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5 Great Portrayals of the Devil in Horror!

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.



  • McGilli

    There is a movie Heartless from 2009. I’m not saying this is a best satan portrayal – but I thought it was a great movie in a similar style to many of the above mentioned :

    • J Jett

      McGilli, i can’t remember exactly what happens in HEARTLESS (it’s been so long since i’ve seen it) but i do remember liking the film. i need to re-watch it!

  • Matt

    Pretty nice list, especially 2, 3, and 4. I’d like to also give a shout out to Gabriel Byrne as “The Man” in End of Days. Though it’s not exactly horror (to me, some in this list aren’t really horror either), and not well-loved by many (personally I liked it), Byrne delivers a great performance in my opinion.

  • Richter Belmont

    I know it doesn’t count but Tim Curry in Legend, for me, is the best portrayal of the Morningstar even though he’s not.

    • I wanted SO BADLY to put him on there! That’s one of my favorite films, so his portrayal will always have a place in my heart!

      • Travis_Bickle

        You could have very easily removed the chick from the 9th Gate. That movie is a turd run over twice.

        • Fester B. Gone

          i liked it.

          • Travis_Bickle

            no you didn’t

        • To each their own. I always had a lot of fun watching it and the soundtrack is absolutely sublime!

    • Matt

      I have a large statue of Darkness sitting on his throne in my living room. I love that character, one of the coolest of all time.

  • Andrew Lyall

    Some great picks there but personally I feel Pacino is atrocious in that film and the devil isn’t even in The Ninth Gate.

    • sailor monsoon

      Pacino gives the best worst performance in history in devils advocate.

      • Andrew Lyall

        That certainly is one opinion, unquestionably 🙂

      • Andrew Lyall

        Damn, I need some coffee stat! I actually read your comment as “world’s best performance”. What is wrong with me? The best worst performance – I kinda like that 🙂

        • sailor monsoon

          It’s a performance that transcends over the top.
          It’s amazing

  • J Jett

    i know this isn’t a film but Tom Ellis as the Devil on Fox’s LUCIFER is in my top picks!

  • Rick-Taylor

    Not horror, although I will say that one of the best representations of Satan is in Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny.

  • Rohan Sorensen

    Louis Cypher….. is that code for something? Oh, thanks for explaining it means Lucifer. I would have never guessed! Lol

  • Creepshow

    There was an article about this same topic not too long ago. And my answer remains the same…
    Clarence Williams III – Tales From the Hood

    • Leland_Gaunt

      This ain’t no funeral home!!

  • mindy laughlin

    Gabriel Byrne – End of Days

  • Darth_Siskel

    Rosalinda Celentano – Passion Of The Christ…
    Wasnt a Horror movie , but was pretty darn horrific

  • Greg Wallbank

    The Vvitch needs to be on this list… Black Philip

  • Red

    In all seriousness though, Leland Gaunt (Max von Sydow) from “Needful
    Things”, has come about the closest to how I, personally, see, ‘the

    • Leland_Gaunt

      YES!!!! My favorite depiction, hands down!

  • Rossi

    The best was Al Pacino 😀

  • Ray Wise in Reaper.

  • THGrimm

    This is a great list. De Niro and Viggo’s portrayals actually scared me. Especially De Niro’s, ugh. When had those horrific eyes at the end, that image stuck with me for a while and totally capstoned that fantastic film.

  • Emmanuelle Seigner is amazing in Ninth Gate! By the way, that’s one of my favorite movies, I saw when I was 13 or 14 years old and I was so excited when I saw some scenes filmed in my country.

  • Lee Phantomm

    Peter Stormare ALL the way!.

    I never like it when they give a face to the devil. It makes it less scary. But this guy made it almost believable,lol.

  • Alex Harbie

    Lmao! The Ninth Gate is a raging piece of garbage. If Johnny Depp was awful in this movie, imagine the actress. That being said, the best was definitely Pacino, that scene where he looks up and dips his finger into the holy water, basically giving God a big FU.

  • Nicolas Caiveau

    Mark Pellegrino as Lucifer in Supernatural is awesome. On that list, my fav is by far Pacino !

  • Vehbi Özgen Kırcı

    Check Colm Feore in Storm of the Century 1999, he was remarkable my opinion.

  • javasmark

    John Goodman – Barton Fink

  • Hail Dave Grohl!

    He’ll make you squeal like his scarlet pimpernel

  • Holmen

    Emmanuelle Seigner plays the whore of babylon, not the devil

    • Leland_Gaunt

      Yeah, I’m pretty sure the writer of this article didn’t actually watch the movie…

  • Michael Bates

    Jun Kunimura in The Wailing … the scene in the cave at end of film with the young priest has given me nightmares.

  • OmarComin’

    Vaggo Mortensen.

  • Tee Johnson

    Tim Curry in Legend?! That Devil/Lucifer character is my all time fave. His Horns, his mannerisms, his voice, his sexuality even through all that makeup and costume is perfect and genius . Al Pacino from the list is my 2nd fave.

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