Top Ten Actors Who Have Played Satan
"But who prays for Satan? Who, in eighteen centuries, has had the common humanity to pray for the one sinner that needed it most?"
- Mark Twain
Satan, Lucifer, Beelzebub, Old Scratch - there are a bunch of names to describe one really, really bad guy. According to the Christian religion, Satan is God's adversary and the guy who has been tempting people to do awful things since his fall from Heaven. If you fall for his slick rhetoric or accept his bribes or offers, you risk damning your soul to hell.
There was a really big fuss recently about a mini-series about the Bible and how the actor who played Satan had an uncanny resemblance to President Obama. I thought that was very interesting and began to think about other actors who have played Satan and I've taken it upon myself to compile a list of the top ten portrayals of Satan on the big screen. Since Hollywood loves a good story, there have been many different actors who have played Satan over the years - some of them good, some of them not so good and some of them downright hilarious!
These are in no particular order, but the top three are definitely my favorites. If I've left your favorite Satan off the list, make sure to comment and tell me about myself!
Crossroads Movie Trailer
10. Robert Judd - Crossroads
It is widely believed by some that blues legend Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil for fame and fortune. Though his short life came to a tragic end in 1938, we're still talking about him.
Case in point is the 1986 movie Crossroads which has Ralph Macchio playing Eugene, a small time Julliard-trained blues guitarist looking for the holy grail - or maybe just a way to sell his soul to the devil, too. He looks up an old harmonica player named Willie whom he finds in a nursing home. Eugene believes that Willie can tell him the old, lost Robert Johnson song that may help him with his music career should he learn it.
Old Willie has a secret or two, too, and it isn't until the pair travel to a creepy, lonely crossroads in Mississippi that we're let in on his biggest - he sold his own soul to the devil. Enter Old Scratch,played by Robert Judd. He tells Willie that his contract is still valid and he's going to have his soul... unless...
Old Scratch offers to let young Eugene have a guitar duel with his own, personal "captive" player - a blues guitar virtuoso expertly played by Steve Vai.
Though Robert Judd didn't make very many movies (he passed away the same year Crossroads was released), I put him on this list because his "Old Scratch" is so believable. Despite the fact that he can take your soul to hell for all eternity, he seems like the affable old guy next door.
This movie is a little dated, but the duel scene with Steve Vai alone makes this film a must-watch for music fans!
Quote: "You got what you were supposed to get Bluesman! Ain't nothin' ever the way it's supposed to be! But that ain't no reason to break a deal. Of course, if you had something to offer..."
Little Nicky Trailer
9. Harvey Keitel - Little Nicky
Little Nicky was a hilarious "coming of age" spoof starring Adam Sandler and featuring a guy with a boob on his head.
See, Satan (Harvey Keitel) has reigned in hell for thousands of years and he's ready for retirement. He has three sons and it's time to determine who he will trust with the keys to his kingdom. Unfortunately, his favorite son, Nicky (Sandler), isn't quite cut out for the task and the other two sons may not be ready to rule yet, either. So all three siblings are sent to Earth to learn a thing or two.
What happens next is so convoluted that I can't even begin to describe it all. Nicky can't figure out how to stay alive on Earth so he keeps dying and returning to hell. His brothers are possessing all kinds of people to try to create mass confusion - Hell on Earth. Satan begins to deteriorate, Nicky falls in love with a girl (Patricia Arquette) and the world's biggest party turns into the battle between Nicky and one of his brothers.
Keitel gives us a long-suffering Satan who is simply ready for retirement. He bears the issues with his sons rather dramatically and, as his body starts deteriorating, well, this may be the only time we've ever felt sorry for Satan!
Add in appearances by Rodney Dangerfield as Satan's dad, Lucifer (spoiler: He gets no respect!) and Regis Philbin, Henry Winkler and Ozzy Osbourne all playing themselves and you have one hilariously cracked up movie.
Quote (Satan - Keitel): "That was a train, son, don't stand in front of them."
Quote (Lucifer - Dangerfield): "Even in hell I get no respect."
Bedazzled Movie Trailer
8. Elizabeth Hurley Bedazzled
Bedazzled is a 2000 remake of the 1967 film of the same name with a funnier, sexier screenplay. In this movie, Elizabeth Hurley plays the seductive Satan who tries to wheedle the soul from Elliot Richards (Brendan Fraser) who basically wants everything he can likely never have.
Instead of simply signing on the dotted line, however, Elliot is granted wishes enough to get his desire exactly right. Unfortunately for him, things don't go as he plans. His first wish dumps him off as a South American drug lord and things go downhill from there. Will he ever get the love of his life, or is he doomed to wish away his soul to hell for all eternity?
Hurley's Satan is everything we'd expect from her male counterparts except maybe revved up to the nth power. It's difficult to decide if she's sexier in a bikini or a business suit, but underneath it all, she's still the big bad guy and Elliot's soul is in her hands.
