10 Most Amazingly Devilish Embodiments of Satan in Film


Evil—We see it represented in a variety of ways in any number of Horror films. Various directors and writers try to mystify our senses with interpretations that are subtle and use some of the most mundane concepts. Like fear of the dark, fear of the unknown, and in some cases a combination of both and attempt at eloquent narratives of what lurks within.

Other films rely on levels of extremism—Larger amounts of blood, guts, gore; with myriad carnage and unbridled chaos. At least that’s what the production would like to believe you’re witnessing. While far other films use embodiment’s of creatures, monsters, interpretations of spiritual phenomena, and other things that we don’t want to encounter going bump in the night.

I love all of the above, because the basic rudimentary response these films want from us is to ‘feel’. And not in any sense of the word brought about by Bruce Lee or Yoda…to feel a primal response that inspires fight, flight, or even chilling catatonia. While some films fail at gaining these responses and instead gain laughter–judge that meritoriously if you choose. There are films that thrive on bringing out some of our greatest fears while bringing the perceived master of evil to life.

While there are many interpretations of the devil, all of them in some form or another are attempting to represent evil from its source—as believed to occur by 95% of the human population. The Devil, Lucifer, Satan, Iblis, Djinn (Jinn), Beelzebub, Moloch, Nidhogg, Ahriman, Mara, or any number of other invariably known titles that represent the embodiment of all evil.

Whichever representation you’ve seen, here are 10 amazingly cast and acted embodiment’s of evil, which we will now colloquially accept as ‘The Devil’, that are as haunting as they were enthralling to watch on the screen.

10. Jack Nicholson | The Witches of Eastwick

I struggled going through a list that was as authentic and accurate as possible. Attempting to leave my sensibilities out of the equation and when looking at the first entry that would essentially hold the (possibly) arbitrary spot of 10th; I was hard pressed to not omit Jack Nicholson’s amazing role in The Witches of Eastwick from this list.

A sort of contradiction to what you’d expect, a role that is more comedic and expansive in his varied monologues and almost becoming sanitary in his power over humanity as showcased by one of the best scenes in the film. Where these woman cause Jack to be blown into a church, followed by forcing him to purge violently as he monologues to the congregation. The role is still enthralling and whimsical as a point-in-case breakdown of what evil is to humanity and what it expects from us.

While not the most horrific (by any means) this portrayal of evil is still poignant in its attempts to sway and confuse the nature of belief and faith. For that, it is still relevant and important. But I will always strive to find a more suitable placeholder for this spot. For now it can remain. It is after all Jack…

9. Peter Fonda | Ghost Rider


I don’t choose this depiction lightly. Peter Fonda is, in my humble opinion, an objective choice (in my attempt) and the most worthwhile aspect of this particular film. He is absolutely evil and devout in his portrayal of the Devil as created under the mythos given by Marvel and Faust—in this film, Mephistopheles. Even the director stated in an interview that most interpretations of the devil are as “…goofballs.” He wanted to make Mephistopheles more stoic and dangerous. Someone not to be trifled with.

Fonda brings an almost disarmingly charming demeanor to Mephistopheles that brings about trust but immediately denotes status and power. Even when you know you’re making a deal with the devil. It’s the old adage of the ages. The hard path of the righteous or the easy path, paved in fame and fortune that ends with your soul in Hell. It worked interestingly well, even in this film which is one of Marvels famously blundered and partially failed franchises. Whether that failure is due to Hollywood wild-man Nick Cage, as evident by his horrendous reprisal in the sequel, or in general as the film entered awkward comic book ground. Fonda would only portray this role in the first film. Because of this, the first film will always carry a minor amount of success.

8. Max Von Sydow | Needful Things

This is an actor with so much gravitas he need but only show himself in a film for it to exponentially climb to a more eloquent and potent status of storytelling. Max Von Sydow was part of two separate films that impacts this particular subject. One of them is among the most prized of films in horror, which inspired a generation of filmmakers—The Exorcist. While not the devil in that film, many years later he’d find himself in a story adaptation of Stephen Kings Needful Things.

Needful Things is a very apt title for this tale. The devil comes to a small town (Castle Rock) embodied as an antiquities dealer and begins to slowly overtake the town, one member at a time. Among the most specific and defining of characters through subtlety, this version of the devil is simply doing what he does best. Acquiring souls away from Heaven.

A charming and insidious man, the perspectives of evil here are mostly defined by Stephen Kings writings. However, are unusually closer to what we’d expect human nature to define, within ourselves. Depending on your temperament for films that are heavier in dialogue and more fixated on interaction by expanding on psychological constructs that define the human condition. You may or may not find this film slower than most. Yet, if you have the temperament you may find yourself asking similar questions faced in the film as in the book. If you can stand it–there is an 11 hour audio book on youtube of the original novel that is fantastic!

