Self-centered, avaricious Californian Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise) is informed that his long-estranged father has died. Expecting at least a portion of the elder Babbitt's $3 million estate, Charlie learns that all he's inherited is his dad's prize roses and a 1949 Buick Roadmaster. Discovering that the $3 million is being held in trust for an unidentified party, Charlie heads to his home town of Cincinnati to ascertain who that party is. It turns out that the beneficiary is Raymond Babbitt (Dustin Hoffman), the autistic-savant older brother that Charlie never knew he had. Able to memorize reams of trivia and add, subtract, multiply, and divide without a second's hesitation, Raymond is otherwise incapable of functioning as a normal human being. Aghast that Raymond is to receive his father's entire legacy, Charlie tries to cut a deal with Raymond's guardian. When this fails, Charlie "borrows" Raymond from the institution where he lives, hoping to use his brother as leverage to claim half the fortune. During their subsequent cross-country odyssey, Charlie is forced to accommodate Raymond's various autistic idiosyncracies, not the least of which is his insistence on adhering to a rigid daily schedule: he must, for example, watch People's Court and Jeopardy every day at the same time, no matter what. On hitting Las Vegas, Charlie hopes to harness Raymond's finely-honed mathematical skills to win big at the gaming tables; but this exploitation of his brother's affliction compels Charlie to reassess his own values, or lack thereof. A longtime pet project of star Dustin Hoffman, Rain Man was turned down by several high-profile directors before Barry Levinson took on the challenge of bringing Ronald Bass' screenplay to fruition (Levinson also appears in the film as a psychiatrist). All three men won Oscars, and the movie won Best Picture.
by Hal Erickson synopsis