He has a variety of disguises, aliases, and personas. As far as I can tell, he hasn’t slowed down since the dawn of time. While those contemplating a confrontation know he’s heard it all before, they persist in the hope that their bluff will pay off. While he’s the embodiment of dread, Christian Bale may casually praise him for inspiring a performance since he’s a figure of fun. Filmmakers are presented with many intriguing options when portraying Satan as a character: Do you expect him to come out swinging or will you take his threats at their intended meaning? We don’t know what kind of person this guy is going to be.
Paste has compiled a list of the Top 25 Devils in Film in honor of one of humanity’s oldest fictional characters (whether you believe he’s real or not). Our selections don’t all belong in the canon of cinema history, but they all have memorable cameos by the dark lord, demonstrating his irrational rage, animal attraction, penchant for playing with the lives of the living, and utter contempt for all that is good and pure. Thus, we have ranked them according to how powerful their demon is. In other situations, we’ve included films with characters that aren’t explicitly Satan, but who nonetheless reflect what he represents: pure evil.
15. The Day of the Beast (1988)
Father ngel (lex Angulo) carries a tremendous burden of knowledge, especially after he found the Antichrist will be born at midnight on Christmas Eve after burying his nose in “Bible Code” theory. To deal with the discovery of the Antichrist’s birth date, ngel has a specific strategy in mind: sinning as much as he possibly can.
It sounds like a fun time for the end times, but ngel is trying to curry favor with Satan in order to learn the exact location where the Antichrist will be born. It’s somewhere in Madrid, he’s sure of it. We have this mild-mannered man of God now plundering the poor, tripping over entertainers on the sidewalk, and even proposing that a dying man should “go to Hell.” A woman is injected with medications, and then some of her blood is sucked out.) The Beast’s Day is sacrilegious. This is blasphemy. In addition, it’s also a raunchy black comedy, which is what you’d expect from a film from lex de la Iglesia. ngel’s task isn’t made any easier by De la Iglesia’s Devil, of course. That’s not clever at all. It’s not easy to keep the film from becoming more horrifying as hapless schmuck ngel keeps attempting. Finally, De la Iglesia sticks to the standard “hooved and horned monster” depiction of Satan, which is a letdown after such an innovative display of heresy in the first two acts. Even Nevertheless, The Day of the Beast is one of the best depictions of Satan’s impact in all of Hell’s movies. In the words of Andy Crump
14. Angel Heart (1987)
Robert De Niro’s impeccable mannerisms and slightly Euro-trashy persona as Louis Cyphre, played by De Niro, are the perfect match for director Alan Parker’s dismal neo-noir. In only four sequences, De Niro makes a “special appearance” in the film’s credits, but his presence is both disturbing and superfluous, as he remains laconic and careful at all times. Cyphre appears to be more of a superficial cosplay than Satan’s actual incarnation, what with his talons-like fingernails, his nasty Seagal-esque beard, and his cane. We catch a whiff of the devil’s ultimate game while watching him consume a hardboiled egg, cracking its shell and sprinkling a frightening quantity of salt on its tip. He doesn’t have to put the film and our gumshoe protagonist (Mickey Rourke) through an increasingly terrifying ordeal to get what he wants, the finale he demands. For intimidation, he doesn’t need fingernails painted in bright colors; he doesn’t need all the salt. Angel Heart as a whole isn’t necessary at all. The devil is playing pranks on us all the time. In the words of Dom Sinacola —
13. The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941)
When it comes to the devil, he’s clever and always ready to explain that you’re entitled to the money he’s providing. Many different stories have been retold in the lengthy history of Satanic intercessions on Earth, and The Devil and Daniel Webster is one of the more recent examples. Mr. Scratch (a plain-looking Walter Huston) emerges from the strangely illuminated smoke and the scared screaming of barn animals as a result of Jabez Stone’s (James Craig) idle cursing in 1840 New Hampshire. A few months later, Jabez signs Mr. Scratch’s book and soon becomes the state’s wealthiest man. When the devil comes to collect, Jabez isn’t having it. Mr. Scratch’s skull merely explodes when an axe is thrown at it, thus it’s of little use. Former family friend and politician Daniel Webster (Edward Arnold) pleads for the nullification of Jabez’s contract, arguing that an American cannot be held to the agreement of a foreign prince. Scratch believes that “When the first injustice was done to the first Indian, I was there. I was there.” I was on the deck when the first slave ship set off for the Congo.” Dieterle contends that we are all susceptible to the temptation of evil. As long as the jury comprises Benedict Arnold and Captain Kidd and is presided over by a Salem witch trials judge, Mr. Scratch is ready to offer up a loan or jug of rum to the unsuspecting. Kevin Lowe, author
