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Movies are a great way to temporarily escape the pressures of real life. In addition, there are movies that can make us think more deeply about certain topics.
For example, our perspectives about our life’s purpose, our souls, and death become broader and more insightful after watching movies about the meaning of life. There are also movies that can serve as a jumping-off point for discussing philosophical matters, such as the titles found in this post.
Today, we’re sharing some of the best movies that explore the meaning of life. Some of these movies feature characters who discover the meaning of life through mundane experiences. In others, the characters become more enlightened after life-changing experiences force them to look within themselves.
We invite you to check out this collection thought-provoking films.
What You Will Learn
- 1. Departures
- 2. Brother Sun, Sister Moon
- 3. About Schmidt
- 4. Fight Club
- 5. The Fountain
- 6. Soul
- 7. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
- 8. The Matrix
- 9. Whale Rider
- 10. The Joy Luck Club
- 11. Megamind
- 12. Hector and the Search for Happiness
- 13. Pleasantville
- 14. The Tree of Life
- 15. Leap of Faith
- 16. Cast Away
- 17. Mean Girls
- 18. Cloud Atlas
- 19. Peaceful Warrior
- 20. Fisherman's Friends
- 21. About Time
- 22. Stand by Me
- 23. The Sandlot
- Final Thoughts on Movies About the Meaning of Life
Let's start with a movie that won the 2008 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film.
Through this film, viewers are introduced to Daigo, an out-of-work cellist who finally finds employment as a nokanshi, or a ritual mortician. His tasks include the ritual cleansing and preparation of a deceased person before they are placed inside a coffin.
Through his experiences at work and with the people he meets, Daigo learns important lessons about the true meaning of life. This is a moving and life-affirming film that explores the inevitable experience of death.
2. Brother Sun, Sister Moon
This movie was first released in 1972 and provides a close look at the life of St. Francis of Assisi.
Specifically, this is the story of Francis of Assisi's awakening to a new kind of life. He goes from being a member of high society to someone who renounces his material wealth and lives among simple folk.
Along the way, he inspires those around him and his dedication is recognized by the Pope.
The movie compels us to question our personal motivations in life.
3. About Schmidt
Life is all about transitions. This movie introduces us to a newly retired man who experiences changes after retiring, along with the bitter reality that he has lived a disappointing life.
The people he meets and the experiences they share show him what life is about and what is truly important.
This movie encourages us to examine the things we’ve taken for granted in our own lives.
4. Fight Club
Life can be scary and full of risks. No matter how much we try, we cannot control many of the things we experience.
In this movie, two guys organize underground bare-knuckle matches while teaching viewers about reaching their potential, being in control, feeling alive, and how putting oneself in danger is a form of self-discovery and learning about what’s worth living for.
5. The Fountain
In this movie, a man travels through time to find a way to defeat death. However, he ultimately learns to accept that death is inevitable and recognizes its role in creation.
This animated film tackles a number of challenging questions about life, such as:
What's our purpose on earth?
What happens after we die?
What happens to us before we’re born?
The film gives us a glimpse of what life, death, and what’s in between are all about.
7. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Does life only consist of a never-ending cycle of painful lessons?
This question is addressed in this movie.
In the film, we witness a couple ending their relationship. Determined to forget about each other, they undergo a drastic procedure that erases their memories of the relationship and of each other.
The key takeaway of this movie is that memories—both the joyful and the painful ones—are essential for shaping who we are. We need them in order to fully develop as human beings.
8. The Matrix
In a dystopian future, humans are being used as an energy source for sentient machines. To keep humans under control, they are sedated and their minds are plugged into a simulated reality.
A group of humans discovers the deception and leads a rebellion against the machines.
The movie is a lesson about choice. We can face the harsh reality of life with grit and determination to succeed, or we can choose to take the easy way out and live out a lie.
9. Whale Rider
What is life all about? Is it the fulfillment of our destinies? Do the choices we make matter in what we become, or does everything in life happen randomly?
In this movie, we witness the struggles of a young girl as she tries to overcome the challenges placed upon her gender in order to claim her birthright.
Along the way, she learns important lessons about being true to herself and celebrating who she is, despite the rejection of others.
