Dharma Flicks

Cinema Paradiso_Dharma Flicks

If you’re thinking of renting a movie and would like some ideas for great films infused with the Dharma, here’s a list with reviews from a Buddhist point of view. The movie reviews including popular hits, independent favorites and international award-winners were generously provided by Michael Parry with suggestions from fellow movie fans.

  • Its a Wonderful Life It’s a Wonderful Life During the Christmas holidays, what better film to contemplate the teachings of the dharma than the classic, It’s a Wonderful Life? As we know, the film tells the story of George Bailey (played in a great performance by Jimmy Stewart) who is deeply distraught over the loss of an $8000 loan and the cruel vindication […] Read more
  • The Truman Show The Truman Show The Truman Show offers several paths to seeing how Buddhist ideas can be represented in a film. In The Truman Show, Jim Carrey plays Truman Burbank, an abnormally normal guy in a normal town with a normal wife and a quintessential best friend who stops by from time to time with six-pack in hand. What […] Read more
  • Capote Capote I could just sing the praises of Capote as a wonderfully made film with performances that take the respective performers to a new level but dharma is there, as promised. As the title suggests, the film is about Truman Capote and the struggle that he faced in writing his novel, In Cold Blood. What is […] Read more
  • My Dinner with Andre My Dinner with Andre Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory, apparently playing themselves, share their lives over the course of an evening meal at a restaurant. Gregory, a theater director from New York, is the more talkative of the pair. He relates to Shawn his tales of dropping out, traveling around the world, and experiencing the variety of ways people […] Read more
  • Flatliners Flatliners Recommending Flatliners (1990) may be taking the risk of dating myself but what have I got to lose in recommending one of the pinnacles of eighties filmmaking which hosts a fantastic constellation of stars (Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts, Kevin Bacon, William Baldwin, Oliver Platt). In the film five medical students at the top of their […] Read more
  • About Schmidt About Schmidt About Schmidt is “part comedy, part tragedy, mostly masterpiece.” Warren Schmidt (Jack Nicholson) has arrived at several of life’s crossroads all at the same time. He retired from a lifetime job and he feels utterly adrift. Furthermore, his only daughter is about to marry a man whom he does not like. And his wife dies […] Read more
  • Evita Evita This lavish musical drama, based on the hit stage production by Andrew Lloyd Webber and beautifully photographed by Darius Khondji, tells the life story of Eva Duarte (Madonna) who leaves her rural home for Buenos Aires in the company of Latin singer Agustin Magaldi (Jimmy Nail), eventually becoming the wife of President Juan Peron (Jonathan […] Read more
  • Little Miss Sunshine Little Miss Sunshine The humor that ensues when six very different family members climb into a marginally functional VW bus for a trip from New Mexico to Redondo Beach would be enough to highly recommend Little Miss Sunshine. However, in light of what Lama Marut has said about the challenges of travel and the need to maintain a […] Read more
  • Wheel of Time Wheel of Time Werner Herzog’s Wheel of Time is a unique and interesting documentary on the Kalachakra Ritual. Yes, that’s the same Werner Herzog of Fitzcarraldo and Grizzly Man fame. While this famously obsessive and, to some, maniacal, director may seem an unlikely voice to create a documentary on Buddhism, his voice here is characteristically incisive and unique. […] Read more
  • Fearless Fearless Adapted by screenwriter Rafael Yglesias from his own novel, Fearless explores the complex struggle back to mental health of post-traumatic stress disorder victim Max Klein (Jeff Bridges). One of few survivors of a fatal plane crash, Klein remains calm and assists other survivors out of the burning debris, earning praise as a hero by the […] Read more
  • Imitation of Life Imitation of Life From one of America’s foremost directors, Douglas Sirk, Imitation of Life, at first seems like a just another melodrama from the 1950s centered on issues of domesticity. Looking more deeply into the film (and this is a wonderful characteristic of most of Sirk’s films) we see a story of complex relationships and identity. Set in […] Read more
  • The Decalogue The Decalogue Only Communist Poland could produce a state funded TV series that interprets The Ten Commandments in ten 55-minute episodes. We should be happy though that the Polish Communists saw fit to make the films, as they are each beautiful explorations of human instinct running up against morality and law. Over and above the usual genius […] Read more
  • Peaceful Warrior Peaceful Warrior Along with such books as Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Siddhartha, The Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman, has become a classic contribution to the young-adult-with-burgeoning-spirituality literature canon. Based faithfully on the book, the film, Peaceful Warrior, is a poignant exploration of renunciation and overcoming obstacles. When we first meet […] Read more
