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Stories on spiritual matters
Peaceful Warrior (2005) by Victor Salva
Dan Millman is a gymnast who is a popular jock and seems to have it all. Dan has a great body, good looks, and has a charm that allows him to get almost any girl. All this seems to be great for Dan's ego, but deep down inside he is far from happy. He starts to have these violent dreams that keep him up late at night. One night when Dan can not sleep he wanders in to a service station and meets a mysterious man. This man who Dan calls "Socrates" will help take him on one of the most amazing journeys of his life. This journey will become one of the most important things when Dan has a motorcycle accident and shatters one of his legs along with his dreams of being in the Olympics. Peaceful Warrior is based on the popular book of the same name.
Jesus of Montreal (1990) by Denys Arcand
What happens to the people putting on a Passion Play? In hip present-day Montreal, a group of actors stages the Passion in an outdoor, somewhat avant-garde style, led by the quietly charismatic and increasingly uncanny young man (Lothaire Bluteau, Black Robe) playing Christ. His identification with the role, and the way it bleeds into real life, gives director Denys Arcand plenty of opportunities for social comment--some of it spot-on, some of it a little facile. But the fragile Bluteau is such a fascinating lead presence that the movie's spell lasts long after it's over. Turns out the French-Canadian approach to the Passion can be just as intriguing as the original Aramaic.
Contact (1997) by Robert Zemeckis
Contact, based on the novel of the same name by Carl Sagan, is the story of a free thinking radio astronomer (Jodie Foster) who discovers an intelligent signal broadcast from deep space. She and her fellow scientists are able to decipher the Message and discover detailed instructions for building a mysterious Machine. Will the Machine spell the end of our world, or the end of our superstitions? Will we take our place among the races of the Galaxy, or are we just an upstart species with a long way to go?
The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) by Martin Scorsese
The carpenter Jesus of Nazareth, tormented by the temptations of demons, the guilt of making crosses for the Romans, pity for men and the world, and the constant call of God, sets out to find what God wills for him. But as his mission nears fulfillment, he must face the greatest temptation: the normal life of a good man. Based, not on the Gospels, but on Nikos Kazantzakis' novel of the same name.
The Celestine Prophecy (2005) by Armand Mastroianni
Disillusioned and temporarily rudderless, John Woodson is about to experience a dramatic and profound metamorphosis. Through a mysterious set of coincidences, he finds himself on an adventure to Peru in search of ancient scrolls, known as the Celestine Prophecy. The prophecy and its nine key insights, predict a new awakening that redefines human life and provides a glimpse into a completely spiritual culture on earth. Resistant at first, skeptical and unsure, John finds that each step he takes, each person he encounters leads him to a new awakening. It is only in this letting go that he finds his destiny and comes to understand the meaning that had escaped him when his adventure began.
Conversations With God (2006) by Stephen Deutsch
"Conversations with God" tells the true story of Neale Donald Walsch that inspired and changed the lives of millions worldwide. The journey begins after he unexpectedly breaks his neck in a car accident and loses his job. Soon after, we witness his transformation from your everyday guy to a homeless bum struggling just to stay alive. Neale's eye-opening roller coaster ride takes us through his emotional battle to get enough food, make friends and regain his life. And just when things seem to be going his way, they get worse. Feeling like a complete failure in all aspects of his life, Neale, full of anger and bitterness asks God a pile of demanding questions. Much to his disbelief, Neale received his answers! The unworldly conversations that follow end up being read by over 7 million people in 36 languages around the world and counting.
What Dreams May Come (1998) by Vincent Ward
Robin Williams and Annabella Sciorra star in this visually stunning metaphysical tale of life after death. Neurologist Chris and artist Annie had the perfect life until they lost their children in an auto accident; they're just starting to recover when Chris meets an untimely death himself. He's met by a messenger named Albert (Cuba Gooding Jr.) and taken to his own personal afterlife--a freshly drawn world reminiscent of Annie's own artwork, still dripping and wet with paint. Meanwhile a depressed Annie takes her own life, compelling Chris to traverse heaven and hell to save Annie from an eternity of despair. The multitextured visuals seem to have been created from a lost fairy tale.