12. Fantasia (1940)
Fantasia’s “Chernabog” may be in this list of the greatest film Satans, but the musical film’s “Night on Bald Mountain” section was referred to by Walt Disney as depicting “Satan himself.” There you have it. What’s more, considering his imposing presence over Bald Mountain, this animated version of the archfiend would have provided little comfort to children watching Fantasia in the 1940s and 1950s. When Chernabog summons all manner of demonic spirits, including ghosts, goblins, witches, and ghouls, his demeanor appears to gleefully boast of his own grandeur. Dark fantasy epics like The Lord of the Rings or Hellboy might easily use the image as a world-ending menace to be vanquished. Even if the Angelus bell and the heavenly force it represents ultimately destroy him (or at least drive him back for a moment), there’s a certain discomfort even in victory. At times, it seems as though Chernabog will never give up, and we’ll all eventually succumb to him. And then there will be an absolute avalanche of mayhem. JIM VOREL, the author
11. Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny (2006)
Just a single line from an underappreciated but financially disastrous heavy metal comedy/musical… kitsch-y Sasquatch porn movie by The D tells you everything you need to know about the film’ s depiction of Lucifer: “I’m the Devil, and I’m a metalhead!” Tenacious D have finally gotten their hands on the titular pick, made from Dave Grohl’s chipped tooth, at the end of this impeccably accurate biopic about their ascent to popularity. They are ready to rock! KG and Jables are challenged to a rock-off by Satan, who rips through hell’s burning cracks. The Devil will let them go if The D prevails. A victory for Satan means that KG will be his sexual slave and be forced to gargle copious amounts of “Devil’s mayonnaise” in hell if he wins. It’s only natural that Satan’s drummer, Grohl, would shred his cymbals. Is there any hope for KG’s tender behind? Featuring a devil that sounds like a hoarse 1980s Kathleen Turner after a long night of karaoke, The Pick of Destiny is a wet dream of a ’80s metal cover with its representation of the ultimate devotion of all things metal. —Oktay Ege Kozak
10. Time Bandits (1981)
Evil is always on the lookout for ways to appear genuine, therefore it will do anything to avoid being noticed. In Time Bandits, David Warner’s cosmic enemy, the ultimate manifestation of evil hunts down Kevin (Craig Warnock) and a crew of mischievous small people who have stolen a map from him that allows them to travel through holes in time and space. This banality lies at the center of the opponent. There is a lot of fun, whimsy and nonsense mixed in with more than a fair amount of somber moments in this film. Warner (credited just as “Evil”) is attempting to conquer and reshape the world in his own image, one that is both efficient and cold. If you know what’s good for you, don’t even think of touching the charred remains of him if you’re a hero. Lowe, Kenneth —
9. The Witch (2015)
‘Wouldn’t it be nice to have a good time?’ You’d do it, of course. Only after she’s been subjected to the devastation of everything her family has suppressed does Black Phillip ask this of our young puritan Tomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy). At first, the goat just stood there, staring blankly and listening to Tomasin’s screaming into his ears as she was smeared with the blood of everyone she knew. But the goat eventually had to step in and kill the religious oppressors in his path so he could become a man-sized shadow and convince Tomasin to sign her soul away to him. Robert Eggers’ The Witch shows how simple it is for religious fanatics to be victimized, as the devil gives Tomasin the opportunity to cast off her spirituality’s weight and soar across the night sky. In the words of Dom Sinacola —
8. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009)
The music of Tom Waits, the musician, takes some getting used to: In addition to the fact that he lacks what most of us consider a true “singing voice,” his eclecticism in terms of musical styles and eras makes him an odd choice for new listeners. His voice, on the other hand, complements his style, and over the course of his career, he’s learned to play one of the best screen versions of the devil in Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, a movie that’s less interesting for what it is than what it could have been in an alternate dimension where Heath Ledger doesn’t pass away before his time. A sage caught in an endless wager with the main character, Mr. Nick, Waits portrays Mr. Nick, a long-standing adversary to the eponymous character. Nick’s ignorance is symbolized by Parnassus’ enlightenment. It’s up to you to guess who wins the bet.
