15 Enlightening Movies

It’s difficult to select the 15 Most Enlightening movies, partially because no one’s seen them all and partially because the deepest and most profound movies are not usually popular and therefore easily found.

Also, virtually all movies offer up some gems of useful knowledge or morality, if you do a little extrapolating and read between the lines. Some are blunt and obvious and for others you need to dig a little deeper.

Even a movie like Spider-Man teaches us that “with great power comes great responsibility.”
A movie like “As Good as It Gets” shows in hilarious terms, why it’s worthwhile to be a better person.

“The Matrix” dazzles with its special effects driven dissertation on the powers of positive thinking and believing in oneself and a movie like “Rocky” shows us that working hard, having courage and believing in your dreams can help you accomplish amazing things.

Ah, but this list is a countdown of the very best of the best and here they are…
As you read them, please put together your own personal list and post it below for the benefit of others.


Themes: Social injustice, Business ethics and Political reform

Okay, so this first selection is a cheat. The selection is a cinematographer rather than a movie. Well,  A.) It’s good to keep you on your toes and B.) Michael Moore is just such a genius and has done so much relevant work, covering topics like gun control, downsizing, politics and the U.S. healthcare system, that it’s almost insurmountable to pick any one movie from his offerings.

Perhaps his films deserve to be far closer to number one on this list, but there are a few minor things holding him back from being ranked higher. First, it’s hard to choose his best movie, since they’re all wonderful. Second, his topics are all relevant, but none of them address the more important core elements of human existence like love, death, etc. And finally, not everyone can appreciate an amazing documentary, so for some individuals, they are bound to dislike these movies, even though each and every one of them is absolutely brilliant.


Themes: Morality, Pacifism, Justice

This very interesting movie is based on the real life and times of Mahatma Ghandi. It’s long and a bit slow, but Ghandi’s intelligence and self-sacrifice shines through, as do his methods of pushing for social change, which are just as important today as they were then.


Themes: Implementing positive change & Striving against adversity

One of the most purely entertaining movies on this list, Jerry Maguire, is based on the true story of a Sport’s Agent whose conscience was bothering him. He sent a memo that made the rounds in his industry and made him a moral innovator, as well as an outcast.

Though the character in the movie is a bit of a lost soul, this movie has a great message about how things can turn out if you follow your heart and let your conscience be your guide. It sounds sappy and trite, but it works. It also has some of the cutest kid’s scenes in movie history!


Themes: Relationships, Perception, Attracting others

This is a great underground movie and a real pleasure to watch. It has the feel of a know-it-all whispering all the secrets about dating, courtship and relationships into your ear. Donal Logue is very likeable as the star of this film and is a real pleasure to watch on screen.


Themes: Environmental dangers

This could be the most important movie on the list. If the predictions in this movie come to pass, the world is going to be a much harsher and a much more dangerous place in a few short years.

“An Inconvenient Truth” could serve as a wake-up call to many, who will be caught off guard as millions die due to climate related disasters over the next 50 to 100 years…or perhaps it’s wrong, though the evidence would seem to say otherwise.


Themes: Implementing positive change & Striving against adversity

It’s easy to look at a bad situation, shake your head and turn your back. This is a fantastic and inspiring movie, based on a true story about a teacher who saw a bad situation and decided to change it by force of will, intelligence, self-sacrifice and courage. 


Themes: Prioritizing what’s really important & Living in the moment

Every list needs a guilty pleasure. Yes, it’s Adam Sandler and yes it’s a cheesy, predictable bone-headed comedy, but it works. It’s fun, funny, touching and the messages are clear. It’s the kind of movie that the masses can enjoy and still walk away from as slightly better people.


Themes: Materialism, Lack of substance, Emptiness, Loneliness

Not everyone will be able to watch this movie, fewer still will like it, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s necessary, wildly different and brilliantly done.

This is the story of a psychopath, who seems to fit into the American business climate quite swimmingly. It’s a wonderful social commentary on so many of the things that are wrong with business and society in general. It’s dark and it’s gritty and it’s hard to watch, but it’s so true and so relevant, especially in our times.


Themes: Disillusionment with the American Dream, Self-deceit, Marital problems

It’s hard to have a top movie list and leave this gem off of it. People who know great American movies are already quite familiar with this multi-award winner, but that doesn’t mean it should be forgotten, or omitted.  These are probably super-actor, Kevin Spacey and talent laden, Anette Bening’s finest performances!


Themes: Daring to be different, Dancing to your own tune & leaving your mark

If this can’t openly be described as a cult classic, it should be. Several people have described this obscure film as their favorite of all time. Sure it’s a little movie, with a big talent in Robin Williams, but it roars like a lion.

