10 most memorable movie devils
Devils, like chocolate cookies, come in all kinds of shapes and sizes.
By Rob Hunter Posted on October 28, 2021
October is defined in the Webster dictionary as “31 days of horror”. Don’t bother looking for it; it is true. Most people think that means highlighting one horror movie a day, but here at FSR we’ve taken that up a scary notch or nine by celebrating each day with a top ten list. This article on the best and most unforgettable devils in cinema is part of our ongoing series 31 days of horror lists.
The devil is in the details, they say, and one of those details when it comes to democracies is that the best candidates don’t always win. What we have below is a list of Satan’s best screen appearances, and with seven of us voting, there’s plenty of room for some bizarre choices and missed opportunities. So no, the brilliantly skillful Louis Cypher of Robert De Niro from angel heart (1987) did not list below, and I can only apologize on behalf of the Boo Crew.
That said, the ten that made the cut include some of the best and most unforgettable Satans to ever groom the screen. Some are funny and some are likable, but all are dark and evil in their own way. Some disturb your flesh, others your heart, but all are looking for a piece of your tattered soul. So sit back, say a prayer to your best friend Beelzebub, and enjoy this list lovingly curated by Chris Coffel, Brad Gullickson, Mary Beth McAndrews, Meg Shields, Anna Swanson, Jacob Trussell and myself.
10. The Witches of Eastwick (1987)
Jack nicholson enters The Witches of Eastwick falling asleep during a musical recital. While sleeping, he makes unholy and obnoxious noises that disturb the show. Outside of Nicholson referring to himself as a “horny little devil,” the movie never explicitly says he’s the devil, but it couldn’t be clearer. Instead, Nicholson has a name everyone will forget, but the man always leaves an impression. He buys a large mansion in the small town and immediately begins to market a group of three friends – Alex (Dear), Jeanne (Susan sarandon) and Sukie (Michelle pfeiffer). Nicholson’s Satan is an odious and disgusting man. He is vulgar and knows no bounds, and yet he is irresistibly charming. All three women are drawn to him, unable to deny him no matter how repulsive he may be. Nicholson’s turn as the devil is not all hellfire and brimstone, but rather that of a chauvinistic pervert getting way too handy. Is this an accurate representation of Satan? I can not tell. But Nicholson certainly nails the rich, white old man. (Chris Coffel)
9. Jigoku (1960)
The representation of hell that we see in Jigoku is returned coldly but with extreme delight. When Shirō enters this scorching realm, we see other fallen souls in great pain; they are boiled alive and scorched and skinned and dismembered and beaten by demons. It’s a long, hard look at a failed humanity. There is a warning in each frame but also an unavoidable inevitability. Judging over everything is Lord Emma, a creature who has no feelings for you but who has great satisfaction in his deeds and judgments. There have been more violent but not nearly so haunting illustrations of damnation, and like the portrait painter who finds himself a corpse in the climax, you feel there is a price to be paid for capturing such images onscreen. Director Nobuo Nakagawa leaves a piece of itself in the frame. (Brad Gullickson)
8. The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941)
There are a lot of great movies on this list, but how many of them have inspired a great Simpsonthe segment “The Hut of Horror”? The Devil and Daniel Webster, also known as All That Money Can Buy, is an enchanting fable, social metaphor, and story of good and evil as old as time. The stunning black-and-white cinematography and the cool, smoky atmosphere set the scene for Mr. Scratch perfectly (the wickedly wonderful Walter huston), a complicit incarnation of Satan. It whispers in your ears and does deals beyond your wildest dreams. This version of the devil is a salesman with more than a few tricks up his sleeve. Just be prepared for him to come and collect his debts. Or better yet, just read the fine print. (Anna Swanson)
7. The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)
You may be wondering what Martin scorseseThe critically acclaimed and highly controversial Jeebus film is on a list of horror films, but as a recovering Catholic I’m comfortable saying it absolutely belongs here. A dark fantasy with torture, magic, sex and the devil? Yes, like all tales from the Bible, it is horror. Christ walks into the wilderness as a novice at Burning Man in search of the love of God, and he is tested by Satan in various forms. A cobra, a lion, a flame, he resists the manipulation of the three.
It is the subsequent appearance of the devil that gives him a place on this list, however. As Christ suffers on the cross, the cries echoing around him with other crucified sap and the tears of the women at their feet, the world suddenly becomes silent. A young girl appears and reveals that she is her guardian angel sent by God to save her only son. It’s a sweet moment of mercy as the girl pulls the big nails out of his flesh, embraces the wounds, and leaves him free to live a normal life with love and family. Years go by, sex is done, children result, happiness is felt, then he realizes that his guardian angel was in fact peddling one last temptation from Satan – that of being a human and living a normal life. and happy. It’s a particularly devious act, and the devil’s choice to appear as an angelic child is even more deceptive (and brilliant). Plus, and it’s both tangential to the topic at hand and perhaps a bit controversial in itself, but Peter Gabriel’s score is a magical, propulsive listening that makes for a perfect soundtrack while enjoying certain, uh, “evil” times of your own. (Rob Hunter)
6. Häxan (1922)
Would any film be improved if its director were to appear, on screen, like Satan himself? I think we can all agree that the answer is a resounding answer, entirely ironic, damn yeah. Benjamin christensen, Häxanthe evil Danish writer-director of, doesn’t just wear demonic clothes, he goes all out, baby; wobbling an obscene tongue, leering lasciviously and suggestively churning butter with all the subtlety of a bull in a china shop. A Dramatized Account of the Historical and Scientific Roots of Superstitions Surrounding Witchcraft, Part 2 of Häxan depicts the seductive temptations that attract women to the concert with Beelzebub. Christensen’s portrayal of Satan is less of a soft-spoken dandy and more of a perverse, barrel-chested force of nature. And, frankly, Christensen is clearly having the best time of his life. Of course, directors have long indulged in cameo or star roles. But few have had such visible joy as Christensen, who twists, pushes and spins so convincingly that he makes satanic pacts a viable option. (Meg Shields)
Related topics: 31 Days of Horror Lists
Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is odd considering he’s so young. He is our chief film critic and associate editor and lists “Broadcast News” as his favorite film of all time. Don’t hesitate to say hello if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.