Memorable film characters, luminous actors/actresses, and even some unforgettable great films themselves have inspired audiences since the beginning of movies. This week-long seminar focused on sixteen feature films from the US, Japan, and Germany dating from the 1930s to the present that have depicted teachers, mentors, and spiritual visionaries—both secular and religious—who were able to bring forth inspiration akin to its original meaning: “A divine influence or action upon the lives of certain persons that is believed to qualify them to receive and communicate sacred revelation interpreted within Christianity as the direct action of the Holy Spirit” (Webster’s 3rd International Dictionary, 2002).

The films chosen evoke — through their characters, scenarios, bold cinematography, and music — those qualities of inspiration and spiritual leadership that have served to guide oneself and others to embrace the courage, passion, and imagination needed to take up a new way of living.

Films viewing order:

  1. The Song of Bernadette
  2. “A Source of Inspiration” from Hildegard von Bingen in Portrait
  3. Vision: From the Life of Hildegard von Bingen
  4. Red Beard
  5. The Miracle Worker
  6. Freedom Writers
  7. Anne Frank Remembered
  8. Of Love, Death and Beyond: Exploring Mahler’s “Resurrection” Symphony
  9. The Grapes of Wrath
  10. Young Mr. Lincoln
  11. An Ecology of Mind
  12. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
  13. Field of Dreams
  14. Lilies of the Field
  15. To Kill A Mockingbird
  16. Invictus
  17. Buck

Bonus films:

  1. Bagdad Café
  2. The Times of Harvey Milk

See also: Twenty Favorite Films

Photo by Patrick Fore


Br. David Steindl-Rast
Francis G. Lu, M.D.

Francis G. Lu, M.D.

About the author

Francis G. Lu, M.D., is the Luke & Grace Kim Endowed Professor Emeritus in Cultural Psychiatry at the University of California, Davis. He co-led more than 20 film seminars at Esalen with Brother David Steindl-Rast from 1990 - 2016.

Br. David Steindl-Rast, OSB

Br. David Steindl-Rast, OSB

About the author

Brother David Steindl-Rast — author, scholar, and Benedictine monk — is beloved the world over for his enduring message about gratefulness as the true source of lasting happiness. Known to many as the “grandfather of gratitude,” Br. David has been a source of inspiration and spiritual friendship to countless leaders and luminaries around the world including Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, Thomas Merton, and more. He has been one of the most important figures in the modern interfaith dialogue movement, and has taught with thought-leaders such as Eckhart Tolle, Jack Kornfield, and Roshi Joan Halifax. His wisdom has been featured in recent interviews with Oprah Winfrey, Krista Tippett, and Tami Simon and his TED talk has been viewed almost 10,000,000 times. Learn more about Br. David here.