Movies Featuring ReincarnationWe at ISS have put together the following list of movies where past lives, reincarnation, a transformative spiritual event or the idea of spiritual evolution are important plot elements.
This list is not meant to be comprehensive; these are movies that struck us as depicting something important or presenting the idea of reincarnation in an entertaining, interesting or unique way. Some of these movies are lighter, fun and more entertaining, while some are more serious and a few are quite intense and even harrowing at times.
Please be advised that as you move down the list numerically that some of these movies may be too intense or visually disturbing for some viewers and are not recommended for children, particularly movies numbered 5-8.
1) “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever”, (D) Vincente Minnelli with Barbra Streisand, Yves Montand, Bob Newhart and a (young) Jack Nicholson.
Daisy Gamble (Streisand) is a somewhat timid young woman who knows who is calling before phones ring, does miracles with her flowers and who desperately wants to quit smoking. While seeking a cure for her smoking, with the help of a hypnotist professor/doctor (and perhaps lover in another incarnation), she finds out that she was quite a different personality in her past lives. Barbra Streisand sings, acts and charms her way through an enjoyable movie that is without serious pretensions but still effectively incorporates the idea that we may meet again...and again. If you enjoy Barbra Streisand you’ll enjoy this movie, if you’re not a Streisand fan, you may not.
2) “Chances Are”, (D) Emile Ardolino with Cybill Shepherd, Robert Downey, Jr. and Ryan O'Neal.
Louie Jeffries is hit by a car and dies in 1964, but is instantly reborn. Cut to 1987, when, at the age of 23 years, the now reincarnated Louie again “meets” his widow Corinne, their now grown daughter Miranda and his old best friend Phillip Train. Louie's pal Phillip has helped the widow Corinne raise their daughter while (not so) secretly carrying a torch for Corrine all these years; all the while patiently waiting for Corinne to get over Louie so he can marry her. A lighter, comedic and entertaining story with reincarnation and its possible consequences generating some interesting issues and paradoxes.
3) “Made in Heaven”, (D) Alan Rudolph with Timothy Hutton, Kelly McGillis and with cameos by Tom Petty, Ric Ocasek, Ellen Barkin, Neil Young and with Debra Winger as "Emmett" in a great part.
Mike Shea (Hutton) dreams of escaping small town life and while on his way to California he drowns while rescuing a woman and her children from a river. He finds himself in Heaven where he falls in love with a heavenly guide named Annie (McGillis). Annie must leave and put in time inhabiting a human body. Mike is beside himself with despair, but the mysterious Emmett makes him a deal and Mike can return to Earth, with the stipulation neither he nor Annie will remember each other and they have thirty years in which they must find each other again or be lost to each other, perhaps forever.
4) “Little Budda”, (D) Bernardo Bertolucci with Chris Isaak, Bridget Fonda and Keanu Reeves.
This move has two loosely related narratives that run simultaneously: one is about a seemingly ordinary Seattle boy who may be a reincarnation of Tibetan monk Lama Dorje, while at the same time we experience the story of Siddhartha (Keanu Reeves), later known as the Buddha, as it traces his spiritual journey from isolated palatial indulgence, to total renunciation and on to the realization of “the middle path” and the path to true enlightenment. The visual presentation of the story of Siddhartha, although abbreviated here, is worth the time alone and the solution to finding the true incarnation of Lama Dorje is nicely done with a twist.
5) “Cloud Atlas”, (D) Tom Tykwer and the Wachowskis with Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant, Susan Sarandon and Hugo Weaving and others; all appearing in multiple roles.
Cloud Atlas is an ambitious movie of multiple entwined souls on their journey through the ages and their ultimately converging narratives and is spread over, and through, 7 time periods ranging from 1849 to sometime after the year 2250. The official synopsis for Cloud Atlas describes the film as: "An exploration of how the actions of individual lives impact one another in the past, present and future, as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and an act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution.” An epic adventure that polarizes many viewers, this is not an easy movie to digest in one sitting; it either puts you off half way through or compels one to multiple viewings.
6) “The Tree of Life”, (D) Terrence Malick with Brad Pitt, Sean Penn and Jessica Chastain.
The film ambitiously attempts to address the mystery of the origins and the meaning of life. The home base for this exploration is by way of a middle-aged man's childhood memories of his family living in 1950s Texas. These recollections are interspersed with imagery of the origins of the universe, the inception of life on Earth, the evolution of life and consciousness and these images may be his own past, present and future.
This film has a very fragmented and non-linear narrative that requires some active participation on the viewer’s part. This movie has some very stunning visuals and thought provoking imagery. Does it all come together? You be the judge.
7) “What Dreams May Come”, (D) Vincent Ward with Robin Williams, Cuba Gooding, Jr., and Annabella Sciorra.
American physician Chris (Robin Williams) meets artist Annie (Annabella Sciorra) they fall in love, marry and have children. Their idyllic life ends when their children die in a car crash and the couple’s marriage then begins to crumble; despite all this they eventually work things out. Soon after this Chris is killed in yet another car crash, after which things really begin to get difficult. Chris is unaware that he is dead and is confused when no one will interact with him and so Chris lingers on Earth.
He eventually decides to move on and awakens in Heaven where he meets a man who will guide and help in this new afterlife. He teaches Chris about his existence in Heaven and how to travel to others' "dreams". Chris begins a journey through various realities while trying to reunite with his now deceased wife Annie; a journey that literally takes him to Hell and back. This is a more serious movie and is a take on Heaven and Hell and the roles we play in shaping our own realities in this, and in the next the world.
8) “Dead Again”, (D) Kenneth Branagh with Emma Thompson, Kenneth Branagh and Andy Garcia.
This is a classic Film Noir detective style drama with reincarnation as a central plot device. The film opens with a series of newspaper articles detailing the 1949 murder of pianist Margaret Strauss (Thompson) who was stabbed with a pair of antique scissors during an apparent robbery. Her husband, composer Roman Strauss (Branagh), is found guilty of the crime and sentenced to death.
Time goes by and 40 years later, Mike Church (also Branagh), now a private detective this lifetime, is asked to investigate the identity of a mysterious woman (again Thompson) who has shown up at the same Catholic orphanage where Mike grew up. She has amnesia and is unable to speak. Residents say she has violent nightmares... and herein is a detective story involving past lives and a tangled web. This is an absorbing and intense move that is thought provoking and a nail bitter at times. Good performances by the then married Branagh and Thompson.
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