Five Christ Figures as Depicted in Science Fiction/Fantasy Movies


The use of a Christ figure is a concept that is not uncommon in literature, but this concept manifests itself in movies, too.  Somethimes it’s obvious that a certain character is supposed to be representative of a messiah, and sometimes the subtlety of the character or his situation can lead to the depiction of a Christ figure by inference.  Perhaps no genre of film includes Christ figures more often than science fiction/fantasy.  After the jump, we take a look at five characters from science fiction/fantasy movies that you may or may not have realized were Christ figures:

Superman – Superman movies, particularly Superman Returns


If you think about it, Superman is more of a Moses figure than a Christ figure, at least until his portrayal in Superman Returns.  Created by a couple of Jewish guys (Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster), Superman is like Moses in that they were both sent off from their homelands by their parents, and both grew up to lead the people in their new lands.  Superman was sent from Krypton in a spacecraft, and Moses was sent to Egypt in a basket; Superman has helped lead and protect Earthings, while Moses led and protected the Israelites from the evil Pharoah.


Superman, as the title of this article would imply, is also a Christ figure, particularly in Superman Returns.  Aside from being about as morally pure as one can be, Superman possesses godlike abilities: Jesus could walk on water, something Superman could do as well.  However, Earth’s reliance on Superman as a godlike savior is where the real parallel between Superman and Christ can be drawn.  Like Christ, Superman was sent to Earth by his father to lead by example.  Toward the end of the movie, Superman is stabbed in the side with a piece of kryptonite, a metaphor for Jesus’ stabbing during the Crucifixion.  Later, after after hurling Lex Luthor’s continent into space, Superman falls to Earth in a pose that is unmistakenly that of Jesus on the cross. Finally, Superman wakes from a coma after three days, analogous to Christ’s “awakening” three days following his cricifixion.  Director Bryan Singer has not hidden the fact that his version of Superman was intended to be a Christ figure.

Ellen Ripley – Alien 3


One could argue that Ripley serves as a Christ figure to Newt in Aliens, but I think that’s a bit too much of a stretch.  What does work, though, is Ripley as a Christ figure in David Fincher’s Alien 3.  Ripley lands on a planet, the only human inhabitants of which are male prisoners and guards, and her sudden arrival and uniqueness spur heated religious debate and inner relection amongst the men.  More significantly, Ripley sacrifices herself so that the Queen Alien growing inside of her will die, too.  Hammering home the point that this sacrifice is analogous to Christ dying for the sins of humanity (with the Alien Queen representative of the sins), Ripley spreads her arms as she drops down into a large furnace, a pose easily recognizable as, once again, Christ on the cross.  Also like Jesus, Ripley returns to life in another form (for Ripley, it’s as a clone) in Alien: Resurrection.  If and when Jesus returns, let’s hope it’s not in a crappy, unnecessary sequel.

Robocop – Robocop


Now, before you scoff at this suggestion, know that director Paul Verhoeven intended to portray Robocop as a Christ figure.  If you look for the symbolism throughout the movie, it isn’t difficult to pick up on exactly what Verhoeven was thinking.  Detroit, overrun with crime and corruption, desperately needs a savior.  That savior arrives in the form of a cyborg, but his parallels to Christ are sprinkled throughout this incredibly violent movie.  Officer Alex Murphy is brutally murdered, shot first in his hand, then his body, and eventually his head, symbolic of Christ’s crucifixion, with the headshot analogous to the crown of thorns.  Murphy is resurrected in a new form – Robocop – and set to serve and guide the people who look to him as a savior.  Toward the end of the movie, during Robocop’s final confrontation with Clarence Boddicker, Robocop can be seen walking on water, an obvious hat tip to the man J.C.

Neo – The Matrix Trilogy


Look, if you saw the Matrix movies and still need an explanation as to how Neo fits the profile of a Christ figure, you probably have a double-digit I.Q.  The Wachowskis portray Neo as a messianic figure without much subtlety.  Neo is viewed as a godlike savior, able to do things in both the Matrix and the real world that no one else is capable of understanding, let alone doing.  He is the sixth version of The One, implying that had he chosen to “reload” the Matrix, it would have been the seventh version, analogous to God creating the world in seven biblical days.  Most notable is Neo’s self sacrifice for the benefit of mankind, a Christ-like deed that results in the familiar crucifixion pose we’ve already mentioned with regards to Superman and Ripley.  Heck, even Agent Smith serves as an anti-Christ to Neo’s Christ, one of the many parallels to the Bible that saturate the Martix trilogy.  Of all messianic figures in science fiction films, Neo has got to be the most obvious.

John Connor – The Terminator movies


James Cameron’s Terminator is essentially a science-fiction spin on the Second Coming.  In the future, machines attempt to enslave and destroy the human race, facing resistance from John Connor.  Connor is clearly a savior for humanity – and like Jesus, a savior for which mankind is waiting – but his similarities to Jesus don’t end there.  In a sense, and like Christ, Connor was born via immaculate conception.  Sure, Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese techincally fornicated, but Kyle came from the future and died almost immediately following his journey back in time, so it’s like he never really existed in the first place.  That, coupled with mankind’s reliance on Connor to deliver them to salvation, makes Connor a pretty compelling Christ figure.  And if you’re still not convined, the initials “J.C.” should do that trick; that’s not a coincidence.

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  1. how about star wars?

    also, christ isn’t the model. he exists is societies that predate him by 1000s of years. Joesph Campbell’s hero’s journey is the model.

  2. Here’s a corny example: “The Omega Man” starring Charlton Heston.

    In this 1971 adaptation of the ’50’s sci-fi-horror novel “I Am Legend”, Charlton Heston plays Robert Neville, one of the only healthy human beings left alive after a plague kills almost all of the world’s population. A small percentage of the last humans are still affected by the early stages of the plague. Their skin has turned white with sores, and they can’t handle intense light. Together, these crazy plague carriers form a cult that walks the street at night, destroying technology and trying to do away with other remnants of the modern age, including Robert Neville.

    Neville is immune after injecting himself with a vaccine, and with the vaccine still coursing through his blood, he could use his scientific know-how to save other plague carriers from becoming another crazy albino. This is a reference to the Blood of Christ cleansing a person of their sins.

    In the end, Robert Neville is killed by a spear to the chest, as he lays in a fountation that soon fills with his blood, arms spread out like Jesus Christ. He manages to give the survivors his last batch of vaccine, that he managed to produce from his own blood, before finally dying. This is a reference to the sacrifice of Christ, his perfect blood as payment for all of the sins of mankind.

    It’s also a cheesy funktastic sub-blaxsploitation flick with acting so horrible that it makes the Vincent Price adaptation from 1964 look good.

  3. Talking about Christ figures in Sci-Fi movies and not mention Flynn from “Tron”? As a “God” programmer made manifest in the computer world, he had powers beyond that of any mere program. In the end, he sacrificed himself for their salvation, and even ascended back into the heavens.

  4. Ditto on Maud’Dib. I rented that a few weeks ago(David Lynch version.) Oh man, that’s a great movie. It’s weird so many people say it’s no good. I thought it was excellent. Maud’Dib putting the smackdown on the Harkonnens David Lynch-style is quite righteous.

  5. Christ? Let me google that….. ohh… ah yes…. a quaint parochial variant of the Horus theme, about twothousand years ago, a bit contrived, largely a historical construct and completely bastardized by later generations. Boring.

    I rather see Superman as the Thor-Tyr-Zeus figure.

    Ripley conforms to the Isis-Cybele-Inanna myths a LOT more. Come ON, Ripley is a knowing cynic, the unwilling mother, totally Erzuli Dantor.

    Robocop? Don’t make me laugh, that is contemporary Promethean Frankensteinian guilt-contamination mythology with a strong Gnostic tendency of regarding the world as corrupt.

    Neo is without any doubt the warrior archetype, with strong Gnostic, Buddist and Transcendentalist overtones. He is as far from western ideological slave worship of authority as can be. He breaks the system and deals with the Gods with authority. He is a celestial poker player. Mithra, probably more Zoroathrianism. A universe ruled by Demons. Voodoo.

    Bwahahahaha at best John Jonnor is the islamic Mehdi, it’s so funny it is a slap in the face of the castrate church of catholicism. But really, he is really Odin, destined for the end times, the Gotterdammerung, where the gods fight with the giants (or titans?) after which there will be a splendid better world.

    I am sorry, I have trouble fitting this slightly icky christ folklore here *anywhere*. Plus the whole christian construct is SUCH a flimsy pile of copyrights violations of earlier religions it could as well been made in Hon Kong.

  6. how about mr hanky? now there’s a christ figure if there ever was one.

    now i think about, all the actors and extras in any Romero movie is a christ figure.

    Most of the main characters have parallel roles to scripture.

  8. E.T. has to be one of the most obvious J.C. symbols in sci-fi movies ever. I’m surprised that this list is populated with characters who never followed the popular J.C. mythology of death to resurrection. The resurrection is an important part of what is considered Christ symbolism. Without that, it’s just someone making a sacrifice. And, no, dying with your arms outspread does not make you a Jesus figure.

  9. Have to agree with Superman. Especially Marlon Brando’s speech in the first Superman Movie (the good one), not the Bryan Singer one. He alludes to the whole Christ allegory.

    “They can be a great people, they wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way. For this reason above all, their capacity for good, I have sent them you, my only son.” – Jor-El (Richard Donner Superman Movie)

  10. How about Klaatu (Michael Rennie in the original version of TDTESS – the good one)? His Christ-like story:

    A mysterious being descends to Earth where he takes human form and brings a message of peace for all mankind. After he is betrayed by someone he knows, he is hunted down and killed, only to be restored to life and rise again into the heavens.

    Oh, yes, and the name Klaatu assumes while in human form?


  11. Commander Adama from the original Battlestar Galactica was a Moses figure; he rescued his people from slavery at the hands of the Cylons, and led them on a quest for Earth; the Promised Land. There was a lot of religion in that show.

  12. [SPOILER]
    It’s not in this list… YET but when the last Harry Potter is done and released he should be added to this list. Espeically considering that the last book had a huge christian undertone to it.

    Not to mention that he also gives himself and essentially returns from the dead as well

  13. This is one of my favorite movie cliches that I love picking up on! I have a couple more to consider:

    Forget Gandolf, Frodo Baggins is the real Christ figure from LOTR. The stab wound that will never heal, taking on the sins and weight of evil in the form of the ring, returns to the neverending lands once his job is done. Eh?

    Klaatu from The Day the Earth Stood Still comes to mind (I’m talking about the original; screw you Keanu!)

    Here’s a weird one…how about the drunken dad who sacrifices himself to blow up the alien ship in Independence Day. It’s a stretch, but…finds out he’s special after his abduction, spends his time out in the wilderness, then dies for the sins of mankind who wouldn’t believe him.

  14. I agree with Brad Moreland, E.T. is the most obvious.
    E.T. Descends from the stars, performs miracles (“Ouch”).
    Then dies and is resurrected and ascends to the heavens at the end of the movie. Imagery from classical art is used in the movie.
    E.T. draped in red and white sheets has he emerges from the van towards the end of the movie. E.T. did not walk on water but he did fly.

    The story of Jesus Christ has told by Steven Spielberg.

  15. You guys should check out Star Wars Origins, by Kristen Brennan, at , which probes the mythology behind many of these sci-fi films. It is quite a bit of reading, but very insightful as to how ‘heroes’ are created. Many of the most popular sci-fi stories turn out to have their origin in ancient mythology. Others are derived from the Bible or from actual historical events.

    Also required reading: The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell. This book ties together the thousands of myths from cultures from disparate corners of the earth into a common thread. Read it and you will be reminded of every heroic tale you ever read, or watched on film.

  16. so we’re using one myth to represent ANOTHER myth? interesting.
    so based on this anyone falling, standing, dying (etc) with their arms out is doing their best JC impersonation.
    if that’s all it takes no wonder it’s a myth.

  17. Most gratifying to see “Omega Man”, “Dune” (the good one), and “Fifth Element” remembered. I’d like to add “Eragon”, or Oromis, the elf elder who trained him and then sacrificed himself in “Brisingr”. Where would you class Obiwon Kanobe or Yoda in this context?

  18. Have to agree with Chris Lees up there re Battlestar Galactica. Although I’m a bit behind on the shows, the last episode reeked of religious overtones. Especially noteworthy, and forgive me because I don’t remember all the Cylons’ names, was the conversation between the “creator” cylon and one of the creations (Allen?). The creation was deriding the creator for making him in human form with inferior capabilities as compared to the original Cylon form, and that reminded me of Satan/Iblis’ pride in his creation (made from light) when God asked all the angels to bow to Adam (made from dirt). They also talk a lot about the 13th tribe etc., so yeah.

    There was also a show on either National Geographic or History Channel about the folklore and mythology behind Star Wars and how it parallels virtually every hero story.

  19. Here’s a pretty good one:

    John Coffey in “The Green Mile.”

    John Coffey (with the initials JC) is wrongfully executed for crimes he did not commit. He is innocent. He heals buy sucking the sin/evil out of people, and he punishes bad men by giving them their own evil. His presence in the life of the guards redeems them.

    Not sci-fi, but Andy Dupree in “The Shawshank Redemption” is likewise innocent but imprisoned for crimes he didn’t commit, but his “redemptive joy” transforms the prison. He has hardened criminals enjoying classical music and the library. He punishes the crooked warden and goes through his “grave” and “resurrection” by tunneling through the sewer and ends up in his heaven, a beach.

    The connection? Both are written by Stephen King. King can’t get away from the King.

  20. @ Yesspaz

    Very insightful on John Coffey; I definitely agree.

    I’m actually reading The Stand now (about 100 pages to go) and there’s tons of Biblical allusions in that.

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