Amy Ward Brimmer

mother daughter wife teacher writer dreamer sister worker seeker activist minister healer student human


25 Spiritually Significant Movies

You know how Jesus, and Gandhi, and loads of other master teachers used stories to teach?  Well, clearly movies have the potential to do the same.  Here, in a very limited and incomplete way, are some films that have pointed to deep spiritual truths for me.  These are not necessarily stories about spiritual people or subjects, per se.  They just resonate with my own spiritual search, and have done so consistently after several viewings.
What movies have shown you your spiritual truths? Please share.

I've included comments on the first 11.  I'll say more about the others in a subsequent post.

Groundhog Day
                Although mine is not a ranked list, this is first for a reason.  What a perfect movie. Don’t be fooled by its mainstream comedy veneer.  That’s just what got it greenlighted. Harold Ramis has created a modern masterpiece that takes complex Buddhist theology and explores it in a literal way.  With a last line that rivals the one in “Casablanca.”

Jacob’s Ladder
                More or less tied with Groundhog Day for #1, except it’s just harder to take. I can watch GD any time, but this one I have to gear myself up for.  Deeply upsetting much of the time, this movie may nevertheless have the most hopeful ending ever. Directed by Adrian Lynne with a flawless script by Bruce Joel Rubin, who later took a similar concept and wrote a mainstream movie that Hollywood could love (Ghost).  Jacob’s Ladder comes as close to describing spiritual reality as I can bring myself to accept. Danny Aiello wins for best supporting chiropractor/angel. “Just relax. This is a deep adjustment.”

Stand By Me
                Generally seen as a coming-of-age story, this one is more than that.  Essentially it is about following a leading, and bringing along a support group as you satisfy your need to face death. An exploration of the tension between beauty and decay, love and cruelty, social circumstance and personal power. I adore Stephen King, arguably the most spiritual popular storyteller of our generation.

The Shawshank Redemption
                The other King-based film on my list.  Is there anyone who has not seen this? It’s on TV every single day, just about. Also the other Tim Robbins movie. I won’t insult you by outlining the spiritual metaphor of unjust imprisonment and the liberation that can result from a daily discipline of chipping away at the barriers, literally. Oh wait, I just did.

I Heart Huckabees
                Is spiritual growth funny? Hells yeah! And wouldn’t it be terrific if all our teachers could be Lily Tomlin and Dustin Hoffman?

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
                Oh *sigh*.  I’m not sure this one qualifies as a spiritual movie exactly, but it certainly touches on themes of timelessness and the enduring qualities of love. And it stars Jim Carrey, who most people do not recognize as a modern-day mystic.  I know he seems like a movie star, and God knows I’m baffled by the productions he chooses to do, but this man is waaay enlightened. And so in Eternal Sunshine, he gives us the vehicle to follow the thought we’ve all had about ex-lovers: I wish I could just erase you from memory. What happens when there is no more story? Who are we then?

The Matrix
                What if I told you…  I usually hate this kind of futuristic, sci-fi genre?  I discovered The Matrix one day when I was sick in bed and surfing for something to watch.  Surprise! Waking up to reality can be fun!  In spite of predictable plots and characters, I am not immune to entertaining movie-making. Plus, for all I know, it could be true.

American Beauty
                Unlike The Matrix, this story was full of surprises the first time I saw it, while at the same time clearly moving toward an inevitable conclusion. Just like life as a human.  Every time I see a plastic bag wafting in the wind, I feel connected to everything. And nothing.

Crimes and Misdemeanors
                Woody’s masterpiece, IMHO. People get away with murder, and worse, every day.  Who sees?  If there's no G-d, why behave in a moral way? An attempt to answer the question, "how can you live with yourself?"

It’s A Wonderful Life
                Every single person matters. Nothing we do is meaningless. Corny but true. Also, women who don't get married end up as the town librarian and need glasses.

Jesus of Nazareth / The Greatest Story Ever Told
                Two totally different movies based on the same myth.  I lump them together unfairly, I know.  But they air during the same week or month each year, and they both have a blue-eyed Jesus. Only one, however, has Max von Sydow asking Michael York to “Bap-tize me John,” in a Swedish accent. And only one has John Wayne confessing, “Truly this man was the son-o-God.”

And, for comment later:
The Sixth Sense
Harold and Maude
Being There
The Hours
Angels in America
2001: A Space Odyssey
Wings of Desire
My Dinner With Andre
O Brother Where Art Thou?
Pulp Fiction
84 Charing Cross Road