Top 10 Depictions Of The Devil On Film!

With the release of M. Night Shayamalan€™s Devil on DVD and Blu-ray yesterday, OWF was challenged with chronicling the ten greatest performances by an actor/actress as the lord of the underworld! Shayamalan€™s horror/thriller €“ which sees a group of people trapped in an elevator begin to realise that the Devil is amongst them€ - is one of the haphazard director€™s better offerings of late and engages an interesting narrative. However, the Devil, Lucifer, Satan, Mephistopheles (or whatever you want to call the epitome of evil!) have featured in film from as early as 1896 and a variety of talent has portrayed the character. Whether it has been for comedic effect or to generate fear in an audience, there have been some fantastic performances within the role. Below are, in my opinion, the ten best. Of course, as there have been no less than 725 known productions featuring the Prince of Darkness, picking ten has been an almighty challenge!

10. BEDAZZLED (2000)

In order to win the girl of his dreams, hopeless geek Elliot Richards (Brendan Fraser) agrees to sell his soul for 7 wishes after he meets an extremely seductive Devil (Elizabeth Hurley) in a bar. As he makes each of his wishes, the manipulative Devil manages to prevent him from getting girl. Will love win out or will Elliot€™s soul become property of the Devil? Whilst Bedazzled is hardly cinema at it€™s greatest, Liz Hurley€™s Devil had to chart simply for being in that bikini! As the distinctly un-scary and far too hot Satan, Hurley camps it up and becomes every boy€™s adolescent fantasy (including me! And yes, I did have a giant poster of the lovely Liz sprawled across the floor with a snake €“ despite having an embarrassing and irrational fear of the slithery beasts!). A remake of the 1967 classic starring Peter Cook, Dudley Moore and Raquel Welch, this contemporary version is full of gags that provide basic chuckles, but is essentially a film about eye-candy and aesthetic pleasure. Despite her rather wooden acting, it€™s Liz Hurley€™s performance as the Devil that remains with you €“ I mean come on, if the Devil really was that beautiful€my soul is sold!


JB (Jack Black) and KG (Kyle Gass) are two slackers that form a friendship when they meet on Venice Beach. Out of this bond the rock band Tenacious D is born€ On a quest to become the greatest rock band in history, the boys go on the hunt for a mythical guitar pick that may just answer their prayers€ Pick of Destiny is certainly a ridiculous film that really doesn€™t deserve a place on any top ten. Let€™s just say if cinema is art, this is equivalent to some chavvy, badly sprayed graffiti tag! Having said that, it doesn€™t claim to be anything more, making it highly comical entertainment that doesn€™t involve brain engagement! Plus, it features the effortlessly cool Dave Grohl (of Nirvana and Foo Fighters fame) as the earthly form of Lucifer himself€ Challenging the Devil to a €œrock off€, the duo manages to banish the demon from whence he came, despite losing. With it€™s tongue firmly in it€™s cheek, Pick of Destiny makes the Lord of the Underworld both comical and a legend of rock€what could be cooler?

08. THE EVIL (1978)

Psychologist C.J. Arnold (Richard Crenna) buys a dilapidated old mansion and sets about re-modelling it into a drug rehabilitation centre with the assistance of Caroline (Joanna Pettet), his wife and colleague, plus a host of his students. When a cross is removed from a stone door from the basement, Satan is released and starts preying on everyone within the house. The group€™s only hope is to call on the ghostly resident who built the house for help€ The Evil is typical 1970s horror fare and whilst it may not be the most memorable film on this list it does feature a fantastic performance by Victor Buono as Satan. Buono €“ whose legacy has been all but forgotten by many €“ shot to fame in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) as the creepy and vulgar Edwin Flagg after a series of small television roles. Equally vile in Hush€Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964), Buono had a great skill in playing grotesque and unnerving characters. Here, his portrayal of the Devil is the most memorable aspect of the film (despite his rather ridiculous costume and make up) and better than the rest of the material and performances actually demand. The fact that he only appears briefly during the climax of the narrative in my opinion is a shame. However, his inclusion in the film generally splits opinion on whether it ruins it or not€


Faustus (Richard Burton), a PHD student of Wittenburg University, is not happy with only possessing a doctorate. His insatiable thirst for knowledge leads him to conjure up Mephistopheles (Andreas Teuber) from Hell. Signing a pact in blood, Faustus agrees to sell his soul to Lucifer (David McIntosh) in return for 24 years of having Mephistopheles as a slave and having the secrets of the Devil€™s power revealed to him€ A faithful representation of Christopher Marlowe€™s dark, moralistic play from 1588, Doctor Faustus is one of Richard Burton€™s lesser-known vehicles €“ a permanent record of the stage version of the play in which he starred. Featuring a silent cameo from Elizabeth Taylor as Helen of Troy, the film was vehemently criticised for this and subsequently slipped into relative obscurity. However, in addition to Burton€™s powerhouse performance as the necromantic scientist, Teuber and McIntosh€™s performances as Mephistopheles and Lucifer respectively are also extremely accomplished. With a definite stage presence about them, both actors provide the best classical interpretations of demons from the underworld. Doctor Faustus may not be to everybody€™s taste, but with a host of exceptional performances it does offer a fantastically evil portrayal of the Prince of Darkness.