7. Robert De Niro | Angel Heart

De Niro’s turn as Lucifer is instantly recognizable in his character name—Louis Ciphyre—and was a solid portrayal that gave De Niro a chance to play with a very different type of role. Even though De Niro has played all types of menacing characters, this is one of his best character roles and easily torments Mickey Rourke’s character, named Angel Harold—seemingly a play on the lyric “…hark the herald Angel sings, joy to the new born king.” A Christmas song depicting the birth of Christ as marked by an Angel.

Angel Heart was a wrenching psychological thriller as much as it was a tale of horror, paying the devil his due. The film pulls you in a variety of twists with De Niro tugging at your heartstrings in a manner that will rip them from your body. Rourke aids the feeling of dread throughout the film as the eventual epiphany of his situation becomes a reality. Strengthening De Niro’s performance.

6.  Gabriel Byrne | End of Days

End of Days was almost a sleeper title for Arnold Schwarzenegger but was an interesting entry for Gabriel Byrne; who also played a Priest in the film Stigmata. Byrnes’ portrayal of the devil in this film can almost be described as delicious if not devilishly scandalous. Everything from his earliest appearance on screen, giving what is now dubbed ‘The Devil’s Kiss’, to his arrival and taking of his servants’ wife and daughter, Doctor Abel (Udo Kier), in an unholy menage-et-trois; was exquisitely sinful and maniacally awkward all at the same time.

This particular interpretation yielded an interesting if not chilling concept of Satan in his true form that was just as haunting. Awkwardly enough, the film also yielded another special quote by Arnold that mocks the devil and proclaims: “You’re a choir boy compared to me…a choir boy!”

The film also gave us another monologue about the virtues of the devil versus the erroneous fallacies of God–as told and interpreted by the devil. Something we’ve grown accustomed to seeing in films that have similar plotlines. In this one it’s about a symbolic child who will grow up and consummate with Satan (in corporeal form) to bring about the Anti-Christ as the eponymously titled film also suggests—The End of Days.

Byrnes role is as memorable as he is chilling, straight-forward, and uncompromising as he attempts to represent the greatest of all evil. There was a hint of playfulness but always underlined with pure intent and malice.

5. Peter Stormare | Constantine


Even though the 2005 entry for Constantine was not very accurate to the comics, I still enjoyed the film thoroughly and loved the various (loosely) interpreted themes borrowed from the comics. Everything from the mirroring of Hell on Earth to the depiction of Gabriel. I even enjoyed (slightly) Djimon Hounsou’s version of Papa Midnight, even if he said: “Not in MY HOUSE!” more often than was necessary. Best overall was Peter Stormare and his small role as Lucifer, Satan, Son of Perdition, Little Horn—including the title of “Most unclean” as stated by Gabriel in the film. His role here is an internal debate of ones own sensibilities of what is trendy and interesting versus what is naturally satisfying within the parameters of what we’d identify as truly evil. Stormare was impeccable in the role. Everything from his tar-soaked feet, to his own moments of surprise and epiphany. It was almost artistically peppered with a flavor of cool that is hard to define as integral or gimmicky. You just felt a chill. Whether that chill was fear or just acknowledgement of how cool this interpretation was doesn’t really matter.

4. Viggo Mortenson | The Prophecy

One of the most awkwardly memorable cameo roles Viggo Mortensen ever performed is from this 1995 film. Almost as short as Peter Stormare’s entry in Constantine. Viggo mostly makes his presence known at the close of this film. While he isn’t the instrument that defeats the angel Gabriel, he does indeed rip out his heart. He has a few terrifying moments as he is speaking with Virginia Madsen’s character. Followed by the eating of Gabriel’s heart as Heaven opens and destroys the blackest soul on Earth. He has a poignantly creepy and last longing line before he’s beckoned to leave the mortal world: “I love you more than Jesus!” as blackened blood is smeared across his face. He also has other memorable and grim statements that chill to the bone.

Even though the film hasn’t aged gracefully in its near 20 years since releasing in theaters. It is still a cult-classic that can be enjoyed for it’s interesting interpretation of the incorporeal wars between Heaven and Hell. Stories with varied interpretations by those who believe in both realms and what the fight for the souls of humanity represents within their faiths.

Regardless of the film itself, Mortensen’s role as Lucifer, “The first Angel,” is still haunting to this day for anyone that saw this film in the 90’s.

