Movies/Scenes Representing Baptism

bullet Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
  • There is a scene when Galadriel, the elf-queen, draws water from her fountain in a silver pitcher and pours it into a basin, encouraging Frodo and Sam Gamgee to look into it. She says something like, "The water will show you what has been, what is, and some of what might be." I used this moment during a baptism recently for a baby in our congregation who has already had several major heart surgeries and faces several more. We know what has been and what is- those are the claims that we make at baptism. But, we only see through the eyes of hope what will be for him, and there is much uncertainty in that vision. I found that analogy to be very, very apt and powerful for this little boy's baptism. (D. Mark Davis, Clive, IA USA)
bullet The Shipping News (2001)
  • Quoyle has a literal confrontation with the "demons" of his past. He has seen himself (and steered his life accordingly) through the negative influence of his father and other family "demons" he has not recognized. He faces these forces and is reborn after a storm. (Baptism of the Spirit - Wind and Water - lots of water imagery in this film - drowning and being changed.)
bulletMen of Honor (2000)
  • Carl managed to deal with each block put in his way.  Finally it came time for the final test for acceptance on the dive team.  they were to dive to the bottom of wherever they were and assemble a complicated piece of equipment.  As each hopeful found what he needed to work on, a bag of tools were tossed down to him.  Carl had been warned to not even show up, because he would not be allowed to pass.  He showed up anyway.  Suited up, and dove.  when he located his pieces, he called for his tool bag.  The commanding officer slit the bag before throwing it into the water.  The officer of the officer (I don't remember titles) had forbade the commanding officer to allow Carl to pass, much less to pull him up when he was ready. It took Carl more than nine hours in very cold water to accomplish what the others had done in a few hours.  But he succeeded.  He had assembled his piece perfectly.  Though the officer would not assist Carl's ascent from the water, Carl's peers did.  Seldom had they ever come to his assistance. There were other major challenges for Carl to overcome, and he met each with determination.  The amazing thing was his wholesome attitude through it all. He held true to his course, and he won!  He had been true to his father, though his father did not live to see his son's success.  (There's lots of Scripture in this story.  It's a true story.) (Marcy Keefe-Slager, Jackson, MI)
bullet The Cell (2000)
  • I have watched this movie twice and am struck by the redemption theme and the symbolism of the water, particularly the baptism. The J. Lopez character seems to take on the persona of the Virgin. Also there is the implied suggestion at one point that perhaps the FBI agent was himself an abused child who resisted the temptation to turn to evil. (Pam Brewer)
bulletO Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
  • The 3 escaped convicts come across the  surreal sight of a group of people dressed in white, singing as they move mysteriously through the woods towards the river. They follow, to find the people lining up to be baptized. 2 of the friends rush into the water to be baptized. The first exclaims as he emerges from the water that the minister had told him that all his sins have been washed away. Even, he says, when he stole that pig for which he'd been convicted. "But you said you were innocent of that." "I lied.... and that's been washed away too!!" The character shows a reformed character afterwards, including when he leaves money for the apple pie that his friends steal from a windowsill. (Susie Sanders)
bulletGladiator (2000)
  • When Maximus is deloused after being bought by Proximo.  He is being baptised into a new life as a slave. (Steve Ash, Memphis TN)
bulletMission to Mars (2000)
  • I think there was a baptism scene in the end as Gary Senese is carried off by the alien capsule.  As he is departing, water fills the tank and twinkles of light 'breathes life into him' to prevent him from drowning.  It also symbolizes his rebirth into a completely new life. (submitted by Steve Ash)
bulletBoys Don't Cry (1999)
  • Shower scene (DVD ch 20): washing before death.
bulletPushing Tin (1999)
  • The scene where John Cusack finds Billy Bob Thornton at the edge of the river and asks how to get his life back. Billy Bob says that if you want your life back you have to "jump in the river." When Cusack asks why, Billy Bob says "because it's about repenting of your sins and stuff like that." If you are ready to get your life back you have to be willing to jump in the river of God's grace. (Just watch for explicatives) (Jenn. Stiles Williams, Jax fl)
bulletThe Matrix (1999)
  • Neo decides between "false reality" and "true reality" and then is transformed and brought into a new community.
bulletDouble Jeopardy (1999)
  • Car plunges into the water, Libby and Lehman make their way out and swim to the top. (DVD chapter 8)
bulletThe Green Mile (1999)
  • This movie is about death row in a Louisiana prison. The last walk, from the cell to the electric chair is known at this prison as The Green Mile, due to the color of the floor. One item of special emphasis is that when the condemned man is seated in the electric chair, the prison guard in charge of the execution is supposed to place a wet sponge on top of the head of the prisoner, just before the head strap is secured with one of the main wires for the electrical current. This is meant to speed up the execution on the basis that water is a very good conductor of electricity, and the wet sponge conducts the the current immediately into the brain of the prisoner. This kills the inmate quickly, and mercifully (as mercifully as this method can make possible). When I saw this scene in which one of the inmates was electrocuted, the placement of the wet sponge seemed to immediately suggest to me the action of baptism. The water was placed on the name of the inmate, symbolically in the name of the state, which authorizes the execution. The preparation for the execution is ended, just before the juice is turned on, with the words: "God have mercy on your soul!" It was also interesting that, when one prisoner is executed, and the guard in charge fails to use water on the sponge, there is a very ugly, painful and vicious electrocution in which the prisoner does not die immediately, but is badly burned and thrashes back and forth until the body is essentially a pile of charred remains. That suggests a continuation of the baptismal theme, with a negative result occurring when "baptism" does not occur. Perhaps that result is a little bit like burning in hell? (submitted by Bob Kaltenbaugh, Reading, PA)
bulletThe Confession (1999)
  • (DVD ch 13) Mel baptizes Bleakie with bourbon after Bleakie has had the experience with Sarah.
bulletGalaxy Quest (1999)
  • The initial space-travel sequences where the crew is engulfed in a water-like substance, and then transported on a journey. The initial euphoria dissolves as they realize that the task is dangerous.
bulletToy Story 2 (1999)
  • "I am using this illustration in my sermon tomorrow: Mark 1:1-8 (Baptism of our Lord). In Toy Story 2, Woody is kidnapped and taken to the apartment of the "bad" toy store owner. Woody finds himself in a dark room, all alone. And then he hears the voice of a young girl who recognizes him (sorry, I can't remember her name!) This toy, a similarly dressed western cowgirl, gets very excited that "Woody" is finally here. Woody asks, "How do you know me?" She replies, "Do you not know who you are?" She then turns on a light and shows Woody the shelves that are filled with Woody memorabilia. Woody finds out he was a famous movie star. She shows him old cartoons and Woody watches with great joy. So it is in baptism. God knows us before we know who God is, and in this sacrament we are told who we are....a child of God." (Kathryn Self, Plano TX)
bullet Patch Adams (1998)
  • Patch Adams is visiting Arthur in his room one night and gets his name "Patch."  (James Haskins)
bullet American History X (1998)
  • Derek in the shower toward the end of the movie remembering his brother as a child, and then covering his swastika tattoo with regret. Possibly also the earlier shower scene where Derek is raped in prison. Are baptisms always positive experiences?
bulletBoogie Nights (1998)
  • While Eddie and his new colleagues are sitting in the hot tub, Eddie talks about changing his name to suit his new career.
    • Eddie: Jack, I was thinking about my name, y'know?
      Jack: Yeah?
      Eddie: I was wondering if you had any ideas.
      Jack: I've got a few, but you tell me
      Eddie: Well, my idea was, y'know, I want a name I want it so it can cut glass, y'know, razor sharp.
      Jack: Tell me.
      Eddie: When I close my eyes, I see this thing, a sign, I see this name in bright blue neon lights with a purple outline. And this name is so bright and so sharp that the sign -- it just blows up because the name is so powerful... It says, "Dirk Diggler." 
bulletCity of Angels (1998)
  • The last scene with Nicholas Cage in the water.
bulletPrince of Egypt (1998)
  • The crossing of the Red/Reed Sea recalls the words used in the blessing of the water: "We give you thanks that through the waters of the Red Sea, you led your people out of slavery to freedom in the Promised Land." (Patrick Reid/Penelope Johnson)
bulletThe Truman Show (1998)
  • since he must go through the water to reach "real" life. Note that the water is always there, calling to him in the film, but his fear holds him back. In his final surrender to the water, he finds life. (Marie Loewen)
bulletDark City (1998)
  • John emerges from his bath at the beginning of the movie. The Strangers do not like light or water.
