Harry Potter, Chosen Ones, and Heroic Sacrifice in Movies

In my last post I wrote about Harry Potter as a messianic figure. He responded to his unique role as Voldemort’s nemesis by willingly sacrificing himself to defeat evil. He joins a distinguished list of sacrificial movie heroes. Some are chosen ones, some just choose.

In some stories the hero is chosen. The hero can’t pass off the task to someone else. The rules of the universe in the various films dictate that these characters are the singular, unique saviors of their worlds. Not every character dies, but every one is called upon to sacrifice the chance for a “normal” life for the benefit of the world. Some examples of messianic characters:

Jesus, of course (Jesus of Nazareth, The Passion of the Christ, etc.)
Harry Potter (Harry Potter and the…)
Frodo & Gandalf (Lord of the Rings),
Neo (The Matrix)
James Cole (12 Monkeys)
Nameless (Hero)
Buffy (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
Anakin & Luke Skywalker (Star Wars)
Mufasa & Simba (The Lion King)
Blade (Blade, Blade II)
Clark Kent/Superman (Superman, Superman Returns)
Batman (The Dark Knight)
Ellen Ripley (Alien 3)

In Christianity, Jesus is the voluntary, singular Savior. It had to be Him. “For God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall have eternal life.” John 3:16

In other stories the hero steps up because help is needed. These characters aren’t chosen by God or fate. Their sacrifice may change the course of one life or many lives but, while their acts are pivotal and their character admirable, someone else in similar circumstances could make a similar choice with a similar outcome. These heroes are “that guy” but not “the guy.”  They simply recognize that there is a need to push back against evil and are willing to be the one who pushes. They put people and principles before safety or comfort. They are willing to sacrifice themselves out of love for one person, a group of people, a nation,  or to preserve an ideal or culture. Wars or disasters often offer the opportunity to be such a hero, but sometimes the sacrifice is motivated by concern for one individual. Some examples of sacrificial heroes:

Maximus (Gladiator)
William Wallace (Braveheart)
Walt Kowalski (Gran Torino)
Theo Faron (Children of Men)
Captain John H. Miller (Saving Private Ryan)
Rooster Cogburn (True Grit)
Harry Stamper (Armageddon)
Robert Neville (I am Legend)
Shuttle Crew (Deep Impact)
Trevor (Pay it Forward)
Guido (Life is Beautiful)
Rodrigo & Father Gabriel (The Mission)
Stan (Volcano)
Russell Casse (Independence Day)

Voluntary sacrifice is the stuff of heroes. Real life men, women, and children all over the world sacrifice their lives out of love and out of principle. We don’t fully understand what it is that makes some people willing to die defending another person while others run away or cower in fear.

None of us is appointed savior of the world. That job is taken. But I’ve been asking myself whether, when I recognize absolute necessity, I would be the person who steps up because somebody needs to do it? I hope so. “Greater love has no man than this that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

Who inspires you to acts of heroism and sacrifice? I probably missed some great heroes. 

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