Since the dawn of time, man has worked to find the meaning of life, a search that frequently leads to pondering the presence of a higher power. Fortunately, the advent of film has allowed our most creative minds to visualize their own interpretations of deities of all sorts. This Friday, we get the third iteration of the sadly uncommon superhero god in Thor: The Dark World. Marvel’s latest take on the Norse god of thunder is a great opportunity to reflect on the memorable times gods (and Gods) have graced us with their presence on screen.
Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston – Thor, The Avengers
Chris Hemsworth has used his huge frame and charisma to fully embody Marvel’s god of thunder since Thor’s first solo film in 2011. He plays both the warrior on Asgard and the fish out of water on Earth perfectly, and has proven that even the most odd and fantastical of Marvel’s properties can work in the right hands.
Thor may be the hero of the Marvel gods, but Loki, as played by Tom Hiddleston, is the real star of these films. His god of mischief is smooth, conniving, and brilliant, but the bitterness he feels toward his half-brother for the accolades and praise Thor received has pushed him fully on the path to villainy. It’s a very Shakespearean character arc, and is fittingly portrayed by an actor with plenty of experience with the Bard. Marvel’s more fantastical Asgardian stories have always posed the biggest challenge when it comes to connecting with audiences, and by bringing Hiddleston into the fold, the studio gave what could have been a (more) cartoonish bad guy some legitimacy.
George Burns - Oh, God!
Burns’ gruff voice and small stature aren’t characteristics that immediately jump to mind when thinking of an embodiment of the Almighty, but it worked very well in 1977’s Oh, God! The comedy about God appearing to a man (played by singer John Denver) who he chooses to be his messenger on Earth got a lot of praise when it was released, with Burns’ portrayal garnering a lot of positive attention.
Alanis Morissette – Dogma
Kevin Smith famously broke the mold with a vision of God as a woman. What made it stand out even further, coming at the end of ninety minutes of hilarious religious satire, is the fact that She is played by a mute, childlike Alanis Morissette. The reveal that this is the God who enjoyed coming down to our mortal plane to play a little Skiball on the Boardwalk made so much sense, and provided the perfect cap for Smith’s comic discourse on organized religion.
Morgan Freeman – Bruce/Evan Almighty
As the majority answer to the question, “Who would you choose to narrate your life?”, Morgan Freeman is an obvious choice to play a benevolent Creator. This is a God who has fun with his job. He pulls pranks and goofs around while still giving the kind of sage advice you like to see from an omniscient entity. Though I’m not sure it’s the best idea to just go around willy-nilly and let normal people take your powers for a test-drive.
Val Kilmer – The Prince of Egypt
Coming at the tail end of the success of classic hand-drawn animation before Pixar and Dreamworks largely took over with CG films, The Prince of Egypt is a solid if unspectacular re-telling of the story of Moses, and Kilmer’s baritone resonates nicely as the voice of God.
Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes – Clash of the Titans
Despite being an objectively terrible film, the original Clash of the Titans from 1981 still somehow brought in hugely talented and well respected actors like Laurence Olivier and Maggie Smith. The 2010 remake continued this dual tradition of being horrible and impressively cast, with Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes enacting the pinnacle of all sibling rivalries as Zeus and Hades, respectively. The melodrama and gravitas those two can bring makes this movie at least worth a drunk viewing, but it might be better to mute your TV any time they’re not on screen.