4 Of The Most Beautiful & Unconventional Spiritual Films

Maxwell Akin
10 min readSep 16, 2020

Storytelling is a Divine gift. Stories have the power to evoke extraordinary emotions, feelings, and emotions. Stories can transform the way that we see ourselves and the world around us. Stories can transform our very essence. Stories can transform the world and those within it.

Stories are, if nothing else, a Divine gift of unlimited beauty, power, and wisdom.

Today, there are many unique storytelling mediums. Every single medium of storytelling is unique and beautiful in its own way. But, one of the most powerful and unique storytelling mediums is, in my experience, film.

There is something so unique and distinctive about film and its usage of images and sounds to create an experience that is, truly, like no other.

I have learned a great deal from films. There are a few films, in particular, that have transformed my entire understanding of the world, our place in this universe, and who I am as an individual.

In this essay, we are taking a look at four films. Each one of these films is a “spiritual film”. But, the spirituality of these films is, perhaps, a little more unconventional and unique than something along the lines of “Heaven Is For Real” or “God’s Not Dead”. Rather, these are films that engage with spiritual ideas in a unique and deeply affecting manner that, I believe, has the power to greatly teach and inspire you.

Just before we begin, though, I want to mention that these four films are quite personal. You may enjoy them, you may not; these are films that resonated with me, but they may not resonate with you. But, if any one of these films seems interesting to you, I highly encourage you to check it out. Every film will have a hyperlink to IMDB, and from that hyperlink, you will be able to rent or purchase the film.

The Tree Of Life (2011)

The Tree Of Life is, quite possibly, the best movie to have been released this century. It is a film of extraordinary beauty, that is both deeply reassuring in the sense of peace, love, and wholeness that it evokes, while also capturing a strong sense of mystery and longing.

Describing The Tree Of Life is a somewhat difficult task, since the film doesn’t have a conventional plot. Rather, it moves through several different moments in time, switching back to each one seemingly at random, capturing the feelings, sensations, and emotions of those moments.

Just to give you an idea of what I’m talking about, the first twenty-minutes are set in both Texas — in the 1950s and then 1970s — and then in a much larger metropolitan city in 2011. Right after that first twenty-minute section, though, the film goes to the beginning of time itself, with the creation of the Universe. There, we see the birth of the Universe and, without spoiling too much, the birth of life and compassion.

Some of the smartest and most sensitive people I know found The Tree Of Life to be boring and silly. I respect their opinion, and I understand where it comes from. The Tree Of Life is a deeply impressionistic film that, as an experience, is heavily subjective. Much of the film’s beauty comes from the unique associations and impressions that it strikes within you, rather than the plot or characters.

For me, though, watching The Tree Of Life was a transformative experience. When I finished watching the film, I felt a deep sense of peace and reverence for all that was around me, and a strong sense that there was something more to what I was seeing and something far richer within me than I could ever truly know. It was such a rich and striking feeling that it lead me directly towards the spiritual works and concepts that I write about in this blog.

Children Of Men (2006)

Children Of Men is one of the most suspenseful and exciting films that I have ever watched. It is suspenseful and exciting in a way that feels all too “real”, if that makes sense, yet it is also a deeply emotional film that never fails to unshackle a certain emotional energy within me.

That’s quite vague, I know, but there’s a good chance you will know what I mean when you watch the movie.

As for Children Of Men’s plot, it’s simple, but compelling. Set in the relatively near-future, Children Of Men takes place in a world where no babies are being born. The reason for this is never explained, and it isn’t important. But, what is important is that we are, as a species, dying.

Since this is a thriller, the main hook of the film is that there’s a single pregnant woman, the first in many years, who needs to be protected from various forces and individuals that want to use her for their own somewhat nefarious plans and objectives. But, it really isn’t the story that sets Children Of Men apart but, rather, the way in which that story is told.

The camera in Children Of Men is almost always moving, if ever so slightly. It moves past people, walls stained with graffiti, advertisements, and even firefights. Every scene conveys something about Children Of Men’s world, and the very unfortunate state that humankind has fallen into. The sheer level of detail and craftsmanship behind Children Of Men is commendable, allowing the film to feel more and more real and present.

It is a world that, in many ways, we can all see. Maybe not now, but, perhaps, at some time or another. And yet, Children Of Men doesn’t stop there, for it is, ultimately, a story of love, faith, and the power that we, as individuals, have.

Maybe it is our compassion, our sensitivity, and our love that make us great? I don’t know, and I don’t think Children Of Men is necessarily saying that, but without giving too much away, those are the thoughts and feelings that Children Of Men evokes. If I ever need to feel, I watch Children Of Men.

Collateral (2004)

The Tree Of Life and Children Of Men are relatively self-explanatory. Both films deal with spiritual themes and ideas in a fairly explicit manner. But Collateral, a film starring Jamie Foxx as a taxi driver and Tom Cruise as a hitman, does not. In fact, upon first glance, Collateral appears to be a film completely removed from any sort of spiritual context.

