Is Forrest Gump autistic? Evidence shows he’s likely on the spectrum

By Chege Karomo — ON May 16, 2022
Forrest Gump
Paramount Pictures

Forrest Gump was the second most successful film of 1994, beaten by The Lion King. The filmmakers adapted the movie from a book of the same name written by Winston Groom. Tom Hanks starred as the eponymous Forrest Gump, a kind-hearted Alabama native who witnessed and influenced critical historical events in the United States.

Gump narrated the story of a man who overcame numerous odds to live a brilliant and fulfilling life. Forrest wasn’t diagnosed with a mental health condition but had a below-average IQ of 75. Regardless, he stumbled through life, experiencing success in most of his endeavors and meeting famous figures in history. 

Key Takeaways

  • Forrest Gump showed signs of being on the spectrum, though he wasn’t modeled as an autistic character. 
  • Two Japanese scientists concluded that Gump’s nature matched people on the autistic spectrum. 
  • The scientists ruled out the possibility that Forrest Gump had Rett’s disorder or childhood disintegrative disorder. 

Forrest wasn’t intended to be autistic but has signs of being on the spectrum

Forrest didn’t receive an autism diagnosis in the book and the film. It’s unlikely that Winston intended Gump to be autistic: when he published the book in 1986, autism wasn’t widely recognized by most people. It’s improbable that Groom intended for Forrest to have autism. 

Nevertheless, there are signs throughout the movie that Forrest was on the spectrum. For instance, Gump struggled with social cues but excelled at following technical details and clear instructions. 

It explains why he shone in the US army, with his ability to strip and reassemble a battle rifle in record time impressing his drill sergeant. By the end of his army service, his class A uniform featured several decorations, including the highest marksmanship badge available in the Army. 

Furthermore, Forrest excelled in anything that required extreme focus – for example, ping pong. As instructed, Gump never took his eye off the ball, leading to his inclusion in the United States team to compete in China. 

Experts observe this type of unwavering focus in autism patients. They attempt to redirect this energy to fulfilling and healthy tasks, including running like Forrest. 

Two Japanese specialists concluded that Gump likely had autism

Two Japanese doctors, Shinji Ijichi and Naomi Ijichi, concluded that Gump likely had autism. The pair observed several traits Gump shared with autism patients. 

They pointed to his slow grasp of social interactions and inability to develop peer relationships with age. Forrest’s disinterest in the interests and achievements of his peers also guided Shinji and Naomi to an autism diagnosis. 

Forrest faced difficulties maintaining conversations deep into his adulthood and showed ‘idiosyncratic use of language.’ Shinji and Naomi ruled out Rett’s disorder: Gump didn’t display peculiar hand movement; and childhood disintegrative disorder: Forrest didn’t lose acquired skills. 

The scientists concluded that Forrest’s nature matched with characteristics observed in individuals with autistic disorder. “These features include innocence, frankness, generosity, credulity, excellent rote memory, and a talent for music, as well as an escape tendency from his favorites,” Shinji and Naomi wrote.

Despite no explicit declaration that Gump was autistic, people often classify Forrest Gump as a film portraying aspects of the autistic spectrum.