Unlike a lot of the other movies on this list, with the exception of Little Nicky, Bedazzled is not a movie to be taken seriously. It is, however, funny as heck and worth a watch.
Quote: "Oh I think you'll change your mind. I'm just going to slip into something a little more terrifying."
Legend Movie Trailer
7. Tim Curry - Legend
Though technically not the Christian Satan, Tim Curry did a heck of a turn as the big, bad horned dude in the movie Legend.
Also starring Tom Cruise (before all the couch jumping madness) and Mia Sara, this 1985 movie was directed by a young Ridley Scott. Though all of the characters turn in fantastic performances, it's Tim Curry as the Lord of Darkness who I think really steals the show. Cruise's character, Jack, must save Princess Lili (Sara) from Darkness who has decided that he wants her for his wife. For Lili, the life of a unicorn will decide her future. Jack and his new-found friends must do everything they can to save her.
Curry's turn as Darkness gave us a creature of immeasurable evil who would stop at nothing to get what he wants. Though some films have tried to portray the good side of the most evil being that has ever existed, we see virtually none of that with Darkness and Curry gives the role depth as well as that sinister something that we can't put our finger on but wouldn't want to tangle with.
With goblins, unicorns, dwarves and a ton of other amazingly created mythical characters, Legend is one of the few movies from this era that has withstood the test of time. There is so much going on in this flick that you can watch Legend several times and always discover something new.
Interesting fact: Even though most of Curry's costume was prosthetic, he still had to endure at least five hours in the makeup trailer for every day's shooting that he had to do.
Quote: "The dreams of youth are the regrets of maturity."
6. George Burns - Oh God, You Devil
It saddens me that, if you'd ask someone under the age of thirty if they had even heard of George Burns, you're not likely to get a positive answer. When Burns passed away in 1996 at the ripe old age of 100, he left behind a huge catalog of films - he began his entertainment career in 1902 and still has the record as the oldest man to ever win an Oscar.
It also saddens me that entire generations of people have never seen the Oh, God! trilogy.
In 1977's Oh, God! and 1980s Oh, God! Book II, George Burns played God. In 1984's Oh, God! You Devil, he played double duty as Satan as well.
In this flick, which also starred Ted Was as musician Bobby Shelton who is willing to sell his soul to make it as a rock and roll star, Burns is alternately wise and totally hilarious.
When all doesn't go according to Bobby's plans, we get to find out how power struggles between God and Satan are really settled - with a poker game, of course!
This a great movie and I'd recommend any of the three in this series to anyone who would love to see a fantastic film made way before the popularity of the f-bomb.
Quote: "I love to scare the hell out of people."
No trailer available on YouTube - sorry.
Constantine Movie Trailer
5. Peter Stormare - Constantine
John Constantine (Keanu Reeves) is a tortured soul. Literally. He is man doomed to hell but trying his best to redeem himself so he can enter heaven instead... but his time grows short.
In this 2005 film, loosely based on the Vertigo Comics title Hellblazer, Constantine gives us another version of the war between heaven and hell - this one fought between angels and demons. Though the latter are not supposed to set foot on the Earth, someone has been breaking the rules.There may be a power struggle in Hell itself and these wars are wreaking havoc on the Earthly plane.
John Constantine is just about the only human left that can help. With the aid of a half-breed angel Gabriel (played by Tilda Swinton in this normally male role), he must help rid the world of the demons that maybe only he can see.
Satan in this movie is played by Peter Stormare, whose accent alone gives the devil a little bit of a rough swagger. Satan doesn't really care about the war itself, but is concerned that his son may possibly be involved in a takeover and he really hates being double crossed. He also wants the souls that he thinks he deserves - including Constantine's.
Stormare's Satan is mostly calm, cool and collected even quipping one liners but gets down to business rather quickly. He lends believability to his role and definitely lets us know who is in charge.
Quote: "You will live, John Constantine. You will live so you will have the chance to prove that your soul truly belongs in hell."
The Passion of the Christ Movie Trailer
4. Rosalinda Celentano - The Passion of the Christ
The Passion of the Christ, released in 2004, was a very controversial movie for a lot of reasons. Many believed the depiction of the last days of Jesus to be brutally violent in an exploitative way. Others thought that the film was largely anti-Semitic (an accusation which may later have borne fruit with director Mel Gibson's angry, drunken arrests and tirades), a disputed endorsement by Pope John Paul II and the biblical inaccuracies of the story itself.
Then there is the choice of the actor who portrayed Satan.
With the exception of Bedazzled, which was meant to be hilarious, women traditionally aren't cast in the role of the devil. However, in addition to a list of relatively unknown actors, Gibson cast an Italian woman in the role of Satan. Rosalinda Celentano was hired as a more androgynous devil and gave the role incredible weight and fluidity at the same time. Some movie goers weren't even aware that Satan was being played by a female.
