In the grand scope of supernatural horror, everything comes back to the Devil. Whatever incarnation, whatever form, it’s the first thing most children are taught to fear. Like God, he works in mysterious ways, allowing for the imagination to take the idea of this ultimate evil in a thousand different directions. Over the world, throughout history, the Devil has been depicted in endless—and endlessly interesting—ways.
He could be the monster we all imagine as children. Or he could be something much more pleasant, someone charming and suave. He might not even be a he. Or a she. Lucifer is a character that can be imagined in any way you can think, hitting every point of every spectrum.
The freedom associated with playing a character as diverse as this one has allowed for hundreds of different portrayals on screen. Right now, Lucifer is even the star of his own TV series, loosely based on a DC comic. There are way more portrayals than could ever make it onto a single list but these, to me, are the most interesting and most innovative to be done on screen.
Al Pacino in The Devil’s Advocate
Pacino certainly goes over-the-top, but he does it in such a captivating way. His performance really hones in on one inherent vice of humankind rather than trying to capture as many as possible, and that’s greed. This is The Devil in the modern, professional world. That sets the stage for an interesting take, which Pacino is more than capable of pulling off. As one of the most celebrated modern actors, he does not disappoint in taking on such a timeless role.
The Prophecy was a really early role for Viggo Mortensen, and he really only had one scene, but it definitely showcased what a major presence he would go on to become. He’s so mysterious, so unpredictable, and so violently angry just in the span of a few minutes of screen time. That’s no small feat and definitely an impressive turn from a rising star.
Peter Stormare in Constantine
Constantine is a terrible adaptation but an alright movie on its own. It’s saved by amazing performances from Tilda Swinton and Peter Stormare. Even now, Stormare is one of the most underrated actors out there. It’s really impressive to watch an take a role that’s been played so many times and make it uniquely their own. His Devil is so unexpectedly laid back and casual where so many have tried to go as over-the-top and flamboyant as possible. Check out our exclusive interview with Stormare here. We got his take on how he helped develop the character and much more!
Tim Curry as The Darkness in Legend
This is the classic version of the Devil. This is the Devil that pops into everyone’s collective mind when his name comes up. Yet Curry manages to take what is expected and finds a way to make the performance completely his own. That combined with some amazing FX and makeup design makes for a truly memorable onscreen Devil.
Rosalinda Celentano in The Passion of the Christ
Having not seen Mel Gibson’s torture opus in at least a decade, Celentano’s performance still stands out as completely captivating. It’s so refreshing to have a female version of Satan, particularly in such a classical, literally by-the-book retelling. It’s so quietly creepy and just as a performance, she feels almost more like she’s from an Ingmar Bergman film.
Robert De Niro in Angel Heart
Angel Heart is such a unique and uncomfortable film, with such a great cast, but De Niro steals the show as the punningly named Lou Cyphre. He’s a classical, Mephistopheles type of Devil, but he’s also a classical gangster. The combination of the two turns out to be really interesting. With limited screen time, this Devil makes an extremely lasting impact.
Juliette Caton in The Last Temptation of Christ
This one’s so fascinating because you don’t actually know this character is The Devil until the end. Caton’s character is sweet and angelic and saves Dafoe’s Christ at a crucial moment, only to reveal at the end that it was simply another way to torture him before his death. It’s one of the most unique takes on The Devil we’ve ever seen on film, but it’s also one of the scariest, simply because she is so sweet when we meet her. That’s The Devil in a nutshell.