4 Movies About ADHD That Portray What ADHD Is Really Like

happy kid watching a movie

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Widely known simply as ADHD, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders affecting both children and adults. In fact, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) estimates that  8.4% of children and 2.5% of adults have been diagnosed with ADHD. There are still many others who have not been diagnosed. 

Though it may sound a bit untraditional, research tells us that when movies depict various human emotions and experiences, it can positively impact viewers and help us make more sense of our own struggles.

Movies can even help ignite important discussions and help us break free from some of the “taboo” sentiment around mental health issues. 

Ahead, you’ll find four movies that depict characters with ADHD. These range from kid-friendly cartoons that can inspire dialogue about ADHD with your own child, as well as documentaries that shed light on the topic.

1

Finding Nemo (Rated G)

Dory is one of Pixar’s most lovable and well-known characters, and she captures some of the moods and behaviors of someone with ADHD quite well. Dory is often forgetful, has difficulty paying attention, and is sometimes frantic with her thought patterns. Many people diagnosed with ADHD have recognized Dory as a relatable character who portrays some of the symptoms they may experience in their lives.

While developing Finding Dory, the sequel to Finding Nemo, the filmmakers studied psychology to help develop the story and accurately portray the movie’s characters. 

2

Charlie Bartlett (Rated R)

This film follows Charlie Bartlett, a teenager who has trouble fitting in at high school. Charlie exhibits symptoms of ADHD, such as struggling academically, making friends, and dealing with mood fluctuations that impact his day-to-day life.

After being formally diagnosed with ADHD, Bartlett appoints himself as the school’s resident psychiatrist, which ultimately turns him into one of the most popular kids at school. (If you're a Degrassi fan, this film features four cast members as Charlie's schoolmates).

Charlie Bartlett was named after British experimental psychologist Sir Frederic Charles Bartlett, a professor of experimental psychology at the University of Cambridge. Bartlett was one of the first psychologists to study cultural and cognitive psychology. 

3

Juno (Rated PG-13)

At first glance, this iconic coming-of-age film from 2007 seems like a simple plot about a teenage couple trying to navigate an accidental pregnancy. It goes so much deeper than that, though. Lead character, Juno, is notably smart and quick-witted. She also exhibits symptoms of ADHD, such as struggling to control her impulses and figuring out how to deal with complex emotions.

Her character—ripe with individuality, a witty sense of humor, independence, and vulnerability—is one that many people with ADHD relate to and feel inspired by. The film is also a heartwarming (and hilarious) exploration of Juno's relationship with the father of her baby and the couple adopting the child.

4

Percy Jackson & the Olympians (Rated PG)

Percy Jackson, the eponymous character of this sci-fi movie franchise, has been diagnosed with ADHD and is also dyslexic. The series is inspired by Greek Mythology, and Percy's dyslexia helps him read Ancient Greek while his ADHD allows him to take on the various challenges he faces. The film’s director, Chris Columbus, aimed to inspire children and adolescents facing difficulties by showing them how their differences can give them strength.

Dyslexia is a learning disability that impacts someone’s ability to read and spell. While dyslexia and ADHD are two separate neurobehavioral diagnoses, they are closely linked. Taking Charge of ADHD, a book written by leading expert Russell Barkley, Ph.D, notes that children with ADHD are more likely to have a learning disability compared to those who do not have ADHD.

A Word From Verywell

Movies might not seem like a conventional path toward igniting conversations surrounding mental health, but try not to underestimate their importance. Films provide a relaxed setting that may arguably be more conducive to discussing ADHD, especially among children and adults who feel apprehensive about the topic in general. Seeing others work through similar struggles—fictional or otherwise—can also help people feel seen and empowered.

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4 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Danielson, ML, et al. Prevalence of Parent-Reported ADHD Diagnosis and Associated Treatment Among U.S. Children and Adolescents, 2016. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, Volume 47, 2018 - Issue 2

  2. Ott JM, Tan NQP, Slater MD. Eudaimonic media in lived experience: retrospective responses to eudaimonic vs. Non-eudaimonic filmsMass Communication and Society. 2021;24(5):725-747.

  3. Britannica. Frederic Barlett.

  4. Russell A. Barkley, PhD. Taking Charge of ADHD. The Complete Authoritative Guide for Parents. New York: The Guilford Press; 2013.