Inspiring Buddhist films

We have curated a range of films that inspire, inform and entertain: all with a Buddhist theme.

‘We think the Buddha would have liked movies. Since he often taught through stories and parables, he would have appreciated the powerful spiritual stories that great films tell.’
The Lion’s Roar

Searching for the Lotus Born Master
Shrouded in myth and mystery, the Lotus-Born Master, Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche in Tibetan) is recognized as the founder of Vajrayana or Tibetan Buddhism. In 2018, a documentary expedition team followed the historic journey of Padmasambhava, who lived in the Himalayas during the Eighth Century. The expedition followed his historic journey covering over 20,000 kilometres under extreme conditions, scaling the snow mountains he crossed, finding the sacred lakes where he performed magic, exploring the caves where he engaged in tantric meditation.

Out of This World
The incredible footage of Out of This World taken in 1949, offers rare glimpses of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, the Potala palace and the unique culture and landscape of Tibet. Journey into Tibet with Lowell Thomas and Lowell Thomas Jr. as it was in 1949 before Chinese occupation. Lowell Thomas also wrote the book called Out of This World which is still available today. This film was published by the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives .

Words of My Perfect Teacher
Words of My Perfect Teacher is a film about Dzongsar Khyentse Norbu Rinpoche, a renowned teacher in Tibetan Buddhism, famous also for being a film-maker. The 19th Century text The Words of My Perfect Teacher by Patrul Rinpoche is a classic commentary and a spiritual treasure of the Nyingmapa school. Here the film-maker, a student of Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, explores what the role of the teacher is, in Tibetan Buddhism, in contemporary times.

The Roaring Silence
The historical BBC documentary, The Roaring Silence contains early footage of Kopan monastery and interviews with the first FPMT Western monks and nuns. In 1973 the BBC visited Nepal to film a documentary about Buddhism, which produced outstanding footage of this early era. The documentary includes a visit to Kopan Monastery not long after it was established and, while there, interviews with early Western students including Anila Ann McNeil, Marie Obst (Yeshe Khadro), Harry Luke, Nick Ribush and David (whose last name is forgotten in the mists of time). The video includes footage of Swayambhunath and Boudhanath in Kathmandu, a long trek to Tengboche and concludes with the arrival there of Trulshik Rinpoche by helicopter.

Vajra Sky Over Tibet
From PBS, this stunning pilgrimage, “beautifully shot in Tibet’s most sacred sites” as described by Variety, received the blessing of the Dalai Lama and bears witness to the indomitable faith of the Tibetan Buddhist community and the imminent threat to its very survival. Traveling through breath-taking Himalayan terrain, this is the third film in John Bush’s Yatra Trilogy.

Buddha in Suburbia
Buddha in Suburbia is a 1 hour BBC documentary, charting the extraordinary and moving tale of Lelung Rinpoche. He has been recognised by His Holiness the Dalai Lama as a reincarnation of the previous Lelung Rinpoche, of Lelung Valley in Tibet. Now living in London, he returns to India, to the monks of his monastery whom he cares for, for a Geshe ceremony and to transmit teachings. At the thanksgiving ceremony he speaks movingly of his sadness for the donkeys who are burdened by the work they do. He sets out to gather lost teachings of his monastery and to attempt a return to his homeland. There are interviews with senior lamas, the Tibetan Prime Minister in exile and Prof. Robert Thurman.

Karma tells the tale of a nun’s search for repayment of a debt, which will be used to pay for traditional prayers for her Abbess, who has just died. The nun fulfils a debt owed by the abbess to a young nun previously under her care, who ran away from the abbess’s harsh discipline, and was lost to an unhappy life of vice. The nun recognizes that the abbess’s true intent was to save her from the glittering yet empty world of samsara, and after learning of the tragic outcomes of women who’d run away looking for love, or an escape from their families, develops true renunciation with the determination to devote her life to Buddhist practice.

Brilliant Moon
Brilliant Moon chronicles the life of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, one of Tibet’s most revered 20th-century Buddhist teachers. He was an inspiration to all who encountered him, and his many students throughout the world included the Dalai Lama and the King of Bhutan. Two of his admirers are Richard Gere and Lou Reed, who provide the narration for his dangerous journey out of China and the subsequent spread of his influence around the world. The film uses animation, archival footage and photos to tell Khyentse Rinpoche’s moving life story, from birth to death to rebirth.

Journey Into Buddhism
From PBS, DHARMA RIVER takes us through legendary rivers to the greatest Buddhist temples and mystical sites of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar. This is the first documentary in John Bush’s Yatra trilogy, which World Movie Reviews called “a spiritual film with a big heart that dazzles with amazing imagery” and “an illuminating meditation” by Variety.

The Story of Lama Osel
This short documentary which tells the story of the years from Lama Tenzin Osel Hita’s birth until the age of thirteen, features detailed interviews with Tenzin Osel and his teachers. The Story of Lama Osel is a BBC documentary about Tenzin Osel Hita (previously known as Lama Tenzin Osel), who was recognised at the age of 15 months as the reincarnation of beloved FPMT founder, Lama Thubten Yeshe. Since leaving monastic life at 18 – he’s now in his late 30’s – Ösel has been travelling across the world, fulfilling his yearning to transmit ancient wisdom in a 21st-century style, through music, art, film, and communication – to help heal the planet and each other. He has founded two organisations, following his humanitarian and environmental values – One Big Love and the Global Tree Initiative.

The Little Buddha
The popular film, The Little Buddha, has the concept of reincarnation at its heart, and tells the stories of the search for a reincarnated Buddhist master and the life of Prince Siddhartha. Lama Norbu comes to Seattle in search of the reincarnation of his dead teacher, Lama Dorje. His search leads him to young Jesse Conrad, Raju, a waif from Kathmandu, and an upper class Indian girl. Together, they journey to Bhutan where the three children must undergo a test to prove which is the true reincarnation. Interspersed with this, is the story of Siddhartha, later known as the Buddha. It traces his spiritual journey from ignorance to true enlightenment.

Return of the Lotus-Born Master
Return of the Lotus-Born Master filmed in 2019, is a sequel to the international award winning documentary film Searching for the Lotus-Born Master. Director Laurence Brahm leads an expedition team into the ‘hidden realms’ of the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan, searching for secret teachings concealed by the Lotus-Born Master during the Eighth Century. These secret teachings that can only be downloaded from parallel universes with the help of divine consorts (dakinis). These teachings can help future generations at a time when our planet is suffering from self-destruction due to short-sighted greed and aggression.

Living Buddha
This film explores the consecration of H.E. the 17th Karmapa through the eyes of historian/ documentarian Clemens Kuby. It also features interviews with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The 17th Karmapa, according to Tibetan Buddhist belief, is the reincarnation of an enlightened being and plays a supremely important role, culturally and spiritually, alongside His Holiness the Dalai Lama. His Eminence the 17th Karmapa is the head of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism.

Khensur Rinpoche Lama Lhundrup’s consecration
Lama Lhundrup came to Kopan monastery in 1973 upon the request of FPMT founder Lama Yeshe, who wrote to Lama Lhundrup simply, ‘I have some monks, can you teach them? If so, please come.’ Khensur Rinpoche Lama Lhundrup Rigsel tirelessly offered his service to accomplishing the wishes of Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche for almost 40 years at Kopan Monastery in Nepal. Lama Lhundrup touched the lives of thousands of students, taking care of the monks and nuns of Kopan as well as international Dharma students. He stepped down as abbot of Kopan Monastery in July 2011 due to advanced stomach cancer, a diagnosis he received in January 2011.

On September 7, 2011 at 11:10 p.m., after a lifetime of Dharma study, practice and selfless service to countless sentient beings, Lama Lhundrup stopped breathing and passed into clear light meditation. This short video was shot at the cremation day and the uncovering of his holy relics in the ashes.

Read more about Lama’s Lhundrup’s death process.

‘The purpose of Buddhism is to make people understand reality, the ultimate reality. In order to do that, you can employ all kinds of methods: meditation, film, art, music.’
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche