Satan, or Lucifer, Lord of the Lies, The Most Unclean, or whatever you prefer to call him, is one of the most prominent figures of evil in all the literature. This fallen Angel is in charge of Hell, where he tortures the souls of the sinners. However, in cinematic terms, the role of Satan is one of the biggest challenges for an actor. Therefore, the actual physical portrayals of Satan are rare, but when actors do it right, the results are pretty remarkable. This top ten list will present the best portrayals of Satan in the movies and TV shows.
10. Juliette Caton in "The Last Temptation of Christ" (1988)
In Martin Scorsese's "The Last Temptation of the Christ," Satan is featured in many forms. However, he was most effective as a caring little angel girl played by Juliette Caton. During his first trip into the desert, Christ has been tempted by many forms of Satan; he meets a snake, a lion, a fire pillar, and an apple tree. Neither of them wavers Jesus' faith.
However, while he was on the cross, Christ saw a young angel girl. She convinces him that he has done enough for humanity and that God loves him and wants him to be happy. Christ renounces his martyrdom and keeps living a comfortable life until he realizes it was just another Satan's trick. Satan is truly the most dangerous when he takes the shape of innocence.
9. Viggo Mortensen in "The Prophecy" (1995)
A long before his big break as the ultimate good guy with king Aragorn, Viggo Mortensen played a whole array of bad guys, from criminals and wife killers to Prince of Darkness. In "The Prophecy," the Archangel Gabriel, played by Christopher Walken, tries to fulfill the deadly prophecy and make another hell on Earth.
That plan extremely annoys Satan himself, and he appears in front of an unlikely ally to offer a proposition. Viggo Mortensen appears for around five minutes in the movie, and he absolutely steals the show. That's an even bigger achievement, considering the main villain is Christopher Walken. Viggo played Satan as a representation of coldly calculated hatred for God and humanity. Thus, it's among his most underappreciated performances.
8. Jack Nicholson in "The Witches of Eastwick" (1987)
There are actors born for specific roles, and Jack Nicholson is one of the most obvious choices to play Devil. He possesses that kind of unhinged charm that, in a moment, can burst out in uncontrolled rage. Jack has shown the full extent of his madness in Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining."
Yet, "The Witches of Eastwick" is an entirely different movie, where he delivers a full-blown performance as Daryl Van Horne. He's a charming womanizer that manipulates people into division and control, with all the skills of a cult leader. The three witches recruited by the Devil rebel against him, which makes him act like an outraged pimp. Jack Nicholson's Devil is the one for the modern age. He's a slick manipulator, con man, and womanizer.
7. Gabriel Byrne in "End of Days" (1999)
Gabriel Byrne's Satan in "End of Days" is a perfect incarnation of a man of wealth and taste from "The Sympathy for the Devil." At the turn of the millennium, many people feared the apocalypse, and a lot of movies and other media cashed in on that fear. "End of Days" did it by having Arnold Schwarzenegger battling biblical evil.
The end of the world would be a better option if there weren't Gabriel Byrne as Satan. His portrayal of the Devil is for the wealthy and cultured people. This Satan is good-looking, soft-spoken, and rich as Hell, pun intended. The chilling presence of the prince of the darkness in the form of a Wall Street banker is a rare saving grace of this movie.
6. Rosalinda Celentano in "The Passion of the Christ" (2005)
Mel Gibson created "The Passion of the Christ" as a devoted Catholic, and it became one of the greatest hits that year, proving that R-rated movies can be blockbusters. However, the premiere was followed by plenty of controversies. The last day of Christ was gruesome, brutal, and on the verge of torture porn.
The performance that stood out was Satan, portrayed by an Italian actress with androgynous features. This Satan is dressed in all black and has a scary voice and a totally alien presence. Rosalinda Celentano brought one of the most chilling Satan on screen, equally beautiful and unworldly. Although this Satan has about two minutes of screen time, it is one of the biggest impressions of the movie.
5. Peter Stormare in "The Constantine" (2005)
The casting for the movie adaptation of "The Hellblazer" comics was inconsistent, to say the least. Unfortunately, hiring Keanu Reeves for the titular role of John Constantine was one of the worst casting decisions in cinema history. While Reeves was reliably wooden in his portrayal of a cynical supernatural detective, Peter Stormare as Lucifer single-handedly saved the movie.
Stormare's Lucifer is one of the sleaziest, nastiest depictions ever seen in a film. He creeps around the place like a repulsive creature, radiating depravity and corruption. His appearance and mannerism represent the vilest human traits, and he's rotten to the core. He's the type of character so appalling you would want to bathe in bleach after the meeting.
4. Tim Curry in "Legend" (1985)
Ridley Scott made this movie a typical cinematic fairytale with a good guy, played by Tom Cruise, who defeats evil and saves the princess. "Legend" may not be remembered as the ultimate fantasy movie, but it had one major saving grace. That is the role of Tim Curry, who played Darkness.
His portrayal of the Devil is as iconic as his Dr. Frank N. Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. His makeup and prosthetics made him look like all the devil images from our childhood. He is red, with massive horns and a snarly baritone, equally evil and cunning. If you want to be a scared child in the 80s, this is a perfect movie.
3. Sam Neill in "Omen III: The Final Conflict" (1981)
The "Omen" trilogy documents the ascension of Satan from a cute little sinister boy to a successful businessman. The third installment had Sam Neill as Damien Thorn, the Satan incarnation that watched too many James Bond movies. He is a posh English gentleman with perfect manners and a charming persona. Yet, he prefers to take things to the extreme in his idle time.
For example, he orders his disciples to kill all boys born in England on March 24, 1982. Not because he hates the Aries, but rather that's the date foretold as the second Christ arrival. Damien's Satan is the embodiment of the Old Testament Lucifer. He is vain, proud, jealous, and stacked to the rafters with angst toward God and humanity.
2. Al Pacino in "Devil's Advocate"
Yet another movie in this list where Keanu Reeves conflicts with the Devil. Allegedly, Reeves took a huge pay cut so the studio could afford Al Pacino in the role of John Milton, a.k.a. Satan. And boy, did it pay off. Unlike some other performances in this list, Pacino decided to turn the ham up to 11, delivering an unforgettable performance.
Let's just say Al Pacino didn't want to be subtle. You won't find an actor who would play a charismatic, cheeky, and completely insane Devil, hell-bent on creating Antichrist with the help of his unwitting son. Pacino's performance as a ranting monster that eats scenery is entirely over the top but also suitable for modern materialistic times.
1. Robert De Niro in "Angel Heart" (1987)
Imagine having a movie with Robert De Niro and Mickey Rourke, both at the peak of their game. De Niro plays a surprisingly subtle Satan in the form of sharply dressed and softly spoken Louis Cypher. Despite his collected nature, this Devil incarnate likes to play games with people. Mickey Rourke is Harry Angel, a private detective who conveniently forgot he sold his soul to the Devil.
De Niro's performance as Lucifer is very underappreciated. The look and the dialogue he uses could easily have been over the top in someone else's hands. Yes, Al Pacino, we mean you. De Niro's Satan radiates the cold, ancient evil with a magnificent style. Just be warned, you probably won't be eating boiled eggs long after you watch this movie.
The Devil is usually the incarnation of all evil in this world. Many actors tried to perform the Prince of Evil, but very few of them managed to leave the right impression. More often than not, the Devil is characterized as a flamboyant, hammy, and overreacting presence. However, some of the best performances in the actors' careers are of this ultimate bad guy.
Who is your favorite movie Satan? Which performances would you add to this top ten?
Cover photo: saarvendra/Pixabay
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