While the word "messiah" has different meanings in different cultures and there have been dozens of claimants to the title according to Wikipedia, for most Western intents and purposes, the term has been Hijacked By Jesus, with Jesus becoming the Trope Maker.
In media, the Messianic Archetype is a character whose role in the story (but not necessarily personality) echoes that of Christ. They are portrayed as a savior, whether the thing they are saving is a person, a lot of people or the whole of humanity. They endure a sizable sacrifice as the means of bringing that salvation about for others, a fate they do not deserve up to and including death or a Fate Worse Than Death. Other elements may be mixed and matched as required but the Messianic Archetype will include one or more of the following: being the Chosen One, gaining a group of devoted followers, being betrayed by one of these followers, persecution by nonbelievers, parallels to the Passion Play, obvious Crucified Hero Shot, a figurative or literal resurrection, and even a Second Coming. Bonus points if the character has the initials JC.
Some takes on what makes a Messianic Archetype include The Messiah, the Dark Messiah (the extreme Anti-Hero version), The Antichrist, and The Anti Antichrist. However, keep in mind that The Messiah and the Messianic Archetype are not synonymous. The Messiah is about a character type with certain personality traits. The Messianic Archetype is about the role the character has in the events of the plot, and can have any personality traits, even overtly villainous ones. Even spawns of The Devil themselves can be Messianic Archetypes (such as the more messianic versions of the Anti Antichrist).
It's also not necessary for the archetypal character to be even remotely Christian. The Ur Examples include Osiris (Egyptian) and Inanna (ancient Mesopotamia and the actual city of Ur) making this trope Older Than They Think.
See Away In A Manger for Nativity parallels at an earlier point on the life timeline. Compare Pietą Plagiarism, Crystal Dragon Jesus. Contrast Faux Symbolism. See A Protagonist Shall Lead Them for the pre-Christian model of "messiah".
When the persistence of this trope causes you to see Messianic Archetypes everywhere, it's Everyone Is Jesus in Purgatory.
Remember that while many Messiahs die, this is still not a Death Trope, so spoilers should still be marked.
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Anime and Manga
Death Note: L gets this when Light is about to kill him.
Lightis a failed Messiah. His death causes everything he's worked for to collapse. The lyrics to the first OP (full version) even include the line "Am I a broken Messiah?"
Toki. When given the power of the Hokuto arts, he uses them for healing instead of harming, and often performs miracles for sick people. When he has to kill, he uses a technique that causes the victims to experience great euphoria as they die.
Shu; he bears a cross of stone to his death for the sake of one hundred innocents.
Yuria, who bears the Star of the Mother, heals the villain's troops and bandages the villain, and voluntarily agrees to die when Ken-Oh wants to kill her.
Usagi Tsukino in Sailor Moon. Who is even called the Messiah in Sailor Moon S and for the duration of that series possesses an item called the "Holy Grail." All of this was naturally censored from the US dub, though only by removing religious names and not the actual plot elements.
The ending of season 1 - She uses the silver crystal to defeat Metalia, dies, and makes a wish on the crystal that she, Mamouru and the other senshi be returned to life as normal people. That doesn't last long...
Son Goku of Dragon Ball. The guy came to Earth from the stars, saved the world three times before he turned twenty. Gave his lifetwice for the Earth and is described as like an angel by his friends and family.
This is more evident in the English Dub. During the Frieza saga, Goku refers to himself as "Justice, peace, light, and truth". This isn't present in the original manga, however.
As it shouldn't be, since he's more properly just a heroic version of a Blood Knight.
In the prologue of Princess Tutu, we're told a fairytale about a good Prince and an evil Raven who were locked in a furious battle. The fairytale was unfinished because the writer had died in the middle of writing the tale, but the Prince and Raven escaped the story so as to finish their battle. In the end, the Prince used forbidden magic to stab himself in the heart and shatter it, which sealed away the Raven at the cost of the Prince's personality and emotions. The story revolves around the Prince—Mytho—having his heart restored piece by piece by the titular magical girl.
Chrono and Rosette of Chrono Crusade share duties for this, in a way. Chrono falls in love with a women known as Mary Magdalene and after her death sleeps in her grave for 50 years until he's woken up by Joshua and Rosette. Rosette, on the other hand, is spending her lifespan to give Chrono his powers and in the manga does eventually die from it...but comes back to life partially through sheer force of willand partially with the help of Mary's soul. In the anime this is made even more obvious when Rosette receives stigmata marks that allows her to heal people and harm demons. Both her and Chrono die in the end of the series and don't come back to life...although Aion does.
