Good spiritual movies (part 1): 5 mainstream films with a spiritual message

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There are many good spiritual movies out there which are overtly spiritual in nature and which you can claim stem from one religion or another. Films based on the life of great spiritual teachers for example, or specially made documentaries that rarely get a theatrical release are all films that people can clearly label as “spiritual” just because of their subject matter.

But a close friend of mine once bought me a children’s book and wrote in the front of it “You can find spiritual truth everywhere, if you look for it” and he was so right. There are so many places to find a spiritual message if you are looking for one – and sometimes, even if you are not looking, one can surprise you.

So here are 5 of my favourite mainstream movies which I feel have some kind of spiritual or self-improvement message – they may not be what you expect if you’re looking for a ‘worthy or spiritual’ genre, but that’s what I love about them. There are many spiritual people in the world, in all walks of life, and I’m grateful that a few of them have found their way to making these amazing films.

And to coin a phrase, “the truth is out there” and always available to everyone. It exists in all mediums, in every possible way that it can be interpreted and understood, right?

1. Avatar (12A) Avatar

2hrs, 42mins.

This is one of my all-time favourite films and it still makes me cry when I watch the ‘destruction of home tree’ sequence. It is stunning for a number of reasons, not least the visual effects, CGI graphics and the soundtrack. Set in the future, Jake Sully, a paraplegic ex-marine is given the hope of a new life when a mining company offers him the chance to replace his recently-deceased brother in a scientific program based on a remote moon called Pandora.

Sully agrees to help the mining company in their plan to remove an indigenous population from a resource-rich area on the moon, but his loyalties are tested as he learns more about the culture and beliefs of the very people he is supposed to relocate.

The film resonates with me because although it is set in the future, the metaphor that runs through it is about the destruction that we, as humans are doing to our own planet and it highlights how appallingly we have treated indigenous people in the past, and how we are still treating some groups today. The film is emotionally-moving with a good dose of the David and Goliath story thrown in.

The notion of respecting the environment and everything in it is very strong in this film. As is the spiritual energy or god-like neural network, known as Eywa, that runs through everything and that the indigenous Na’vi can connect to through sacred trees.

The main hero, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) also goes on his own spiritual journey from self-obsessed, self-pitying victim, to being reborn as Toruk Makto, a kind of superhero to the Na’vi due to his mastery of the most fearsome beast of the sky. But it is in his relationship with Neytiri which challenges his beliefs at every turn and ultimately transforms him into the more mature, spiritually-minded leader of his newly-adopted people.

Date: 2009

Director: James Cameron

Main Cast: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Stephen Lang, Sigourney Weaver

Main spiritual message:

We are all one – connected to everything and everyone, whether we know it or not.

Favourite quotes:

“I see you” (meaning I see, feel and know all that you truly are) – Jake Sully and Neytiri

“Everything is backwards now, like out there is the true world, and in here is the dream” – Jake Sully

Buy the DVD here: 

Get the soundtrack here:

Trailer

 


2. The Matrix Trilogy (15)

The Matrix – 1999 (15) 2hrs, 1min

The Matrix Reloaded – 2003 (15) 2hrs, 18mins

The Matrix Revolutions – 2003 (15) 2hrs, 9mins.

This is another great sci-fi trilogy which really resonates with me. Ostensibly, this is about a war between humans and computer-driven machines, who have enslaved humankind to farm them as batteries in order to fuel their own existence. A computer hacker named Neo is invited to awaken to the ‘real’ world by the mysterious Morpheus.

But when he does, Neo gets far more than he bargained for and his world is turned upside down when he discovers that what he thought of as reality was only really a computer program called ‘the matrix’, designed to keep the humans in servitude and ignorance.

As Morpheus believes Neo to be ‘the one’, he commits to returning to the Matrix to confront and defeat the agents: super-powerful computer programs whose goal is to extinguish the entire human rebellion living in the free world.

When you look at the many layers within this film, you can see that spirituality runs deep. Firstly the notion that a higher plane exists is inverted here – in the matrix, you can be, do or have whatever you can contemplate – this is what Neo learns at the end of the first film as he discovers he need no longer dodge bullets, but can stop them mid-air.

To me, this a huge metaphor for the difference between physical and non-physical existence and the enslavement of humans is similar to the dream-like state many humans exist in because they are unaware of their true potential. Like Neo in the film, when we awaken to out true potential, then nothing is impossible.

