Director: Penny Marshall
Based on a true story, Awakenings stars Robin Williams (perfect in empathetic, serious mode) as a determined doctor who, in 1969, tests an experimental drug on a group of catatonic patients in the hopes of awakening them from their tragic state. In the film, Robert De Niro proved again why he is one of our most gifted performers— Marshall’s masterpiece was released the same year as GoodFellas wherein he portrayed a gangster. If you view the two films side by side, you'll no doubt be floored by the visual and emotional showcase of De Niro's undisputed range and versatility but it was Williams who, (until then was mostly thought of as a comedian), managed to steal viewer’s hearts and helped pave the way for his role in Good Will Hunting. Penny Marshall’s Awakenings utilizes one of her most prevalent underlying career themes of a person being in a place they don’t want to be and then learning not only to make the best of what they have but instead to find that they’re where they needed to be all along. It’s a film you won’t soon forget—moving and beautiful—keep tissues handy.