Little Buddha (1994) by Bernardo Bertolucci
Lama Norbu comes to Seattle in search of the reincarnation of his dead teacher, Lama Dorje. His search leads him to young Jesse Conrad, Raju, a waif from Kathmandu, and an upper class Indian girl. Together, they journey to Bhutan where the three children must undergo a test to prove which is the true reincarnation. Interspersed with this, is the story of Siddharta, later known as the Buddha. It traces his spiritual journey from ignorance to true enlightenment.
The Mission (1986) by Roland Joffé
Jeremy Irons plays a Spanish Jesuit who goes into the South American wilderness to build a mission in the hope of converting the Indians of the region. Robert DeNiro plays a slave hunter who is converted and joins Irons in his mission. When Spain sells the colony to Portugal, they are forced to defend all they have built against the Portugese aggressors. Sweeping and visually resplendent, The Mission is a powerful action epic about a man of the sword and a man of the cloth who unite to shield a South American Indian tribe from brutal subjugation by 18th-century colonial empire.
Stigmata (1999) by Rupert Wainwright
A priest from the Vatican is sent in to investigate claims that a small town in Brazil has a church where statues bleed from the eyes. Meanwhile, a young woman in the U.S. begins to show signs of stigmata, the wounds of Christ. The priest from the Vatican links up with her and cares for her as she is increasingly afflicted by the stigmata. Her ranting and raving finally begins to make sense to the priest who starts to question what his religion has stood for for the last 1900 years.
The Passion of the Christ (2004) by Mel Gibson
The Passion of The Christ focusses on the last twelve hours of Jesus of Nazareth's life. The film begins in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus has gone to pray after sitting the Last Supper. Jesus must resist the temptations of Satan. Betrayed by Judas Iscariot, Jesus is then arrested and taken within the city walls of Jerusalem where leaders of the Pharisees confront him with accusations of blasphemy and his trial results in a condemnation to death.
Stories with spiritual connotations
Gandhi (1982) by Richard Attenborough
Sir Richard Attenborough's 1982 multiple-Oscar winner (including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor for Ben Kingsley) is an engrossing, reverential look at the life of Mohandas K. Gandhi, who introduced the doctrine of nonviolent resistance to the colonized people of India and who ultimately gained the nation its independence. Kingsley is magnificent as Gandhi as he changes over the course of the three-hour film from an insignificant lawyer to an international leader and symbol. Strong on history (the historic division between India and Pakistan, still a huge problem today, can be seen in its formative stages here) as well as character and ideas, this is a fine film.
Donnie Darko (2001) by Richard Kelly
Donnie Darko gets along badly with his family, with his teachers and with his classmates; but he does manage to find a sympathetic friend in Gretchen, who agrees to date him; and he has a compassionate psychiatrist, who discovers hypnosis is the means to unlock hidden secrets. His other companion may not be a true ally. Donnie has a friend named Frank, who is either a large purple bunny, or man in a large purple bunny costume. Either way, Donnie is the only one who can see him. When an engine falls off a plane and destroys his room, Donnie is not there. Both the event, and Donnie's escape, seem to have been caused by supernatural events. Donnie's mental illness, if such it is, may never allow him to find out for sure.
Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (2004) by Michel Gondry
A man awakes disheveled; impulsively, he skips work, heading instead to the shore. On this chilly February day, a woman in orange, hair dyed blue, chats him up: she's Clementine, he's Joel, shy and sad; by day's end, he likes her. The next night she takes him to the frozen Charles River. After, as he drops her off, she asks to sleep at his place, and she runs up to get her toothbrush. Strange things occur: their meeting was not entirely chance, they have a history neither remembers. Our seeing how the lacunae came to be and their discovery of the memory loss take the rest of the film.
The Matrix (1999) by Andy Wachowski & Larry Wachowski
In the near future, a computer hacker named Neo (Keanu Reeves) discovers that all life on Earth may be nothing more than an elaborate facade created by a malevolent cyber-intelligence, for the purpose of placating us while our life essence is "farmed" to fuel the Matrix's campaign of domination in the "real" world. He joins like-minded Rebel warriors Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) and Trinity (Carrie Ann Moss) in their struggle to overthrow the Matrix.