Hanyuu from Higurashi no Naku Koro ni is an interesting example. She used to be a Messianic Archetype, to the point where she had her daughter ritually sacrifice her as atonement for the sins of the inhabitants of Onigafuchi, but has since come to reject her former philosophy. She now believes that people cannot atone for their sins through the sacrifice of others.
This is being rather horrifically subverted in the Berserk manga; the people of Midland are suffering. The plague is decimating the populace. Bandits groups — the remnants of mercenaries left without livelihood because of the end of the Hundred Years War — are preying on the people. The heart of Midland, the great capital city of Wyndham, itself has been assailed by the horrible demonic Kushan Empire. The Demon Emperor Ganeshka of the Kushan Empire has the Princess Charlotte captive, and intends to marry her to legitimize his conquest. However, a dream is had in common every night by the entire nation, of the Hawk of Light, the White Hawk which burns away the darkness, and is acknowledged as a miracle and an omen even by the Holy See. When the White Hawk finally does arrive, he is both beautiful and powerful, rescuing the princess from the Demon Emperor of the Kushan Empire, and saving the forces of the Holy See from being utterly annihilated with his great Band of the Hawk, which consists of both Apostles, superhuman soldiers which can each destroy legions single-handedly, and of the common men. The heroes and the common people both support him, for his deeds are both kind and miraculous. One problem though; the messiah is really Griffith, now named Femto, a demonic demigod, the aforementioned Apostles are demons as well, and it was established earlier in the manga that he is going to save the world just to drop it even further into darkness (if that is even possible). To make it even worse, it's implied that he is the legitimate Messiah as well.
Guts, however, is becoming a straight example. Farnese decides to follow Guts after seeing his strength of will during the events at Albion, where he fought off a horde of demons while everyone else simply panicked. Isidro admires Guts' martial skill and strives to be as much like him as possible. Schierke grows a crush on him and her experiences with him change her misanthropic viewpoint that humanity is not worth saving. Even Serpico, who is initially a rival of Guts', slowly grows to admire him.
Monster: Tenma, who takes him upon himself to save everyone around him through great personal sacrifice. Justified, in that the Big Bad of the series, Johan, really is the worst person ever, and is sometimes referred to by other characters in the series as the Second Hitler, The Antichrist and the Devil himself.
Himeno, as the White Prétear, falls into this archetype at the end of the series. She puts her heart and soul into saving the Dark Magical Girl, and accomplishes it by feeding all of her life energy to the demon that Fenrir created. This causes her to fall into a deep sleep, but since this is based loosely on "Snow White", True Love's Kiss wakes her up.
Yugi Mutou of Yu-Gi-Oh! is a clever deconstruction of this. Everyone who knows him agrees that he's pure light and they would do virtually anything for him, but against the world as a whole, he's a tragically misunderstood innocent - his pacifism gets him beaten up by school bullies on a regular basis, for example.
Pharaoh Atem could also with the trope. Seeing as he sealed his soul away in an 'unsolvable' puzzle for 5000 years (or 3000 years depending)in order to save the world from being consumed by the shadow realm.
Tragic of Mythic Quest is believed to be this by the Church of the Seeker, which was founded on this belief alone, despite his quite publicized decision to Save The Girl Screw The World.
Yui Ikari (especially if you ask Gendo), Rei Ayanami who was a clone of Yui and Kaworu "He Died For Your Sins" Nagisa from Neon Genesis Evangelion. Shinji also has some Messianic elements, but really doesn't want to be one of these, but ended up acting as the channel for all the souls of humanity, along with Rei and Yui who had let herself be trapped in Eva-01. The parallel goes as far as Shinji forgiving everyone and deciding to redeem them, despite all the shit the world put him through.
As in Rebuild of Evangelion, this is definitely Kaworu more than ever: a crown of thorn analogue, Mark 06 Bible reference, walking on water (the game spin offs of Rebuild), literally carrying Shinji's sin and representing the hope for salvation and redemption. There's a song of Shinji's mindset that compares our protagonist to Judas hilariously.
Fushigi Yuugi: As the long-awaited Priestess of Suzaku, Miaka is definitely this to the people of Konan.
Also, in the prequel, Takiko is this to the people of Hokkan when she becomes the Priestess of Genbu. She doesn't think she's worthy of it, though.
