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Buddhist Movies
Recent Buddhism-Themed Feature Films:
Comparison of Box Office Receipts

Related Pages:
- Box Office Performance of Christian Movies
- Famous Buddhists
- Largest Buddhist Communities
- Tibetan Buddhism in Science Fiction
These are all feature films with overtly Buddhist major characters.

It should be noted that the total gross shown is only the U.S. box office gross. Most of these films have had a significant proportion of their revenue come from international ticket sales and video sales/rentals as well. So although "Seven Years in Tibet", for example, cost $70 million to make and had a U.S. gross of $38 million, this isn't the whole picture. The film, which starred Brad Pitt, also had a non-U.S. gross of $93.5 million in ticket sales.

The focus of this list is on movies released in the United States. Clearly, there are many more movies made in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan and other Asian countries which prominently feature Buddhist themes and characters.

For most of the films listed below, either the director, the writer (or one of the writers) or the star (or more than one of these) is a self-identified Buddhist.

(Dollar amounts are NOT adjusted for inflation.)

TitleYearDirectorAuthor/Screenwriter(s)StarProduction and/or
Distribution Company
Total U.S.
Box Office Gross
The Golden Child 1986Michael RitchieDennis FeldmanEddie MurphyParamount $79,817,000
Point Break1991Kathryn BigelowRick King; W. Peter Iliff; Kathryn Bigelow; James CameronPatrick Swayze20th Century Fox/Largo Entertainment $43,218,387 $24,000,000
What's Love Got to Do with It1993Brian GibsonTina Turner, Kurt Loder (book); Kate Lanier (screenplay)Angela BassettTouchstone Pictures $39,100,956
Seven Years in Tibet1997Jean-Jacques AnnaudHeinrich Harrer (book); Becky Johnston (screenplay)Brad PittTriStar $37,901,509 70,000,000
Jacob's Ladder1990Adrian LyneBruce Joel RubinTim RobbinsTriStar $26,118,851 25,000,000
The Glimmer Man1996John GrayKevin BrodbinSteven SeagalWarner Brothers $20,400,913
I Heart Huckabees2004David O. RussellDavid O. Russell; Jeff BaenaJason SchwartzmanFox Searchlight (distrib.) $12,784,713 22,000,000
The Razor's Edge1984John ByrumW. Somerset Maugham (novel); John Byrum, Bill Murray (screenplay)Bill MurrayColumbia Pictures $6,600,000
Kundun1997Martin ScorseseMelissa MathisonTenzin Thuthob TsarongTouchstone/Disney $5,532,301 28,000,000
Little Buddha1993Bernardo BertolucciBernardo Bertolucci (story); Rudy Wurlitzer, Mark Peploe (screenplay)Keanu ReevesRecorded Pictures Company/Miramax $4,858,000
Himalaya - l'enfance d'un chef1999Eric ValliNathalie Azoulai; Olivier Dazat; Louis Gardel; Jean-Claude Guillebaud; Eric ValliThilen LhondupAntelope Films, et al (produc.)
Lion's Gate (distrib.)
The Cup [Phörpa]1999Khyentse NorbuKhyentse NorbuOrgyen TobgyalCoffee Stain Productions $1,067,773
Sons of Provo2004Will SwensonPeter D. Brown; Will SwensonDanny TarasevichFresh-Mex Productions (produc.)
Halestone Distribution (distrib.)
$120,488 200,000
Hollywood Buddha2003Philippe CalandPhilippe CalandPhilippe CalandYBG Productions $67,862
Samsara2001Nalin PanTim Baker; Nalin PanShawn KuPandora Filmproduktion GmbH/Paradis Films €196,000 (Austria)
€106,892 (Belgium)
BRL 2,300,400 (Brazil)
€307,600 (Denmark)
€2,198,156 (France)
€692,112 (Germany)
HKD 450,000 (Hong Kong)
€776,149 (Italy)
€162,117 (Netherlands)
SGD 180,000 (Singapore)
€107,000 (Spain)
SEK 1,140,000 (Sweden)
CHF 1,444,746 (Switzerland)
$34,281 (Taiwan)


Jacob's Ladder (1990): "The next speaker was Gaetano Maeda, executive director of the International Buddhist Film Festival (IBFF) and a founding director of the Buddhist quarterly Tricycle... He noted that people commonly ask what counts as a "Buddhist film," and discussed a range of films that have been screened at the Festival... Jacob's Ladder (1990) was marketed as a thriller on first release, but screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin, who is a meditation practitioner, later revealed that it was adapted from the Tibetan Book of the Dead." (Source: http://ieas.berkeley.edu/events/2005.02.08-09.html; viewed 7 September 2005)

The Glimmer Man (1996): Actor/action star Steven Seagal, who is himself a self-identified Buddhist, plays the part of "Jack Cole," an overtly Buddhist police detective. (Oddly enough, Jack Cole is the name of the influential Methodist comic book artist who created the character "Plastic Man"; this may simply be a coincidence.) Det. Cole's Buddhism and peaceful methods for conflict resolution are major themes in the film. Seagal's character is also an expert martial artist, of course, who must sometimes use his more physical skills, although he prefers to use his spiritual talents.

Point Break (1991): Somewhat unusually for a Hollywood movie, this meditative police drama action surfing movie features a Buddhist villain: Patrick Swayze, a New Age/Buddhist-inspired surfer/bank robber who is investigated by the lead character, Keanu Reeves, as "Johnny Utah." Despite his name, "Johnny Utah" is not a Latter-day Saint, but his boss in the FBI is. Although Reeves' character must ultimately thrwart Bodhi's bank robbing spree, he first changes considerable as he learns and adopts considerable Buddhist/surfer philosophy and practice.

What's Love Got to Do with It (1993): The true story of superstar American singer Tina Turner and her conversion to Nichiren Buddhim in the Soka Gakkai denomination.

Sons of Provo (2004) is classified as an "LDS Cinema" film, as it was made by and is primarily about Latter-day Saints. But one of the three central characters, played by Danny Tarasevich, is a Buddhist. Technically, the character is both a practicing Buddhist as well as a practicing Latter-day Saint. In the movie, the character even holds up a book he explains is very important to him: Mormons Can Be Buddhists Too. During the film, most of what is shown of the character's religiously-oriented dialogue and practices are Buddhist.

Hollywood Buddha (2003), description from IMDb.com: "Kissing Metal" is the story of Philippe, a down and out European film producer, who lives in a tent in the shadow of his unfinished house in Brentwood. Philippe is struggling to sell a film he made five years ago to foreign distributors. Nearly broke, and on the verge of eviction, he seeks spiritual help from Master Atchoum, a Buddhist Guru. Master Atchoum pushes him into practicing Buddhism and convinces him to buy an expensive metal sculpture of Buddha. Empowered by the support of his new-found "religion," Philippe starts turning things around. Through a series of serendipitous events...and some very unorthodox maneuvering, he becomes a success. But, he soon discovers that all is not what it appears to be...

Related Pages:
- Christian Feature Films - Box Office Comparison
- Filmic Buddhism - article in Reel Life
- Two Elegies for Tibet: Seven Years in Tibet and Kundun
- "Speaking for the Buddha?: Buddhism and the Media"

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Web page created 7 June 2001. Last 21 November 2005.