10. The Joy Luck Club
The Joy Luck Club is a movie adaptation of a book of the same title written by Amy Tan. This movie focuses on the familial bonds of Chinese-American daughters and their immigrant mothers.
The movie explores whether or not the meaning of life changes when we move to a different place and adopt a new culture.
At times in life, important experiences change our trajectory and our destiny.
In this movie, viewers are introduced to a supervillain who calls himself Megamind. He defeats the resident hero of Metro City, Metro Man.
With no one to stop him from doing all his villainous deeds, Megamind begins searching for answers to his real purpose and the true meaning of life.
12. Hector and the Search for Happiness
In this movie, a psychiatrist is nearing burnout. For some time, Hector has been feeling like a hypocrite for encouraging patients to find happiness in their lives while he himself does not know what true happiness feels like.
He takes some time off from work to travel around the world, where his main goal is to find the true meaning of happiness.
In this movie, two teenagers are transported to the black-and-white world of a 1950s TV sitcom called Pleasantville. In this place, everything is bland and everyone stifles their true feelings.
However, things start to change when the two teenagers interact with the other characters, showing them that there’s more to life than the local high school basketball team’s winning streak.
The movie reminds viewers that passion is an essential ingredient in order to fully experience life.
14. The Tree of Life
This movie takes us on a journey through the origins and the true meaning of life. We observe this through the viewpoint of a middle-aged man who reminisces about his experiences growing up in Texas in the 1950s.
15. Leap of Faith
This 1992 film is about con artist Jonas Nightengale, who poses as a traveling evangelist and faith healer. His roadshow caravan breaks down in Rustwater, Kansas.
The evangelist and his crew set up an operation in Rustwater, with the intention of defrauding the townspeople, who are eager for miracles.
Heaven seems to lend a hand and makes the revival more successful than Jonas and his partners could have imagined. His experience in Rustwater shows Jonas the true meaning of life and his purpose in it.
16. Cast Away
Is our ultimate goal in life simply to accumulate material wealth and social recognition? In this movie, an unfortunate event compels a man to consider his life and what’s truly important as he becomes a castaway on a deserted island.
17. Mean Girls
This cult classic is a guide for navigating through life’s obstacles, as portrayed in a high school setting.
The movie highlights the following:
18. Cloud Atlas
This intricate film is based on a novel of the same title written by David Mitchell. It is about the continuity of the soul.
It shows how a person can be reborn at different times in order to fulfill their purpose in different lifetimes.
The movie also shows that souls who had connections in previous lifetimes can reconnect with each other in another lifetime.
19. Peaceful Warrior
Is success the driving force in your life? If so, you might be interested in this film based on the book Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman.
In this film, we are introduced to a prodigious athlete whose life is driven by the pursuit of success. A chance meeting with a stranger imparts a life-changing lesson that compels the athlete to reexamine his life and make changes that reflect his ever-deepening realizations.
20. Fisherman's Friends
This film is based on a true story about a music executive and a group of fishermen from Cornwall that he needs to sign to a record label.
The music executive arrives in Cornwall in an attempt to sign the group. During his stay, he learns about the value of friendship, loyalty, integrity, and love.
21. About Time
Most of the time, we learn about the meaning of life only in hindsight.
But what if you had the power to travel back in time and apply the lessons you’ve learned so that you can have a better life?
In this movie, we are introduced to a man who possesses time-traveling powers. Through his travels, he learns about the most important thing in life, which is to view each moment as precious and let yourself enjoy those moments, savoring every second of it.
22. Stand by Me
In this coming-of-age movie, viewers are introduced to a group of friends who learn that someone died near their homes. The boys decide to hike to the location to see the body.
The hike becomes a defining moment in their lives. During the trip, they face their anxieties, contemplate the future, and confront the bullies who want to reach their goal first.
23. The Sandlot
This is another coming-of-age movie that explores the meaning of life.
It’s the summer of 1962 and a boy moves to a new place. He meets a group of kids who play baseball and joins their team. Some of the key takeaways from the film include:
There you have it—a collection of movies about the meaning of life that are relatable to many people.
Do you have any favorites among the films featured today?
Hopefully these movies will help you define life on your own terms.
You might also want to head over to this collection of the Best Philosophical Movies of All Time, which can also help you discover the meaning of life.
Finally, if you’re looking for more movie collections on specific topics, you might want to check out the following: