Opinion | Messiahs at the Movies
By Sala Levin
Moment Presents Ten Messianic Flicks
In Richard Donner’s adaptation of the comic-book classic, Jor-El (Marlon Brando) launches his son Kal-El (Hebrew for “voice of God”) into space before the planet Krypton blows up. After crash-landing in the Midwest, Kal-El-turned-Superman (Christopher Reeve) stops Lex Luthor’s diabolical plan of nuclear destruction. Jor-El’s prediction that his son’s destiny was to set Earth back on its rightful course is fulfilled.
Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979)
Brian Cohen (Graham Chapman) was just the boy next door before he was mistaken for the Messiah—literally. This popular comedy from director Terry Jones follows the young man born in a stable just a few doors down from Jesus who unintentionally develops a following that believes him to be the world’s savior. This movie, too, has a true following.
Late in Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster, the beloved alien dies and is brought back to life by the love of his young friend Elliott (Henry Thomas). The resurrected E.T. then delivers his prophetic announcement that his fellow extra-terrestrials are returning to Earth to bring him home. In his spaceship’s wake, E.T. leaves behind a rainbow, echoing the biblical promise God made to Noah to keep the world safe from destruction.
The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)
Martin Scorsese delivered this fictionalized version of Jesus’ 33 years, sparking debate with its imagined alternative history, in which Jesus (Willem Dafoe) marries Mary Magdalene (Barbara Hershey). One fundamentalist Christian group in France was so angered by the movie that it tossed Molotov cocktails into a Parisian movie theater during a showing, injuring 13 people.
Waiting For Guffman (1996)
In this Christopher Guest-directed mockumentary, a community theater troupe from the fictional small town of Blaine, Missouri is promised a visit from Mort Guffman, a famous Broadway producer with the clout to transform their amateur musical into a New York hit. When the night of the performance arrives and a man takes Guffman’s reserved seat—lo, salvation! Perhaps…
The Fifth Element (1997)
Bruce Willis saves the day in this Luc Besson film set primarily in the 23rd century. A young woman, Leeloo (Milla Jovovich) drops into a flying cab driven by Korben Dallas (Willis). As it turns out, Leeloo has been created by scientists in order to stop evil forces from destroying the world. As Dallas joins her in her quest, love blossoms: Who can resist the siren call of the Messiah?
The Matrix (1999)
Neo, a computer hacker, leaves the world as he knows it—which is, he later learns, a simulated reality called “the Matrix”—for a state of enlightenment in this Andy and Larry Wachowski film. Once Neo (Keanu Reeves) discovers that what he believed to be reality is, indeed, a myth, he is deemed by his mentor Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) to be the one sent to save humanity from endless war with the machines that control them.
The Passion of The Christ (2004)
Mel Gibson’s controversial film depicts in excruciating detail the last hours of Jesus’ (Jim Caviezel) life. The movie was denounced by prominent Jewish figures and groups as trading in classical anti-Semitic tropes with its depictions of bloodthirsty Jews and its interpretation of the events surrounding Jesus’ crucifixion.
Harry Potter (2001-2011)
A prophecy as well as a lightning-shaped scar on his forehead mark Harry Potter as the one chosen to triumph over evil in the eight-part film series, based on J.K. Rowling’s astronomically popular books. After dying and being resurrected, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) defeats “He Who Must Not Be Named”—Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes)—the sinister dark wizard whose reign of terror has left a trail of death and persecution in the wizard and Muggle worlds.