Tenshi Ni Narumon's Noelle. She even has a halo and is in fact an angel, or more accurately, a 1/3 of an angel.
Madoka in Puella Magi Madoka Magicatakes the witchy despair and suffering of the world on herself and then transcends existence to give everyone hope during the finale, which was also premiered on the Real Life Good Friday. There are also alternative timelines in the series where she assumes a Messiah role from the very start especially if you ask Homura.
Cable in Cable & Deadpool so much so that he tried to sacrifice his life to show humanity that they could rise above war and prejudice. But, that doesn't mean that he was above a little violence to get things done.
And now we've got Hope Summers, the first mutant born after the Decimation, prophesied to be the last hope of mutantkind. What this means at this point is still anyone's guess, but she's become kind of a walking MacGuffin for everyone with ideas regarding the future of mutants.
The Silver Surfer is one twice over: First, he accepted the role of Galactus's herald to save his home planet from being destroyed, then defied Galactus to save the Earth from the same fate and was stripped of much of his cosmic power and exiled to Earth to be shunned by the very people he gave his freedom to protect.
E.T. in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, right down to the resurrection and the Michaelangelo touching of fingers between man and the Divine. So blatant was the parable it was spoofed on The Simpsons:
Rev. Lovejoy: I remember another gentle visitor from the heavens, he came in peace and then died, only to come back to life, and his name was... E.T., the Extra Terrestrial. (cries) I loved that little guy.
Chance the Gardener in the film Being There subverts this by appearing noble, wise, compassionate, and brave - to everyone except his former co-worker (and the audience), who can see that he is actually The Fool - until the Twist Ending, which implies a more literal form of the trope.
Aurora in Babylon A.D. fits this trope to a T, but that's because she's actually been genetically engineered by the Noelite sect who hope to create a real-life 'miracle' in order to become the Number One religion in the world.
Dennis Quaid's character Willis Davidge in Enemy Mine is a Messianic Archetype and dies halfway through the movie. Fortunately, he gets better.
Kevin Flynn in TRON. In the world of Tron the Programs see Users in a divine light. Plus, as Jesus was God who became man, Flynn was a User who became Program...to save them from the Anti Christ.
Joe Kenehan from Sayles's Matewan. He's a charismatic leader who's also an Actual Pacifist, his first action when coming into town is to heal someone and he dies at the end.
Bruce Wayne / Batman of The Dark Knight. He's motivated by an unflagging belief in the essential goodness of the people of Gotham. Twice he takes a bullet for someone else (albeit while he's inside his car), first intercepting Joker's bazooka, then protecting Mr Reese from that guy in the big truck (even though Reese had been trying to expose Bruce less than an hour before). And then at the end, he takes Harvey Dent's sins upon himself. The Dark Knight Rises plays this up even further, with Bruce even descending into a metaphorical hell in the form of Bane's prison and ascending once more (and leaving a rope for the wrongfully-imprisoned prisoners to escape with) before returning after his "death" at Bane's hands to save Gotham. And at the end, he sacrifices himself to carry away the fusion bomb.
The 1995 film Powder (not to be confused with the video game), which either replicates the story of Jesus Christ, or replicates the story of ET. Either way, someone deserves some royalties for the story of a boy whose mother was struck by lightning when she was pregnant, leading to an outcast son with incredible intellect and human empathy, who can raise the dead by his touch, only to be raised to the heavens when he is struck by a bolt of lightning when refusing to bow to the laws fo society... or something like that.
Even though some elements of this are present in the comic book, the Superman movies take it much further:
Jor-El: Live as one of them, Kal-El, to discover where your strength and your power are needed. Always hold in your heart the pride of your special heritage. They can be a great people, Kal-El, they wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way. For this reason above all, their capacity for good, I have sent them you... my only son.
Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars is The Chosen One conceived by the Force itself. His character is a good example of why you generally want The Messiah to be paired with this trope.
To a certain extent, Luke is as well. He is The Chosen One - the one whom Obi-Wan and Yoda train to become a Jedi. He gains a group of devoted followers (the Rebel Alliance, though mostly Han, Leia, Chewie, C3P0 and R2), and gallivants about spreading good and performing miracles like blowing up two Death Stars. At the end of the sixth movie, he refuses to fight or resist his fate, then is zapped by the Emporer's lightning (his "death" scene). He manages to redeem evil while he's at it.
