Captain America, the hottest member of the Greatest Generation, is returning to the big screen this Friday. Steve Rogers may feel all alone in the modern world, but he's not alone in fiction. Here's a list of the greatest fictional characters who have been frozen, and woke to a strange new world.
Philip J Fry in Futurama
Let's start the list with the most cheerful character. Philip J Fry is an unhappy, cuckolded delivery boy in the year 1999, who gets accidentally frozen on New Year's Eve to wake up at the dawn of the year 3000. Fry is overjoyed with the world of tomorrow, where he can have mind-blowing adventures, fall in love with a hot alien chick, and make friends with a robot, all while still spending most of his time on the couch in a low-level job. (He also deserves to top this list because he got frozen and woke up in the future at least three different times on the show.)
Miles Monroe in Sleeper
Woody Allen plays Miles Monroe, a health food store owner who gets forcibly frozen, forcibly revived, and forcibly inducted into a resistance movement in a totalitarian state. Everyone else has been rendered biologically identifiable by the government. As the only person who can live "off the grid," Miles impersonates one thing after another as a way to set free the absurdist futuristic society he now lives in.
Nora Fries in DC Comics
Nora Fries is the wife of Doctor Victor Fries. Her best introduction was in the Batman: The Animated Series episode, "Heart of Ice." When she has a terminal illness, Fries freezes her to stop its progress. He does this at the expense of the company he works for. When executives try to cut the power to her, Victor struggles with them, blows up the lab, and becomes physiologically altered, unable to live in anything above freezing temperatures. He assumes the identity of Mister Freeze. There have been several continuities in which Nora is cured and wakes up. Perhaps the most tragic is the one in which she awakes, waits for her husband, and he never comes. Eventually she builds a new life. It turns out Victor's body has slowly frozen away. As he's just a head in a freezing jar, he stays away from her so she can be free.
Captain Daniel McCormick in Forever Young
Mel Gibson plays a man in the 1940s who, when his fiance is struck by a terminal illness that leaves her comatose, wants to "sleep for a year" in his inventor friend's cryogenic device so he won't have to see the one he loves die. The inventor dies before Daniel can be revived, and so he sleeps until the early 1990s, when two kids, messing around in an old store room, revive him. There is little made of the time travel in this movie, other than Daniel being surprised that women cuss. (Those who know the end of this movie, know that its title is incorrect. It should have been entitled "Stupid Decision Ruins Three People's Lives.")
Austin Powers and Doctor Evil in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery
Arguably Mike Myers' best movie, this one features him in a double role as the groovy super-spy Austin Powers and his nemesis, Doctor Evil. When Doctor Evil freezes himself in 1969, Austin Powers does the same. When they're unfrozen in the 1990s, they both learn that the spy game isn't like what it was in the 1960s.
The Ice Warriors in Doctor Who
The Ice Warriors are a cross between the Knights of the Round Table and the Lizard People. Reptilian aliens that (despite presumably being cold-blooded) preferred ice caves to warm climates, they suffered setbacks when their home planet of Mars started having problems with its atmosphere. A group of Ice Warriors was frozen during a previous Ice Age, only to be rediscovered during a future Ice Age — and another frozen Ice Warrior gets defrosted aboard a Russian nuclear sub in the 1980s.
John Prophet in Prophet
John Prophet, an Image Comics character, clearly was built on the Captain America concept. He was a homeless man during World War II, but was to be frozen and improved via various forms of scientific tinkering. Twist one was that the man doing the tinkering was evil, and wanted to force John to have a bloodlust. Twist two was that the man changed his mind, and instead gave John a very strong belief in God. So John Prophet wanders the world, fighting for justice and having faith, and occasionally thinking that other people are demons.
Scotty in Star Trek: The Next Generation
This is a nice variation on freezing. Scotty finds himself stuck on an isolated planet, and as he's able to understand what being stranded on an inhospitable planet does to people, takes measures to avoid it. Not wanting to pull a Khan, he "freezes" himself in a repeating transporter beam and gets sent into the future - into the Next Generation universe.
Jason Voorhees in Jason X
Jason Voorhees gets frozen while murdering a scientist. Jason Voorhees gets woken up 445 years later. Jason Voorhees does what Jason Voorhees always does - except this time he does it to holograms. Yep. Those ladies are holograms.
Frankenstein in Marvel Comics and Alicia Masters in Marvel Comics and Omega Red in Marvel Comics and Justin Hammer in Marvel Comics
What we're saying is, Marvel Comics does this a lot. That's not bad. It's just what they do. Let's put it this way — you know how in DC Comics Kyle Rayner's girlfriend was murdered and her body was put in the fridge? If Green Lantern were a Marvel character, she would be revived by now.