06. LEGEND (1985)

In this fantasy action film, Darkness (Tim Curry) attempts to destroy daylight and instil an eternal night time over the forest by killing the last of the unicorns and marrying Lili (Mia Sara), a fairy princess. However, Jack (Tom Cruise) and his elf comrades band together to battle Darkness and save the forest and Jack€™s true love, Lili€ Legend is probably the worst film on this list €“ a true slice of 80s cheese! However, the only redeeming feature is Tim Curry€™s Darkness. Whilst he is utterly ridiculous and over the top to a fault, there€™s something oddly entertaining about his performance (and pant-wettingly terrifying if you€™re a child upon your first viewing!). Curry also embodies the most traditional image of the Devil, with his post box red complexion, exaggerated horns and claw-esque, black fingernails. Today the image looks comical, but as the Devil has often been characterised in this way throughout various mediums in history, as a child Curry seems entirely realistic€ Since I have refused to watch this since seeing it as an 8 or 9 year old, the story has failed to stick with me. However, Curry€™s eerie performance is unfortunately locked in my childhood memory forever more€

05. CONSTANTINE (2005)

John Constantine (Keanu Reeves) is a supernatural detective who has been to Hell and returned after committing suicide as a young man. Hoping to earn a place in Heaven, he spends his time trying to send demons back to where they came from €“ an attempt to prevent returning to Hell upon his death. When Angela Dodson (Rachel Weisz) approaches him and asks her to help prove her twin sister€™s death was not a suicide, Constantine accepts. Upon investigating, the detective discovers that demons are trying to enter the human world. The only way to stop them seems to be facing Satan (Peter Stormare) himself€ Based on the DC/Vertigo comic book Hellblazer, Constantine has been criticised by audiences and fans of the original material alike. However, Peter Stormare€™s performance as Satan is thoroughly gripping stuff. As a strong character actor Stormore€™s Devil is extremely disturbing and sinister. Visually, his make up (accentuated dark, sunken eyes and a sickly pale pallor) adds a demonic element to the character and emphasises the fundamental evil within him. Whilst opinions are split on the film overall, the special effects remain dark and impressive, as do Stormore and Weisz€™s performances.


When Kevin Lomax (Keanu Reeves) €“ a young lawyer €“ joins a New York City law firm run by John Milton (Al Pacino), he becomes increasingly perplexed by his boss€™s peculiar personality. It doesn€™t take long, however, for Lomax to realise that he is working for the Devil himself€ Many have argued that Pacino€™s performance as Lucifer€™s earthly presence is extremely over the top and verging on the edge of camp. However, as a fan of Pacino€™s work, whilst I find his performance rather extreme, I also can€™t help but think that it€™s thoroughly engaging. As well as Pacino€™s Milton, the narrative boasts a complexity that isn€™t often the case with many of Hollywood€™s thrillers: focusing on the overbearing American values of materialism and ambition, The Devil€™s Advocate is as much a critique of American morality as it is a thriller about working for Lucifer.

03. ROSEMARY€™S BABY (1968)

When Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse (Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes) move into an apartment building that has a bad reputation, they are pleased to find that there neighbours are a friendly elderly couple (Ruth Gordon and Sydney Blackmer). However, when Rosemary begins to have strange dreams and falls pregnant with no explanation, Guy becomes withdrawn and spends an increasing amount of time with the neighbours. As Rosemary becomes paranoid over her baby€™s safety, the horrific truth of her conception comes to light€ This is the only film on this list that doesn€™t feature a fully-fledged performance by an actor as the Devil and in all honesty it is probably all the more successful precisely because of this! Director Roman Polanski builds a suitable air of tension and confusion, which generates a feeling of unease and fear throughout. When the Devil is briefly revealed through one of Rosemary€™s twisted dreams as a monster raping her, Polanski successfully reveals enough to strike fear in the audience whilst simultaneously withholding enough to let the audiences€™ imaginations take over and generate even more fear. Whilst this isn€™t technically a €œperformance€ as the Prince of Darkness, Polanski€™s nightmare vision is certainly one of the most successful films with a satanic plot.


When the Duc de Richeleau€™s (Christopher Lee) young friend Simon (Patrick Mower) gets embroiled with the powers of darkness it is down to him €“ with the assistance of his other friend Rex (Leon Greene) €“ to save the young man. With an academic knowledge of the dark arts, the Duc soon finds himself and Rex locked in a battle of will and influence with Mocata (Charles Gray), he leader of the cult€ The power of The Devil Rides Out lays less in one performance of the Devil than in it€™s brilliant generation of an air of mystery, suspense and horror. Having aged better than much of the typical Hammer fare, this film remains unnerving and extremely effective throughout much of the narrative. When the Goat of Mendes (played by stunt man Eddie Powell) €“ which is apparently the Devil himself €“ appears, the scene is fraught with tension and action. The Devil Rides Out places so highly on this list not only for this scene (which still freaks me out, even as a fully grown adult!), but for it€™s wider engaging and terrifying narrative!


Three sexually and emotionally repressed women have their wishes granted when the strange and vulgar Daryl Van Horne (Jack Nicholson) arrives in their town. Despite being less than handsome, Van Horne manages to easily seduce the women €“ Alexandra (Cher), Jane (Susan Sarandon) and Sukie (Michelle Pfeiffer) €“ allowing each of them to come into their sexual and emotional own. It isn€™t long, however, before each of the women begin to realise how and why Van Horne has such an immense power over each of them€ Jack Nicholson€™s unique looks and distinct acting style have perhaps never been put to such good use as they are here! Resplendent with black comedy, as well as some truly horrific imagery (the plum stone vomiting anyone!?), The Witches of Eastwick is a thoroughly enjoyable film. Nicholson is both hilarious and intimidating as Van Horne and his no holds barred performance verges on camp and ridiculous at times, yet always remains enjoyable. With just the right amount of evil mixed with humour, Nicholson€™s Prince of Darkness just wants to have fun€and is definitely the best on film in my opinion! If you have any more favourites, leave a comment below and let us know!

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