Horror movies have a huge roster of villains and monsters at their disposal. Demented slashers, brain dead zombies and ancient vampires are just some of the many horror creations which have killed hundreds of hapless victims on our movie screens over the years. However, none of these creations can stand up to the father and creator of all that is evil – the Devil. The following movies are some of the best to have featured the Devil (or some of his demons) in a memorably or creative way, and it’s clearly a role that most actor’s gleefully make the most of.
10. Devil’s Advocate (1997)
Al Pacino is known for his showy, brash performances, but he’s at his most over the top in Devil’s Advocate. The movie follows Kevin Lomax; a promising young lawyer (played by Keanu Reeves) who is offered a job at the biggest legal firm in the world. However, the offer contains more than meets the eye and Kevin’s world is turned upside down when his boss John Milton (Al Pacino) takes a keen interest in him. Of course, it’s ultimately revealed that Milton is the Devil himself and he’s hatching a plot to create the Antichrist. It’s an interesting concept and too few movies take advantage of the idea of the Devil being a ‘snake in a suit’ – a charming man who stays in plain sight and has considerable, earthly power, i.e. the head of the world’s biggest legal firm.
9. End of Days (1999)
Taking full advantage of the impending ‘Y2K’ panic, End of Days stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as a disgruntled ex-cop who is roped into Satan’s plan to bring forth the Antichrist on the turn of the millennium. Despite Schwarzenegger’s attempts to make his character deeper and more nuanced than his usual roles, the movie still falls into the formulaic trappings of the action genre and suffers from having the stoic action megastar at its helm. However, End of Days is worth watching for Gabriel Byrne’s inspired take on Satan. Portraying the Devil with just the right amount of charm and cool menace, he plays the part with gleeful mischievous and a slick attitude.
8. Fallen (1998)
Plenty of movies feature the Devil or other demons calmly mingling with mere mortals who are totally oblivious to their true presence, and this idea of an unseen demonic presence is very powerful and sinister. Fallen is an underrated supernatural crime thriller starring Denzel Washington as a police detective who is being pursued by the demon Azazel. Washington’s character is responsible for bringing a serial killer to justice, but after the man is executed his killings start happening again and it is revealed that his work was that of a demon the whole time. Fallen has a wonderfully creepy tone as Azazel is able to possess anyone he touches. Choosing to taunt Washington rather than kill him, the demon keeps singing the Rolling Stones’ ‘Time is On My Side’ throughout the movie. In one of its most memorable scenes, Azazel passes through a crowd possessing people and sings the song as he passes between each person.
7. Frailty (2001)
Frailty is a solid but often overlooked horror movie directed by (and starring) Bill Paxton. Playing a blue collar dad of two, Paxton’s character is suddenly visited one night by an angel who tells him to act as God’s weapon. He is given instruments which allow him to capture and kill demons (gloves, a lead pipe and an ax) and a list of names. Told from the perspective of his two sons, Frailty plays with the audience and is coy about whether the father is telling the truth or if he’s just had a mental breakdown. However, the ending shows that he could actually see demons the whole time, and it’s a huge revelation which changes the central concept of the movie. The thought of demons living among us and performing unspeakable acts as part of their nature is an unsettling, creepy idea and Frailty makes the most of it.
6. The Omen (1976)
Horror series The Omen can be almost entirely credited with the responsibility of forever associating the name Damien with the Devil. Creepy children are a staple of the horror genre, but The Omen has the dubious honour of featuring one of the most evil young boys to ever exist. Although the antichrist is at the centre of the movie, he hasn’t really come into his powers yet. Instead, he is protected by a group of Satanists and a large black dog (which is meant to be a Hellhound) throughout his youth. This idea of Satan’s interfering, all-seeing little helpers looking after his progeny gives the Omen an unforgettably tense and paranoid atmosphere.
5. The Passion of the Christ (2004)
Mel Gibson’s take on the Catholic depiction of the Passion is a hugely ambitious and controversial movie set around Christ’s last days. Not only is the movie’s dialogue entirely in Latin and Aramaic, but it also contains extended gratuitous violence during the scenes where Jesus is scourged and crucified. However, even more shocking is the movie’s depiction of the Devil. Portrayed as an androgynous bald person (the part is played by an actress but her voice was digitally altered in post-production to sound deeper), the Devil makes brief appearances throughout the movie as it meets with Jesus and later taunts him when he is led to his execution. In a horrifying scene, the Devil carries a disfigured baby which laughs at Jesus’ suffering when he sees them in the crowd. The powerful visual is reminiscent of Madonna iconography, but it is a deliberately distorted and grotesque mockery of the religious imagery.
4. South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999)
The creators of South Park have always gleefully courted controversy when it comes to their characters and storylines, so it should really come as no surprise to hear that their depiction of Satan in the South Park movie is less conventional than expected. Satan’s horned, red-skinned appearance is spot on, but his character is portrayed as being in a homosexual relationship with Saddam Hussein. Sharing a bed in Hell, Satan is (quite surprisingly) the emotional one in the partnership and all he really wants is domestic bliss with Saddam. Of course, it’s all a bizarre, tongue in cheek take on the Prince of Darkness, but it deserves a special mention for just how absurd it is.
3. Legend (1985)
No movie has ever come as close to depicting the traditional image of the Devil as well as 80s fantasy movie Legend. Although the character is referred to as Darkness in the movie, the huge black horns, goat legs and crimson red skin make it clear that he is an ancient evil. Darkness is an imposing, impressive sight and his appearance brings immense presence to the character. Director Ridley Scott wisely cast British character actor Tim Curry in the role after being impressed by his work in Rocky Horror Picture Show. This may sound like a strange decision given the huge differences between the two movies, but Curry brings a theatrical, melodramatic edge to the part and ensures that the character is threatening on a very primal level.
2. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Roman Polanksi’s take on the antichrist eschews traditional horror movie conventions by focusing more on psychological tension and suspense rather than a classic good vs evil type scenario. Rosemary (played by Mia Farrow) and her husband move into a new apartment, and she is quickly convinced that something is amiss with their eccentric, interfering elderly neighbours. When Rosemary falls pregnant, she begins experiencing agonising stomach pain and a craving for raw meat and she becomes increasingly paranoid about what is really happening to her. The Devil is shown in the scene where Rosemary ‘dreams’ that she is being been raped by a bizarre demonic presence, and the movie only briefly shows shots of the Devil’s yellow animals eyes and his claw-like hands. Although the Devil’s screentime is brief, his malevolentl influence hangs heavy throughout the entire movie. The devil is an inescapable evil, and there are no last minute rituals or get-out clauses which can save the doomed Rosemary.
1. Angel Heart (1987)
Alan Parker’s trippy thriller Angel Heart is another stylish movie which relies on psychological horror to keep audiences guessing until the very end. The highlight of the movie is Robert Deniro’s portrayal of Louis Cyphre who, as the name suggests, is Lucifer himself. He’s an enigmatic presence who is very deliberate and careful with his actions and his speech. With tied back hair, long fingernails and a stylish dress sense, the character somehow manages to stand out while simultaneously blending in. In one of the movie’s most memorable scenes, he calmly discusses the notion of a soul while peeling a hard boiled egg before taking a ravenous bite out of the snack. It’s an example of some of the character’s understated, odd behaviour which makes Robert Deniro’s performance so interesting and intense.