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Stuttering in movies: About the movie list

This article is part 2 of the project. Read the introduction to the project here.

In this article we will tell you some more about the movies themselves and about the reviews. The figures we mention are from 134 reviews gathered until the 1st of June.

The Internet Movie DataBase IMDB was the biggest resource for finding movies with PWS. IMDB records tags for movies, so we looked for tags like stutter, stammering, etc. We also found a list Judy Kuster made(1), which was a great resource too. Altogether we have almost 600 entries on our list!

We distinguished different types in the entries on our movie list: feature/mainstream, documentary, tv-movie, (episodes of) tv-series, short movies and videos. Our initial focus is on the (409) feature movies. Until now we reviewed a third of the feature movies on our list.

Unfortunately not all movies IMDB tagged with ‘stuttering’ actually contain a stuttering character. In 17 out of 134 (13%) movies there was no PWS. These movies are marked as not relevant for the project. On the other hand, we also found movies with more than one stuttering character (for instance Thunderbirds, the Movie (2010)).

While looking at only the feature movies, we can see that more and more movies with PWS are being made (but not from 1950 until 1990 – not clear why that is):

In the 1930’s and 1940’s there were a lot of short movies and feature movies made with PWS, the feature movies being mostly westerns.

On our list are reviewed movies made in more than 25 countries, and spoken in 24 languages. The majority is from the USA and spoken in English. The majority is also drama/tragedy and comedy (incl. romcom).

Stuttering is the central theme in only 4 of the reviewed movies. Only 6% of the reviewed movies have a female PWS – which is less than in reality where the percentage is about 20% (“about 4 to 1 or greater(2)”). See the clips below for an example of a movie with a female PWS.

Directors M. Night Shyamalan, John Schlesinger and Hal Needham made more than 1 movie with PWS, while Brad Dourif, Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio, Mel Tillis and Roscoe Ates played a PWS in more than 1 movie.

Adam Sandler, Ann Biderman, Brock Yates, John August, John Cleese, M. Night Shyamalan, Tim Herlihy, Tom Stoppard, Willis Goldbeck were involved as screenwriter for more than 1 movie. (Sandler two times as screenwriter and one time as non-PWS actor.)

The PWS sometimes have creative names like Duh Duh Duh Man, Five Spot Charlie, Goo-gai, Maître Trolos, Mizoguchi, Smiley and Village Idiot.

There is a lot more to tell but we will leave you with this last figure: in 15% of the reviewed movies the PWS dies. To be continued…

Want to join the project or get more information? Contact us on:


Girl Shy (1924)

To our knowledge the oldest movie made with a stuttering character.

It’s quite peculiar, as it’s a silent movie – sound was only invented around 1930.

(Thanks to Vinnie De Craim for finding this movie.)

Paulie (1998)

One of the few movies with a female PWS.

A talking parrot has a great contact with a stuttering girl (Marie, 5 years old). They understand each other: she can’t speak and he can’t fly.

Life of Brian (1979)

Good example of using a PWS in comedy.


(1) Judy Kuster’s ‘Movies that portray stuttering’:

(2) Percentage of female PWS

Journal of Fluency Disorders, ‘Epidemiology of stuttering: 21st century advances’ by Ehud Yairi and Nicoline Ambrose, 27 of November, 2012

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