Rain Man

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Rain Man
Rain Man poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster by John Alvin
Directed by Barry Levinson
Screenplay by
Story byBarry Morrow
Produced by Mark Johnson
Cinematography John Seale
Edited by Stu Linder
Music by Hans Zimmer
Distributed by MGM/UA Communications Co.
Release date
  • December 16, 1988 (1988-12-16)
Running time
134 minutes [1]
CountryUnited States [1]
Budget$25 million [2]
Box office$354.8 million [2]

Rain Man is a 1988 American road drama film directed by Barry Levinson, from a screenplay written by Barry Morrow and Ronald Bass. It tells the story of abrasive, selfish young wheeler-dealer Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise), who discovers that his estranged father has died and bequeathed virtually all of his multimillion dollar estate to his other son, Raymond (Dustin Hoffman), an autistic savant, of whose existence Charlie was unaware. Charlie is left with only his father's beloved vintage car and rosebushes. Valeria Golino also stars as Charlie's girlfriend Susanna. Morrow created the character of Raymond after meeting Kim Peek, a real-life savant; his characterization was based on both Peek and Bill Sackter, a good friend of Morrow who was the subject of Bill (1981), an earlier film that Morrow wrote. [3]


Rain Man premiered at the 39th Berlin International Film Festival, where it won the Golden Bear, the festival's highest prize. [4] It was theatrically released by MGM/UA Communications Co. in the United States on December 16, 1988, to critical and commercial success, grossing $354.8 million, on a $25 million budget, becoming the highest-grossing film of 1988, and received a leading eight nominations at the 61st Academy Awards, winning four (more than any other film nominated); Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (for Hoffman), and Best Original Screenplay. [5]


Charlie Babbitt is in the middle of importing four grey market Lamborghinis to Los Angeles for resale. He needs to deliver the vehicles to impatient buyers who have already made down payments in order to repay the loan he took out to buy the cars, but the EPA is holding the cars at the port on account of the cars failing emission regulations. Charlie directs an employee to lie to the buyers while he stalls his creditor.

When Charlie learns that his estranged father has died, he and his girlfriend Susanna travel to Cincinnati, Ohio in order to settle the estate. He learns he is receiving the classic 1949 Buick Roadmaster convertible which he and his father fought over, but the bulk of the $3 million estate is going to an unnamed trustee. Through social engineering, he learns the money is being directed to a mental institution, where he meets his elder brother, Raymond Babbitt, of whom he was previously unaware.

Raymond is autistic, has savant syndrome, and adheres to strict routines. He has superb recall, but he shows little emotional expression except when in distress. Charlie spirits Raymond out of the mental institution and into a hotel for the night. Susanna becomes upset with the way Charlie treats his brother and leaves. Charlie asks Raymond's doctor, Dr. Gerald Bruner, for half the estate in exchange for Raymond's return, but he refuses. Charlie decides to attempt to gain custody of his brother in order to get control of the money.

After Raymond refuses to fly back to Los Angeles, they set out on a cross-country road trip together. They make slow progress because Raymond insists on sticking to his routines, which include watching The People's Court on television every day and getting to bed by 11:00 PM. He also objects to traveling on the interstate after they pass a bad accident. During the course of the journey, Charlie learns more about Raymond, including that he is a mental calculator with the ability to instantly count hundreds of objects at once, far beyond the normal range of human subitizing abilities. He also learns that Raymond actually lived with the family when Charlie was young and he realizes that the comforting figure from his childhood, whom he falsely remembered as an imaginary friend named "Rain Man", was actually Raymond. He then figures that Raymond was sent away to the institution after an incident where Raymond was believed to have accidentally nearly injured a young Charlie in a scalding hot bath. Charlie realizes that to the contrary it had been Raymond's actions which had saved himself from being scalded in that bathtub, but that Raymond had been unable to speak up for himself and undo the wrong caused by the misunderstanding.

After the Lamborghinis are seized by his creditor, Charlie finds himself $80,000 in debt and hatches a plan to return to Las Vegas, which they passed the night before, and win money at blackjack by counting cards. Though the casino bosses are skeptical that anyone can count cards with a six-deck shoe, after reviewing security footage they ask Charlie and Raymond to leave. Charlie has made over $86,000 to cover his debts and has reconciled with Susanna who rejoined them in Las Vegas.

Back in Los Angeles, Charlie meets with Dr. Bruner, who offers him $250,000 to walk away from Raymond. Charlie refuses and says that he is no longer upset about what his father left him, but he wants to have a relationship with his brother. At a meeting with a court-appointed psychiatrist, Raymond is shown to be unable to decide for himself what he wants. Charlie stops the questioning and tells Raymond he is happy to have him as his brother.