Ironically, other Jedi expected both of them to bring balance to the Force. Perhaps they did, but it took a Prophecy Twist (Anakin having kids and turning evil) or two to get them there.
Oddlyenough, Tony Stark in The Avengers has very strong (albeit incomplete) elements of this. He has a confrontation with a Satanic villain (Loki) who tries and fails to make him fall to The Dark Side, he is betrayed by the WSC, who ruthlessly orders the entire island of Manhattan to be nuked, he carries the nuke on his back through the city, saves the island and everyone on it by sacrificing his life to haul the nuke into space — by rising up through a wormhole into deep space, dies (temporarily, when his heart and lungs fail), falls back to earth, and then comes back to life. The reason his archetype is incomplete is because he's not the only hero in the film: most prominently, the person who actually saves the world is Natasha, the very non-Messianic Guile Hero who turns Loki (who is something of a Shadow Archetype for her)'s weapon against him to close the portal, and the person who actually leads the forces of good is Steve, who also has some messianic stuff going on, some of which is carried over from his solo movie where he was The Chosen One, and also with his status as a legend and source of hope who sacrificed himself and has had a "second coming" by getting unfrozen from the ice.
Paul "Muad'dib" Atreides in Dune plays on this by manipulating people into thinking he's a Messiah to achieve his own goals. He genuinely does have several amazing powers, but the one that really ruins his whole life is his clairvoyance.
Arguably Galt is an inversion of at least some components of the trope. His plan of going on strike in order to bring economic activity to a halt, and thus causing civilization to collapse and rebuild itself involves witholding a "salvation" and forcing society to confront the actual consequences of its morality of Comtean altruism (the morality which is at the core of the Messianic Archetype). Applying Fridge Logic to his plan's obvious consequences (i.e. lots of people die as a result of civilization's collapse) had led to some readers seeing Galt as a Dark Messiah instead of a Messianic Archetype.
Rand al'Thor from Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time, a Chosen One hated and beloved. Prophecy states that his blood will spill to free mankind from the Dark One, most people think to mean that Rand must die, including himself (the insanity doesn't help him not to think such a thing). (Yeah, right, sure he will.)
Harry Potter. To finally vanquish Voldemort, Harry realises that he must sacrifice himself in order for the Horcrux within him to be destroyed. However, once he has "died", he chooses to come back to life to finish the job and kill Voldy in person. Phew - it is a tad complicated!
In Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen, Anomander Rake is the great hero of the TisteAndii race, who took it upon himself to lead and guide his race after their goddess, Mother Dark, had turned away from them. In Toll the Hounds (book 8), Rake sacrifices himself in order to bring back Mother Dark, thus bringing redemption to the Tiste Andii. Does this remind you of anyone?
In R. Scott Bakker's Prince Of Nothing, Anasūrimbor Kellhus is so much Jesus it's downright anvilicious. He preaches to the people and attracts thousands of followers. The people in charge see him as a dangerous insurgent, so they convict him of heresy and condemn him to death. Kellhus is hung up to die in a manner called "circumfixion". He almost dies but comes back and ends up saving his people and founding a new religion. Oh, and the circumfix becomes his symbol.
The most horrifying part of this is that he doesn't care at all about people. Thanks to two thousand years of eugenics and a mind-blowingly sophisticated childhood training in a hidden society, he has no passions but imitates them perfectly, and can read people's thoughts in their muscles, heart and breath rate, and facial flush. Even in the timbre of their voices. Also, he has reflexes fast enough that he catches and breaks a sword between his palms.
The jury is out on whether or not he fits this trope or if he's a subversion, we still don't know what he's actually planning. Most people in the universe believe he's trying to save them from the second apocalypse but for all we know he could be planning to take the place of the No-God.
Ender Wiggin in the Speaker for the Dead series, who connects three alien races together in peace, and always (with the exception of his unknowing xenocide as a child in Ender's Game) answers violence with love, stating that to vanquish an enemy, you have to know him, and in knowing him, end up loving him. An easy example is when he lets Achilles' son beat the shit out of him to prove that the boy is Bean's son, but refuses to fight back.
The White Prophet AKA the Fool in Robin Hobb's The Tawny Man trilogy.
