Kundun - This beautiful movie by Martin Scoresese portrays the the Dalai Lama's early life in Tibet, his forced escape to India, and his initial time in exile.
The Little Buddha - This film by Bernardo Bertolucci cuts between two stories - a modern-day Seattle couple whose young son has been identified as a Tibetan 'tulku' (reincarnated lama), and the story of the Buddha's life (in which Keanu Reeves plays the Buddha.)
Enlightenment Guaranteed - This German film (with English subtitles) chronicles the journey of two brothers who travel to a Japanese monastery in search of peace. Along the way, life offers them many valuable lessons, Zen-style.
Spring Summer Fall Winter - In this lovely Korean film (with English subtitles), an elder monk teaches a young man Buddhist lessons over the course of a lifetime. Beautiful cinematography and feeling.
Travelers and Magicians - Directed by Tibetan Lama Khyentse Norbu (who also directed The Cup, a heartwarming tale of young soccer-loving Tibetan monks), this film chronicles the story of a government official who is forced to hitchhike with a monk (and others), and hears a story from him that reveals to him his own inner follies and desires.
Also consider: Seven Years in Tibet, Heaven and Earth, and Jacob’s Ladder.
The Dhamma Brothers - Covers the experiences of a group of prison inmates who engage in a Vipassana meditation program, and go through profound transformations.
Zen Buddhism: In Search of Self - Follows a group of South Korean Zen nuns on their annual 90-day intense retreat, including rituals dating back 1000 years.
10 Questions for the Dalai Lama - Interview with the Dalai Lama interspersed with Tibetan history and views of modern-day Dharamsala, where many Tibetans live in exile.
Tibetan Book of the Dead - Chronicles this fascinating Tibetan text, and shows how the rites described are interpreted by various groups around the world.
Wheel of Time - Covers the annual pilgrimage of thousands to Bohd Gaya, site of the Buddha's enlightenment, as well as the Kalachakra initiation and creation of a sand mandala.
Two others to consider, although they are unfortunately not available on Netflix, are Peace Is Every Step-Meditation In Action: The Life and Work of Thich Nhat Hanh and Amongst White Clouds: Buddhist Hermit Masters of China.
Be sure to also check out my article on movies with Buddhist Themes.
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