Wrestling with issues of life and death in genre films: ordinary and customary. Doing so from a religious and/or spiritual perspective: not so much. Peter Jackson's The Lovely Bones, which expands wide tomorrow, tackles Alice Sebold's novel and flings its spiritual concerns firmly into the realm of wide-eyed, teenage fantasy. The director successfully added drama to the fantasy world of J.R.R. Tolkien, but critical reaction to the heavy dose of other-worldly whimsy that he adds to the criminal / domestic drama of a young girl's murder has been mixed. (See, for example, the thoughtful review by Cinematical's Elisabeth Rappe.)
By its very nature, science fiction invites debate on the past, present, and future of mankind, thus treading boldly into arenas formerly reserved for sacred discussions. Religion in sci-fi movies becomes a hazier issue to define by today's terms. Is 2001: A Space Odyssey a religious picture? How about Planet of the Apes? Rather than split any more hairs, and without passing judgment on the merits of the religions involved, here's a list of the Top Ten Religious Sci-Fi Characters.
1. Ben Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guiness in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope)
As if his desert home and hooded robe weren't enough, old Ben spills off religious platitudes like water over a broken dam. He doesn't force his faith down anyone else's throat, but neither does he hesitate to speak about it in warm, personal terms. In repudiation of lapsed believer Darth Vader's contempt for his "devotion to that ancient religion," Obi-Wan displays genteel grace and self-sacrificing faith in a key climactic scene, providing admirable inspiration for everyone.