Playing around with this trope is one of the main threads of Mistborn. A prophecy exists in the world of the books which refers to a figure called the Hero of Ages, but the prophecy has been tampered with by Ruin, the primordial god of entropy and destruction, who wants to trick the Hero into freeing him. As a result, several characters are identified as the Hero (and believe it) who really aren't. Most notably this includes Alendi, a legendary figure from the backstory, the Lord Ruler alias Rashek, the man who betrayed and killed Alendi and who is the current Evil Overlord, and the heroine, Vin. Ultimately, though, the Hero turns out to be Sazed. Kelsier also deliberately invokes this trope about himself in order to inspire rebellion, but is unconnected to the Hero prophecy.
Jay Gatsby from The Great Gatsby. The scene where he is shot goes into great detail about how he bears his pool mattress on his shoulder to the pool, analogous to Jesus bearing the cross on his shoulder.
Aenea, from Dan Simmon's ''Endymion'' - referred as Messiah throughout the novels. Besides other supernatural attributes, clearly shows Messianic touch and gathers a large following throughout the galaxy in a short period of time. Willingly lets herself be tortured and burnt to death by... the Vatican.
Several examples in Lord of the Rings, each fulfilling a different aspect of the Christ figure.
Played straight in Gandalf as the prophet, who is a divine being (Maia) in human form. He sees the virtues in little "children" (hobbits), leads the fellowship, drives the hypocrite from the "temple" (Wormtongue from King Théoden's court), and comes back from the dead. Played straight
Played with in Aragorn as the king; except for his ancestry, he is a normal human. He is the hidden descendant of a royal line, harrows hell (the Paths of the Dead), and restores the kingdom.
Frodo fulfills the role of high priest and sacrifice (or alternatively, the One Ring is the sacrifice and Mount Doom is the altar), a hobbit who bears a terrible burden and constant temptation through the darkness of Mordor, suffering for the salvation of all good things. He also suffers a symbolic 'death' at the hands of Shelob. Subverted in that he is the Unchosen One, and in the end, he fails, and only with the intervention of Gollum does he achieve his mission.
Thomas Jerome Newton in The Man Who Fell to Earth (both novel and film, though the novel makes this more explicit) is sent to Earth to save his people by masquerading as a human businessman, amassing a fortune through his homeworld's technology, and using the profits to build a rescue craft; not only will his people be saved, but humanity will benefit for their presence when they start new lives on Earth. He sacrifices, he suffers, he's betrayed...and in the end, it's all for nothing, as he can't complete the mission, leaving him a despairing alcoholic.
The main plot of Keeping Faith by Jodi Picoult is about a little girl named Faith who starts showing signs of being the Messiah after her parents divorce. It starts when she begins reciting Bible passages, even though the only religion she was exposed to was Judaism (and not very much at that). She then starts seeing her "Guard" (a female God), brings her dead grandmother back to life, heals an AIDS sufferer, and develops stigmata (holes in the hands where the nails went into Jesus' hands on the cross). However, after custody is given to her mother Mariah, all of her messianic acts stop, making it seem like they were just ploys for attention. But it is left ambiguous as to whether she still gets visits from her "Guard".
Even aside from the films, Luke Skywalker is especially this in Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor. It's a year after Return of the Jedi and Luke has lost much of his youthful idealism. He's been worn down towards despair and only becomes moreso during the book. Still, he's savior many times over and in many ways, he sacrifices a lot and quite willingly, he's the Hope Bringer for many characters, he's entombed in stone and experiences a severe And I Must Scream but rises again, he has a great many followers and numbers former enemies among them, some followers (unwillingly) betray him and in the end he is alone... Also, he has a good dose of the personality, one who suffers greatly and still has great compassion. It's actually partly manipulated by the Big Bad, but here's a line-
He had a crucification pose at least twice (Pilot, Salvation; yes, we are aware of the allusion in the second episode title).
In Hidden, he is pronounced dead, covered by a sheet then the body disappears and is resurrected by his father.
All the talk about him being the "light" in Finale.
Jordan Collier in The 4400 believes he is sent to guide his people, dies and is resurrected. His initials are, unsurprisingly, J.C. His temporary replacement, Shawn, also demonstrates Christ-like qualities, as he heals the sick and befriends drug-addicts. In a slight subversion, Collier is presented as more sinister than most Messianic archetypes, and is not above using terrorist tactics in his quest to improve the world. Is it any wonder he's a Dark Messiah? It is also worth noting he really was chosen to guide humanity by what are implied to be the closest thing to good guys from the future to save the world, and for all his sinisterness, the alternative is apparently worse in the long run.