In spite of his modest demeanor, Waits has a deep, gravelly “you’re damned forever” voice, paired with a nonchalant coldness befitting his legacy, The carrot of hope he can always dangle in front of Parnassus’ face, getting him on the hook, and keeping him there for all time, is also something he’s skilled at using as a taunt. Waits relishes every chance to watch the good doctor’s good fortunes end, because every bet holds out the hope that things will turn around for him. Because only the Devil can enjoy himself, no one else will be able to. In the words of Andy Crump
7. Constantine (2005)
When the Devil himself puts your name on his hit list, you’re some kind of demon-killing rock star. In the way-better-than-it-gets-credit-for comic adaptation, which didn’t really bring many character attributes from the comics, this is the reputation that precedes Keanu Reeves’ John Constantine (the title character). There are some memorable pictures and some fantastic scenery-chewing in this film, not the least of which is provided by Peter Stormare’s Satan, who makes a very brief cameo yet left one of the biggest memories amongst everyone in the cast. Lucifer despises Constantine and looks forward to bringing him to hell in his one moment in the film, which depicts him as a well-dressed outcast playing at being the boss. The Prince of Lies is a sadist, isn’t he? It’s enough to cure a man of cancer out of retaliation for something. Kevin Lowe, author
6. Legend (1985)
In so many movies, the Devil appears as a human. This is frequently done in order to make a point about his innate ability to entice and persuade. The majority of the time, however, it’s just because it’s feasible. It takes a lot of time and effort to transform an actor into a ridiculous character. While filming Legend, Ridley Scott said “no” to all that, making Tim Curry the ideal movie devil if you believe the character should be physically bestial. In the second most terrifying sexuality of Curry’s career, “Darkness” wants to marry Lili (Mia Sara), murder the only unicorn in the world, and bring about endless night by forcing her into a marriage with him. He’s a complete and utter scumbag, and he revels in it. Kevin Lowe, author
5. Häxan (1922)
In 2019, it’s amusing and disconcerting to watch Häxan, also known as Witchcraft through the Ages. A modern audience may be surprised to learn that this silent film was already satirical about witchcraft and Satanism at the time of its release, as we tend to link silent film with a bygone era of cultural naiveté.. In this way, Häxan shows that our own “contemporary” skepticism about the church is not a new development, but rather an extension of the attitude captured by European filmmakers like Benjamin Christensen a century before. And yet, the diabolical visual Christensen creates in Häxan may be truly repulsive on occasion. Hairy and disheveled, with a tongue lolling out, the “devil” is shown in the most disgusting and bestial of ways. Although this image would be lost in the sound era of cinema, it is somehow frightening and otherworldly when viewed in quiet. The footage of Satan in Häxan looks like it was taken from a vault of esoteric artifacts that no one should have access to. It’s much stranger in high definition. Finally, Häxan feels like a picture that has strayed from the present and into the past. While you’d like to laugh at it, an unseen voice tells you that it’s not a good idea. >>>>>>>>>>
4. Faust (1926)
For all of his sins and misdeeds, the devil is also one of the most tragic characters in the Bible. In various interpretations of German Expressionism, no amount of planning or manipulating can bring him a win over the authority. In spite of this, Mephisto (Emil Jannings) remains an intimidating and threatening presence. When the archangel bets he can corrupt the mortal Faust, he unleashes a horrible illness and then entices the weak alchemist to invoke his name for help (the payoff is the sum of all the mortal souls of mankind… no pressure). Most sequences in the film feature Jannings, and at times he appears to be the movie’s protagonist. As when he fools around with a mortal woman, he is disarmingly buffoonish. He is also unfathomably powerful, calling skeletal armies and looming over towns with black wings that dwarf mountains.
