Science fiction movies have always challenged our understanding of science and the very concepts that hold our world together. Whether it’s time travel, the laws of physics, or our understanding of reality, a great science fiction movie leaves the audience with something to think about. They also allow us to openly question society behind the guise of allegory. However, one concept that is not explored enough is religion, as well as our understanding of god and the entities that could conceivably run our universe.
By their very nature, science fiction films typically handle hard sciences and even alien entities, but the idea of god is usually foreign. Gods are more likely to turn up in fantasy movies and superhero epics, but there are still a few sci-fi space gods that show up to challenge everything we thought was true in the world. Some of these gods are humanoid and might even be worshipped on Earth, while others come from the depths of outer space. Others were created by science, or magic, or some other man-made incident that gives us a new understanding of how gods have come to be. Here are 15 of the most powerful sci-fi movie gods.
15. PAUL ATREIDES FROM DUNE
In David Lynch’s adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune, Kyle Maclachlan portrays Paul Atreides, the son of a duke, who maneuvers himself into becoming both the emperor of the universe and the messiah of the Fremen people. Paul’s mother teaches him enhanced observational skills and he undergoes the training of a Mentat, allowing him to use his brain as if it were a computer. He attains even more power, and a godlike status thanks to the awesome abilities he picks up along the way.
Combined with the powers of observation that the spice Melange unlocks within him, Paul unlocks the generational knowledge of all his ancestors. This ultimately proves him to be the Kwisatz Haderach, an all-powerful being created through thousands of years of selective breeding. While we don’t get to see this in the film, he can basically see the future in the end.
14. The Star Child in 2001: A Space Odyssey
There is plenty of room for interpretation when it comes to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Perhaps the most heavily discussed part of the film is the ending, where David Bowman travels through the Stargate, sees himself grow old and die, and is then reborn into the body of a fetus enclosed in a translucent ball of light. It’s hard to say exactly what he transformed into, but it’s clear he is beyond the constraints of humanity.
As the Star Child, Bowman is capable of traveling through space unaided by a spacecraft. More than that, he is seemingly able to go anywhere he wishes to go. The Star Child is also seemingly immortal, able to survive for thousands of years (as seen in the books). In 2010, David Bowman returns as an incorporeal being and a seeming harbinger for the aliens behind the monoliths.
13. LEELOO FROM THE FIFTH ELEMENT
In Luc Besson’s 1997 sci-fi hit The Fifth Element, the world is threatened every 5,000 years by an unnamable evil that can only be stopped by the power of the elements. An ancient race of aliens protects these weapons, revealing the Fifth Element to be a humanoid woman who can ultimately defeat this dark entity under the right circumstances.
The Fifth Element proves to be Leeloo, who is never considered to be a god, but might as well be. Not only does she have the ability to survive for thousands of years, but she can also be recreated from just a few cells while retaining her memories. She has the ability to absorb knowledge and learn fighting skills in seconds and ultimately harnesses the power of love to destroy evil.
12. THE PLANET SOLARIS FROM SOLARIS
The concept of all-powerful space gods beyond the realm of human comprehension may have been introduced to comics by Jack Kirby, but it’s an idea that existed in other forms of entertainment as well. The 1961 novel Solaris by Stanisław Lem has been adapted into multiple films and tells the story of a group of human scientists who fail to communicate with a sentient planet.
In the 1972 film by Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky, the planet is able to create viable constructs of the crew’s loved ones and is eventually shown to be able to manipulate reality. In the 2002 remake starring George Clooney, Solaris proves to be luring its victims into its gravitational field. These constructs not only mess with everyone’s heads, but also prepare them for the end.
11. GOZER FROM GHOSTBUSTERS
In Ghostbusters, from 1984, Peter, Raymond, Egon, and Winston go up against the biggest supernatural threat they have ever faced in the Sumerian god of destruction, Gozer. Summoned to this world by the work of its demigods Zuul and Vinz Clortho, Gozer enters our dimension and plans to destroy civilization once again.
During Gozer’s brief time on Earth, the entity proved to be a shapeshifter and telepath, able to take on the form of its victims’ greatest fears. In its humanoid form, Gozer can also shoot lightning, control the weather, and become invisible. It’s likely that the Ghostbuster were only able to defeat Gozer because they did it quickly, while the entity was still weak from crossing into this dimension. Imagine what damage it could have done if it became something more menacing than the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.
10. DEUS EX MACHINA FROM THE MATRIX
Matrix Revolutions has a lot of ideas about mankind and its relationship to god, but the film also shows that even when robots take over the world, they too will have a god of their own. People like to consider the Architect as the god of the Matrix, but he’s simply a computer program doing the job he was programmed to do. No, the true machine god is the entity known as Deus ex Machina.
Yes, the Wachowskis named the machine god after the Latin phrase “God out of the machine,” but it makes sense. As the machine deity, Deus ex Machina is formed out of a swarm of smaller robots and can directly alter and interact with the Matrix. It uses its amazing power to delete Agent Smith once and for all.
9. THOR FROM THOR: RAGNAROK
You can’t talk about the most powerful gods in science fiction movies without bringing up the Odinson himself. Thor may not be the most powerful god of them all, but he is certainly the most heroic. As the son of Odin and a member of the Asgardian race, Thor has many extraordinary superpowers that make him the strongest member of the Avengers in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
He’s defeated Loki and Malekith in previous movies, but it’s in Thor: Ragnarok where he shows off his true skills. Thor loses Mjolnir in the opening act of the film, but still manages to hold his own against the Hulk and Hela, and also manages to kill Surtur, the fire demon. In a key scene during the film, Thor is able to channel lightning and use it against his opponent.