bulletAmistad (1997)
  • Cinque sinks into the water, appears dead, surfaces again. (DVD ch 3)
bulletThe Game (1997)
  • Baptized (marked) with blue ink from the CRS pen. (DVD ch 6)
  • Baptized with wine by Christine in the restaurant before his adventure begins. (DVD ch 7)
  • Is sent to his "death" in a taxi. Excellent scene of Nicholas breaking out of the driverless cab that is trapping him, and swimming to the top for breath. (DVD ch 12)
bullet Titanic (1997)
  • Ship and passengers sinking in ocean - Rose emerges a new person.
bullet The Apostle (1997)
  • Pentecostal pastor Eulis "Sonny" Dewey learns that his wife is sleeping with his youth pastor (or associate pastor, I don't recall). Under the influce of alcohol, Sonny hits the younger pastor with a baseball bat, knocking him to the ground, where he stays. Sonny leaves town, running from the consequences of his actions. In a small tent that night, he fasts and prays. The next morning he baptizes himself, renaming himself The Apostle E.F. I noticed that he baptized himself twice: once in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost and once in the name of Jesus. (David K. Miller)
bulletFace Off (1997)
  • Passage from one life to the next by going through water (see review at Hollywood Jesus)
bulletThe Postman (1997)
  • John is sworn in as a postman (DVD Chapter 17) - the tradition continues as new postal workers are sworn in (DVD Chapter 30)
bulletSling Blade (1996)
  • Karl is baptized toward the end of the film, before he kills Frank. (Has he already decided to do so?)
bullet Toy Story (1995)
  • when he gets marked with the name of the one to whom he belongs. (Lee Ferry)
bulletThe Shawshank Redemption (1994)
  • Andy Dufresne crawls through the sewer and emerges a free man.
bulletThe Stand (1994)
  • Stu Redman in the rain as the flu is passed into the world (DVD part 1, chapter 3)
bullet The Lion King (1994)
  • We've used the scene where the lion cub is dedicated by the baboon priest in "The Lion King." (Buzz Trexler)
  • Simba is also called back to his baptism when the baboon takes him to the lagoon to show him his father. Simba sees the reflection of himself, saying that it isn't his father, it's just a reflection of himself. Rafiki says "Look Harder, he lives in you." When Simba looks again he hears the voice of his father saying: Simba, you have forgotten who you are, you are more than you have become, Remember who you are..." Great for reaffirmation of baptism vows. (Jenn. Stiles Williams, Jax fl)
bullet The Piano (1993)
  • Ada and piano in the water.
bullet Fearless (1993)
  • Max survives a plane crash and his post traumatic stress plays out in a feeling of invulnerability. This is a very deep and layered film, and that invulnerability eventually has to be dealt with. But while he has that feeling, he is very much similar to Paul when he speaks of the cross (death) and how in the cross he has been crucified to the world and the world to him. There is a freedom he has (although eventually it is somewhat misguided) because he has, in his mind, already passed through death. So too in the cross (and baptism) we have passed through death and in many ways, as Paul says, we have been crucified to the world. The trick is to find the new life that shows that reality. (Darrel Manson, Artesia Christian Church, Artesia, CA)
 Cape Fear (1991)
  • I suppose there are many ways to look at what Cape Fear represents, but I think it is a chilling reminder of the danger of humans taking atonement into their own hands or strictly interpreting atonement from a juridical point of view--as if in a courtroom. DeNiro's twisted character in the movie (can't remember his name now) has studied the Bible and tattooed his chest with Scripture quotes about justice. He becomes increasingly deranged as he tries to enact his form of atoning, becoming an unforgiving and vengeful judge. It is interesting that the crisis is resolved in a storm at sea, in what might be loosely seen as baptismal imagery. (Marcia Wakeland)
bulletNorthern Exposure (television, 1990-1995)
  • The best baptism I have ever seen depicted in modern media is an episode of Northern Exposure -- where the baby is baptized on a hill overlooking the valley and the speech/sermon that is given about the role of the community. (Ann Fontaine, Lander WY)
bullet Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
  • Indy and Elsa escape from a baptism of fire by overturning a coffin (used!) in a gutter full of oily water and breathing the trapped air, then swimming out through a sewer and emerging from a manhole. Toward the end, when they find the Holy Grail, its healing power and supposed immortality are conveyed by water! (Bill Mosley, New Ulm TX)
bulletPrince Caspian and the Voyage of the Dawn Treader (BBC televison, 1989)
  • Eustace the self-centered one, has been transformed by his greed into a dragon. It takes Aslan(God/Christ) to save him bydriving him into the water where the ugliness and greed, the scales and the smell of dragons is washed from him, a quite powerfull presentation of the action of baptism as redemption. (Bill Westmoreland, Cincinnati, OH)
bullet Forrest Gump (1987)
  • Doug Adams of Pacific School of Religion pointed out (and then played for us) the opening sequence of "Forrest Gump." In that sequence, the first thing we see is a feather dislodging from a dove flying overhead. The feather wafts along, almost alighting on several "acceptable" people, finally settling on Forrest, sitting on the bench, waiting for the bus. Mark 1:10, from this week's Gospel: "...he saw...the Spirit descending like a dove on him." (Bob Andrews-Bryant)
  • Lieutenant Dan in the storm.