Jacob's Ladder (1990) by Adrian Lyne
New York postal worker Jacob Singer is trying to keep his frayed life from unraveling. His days are increasingly being invaded by flashbacks to his first marriage, his now-dead son, and his tour of duty in Vietnam. Though his new wife tries to help Jacob keep his grip on sanity, the line between reality and delusion is steadily growing more and more uncertain. Jacob Singer thinks he is going insane. Or worse. When his nightmares begin spilling into his waking hours, Jacob believes he is experiencing the aftereffects of a powerful drug tested on him during Vietnam. Or perhaps his posttraumatic stress disorder is worse than most. Whatever is happening to him, it is not good. Director Adrian Lyne sparks our interest and maintains high production values.
Star Wars Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980) by Irvin Kershner
Fleeing the evil Galactic Empire, the rebels abandon their new base on Hoth. Princess Leia, Han Solo and the droids R2-D2 and C-3P0 escape in the damaged Millenium Falcon, but are later captured by Lord Darth Vader on Bespin. Skywalker, meanwhile, follows Ben Kenobi's posthumous command and receives Jedi training by Yoda on Dagobah. Will Skywalker manage to rescue his friends from the dark lord?
American Beauty (1999) by Sam Mendes
Lester and Carolyn Burnham are on the outside, a perfect husband and wife, in a perfect house, in a perfect neighborhood. But inside, Lester is slipping deeper and deeper into a hopeless depression. He finally snaps when he becomes infatuated with one of his daughters friends. Meanwhile, his daughter Jane is developing a happy friendship with a shy boy-next-door named Ricky who lives with a homophobic father.
Fight Club (1999) by David Fincher
You're young. You have an easy, well-paid deskjob. You have a condo, Swedish furniture, artistic coffee tables and a fridge full of condiments. Yet you feel emotionally and spiritually empty. You eventually find comfort in going to support groups for lukemia and cancer victims when there's nothing wrong with you until they're hijacked from you by another faker. Then you meet Tyler Durden, a man that shows you that not only can you live without material needs but that self-destruction, the collapse of society and making dynamite from soap might not be such a bad idea either.
The Horse Whisperer (1998) by Robert Redford
After a devastating riding accident, a young girl and her beloved horse are both left with serious physical and emotional scars. Determined to help, the girl's desperate mother puts her busy, big-city life on hold and travels west to seek out the "Horse Whisperer." When she meets this rugged, down-to-earth rancher, she discovers his extraordinary gift with animals also touches the lives of the people around him.
Instinct (1999) by Jon Turteltaub
Hopkins plays a brilliant anthropologist studying gorillas who entered into their world, becoming part of their family, and who killed two park rangers in the gorillas' habitat. Gooding plays a brilliant young psychiatrist who's supposed to evaluate Hopkins and determine whether he's fit to stand trial. Hopkins, along with a number of other psychotics, is being held at a prison, which serves to illustrate the movie's themes about control and freedom.
Powder (1995) by Victor Salva
When sheriff Barnum investigates the death of an elderly rural resident, he discovers a teenage grandson living in the basement. Raised by his grandparents, he has experienced the world only through books, never leaving the family farm. He is sent to a state home for boys where he has trouble fitting in socially. His odd appearance and unusual abilities cause the small town residents to fear and ridicule him. However, not all are afraid. Some begin to view his potential and gifts with wonderment.
Brainstorm (1983) by Douglas Trumbull
Brilliant researchers Lillian Reynolds and Michael Brace have developed a system of recording and playing back actual experiences of people. Once the capability of tapping into "higher brain functions" is added in, and you can literally jump into someone else's head and play back recordings of what he or she was thinking, feeling, seeing, etc., at the time of the recording, the applications for the project quickly spiral out of control. When one of the researchers dies and tapes the experience of death, Michael is convinced that he must playback this tape to honor the memory of the researcher and to become enlightened.
I Heart Huckabees (2004) by David O. Russell
Billed as "an existential comedy," I Heart Huckabees is a flawed yet endearingly audacious screwball romp that dares to ponder life's biggest questions. Russell's ideas are big but his expression of them is frenetic, centering on the unlikely pairing of an environmentalist and a firefighter as they depend on existential detectives and a French nihilist to make sense of their existential crises, brought on (respectively) by a two-faced chain-store executive and his spokesmodel girlfriend, and the aftermath of 9/11's terrorism. No brief description can do justice to Russell's comedic conceit; you'll either be annoyed and mystified or elated and delighted by this wacky primer for coping with 21st century lunacy.