Though Williams is known for his more comedic and ridiculous roles, it’s not going out on a limb to say this is his absolute finest, as an emotionally charged teacher, who’s willing to break all the rules, if he can help improve the lives of a few heavily put upon students.


Themes: Relationship problems, Solutions, Compromise, Faith

Whether you’re religious or agnostic, you can still appreciate films by the great pairing of Alex and Stephen Kendrick, who have brought us such quality pictures as Fireproof, Facing the Giants and Faith Like Potatoes.

Even if you’re not a believer, you can still appreciate the moral lessons, examples and practical suggestions for improving life, presented in these films. If you’re a theist, you’re almost guaranteed to love these offerings. If you’re an atheist, take the God worship with a grain of salt and acquire some of the general knowledge that’s useful and relevant.


Themes: Positive Thinking, Self-confidence, Perception, Belief

Another offering from the brilliant Kendrick brothers, Facing the Giants is a highly enjoyable film, whether you’re looking for wisdom, or simply want to partake of an enjoyable family experience. But don’t be suckered by the enjoyable story and captivating performances, there’s still a lot of quality advice dispensed in Facing the Giants.


Themes: Self-appreciation, Self-sacrifice, Perception, The Butterfly Effect

For a long time, this movie would have been ranked #1 on this list, but eventually, it dropped. This is one of the most decorated and most highly recognizable offerings on this list. Of all the films that come to mind, this is one of the best examples of The Butterfly Effect, which is described in Logical Spiritualism Subjects.

It’s a Wonderful Life is all about the belief in karma; that by living your life morally and virtuously, you will eventually reap the benefits. This isn’t always true, but it’s a great message in a very enjoyable package. 


Themes: The mind-set & benefits of righteous living and Self-improvement

This is a very over-looked film, which could be considered one of the top 10 comedies of all time. Both Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell, give top-notch performances and arguably the best of their careers in this highly entertaining family film.

Groundhog Day is a great demonstration of how to approach self-improvement and the likely benefits of such a commitment. Sure it’s highly exaggerated, but that’s all part of the fun!


Themes: Philosophies of life, Perception, Self-confidence

This movie was recommended by 2 or 3 people, as a movie someone who’s interested in philosophy, self-improvement or spiritualism would like. It didn’t disappoint.

While, this is clearly not the best or most entertaining movie on this list, it would be difficult to argue that this movie doesn’t best the others in terms of philosophical content and stunningly thoughtful one-liners and quotes.

The other movies on this list offer you philosophical content you can extrapolate. Peaceful Warrior somehow manages to share a bevy of philosophical principals without being overly boring, preachy or trite. That’s a very difficult thing to do.

While our hats are off to the creators of Peaceful Warrior, it’s still a little sad that this is the only movie on the list, which directly incorporates philosophy.

The Greeks did a tremendous amount for the advancement of knowledge, thought and society for the entire human race. They believed philosophy was a very important, noble and useful enterprise. At what point did that change?

You can see clearly by gauging the content of popular movies, that philosophy is no longer in the public consciousness.

Do we really think we know it all now, or that figuring things out has somehow become unnecessary and irrelevant?

Logical Spiritualism needs your help! There are sure to be other lesser-known movies, which offer excellent and relevant philosophical content; movies most of us have never seen and never heard of. Some of you may also have different opinions about the value of certain popular movies. Please share your knowledge and preferences with us by posting your own list of movies with philosophical, ethical or social relevance below.

Comments sent

12 comment(s).
DEBEM BOXER 251 - 4/14/2018 2:45:12 AM
GHANDI - This interesting movie is based on the reality and the times of Mahatma Ghandi. It's long and a bit slow, but Ghandi's intelligence and its sacrifice also shine, as well as his methods of promoting social change, just as important as today.
Codin Coman - 8/21/2015 7:44:55 AM
Pay It Forward, Equilibrium, Cloud Atlas, Matrix, 21 Grams, Love Story, The 11th Hour, The Pursuit of Happiness, Harry Potter (yes, really)...
David Hiles - 7/7/2015 9:07:41 AM
Local Hero
Cannery Row
The Reivers
Wise Blood
Batteries Not Included
The Name of the Rose

David Hiles (my name- not a movie)
Logical Spiritualism - 6/16/2015 6:44:17 PM
Thanks to everyone for so many wonderful suggestions!

Please keep them coming!

I recently discovered, WHIPLASH, which is not very philosophical or preachy, but has a lot to say about aspirations, dealing with pressure and overcoming adversity.