That’s what I thought, too, some years ago. But, I watched it again, expecting the same thrills that I had found many years prior, when I had first watched the film. It was not only far better than I remembered it being, it completely transformed the way that I thought about myself, in relation to concepts like self-image and identity, and the way that I perceived the world and its infinite possibilities.

Right before we dive into that, though, it’s important to describe the film’s plot. Collateral is, ultimately, a very simple film about a taxi driver named Max, played by Jamie Foxx, and a hitman named Vincent, played by Tom Cruise. On a night like any other, Vincent gets into Max’s taxi and offers him a large sum of money to drive him around for the night. But, soon enough, Max realizes that Vincent is a hitman, and he’s paying Max to go to the different places where his targets work and reside. He, of course, tries to leave, but soon learns that leaving just isn’t part of the deal.

Above all else, Collateral is extremely entertaining. It is beautifully shot, making great use of the “hyperdigital” aesthetic that Michael Mann soon began to use in every subsequent film of his. The acting is wonderful. The music and general ambience are incredibly inviting. And, of course, the film is compelling and suspenseful.

Moving beyond those elements, though, Collateral is about how we define ourselves in relation to our circumstances and the people around us. Without giving too much away, there are numerous scenes in the film that showcase the ease in which we, as human beings, can adopt new personas, new perspectives, and new understandings regarding ourselves and the world that we live in. But, the thing is, this is something that we need to do, if we are to continue experiencing and creating what we are meant to experience and create.

The ways in which we consider ourselves, then, can be our greatest enemy.

While this is certainly not a new, or even particularly radical, concept, it is a powerful one that Collateral explores in a beautifully entertaining manner. If you are looking for inspiration in that aspect, then I think you will find Collateral to be a real treat!

There is another very inspiring element to Collateral, though, and this element has to do with the ways in which Collateral showcases and relates to the infinite possibilities that every moment of life offers. The camera is constantly moving, focusing on the lights, cars, and people moving throughout Los Angeles — where the film takes place — at all hours of the day. There is the sense that anything is possible and that anything could happen, yet it is our own assumptions and self-imposed limitations that prevent us from seeing and experiencing these endless possibilities. This is further emphasized by the fact that, at the very beginning of the movie — this isn’t a spoiler, since it happens in the films first few-minutes — Vincent almost gets into a different taxi, which would change the entire film and the character arc that Max goes through.

Within the Dadaist art movement, there was a practice that involved going into the middle of your city — a familiar city, a place of genuine security and comfort — and pretending that you had never been there before. When you do this, you find that your city is a far more beautiful and exciting place than you had ever noticed, and that there are innumerable ways in which you had defined and limited yourself relative to the city and your memories of it.

While I certainly can’t say that Collateral is based off of that, it does seem to have been one inspiration.

The Fall (2006)

Long ago, in 2017 — so, not really that long ago at all — I wrote a three-part essay on The Fall for this blog. Looking back, it wasn’t a particularly good essay series, and the ideas were never fully established or expounded upon in the way that I was going for. But, I am still proud of it, in some ways, and I still marvel at the richness and depth of The Fall.

The Fall is a film that was directed by Tarsem Singh. It was funded almost entirely with his own money, due to having been a passion project that he had been wanting to make for many, many years. One of the key aesthetic decisions that Tarsem Singh made for The Fall was that of shooting everything on location and using no CGI. The Fall was shot in over thirty-countries, and every scene was shot in a real place, in a real location, with natural lighting, real costumes, and practical special effects.

It is the aesthetic choices that Tarsem Singh made that make The Fall such a beautiful and special film. There are few other films that look as beautiful and as distinctive as The Fall. Yet, while the aesthetic is certainly one of the film’s biggest selling points, it’s more of a cherry-on-top when you consider the sheer beauty and richness of The Fall.

Set in the 1920s, The Fall follows a little girl named Alexandria, who is staying at a hospital due to having been injured, and a stuntman named Roy who is suffering from a serious injury and depression. Just as you would expect, the two hit it off and form a friendship. Much of this friendship is built on the story that Roy tells Alexandria, which she soon takes over and begins narrating herself. But, it is where this friendship goes, and the story that they share with one another, that really makes The Fall a very special film.

Without giving too much away, The Fall is about storytelling, the relationships we have with one another, the infinite value of imagination, and the stories that we tell ourselves about who we are. Watching The Fall was a deeply inspiring experience that transformed the way I thought about stories and imagination, while also making me question the stories that I was telling myself about who I was, those around me, and the world itself.

But, it is so much deeper than that. I really don’t want to say too much more, because it would give away a little too much. Needless to say, though, if you are looking for an exceptionally imaginative, beautiful, and inspiring film, then I’d say The Fall is a must watch!


In the end, I hope you enjoyed this quick essay, and I hope that you enjoy the movies we’ve just looked at! Thank you so much for reading this essay, I really appreciate it, and if you have any questions or concerns, please email me at “maxwellcakin@gmail.com”, and I will respond to you as soon as I can!

Best Wishes & Have A Lovely 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”.