Charlie takes Raymond to the train station where he boards an Amtrak train with Dr. Bruner to return to the mental institution. Charlie promises Raymond that he will visit in two weeks.



A now-abandoned gas station and general store in Cogar, Oklahoma was used in a scene from the film. The Colvert sign has since been removed, revealing the full name of the business. Cogar Kelly.jpg
A now-abandoned gas station and general store in Cogar, Oklahoma was used in a scene from the film. The Colvert sign has since been removed, revealing the full name of the business.

Roger Birnbaum was the first studio executive to give the film a green light; he did so immediately after Barry Morrow pitched the story. Birnbaum received "special thanks" in the film's credits.[ citation needed ]

Agents at CAA sent the script to Dustin Hoffman and Bill Murray, envisioning Murray in the title role and Hoffman in the role eventually portrayed by Cruise. [3] Martin Brest, Steven Spielberg and Sydney Pollack were directors also involved in the film. [6] Mickey Rourke was also offered a role but he turned it down. [7]

Principal photography included nine weeks of filming on location. [8] Other portions were shot in the desert near Palm Springs, California. [9] :168–71

Almost all of the principal photography occurred during the 1988 Writers Guild of America strike; one key scene that was affected by the lack of writers was the film's final scene. [3] Bass delivered his last rough cut of the script only hours before the strike started and spent no time on the set. [6]


Box office

Rain Man debuted on December 16, 1988, and was the second highest-grossing film at the weekend box office (behind Twins ), with $7 million. [10] It reached the first spot on the December 30 – January 2 weekend, finishing 1988 with $42 million. [11] The film would end up as the highest-grossing U.S. film of 1988 by earning over $172 million. The film grossed over $354 million worldwide. [2]

Critical reception

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes the film holds an approval rating of 89% based on 79 reviews, with an average rating of 7.9/10. The website's critical consensus states: "This road-trip movie about an autistic savant and his callow brother is far from seamless, but Barry Levinson's direction is impressive, and strong performances from Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman add to its appeal." [12] Metacritic assigned the film a weighted average score of 65 out of 100 based on 18 critic, indicating "generally favorable reviews". [13] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale. [14]

Vincent Canby of The New York Times called Rain Man a "becomingly modest, decently thought-out, sometimes funny film"; Hoffman's performance was a "display of sustained virtuosity . . . [which] makes no lasting connections with the emotions. Its end effect depends largely on one's susceptibility to the sight of an actor acting nonstop and extremely well, but to no particularly urgent dramatic purpose." [15] Canby considered the "film's true central character" to be "the confused, economically and emotionally desperate Charlie, beautifully played by Mr. Cruise." [15]

Amy Dawes of Variety wrote that "one of the year's most intriguing film premises ... is given uneven, slightly off-target treatment"; she called the road scenes "hastily, loosely written, with much extraneous screen time," but admired the last third of the film, calling it a depiction of "two very isolated beings" who "discover a common history and deep attachment." [8]

One of the film's harshest reviews came from New Yorker magazine critic Pauline Kael, who said, "Everything in this movie is fudged ever so humanistically, in a perfunctory, low-pressure way. And the picture has its effectiveness: people are crying at it. Of course they're crying at it—it's a piece of wet kitsch. [16]

Roger Ebert gave the film three and a half stars out of four. He wrote, "Hoffman proves again that he almost seems to thrive on impossible acting challenges...I felt a certain love for Raymond, the Hoffman character. I don't know quite how Hoffman got me to do it." [17] Gene Siskel also gave the film three and a half stars out of four, singling out Cruise for praise, "The strength of the film is really that of Cruise's performance...the combination of two superior performances makes the movie worth watching." [18]

Rain Man was placed on 39 critics' "ten best" lists in 1988, based on a poll of the nation's top 100 critics. [19]