8. JOBE SMITH FROM THE LAWNMOWER MAN
Okay, so maybe the 1992 film The Lawnmower Man doesn’t have much in common with Stephen King’s book, despite being billed as an adaptation. However, it does include a powerful manmade god. In the film, Jobe Smith is an intellectually disabled man who undergoes experiments to increase his intelligence. Despite the scientist’s intention to create a smarter, but peaceful man, things go wrong and Jobe becomes dangerous.
He develops telepathic and pyrokinetic abilities, which he uses to gain revenge against those who had previous wronged him. He interfaces with a virtual reality program and causes a woman to lose her mind. He soon evolves into a being of pure energy, ascending into godhood. At the end of the film, he escapes persecution through the computer and is now beyond all human comprehension.
7. V’GER FROM STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE
The first Star Trek movie introduced us to the lifeform known as V’Ger, a giant cloud of immense energy that could destroy anything it came across. V’Ger could also scan living beings and create a duplicate organism that it could use as a probe to explore. At the center of the cloud was a giant organic spaceship that housed the heart of V’Ger.
It is later discovered that the entity was actually the sentient remains of the Voyager 6 space probe, and the intervention of a race of living machines caused it to evolve. V’Ger’s path of destruction was actually an attempt to follow its primary programming to gather data and relay it back to humanity. In the end, it merged with Captain William Decker and became something far more powerful and mysterious.
6. GALACTUS FROM FANTASTIC FOUR
Galactus is one of the most powerful cosmic entities in the the Marvel Universe, and that reality holds true in 20th Century Fox’s Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. This version of the character is a giant gas cloud instead of a huge man dressed in purple, but his powers remain the same. He feeds off the lifeforce of planets in order to keep himself alive, and his arrival spells doom for any world.
He is able to empower an alien by the name of Norrin Radd to serve as his acolyte and prepare worlds for their destruction. Granting him powers as the Silver Surfer eventually leads to the downfall of Galactus when the Fantastic Four help him fight back against his master in order to save the Earth.
5. EGO FROM GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
In the Marvel Cinematic Universe it is revealed that Ego the Living Planet is an ancient Celestial known to have amazing godlike powers. His true form may be an immortal sentient planet, but Ego showed in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 that he had the ability to grow humanoid avatars to interact with other species, which is how he was able to be Kurt Russell.
The avatar shows itself to have great strength and durability in a fight, but it also has the ability to manipulate molecules in order to create and manipulate matter and energy. As a god, his offspring can also harness amazing superpowers, which Peter Quill shows himself capable of using. The two eventually engage in an epic battle that ends with the destruction of Ego and his planet.
4. UNICRON FROM TRANSFORMERS: THE MOVIE
The 1986 Transformers film introduced Unicron into Transformers lore as a giant planet-sized robot bent on destroying Cybertron. In time, other stories retconned the character into the physical representation of chaos in the world. This turned him into the godlike brother of Primus, the progenitor of the entire line of Primes.
It has since been established that Unicron is a multiversal singularity, allowing only one version of him to exist and travel to every alternate universe. In Transformers: The Last Knight from 2017, it is discovered that Earth was actually formed around the body of Unicron. No matter the continuity, he remains a great and powerful entity in the Transformers universe. Only time will tell if Unicron comes back to life in the next live-action film.
3. ARCEUS FROM POKEMON
Every culture has its own gods and a creation myth to explain the birth of the world, so it makes sense that the world of Pokemon may have been created by a Pokemon. Arceus is believed to be the creator of the legendary Lake Guardians, the Creation Trio, and all the other Pokemon in the world.
In the 2009 animated film Pokémon: Arceus and the Jewel of Life, legend says that Arceus protected the world from destruction, but was betrayed by humanity soon after. The immortal creature shows up in modern times, defeats Dialga, Palkia, and Giratina, and threatens to destroy the entire world. It isn’t until Ash and his friends travel back in time to alter the events of the past that Arceus decides to spare everyone.
2. BEERUS FROM DRAGON BALL SUPER
In the first Dragon Ball movie since the 1990s, Dragon Ball Z: Battle of the Gods introduces Beerus, the God of Destruction. Tasked with the destruction of planets in order to stimulate creation, Beerus holds an important role in the Dragon Ball universe. Beerus proves to be so incredibly powerful and scary that even the Kais and Shenron himself are afraid of what he might do.
Looking for a challenge, Beerus hunts down Goku and the two fight. Despite Goku’s immense abilities, he stands no chance in the battle and loses quickly. Beerus heads to Earth to fight the other Saiyans, until Goku arrives in order to transform into a Super Saiyan God. However, even after everything that went into powering Goku, he remains no match against Beerus and ultimately surrenders.
1. DOCTOR MANHATTAN FROM WATCHMEN
It’s hard to find a god more powerful than Doctor Manhattan from Watchmen. Created from a scientific accident, Jon Osterman becomes a blue, godlike entity that is capable of doing almost anything he wishes. He is super intelligent with telekinetic powers who is invulnerable from all physical attacks. He can also create and destroy matter at will, manipulate his own form, and exists throughout time all at once.
Doctor Manhattan proves to be dangerous when he is used by the American government as a nuclear deterrent. As time goes on, Osterman continues to become more detached from his old life and human civilization. The movie ends differently, with Doctor Manhattan serving as the single greatest threat to mankind in order to unite the planet away from World War III.
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