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  • Writer's pictureM.C.

Top Ten: Best Portrayals of the Devil in Movies

I was originally going to include lists for both God and the Devil, but after some research, my list of the best film portrayals of God included George Burns and Morgan Freeman--and that was it. (Sorry, Will Farrell and Alanis Morissette.)

So, I decided to focus on the best portrayals of the devil, not including animation or disembodied voices. I wanted to know which actors could slip on the proverbial horns and make us squirm in our shoes. A certain amount of style and flair didn’t hurt, either.

Going in reverse order for a change:

10. Rodney Dangerfield, Little Nicky (2000) – Setting the tone for this list right off the bat, Rodney Dangerfield certainly played up the ‘no respect’ aspect of Satan. Along with Harvey Keitel as Lucifer, they portrayed a truly hellish family for Adam Sandler’s Little Nicky.

9. Elizabeth Hurley, Bedazzled (2000) – Another ‘classic’ film from the turn of the millennium, Brendan Fraser showed that it’s best to avoid the dark one for relationship advice. Even a heavenly body can’t stop Hurley’s hellish intent. She makes it good to be bad.

8. Robert Judd, Crossroads (1986) – Though not a fan of Ralph Macchio, I enjoyed the Faust-like story of a musician selling his soul for talent and fame. Based on the tale of blues master Robert Johnson selling is soul to the devil, Robert Judd embodies the trickster spirit of Old Scratch.

7. Peter Fonda, Ghost Rider (2007) – Another take on the Faust tale, Peter Fonda’s devil trades Johnny Blaze’s soul for curing his father of cancer. After the deal, Blaze’s father is promptly killed in a crash - to the devil’s amusement. It’s always good to check the fine print, and Peter Fonda’s gravitas lends credibility to an anti-superhero movie.

6. Jack Nicholson, Witches of Eastwick (1987) – Technically, his character is Daryl Van Horne, but we all know who is really is. Nicholson was born to play this role – or a psychotic author in a deserted hotel, pick one – and does so with the charm and creepiness for which he is known. I’m still not sure about the ponytail he tries to pull off, but the grin is pure evil.

5. Dave Grohl, Tenacious D: The Pick of Destiny (2006) – Okay, never use a musical instrument that comes from a piece of Satan’s body, even if it is just a chipped tooth – he’s going to want it back. With huge black horns and hairy legs, Dave Grohl shreds on both guitar and drums and is WAY cooler than Jack Black or Kyle Gass.

4. David Warner, Time Bandits (1981) – Totally freaking me out as a kid, I wasn’t sure if the crab-like legs on his head were part of a helmet or his own skull, but the weird carousel scene with the knife coming out of his head haunted me for years. Dryly funny, Warner is another classic actor who lends his gravitas to the movie, making it that much better as a result.

3. Max Von Sydow, Needful Things (1993) – Portraying a regular shop owner named Leland Gaunt, the unclean one provides wanted gifts in exchange for harmless pranks, wreaking havoc and turning a town upside down. Gaunt revels in the betrayal and death and takes being run out of town in stride as he simply sets up shop elsewhere. An elegant manipulator version of Satan.

2. Al Pacino, The Devil’s Advocate (1997) – A disturbingly realistic take on what might happen (be happening?) if the devil lived among us in modern society and used humanity’s own vices against itself to bring the second coming. And from where else but a penthouse overlooking central park and a giant swirling sculpture of animated demons. Classy.

1. Peter Stormare, Constantine (2005) – Wearing a white suit and with feet dripping of fire and brimstone, Peter Stormare’s devil is hip and fashionable. He’s willing to play by the rules and even help poor Keanu Reeves with his tar-filled lungs. But, as anyone from the 90s will confirm, the tribal tattoos on his neck and hands truly are hellish.

Okay, who did I miss? Let me know in the comments.


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