  • Tuck Everlasting Tuck Everlasting With a great cast that includes Sissy Spacek, Ben Kingsley, and William Hurt, Tuck Everlasting is a quiet and subtle meditation on the value of life and the need to ask the question, “Am I living to my highest potential?” On one level, the film is a sweet adolescent love story that begins as Winnie […] Read more
  • Dead Man Dead Man In Jim Jarmusch’s genre-bending classic, William Blake (Johnny Depp) disembarks from a train that has reached its terminus in a town called Machine. Normal enough, you might think, but it so happens that Machine is where civilization’s frail finger tip meets the great western wilderness. If Depp’s character’s name weren’t a clue to the major […] Read more
  • Beyond_Rangoon Beyond Rangoon With the tragic events that have happened in Myanmar, I began thinking of Beyond Rangoon (1995), an American Film directed by John Boorman that gives an insight to the country’s political strife. Beyond Rangoon was inspired by the history of political repression in Myanmar (formerly Burma). It tells the fictional story of Dr. Laura Bowman, […] Read more
  • The Day the Earth Stood Still The Day the Earth Stood Still From the director Robert Wise (whose eclectic filmography includes: The Sound of Music, The Andromeda Strain, and West Side Story) The Day the Earth Stood Still is a cautionary tale born of early cold war anxieties of 1951. In the film, The United States is visited by a being from outer space called Klaatu. Klaatu […] Read more
  • Love Actually Love Actually In keeping with the Dharma Flicks tradition of looking closely at holiday-themed films during the holidays, Love Actually is a charming and endearing film that is set almost entirely in London during five frantic weeks before Christmas. The film follows a web-like pattern of inter-related people and the complexities that are created in their individual […] Read more
  • 8 1_2 Dharma_Flick 8-1/2 Regarded as one of Federico Fellini’s master pieces, 8½ is a thinly veiled auto biography that follows a fictional film director, Guido Anselmi, as he searches for the will and inspiration necessary to embark on a new film production. Released in 1963 8½ followed on two widely celebrated releases from Fellini La Dolce Vita (1960) […] Read more
  • Diving Bell and Butterfly Film The Diving Bell and the Butterfly In 1995, at the age of 43, Elle France editor Jean-Dominique Bauby, suffered a stroke that paralyzed his entire body, except his left eye. Using that eye to blink out his memoir, Bauby eloquently described the aspects of his interior world, from the psychological torment of being trapped inside his body to his imagined stories […] Read more
  • The Incredibles_Movie The Incredibles Fifteen years ago, superheroes walked the streets of Metroville, performing acts of great heroism and inspiring many to follow their example. But a string of lawsuits by disgruntled people they’d helped lead to political and public outcry, and the Supers are forced into retirement and government-funded anonymity. Bob Parr used to be Mr. Incredible, one […] Read more
  • The Game_Movie The Game In The Game, Michael Douglas plays Nicholas Van Orton, a wealthy tycoon who, despite his successes in the world of business, lives a life of lonely solitude estranged from friends and family. In a surprise visit during Nicholas’ 48th birthday, Nicholas’ brother, Conrad, (Sean Penn) gives Nicholas a gift certificate for a “game” provided by […] Read more
  • Amelie Amélie In another fantastic film by French director, Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Delicatessen, City of Lost Children) Audrey Tautou plays the lovable, Amélie, a waitress in Montemart who realizes that the best way to bring love into life is to help others find love in their own lives. We see Amelie grow up in an original, if slightly […] Read more
  • Being There Being There Adapted from the novel by Jerzy Kosinski and directed by Hal Ashby, Being There is a Shakespearean comedy of errors meets a Buddhist meditation on emptiness. Being There depicts the story of a gardener named Chance (Peter Sellers) who grows up in the townhouse of a wealthy man in Washington, D.C. For reasons that remain […] Read more
  • Waking Life Waking Life After we return to work from a retreat or vacation, we may find ourselves with the thought, “Wasn’t that the way it should be all the time? Shouldn’t our ‘normal’ lives be the exception?” Well, if we work hard enough, and stay focused on the right endeavors, of course, all suffering will fall away and […] Read more
  • The Matrix The Matrix Sara from Detroit wrote in to inquire why The Matrix, the Dharma Flick par excellence, or Mahadharmaflick, if you will, was not on the list. Thanks Sara for writing. The Matrix would certainly rank for many as the most identifiable Implicit Dharma Flick of all times. Much has been said about the ways that The […] Read more
