddings and a Funeral – Great Britain, 1994. Directed by Mike Newell
• Gauze (2000)
• Golden Legacy, The (2003)
• Golden Legacy, The (Arthur Luhn, 2003)
• Guitarman (1994) (TV)
• Guy Wonder: Stories and Artwork (2003?)
• Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, The (1968)
• Hello Sweet Baby – (Nenio Mbazima of Deafpower Productions, Johannesburg, South African/Swazi SL with English subs, 2004) “The purpose of the film is teach(ing) teenagers both Deaf and hearing about the dangers of rushing to sex and early pregnancy.”
• I Love You, But (Peter Wolf, 1998)
• In the Company of Men (1997) …aka En compagnie des hommes (1997) (Canada: French title)
• In the Land of the Deaf (France, 1992) Directed by Nicolas PhilibertA passionate and enjoyable documentary about the deaf world, depicting scenes of life at times “educational” and at times personal. In French Sign Language with subtitles.
• Jenseits der Stille (“Beyond Silence”, German SL & German, 1996)
• Jerry Maguire – USA, 1996. Directed by Cameron Crowe
• Johnny Belinda (1948)
• Journey of the Deaf (Avy Hemy, 2000) – “Two Deaf actors from a deaf theater troupe leave their families in Israel for the first time to participate in an international puppet festival (in Cuba.) There they meet with the community of the deaf, the Palestinian community, musicians, dance troupes and theater companies, as well as the average Cuban on the street. While they revel in the splendor of the encounter with Cuban culture, the journey turns into a search for human contact.”
• Journeys (English and British SL, 2000)
• Key, The (1996)
• Keychain (Rene Visco, 2005) from LightKitchen
• Kiss My Act (2001) (TV)
• Koshish (Gulzar, Hindi and Indian SL, 1972) “..a landmark movie in the history of Indian cinema …about a deaf and mute couple and their conflicts, pain and struggle to carve out a niche for themselves in a desensitized society, sees perhaps the finest acting by any lead pair in the entire course of 125 years of Hindi Cinema.”
• La notte brava – Italy, 1959. Directed by Mauro Bolognini
• Le pays de sourds (“In the Land of the Deaf”, French SL & French, 1992) – excellent documentary on deaf school life in France
• Les mains du sourd (French and French SL, 1988)
• Listen To The Hands Of Our People (Jade Films, 1993?)
• Lot Like Love, A (2005)
• Love is Deaf (2005) – “..an impossible love story about two broken hearts separated by language but brought together by their otherness.”
• Love is Never Silent – (1985) “Set in the depression, somewhere in the east coast, and during WWII. lovely story … a LOT of labor and class politics happening”
• Mammoth (2006) (TV)
• Man of a Thousand Faces (1957)
• Marianna Ucrìa (Italian and Italian SL?, 1997)
• Miracle on 34th Street (1994)
• Miracle Worker, The (USA, 1962) Directed by Arthur Penn Adapted from a play script by William Gibson, the movie recounts the struggle of an instructor in Alabama in her attempts to teach a deaf-blind girl, Helen Keller, about the world through the use of hands.
• Mockingbird Don’t Sing (2001)
• Mr. Holland’s Opus (USA, 1995) Directed by Stephen Herek A music composer, Glenn Holland, is forced to give up musical career to start teaching in high school. However, he and her wife have to face the painful experience of raising up a deaf son. Only when he retires, he discovers a deep relationship with his son and sees his dream of composing a symphony come true.
• Nathie: No Hand-Me Downs (2004) Full-length documentary about Nathie Marbury, comedian and storyteller.
• Night Out, A (1981)
• Nine Lives (2005)
• No Talking Allowed (Matt Daigle & Yoon Lee, 2003)
• Object of Beauty, The – USA, 1991. Directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg
• On and off stage: the Bruce Hlibok story (Jade Films, 2002)
• Out of the Past (1947) …aka Build My Gallows High (1947) (UK)
• Passion of Words Turning Into Action (Jade Films, 2004)
• Piano, The (Australia – New Zealand, 1993) Directed by Jane Campion The story of a woman, mute since age 6, who arrives from Europe in New Zealand, at the end of the 19th century, with her daughter and a piano to marry a farmer. The woman communicates in signs which the daughter translates into spoken words.
• Piao liang ma ma (“Breaking the Silence”, Mandarin, 1999) – a Chinese mother’s attempts to give an oral education to her deaf son. It doesn’t seem, then, to belong on this list, but i’m leaving it here for now as a rare? deaf-themed Chinese film.
• Pinky Tells the Real Story (Pinky Aiello, 2005) Comedy and the inside scoop about videophone & Video Relay Service
• Project X (1987)
• Quiet, The (2005)
• Rangeland Romances (2004)
• Regardez-moi, je vous regarde (“Look at Me, I Look at You”, French SL, 1996) – “Homage in form of a poem to Japanese photographer Koji Inoue, told in sign language by a deaf actor, Levent Beskardes”
• Reservoir Wolves (2001, British SL) 10 mins.
• Ridicule – France, 1996. Directed by Patrice Leconte
• River Wild, The (1994) Directed by Curtis Hanson
• Sandlot 2, The (2005) (V)
• Signs of Us (2000)
• Soda Stories (in open development, and accepting submissions) “a commentary about how it is for people with Deaf siblings.”
• Somalia (Jade Films, not yet released)
• Sound and Fury (2000) – powerful documentary on cochlear implants
• Sourds à l’image (French and French SL, 1995)
• Speakeasy (2002)
• Speed 2: Cruise Control (1997)
• Sprechende Hände (David Gertrud, German SL, 1925) Documentary about deaf life in Germany?
• Stille Liebe (“Secret Love”, German & German SL, 2001)
• Story of Marianna Ucria, The (Italy – France – Portugal, 1997) Directed by Roberto Faenza Loosely adapted from a novel by Dacia Maraini, it is a story of Marianna, mute since age 5, in Sicily during the first half of the 18th century. When she grows up, Marianna (portrayed by the deaf actress Emanuelle Laborit) discovers sign language from a French teacher.
• Story on Page One, The – USA, 1959. Directed by Clifford Odets
• Summer to Remember, A (1985) (TV)
• Svadba tishiny (“Wedding of Silence”, Pavel Medvedev, Russian SL, 2004)
• Témoins sourds, témoins silencieux (“Deaf Witnesses, Silent Witnesses”, Brigitte Lemaine and Stéphane Gatti, French, 2000) – also see an in-depth review
• Think Me Nothing (1975)
• Think Me Nothing (Peter Wolf, 1975)
• Towering Inferno, The – USA, 1974. Directed by John Guillermin
• Ultimate Song, The (2002) (V)
• Universal Signs (2006) “a modern silent film … captioned for the hearing”
• Verkannte Menschen (in German SL, with German subtitles?, 1932)
• Versteend verdriet (“Petrified Sorrow”, Mieke Julien, Dutch SL, Dutch? & English?, 2002) “The story of one Dutch Jewish family’s experiences during World War II.”
• Welcome 2 My Deaf World (English and Australian SL, 2005) “This story of two teenagers on the edge of change is really the saga of what it means to be deaf in contemporary Australia.”
• What the Deaf Man Heard
• What’s the Worst That Could Happen? (2001)
• Where are you? I’m Here. (Italy 1993) Directed by Liliana Cavani A story about the relationship between two young deaf: middle-class Fausto, who wants to be integrated into the hearing society, and working-class Elena, who wants to be accepted for what she actually is. Both main characters, Chiara Caselli and Gaetano Carotenuto, acted using LIS (Italian Sign Language).
• Wild Child, The (France, 1970) Directed by François Truffaut A film-essay based on a true story. In the summer of 1793, a wild boy, discovered in the Aveyron woods, arrives at the national institute for the deaf in Paris. The doctor, Jean Itard, tries to give him language.
• Wusheng de he (“Silent River”, Ning Jingwu, Mandarin? and Chinese SL, 2000) “Beautifully shot with the same unique sensibility that pervades the films of compatriots Zhang Yimou and Chen Kaige, ‘Silent River’ tells the poetic and lyrical tale of a group of deaf students and the friendship they form with their tutor in the search for personal happiness.”
• You’d Be Surprised (1926) – “a Victor/Victoria-esque Deaf role where [Granville] Redmond, a Deaf man, played a Hearing man pretending to be a Deaf man in order to provide the plot twist.”