John Spartan and Simon Phoenix in Demolition Man
In the near future, criminals will be frozen and put into "cryoprisons." Despite the fact that a good chunk of today's people would commit crimes on purpose in order to be frozen and see the future, the only ones we see go on ice are supercriminal Simon Phoenix, played by Wesley Snipes, and wrongly-accused cop John Spartan, played by Sylvester Stallone. They both wake up in 2032, in a dystopic utopia, where everything from excess sodium to swearing is illegal, and the world has been considerably blandified. Quick question — does every Planet Hollywood have a frozen Sylvester Stallone hanging from the ceiling, or is it just every Planet Hollywood I've ever seen?
Miles Creighton in Chiller
Chiller, a film by Wes Craven, starts with the son of a wealthy businessman getting frozen to arrest his incurable disease. His cryogenic tank malfunctions, but just at the right time for doctors to revive him and cure his illness. His mother is overjoyed, at first. But her son begins acting oddly — stripping down the business to its bare bones regardless of the loyalty and lives of its employees. When people start getting killed, the mother believes that only her son's body came back, and perhaps his soul really did die.
Link in Encino Man
A couple of high school kids uncover a frozen caveman. Passing him off as an Estonian exchange student, they proceed to have wacky adventures with him. It's a flimsy film, even for a comedy, but Brendan Fraser's forehead is perfectly cast.
Charlie in Iceman
Made nearly a decade before Encino Man, Iceman is its dramatic equivalent. A group of scientists revive a caveman. One of them, more compassionate than the rest, befriends the man, trying to learn more about him and find a linguistic bridge to understand him. Eventually the scientist enters into a prolonged battle with the other scientists in the group, who see the revived caveman, Charlie, as a subhuman species that they can use for experiments.
George Taylor in Planet of the Apes
George Taylor, an astronaut, goes into hibernation for a long mission. When he wakes up, he finds himself on a strange, earthlike planet. This planet has humans, but they are seemingly animals. The planet also has apes, but apes that walk around in clothes and are as intelligent as humans. I think you all know the final plot twist. You maniacs.
Mira in Love Minus Eighty
Mira is a woman who died in an accident, and is revived by a strange man who wants her to seduce him. She's in a Bridesicle program - a program that cryogenically freezes attractive women with diseases, and sells them to men who are willing to pony up the money to unfreeze and cure them. Mira has probably the most horrific story of any of the fictional frozens. She's gay, and when she "died" she was in love, but that makes no difference to the men who can wake her up and put her under — for years — at will.
Khaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan in Star Trek
We all know, now, that the frozen man picked up from one of the capsules in the spaceship Botany Bay in the episode "Space Seed" was going to be a thorn in Captain Kirk's side. We also know that he was going to be in the best of the Star Trek movies. A genetically engineered superhuman from the 1990s (oh, the optimism!), he was king on primitive Earth, and expected to be king again in space. It doesn't work out well for him. Or anyone else.
Joe and Rita in Idiocracy
Joe and Rita are, as an experiment, cryogenically frozen for a year. That year turns into 500 years. In the future, after centuries of time during which the evolutionary pressure to be smart has been removed, the world is full of incredibly stupid people. Joe and Rita have to learn the inane rules of the culture, before they can dominate it.
Han Solo in Star Wars
Okay, he was only frozen for a short time, and he was frozen in carbonite, but he certainly did wake up in a very different world.
David in Vanilla Sky
David seems to be wandering in a world of madness. A crazy woman is stalking him. A prosecutor is insisting that he has committed murder. He keeps having weird visions. And it comes to him that, maybe, he isn't in that world. Maybe he is dreaming, in a cold, icy place, waiting to wake up.
Everyone in Life on Mars U.S.
Similarly, this time-traveling cop show is actually the hallucination of a guy who's in deep freeze on his way to actual Mars. Or... is it? Yes, it is.
Amy in Across the Universe
The Godspeed is a spaceship traveling, slowly, to a new planet, that people will terraform and populate. The grunts will live, for generations, within the walls of the spaceship. The elite, who know how to set up on a new planet, are frozen and carried in the hold. Among them is Amy, the teenage daughter of two very important frozen people. When she's accidentally unfrozen decades before the ship reaches its destination, she's shocked by the culture that's evolved on the ship — and she knows that the people who run it are covering something up.
The Crew of the Elysium in Pandorum
In the year 2174, humanity has overrun the globe, and sends out an ark ship with a 60,000 humans to a neighboring planet. Again, the elite are frozen, and wake to find something is not right. Particularly because the ship is mostly abandoned, and everyone who's left seems to be a Morlock.
Everyone in Lockstep
Toby, a teenager and survivor of a space catastrophe, is about to go into cryosleep above what looks like a dead planet. He wakes 14,000 years later to find that he is in a civilization where everyone does that. People sleep for decades, and wake for a few weeks. And it appears that his own family rules this civilization.
Many thanks to Madeleine Monson-Rosen and Ryan Plummer, our new culture research fellows, for helping me track down fictional human popsicles.