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General Information

Poster for Awakenings
  • Directed by

    Penny Marshall

  • Screenplay by

    Steven Zaillian

  • Music Composed by

    Randy Newman

  • World Premiere

    December 12, 1990 (Century City, CA)

  • Second Screening

    December 17, 1990 (Loew's Fine Art Theater, New York, NY)

  • Theatrical Release Date

    December 20, 1990 (limited)
    January 11, 1991 (wide)

  • DVD Release Date

    September 10, 1997

  • Blu-ray Release Date

    March 22, 2011 (order)

  • Production Companies

    Columbia Pictures Corporation, Lasker/Parkes Productions

  • Distribution Company

    Columbia Pictures

Main Cast

  • Robin Williams

    Dr. Malcolm Sayer

  • Robert De Niro

    Leonard Lowe

  • Julie Kavner

    Eleanor Costello

  • Ruth Nelson

    Mrs. Lowe

  • Alice Drummond

    Lucy Fishman

  • Keith Diamond



A new doctor finds himself with a ward full of comatose patients. He is disturbed by them and the fact that they have been comatose for decades with no hope of any cure. When he finds a possible chemical cure he gets permission to try it on one of them. When the first patient awakes, he is now an adult, having gone into a coma in his early teens. The film then details the reactions of their relatives and to the changes of the newly awakened.



  • Dr. Sayer


  • Dr. Sullivan

    I'm sorry?

  • Dr. Sayer

    It was an immense project. I was trying to extract 1 decigram of myelin from 4 tons of earthworms.

  • Dr. Sullivan


  • Dr. Sayer

    Yes, I was on that project for 5 years. I was the only one who believed in it. Everyone else said it couldn't be done.

  • Dr. Kaufman

    It can't.

  • Dr. Sayer

    I know that now. I proved it.

  • Leonard

    It's quiet.

  • Dr. Sayer

    Yes, everybody's sleeping.

  • Leonard

    I'm not.

  • Dr. Sayer

    No, you're awake.

  • Dr. Sayer

    That's the Periodic Table of Elements. I can date my introduction to science by that. It's wonderful, really. It's, uh... It's the universe at its essence. You see, you have your alkaline metals. You have your halogens, your inert gases. Every element has its place in that order. You can't chance that. They're secure, no matter what.

  • Leonard

    You're not married?

  • Dr. Sayer

    Me? No, I'm not very good with people. I--I never have been, Leonard. I like them. Maybe, if they were less unpredictable.

  • Leonard

    Eleanor would disagree with you.

  • Dr. Sayer


  • Leonard

    Miss Costello.

  • Dr. Sayer

    Oh, of course. She has spoken to you about me? What did she say?

  • Leonard

    That you're a kind man. That you care very much for people.

  • Nurse

    Dr. Sayer, something about fruit trees.

  • Woman

    Prune the fruit trees.

  • Dr. Sayer

    I will.

  • Woman

    Hartelijk bedankt.

  • Dr. Sayer

    Lucy, what year is it?

  • Lucy

    What year is it? It's '26, silly.

  • Dr. Sayer

    I have always loved carnegia, haven't you?

  • Anthony

    Dr. Sayer, did you choose this place? Why?

  • Dr. Sayer

    I always come here.

  • Anthony

    Why? I mean, don't get me wrong, it's a nice place, but after the first hour it loses something.

  • Dr. Sayer

    Miss Costello, Anthony thinks the group is bored.

  • Eleanor

    They are.

  • Dr. Sayer

    I thought about taking them to the Opera House.

  • Anthony

    The Opera...?

  • Dr. Sayer

    Or the museum of Natural History?

  • Eleanor

    Oh, no no no no, I don't think so. There's a lot of dead, stuffed things there.

  • Dr. Sayer

    What else is there?


There is no such thing as a simple miracle.

Filming Info

  • Locations

    City Island, New York, NY
    Bronx, NY

International Release Dates

  • Germany

    February 14, 1991

  • Austria

    February 15, 1991

  • France

    February 20, 1991

  • Argentina

    February 21, 1991

  • Finland

    March 1, 1991

  • Netherlands

    March 8, 1991

  • Australia

    March 14, 1991

  • UK

    March 15, 1991

  • Japan

    April 13, 1991

  • Turkey

    May 1991

International Titles

  • Argentina / Portugal / Spain


  • France / Canada


  • Austria / Germany

    Zeit des Erwachens

  • Hungary


  • Czechoslovakia

    Cas probuzení ­

  • Finland


  • Norway


  • Slovenia


  • Poland


  • Italy


  • Brazil

    Tempo de Despertar

  • Sweden


  • Turkey


  • Greece


DVD Extra Features

  • Behind the scenes featurette

Fun Facts

This film is based on a true story. Robin's character is based on Dr. Oliver Sacks.

Robin will forever be grateful for happy accidents after learning he'd broken Robert De Niro's nose on the set of Awakenings. Robin felt sure his life and career were over when he accidentally struck De Niro, breaking his nose--but his moment of madness actually corrected a previous break. Robin explains, "I heard this noise and went, 'Oh Jesus,' and he got up and he was, 'I'm OK, I'm OK,' and his nose was bleeding like crazy... There was a millisecond where you went, 'F**k... dead man.' Later on he said that his doctor said that I had put his nose back in place from when he'd broken his nose on Raging Bull."

Box Office

  • Gross

    $52,096,475 (USA)
    N/A (international)
    $52,096,475 (total)

  • Opening Weekend

    Limited: $417,076 (12 theaters)
    Wide: $8,306,532 (1,282 theaters)

  • Widest Release

    1,330 theaters


  • Academy Awards

    Nom - 1991 - Best Actor in a Leading Role (Robert De Niro)
    Nom - 1991 - Best Picture
    Nom - 1991 - Best Screenplay Adaptation

  • Golden Globes

    Nom - 1991 - Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama (Robin)

  • Grammy Awards

    Nom - 1992 - Best Instrumental Composition Written for a Motion Picture or for Television (Randy Newman)

  • New York Film Critics Circle Awards

    Won - 1990 - Best Actor (Robert De Niro)

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