3. Rosalinda Celentano | Passion of the Christ

This is a fully harrowing depiction of Satan trying to tempt Christ. Even if the various sources used to rebuild the film’s historical storyline were questioned by the Vatican itself. This movie was a landmark film for what it accomplished. Rosalinda was both hypnotic and frightening. To make it that much more powerful, the bulk of the film was in Aramaic and Latin. With most of her lines spoken in Aramaic.

There was a fancifully eerie power in her words.

If I can indulge in a momentary digression to a personal anecdote. My wife began to weep when Rosalinda spoke and she had to immediately leave the theater. It shocked her to her very core. While this film, is not, a “horror” film. It was criticized for its exquisitely specific ultra-violent scenes. It can almost (skirtingly) be classified as gore-porn. But that is a disservice to the representation of the film. Which is in-itself a heavy interpretation of the final hours of Christ. Which if you are part of that 95% of humanity that believes in a deity in some form, would recognize that this is probably the most specific portrayal of what you’ve been reading in the bible.

2. Al Pacino | The Devil’s Advocate

It’s hard to place comparisons that may end up being subjective in a list like this. For that reason I’ve stayed away from the comedic interpretations that are not necessarily focused on the attempted realities this type of character portrays in film.

Very few actors have been able to truly embody the nature of the devil, as we generally try to presume we understand him, none as much as Al Pacino. The Devil’s Advocate wasn’t a film I’d generally state was the best of the listing but I’d wager to argue that Pacino is among the best human embodiment’s of the role.  Everything from his swagger, to his delivery. His arrogance and his subtleties. Out of the many films ranging in this category to the much older variations of Hollywood interpretations from the early 1900’s through the 60’s. None have ever truly given the forceful impact Pacino gave in this role. It’s almost a shame, I’d rather have seen him in a film that was more culturally important with a more significant cast. Even though I enjoy Keanu Reeves. I have to wonder if this film had one of the greatest portrayals of the devil among weaker supporting actors. It could simply be that Pacino is simply a class all his own (which I’d debate he is) and any film is going to be elevated to that standard regardless if it is a serious attempt or a general psychological thriller.

1. Tim Curry | Legend

Personal opinion aside, This may be one of the truest and most accurate interpretations of evil captured on film. Not simply an embodiment of Lucifer as we generally understand it, but a fanciful approach to evil as normally described in contemporary writing in a fantasy context as told in a fairy-tale narrative. It is nearly genius on a level that has never been repeated on film. Tim Curry was so perfect in this role, anyone who has never seen this film (shame on you if you’re one of them) will usually be shocked when they realize it is Tim Curry underneath the makeup. Just as much as they’d be awed by the fact that Meg Mucklebones is Robert Picardo.

The other factor in this scenario that makes it so unbelievably fanciful is that the embodiment here is not a human puppet for the Devil to reside in. This is a corporeal representation manifested on Earth. Where goodness is embodied by mythical Unicorns. Which gives rise to a variety of other metaphysical questions.

Everything from his speech, to his mannerism, his laugh, his emotional outbursts, and even his smile are all case in point when reflecting on this character from an anthropological point of view. To something as simple, and possibly as trite, as this feature listing–which is intended as entertainment reading.

I usually challenge anyone to find a more complete interpretation, devoid of irritating social commentary, balanced in horror, scope, and portrayal. I’ve yet to get rebuttals that are far beyond Tim Curry’s “Darkness”. If I were to have ever had a gripe it is simply that the film is not truly a horror film. It is a fantasy epic, contained in one outing.


Honorable Mentions

I have to mention a few others to make sure that this is as complete a view as possible. with that said, Trey Parker in South Park is not a role I’m counting. In truth I’m not even concerned with the comedic interpretations by Elizabeth Hurley (Bedazzled), Harvey Keitel or Rodney Dangerfield in the same film (Little Nicky); let alone Foo Fighter’s front man Dave Grohl (Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny). Or even the Legendary George Burns in Oh God, You Devil—Because those are not really fitting for this article, let alone for this conversation.

The Honorable Mentions are Vincent Price’s The Story of Mankind. Clay Tanner in Rosemary’s Baby. Mohamen Mehdi Ouazanni’s small but memorable moments in the recent big screen adaptation of the History Channel mini-series The Bible and Ray Corrigan in the 1935 rendition of Dante’s Inferno.


Honorable Mentions that were not really the Devil

Normally I would stop at ‘Honorable Mention’ in a feature listing like this but I have to bring up the further point of why some of these films do not really count on this listing; because they are used heavily in various other online discussions and feature listings incorrectly–partially prompting me to write this list in a more comprehensive and complete manner.

