I am going to come right out and say it. I love Science Fiction. From Plan 9 from Outer Space to 2001: A Space Odyssey. From Under the Skin to Lost in Space. I am a fan. Over the years, the more I sci-fi I consumed, the more I began to notice certain themes repeated. One in particular always seemed to fascinate me. It amazed me how often religious themes popped up in science fiction films. Now I'm not referring to horror movies like The Exorcist. Nor am I talking about Christian movies like those Left Behind films. I am referring to main-stream movies. Movies we all love! Others have noticed it. There are websites dedicated to pointing out the symbolism. One religious theme in particular that often reoccurs is a hero's death and return to life. I'm talking about the ol' resurrection. In human history (depending on what you believe) only one guy successfully pulled off coming back from the dead. In science fiction films it happens all the time!
This is not zombification here. Simply dying and returning as a reanimated corpse starving for human flesh doesn't count. A resurrection requires transformation, a metamorphosis. If you'll indulge me, I'd like to point out just a few examples.
The Matrix (1999)
The Matrix is an amazing movie. The mix of post-apocalyptic settings and frenetic Anime-style action make it extremely enjoyable to watch. And it includes many messianic themes. Let's stick to resurrection. Throughout the movie we are reminded of one rule – if you die in the matrix, you die in real life. So when Neo is shot and killed by Agent Smith, we are all thrown back in our seats. Call it love. Call it the emergence of a hero. Whatever the reason, Mr. Anderson died but Neo arose in his place. He is no longer the man he was. He is now a new unstoppable force.
Another example is Thor (2011). Here again, the religious symbols are a plenty! Director Kenneth Branagh laced all sorts of religious Easter eggs (no pun intended) in his film. Spoiler warning, Thor is basically Jesus. There is no knowledge of Jesus ever carrying a huge hammer, but you get the idea. In a particularly dramatic scene, Thor stands off against the Destroyer. He makes the choice to sacrifice himself for those he loves. Sound familiar? The battle is brief. With Jane weeping by his side, Thor dies. It is not long until dear old dad sees the change his son's heart and steps in. Thor returns to life a hero fully realized.
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
The meme is common in superhero movies, but it is nothing new. I am reminded of the movie The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951). Near the end, the alien Klaatu (played my Michael Rennie) is shot and killed. His faithful robot Gort revives him. Originally it was planned that the character Klaatu would also do the resurrection thing, but the producers at the time got cold feet. Putting your alien being on par with The Lord wasn't considered okay in those days. Changes were made. In addition to making his return to life only temporary, Klaatu also explains the limit of his abilities. "That power is reserved for the Almighty Spirit." Perhaps the metaphor was a little too obvious?
A quick Google search will result in many more examples of religious themes and symbols appearing in popular science fiction. There are plenty. Watch movies with a keen eye and see how many you can spot. It makes re-watching all the more interesting.