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  • Writer's pictureThomas Duncan

Rain Man (1988)


Cast:

  • Barry Levinson, Director

  • Barry Morrow and Ronald Bass, Writers

  • Hans Zimmer, Music

  • Dustin Hoffman as Raymond "Ray" Babbitt

  • Tom Cruise as Charles Sanford "Charlie" Babbitt

  • Valeria Golino as Susanna

  • Jerry Molen as Dr. Gerald Bruner

  • Ralph Seymour as Lenny

  • Michael D. Roberts as Vern

  • Bonnie Hunt as Sally Dibbs

*Recognition:

  • Rain Man was released on December 18, 1988. It would go on to make $354.8 million on a budget of roughly $25 million becoming the 2nd highest grossing movie of 1988 behind only Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

  • Critics were tepidly favorable of the film, and Rain Man would garner 8 Academy Award nominations for Art Direction, Cinematography, Film Editing, and Original Score winning Best Picture, Director (Levinson), Actor (Hoffman), and Original Screenplay.

  • The release of Rain Man in 1988 coincided with a tenfold increase in funding for medical research and diagnoses of individuals for autism. The latter is primarily due to autism's being more broadly defined in newer editions of the DSM, particularly versions III-R and IV. The movie is credited, however, with significantly increasing awareness of autism among the general public.

  • Rain Man is a movie famous in particular for its portrayal of a man with both autism and Savant Syndrome, leading much of its viewing audience to incorrectly understand the intellectual capabilities of autistic people. The character of Raymond Babbitt has been criticized for fitting into the stereotype of the "Magical/Savant" autistic character. Characters like these are portrayed as having an otherworldly intellectual ability that, rather than disable them from living a "normal" life, instead assists them in a nearly magical way, causing those around them to be in awe and wonder as to how a person might have this capability. While having Savant Syndrome is certainly a possibility for autistic individuals, the combination is incredibly rare.

  • Additionally, ever since Dustin Hoffman's 1989 Academy Award win for his performance in Rain Man, about half of all Best Actor winners have been awarded for portrayals of characters who are disabled in some way; none of these recipients share their characters’ disabilities in real life. Just one year after Hoffman’s win, Daniel Day-Lewis—thus far the only actor to have won three awards in the category—garnered his first Best Actor win for his portrayal of cerebral palsy patient Christy Brown in My Left Foot. The Academy’s incentivizing of such casting practices has drawn criticism from disabled actors and self-advocates, who argue that these decisions sideline more authentic stories about disabled characters in favor of leveraging already-established actors' prestige.

  • In 2006, the film was recognized by the American Film Institute in their list of 100 Years...100 Cheers at #63.

  • Rain Man currently holds an 88% among critics on RT, a 65 score on Metacritic, and a 3.9/5 on Letterboxd.

What is this movie is about?/Elevator Pitch: Finding a home, a sense of belonging and family, and letting go of the past.


Plot Summary: "Rain Man" is a heartwarming and deeply moving film that explores the unlikeliest of bonds between two estranged brothers. Tom Cruise stars as Charlie Babbitt, a self-centered and opportunistic hustler who discovers that his estranged brother, Raymond, played by Dustin Hoffman, is an autistic savant with remarkable mathematical abilities.

What makes "Rain Man" truly exceptional is Hoffman's extraordinary portrayal of Raymond. He imbues the character with an authenticity that goes beyond mere acting, capturing the complexity of autism with nuance and empathy. His performance is a tour de force, earning him a well-deserved Academy Award.

As Charlie embarks on a cross-country journey with Raymond, he begins to understand the depths of his brother's unique mind, and, in the process, learns the true meaning of family and human connection. The film's emotional depth and humor stem from the evolving relationship between the two brothers, as they confront their past and navigate the challenges of the present.

Director Barry Levinson weaves an emotionally charged narrative that delves into the complexities of human relationships, making "Rain Man" a classic of American cinema. It's a film that will touch your heart, make you laugh, and leave you pondering the power of love and understanding.


Did You Know:

  • Two 1949 Roadmaster convertibles were used in the filming, one of which had its rear suspension stiffened to bear the additional load of camera equipment and a cameraman. After filming completed, the unmodified car was acquired by Hoffman, who had it restored, added it to his collection and kept it for 34 years. Hemmings Motor News reported that this car was auctioned in January 2022 by Bonhams at Scottsdale, Arizona and sold for $335,000. The camera-carrying car was similarly acquired by Barry Levinson, who a few years later had it restored by Wayne Carini of the Chasing Classic Cars television series.