Subverted with Brother Justin in Carnivale; he's an outwardly saintly Methodist preacher with a "special destiny"... who turns out to be the Antichrist. It takes him, and us, a while to realize that.
Laura Roslin on Battlestar Galactica could very well fall into this category — she is believed to be the "dying leader" destined to bring her people to Earth, and it doesn't get too much more messianic (specifically, Moses-like) than that. However, she tends more towards the morally grey end of the spectrum than most other messiahs, and that's before the recent revelation that her prophetic dreams are being shared by Cylons.
Also in Battlestar, the Number Threes see themselves as Messiahs who will find the Final Five Cylons. After proving that they consider themselves "above" the group consensus of the other Cylons, the line is deactivated.
This is all before the final season where Gaius Baltar, whose always had religious overtones to him, gains a cult and starts saying there is only one true God. It's a Jesus symbolism overload, seriously. D'Anna would have destroyed the fleet had she not proven susceptible to his religious urges in the past and subsequently backed down.
In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Benjamin Sisko is the Emissary of the Prophets, the messiah figure in the Bajoran religion. It turns out that the Prophets even used their knowledge of the future to orchestrate the events of Sisko's birth. Sisko is initially put off by the idea of being a messiah, but eventually embraces the role.
There is a strong suggestion that LOST's Locke is The Messiah to the Others or the island itself. The Others have suggested they've been waiting for him, because he is very special. Also, as seen in season 4, he dies, and must be returned to the island. Season 5 update: he appears to have resurrected and gained new knowledge and confidence (as you might expect a person to in such a circumstance), but it turned out to be nothing but a trick, with him still dead after a miserable life and some ancient...power, masquerading as him
Season Six Jack seems to have taken over Locke's role in this archetype.
An episode of Kingdom Hospital involved the Reverend Jimmy being found crucified, followed by a series of miracles re-enacting those of the New Testament. Unusual in that his Messianic Archetype status only becomes evident after he's died.
In the Doctor Who episode Last of the Time Lords, Martha Jones walks the world alone for a year after The Master successfully takes over and reduces the planet to a living hell hole in preparation for its total annihilation. She becomes something of a legend, considered to be a savior who will defeat the Master. Martha's means of saving the world however involves spreading stories about the Doctor "no weapons, just words", as well as leaving an instruction, and insisting the whole time that the Doctor is the actual saviour.
The Tenth Doctor may have been accepted as a messianic figure by many humans in the New Series, but the writers of the Eleventh Doctor really take advantage of this trope. River Song is convinced that Eleven is the closest thing to a god that the Whoniverse has. Eleven himself seems to believe in some sort of God instinctively, and seems convinced that a higher power is messing with his head. Eleven hates himself (at least according to one of the writers), but is unable to fully save the universe until he accepts (at least temporarily) at least one of those "flaws". For the Christmas Special, people have commented that Eleven will "save the soul of a rich man". They haven't played with the idea as much as as the Tenth did yet, but give them time...
The RTD era is a subversion as Waters of Mars thoroughly demonstrates that once the Doctor starts thinking of himself as a saviour or god, he becomes more of a Dark Messiah and that, ultimately, all the messiah metaphors scattered throughout seasons 1-4 aren't meant to indicate anything good. So far Moffat seems to be playing the Messianic Archetype straight.
Even 11 gets a moment; while we stop short of a wildly Out of Character megalomaniacal rant, he does almost go too far once, and we get to understand the Moral Dissonance moments a little better: when you see yourself as the only hope of the universe against all the darkness therein, going farther than you should is an occupational hazard. It's reiterated that keeping himself from going down that road is part of why he needs his companions. He really is better at being The Messiah when he sees himself as just a madman in a box.
Stefan Salvatore of The Vampire Diaries. Stefan is depicted as a heroic, noble and selfless saviour and protector.
Not to mention that his last name means "Savior" in Italian.
Jack Harkness of Torchwood: Betrayed by his team and killed, rose from the dead, sacrifices himself to basically stop the devil from killing everyone in the world, dies again, and comes back after exactly three days to tell his killer that he forgives him. That's just the series one finale. The second one does so a little bit too but then the third series utterly and totally subverts it.