Even more terrifying than the obnoxious display of power is Faust’s initial encounter with him—an elderly guy with an evil grin and glowing eyes, tipping his hat to the horrified Faust, who is powerless to escape. But despite Mephisto’s ability to grant and revoke youth, heal and strike, get run over by a jealous prince and then just step in from offstage and slay his attacker in kind, we know he will lose. Though he may end Faust’s life, he has no power on his character. Lowe, Kenneth —
3. South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999)
In Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s portrayal of Satan, the dark lord’s ability to falsetto is unquestionable. The duo combines the traditional Christian red-horned demon appearance with the gay stereotype of the 1990s. Satan laments the fact that he can’t enjoy the pleasures of the material plane, which in his imagination is full of hot sailors lathered in oil sipping cocktails on cruise ships, because he has to stay in hell and attend to the daily business of torturing the damned during his big musical number, which is clearly inspired by The Little Mermaid’s “Part of Your World.” Although Parker portrays a sinister character, deep down, Satan is a kind and caring spirit. Saddam Hussein (Stone), his cruel and unappreciated boyfriend, is the actual problem here. According to Saddam Hussein, his plan for mobilizing an army of conservative moms against Terence and Philip’s dirty mouth will undoubtedly lead to nuclear war with Canada. Saddam Hussein’s reign of terror has been halted by the intervention of Satan, who finally grows a pair. In this case, what’s the point? This Satan’s true motives remain a mystery. —Oktay Ege Kozak
2. The Devil’s Advocate (1997)
The crafty and subtle trickster who works in the shadows and whispers terrible plot ideas into the ears of his human playthings isn’t where you’ll find him. Al Pacino’s well-known no-fucks-given era in the late ’90s bolstered this incarnation of the Devil with a booming personality, transparent thirst for ultimate power, and the libido a rabbit on Viagra. When Al Pacino’s devil, a.k.a. New York City mega-lawyer John Milton, isn’t busy chewing scenery and delivering long-winded and bug-eyed monologues about how God is both a spineless pussy and an abusive tyrant, Keanu Reeves’ Anti-Christ and the end of times are being brought about by Pacino’s devil, a.k.a. aw-shucks southern He only needs to convince Reeves’ lawyer to get his half-sister (Connie Nielsen) pregnant by raw-dogging her and getting her pregnant. Your family was already messed up, and here you believed they were messed up. —Oktay Ege Kozak
1. The Prophecy (1995)
An old saying goes like this: “The devil knows more because he’s old than he does since he’s the devil” in various Spanish-speaking countries: Many movies have dealt with Satan’s incomprehensible age, which is an unquantifiable advantage (or simply play it for laughs). Gabriel (Christopher Walken) is a jealous angel who seeks to sneak the soul of a recently slain war criminal into the body of a young girl in order to pursue a petty fight with God. The Prophecy is an admittedly weird movie with an authentically “90s gothic punk” premise. When Lucifer, played by Viggo Mortensen, appears toward the end of the film to explain the cosmic struggle to our hapless characters, they are taken aback by his hissing and growling appearance.
Mortensen stated in an interview that “The Devil can be anything. Has the ability to perform any task. To be clear, he doesn’t need to scream. “He has a lot of clout.” To make his point, Mortensen’s Devil doesn’t have to scream. It’s enough to make you wonder if Elias Koteas’ overmatched hero would die if he simply talked to this guy, even if he only gives him a pep talk. When he intercedes during a Native American exorcism rite and inspires panic in others, that’s when he really sells his immortality. They’ve lost their place in the chant and Lucifer feeds them their next lines impatiently, like you or I might a child who’s taking too long to lead the Pledge of Allegiance. They’re all astonished now. All of the above in one sentence: boredom, disgust, and encyclopedic knowledge. With his age, he’s matured, but that doesn’t stop him from relishing the notion of snaring one or two more unfortunate souls before departing. “I love you,” he shrieks through his bloody teeth, beseeching and imploring at the same time. You have my undying devotion. Lowe, Kenneth —