Whether you are questioning if you may be autistic—or have recently found out that someone in your life is—these shows and movies can help you understand autism a bit more.
*Disclaimer: NONE of these are a perfect, all-encompassing, definitive interpretation of what it is like to have autism. Every single autistic person is different and varied in terms of their communication skills, interests, struggles, strengths, capabilities, etc. These are shows and movies that I personally discovered and related to in some way.
I highly recommend giving all of these a chance, as they portray a variety of traits in autistic people—although unfortunately, they are majority CIS white characters. If you have more diverse recommendations, please leave a comment!
1. Atypical (2017–2021)
This was the first show I watched when I was questioning if I had autism. I’ve since re-watched it 3x, so safe to say it’s a good one.
What I like about Atypical:
It is a great representation of how an autistic person interacts and maintains relationships with their family, friends, school peers, and co-workers. It also portrays autistic special interests very well, in addition to accurately charting the experience of transitioning from high school into college and adulthood. Overall, it’s a very “feel good” sort of show.
2. Everything’s Gonna Be Okay (2020–2021)
Prior to watching this show recently, Atypical was my favorite…but now it’s EGBO.
What I like about Everything’s Gonna Be Okay:
It’s light-hearted, goofy, and easy to watch—but with some major life lessons throughout. I also liked that it shows multiple autistic characters experiences and how they can be different–autism isn’t one size fits all. They also allow the characters to form their own opinions on sexuality and other life experiences without infantilizing them.
Bonus points: the actress who plays the autistic character (Matilda) is actually autistic! (and one of the other characters, but I don’t want to spoil the surprise 👀 but if you wanna ruin it, watch this interview)
3. Please Stand By (2017)
Dakota Fanning portrays an autistic character who has an intense special interest in Star Trek.
What I like about Please Stand By:
For one, I appreciate any non-CISHET-white-male-autistic character—because for QUITE a long time, that was the only autistic character ever portrayed in media. In addition to that, this movie showed that autistic people are often more capable than their caregivers may think, and that there is immense value in the freedom to explore.
4. Heartbreak High (2022)
This show isn’t focused on autism specifically, but worth a watch anyway. It’s very chaotic, much like the show Euphoria.
What I like about Heartbreak High:
Mainly, the acceptance of the autistic character by the neurotypicals in her class is heartwarming. And how she isn’t afraid to be 100% herself, even if that makes her “weird”. I also appreciated the various interpretations of the whole high school experience.
Bonus points: the actress who plays the autistic character (Quinni) is actually autistic!
5. Love on the Spectrum (2019–2021)
There are two versions of this show: U.S. and Australia. Both are great.
What I like about Love on the Spectrum:
The variety of autistic people in terms of functional ability, age, sexuality, race, and communication skills is great to see. It truly shows the full spectrum. It’s also nice to see real autistic people being represented, rather than fictional characters in a show.
And the most important overall lesson to be learned—autistic or not: all of us just want to love, and be loved in return.
6. Temple Grandin (2010)
This is a movie about probably the most famous autistic woman, Temple Grandin, who pioneered the humane treatment of livestock.
Steve Silberman, in his book NeuroTribes, wrote that Temple Grandin helped break down years of shame and stigma because she was one of the first adults to publicly disclose that she was autistic.
What I like about Temple Grandin:
In addition to Atypical, this was one of the first representations of an autistic person I ever saw. I like that this is based on a true story and has plenty of lessons to be learned. Temple was in truly uncharted territory, being an open and outspoken autistic person in the 70’s and 80’s. The journey of her struggles and perseverance is inspiring.