Dean Winchester from Supernatural. While he drinks, cheats, steals, and enjoys the company of loose women (at least in the first three seasons), he's also got a tendency to sacrifice himself and would do so to save a stranger's life without hesitation. He starts off as the only member of the Winchester family who hunts for the sake of saving people instead of revenge and is also the most selfless and martyr-like individual on the show. By Season 4, however, this becomes nearly Word Of God as after he's sent to Hell, an army of angels descends to Hell to save him and resurrect him, complete with crucifix imagery as he claws his way from his own grave. The title of the episode this happened in brings even more religious allusions: Lazarus Rising.
In season 5, the angelic plan is revealed, as Dean is "destined" to be the human vessel for the archangel Michael, the only angel powerful enough to stop Lucifer.
Sam also has his own share of Messianic imagery, as season 5 ends with him in the crucifixion pose, sacrificing himself to seal away both Lucifer and Michael who were to bring about the Apocalypse. This becomes even more ironic as thanks to his demonic destiny that's alluded to throughout the seasons - to be the vessel for Lucifer, he's also set up as an Antichrist.
Captain Sheridan of Babylon 5. In the episode "The Deconstruction of Falling Stars," some monks living 500 years after the events of the series are shown transcribing what looks like an illuminated Bible, in which Sheridan is said to have "risen from the dead" and then "ascended into Heaven." That's an exaggeration, but not all that much of one.
The title character of John From Cincinnati (note the "J.C.") might be Jesus, or perhaps an angel or some other supernatural being, but the show never got around to giving a straight answer to that question, if indeed the creators ever intended to.
Appears in a number of David Bowie's songs, most famously in the form of Ziggy Stardust. Also spoofed in "We Are Hungry Men," where the "messiah" is Jumping Off the Slippery Slope and his teachings are completely ignored.
Interestingly, Bowie's first major film role was as the title character in the movie adaptation of The Man Who Fell to Earth (see Literature).
Halleluiah, or Holly, follows a Christ-like arc in music by the Hold Steady. In the album "Separation Sunday," she wears a cross and reads bible stories but falls into a downward spiral of drugs and bad decisions. She joins some locals in being "born again" by taking a hit of nitrous oxide and being dunked underwater, a parallel with baptism. Shortly afterwards, she blacks out and disappears, and finally wakes up in a confession booth during Easter mass where she asks, "Father, can I tell your congregation how a resurrection really feels?"
It is believed that the introduction of Christianity to Germany/Scandinavia led to a re-write of many of the myths of Norse Mythology (Thor's wedding, for one, is believed to have been written after said introduction as a way of mocking the old gods). It is possible the myths about Baldur were written or re-written to better fit the Christian faith, as was the part where Odin hung himself and was impaled by a spear much like Jesus.
Quetzacoatl - martyred, will rise again. Unfortunately for the Mesoamericans, they thought he had. What they got instead were just Sufficiently Advanced Spaniards.
Egyptian Mythology brings us Horus. Revered as a SUN GOD and a god of royalty, he was betrayed and killed by his uncle Set, and thus was revered as a martyr. He would later be resurrected by his mother, Isis, the goddess of reincarnation. His symbol, the Eye of Horus, was seen as a sign of royal protection.
The Arthurian legends are, to a great extent, a retelling of the David story from The Bible, complete with the idea that Arthur will return to save Britain in her greatest hour of need.
A similar myth exists about Frederick Barbarossa, who was a real historical figure, and a number of others, some real, some altogether legendary. A more extensive, but no doubt still partial list, can be found under the King in the Mountain entry at the other wiki.
Mithra, ancient Zoroastrian god of covenant and oath.
albeit far more violent than him (having forged several magical swords
that need blood from supernatural entities in order to maintain their magical properties) and with a more than strong dislike of the supernatural]] complete with Apostles and a crucifixion.
Claude from Hair, more of a follower than a leader, but serves as kind of an emblematic persecution sink for the hippie movement, and, in most productions, is implied to have Ascended to a Higher Plane of Existence after being killed in Vietnam.
Colette is set up for this role due to her duties of The Chosen One during the first third of Tales Of Symphonia. It gets kind of subverted after that, when Lloyd takes the centre stage in the story.
Gordon Freeman, of Half-Life fame: "And yet unsophisticated minds continue to imbue him with romantic power, giving him such dangerous poetic labels as the One Free Man, the Opener of the Way." There's even an Easter egg scene showing him in a stained glass window, complete with crowbar.
Further similarities include a Second Coming and being betrayed by a woman named Judith.