Pi (1998) by Darren Aronofsky
Patterns exist everywhere: in nature, in science, in religion, in business. Max Cohen is a mathematician searching for these patterns in everything. Yet, he's not the only one, and everyone from Wall Street investors, looking to break the market, to Hasidic Jews, searching for the 216-digit number that reveals the true name of God, are trying to get their hands on Max. This dark, low-budget film was shot in black and white by director Darren Aronofsky. With eerie music, voice-overs, and overt symbolism enhancing the somber mood, Aronofsky has created a disturbing look at the world.
Phenomenon (1996) by Jon Turteltaub
Travolta plays a mechanic who sees a bright light in the sky one night and wakes up the next morning a genius, hungry for knowledge and so smart he figures out national defense secrets in his own living room (and gets in hot water for it). The more interesting drama, however, is not with the government but with the character's longtime neighbors and friends, who come to reject him for being different. Robert Duvall gives a stirring performance as a doctor who has known the hero all his life, and Kyra Sedgwick is very good as an ambivalent love interest.
Altered States (1980) by Ken Russell
In the hands of maverick director Ken Russell, Altered States become a full-on sensory assault, using symbolic imagery and mind- blowing special effects to depict one man's physical and hallucinatory journey through the entire history of human evolution. It's a brazenly silly film redeemed by its intellectual ambition--a dazzling extravaganza that's in love with science and scientists, and eagerly willing to dive off the precipice of rationality to explore uncharted regions of mind, body, and spirit.
The Da Vinci Code (2006) by Ron Howard
While lecturing in Paris, noted Harvard Professor of Symbology Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) is summoned to the Louvre by French police to help decipher a bizarre series of clues left at the scene of the murder of the chief curator. Enter Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tautou), gifted cryptologist. Neveu and Langdon team up to solve the mystery, and from there the story is propelled across Europe, ballooning into a modern-day mini-quest for the Holy Grail, where secret societies are discovered, codes are broken, and murderous albino monks are thwarted… oh, and alternative theories about the life of Christ and the beginnings of Christianity are presented too, of course.
The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000) by Robert Redford
Redford does for golf what A River Runs Through It did for fly-fishing: the sport is a conduit for a philosophy of living, and Redford achieves the small miracle of making golf a central metaphor that's visually compelling. Set in Savannah, Georgia, during the early '30s, the story charts the redemption of disillusioned World War I veteran and former golf champion Rannulph Junuh, who emerges from self-imposed obscurity in an exhibition match against legendary golfers Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen. As Junuh regains the "authentic swing" he feared was lost forever, Redford guides his splendid cast through a spiritual journey that is specific to the discipline of golf and yet potently universal. As always, Redford also conveys his respect for nature and the rhythms of life as well as a sweet nostalgia for simpler times and purer values.
Baraka (1993) by Ron Fricke
Without words, cameras show us the world, with an emphasis not on "where," but on "what's there." It begins with morning, natural landscapes and people at prayer: volcanoes, water falls, veldts, and forests; several hundred monks do a monkey chant. Indigenous peoples apply body paint; whole villages dance. The film moves to destruction of nature via logging, blasting, and strip mining. Images of poverty, rapid urban life, and factories give way to war, concentration camps, and mass graves. Ancient ruins come into view, and then a sacred river where pilgrims bathe and funeral pyres burn. Prayer and nature return. A monk rings a huge bell; stars wheel across the sky.
Koyaanisqatsi - Life Out of Balance (1983) by Godfrey Reggio
Koyaanisqatsi is a documentary (of sorts). It is also a visual concert of images set to the haunting music of 'Phillip Glass' . While there is no plot in the traditional sense, there is a definate scenario. The film opens on ancient native American cave drawings, while the soundtrack chants "Koyaanisqatsi" which is a Hopi indian term for "life out of balance". The film uses extensive time lapse photography (which speeds images up) and slow motion photography to make comparisons between different types of physical motion. The film progresses from purely natural environments to nature as affected by man, and finally to man's own manmade environment, devoid of nature yet still following the patterns of natural flow as depicted in the beginning of the film, yet in chaos and disarray.
What the Bleep Do We Know!? (2004) by William Arntz
The unlikeliest cult hit of 2004 was What the (Bleep) Do We Know?, a lecture on mysticism and science mixed into a sort-of narrative. Marlee Matlin stars in the dramatic thread, about a sourpuss photographer who begins to question her perceptions. Interviews with quantum physics experts and New Age authors are cut into this story, offering a vaguely convincing (and certainly mind-provoking) theory about... well, actually, it sounds a lot like the Power of Positive Thinking, when you get down to it. Talking heads (not identified until film's end) include JZ Knight, who appears in the movie channeling Ramtha, the ancient sage she claims communicates through her (other speakers are also associated with Knight's organization).
