When it comes to horror villains, there are none that are as all-powerful or as epic as the Devil. Sorry Jason, even you went to Hell. Sorry Freddy, but you got your powers from “dream demons“. No baddie really has the pomp and circumstance that good ol’ Lucifer has. After all, when you’re the villain of a religion that boasts over two billion members, you’ve gone from being a cultural icon to one of the most recognized villains in history. Pretty much no matter where you go, people will know who Satan is, if not by name than by concept.
With such a towering entity of evil, it’s no surprise that the horror genre has used the Devil as a character in several films over the years. Obviously, it’s hard to get something like that right but there have been a few instances where the portrayal was something incredible and memorable.
So, let’s go ahead and take a look at some portrayals of actors who brought the baddest of the bad to the silver screen!
Peter Stormare – Constantine
Many consider this to be the best portrayal in movie history. I absolutely wouldn’t go that far but I will say that it’s a damn good one or else I wouldn’t have put it on this list! Stormare may have looked human but there was a strange serpent-like quality about his speech and mannerisms. He plays the role with glee and obviously relishes every moment he has onscreen. After all, if you’re gonna be Lucifer, may as well have fun being bad!
Robert De Niro – Angel Heart
I feel like horror and film noir are two genres that haven’t crossed paths enough times. There’s something delightful about watching a detective movie that feels dour. Plus, horror films are often rather pessimistic, so combining the two seems like a win-win situation. Can you imagine more movies like Lord of Illusions? I’d be 100% into that!
Anyways, Robert De Niro plays Louis Cyphre (Lou Cyphre -> Lucifer), a mysterious man who hires private investigator Harry Angel (Mickey Rourke) to investigate the disappearance of a singer by the name of Johnny Favorite. The investigation takes Angel to New Orleans, where a string of murders begin happening and Angel finds himself caught in the middle.
De Niro is 100% classy here. Impeccably dressed and almost aristocratic in appearance, he brings an elegance to the role while still emitting waves of malevolence. It’s a masterful performance.
Al Pacino – The Devil’s Advocate
I feel like someone was watching “Law & Order” and suddenly said, “What if I wrote that but with Satan as the bad guy?” Not that I’m complaining about this film as I think it’s a lot of fun but I was always curious how it came to be.
Pacino is, as always, an absolute delight to watch. It feels like he’s madly in love with playing such a villain and he can’t contain himself. Every moment he’s on the screen is lifted by his exuberance and it makes for one of the most charismatic portrayals of the Devil cinema has ever seen.
Viggo Mortensen – The Prophecy
While this movie, in my opinion, really hasn’t aged all that well, there’s no denying that the brief cameo from Viggo Mortensen is the highlight of the film. He plays the role a bit more subtly than others on this list. Yes, he roars at that weird sycophant by his side but that’s about as far as he goes in his first appearance. Never raising his voice, he knows his presence alone is all it takes to ensure everyone’s attention is set solely on him.
Emmanuelle Seigner – The Ninth Gate
If you thought Satan could only be portrayed by a man, think again. Seigner’s approach to this role is to use seduction, manipulation, and her wiles to get what she wants. It probably helps that her role is kept as mysterious as possible, which only adds to the big reveal. While it’s easy to think of her as a guardian angel for Corso, she’s in reality the means by which the ritual will take place.