The world is currently going through a tremendous amount of spiritual shifts and awakenings.
From understanding how old inherited social structures affect the world around us, to exploring new ways to live, or inquiring about the very nature of the self, there are so many questions that are surfacing in our collective lives and inviting us to learn more about the universe around and within us.
These spiritual documentaries may not provide a clear definite answer, but they create the space necessary to reflect, expand your awareness, change your perspective and direct your life so that you’re closer to allowing the answer to reveal itself.
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What Makes a Good Spiritual Documentary?
We live in the golden age of entertainment with endless choices available to us, and tons of different spiritual documentaries out there available on the many streaming platforms.
But which ones do we choose?
With the precious limited time we have on this planet, how do we know what makes a ‘good’ spiritual documentary?
As someone who has watched a lot of documentaries and cinema (it’s one of my favorite ways to relax, unwind, and open my mind), I’m here to offer my assistance.
To help you understand my choices of what I believe makes a good spiritual documentary, I’ve used the following criteria:
- It must be enlightening: it must open our eyes in a down-to-earth way to our place in this world and juxtapose that with different ways of experiencing life.
- It must be inspirational: it needs to be able to expand our minds and fill us with awe and wonder at the interbeing of life.
- It must be motivational: it needs to motivate us to make changes in our lives that better ourselves and the whole.
The documentaries I’ve hand-picked and curated for this article have met at least one (usually multiple) of the above criteria to be worth including here.
9 Best Spiritual Documentaries To Watch
Here are my top nine picks for the best spiritual documentaries to watch out there:
1. Samsara (2012)
Samsara explores the wonders of our world from the mundane to the miraculous, looking into the unfathomable reaches of humanity's spirituality and the human experience. Neither a traditional documentary nor a travelogue, Samsara takes the form of a nonverbal, guided meditation.
2. My Octopus Teacher (2020)
A heartwarming look at the way a meaningful bond can transcend just about any barrier, this documentary show Craig Foster's growing intimate relationship with an octopus as he follows her around for nearly a year. They form a bond where she plays with Foster and allows him into her world to see how she sleeps, lives, and eats.
Foster describes the effect of this mentorship-like relationship the octopus provided him, teaching him a lesson on the fragility of life and humanity's connection with nature.
3. I AM (2010)
In this film, Tom Shadyac asks the question: "What is wrong with the world, and what can we do about it?" and explores Shadyac's personal journey after a bicycle accident in 2007, which led him to answers surrounding the nature of humanity, the world's ever-growing addiction to materialism, and human connections.
Tom conducts interviews with scientists, religious leaders, environmentalists, and philosophers, including Desmond Tutu, Noam Chomsky, Lynne McTaggart, Elisabet Sahtouris, David Suzuki, Howard Zinn, and Thom Hartmann. The film asks two central questions: "What's Wrong With the World?" and "What Can We Do About it?".
4. InnSaei (2016)
The ancient Icelandic word for intuition is “InnSæi,” but in Iceland, it has multiple meanings. It can mean “the sea within” which is the borderless nature of our inner world, a constantly moving world of vision, feelings, and imagination beyond words. It can also mean “to see within” which means to know yourself and to be self-aware enough to be able to put yourself in other people’s shoes. And finally, it can mean “to see from the inside out” which is to have a strong inner compass to navigate your way in our ever-changing world.
In this inspiring and thought-provoking documentary about InnSæi: the Power of Intuition, Hrund Gunnsteinsdottir, and Kristín Ólafsdóttir go on a soul-searching, global journey to uncover the art of finding connection within and between ourselves in today’s world of distraction, disconnection, and stress.
5. Kumaré (2011)
Vikram Gandhi conducts an experiment, in which he poses as a guru to satirize the New Age movement and attracts a number of devotees, but unexpectedly finds that his followers are receiving genuine benefits from his deception.
6. Mantra: Sounds into Silence (2017)
This documentary explores the growing music and social phenomenon of chanting mantras and the electric power of kirtan (or community-based devotional singing). It's a film about spirituality not religion, about sincere people reconnecting with their true selves and with others.
Mantra: Sounds into Silence features interviews and music by Deva Premal and Miten with Manose, Krishna Das, Snatam Kaur, Lama Gyurme and Jean-Philippe Rykiel, Jai Uttal, and more.
7. Happy (2011)
Happy explores human happiness through interviews with people from all walks of life in 14 different countries, weaving in the newest findings of positive psychology.
Directed, written, and produced by Roko Belic, Belic spent several years interviewing over 20 people, ranging from leading happiness researchers to a rickshaw driver in Kolkatta, a family living in a “co-housing community” in Denmark, a woman who was run over by a truck, a Cajun fisherman, and more.
8. Human (2015)
A collection of stories about, and images of, our world, offering an immersion into the core of what it means to be human. Through stories full of love and happiness, as well as hatred and violence, this documentary brings us face-to-face with the Other – the mysterious and often rejected side of ourselves and others – making us deeply reflect on our existence.
From stories of everyday experiences to accounts of the most unbelievable lives, these poignant encounters share a rare sincerity and underline who we are – our darker side, but also what is most noble in us, and what is universal.
9. Unity (2015)
Unity is a documentary that explores humanity's transformation presented in five chapters: "Cosmic," "Mind," "Body," "Heart," and "Soul." This documentary is for all who hunger for a deeper meaning to existence and a more unified way of living with one another and with all expressions of life.
Just imagine a world that doesn't rely on opposites (us/them, rich/poor, black/white, gay/straight, human/animal, etc.) but rather a world that perceives only wholeness. UNITY presents the notion of a world in which we are all equally valued, even though we are not the same: Human, Animal, and Tree.
Bonus – Honorable mention: Home (2009 film)
With aerial footage from 54 countries, this documentary presents a depiction of how Earth's problems are all interlinked due to the pressure humanity has placed on the environment and the consequences of climate change.
If you’d like to explore more free spiritual documentaries, I recommend that you visit our curated LonerWolf Videos section!
You missed the real spiritual documentary: OSHO. Now google that word, search in youtube and become enlightened.
I have watched Kumari a couple of times, i was left disturbed by it, yes it had a lot of value in it, but it also highlights the fakery that goes on in this spiritual world, people have commited suicide through these people, some of the followers at the end were devastated and felt cheated, which has lead me to do this journey on my own as i can only trust my own path where i can only talk about my own experiences and would not dupe others into thinking that my path would be the right path, spirituality is a serious path to take and should not be trifled with, yes i could go around pretending evrything is rolled up in cotton wool prancing about without a care in the world but in all honesty that is not how it is, and can be devasting if not handled properly. Peace and light to you all.
I have watched both I AM & Kumare several times and am looking forward to discovering the others on the list. There is one not on the list, a 10-episode documentary series called the Road to Dharma which I really enjoyed that others may enjoy as well. Thank you!
I think Fantastic Fungi could fall into this category.
I highly recommend the movie The Fountain with Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz. It’s very thought provoking, and I feel like I always learn something new from it each time I watch it! I posted the link to the trailer here also :)
“Gambling Gods and LSD” made a huge impression on me when I saw it at a film festival two decades ago. It’s not something that is designed for quick consumption though– there are a lot of long, almost meditative sequences. It’s something that can be digested over the course of several viewings.
Thank you Mateo for sharing your recommendation of films. I’m not much of a film watcher these days though I used to be when I was younger. Back then you had to go to the cinema, nowadays you have netflix – it might be old-fashioned or ridiculous but I don’t even know how to use netflix. With these films I now think this might change… gotta ask my kids…