10 Most Evil Incarnations of Satan in Cinema
Accursed be he who plays the devil. This list assembles the 10 most sinister portrayals of Satan ever dreamed up for the big screen. The Prince of Darkness takes many forms – from suited and booted businessmen to red-faced, horned monsters. He can be man or woman, smooth or insane, funny or damn right disturbing. He is, in short, the ultimate villain. Satan is now at hand. Hell is empty, and all the devils are here.
10. Robert De Niro in Angel Heart
In Angel Heart (1987), Robert De Niro’s Satan operates under the cleverly worded pseudonym Louis Cyphre – that’s Lucifer for those who missed it. The elegant Cyphre hires a private investigator, played by a pre-plastic surgery Mickey Rourke, to find a man who has failed to honor his contract – no prizes for guessing what that means. De Niro looks decidedly ominous with his stylish beard, long slicked back hair and manicured fingernails, which he uses to perform the creepiest cracking of a boiled egg in cinematic history. Despite the odd demonic gaze, De Niro remains menacing throughout without even having to lose his temper.
9. Peter Stormare in Constantine
Ah, Constantine. A below-par movie, released in 2005, brightened up by a sick-looking Dark Lord. Yes, here we find the infernal serpent in a crisp white suit looking as though he hasn’t slept for centuries. Swedish thespian Peter Stormare gives his devil a creepy lisp and diabolical swagger in another of Hollywood’s comic book movies. He burns the wings of the angel Gabriel, and you know he must be a real badass when he harvests the soul of Matrix chosen one Keanu Reeves, who plays detective John Constantine.
8. Viggo Mortensen in The Prophecy
In this cameo as the Dark Lord in The Prophecy (1995), Viggo Mortensen manages to out-evil Christopher “crazy eyes” Walken and even eats his heart. His sinister, witty and articulate Lucifer offers a young female schoolteacher a choice: “I can lay you out and fill your mouth with your mother’s feces, or we can talk.” She chooses the chat. To further demonstrate just how dark he is, he takes his anger out on the surrounding flora by eating one of God’s creations, a yellow rose. The Lord would not be happy. Neither would Gandalf.
7. Jack Nicholson in The Witches of Eastwick
Jack Nicholson and the devil seem the perfect fit given the veteran’s devilish smile in movies like The Shining. And Jack doesn’t disappoint in the 1987 comic horror The Witches of Eastwick. In trademark mischievous style, his womanizing Satan, Daryl Van Horne, seduces three desperate housewives, played by Susan Sarandon, Micelle Pfeiffer and Cher. The three women also experience the flamboyant devil’s wrath after trying to rid him with witchcraft, leading to a deranged tirade from Jack about God and women at a packed church congregation. A truly horny devil.
6. Tom Waits in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
Veteran bluesman Tom Waits plays the slick Mr Nick in Terry Gilliam’s 2009 fantasy adventure The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. His charismatic incarnation, complete with bowler hat and quellazaire, places a bet with Dr Parnasuss, the head of a traveling troupe, that the first to capture five souls will take as his prize the doctor’s 16-year-old daughter. Waits purrs his lines and makes his Satan cool enough to turn the whole of hell into Antarctica. He adopted a similar persona in the music video for his song “God’s Away On Business,” where he dons the black umbrella used in the film.
5. Gabriel Byrne in End of Days
Not the greatest of films, End of Days, but Irishmen Gabriel Byrne steals the show with his performance as a cool, calm and lustful Satan. Here the archfiend possesses that bastion of all things evil – a Wall Street banker. In his human form, he looks to impregnate the woman chosen to bear his child. But there’s a catch. She has a protector, and it’s none other than Terminator-turned-politician Arnold Schwarzenegger. Byrne boosts his evil credentials by setting a man on fire and indulging in a mother/daughter threesome – the lucky devil. 1999 was an evil year all round for Byrne, who also starred in the supernatural horror Stigmata.
4. Rosalinda Celentano in The Passion of the Christ
Hell hath no fury like a woman’s scorn. Rosalinda Celentano is the only female to occupy our top ten by breaking the sexy Satan stereotype and scaring the bejesus out of well, er, Jesus, in Mel “have another drink” Gibson’s 2004 God romp, The Passion of the Christ. Dressed in all black, she tries to tempt Christ in a deep, croaky and downright eerie voice in the movie’s opening scene, seeming that bit scarier by speaking in Aramaic. Her performance is so sinister and androgynous, we are left wondering if she could indeed be the Prince of Darkness himself.
3. Walter Huston in The Devil and Daniel Webster
Walter Huston earned an Oscar nomination for his role as Mr Scratch in one of the earliest deals with the devil captured on film, 1941′s The Devil and Daniel Webster. He enters the pact with a 19th century farmer, who enlists notorious statesman Daniel Webster to discharge the agreement. Huston’s conniving grin and manipulative tactics have helped this rural devil stand the test of time. Al Pacino even studied Huston’s performance when himself taking up the role of the Dark Lord. The film also inspired a 2004 remake with Jenifer Love Hewitt as the fallen angel, but she doesn’t come close to emulating Huston’s classic portrayal.
2. Al Pacino in The Devil’s Advocate
Say hello to my little friend! It was a tough choice between Huston and Pacino for second and third, but Pacino steals it for his enthralling performance as law firm boss John Milton, alongside Keanu Reeves in 1997′s The Devil’s Advocate. Pacino gives Reeves the best satanic rant about God ever recorded on film. His character’s name was derived from the author of “Paradise Lost,” a poem on the fall of man, in case you didn’t know. Pacino’s Satan has it all. Lust, rage and manipulation – you name it. What makes his performance even better is that quite a few of his lines were improvised.
1. Tim Curry in Legend
Curry has to take the top prize for his sizzling performance as the traditional red monster in Ridley Scott’s fantasy classic Legend. Curry sports cloven hooves, fangs and monstrous horns as he looks to massacre unicorns to stop the sun from ever shining again. Evil enough for you? His low sinister voice and maniacal laugh have been frightening the crap out of children since the film was made in the mid-Eighties, 1985 to be precise. Of all the devil’s on the list, it’s Curry’s Lucifer that you would least like to run into down a dark alley.
Honorable mention: Chernabog in Fantasia
Disney sure knows evil and a honorable mention must go to Chernabog of Fantasia fame for the scariest devil ever to appear in an animated film.
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