21 Spiritually Resonant Films— Part 1

Maxwell Akin
10 min readJul 20, 2021

If you go to “Google” and type in “spiritual films”, you’ll be met with a plethora of results.

Most of these results are lists. Lists that contain any number of films that involve spiritual themes and ideas.

For the most part, these lists are quite good.

But, if you read a couple of them, you’ll notice that most lists tend to share the same films.

My intention, with this three-part list, is to subvert that.

Some of the films in this list can be found in other lists of spiritual films.

Many of them, however, cannot be found in these lists, since they’re either somewhat obscure, or unconventional in their exploration of certain spiritual themes and ideas.

Right before we dive in, you should know that these films are all films that I, personally, enjoy.

None of these films are meant to form a “definitive list”. More than anything else, this is a list of films that I, personally, found spiritually resonant.

So, with that in mind, let’s dive into some spiritual cinema!

Children Of Men

Directed by Alfonso Cuaron, and based on a book written by P.D. James, “Children Of Men” is tense, suspenseful, captivating, heartrending, melancholic, and deeply spiritual.

“Children Of Men” takes place in a world where no one can have babies.

No children are being born, and the human race is dying.

The effects of this global infertility lead to war, poverty, depression and, inevitably, collapse.

Throughout “Children Of Men”, Cuaron takes the time to let his camera wander across a number of desolate spaces.

Each sequence serves as a window into a world that has lost touch with its own sense of empathy and kindness; the roots of connection.

And yet, there is hope.

A young woman named Kee is pregnant.

To ensure that Kee’s child is born, and raised properly, our protagonist — Theo, played by Clive Owen — is instructed to help Kee reach a settlement.

As you might expect, the journey is far from easy. This is where much of the film’s suspense comes into play, as well as our own sense of engagement.

But, “Children Of Men” is far more than a suspenseful thriller with speculative fiction tropes.

Rather, “Children Of Men” is a look at the power of faith, the ways in which ideology can stifle the inherent empathy and kindness within human beings, as well as the concept of devoting your life to a cause far greater than yourself.

For those who are interested in such themes, and enjoy suspenseful action and intense setpieces, “Children Of Men” is a fantastic watch.

The Wanting Mare

No one will suggest that “The Wanting Mare” is perfect.

The acting is inconsistent. Much of the story is too vague for its own good. And, the overall characterization is tenuous.

But, in the end, that’s all part of the charm.

Released in 2020, directed by Nicholas Ashe Bateman, and made on a shoe-string budget, “The Wanting Mare” is very impressive.

To my knowledge, there are few fantasy films made with small crews and low budgets.

The fantasy films made within those limitations tend not to portray entire worlds, rich with history and myth.

And yet, that is exactly what “The Wanting Mare” does.

Set in the world of “Anmaere”, on the island of “Whithren”, “The Wanting Mare” is concerned with a dream.

A dream of perpetual longing.

A longing that is never fulfilled.

Right across from Whithren, there lies the island of “Levithen”.

Unlike Whithren, Levithen is cold and snowy.

A welcome respite from the insufferable heat and humidity of Whithren.

Every year, in the city of Whithren, the wild horses on the island are shipped to Levithen.

Every year, while this happens, a lottery is held.

The winners of this lottery — there are few winners — each receive a ticket. A ticket that allows the winner to board the ship, with the wild horses, so that they can move to Levithen.

For a large portion of its runtime, “The Wanting Mare” is concerned with two people named “Moira” and “Hadeon”.

Two people who long for a ticket away from Whithren.

Diving into the ways in which their lives are affected by the aforementioned dream would, of course, spoil much of this film’s mystery and magic.

But, what can be said is that Nicholas Ashe Bateman has created a marvelous fantasy world.

A marvelous fantasy world brought to life with distinctive CGI backgrounds — most impressive, considering the film’s low budget — a unique soundscape, original songs created solely for the film, and themes that will always resonate.

You can interpret “The Wanting Mare” through a number of spiritual lenses.

Without revealing too much, though, “The Wanting Mare” is, to me, concerned with abundance.

The abundance that is right in front of us — the beauty, the love, the people, the value, the creativity, the wealth; and so on and so forth — yet invisible, due to our longing for that which is novel, unique, or far-off.

Of course, that’s just my interpretation. You may interpret “The Wanting Mare” a little differently, which is wonderful, since the film supports numerous readings.

For those who enjoy distinctive fantasy settings, and don’t mind some inconsistencies and odd filmmaking choices, “The Wanting Mare” is absolutely delightful.

2001: A Space Odyssey

Everything that can be said about this Stanley Kubrick masterwork has already been said.

Even so, though, it is still worth a spot on this list.

“2001: A Space Odyssey” is a film concerned with transcendence.

Our innate desire, as humen beings, to grow, evolve, transcend our limitations, and become more than what we are and more than what we believe we can be.

Every facet of this film — from the editing to the costume design — reinforces this particular theme, while also serving as a doorway into a slow, meditative journey that explores the nature of transcendence and what it truly means for us, as a species, to evolve.

Even though “2001: A Space Odyssey” explores transcendence primarily through a technological lens, a number of other readings are possible.

The film is rather complex in its presentation, yet the main themes are conveyed in a way that is simple, and vague, enough as to align with many spiritual philosophies and traditions.

For those who haven’t seen this film, and don’t mind a slow space, “2001: A Space Odyssey” is a work of art that you must watch.


