I saw two movies recently that really put me in awe of Jesus. Stories speak to the soul, and my soul was thrilled at the sight of sacrifice and redemption.
No, Son of God wasn't one of the films (and I don't plan on seeing it.)
I was instead captivated by the Christ figures in the popular children's movie Frozen and in the dystopian action film Elysium.
As I was watching, I thought "It's almost like the directors were TRYING to point us to Jesus..." In Frozen as I saw (spoiler) magic transforming the whole icy Arendelle into a beautiful, blooming land, I thought "Why do I see this in every Disney movie?"
And during Elysium when I watched (spoiler) Max, coming from among the lowly, so willingly giving up his life so that the world could find healing, many films with a strikingly similar climax/resolution from this genre came to mind. I'm sure that if I read more books, both paradigms would apply as well.
Here's a more thorough example of how I saw Jesus in Frozen:
Elsa was living by what felt right to her---"No right, no wrong, no rules for me!"---possessing a false sense of freedom and oblivious to the destruction she was causing. Anna (the Christ figure) acknowledged that it didn't have to be this way...nor did it have to be the "conceal, don't feel" dynamic that her parents demanded, either. So she trekked the perilous wintry forest and sought after her sister...all to be rejected and hurt. Yet Anna was relentless, and eventually she willingly gave her own life to save Elsa. For that suspenseful frozen-statue moment our hearts were heavy with admiration mixed with sadness. Yet this love that was as strong as death proved to be stronger, and Anna was alive! Then restoration was brought to the whole land.
Christ exposes how it's a false dichotomy to believe your only options are reckless hedonism or joyless religion. He sought us when we didn't ask for Him, He gave His own life in exchange for ours, then He overcame death in order to make all things new and to show us that He offers life and freedom that is actually completely beneficial for ourselves and others.
No, the world's leading storytellers are not obsessed with the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth. And neither are their audiences.
At least not as far as they realize.
This is nothing new. In my 9th grade English class my teacher showed us the very specific characteristics of the archetypal hero, examples of stories throughout history that had numerous character and plot elements in common...and you didn't need to be a seminary student to see how Jesus fulfills them all so perfectly. It's almost creepy how much archetypal heroes have in common, and Jesus stands at the top...possessing all power, giving the most selfless sacrifice by enduring the hardest suffering, and accomplishing more than any other hero even tries to do. Sure, Batman might save Gotham from Bane and Superman might save the world from a meteor, but obviously none of these heroes are even in the running for accomplishing eternal life for people from every tribe and tongue and from all time.
You might be thinking that it makes no sense to see Jesus in people and characters who never intended to symbolize Jesus. But Jesus Himself saw stories in this way. Jonah, by being swallowed by a big fish and being spat back out after three days, probably did not think he was foreshadowing the burial and resurrection of the Messiah, but in Matthew 12:39,40 Jesus made that exact comparison.
In Romans 5, Paul even refers to Adam---primary sinner Adam!---as a type of Christ; Adam's choice affected all mankind and so did Christ's (in completely opposite ways.) It's thrilling as I read the Old Testament as I can look for hints of Jesus all along the way...
I see Him in the bronze serpent on the pole that healed all who looked to him (Numbers 21:4-9.)
I see Him in the scarlet cord in the window that protected all in that room (Joshua 2:18,19.)
I see Him in the left-handed judge who stabbed a king (to have his hand swallowed up in the fat, eww) and left him in a shameful pile over his own excretion, fitting for the shameful enemy of God he was (Judges 3:12-25, a favorite for middle school boys.)
Of course the Old Testament was written by God to interpret all things as pointing to Christ (Luke 24:27), and today's storytellers hardly have the same intent. But let us redeem our entertainment by thinking and talking with others about how the heroes and themes expose the human heart's gaping desire for a savior.
Here are some movies, organized by child-appropriateness, that have a wonderfully clear Christ figure or strong biblical theme. I haven't read all the books and some of these movies at the bottom of the list do contain objectionable material (though most of them are devoid of any sexual content or excessive misuse of God's name), so before you decide to watch---depending on your convictions---look them up on Plugged In first or buy a ClearPlay DVD player. Please comment and contribute to this list and I will add your stories here!
These short descriptions are pretty much free of spoilers.
Chronicles of Narnia - Aslan, duh.
Lion King - Mufasa...that was devastatingly heartbreaking for me as a kid.
Frozen - as mentioned previously
For A Little Older
Harry Potter - Obvious. Apparently J.K. Rowling even intended it.
Lord of the Rings - There's even a prophet/priest/king dynamic with Frodo/Gandalf/Aragorn. Three very different characteristics portray three excellent offices of Christ.
I Am Legend - The power of the blood!
The Hunger Games - Katniss came from the lowest and was willing to give her life to accomplish much for her people.
A Tale of Two Cities - Sydney Carton's ability to save because of his matching resemblance to the guilty...Christ becoming like us to save us...it's wonderful!
More Mature Audiences
Road to Perdition - Never have I seen a movie portray our desire for justice and atonement more than I did in this movie. I wept and wept at the end as I was reminded how Christ has fully endured the punishment I deserved for my sin. (The language was really bad in this movie though.)
The Island - Ewan McGregor's character is an excellent Christ figure for letting captives taste freedom and real life. (There's a scene we always skip in this movie.)
The Matrix - My favorite moment in this movie was when one of the characters, like Simeon in Luke 2, said something to Neo along the lines of "If you're the one...then these are exciting times." They realized that the oracled one they had been waiting for very well might have come...and the implications of such freedom are thrilling. O, how much greater that the prophesied Christ has come! Some bad language.
Oblivion - The enemy must be defeated directly, and sacrifice is the only way...yet there can still be a happy ending. (I closed my eyes for one part and there was some bad language.)
Elysium - as mentioned previously; (Contains deluges of the f word, but refreshingly God's name was rarely abused.
What are some well-made movies/books/radio dramas you've seen/read/listened to that have Christ figures or heavily biblical themes?
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My name is Hope.
I'm 25, married to a former skater dude and raising three little people ages 1-5. I like chartreuse, calligraphy, Coke Icees, childbirth, crocs, Studio C, and...alliteration.
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