Celentano's Satan tempted Jesus with a surprising sensuality that was completely unexpected and helped Jim Caviezel as Christ show us how difficult his resistance really was. The taunts and teases are alternately heartbreaking and creepy.
This movie is brilliant, beautiful and very difficult to watch although worth it for many reasons, not the least of which is Celentano's amazing performance.
Quote: "Do you really believe that one man can bear the full burden of sin?"
Angel Heart Movie Trailer
3. Robert De Niro - Angel Heart
1987's Angel Heart is a movie that can be difficult to watch for some folks. It's gritty, scary and sometimes hard to stomach.
Based on the William Hjortsberg book, Falling Angel, the movie is set in New Orleans, the voodoo capital of the United States. It's 1955 and, in New York, a detective named Harry Angel (Mickey Rourke before all of the terrible plastic surgery) is hired by Louis Cyphre (Robert De Niro) to find a former client.
The search takes him from Upstate New York to the wilds of New Orleans and becomes something that Angel himself finds hard to believe. He finds Epiphany Proudfoot (Lisa Bonet in the role that pretty much ruined her future as a Cosby Kid) and quite a few others along the way and has to figure out where to place their pieces in the puzzle all the while trying to maintain a grip on his sanity.
De Niro's Cyphre is full tilt and we pretty much at least have an idea of who he is from the beginning. Maybe it's those fingernails? The question is, does Harry Angel have a clue who Louis Cypher really is? For that matter, who is Harry Angel?
Quote: "Alas... how terrible is wisdom when it brings no profit to the wise, Johnny?"
The Prophecy Movie Clip Featuring Viggo Mortensen
2. Viggo Mortensen - The Prophecy
The Prophecy was a 1995 movie that attempted to turn everything we know about God and Satan on it's ear.
Two angels fall to Earth - Simon (Eric Stoltz) must find a very specific soul before the competition can and another angel is sent to kill him. Simon finds the soul, dispatches the other angel and it starts to get ugly. Enter Gabriel (Christopher Walken) who needs to find that soul at all costs.
Apparently there is a war going on in heaven between those angels who desire only to serve God and others who abhor the preferential treatment they think He gives to humans. And the one being who may be able to offer the most help is the one that humanity would never think to look to for advice - Satan himself.
Viggo Mortensen's Lucifer does not follow the beguiling devil route that many other films travel. His is full of venom, spite and hate not only for God but for humans, too. His issue is that he doesn't like the rogue angels upsetting the applecart. Because of this war in heaven, things haven't been running as smoothly as they should. Souls aren't getting where they need to go and Satan is worried that a divided heaven means more competition for the souls that are rightfully his.
Should the humans take his advice? It's hard to tell but, at the very least, this trickster doesn't seem to be telling any tall tales this time.
The Prophecy spawned several sequels that I've never seen, so I can't comment on their awesomeness, but the original is one of my favorite movies of all time.
Quote: "You see, I'm not here to help you little **** because I love you or because I care for you, but because two hells is one hell too many, and I can't have that."
1. Al Pacino - The Devi's Advocate
Traditionally, a devil's advocate is a person who points out flaws in debates or takes a certain, unpopular stance just to get conversation flowing.
In this 1997 film, it's a little tougher to pick out The Devil's Advocate.
We meet Kevin Lomax (Keanu Reeves) who is a fairly decent lawyer in Florida. He and his wife get a surprise invite to New York City to meet the man who owns one of the most successful law firms in the country - he introduces himself as John Milton (Al Pacino). He wants Lomax to pick a jury for him and, when that trial is successful, offers the young lawyer a prime job in his firm.
This seems to be a great deal for the young couple - they get a swank apartment, company vehicles and entrance into New York's high society... but not everything is what it seems and thing slowly break apart at the seams.
Milton goes from the most amazing boss in the history of history to something even more frightening than a corporate lawyer. Pacino's portrayal of the man who we all know as Satan is at first seemingly noble and even genteel but, over the course of the movie, that facade deteriorates until we see the monster in all his glory.
Poor Lomax is the last one to figure this out and it is to his detriment because he's already in too deep to get out of the situation.
This movie features many great performances, notably Charlize Theron as Lomax's wife, Mary Ann. It's a great watch, even if you already know what's going to happen!
Quote: "Freedom, baby... is never having to say you're sorry."
Which of these performances was your favorite?
And there you have my ten favorite Satans. Truthfully, it wasn't an easy choice as there have been many over the years. But these are truly the good, the bad and the ugly.
As with all of my Top Tens, these are my favorites. Don't forget to drop me a line if I've left yours off the list - I'd love to hear from you!
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© 2013 Georgianna Lowery