TV series featuring deaf actors and/or sign language
• “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” (2000) TV Series 8.
• “Deaf Perspectives” (1994) TV Series
• “Deafplanet.com” (2003) TV Series
• “Law and Order” TV Series
• My Name is Earl (2006) TV Series
• “NCIS” (2006) TV Series
• “Reasonable Doubts” (1991) TV Series 8 (Pete, this is the one we were trying to remember!)
• “Saved” (2006): Triage TV Episode
• “Second Voyage of the Mimi, The” (1988) TV Series 3.
• “Seinfeld” (1990): The Lip Reader TV Episode 8.
• “Sesame Street” (1969) TV Series 8. Sesame Street Presents: Follow that Bird (1985)
• “Simpsons, The” (1989): Lisa on Ice TV Episode 7.
• “Sirens” (1993): The Sound of One Hand Clapping TV Episode
• “Six Feet Under” (2001): Familia TV Episode 8
• “Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye” (2002) TV Series 6
• “Voyage of the Mimi, The” (1984) TV Series 5

“West Wing, The” (2000) TV Series

There are many more films . Try these links below.




Categories: Deaf History
  1. November 7, 2011 at 5:54 am

    Hello, thank you very much for this extensive list. Many I recognise, others are new to me. There used to be a UK-site with handicapped films, he had a long list of movies with deaf people, signing or speaking roles. And a French site has also a long list of films about deaf people. But it is not always clear if the roles are large or small. I’ll try to look them all up. Greetings, Martin

  2. November 7, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    I knew about many name of tv program and movie some of them I clueless and I know several of movie and tv program I never notice or not update with deaf community.

    Thanks for letting me know name of movie. I would love to watch in the future.


  3. Anonymous
    November 7, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    “There will be blood” is a great one also.

  4. Steve
    November 7, 2011 at 9:21 pm

    Take Shelter? Go see it!

  5. November 8, 2011 at 8:17 pm

    Thanks for your comments. I would love to add many more but not sure where I can find so I hope the others will come and give us more list to share! – Bug

  6. randy medley
    November 10, 2011 at 10:07 pm


  7. September 9, 2012 at 11:02 pm

    Great animating ideas you have, as acted to become a good way to be aware that other people have the identical passion. I really hope to read even more things about it.

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