Other spiritual metaphors abound in this trilogy; most from Judeo Christian stories – look at the names of the characters (Neo (an anagram of ‘one’), Trinity and Morpheus (the Greek god of dreams) to the eternal fight between God and the Devil (in this case, the Architect and the rogue program, Smith, with Neo being ‘the chosen one’ who will end the war and bring peace. Depending on your beliefs, you can read many things into this film, but perhaps this is the real message – that there is no ultimate reality – only that which you construct based on your own perceptions.

Date: 1999 – 2003

Director:
The Wachowski Brothers

Main Cast: Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Laurence Fishburne, Hugo Weaving

Main spiritual message:

You are not living in reality but a construction of reality based on your own thoughts and beliefs.

Favourite quotes:

“There is no spoon” ……”Then you’ll see it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself” – Student with spoon are the Oracle’s flat

“You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.” – Morpheus.

Buy the DVD here:


Get the soundtrack here:

Trailer

 


3. Star Wars – original trilogy (U)

A New Hope – 1977 (U) 2hrs, 1min

The Empire Strikes Back – 1980 (U) 2hrs, 4mins

Return of the Jedi – 1983 (U) 2hrs, 11mins

Luke Skywalker, a restless orphan from a desolate planet is surprised to find his newly-purchased droid unit (R2D2) contains a secret cry for help from a beautiful princess. As he sets off to find the mysterious Obe-Wan Kenobi mentioned in the message, little does he know that he will end up joining a rebellion against the mighty Empire in an attempt to save the universe from the powerful Death Star, and Princess Leia from the evil, seemingly-invincible Darth Vader.

I’m a huge fan of the original Star Wars trilogy. I grew up with it, and the well-deserved hype it received at the time. I wanted to be a Jedi knight and be able to see blindfolded and use my innate powers of focus and concentration to affect the world around me. I still do! And my fascination with the film, in a big way, came from my desire to believe in the force’.

As well as being a great action adventure story, one of the fundamental principles that underpins all of the Star Wars movies is that there is an energy in the universe that connects all things known as ‘the force’. Exactly what it is or how it works is only rarely discussed but the power of the force runs through the films and some of the characters have different abilities related to it.

The force is develops depending on the film that you watch but it is usually described as having a light side and a dark side, akin to the Christian religions where God and the devil are locked in an eternal batter. In the films, an ancient order called the Jedi, use the light side for protection and peace whilst their nemeses, the Sith have succumbed to the power available through the dark side and use it to seek power and control over others around the universe.

There is also a concept that death is not the end through the series as Obi-Wan Kenobi can still communicate to Luke even though he has technically ‘died’ and his energy returned to the force. This links to Christian and Buddhist philosophies as well as other concepts of life after death and to me, is akin to physical and non-physical energy that is often refer to in spiritual circles, so it has a good resonance to me.

Date: 1977- 1983

Director: George Lucas, Irvin Kershner, Richard Marquand

Main Cast: Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Alec Guiness, Harrison Ford,

Main spiritual message:

We are all connected by a force which we can all tap in to if we believe in it and focus enough. We can choose to use this to manipulate our physical world and for the purposes of good or for evil. The pulls from either side are strong depending on the underlying emotions in a person heart – e.g. hatred and anger, or love and compassion.

Favourite quotes:

“May the force be with you” – Virtually everyone says this at some point!

“These are not the droids you’re looking for” – Obe-Wan Kenobi

“Do or do not. There is no try” – Yoda

Buy the DVD here:

Get the soundtrack here:

Trailer

This is the original one – interestingly bad for such a good film!

And a later, remastered one which in my opinion is a much better version!

 


4. The Green Mile (18)

3hrs, 9mins

Adapted from a Stephen King novel of the same name, this is one of my favourite films of all time too, although it does take a bit of courage to get through it, not least because of its uneasy subject matter!

The Green Mile tells the story of a black African-American prisoner on death row (John Coffey) in the still colour-prejudice 1935 American South, and the affect he has on his fellow prisoners and guards, especially the head guard, Paul Edgecomb, played by Tom Hanks.

Coffey is accused and convicted of child murder and rape, but has a special gift of healing and throughout the film, the mystery of his guilt or innocence is explored and investigated as prejudices are exposed, and the concepts of justice, faith and trust are questioned, shining a critical light on the ‘eye-for-an-eye’ philosophy behind the capital punishment of the time.

The other inmates and guards learn to respect and trust this gentle giant as he shows them by example, compassion, understanding and healing, which are not without some cost to himself. Edgecomb is deeply troubled by having to execute the man he refers to as ‘one of god’s miracles’ although Coffey embraces death as an exhausted marathon runner embraces the finish line.

Warning – there are some uses of foul language, animal cruelty and violence in the film and electric-chair executions are graphically shown, so it rightly deserves its 18 certificate. It is not a film you would want to show to your children but its a great one for debate amongst adults. .