I think it would make my Top 10 all-time movie list!
Jeffrey Vesely - 6/14/2015 6:05:45 PM
I dont understand how waking life didnt make this list, especially when you expressed disappointment to the fact that peaceful warrior was the only one directly expressing philosophy, which waking life does strongly, also a lot on death and dreaming. I heart huckabees is absolutely amazing, i really enjoyed a new movie hectors search for happiness, into the wild absolutely, fight club, pulp fiction although it might not fit THIS list too well, little buddha, and id even include dr strangelove here. I feel like im forgetting some important ones here but ahhh well.
AG - 3/16/2014 11:38:03 AM
The Celestine Prophecy (2006)

La Belle Verte (1996) - critique on earth's conscious attitudes that are holding us back (lots of languages)
Aliza Castro Navarro - 12/12/2013 1:12:13 AM
I think that sometimes you just need to let yourself go and just watch something that will make you happy. Some people say that they just don't have time for silly things like watching movies but for me it's a beautiful way to get to know a bit of diferent things such a culture, love, etc.
Rafael Meléndez - 12/12/2013 12:25:14 AM
I have seen like a half of that list, and I think they art some of the best movies I ever seen. The GROUNDHOG DAY is simply excellent, the message about self-improvement they showed it in a very, very, good way, and also it has their own hilarious moments. To summarize it is a complete movie american beauty, fire proof and others. I highly recommend you one about social-criticism, reality. Is called "Tropa de Elite" (you can find it on Netflix) and its about the situation in Brazil, focus on the "Fabelas". Other movie and you could find ranked as the #1, is Schindler's List (1993), it is movie that make you meditate about the the holocaust in the 40's. Thanks for sharing those movies, I'm gonna look for some popcorn and soda!
Jose Manuel Monge - 12/3/2013 12:43:50 AM
There are many movies that make you think about life, examine your reality and wonder if you could do something about it. Some examples are:
Donnie Darko: This movie talks about parallel universes and time travelling.
Lucia Lucia (La hija del canibal): This movie essentially is about discovering the true value of friendship and passion, it’s about reinventing one’s life, rediscovering inner lost worlds, recover the capacity of smiling and being free.
Candy: This movie is about a couple of bohemians, a poet and an art student. They fall in love and become lovers over a relationship based on heroin abuse. It shows how wrong lives can get and still somehow you can pull through.
Factory girl: This film is about a gorgeous rich girl that moves to New York with the dream of becoming famous. As she starts to get famous, she begins to loose reality’s sense.
Persepolis: It’s about a little girl that lives in Iran, due to the political and social problems the country is facing; she ends up living in France. Several years later she remembers everything she experienced during those years.
Eyes wide open: This film is about an Orthodox Jewish man that is married and has four children. He lives in Jerusalem and ends up owning his dad’s butcher shop. In this shop he takes in a nineteen years old student, which whom he gets into a forbidden relationship.
Lars and the Real Girl: A delusional man orders a life sized doll and thinks it’s her girlfriend. Even though the little town in which he lives thinks he’s crazy, it helps him during this delusional phase.
What the bleep do we know? : The movie is about a photographer and her emotional and existential obstacles in her life. As the story begins to go forward, she begins to contemplate the idea that individual and group awareness can have an effect on the material world. The movie’s topic is about quantum physics and consciousness
Sophie’s world: Sofie is an invented character of a writer, as the movie goes forward; Sofie learns from the story of philosophy and realize she’s not real so she starts planning her scape to reality.
Logical Spiritualism - 4/19/2012 9:29:53 AM
Thanks for your posts!

You've suggested some wonderful movies.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Life is Beautiful, The Chocolate War and Falling Down are especially memorable.

Great suggestions!

Would anyone else like to add to the list?
CM - 4/18/2012 1:45:06 PM
"Into the Wild" - Disillusionment with Society and the search for the spirit within.

"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" - Courage and the infinite possibilities of life.

"Life is Beautiful" - Power of mind over matter.

"Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" - Why we all need love!

"Man on Wire" - Daring to dream the impossible.
Samuel Peterson - 3/30/2012 6:15:40 PM
Here are a few titles to add that may fit the bill.
1.PU239 2.12 & Holding 3.Falling Down 4. The Way. 5.Everything Is Illuminated 6. Up In The Air 7.Cry The Beloved Country 8.Saint Of Fort Washington 9.Grand Canyon 10.The Chocolate War
You are correct that I can think of almost nothing outside of Peaceful Warrior that centers on philosophy. I've been wracking my brain..

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