  • For in-flight viewing, several airlines deleted the sequence in which Raymond Babbitt reels off statistics on airline accidents, except Qantas. They even promoted one of the movie's writers to first class once when he travelled on their airline. What Raymond Babbitt says about Qantas was, and still is true. From 1921 to 2023, Qantas has never lost any jet airliners.

  • During filming, Dustin Hoffman was unsure of the film's potential and his own performance. Three weeks into the project, Hoffman wanted out, telling Barry Levinson, "Get Richard Dreyfuss, get somebody, Barry, because this is the worst work of my life."

  • Jack Nicholson, Robert De Niro, and Mel Gibson turned down the part of Raymond Babbitt.

  • Sir Michael Caine has revealed that Tom Cruise's performance in "Rain Man" was one of his personal favorites of all he'd ever seen on film. Caine found out somewhat late in his adult life that he had a brother he'd never been told about, who had lived most of his life in Cane Hill Mental Hospital with a debilitating diagnosis of epilepsy. With great sincerity he said "Tom's performance was beautifully done." He went on to say that "Dustin had the 'showy' part." Tom's required great discipline and a responsibility to draw the viewer into Raymond's point of view, as well as portray the painful acceptance of the limitations his brother's condition placed on their level of familial intimacy.

Best Performance: Dustin Hoffman (Raymond)/Tom Cruise (Charlie)

Best Secondary Performance: Barry Levinson (Director)

Most Charismatic Award: Dustin Hoffman (Raymond)/Tom Cruise (Charlie)

Best Scene:

  • Lamborghinis

  • Finding Raymond

  • Who's on First

  • Late Night Visitor

  • People's Court

  • The Rain Man

  • Blackjack

  • Los Angeles

  • Goodbye

Favorite Scene: People's Court/Blackjack

Most Indelible Moment: Blackjack/Who's on First


In Memorium:

  • Richard Roundtree, 81, American actor (Shaft, Se7en, Speed Racer, Roots)

  • Osvaldo Desideri, 84, Italian art director (The Last Emperor, Once Upon a Time in America, Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom), Oscar winner (1988). Worked with Fellini, Antonioni, Rossellini, Begnini, Bertolucci, and Leone.

  • Edward Bleier, 94, American television executive (Time Warner Cable), helped produce Looney Tunes.

  • Burt Young, 83, American actor (Rockys 1-6, Once Upon a Time in America, Chinatown)

Best Lines/Funniest Lines:

Charlie: When I was a little kid and I got scared, the Rain Man would come and sing to me.


Susanna: You use me, you use Raymond, you use everybody.

Charlie: Using Raymond? Hey Raymond, am I using you? Am I using you Raymond?

Raymond: Yeah.

Charlie: Shut up! He is answering a question from a half hour ago!


Charlie: I just realized I'm not pissed off anymore. My father cut me out of his will. You probably knew he tried to contact me over the years. I never called him back. I was a prick. If he was my son and didn't return my calls, I'd have written him out. But it's not about the money anymore. You know, I just don't understand. Why didn't he tell me I had a brother? Why didn't anyone ever tell me that I had a brother? Because it'd have been nice to know him for more than just the past six days.


Charlie: Ray, all airlines have crashed at one time or another, that doesn't mean that they are not safe.

Raymond: QANTAS. QANTAS never crashed.

Charlie: QANTAS?

Raymond: Never crashed.

Charlie: Oh that's gonna do me a lot of good because QANTAS doesn't fly to Los Angeles out of Cincinnati, you have to get to Melbourne! Melbourne, Australia in order to get the plane that flies to Los Angeles!


Charlie: Now casinos have house rules: they don't like to lose. So you never show that you're counting cards. That is *the* cardinal sin, Ray.

Raymond: Counting cards is bad.


[after Ray spills a box of toothpicks on the floor]

Raymond: 82, 82, 82.

Charlie: 82 what?

Raymond: Toothpicks.

Charlie: There's a lot more than 82 toothpicks, Ray.

Raymond: 246 total.

Charlie: How many?

Sally Dibbs: 250.

Charlie: Pretty close.

Sally Dibbs: There's four left in the box.


Doctor: Ray, do you know how much a candy bar costs?

Raymond: 'Bout a hundred dollars.

Doctor: Do you know how much one of those new compact cars costs?

Raymond: 'Bout a hundred dollars.


The Stanley Rubric:

Legacy: 7

Impact/Significance: 8.75

Novelty: 6.25

Classic-ness: 6

Rewatchability: 5.5

Audience Score: 8.9 (88% Google, 90% RT)

Total: 42.4


Remaining Questions:

  • Did Charlie forgive his father?

  • What happens to the Buick?

  • How did the casino figure out they were counting cards?

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