Date: 1999

Director: Frank Darabont

Main Cast: Tom Hanks, Michael Clarke Duncan, Michael Jeter,  David Morse

Main spiritual message:

The main message of this film for me is to promote the idea of what living and allowing unconditional love to flow through you, can do. John Coffey lives this way – and through his connection to this source of love, he has the ability to heal the sick, raise the dead and inspire others to live a better life. In the end, he knowingly and willingly goes to his death with a trustful knowing that his suffering on earth will end. He says he is tired and wants out now, so there is a feeling of relief for the character’s unjust suffering at the end of the film.

You cannot help to see a parallel with the life of Jesus in this film (same initials too) and although John Coffey never sets himself up as a prophet or messiah, his simple message of unconditional love touches all those around him.

Favourite quotes:

“Mostly I’m tired of people being ugly to each other. I’m tired of all the pain I feel and hear in the world every day. There’s too much of it.” – John Coffey

“Do you believe that if a man repents enough for what he done wrong, then he’ll get to go back to the time that was happiest for him and live there forever? Could that be what heaven’s like?” – Arlen Bitterbuck

Buy the DVD here:

Get the soundtrack here:

Trailer

 


5. Field of Dreams (PG)

1hr, 47mins

Another film adapted from a novel, this time, from W. P. Kinsella’s 1982 novel called “Shoeless Joe”. I find this a truly heart-warming tale of faith and following your own heart when all others are against you.

Kevin Costner plays Ray Kinsella, a down on his luck farmer from Iowa who lives with his wife Annie and their young daughter. Inspired by a ghostly voice he hears one evening on his farm, which urges “if you build it, he will come”, Ray sets about building a baseball pitch in his cornfield. He explains that if he does so, then “shoeless” Joe Jackson will be able to play baseball once again. Shoeless Joe was a player who was banned from the sport (some think unjustly) in 1919 because of his alleged involvement in the infamous 1919 Chicago Black Sox match-fixing incident.

For Ray, building a baseball pitch put his mortgage in jeopardy and his family into financial crisis. But like Noah and the ark, Ray pushes ahead with the project with the help of various people including Terence Mann (James Earl Jones), whom he has been told to enlist by the voice he hears; with no real understanding of why, just a faith that things will all turn out for the best.

In the end, Ray’s ‘field of dreams’ offers hope, second chances and reconciliation allowing Ray to reconnect not only with himself, but his father and his past.

Date: 1989

Director: Phil Alden Robinson

Main Cast: Kevin Costner, Ray Liotta, Amy Madigan, James Earl Jones

Main spiritual message:

Good things will happen if you have faith and listen to how you are being guided, even if the suggestions seem ludicrous at the time. As someone who quite often follows their own instincts despite the disapproval of others, I find this simple message refreshing and reassuring.

A second message I like to read in the film is that there is always hope and a chance for reconciliation which warms my heart and appeals the eternal optimist in me.

Although the character behind ‘the voice’ is not disclosed, many have interpreted it as God, or a version of Shoeless Joe, Ray or Terence Mann.

Favourite quotes:

“If you build it, he will come” – the voice.

“Is this heaven?”, “It’s Iowa.” – Shoeless Joe and Ray

“We just don’t recognize life’s most significant moments while they’re happening. Back then I thought, Well, there’ll be other days. I didn’t realize that that was the only day” – Dr Archibald ‘Moonlight’ Graham.

“Sometimes when you believe the impossible, the incredible comes true” – trailer tag line.

Buy the DVD here:

Get the soundtrack here:

Trailer

 


I hope you have enjoyed my look at a few mainstream movies which I think have a great spiritual message. Let me know what you think in the comments box below and come back soon for more spiritual movies for there are many to be found right under your nose.

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Posted in Reviews.

Hi. I'm Gail and I'm a teacher, coach, writer and blogger who has been involved with self-development and the performing arts for over 30 years. I'm passionate about helping people to develop their full potential and I've studied education, the law of attraction, personal development and NLP which I write about on this site.

I love working with people of all ages and backgrounds and truly believe that we are all unique, unlimited creative beings who can do wonderful things with a positive attitude and spiritual outlook on life.

Here's to your continued success.

Gail

10 Comments

  1. Very nice article for lovers of the films. Actually, I watched top two of them, But, when I read this article, I have an idea to watch those other films too. The avatar and The Matrix are more famous all over the world, Nothing says in this films. But, I sure, I try to watch other films also as your in details on those films. thanks so much for informing us to reconsider those other films.