  • Into the Wild Into the Wild In the Spring of 1992, Chris McCandless graduated from Emory University. His life until that point had been, superficially at least, a model of the American norm. His parents had risen to a respectable upper middle class existence and had provided a very comfortable life for their children. What lied beneath the surface though would […] Read more
  • The Message The Message Directed by Moustapha Akkad, The Message is an historical epic concerning the birth of the Islamic faith and the story of the prophet Mohammed — who, in accordance with the tennets of Islam, is never seen or heard. The film begins in Mecca in the 7th century when the future prophet, Mohammed, is visited by […] Read more
  • Revolutionary Road Revolutionary Road From 2008, Sam Mendes’ Revolutionary Road is a standout. In the film, April (Kate Winslet) and Frank Wheeler (Leonardo DiCaprio) are a young, thriving couple living with their two children in a Connecticut suburb. They seem the model of 1950′s American success but their self-assured exterior masks a creeping frustration at their inability to feel […] Read more
  • Benjamin Button The Curious Case of Benjamin Button The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, directed by David Fincher, is the imaginative tale of Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt) who, born an octogenarian, lives life aging in reverse. What may indeed be a “curious” case for the average viewer is, for the dharma student, something far more interesting. One of the most difficult concepts to […] Read more
  • Thelma and Louise Film Thelma and Louise Recently, in the midst of three evenings of sublime teachings on the Bhagavad Gita, Lama Marut suggested that the students consider the predicament of the eponymous characters at the end of Thelma and Louise. My thoughts traveled back to the air conditioned summer theater and the racing heart that anticipated their decision which ends the […] Read more
  • Defending Your Life Film Defending Your Life First of all, thanks to June Hayes for recommending this film to me. Albert Brooks’ film, Defending Your Life gives a light-hearted view of the Karma cam. Many of us have heard of the karma cam but who knew that the drab interior of our apartment in the after life, would be caused by our […] Read more
  • American_Beauty Film American Beauty If American Beauty had a subtitle to describe its Dharma related theme, it would be called American Beauty: How NOT to have a Spiritual Partnership. The film, which is the wonderful first collaboration between director Sam Mendes and Cinematographer Conrad Hall (their following collaboration, Road to Perdition, was Hall’s final film project before his death […] Read more
  • Glass Film Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts Academy Award-nominated director Scott Hicks documents an eventful year in the career and personal life of distinguished composer Philip Glass as he interacts with a number of friends and collaborators. As a student of the dharma, Mr. Glass’ life and work serve as great examples of living life according to a higher calling and persevering […] Read more
  • Rear Window Film Rear Window A classic among classics, Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window is a mystery and thriller starring Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly that, in 1954, raised the bar for what intrigue could mean in motion pictures. The film opens with professional photographer, L.B. “Jeff” Jefferies (Stewart) confined to his New York apartment with a broken leg. Despite his […] Read more
  • memento-17448-hd-wallpapers Memento In Chris Nolan’s 2000 break out feature, Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce), is an ex-insurance investigator who is caught in a trying conundrum. While, on the one hand, he must compile clues in order to solve the murder of his wife, he is, on the other hand, stricken with a type of amnesia that leaves him […] Read more
  • blade-runner-cityscape Blade Runner In what is widely viewed as one of the greatest filmmaking achievements of all time, Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner enters the Dharma Flicks ranks as an unlikely contender.  How, might you ask, does the stoic Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) impart onto us, intrepid Dharma students, any notion of the Buddha’s teachings?   In the 2019 imagined […] Read more
  • 13 Conversations About One Thing 13 Conversations About One Thing The Dalai Lama says that all beings want to be happy and all beings want to avoid suffering. 13 Conversations About One Thing speaks to this democracy of humanity. It is about happiness: the search for happiness, the envy of happiness, the loss of happiness, and the guilt about undeserved happiness. On the surface this […] Read more
  • The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill As fog rolls through the Golden Gate, jewel green birds pluck cherry blossoms from trees on Telegraph Hill, their red heads emerging from the foliage as the birds chatter to each other and take flight. As awestruck tourists watch, Mark Bittner holds up a palm full of sunflower seeds to the eager, noisy birds. Wearing […] Read more