bulletRaising Arizona (1987)
  • Gale tunnels out of prison (rebirth), pulls brother out into the rain. (MHenderson, Center Sandwich NH)
bulletOverboard (1987)
  • Goldie Hawn plays a spoiled rich woman, Kurt Russel a single parent carpenter / commoner. She abuses him in the beginning as lower than whale feces while he reinvents the closet on her yacht to accomodate her superfluous wardrobe. He kind of dreams about her (she is beautiful) but her jarring rudeness is more for even lust to overcome in fantasy, I think. She gets thrown overboard during a party at night (by accident) and strikes her head. Kurt Russel finds her and tells her she's his wife, mother of three boys (the boys cooperate). She can't believe it, of course, but ultimately learns to love and respect this odd lot family she's now a part of (unwillingly). Kurt (who never takes advantage of her, as far as I can remember) finally tells her (I think, or someone else does and he was going to). The rest is vague. I suppose she storms back to her yacht, absolutely can't stand to live without him and the kids, and rushes back into his arms when he and the kids show up to say they can't live without her. (Rev. Michael Phillips, Berwick, Pennsylvania)
  • First, it wasn't during a party that she was thrown overboard, it was while trying to retrieve her jewelry left on deck earlier that day. (She lost the gold and gained a life?) Most important -- her husband came back to get her (after he had stranded her in the hospital months before), and she got her memory back in a flash. She went off with him back to the yacht, but with her experiences as a poor mother of 4 fresh in her mind, she realized how selfish and superfluous her former life (and her mother, husband and shrink) all were, and told the captain to turn the ship around. A battle with her husband ensued, and, with Kurt Russell and the kids following in a coast guard yacht (courtesy of some friends), she was close, but not close enough to go back to the poor life, the one with values. Kurt Russell jumps overboard, then Goldie Hawn jumps overboard, and they end up together in a life raft, and it all ends happily ever after. SHE changed, and that's what makes the story a valid one for it's place in this directory. (Sharon Pajak)
bulletThe Mission (1986)
  • Literal baptism scene (Reverend J. Michael Mansfield, Burkesville KY)
bulletSaving Grace (1986)
  • the fictional story of the pope locked out of the Vatican and finding his own renewal among the, in a village trying to construct an aqueduct among the poor.
bulletOut of Africa (1985)
  • Denys washes Karen's hair - pours water over her head as he recites Coleridge, "Rime of the Ancient Mariner": "Farewell, farewell ! but this I tell To thee, thou Wedding-Guest ! He prayeth well, who loveth well Both man and bird and beast." (DVD ch 12)
bulletMad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985)
  • When he's rescued from the desert by a child, and brought back to the community of the faithful who await the return of Captain Jack -- he's suspended upside down over a pool of water, dunked, then arises to have a common meal (communion) with the faithful, at which point the "story" (gospel) of their eternal hope is shared with him in the cave.
bulletPlaces in the Heart (1984)
  • The tornado (wind/pneuma and water) as baptism for Mr. Will. After the tornado he turns his attentions outward, realizes that he cares for the family and becomes part of the community.