Frank Welker and Charles Dance | The Golden Child

If you’re old enough to remember this cult classic, you’d likely remember what sounded like Dr. Claw (from Inspector Gadget) speaking in the fiery chasm that Sarda Numspa meditated into to speak to his “Lord” –the credits have him listed as “The Thing” which we never see in the film, and is highly considered to be a demon lord or devil of some form. It’s not necessarily Satan. Even if it was, I doubt any of us that ever watched Inspector Gadget could dismiss Frank Welker’s iconic voice. Sarda Numspa (also debated in nerd circles) was not the devil either. He is a demon general, or higher demon. He’s not Satan nor is he intended to be.

Jeff Goldblum | Mr. Frost

In this film another character overstates that Frost “…He is the devil incarnate.” But essentially for most intent and purposes, this is more of an allusion, Frost is a charming sociopathic serial killer. While there are many moments where the film tries to have you wonder about his supernatural status, there is nothing to show that he is the devil.

Michael Bradley | Hellraiser Franchise

I’m a huge fan of all of the Hellraiser films. Even the more cheesier entries and while they have minor interpretations of what Satan likely is; more importantly, excessively vivid sceneries of variations of Hell. Michael Bradley, the main antagonist in these films, is himself a man that was turned into the sadistic “Pinhead” –he is not Satan himself.

Linda Blair | The Exorcist

I still see heavy arguments that Linda Blair’s character was possessed by Satan in The Exorcist. This is entirely wrong as it is stated in the film she is overcome by a demon named Pazuzu.

Robert Judd | Crossroads (Papa Legba)

A wonderful film that uncovers a variety of topics that are fundamental to the arguments of selling ones soul for fame and power. The evil in this film that is claiming souls for fame is Papa Legba, the undertaker of the dead in Afro-Caribbean mythologies, mostly from Haitian Voodoo belief. A type of God referred to as a Loa spirit.




I hope you enjoyed this feature listing of the 10 Most Amazingly Devilish Embodiments of Satan in Film. There are over 500 Portrayals of Satan in film & Television — generally listed as either Satan, Lucifer, The Devil, or plainly as just Devil. Other interpretations are given their own names, as in some of the characters listed above. For the future, and posterity, I will write a piece on the 10 Most Amazingly Devilish Embodiments of Satan in Television, and eventually one representing Video Games. Even Heisenberg (Bryan Cranston) has portrayed Lucifer (Fallen) but that’s a story for another day. Did I mention a depiction you loved, hated? Do you agree or disagree?

Whether you’re moved to tears, scared stiff, or inspired to laugh at the various incarnations of evil on the silver screen. Satan is a figure that is as much part of our culture, for those who are faithful & religious, as he is for those who are not. Evil in our contemporary world has taken a more anesthetic form in modern cutlure. But for those that love film. We’ll still flock to the theaters for a good interpretation of evil for the simplest of reasons. For me, it’s to get my blood pumping.

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By @EmanuelFCamacho

Writer | Unreality

E.F. Camacho “Manny” is an award winning author & producer of independent films. He writes about everything, reviews film, television, comics, and books. Here @ Unreality he’ll be writing about Horror, Science Fiction, and Mystery in Films,Television & Video Games. Check out more from Manny Camacho here @ Unreality and @ Comic Book Movie, Flickering Myth, What Culture! and GuardianLV | If you see him at a convention, give him a Pepsi–he’ll love you forever.

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  1. Mr. Dark was really cheesy, right down to the picture of the boys on his hand. He’d rate somewhere in the top 25-30. I remember watching this film when I was younger and getting excited over seeing The Master from (Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome) in the film. That was the extent to which this film moved me…and I saw it when I was very young. I watched through some of it when I was working through this list…It has aged very poorly vs say The Exorcist, Angel Heart, or even End of Days.

  2. Trey Parker’s Satan in South Park is at least worth a nod. He does a great job of subverting every expectation by portraying the character as sensitive and effeminate.

    1. It’s really not worth a nod…to be blunt and honest. It’s a cartoon that focuses much of its time on satirical and sarcastic puns on the ridiculous aspects of life hyperactively alluded to a level that diminishes the stupidity of their acts. I love South Park and I get it. But That is not a real interpretation or embodiment of Satan. It’s a cartoon with a voice and for the most part done for humor and pure entertainment, not to move, cause one to emote, or affect deep and critical thought.

      If you felt it was, great…more power to you. But not for this list. 🙂

  3. Hi, hate to nitpick but in the Hellraiser series; if you are talking about Pinhead; the lead Cynobite; he is played by Doug Bradley and not Michael Bradley. Great article though.

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