    • Hi Samantha. Thanks for your comment and I’m glad you’ve seen at least a couple of the films. I really recommend The Green Mile if you ever get a chance to see it. You can see I like my sci-fi films but I also love a good emotional cathartic film as well. All the best and thanks for reading.

  2. Hello Gail, this is a great review!!! I love to watch movies that have a spiritual message on my spare time. Green mile is one of my favorite all time films!!! I might have to watch it again tonight after work. I also love Star Wars as well. I will watch the other ones when I get a chance. Thanks again, and I wish you the best of luck with your site!!!

    • Thank you Ahmad for your comments. I’m glad you liked The Green Mile – difficult to watch at times but well worth it! I do recommend the others too and if you look at them with your ‘spiritual eyes’ open, then you’ll see all the layers. Have a great weekend. Gail

  3. Hi Gail
    Great movie reviews, Green Mile is a classic and alway will be, the only one i haven’t seen is Field of Dreams and after reading your post its one for my movie night.
    Keep the reviews coming.

    Regards Chris

    • Thanks Chris. Glad you liked the reviews. I think they are all great and offer different insights into life, so we can all get different things from them at different times. I’ve another 5 film reviews that I’m working on, so the ‘part one’ in the title really means there’ll definitely be more…..maybe a triology or possibly a multiverse! 🙂 Thanks for stopping by. Gail

  4. Hi, Gail. I really liked your movie reviews and post. Avatar is one of my all-time favorites, too. I also cry in several places every time I watch it, especially when the Tree of Life is destroyed, but also when Jake is “dead” and resurrected when Neytiri connects him to the Eywa.

    I found The Green Mile difficult to watch in places, but really did think it was a good movie. I agree with you about its spirituality.

    And, of course, being from Iowa originally, I loved Field of Dreams, with its subtle assumption that one can indeed manifest the future with enough faith and perseverance in spite of criticism and hardship.

    I’m probably one of the very few people who have never seen the Star Wars movies or The Matrix. But after reading your reviews and having finally learned how to use my DVD player, I think I’m going to have to be sure to watch them both!

    When I was doing my “Read to Raven” pet therapy program at the library, I had an autistic boy in my group who was enthralled by all things Star Wars.

    He had seen all the movies, of course, and was reading a comic about pod racers to my dog, Raven. I asked him if he thought we could make a pod racer, and he replied,” No, of course not…that’s in the future!”

    But we had a lesson in the films’ “Do or do not. There is no try” theme. His mother got us two large cardboard boxes, and we had a family project producing our very own pod racers. Aaron designed the shape of the wings, his dad cut them out with an Exacto knife, and then Aaron assembled the pod racers.

    Aaron and I had a ball pushing our pod racers across the carpet with our hands! And of course, he won the race as well as discovering how much fun using his imagination could be.

    Seeing his initial disbelief morph into a reality and the happiness this produced was a spiritual experience for me. The movie was the inspiration for our adventure that fueled his imagination to believe the “impossible” was, indeed, possible after all.

    Now, every so often, I see a video of him demonstrating his latest invention on Face Book. “Do or do not. There is no try.” Aaron is still proof of that!

    • Hi Carol. Thank you for reading and leaving your wonderful heart-warming story. That really is an example of how spirituality can be found in everything if you look for it – even in a cardboard box. To me, it doesn’t matter what you believe really – as spirituality is only ever about one’s one connection to the divine. Since there are so many interpretations of what divine energy is, that have evolved over thousands of years of human history, who are we to say ‘mine way is the right way’. That’s why tor me, your story of a little boy connecting to his higher self through Star Wars and a cardboard box is innately spiritual. Thank you for sharing.
      On another note, my foster daughter engages in reading to a dog therapy through he school. She really loves it so well done you for participating in such a project. I must say that when I first heard about it, I was a little sceptical but it seems to have helped her confidence no end.
      Let me know what you think of the Matrix when you get round to watching it. It could change your whole perspective on reality! 🙂

  5. Gail, your insight into these movies are wonderful. You are so right about the spiritual thread running through all of them. I’ve seen them all, some many times, lol. My favorite is Avatar and the way they are all connected together. Very powerful.
    Have you thought of the movie (s) Lord of the Rings? Personally, I thought there was a very strong connection to the Bible, all the way through, though I’m sure all faiths could connect to those movies.
    I love reading your reviews, thank you!
    Suzanne

    • Hi Suzanne. Many thanks for your kind comments and I’m glad you enjoyed reading the reviews. I too love Avatar and as I said, still find it really emotional. I love LOTRs too and it’s one of the only novel series that I have read completely – that and Harry Potter. I agree that LOTRs has many spiritual messages too, as indeed does Harry Potter so maybe I’ll add those to my next list. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. Have a great day. Gail

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