Academy Awards [5] Best Picture Mark Johnson Won
Best Director Barry Levinson Won
Best Actor Dustin Hoffman Won
Best Screenplay – Written Directly for the Screen Ronald Bass and Barry Morrow Won
Best Art Direction Ida Random and Linda DeScenna Nominated
Best Cinematography John Seale Nominated
Best Film Editing Stu Linder Nominated
Best Original Score Hans Zimmer Nominated
American Cinema Editors Awards Best Edited Feature Film Stu LinderWon
American Society of Cinematographers Awards [20] Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography in Theatrical Releases John SealeNominated
Berlin International Film Festival [21] Golden Bear Barry LevinsonWon
Berliner Morgenpost Readers' Jury AwardWon
BMI Film & TV Awards Film Music AwardHans ZimmerWon
British Academy Film Awards [22] Best Actor in a Leading Role Dustin HoffmanNominated
Best Original Screenplay Ronald Bass and Barry MorrowNominated
Best Editing Stu LinderNominated
César Awards [23] Best Foreign Film Barry LevinsonNominated
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards [24] Best Actor Dustin HoffmanNominated
David di Donatello Awards Best Foreign Film Barry LevinsonWon
Best Foreign Director Nominated
Best Foreign Actor Dustin HoffmanWon
Best Foreign Producer Mark JohnsonNominated
Best Foreign Screenplay Ronald Bass and Barry MorrowNominated
Directors Guild of America Awards [25] Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures Barry LevinsonWon
Golden Globe Awards [26] Best Motion Picture – Drama Won
Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama Dustin HoffmanWon
Best Director – Motion Picture Barry LevinsonNominated
Best Screenplay – Motion Picture Ronald Bass and Barry MorrowNominated
Goldene Kamera (1989)Golden ScreenWon
Goldene Kamera (1991)Golden Screen with 1 StarWon
Heartland FilmTruly Moving Picture AwardBarry LevinsonWon
Japan Academy Film Prize Outstanding Foreign Language Film Nominated
Jupiter Awards Best International FilmBarry LevinsonWon
Kansas City Film Critics Circle Awards [27] Best FilmWon
Best DirectorBarry LevinsonWon
Best ActorDustin HoffmanWon
Best Supporting Actor Tom Cruise Won [lower-alpha 1]
Kinema Junpo Awards Best Foreign Language FilmBarry LevinsonWon
Mainichi Film Awards Best Foreign Language Film Won
MTV Video Music Awards Best Video from a Film "Iko Iko" – The Belle Stars Nominated
Nastro d'Argento Best Foreign DirectorBarry LevinsonNominated
Best Supporting Actress Valeria Golino Nominated
National Society of Film Critics Awards [28] Best Actor Dustin Hoffman3rd Place
New York Film Critics Circle Awards [29] Best Actor 2nd Place
Nikkan Sports Film Awards Best Foreign Film Won
People's Choice Awards Favorite Dramatic Motion PictureWon
Turkish Film Critics Association Awards Best Foreign Film2nd Place
Writers Guild of America Awards [30] Best Screenplay – Written Directly for the Screen Ronald Bass and Barry MorrowNominated
YoGa AwardsWorst Foreign ActorDustin HoffmanWon

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

Rain Man's portrayal of the main character's condition has been seen as creating the erroneous media stereotype that people on the autism spectrum typically have savant skills, and references to Rain Man, in particular Dustin Hoffman's performance, have become a popular shorthand for autism and savantism. Conversely, Rain Man has also been seen as dispelling a number of other misconceptions about autism, and improving public awareness of the failure of many agencies to accommodate autistic people and make use of the abilities they do have, regardless of whether they have savant skills or not. [31]

The film is also known for popularizing the misconception that card counting is illegal in the United States. [32]

The Babbitt brothers appear in The Simpsons season 5 episode 10. The film is mentioned in numerous other films such as Miss Congeniality (2000), 21 (2008), Tropic Thunder (2008), The Hangover (2009), Escape Room (2019), and also in the television series Breaking Bad .

Raymond Babbitt was caricatured as a rain cloud in the animated episode of The Nanny , "Oy to the World". During the episode, Fran fixes up CC the Abominable Babcock with the Rain Man. He is portrayed as a cloud of rain mumbling about weather patterns and being an excellent driver.

Qantas and airline controversy

During June 1989, at least fifteen major airlines showed edited versions of Rain Man that omitted a scene involving Raymond's refusal to fly, mentioning the crashes of American Airlines Flight 625, Delta Air Lines Flight 191, and Continental Airlines Flight 1713, except on Australia-based Qantas. Those criticizing this decision included film director Barry Levinson, co-screenwriter Ronald Bass, and George Kirgo (at the time the President of the Writers Guild of America, West). "I think it's a key scene to the entire movie," Levinson said in a telephone interview. "That's why it's in there. It launches their entire odyssey across country – because they couldn't fly." While some of those airlines cited as justification avoiding having airplane passengers feel uncomfortable in sympathy with Raymond during the in-flight entertainment, the scene was shown intact on flights of Qantas, and commentators noted that Raymond mentions it as the only airline whose planes have "never crashed". [33] [34] The film is credited with introducing Qantas' safety record to U.S. consumers. [35] [36]

See also

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