bulletStarman (1984)
  • When the alien takes the form of the husband. (Ann Fontaine, Lander WY)
bullet Tender Mercies (1983)
  • Literal baptism scene (Eric Reece)
  • Tender Mercies (starring Robert Duvall and Tess Harper) has a wonderful baptism scene.  Duvall is a broken down alcoholic who ends up being ministered to by Harper and her young son.  Duvall is reborn.  The son and Duvall prepare for baptism and are baptized together while Harper looks on from the choir.  After, in the truck going home, Duvall asks the boy if he feels different.  He answers that he doesn't.  Duvall agrees.  But we know that everything is different.  (Rev. Morar Murray-Hayes)
bullet Superman (1978)
bulletJesus of Nazareth (1977)
  • John the Baptist (played with distinction by Michael York) passionately calls the people to repentance. A later scene portrays Jesus' baptism. (Patrick Reid/Penelope Johnson)
bulletTaxi Driver (1976)
  • Compare Travis Bickel wanting the rain to "wash all the scum off the streets" to John the Baptist's baptism of wind and fire which separates the wind from the chaff. Could this be related to the wind at the beginning of Mary Poppins? (Sterling Bjorndahl)
bulletTravolti da un insolito destino nell'azzurro mare d'Agosto "Swept Away" (1975)
  • being lost at sea and discovering a new relationship - pretty vague connection but both there and powerful (Glenn "Moon" Morison, British Columbia)
bulletRoots (t.v. miniseries)
  • Successive generations of the Kunta Kinte family repeat an ancient family ritual brought from West Africa. The father takes his newborn child out into the night and raises him/her up to see the stars. The simple dedication includes naming the child, a brief remembrance of the family's history, and expressed hope for the child's future. (Patrick Reid/Penelope Johnson)
bulletThe Paper Chase (1973)
  • The whole movie shows the "baptism under fire" potential law students go through to become one of the "community." As with early Christians who had a lot of work to do before being accepted, these students struggle with the new way of life and expectations at law school. The end of the movie suggests that some people find that going through such a baptism is a learning experience, but they don't want to join the community because they see problems with it-or other things in life more valuable. (John Young-Powell, Florissant, MO)
bulletPapillon (1973)
  • New prisoners are "baptized" with a hose into their state as prisoners, but also into their state as possible escapees.
  • Papillon's plunge into the sea.
bulletThe Poseidon Adventure (1972)
  • Baptism by water (when the ship is covered and turns over), is followed by baptism by fire (when the ship explodes). Those who began the journey by climbing up through the Christmas Tree are saved.
  • Entire film as baptism metaphor - choice, water continues to pursue, journey through the water to freedom.
bulletThe Godfather (1972)
  • "Michael Rizzi's baptism service is interspersed with the assassination of the heads of the five families. Michael Corleone stands as the child's literal Godfather while simultaneously becoming the "Godfather" in the Cosa Nostra sense. You have to go all the way through to Michael Corleone's confession in GF3 before you can really relate to the religious significance." (Michael Stein, Scottsbluff NE)
bulletAll in the Family (television, 1971 - 1979)
  • Who can forget Archie Bunker Baptizing Joey?!! (The Rev Beth W. Johnston, Rexton N.B.)
bullet Little Big Man (1970)
  • This is an older movie called Little Big Man starring Dustin Hoffman who plays himself at all the ages of man. He is adopted by a preacher after he has been living with the Indians, and baptised in the river, being held down under the water an uncomfortably (for the viewer) long time. The preacher is baptizing the hell out of him, and the prayer is long-winded. Memorable movie baptism! (John Matheson)
bulletPsycho (1960)
  • Psycho's "shower scene" begins as a baptism scene. Marion has just decided to escape her self-imposed trap by returning the money, and is taking a cleansing shower... (DVD ch 10)
bulletLife With Father (1947)
  • "The whole thing revolves about getting Mr. Day baptized, and the constant efforts of his little son to recite his catechism on the subject of baptism. It's really quite wonderful, and set in an Episcopalian context." (Sister Elias, SolSB)
bulletThe Wizard of Oz (1939)
bulletThe witch in the flick is melted or killed by water. An old theological position (Augustine of Hippo ?) is that evil is not real, but an "echo" of good. It is the reality of the water that kills the witch, not her wickedness. (cf. T.S. Elliot "Human [or witches it seems] being can not bear too much reality.") (Rev Mark A. Thompson, Mpls MN)
bulletThe "tornado baptism" (spirit/pneuma and fire) which marks the beginning of Dorothy's journey. She is knocked out and comes back to life - reborn in a world that is in color.

Index of Movie Titles

Index of Movie Themes