Stories of good against evil are very popular among film fans. The old cliche is that a great story needs a great villain – but it helps if the hero is great as well.
One of the more famous tropes is to make the hero a “chosen one” – either via prophecy or extreme circumstances – creating a story that’s about fulfilling his/her destiny. This raises the stakes by marking a character as the only one capable of completing the all-important task the story revolves around. In Ender’s Game, Ender Wiggin is selected as the last hope for humanity; if he fails, the aliens win and all is lost.
To coincide with the release of Ender’s Game, we have compiled a list of our 7 favorite “chosen one” movie heroes. (Keep in mind that the films do NOT have to feature a prophecy to make the list.)
After spending his entire life searching for “The One,” Morpheus believes he has finally found him in the form of software programmer Thomas Anderson, better known by his hacker alias Neo. Now unplugged from the Matrix, Neo is charged with freeing all of humanity from the tyranny of the machines.
At first skeptical of Morpheus’ proclamations, Neo gradually transforms from a mild-mannered everyman into a savior. Through the power of sheer belief, he proves to those around him – and more importantly, himself – that he is the only one who can lead the rebellion. Loyal to his close allies, Neo isn’t afraid to sacrifice himself for the well-being of others (particularly during the sequence where he saves Morpheus from Agent Smith), a quality that makes him a noble hero.
Skilled in combat and willing to do whatever it takes to win, Neo fully accepts his fate and proves he is no match for machines.
Traveling into the depths of Mt. Doom to destroy the One Ring and save Middle-earth is a task that would be a heavy burden for even the fiercest of warriors. So it comes as some surprise that this young Hobbit would be the one who’s up for it.
Selected by the Council of Elrond as the Ring-bearer for this epic journey, Frodo displays tremendous courage throughout the trilogy. With only his friend Sam (who deserves his fair share of credit) at his side for most of the way, he fights through orcs, trolls, Ringwraiths, and a giant spider, stopping at nothing to accomplish his mission – no matter how tempting it was to give up.
Frodo may have succumbed to the power of the Ring at the very end as he debated tossing it into the fire, but his determination and willpower got him that far in the first place, making him a hero Middle-earth will remember forever.
As the first naturally born Kryptonian child in centuries, Kal-El has the ability to choose his own fate, but Jor-El has grand visions for his son. Hoping to use Kal as a bridge between two worlds, the hologram Jor-El tells his son that he can save the people of Earth, help us accomplish wonders and give us an ideal to strive toward.
When General Zod arrives to conquer, Kal-El is the only one capable of stopping him. Making the choice to embrace Earth and protect its people, he proves that he is strong and brave enough to be a savior – despite all the property damage.
His father is the Chosen One according to the prophecy, but Luke is the one who remained a true hero throughout his journey. Deemed by Obi-Wan to be the galaxy’s last hope, Luke is charged with the task of becoming a Jedi Knight and defeating Darth Vader and the Emperor.
Using the teachings of Obi-Wan and Yoda as his guide, Luke transforms from whiny farm boy to hardened warrior. Strong, smart, and loyal, he has several qualities one would look for in a hero, including a willingness to sacrifice himself for his friends to live.
Arguably Luke’s best attribute is his willpower. Maintaining emotional composure during his final confrontation, he fights off the temptation of the Dark Side, accomplishing what Anakin never could. Refusing to give into Palpatine’s wishes, he would rather die a hero than live to see himself become the villain – and that is very admirable.
The face of Sam Raimi’s horror cult classics, Bruce Campbell’s Ash Williams is one of the more cult-iconic characters in film. Cynical, humorous, and delirious, the fan-favorite undergoes an extreme personal transformation throughout the series, gradually shedding a scared everyman persona to become a mighty hero.
At first, Ash is just part of a typical horror movie group, but by the end of the second film, he is considered to be “The Man That Falls From the Sky” to the good people of 1300 A.D. and is chosen as the one to save them from the Deadites. With the Necronomicon representing his only ticket home, Ash has no choice but to accept his fate and fight against the army of darkness, ultimately displaying the determination and courage of a true hero.
Just a waitress trying to get by in the world, Sarah Connor is also the mother of the future, as her future son John will be the one who leads humanity in a war against the machines. It’s because of this that Skynet sends the Terminator back in time to kill Sarah before her son is born – and later when John is a child.
At first glance, Sarah seems too mild-mannered to be considered the heroic type, but like all the entries on our list, she proves she’s more than capable as time goes on. After defeating the Terminator in the first film, she trains herself and young John so they are prepared for the rough road ahead. Completely transformed in the sequel, Sarah displays tenacity and toughness (and arms of steel) as she helps lead the charge against Cyberdyne, terminating Skynet before it’s ever created.
The boy who lived, Harry Potter was destined for greatness from the moment he was born. Surviving an attack from Voldemort as a baby, Harry learns in his young adult years that he’s the one who will defeat the Dark Lord and end his reign of terror. To put all that pressure on a boy could be catastrophic, but Harry prevailed by demonstrating grit and courage well beyond his years.
Harry’s willpower guided him through much adversity during his tumultuous time at Hogwarts (was there ever an uneventful year that went by?), but his strongest quality is his selflessness. Harry was willing to sacrifice his life for the good of those he cared about – making it easy for the wizarding world to rally around him when times were at their most bleak.
Harry bared his responsibility with great dignity, becoming an inspirational figure that lived up to the hype.
The act of making the hero a “chosen one” has worked so successfully throughout history that it’s all but a guarantee filmmakers will continue to use it in an effort to raise the stakes in their movies. Fans seem to enjoy watching them as well, since several of the most iconic movie characters are – in one way or another – a “chosen” hero.
Of course, our list is not meant to be all-inclusive, so be sure to include some of your own favorite “chosen” heroes in the comments section below.
Ender’s Game hits theaters November 1, 2013.
Follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisAgar90.