We have chosen these movies (listed in ascending date order) not based on their box office takings, their reviews, or their cult status. These are all thought-provoking stories with a spiritual, moral or life-lesson. Sometimes uplifting, sometimes terribly sad, always meaningful. Use your screen time productively and pick one of our favorite movies with a message to watch this weekend.
1: Gandhi (1982) Director: Richard Attenborough
The biopic tale of Mohandas K. Gandhi (Ben Kingsley), who helped India gain independence from the British Empire using a non-violent protest campaign of epic proportions, coordinating millions of Indians. The story teaches us that violence isn’t necessary to affect social change and that there is enormous power when people come together for a common cause.
2: Mississippi Burning (1988) Director: Alan Parker
The biographical story of an investigation by two FBI agents (Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe) into the disappearance of three civil rights activists. The agents are met with hostility from the town’s Sheriff, who they discover is linked to the Ku Klux Klan. The movie deals with themes of racism, the civil rights movement, and race politics.
3: Philadelphia (1993) Director: Jonathan Demme
Legal courtroom drama that details the case of gay lawyer Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks), who was unfairly dismissed from his law firm because of his sexual orientation and the fact that he had AIDS. This story beautifully deals with issues of homophobia and discrimination against people living with HIV and AIDS.
4: Forrest Gump (1994) Director: Robert Zemeckis
The heart-warming tale of low-IQ Forrest Gump’s (Tom Hanks) journey through an extraordinary life, throughout which he inadvertently affects some of the most significant events of the 20th Century. Forrest teaches us some beautiful lessons about true and unconditional love, being non-judgemental and seeing the best in people, and living life in the present moment.
5: The Shawshank Redemption (1994) Director: Frank Darabont
This cult drama is based on Stephen King’s 1982 novella, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. The story details an accountant Andy Dufresne’s (Tim Robbins) wrongful imprisonment and subsequent escape, and the development of his friendship with fellow prisoner Red (Morgan Freeman). It contains touching themes of tenacity, integrity, resourcefulness, friendship, and, most of all, hope. Andy does not give up on his dream to own a boat and a hotel on the Pacific coast, and he finally achieves his goal through persistence and adhering to his morals and sense of self-worth.
6: Toy Story (1995) Director: John Lasseter
A sweet story that begins with rivalry and ends in the friendship of two toys – cowboy doll Woody (Tom Hanks) and spaceman Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen). The movie is rich with inspirational messages, including teamwork, friendship and loyalty, self-realization and identity, and, ultimately, the importance of being yourself.
7: The Truman Show (1998) Director: Peter Weir
The Truman Show is a story about a man called Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey), who has been the subject of a reality television show his whole life. The thing is, he knows absolutely nothing about it. He was essentially imprisoned in a studio set since birth by the shows creator. The movie deals with themes of freedom, privacy, and free-will. It encourages us to question and investigate things that feel wrong, and not just blindly accept what the media tells us. It also sends us the message that we can conquer our fears and, therefore, find freedom.
8: The Matrix (1999) Directors: The Wachowskis
A dystopian story set in a world where robots have taken over and grow humans to use as an energy source, imprisoning their minds in a virtual reality program called the Matrix. The movie follows computer hacker Neo (Keanu Reeves) as he is guided by an unplugged group of rebels in the war against the robots. This movie has so many messages about spirituality, specifically Buddhism, and the illusionary nature of reality. The film draws comparisons between the Matrix and our own society of consumerism, technology, and media – all things that distract us from seeing the truth and realizing our spiritual potential. If we can let go of our distractions and our egoic limitations, we can recognize that we are ‘The One’ – that we already have the power to achieve our goals and our potential, no matter how unreachable they may seem.
9: Erin Brockovich (2000) Director: Steven Soderbergh
This is the true story of single mother Erin Brockovich’s (Julia Roberts) battle with a mega-corporation when she proved that it was polluting the water supply to a town with toxic chromium. The movie shows us that we should stand up to social and environmental injustice, no matter how large the offender.
10: Click (2006) Director: Frank Coraci
Click tells the story of how workaholic architect Michael Newman (Adam Sandler) receives a magical remote control that allows him to control time. He uses it to fast-forward through events that feel boring or unimportant to him at the time, but in doing so, he ends up missing most of his life with horrifying consequences. The story teaches us that every single moment of our lives is precious, and that presence is the best gift we can give to our loved ones. Live mindfully and see the beauty in every moment.