Released in 1988, “Akira” is set in Neo-Tokyo, not too long after the third World War, and follows “Kaneda” and “Tetsuo”, two close friends who are in a biker gang.

Revealing too much about the film’s story, or its world, would spoil much of its magic.

This much can be said, though: “Akira” is concerned with power.

On a thematic level, power is explored through several lenses.

A political lens. A technological lens. A metaphysical lens.

At one point in the film, “Akira” asserts that, within human beings, there exists a limitless source of creative power.

Everyone has access to this creative power. Very few people know of this power, though, or how to properly use it.

But, those who know of this power, and can use it, can create, and destroy, anything.

Throughout the film, the implications of this power, as well as the ways in which it can manifest, are explored.

The beautiful animation style — which hasn’t aged a day — and the unique characterization makes for a creepy, colorful, compelling, and spiritual film.

For those who enjoy unique science-fiction films, with plenty of action and unique ideas, “Akira” is absolutely phenomenal.

The Tree Of Life

Released in 2011, and directed by Terrence Malick, “The Tree Of Life” is a showcase of what the filmmaking medium is truly capable of.

Time. Creation. Love. Faith. Death. Connection. Memory. God. Evolution. Transcendence. Imagination.

Each one of those themes — and many more — is engaged with in every frame of “The Tree Of Life”.

None of these themes are explored in a particularly conventional manner.

Rather, these themes are explored in long-takes within outdoor landscapes, editing that takes you from one point in time to the next, footage gathered from all across the world, and the story of a family living in Texas during the middle of the 20th century.

My favorite sequence — if I had to choose — would be the “Creation” sequence that occurs around twenty-minutes into the film.

Throughout this sequence, we witness the creation of the universe, the birth of life, and the inevitable birth of kindness.

And then, right after that, the film moves to the modern day, and focuses on Sean Penn’s character, who is an architect.

Throughout the film’s remainder, time moves back and forth, all moments and memories existing right here and right now.

“The Tree Of Life” is often completely impressionistic, relying on your own feelings and interpretation of what is transpiring.

For those who enjoy films of that sort, and would like to see the filmmaking medium pushed in a new, and transcendent, direction, “The Tree Of Life” is one of the best films you can watch.

If you are looking for a more conventional exploration of spiritual themes and ideas, though, “The Tree Of Life” may not be a great choice.


Released in 2004, and directed by Michael Mann, “Collateral” is a masterpiece of the action-thriller genre.

Beyond this facade, though, there are a plethora of compelling spiritual ideas that can enrich anyone’s life.

On a night like any other, a man named “Vincent” — played by Tom Cruise — enters a taxi driven by a man named “Max” — played by Jamie Foxx.

Soon after Max takes Vincent to his first location — one of many — Max learns that Vincent is a hitman.

A hitman that is paying Max to drive him from location to location, so that he can kill the target at each location.

If Max refuses to drive Vincent any further, he will be killed.

“Captivating” is a good descriptor for “Collateral”. “Tense” is another good one.

On the surface, “Collateral”, while quite good, lacks any level of spiritual resonance.

If you look a little deeper, though, the themes become clear.

“Collateral” is concerned with two primary themes: the ways in which we define ourselves, as well as the infinite variety of choices that exist right here and right now.

Both of these themes allow us to experience the world a little differently, as well as ourselves.

If we go beyond our habits and assumptions, or are cast into a decision that forces us to do so, our true nature is revealed.

Our true nature being a transcendent creative power, of sorts, that allows us to not only deal with the situations we are faced with, but to grow beyond those situations, and our own self-concept, entirely.

For those who enjoy tense films with plenty of action and suspense, while also looking for something that will inspire you to become more than you are, “Collateral” is worth watching.


“Revolver”, released in 2005, is a Guy Ritchie film.

By “Guy Ritchie” film, I mean it’s definitely a Guy Ritchie film.

Even moreso than “Snatch” or “Lock, Stock, And Two Smoking Barrels”, “Revolver” is rooted in a style that is at once playful yet serious, while also being filled to the brim with erratic storytelling and editing decisions.

If you aren’t looking for anything too grounded in “good filmmaking”, and don’t mind seemingly nonsensical filmmaking choices, “Revolver” is a lot of fun.

Jake Green, played by Jason Statham, is a gambler who has a hit put out on him after humiliating a powerful crime boss, played by Ray Liotta.

But, of course, the story is far more than that.

Throughout “Revolver”, you’ll witness numerous shootouts, flash-backs and flash-forwards, as well as exposition dumps peppered with swearing and questionable word choices.

You’ll also listen to Jake Green — Mr. Statham, himself — explain the intricacies of “the Ego”, while throwing down references to the Kabbalah, and showing that “the voice of fear” is not his voice.

Some may say that “Revolver”, while paying lip-service to spiritual ideas, does very little with them.

That may be true. But, nevertheless, “Revolver” is a fun ride, with some memorable sequences, and a memorable style.

For those who enjoy films just like that, and don’t mind questionable writing, “Revolver” is plenty of fun.


As always, thank you so much for reading this essay.

Throughout the next week, the next two parts of this essay will be published.

My hope is that, by reading this list, you find at least one or two films that interest you, and find plenty of spiritual gems within those films!

As always, if you would like to reach me, you can do so at “maxwellcakin@gmail.com”

Best wishes, and have a great day!



Maxwell Akin

Hey! I’m Max! I Hope You Enjoy What You’re Reading, And If You Want To Reach Me For Any Reason At All, You Can Do So At “maxwellcakin@gmail.com”.