When it comes to revealing the beauty and mystery of existence and the universe, movies hold a secret key to unlock cryptic answers. As a unique art form that deals with space and time, cinema has been exploring the haunting question of “Who am I?” for more than 100 years. Almost all the master filmmakers who took this path ended up in one abstract and intangible phenomenon that can be represented by the generic term “spirituality.” Filmmakers like Andrei Tarkovsky, Theo Angelopoulos, Béla Tarr, and Ingmar Bergman elevated their movies into deep meditations on humanity and its myriad spiritual ways of interacting with the universe. Netflix features a good bunch of these movies, which will make you stop and think about life a bit more keenly.
17. I Can Only Imagine (2018)
Directed by Jon Erwin and Andrew Erwin, ‘I Can Only Imagine’ is a biographical drama based on the creation of the song ‘I Can Only Imagine’ by the group MercyMe, written by the lead singer Bart Millard. It is considered the best-selling Christian single of all time. Surprisingly, the song is about Bart’s relationship with his abusive father. J. Michael Finley stars as Bart Millard, while Dennis Quaid plays the role of Bart’s father, Arthur Millard. The rest of the cast includes Madeline Carroll, Amy Grant, and Cloris Leachman. You can watch it here.
16. A Week Away (2021)
‘A Week Away’ is a Christian teen drama film directed by Roman White. The story of this jukebox musical film follows Will (Kevin Quinn), a troubled teen who faces a critical decision – juvenile hall or a summer camp. Opting for the latter, Will embarks on a transformative journey. He is immediately captivated by Avery (Bailee Madison), while his friend George (Jahbril Cook) pines for Presley (Kat Conner Sterling). You can watch the movie here.
As camp competitions ensue and friendships solidify, Will’s murky past threatens to tarnish these newfound bonds. The film beautifully reintroduces classic Christian tracks from legends like Michael W. Smith, Amy Grant, and Steven Curtis Chapman, crafting them into contemporary masterpieces. Featuring performances by Bailee Madison, Kevin Quinn, David Koechner, and Sherri Shepherd, the movie beautifully showcases the power of redemption, love, and community. You may watch the film here.
15. Blue Miracle (2021)
‘Blue Miracle’ is a drama film directed by Julio Quintana. Set against the backdrop of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, the narrative revolves around “Papa” Omar, who runs the Casa Hogar orphanage. With the establishment on the brink of foreclosure, an unexpected twist arrives in the form of a street kid, Moco, and a stolen watch that belongs to a fishing boat captain named Wade Malloy.
As Hurricane Odile wreaks havoc, the international Bisbee Black and Blue Fishing Tournament turns to locals for participation. Omar and the orphans team up with a down-on-his-luck Wade to compete in the tournament, hoping the prize money might save their home. Featuring Dennis Quaid, Jimmy Gonzales, and Raymond Cruz, this touching drama beautifully portrays the themes of hope, perseverance, and community. Its inspiring storyline highlighting resilience in the face of adversity is what makes the film a worthy addition to the list. Feel free to check out the movie here.
14. Layla M. (2016)
‘Layla M.’ is a Dutch movie that reveals a terrifying face of religion and spirituality. The plot follows 18-year-old Layla, a Dutch girl of Moroccan descent, who is irritated by the Islamophobia prevailing in society. As an extreme response to the religious apartheid of the society, she marries a radical Islamist and moves to Syria with him. But her Utopian preoccupations about radical Islam soon turn upside down as she finds it extremely hard to adjust to the patriarchal value system that governs society. Nora El Koussour plays the titular character of Layla in the movie. The film is directed by Mijke de Jong. ‘Layla M’ was the official entry of the Netherlands for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 90th Academy Awards. You can check out the film here.
13. Come Sunday (2018)
Written by Marcus Hinchey, ‘Come Sunday’ is a drama movie that stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jason Segel, Condola Rashad, and Lakeith Stanfield. The Joshua Marston directorial follows Carlton Pearson, an internationally renowned and popular pastor who, after arriving at a shocking conclusion, risks his family, church, and everything else to spread the message. He soon begins to preach that there is no hell, a view that contradicts Christian beliefs. As a result, he is immediately branded as a heretic and is ostracized from the church. He now faces an uncertain future, but does he change his controversial stance? You can watch ‘Come Sunday’ here and find out.
12. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail,’ directed by Gilliam and Jones, is a hilarious take on spirituality and faith. The plot is a parody of the legend of King Arthur’s quest for the Holy Grail and its consequent events. Set in 932 AD, King Arthur and Patsy, a musical Spamalot, comb through Britain in search of men to join the Knights of the Round Table. But when God appears to them on the way and asks Arthur to find the Holy Grail, their mission turns on its head. Made by the iconic British comedy troupe Monty Python, the movie is considered one of the best comedies ever made. The cast members include John Cleese, Eric Idle, Graham Chapman, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, and Terry Gilliam. You may watch the movie here.
11. Life of Brian (1979)
British comedy group Monty Python’s comedy movie ‘Life of Brian’ is a walk on the tightrope between religious satire and blasphemy. The plot follows the titular character Brian Cohen (played by Graham Chapman), who is born on the same day as Jesus Christ! When the young Jewish man is mistaken for Jesus, the swap triggers a series of hilarious events. The movie is from the popular Monthy Python members Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin. ‘Life of Brian’ is directed by Terry Jones. In a THR report, the movie has been described as “a wacky, good-natured satire, carrying much more of a whimsical and friendly air than a sacrilegious flavor.” You can stream the film here.
10. PK (2014)
At times, it takes an outsider to raise questions about the status quo we are living in. In the Indian satire movie ‘PK,’ an alien who is stranded on Earth after a crash landing starts asking questions about things we believe as universal norms and rigid customs. The movie is a terrific portrayal of spirituality and religion as two institutions complimenting each other while cashing in on people’s vulnerabilities. The alien, PK, provokes the establishment with his innocent questions about religion, spirituality, beliefs, customs, laws, and many more. People even mistake him for god! He is beaten to a pulp, makes unlikely friends, and finds even love but no answers to his questions. ‘PK’ is Indian cinema at its absurdist and satirical best. Directed by Rajkumar Hirani, the movie features Aamir Khan and Anushka Sharma in the lead roles. ‘PK’ became one of the biggest hits of Indian cinema and garnered rave reviews from Indian and international critics. You can stream it here.
9. The Devil All The Time (2020)
‘The Devil All The Time’ is a Gothic crime-thriller film directed by Antonio Campos. This tale, steeped in violence, faith, and darkness, is set in southern Ohio and West Virginia from the close of World War II to the 1960s. Based on the novel by Donald Ray Pollock, this gripping narrative weaves the stories of various deeply flawed individuals, including a tormented war veteran, Willard Russell (Bill Skarsgård), and his orphaned son, Arvin (Tom Holland).
The nefarious activities of serial killer duo Carl and Sandy Henderson and the twisted evangelism of preacher Roy further complicate this bleak landscape. Robert Pattinson, Riley Keough, Jason Clarke, and Sebastian Stan round out an impressive ensemble cast. Through its multifaceted exploration of generational violence, faith, and redemption, the film delves deep into the soul’s murkiest corners. A rich tapestry of interconnected tales, the film confronts the dual nature of humanity, exposing both its darkest vices and its capacity for redemption. You can watch the film here.
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8. IO (2019)
The Netflix film ‘IO’ is a meditative walk through themes like the fate of humanity, existence, identity, and our spiritual connection to Earth. The plot is set on a futuristic Earth destroyed by the greed of mankind. People are fleeing the planet which is not inhabitable anymore. The new human hotspot is Jupiter’s moon IO and the space beyond it. But some people stay behind, determined to fix Earth and make it glow like a blue diamond again.
Sam, who is a young scientist and daughter of a pro-Earth activist, decides to stay behind. Though she has a plan to save Earth, staying behind is dangerous because the atmosphere is running out of Oxygen. The key to Sam’s destiny is in the title of the movie, ‘IO,’ which stands for the mortal lover of Zeus and the mother of Hercules in mythology. ‘IO’ puts forward the complex connection between women, earth, fertility, and the phenomenon of “birth.” The movie, which stars Margaret Qualley, Anthony Mackie, and Danny Huston in the lead roles, is directed by Jonathan Helpert. You may watch the film here.
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7. You People (2023)
Starring Jonah Hill, Eddie Murphy, and Lauren London, ‘You People’ is a story of an interreligious couple i.e. a white Jewish man (Hill) and a Black Islam woman (London), and their families. As expected, we are subjected to a cross-culture exploration and the issues that modern love is underscored by, including different cultures, different expectations, generational dissimilarities, and different faiths. How the couple maneuvers through all this is what we find out in this social commentary disguised as a romantic comedy. You can stream it here.
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6. Ram Dass, Going Home (2017)
Produced by Further Pictures, ‘Ram Dass, Going Home’ is a short documentary that paints an inspiring portrait of the titular protagonist. The popular author and advocate for awareness of death and dying has, since the 60s, remained an influential spiritual figure by offering people much-needed guidance on life. While his unforgettable message continues to resonate with his followers, facing his own death now, Ram Dass must use his own philosophy of death and dying to face the final months of his life. The film revolves around his philosophy and work by trying to enlighten viewers with his thoughts on different aspects of life. Feel free to check it out here.
5. The Dreamseller (2016)
A Brazilian drama directed by Jayme Monjardim, ‘The Dreamseller’ is a drama wherein troubled psychologist Júlio César on the verge of jumping off a building is saved by a beggar named Mellon Lincoln Filho. What follows is how Mellon explains to Júlio that things can be better. This sparks a friendship between the two people, and as it progresses, we get to see how Mellon’s ideology stores the true meaning of what life should be all about. However, his opinions garner him a huge following, which earns him some enemies as well. Will Júlio be the one to save Mellon this time? Starring César Troncoso as Mellon Lincoln Filho and Dan Stulbach as Júlio César, ‘The Dreamseller’ is a must-watch. You can stream it here.
4. Tarung Sarung (2020)
Starring Panji Zoni, Yayan Ruhian, Maizura, and Cemal Faruk, ‘Tarung Sarung’ is an Indonesian drama movie produced by Chand Parwez Servia and Fiaz Servia. The Archie Hekagery directorial revolves around a young adult named Deni Ruso, who is born with a silver spoon and has to never work for anything in life. However, the life of the spoilt young man changes forever when he comes across an environmental activist who is outspoken about her beliefs and does not shy away from fighting for the greater good. Deni is forced to not only rethink his life choices but also come to terms with the harsh realities that he has so far somehow avoided facing. You can stream ‘Tarung Sarung’ here.
3. In Vitro (2019)
‘In Vitro’ is a sci-fi short directed by Søren Lind and Larissa Sansour. It stars Hiam Abbass and Maisa Abd Elhadi and is set in Bethlehem in the decades-long aftermath of an ecological disaster. We have two scientists who struggle to make sense of the disaster, deal with their memories, and figure out a future from scratch. With brilliant use of imagery to portray the human experience amid a lost world, the film upholds emotions and questions that many of us will struggle to grasp, and rightfully so. It is up to us what we make of it, just like the future. You can watch the short here.
2. Seven Years in Tibet (1997)
‘Seven Years in Tibet’ is a biographical war drama film directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud. Based on Heinrich Harrer’s memoir, ‘Seven Years in Tibet,’ the film navigates the transformative journey of Austrian mountaineer Heinrich Harrer (Brad Pitt). Seeking glory, Heinrich ventures to climb Nanga Parbat, leaving his pregnant wife behind. However, the outbreak of WWII has him arrested and placed in a P.O.W. Camp. After a daring escape, along with Peter Aufschnaiter (David Thewlis), they find themselves in the enigmatic city of Lhasa, where Heinrich’s friendship with the young Dalai Lama flourishes.
While acquainting the Dalai Lama with the outside world, Harrer finds himself deeply influenced by the teachings of Buddhism. This film not only showcases a captivating plot but also provides a poignant commentary on the resilience of the human spirit amidst political upheaval. Its portrayal of Tibet’s rich culture and the profound relationship between Harrer and the Dalai Lama makes it a must-watch for spiritual seekers. You may watch it here.
1. The Two Popes (2019)
Directed by Fernando Meirelles, ‘The Two Popes’ stars Jonathan Pryce as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio (Pope Francis) and Anthony Hopkins as Pope Benedict XVI. The events in the film take place after the Vatican leaks scandal and explore the relationship between the two men of faith as they discuss their tastes, their differences, their choices, the way they perceive God, and even their favorite TV shows, among other stuff. All this is underscored by the Cardinal’s submission of resignation as the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, something that Pope Benedict doesn’t want to sign. A great film propelled to brilliance by the performances of the two prolific actors, ‘The Two Popes’ received nominations at the Oscars, the BAFTAs, and the Golden Globes. You can stream it here.
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