Switch Up from Studying: Buddhist Feature Films Can be Illuminating and Enjoyable: 6 Distinctly Different Movies

Feature Contents

    Sitting in the lotus position, focused on breath and not thinking about anything — that’s true Buddhist serenity. For those times when you need a break from practice, these six profound films are sure to distract you from your worries and help you tune into serenity.

    By Carrie Duncan

    [Bio below.]


    Scene from the movie Little Buddha, starring Keanu Reeves as the Buddha:


    Little Buddha, 1993

    One storyline tells the story of the historical Buddha, played by the handsome Keanu Reeves. The other, a fable of modern Tibet.

    Synopsis: After the death of Lama Dorje of Tibet, Buddhist monks begin searching all over the world for children in whom the reborn mindstream of the deceased has been incarnated. They find an American boy, Jesse, and two Hindus, Raju, and Gita, who together became the object of reincarnation. In parallel, the legend of Prince Siddharth, who once began his ascent to the heights of Spirit, is told.


    Clip from the movie Angulimala, where the serial killer meets the compassionate Buddha:




    Angulimala, 2003, Thailand

    The movie is about a historical character who lived 2,000 years ago – a warrior from a Brahman family who was a serial killer and then met the Buddha. Buddha’s compassionate resolve transforms Angulimala’s hate.

    Full movie Kundun on YouTube:



    Kundun, 1998, USA

    (Martin Scorsese, by the way)

    The childhood and youth of the current Dalai Lama. In my opinion, pretty informative.

    Synopsis: A narrative of the life and tragic fate of the fourteenth Dalai Lama, one of the greatest religious figures of our era and the spiritual leader of Buddhists around the world. Chronicle of his childhood and youth, filled with anxiety for the future of the ancient nation, resolute attempts to defend the right of Tibet to political and religious independence.

    Asoka trailer:



    Emperor Ashoka, 2001, India

    About the great ruler of India (the Mauryan Empire), the patron of Buddhism. He was the main popularizer of the Buddhist religion in ancient times. The movie is Indian, with all its implications, although they don’t dance or sing there, thank God.

    Synopsis: Prince Ashoka, as a child, was given a sword that was said to be not a sword but a devil that could not distinguish between friends and enemies. The heir to the throne grew up surprisingly peaceful and compliant, so much so that at his mother’s request he went on a journey in the guise of a commoner.

    Milarepa movie trailer:



    Milarepa. Bhutan, 2006

    The film was directed by Nyoten Chokling, a lama from Bhutan. About the most revered teacher in Tibet, Milarepa, who brought Buddhism here. Pretty interesting, was waiting for the second part, but it hasn’t come out yet, as far as I know.

    Synopsis: The film is about the Tibetan Buddhist teacher, famous yoga practitioner, poet, author of many songs and ballads, still popular in Tibet, one of the founders of the Kagyu school Jetsune Milarepa, who first (after twelve years of meditation) reached the Vajrahara state in one lifetime, having no merit in previous births.

    Award-winning Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring:



    Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter

    Spring  2003, Korea, Germany

    No one can disrupt the changing seasons, when first everything is born, then grows, and then dies out. Neither can the two monks living in a floating hut on a mountain lake.

    As the season progresses, their reborn midstream are filled with energy, leading to both a sense of spirituality and tragedy. They cannot break free from the circle of life, desires, suffering, and passions to which all of us are subject.

    What about you? What are your favorite Buddhist or Buddhist-themed movies or dramas? Let us know in the comments below.

    Another Little Buddha clip:





    More articles by this author

    Keanu Reeves stars as Shakyamuni Buddha in the movie Little Buddha
    Switch Up from Studying: Buddhist Feature Films Can be Illuminating and Enjoyable: 6 Distinctly Different Movies

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    Carrie Duncan

    Author | Buddha Weekly

    My name is Carrie Duncan. I'm a philologist and mother of 2. I am  currently working as essay writer.

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