Commander Shepard. Chosen to save the galactic population from imminent genocide? Check! Has a small group of loyal followers (twelve in the second game)? Check! Brought Back from the Dead?Check!And in the worst ending of the second game, s/he performs a Heroic Sacrifice in order to destroy the Collector base. It's not canon, but it's still there.
And, as the trailer for Mass Effect 3 indicates, everyone is now waiting for Shepard to return to Earth and save them all...
The end of Mass Effect 3 sees him/her sacrificing him/herself to stop the Reapers for good, this time canonically. And in the Control ending, s/he becomes a supreme intelligence the Reapers obey unquestioningly; Reaper!Shepard uses his/her newfound servants to help the people of the galaxy rebuild after the cataclysmic war, ushering in a new golden age.
The epilogue reveals that "The Shepard" is venerated far into the future, their life having become Shrouded in Myth.
Aerith of Final Fantasy VII - Half-human, half-supernatural, the planet is ultimately saved through her prayers and her death, and humanity is kept alive. In Advent Children, she cures Geostigma from beyond the grave, which is effectively cancer. The disease is notably uncurable by any other means.
World of WarcraftCataclysm has Thrall become this in the wake of the titular cataclysm.
In Wrath of the Lich King we have Tirion Fordring, the Ashbringer.
The fourth expansion, brings us the Last(pandaren) Emperor of Pandaria, Shaohao, who upon learning that the sundering was coming, decided to purge himself form his negative emotions, and "become one with the land" to make Pandaria drift away from the destruction and protect the races of Pandaria,including his enemies the Mantid. Of course, given the far eastern theme of the expansion, he's more of a Crystal Dragon Buddha.
The Boss in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater has certain elements of this. Her death, in which she sacrificed everything for her country, is what set in motion the events of the entire series from Big Boss' Face Heel Turn to the formation of the Patriots. Plus there's her dying in a white sneaking suit in a field of white flowers that are stained red with her blood. And all this is before we get to Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker
JC Denton of Deus Ex loosely fits this trope, as he ultimately decides the fate of the world with his actions at the end of the game.
In Time Squad, the online Web Animation movie of the Blockhead series, the titular character varies between this and being a Seemingly Profound Fool. He is shown to provide simple wisdom and inspiration to the other characters during their Darkest Hours and is shown as the only character that the Mad Scientist villain seems to consider his Worthy Opponent and the Red Oni to his Blue Oni since they somehow share a history together (Blockhead somehow existing in 15th century Romania and a collaborator in his mad schemes).
In Homestuck, the story of The Sufferer has many parallels to Christ's. He lacked the kind of parent figure typical in troll society, and was instead raised by a woman called The Dolorosa* The Virgin Mary is sometimes referred to as the Mater Dolorosa, or "Sorrowful Mother". He wandered the planet, spreading a message of an Alternia free from the Alien Blood-based Fantastic Caste System that rules their culture, attracting followers, one of whom was called The Disciple. He led a massive revolution that was ultimately crushed by the Highbloods and ended with him being tortured and killed, and his burning iron shackles became the symbol of his followers. However, The Sufferer is a subversion, as in his last moments he underwent a Face Heel Turn, going from The Messiah to a Fallen Hero as he burned with rage, and let out a Vast Expletive that served as his final sermon.
Optimus Primal in Transformers: Beast Machines, somewhat on the heavy-handed side. Oddly enough for this trope, it's portrayed negatively (But still not Dark Messiah). Basically, like The Doctor on a bad day (see Live Action TV) you can get too dark, alienate your allies, and come pretty darn close to relinquishing that "good guy" title when you start to see The Mission as all, and as yours alone. Thing is, Primal's 'bad day' lasted for about 2/3 of the series.
In fact, the many heroic deaths of Optimii in the various Transformers series have led to the nickname "Jesus Prime".
As above, Superman in the Legion Of Superheroes cartoon fits the trope more than ever, as the Grand Finale even comes with its own Judas: Brainiac 5's Brainiac 1-induced Freak Out leads to him giving Supes a crown of Kryptonite.
In the South Park episode "Margaritaville", Kyle is portrayed as a Christ-like savior who makes a tremendous sacrifice to save the economy and pay off everyone's debt. A dinner he has with his friends is portrayed as the Last Supper, with Cartman taking on the role of Judas, the disciple who betrayed Jesus, while some of the South Park residents form a council againt the "young Jew spreading lies about the Economy". Played, to no one's suprise, for laughs.