That’s right, it would appear that Steve is attempting to do a Hallowe’en themed Top 5 list… In November! In actuality I’ve been working on this baby for a couple months now and I think I’ve got my picks all in the right order. Playing the Prince of Lies, Beelzebub, the ol’ Pitchfork can be both a treat and a challenge – sure you get licence to play it way over the top and have fun with it, but when it comes to playing bad guys, they absolutely get no worse than this, so you gotta bring your ‘A’ game. What you’ll find here are my favourite and most memorable interpretations of the Devil (with a capital ‘D’) ranked by presence, performance and all around eviltude. From one film lover to another, I highly recommend you check out each of these performances, ’cause with a villain like this in the cast, the film has to be great.
5. Hercules (1997) | “Hades” – James Woods
Jimmy Woods gets an automatic spot on this list because if I’m not mistaken, Woods’ actually is the Devil. His smartass demeanor in just about everything on or off screen, his incredible performance in Once Upon a Time in America, how could he not have been chosen to play the Lord of the Underworld in Disney’s Hercules? While not exactly the traditional Christian embodiment of the Devil, Hades was bad to the bone and a lowdown dirty schemer.
Mark of the Beast: All blue skin aside, the flaming hairdo was about as devilish as Disney dared to go in the 90′s.
Evil Masterstroke: Plotting the murder of a newborn baby in furtherance of eventually initiating a hostile takeover of Mount Olympus.
4. Time Bandits (1981) | “Evil” – David Warner
I was but a wee lad when I first laid eyes on Evil in this movie, so I was quaking in my Kiddie Kobbler shoes – despite any of the film’s comedic intentions. He exploded or transformed his minions at the drop of a hat, had freaky looking foot soldiers with cow skulls for heads, and could turn himself into H.R. Giger style merry-go-round to fend of cowboys. Evil, or “Evil Genius”, was locked away from the world, longing to learn about digital watches and trunk dialing so that he could take over the Universe from the Supreme Being. Why is it that these guys always want to take over something else? I assume they have plenty of room where they are, couldn’t they just renovate or add a pool?
Mark of the Beast: As the story unfolds, it appears that it’s Terry Gilliam’s contention that technology is the root of all evil, and what better way to personify that evil than to turn Evil into a cyborg?
Evil Masterstroke: “Don’t touch it! It’s evil!” Evil’s charred remains turned Kevin’s parents into a puff of smoke on contact.
3. Legend (1985) | “Lord of Darkness” – Tim Curry
Tim Curry’s character and performance were certainly the most memorable thing about Ridley Scott’s Legend, moreso even than the Tangerine Dream soundtrack – or even the musical numbers in the extended edition! While the Lord of Darkness wasn’t running things in the nasty side of the afterlife in the traditional devilish sense, he was bad to the bone. His lair came complete with a Baba Yaga style kitchen, antechamber for slaughtering fairytale creatures (a must for any master of evil) and the requisite dungeon for housing the weak and helpless. Although, one thing always bothered me, does the Prince of Darkness really need to ask his dad for advice on how to pick up the ladies?
Mark of the Beast: With the red skin, giant black horns and cloven feet, you’d think his appearance would put him at the top of this list, but maybe it’s a little too on the nose.
Evil Masterstroke: Plotting to kidnap and murder a pair of unicorns, cut off their horns, and spread darkness across the land. Was never really clear to me how much he had to do with turning the whole world into a giant snowglobe.
2. The Prophecy (1995) | “Lucifer” – Viggo Mortensen
I saw Viggo playing Lucifer before I even knew who the heck Viggo was. While Christopher Walken’s Gabriel commanded most of everyone’s attention in the film, Mortensen’s Lucifer was the last little push the film needed to give The Prophecy a truly otherworldly feel. What was interesting was how Viggo managed to put on a performance that was definitely devilish, but also charming in a way. As the only intervening force in Gabriel’s bid to set the world on fire, it was about as close to a protagonist as the Devil can get, but you always knew you couldn’t trust the guy even a little.
Mark of the Beast:Viggo sported a scraggly throat beard (evil!) but was otherwise looking fairly mundane, with the exception of that freaky Cenobite midget he had with him.
Evil Masterstroke: Despite being a seriously ironic deus ex machinae, Lucifer’s ultimate act of evil was (SPOILER ALERT!) feasting on the heart of archangel Gabriel – bad guy or not, that’s gotta be a sin the commandments couldn’t have anticipated.
1. Constantine (2005) | “Satan” – Peter Stormare
Constantine is a bit of a perplexing film. It’s a really cool concept, although it departs significantly from the excellent source material, and the performances are decent across the board, despite the presence of Keanu Reeves and Shiloh LeBeef – they were probably cancelled out by having Tilda Swinton and Rachel Weisz in the cast. And when the film was spiralling towards the end and things couldn’t get any crazier or more unexpected, who should show up but the head nihilist himself, Peter Stormare as the sarcasctic, reptilian, goop-oozing Prince of Darkness. Definitely the best thing about the film, and certainly the most modern and credible interpretations of Satan I’ve come across.
Mark of the Beast:Peter Stormare is pretty devilish already without the help of makeup and props, but with some bloodshot eyes, cool tattoos, and dripping weird black ooze he was unmistakably the Morning Star.
Evil Masterstroke: Much like Lucifer in The Prophecy, Satan was kind of a force for good when it came time to clear everything up. As such, his evil act was ripping the cancer from John Constantine’s lungs, convinced that on a long enough timeline, he’d sin his way back to hell.