An Inconvenient Truth (2006) by Davis Guggenheim
Director Davis Guggenheim eloquently weaves the science of global warming with Mr. Gore's personal history and lifelong commitment to reversing the effects of global climate change. A longtime advocate for the environment, Gore presents a wide array of facts and information in a thoughtful and compelling way. "Al Gore strips his presentations of politics, laying out the facts for the audience to draw their own conclusions in a charming, funny and engaging style, and by the end has everyone on the edge of their seats, gripped by his haunting message," said Guggenheim. An Inconvenient Truth is not a story of despair but rather a rallying cry to protect the one earth we all share. "It is now clear that we face a deepening global climate crisis that requires us to act boldly, quickly, and wisely," said Gore.
The Secret (2006) by Drew Heriot
Not really a movie or documentary, The Secret is more of a video seminar, a presentation featuring a series of authors, philosophers, doctors, quantum physicists, entrepreneurs, and spiritual practitioners expounding on the powers of The Secret. What is The Secret, exactly? "That principle can be summed up in three simple words: thoughts become things," proclaims writer Mike Dooley, author of Notes from the Universe. Put it another way, it’s The Power of Positive Thinking and how it can be applied to attracting more money, better health, and relationships; in short, happiness.
Planet Earth - The Complete BBC Series (© 2007-2008)
With an unprecedented production budget of $25 million, and from the makers of Blue Planet: Seas of Life, comes the epic story of life on Earth. Five years in production, over 2,000 days in the field, using 40 cameramen filming across 200 locations, shot entirely in high definition, this is the ultimate portrait of our planet. A stunning television experience that captures rare action, impossible locations and intimate moments with our planet's best-loved, wildest and most elusive creatures. From the highest mountains to the deepest rivers, this blockbuster series takes you on an unforgettable journey through the daily struggle for survival in Earth's most extreme habitats. Planet Earth takes you to places you have never seen before, to experience sights and sounds you may never experience anywhere else.
The Thin Red Line (1999) by Terrence Malick
In World War II, the outcome of the battle of Guadalcanal will strongly influence the Japanese's advance into the pacific. A group of young soldiers is brought in as a relief for the battle-weary Marine units. The exhausting fight for a key-positioned airfield that allows control over a 1000-mile radius puts the men of the Army Rifle company C-for-Charlie through hell. The horrors of war forms the soldiers into a tight-knit group, their emotions develop into bonds of love and even family. The reasons for this war get further away as the world for the men gets smaller and smaller until their fighting is for mere survival and the life of the other men with them.
The Shawshank Redemption (1994) by Frank Darabont
Tim Robbins plays a banker named Andy who's sent to Shawshank Prison on a murder charge, but as he gets to know a life-term prisoner named Red, we realize there's reason to believe the banker's crime was justifiable. We also realize that Andy's calm, quiet exterior hides a great reserve of patience and fortitude, and Red comes to admire this mild-mannered man who first struck him as weak and unfit for prison life. So it is that The Shawshank Redemption builds considerable impact as a prison drama that defies the conventions of the genre (violence, brutality, riots) to illustrate its theme of faith, friendship, and survival.
Dead Poets Society (1989) by Peter Weir
Painfully shy Todd Anderson has been sent to the school where his popular older brother was valedictorian. His room-mate, Neil, although exceedingly bright and popular, is very much under the thumb of his overbearing father. The two, along with their other friends, meet Professor Keating, their new English teacher, who tells them of the Dead Poets Society, and encourages them to go against the status quo. Each, in their own way, does this, and are changed for life.
Dances with Wolves (1990) by Kevin Costner
Kevin Costner's 1990 epic won a bundle of Oscars for a moving, engrossing story of a white soldier who singlehandedly mans a post in the 1870 Dakotas, and becomes a part of the Lakota Sioux community who live nearby. The film may not be a masterpiece, but it is far more than the sum of good intentions. The characters are strong, the development of relationships is both ambitious and careful, the love story between Costner and Mary McDonnell's character is captivating.
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