Our Favorite … Mythic Movies

This week we asked members of the Immanence Team to share their favorite films with characters, themes, or plots that resonate for them on a mythological level.

Here are our top picks:

Contact (1997) A scientist working for SETI discovers an extraterrestrial signal and ends up on a journey to the center of the galaxy. It’s mythic because the film works as a Heroine’s Journey, with Elie Arroway as a kind of modern Athena.  – Craig Chalquist, Founding Editor-in-Chief

The Matrix (1999) is my favorite movie with mythological themes. There are many references, but I’ll mention two. Morpheus, the Greek god of dreams, is also the character who guides young Neo out of the fictional reality that resembles our modern life. By taking the red pill Morpheus offers, Neo “remains in Wonderland,” a dream-like reality in which the humans are searching for “the One,” the savior who will lead the resistance against the machines. (Interestingly, I learned later that the Wachowskis, who created the film, told actor Laurence Fishburne to base his performance on the character Morpheus in Neil Gaiman’s graphic novel series The Sandman, of which I’m a huge fan.) The Oracle is one of my favorite characters in The Matrix, who like the oracles in Greek myth, is mysterious, powerful, and speaks in riddles. She has wisdom and foresight, which she uses to help find The One and advise the humans in the battle against the machines.  – Melissa Nazario, Production Manager & Webmaster

Lord of the Rings – in particular, Return of the King (2003). As a long-time eco-activist, this trilogy came along at a critical time in my life. Its mythos can be traced all the way back to the Manichaean Religion – the world as a battle between forces of light and darkness. It is a gripping depiction of a world much darker than even our own (!), and the message is that no matter how powerful the forces of darkness become, they can never snuff out the light. And from a psychological viewpoint, the spiritual struggle Frodo has in overcoming ego in order to destroy the ring inside Mount Doom, and the devastating impact it has on him, is the crux of the Hero’s Journey for me. – Zhiwa Woodbury, Columnist & Contributing Editor 

Regarding Henry (1991) starring Harrison Ford and Annette Bening. Henry is an obnoxious high priced attorney who is shot in the head. In recovering from this traumatic brain injury he remembers very little of his past, and with the aid of a mythic guide-figure in his treatment facility is able to re-create himself by discovering who he is, not who others expect him to be. In doing so he also allows his family to re-create itself, escaping from his old expectations of them. It’s an amazing movie about how disconnected we are from our bright shadow and how radical change from outside (the tarot Tower card) can be a tool for transformation.  – Lola McCrary, Assistant Editor & Contributing Blog Writer

Ink (2009) – An extraordinary indie film that glows from the vitality of its own modern mythos. With a beating heart like autumn sunlight through golden leaves, Ink tells the story of a little girl caught between hope, courage, nightmare, and the cost of hardened pride. The protagonists’ power comes from their relationship with a timeless lineage of living story and dream – a lineage that has claimed them as something like avatars or incarnations of the mythic.  – Julian Michels, Contributing Blog Writer

Spirited Away (2001), a modern day fairytale about a young girl who stumbles into an enchanted bath house and has to work her way out to save her parents who’ve been turned into pigs. A bit of a young heroine’s journey – she learns a lot about growing up and how to befriend monsters rather than defeating them. The demanding witch who runs the place reminds me of some bosses I’ve had … even if I didn’t always like them or agree with them, I could still respect what they had to teach me.  – Hannah Custis, Blog Coordinator 

Do you have a favorite mythic movie? Add it in the comments section below!

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