These are the best Buddhist-themed films, from Hollywood blockbusters to indie flicks.
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In most cases, searches for films dealing with spirituality and religion turn up a lot of documentaries, which is fine and a great way to learn, but it’s not necessarily what people are looking for in these matters. Films with a light, humorous, or dramatic tone that aren’t solely educational would be welcome from time to time in fiction or biopics.
Among the eleven films in this collection, none of them is a documentary. Buddhism can be explored in a variety of ways, from fictional novels that feature Buddhist characters or themes to comical depictions of Buddhist monks to biopics of notable historical figures.
1. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring
An island Buddhist monastery serves as the background for this lovely South Korean film, which examines the cyclical nature of existence. Young monks and their sexuality and spirituality are examined in this video, which takes place over a year. In this film, Buddhist teachings are explicitly referenced, while the film’s protagonist also embodies the Buddhist concept.
2. Bulletproof Monk
Bulletproof Monk is on the other extreme of the spectrum. However, if you are looking for an action-comedy that features an Asian Buddhist monk and an American pickpocket teaming up in order to defend an ancient magical scroll, you have come to the correct spot. It’s an entertaining movie, but it’s not about Buddhism in the truest sense.
3. Buddha Collapsed Out Of Shame
In spite of the title, this video does not entirely focus on Buddhism, but it does feature certain Buddhist principles like the pursuit of knowledge and the value of education for everyone. At Bamiyan (in Afghanistan), the Taliban famously destroyed enormous, ancient Buddha sculptures, the setting for the film Buddha Collapsed Out Of Shame takes place.
Even if the film doesn’t quite live up to Malala’s I Am Malala, it is a wonderful and inspiring story about a young girl’s desire to be educated.
A young monk’s quest for enlightenment is the subject of this award-winning film, which examines the complexities of spirituality and sexuality. While raised in the spiritual life, Tashi falls head over heels for a woman. His heart tells him to follow his intuition, but it leads him down a path that he doesn’t anticipate to take.
5. Hector And The Search For Happiness
An uninterested psychiatrist sets out on a global mission to understand the actual meaning of happiness… and comes across some delightful surprises. Although many films claim this, the ending of this film is likely going to be unexpected in a fantastic way, unlike many others.
Even though Buddhism isn’t the focus of the film, Hector does spend some time at a monastery where he receives some teachings, and the general message of the film does seem to align with certain Buddhist principles.
Director Martin Scorsese’s Kundun is a remarkable look at the early life of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama. From the time he was a child in Tibet till the Chinese invaded and he fled to India. To study the mysteries of Buddhism via the life narrative of the world’s most famous Buddhist, this film is more beautiful than political. Despite the fact that it’s not one of Scorsese’s most popular films, it’s worth a look for anyone interested in the personal history of the Dalai Lama.
7. The Cup
The Cup plainly shows that not all films about Buddhism have to be serious and spiritual. When a bunch of monks and novices find themselves pulled between their faith and their passion for soccer, the result is a hilarious comedy set in a monastery. As they search for a way to watch the World Cup, it’s a beautiful and amusing reminder that even monks are human. A must-have for sports lovers and Buddhists both.
Milarepa, a film about the life of the Tibetan tantric yogi of the same name, is another film about the life of a famous Buddhist figure. Because the film is a well-known Buddhist moral parable, audiences shouldn’t expect any dramatic surprises. If you’re looking for a film that will teach you something about Buddhism through the medium of film, this is the one.
9. The Civilization Of Maxwell Bright
Patrick Warburton stars in a lesser-known picture that reimagines Beauty and the Beast with a Buddhist spin.. An enraged and misogynistic man decides that the solution to his love life problems is a mail order bride. Having assumed his new spouse would be quiet and completely subservient, Max Bright is astonished to learn that she is in fact a Buddhist nun. Maximizes the opportunity to explore a more spiritual side to himself as his own life undergoes big transformations with the help of a newfound friend. If you’re looking for a traditional love story, look elsewhere.
10. Seven Years In Tibet
This Brad Pitt-starring ’90s classic is a must-see on any list of Buddhist films. Seven Years in Tibet is based on the true story of Heinrich Harrer, a mountain climber who ends up in Tibet and develops an odd connection with the Dalai Lama. Many of the films on this list were made on a much smaller scale by independent filmmakers, but Seven Years in Tibet succeeds in being both inspiring and funny at the same time.