Satan is a popular character. After watching the most recent seasons of Lucifer and Supernatural, it occurred to me that the Devil has been a character in many works of fiction.
For the record—hand to God here—I’m not including the Holy Bible, or any filmed works based on that particular source material, under the heading “works of fiction.” I’m not especially scared of lightning, but neither am I inviting any to be called down upon me.
For the purposes of this 10-List, I’m listing ten times different actors played the character usually called Lucifer, Satan or the Devil in film and television roles. I’m not suggesting that these are the best portrayals of all time, or even the most “essential” examples. They’re the first ten I could produce with actors whose names I remembered.
Supernatural (2005 – present) — I’m getting the shows I named above, the impetus of this post, out of the way at the very start. This Lucifer inhabited many different “meatsuits” during the run of the series, but his most common form was the actor Mark Pellegrino. Pellegrino also played Jacob on the television series Lost. Since Jacob was the personification of the “light” forces in that series, essentially God, this means that Pellegrino has played both ends of the spectrum. As Lucifer, Pellegrino looks like himself, no red skin, horns or pitchfork.
Lucifer (2015 – present) — Tom Ellis plays the titular character in this series, which was on Fox and moved to Netflix for its final two seasons (Season 5 is coming in 2020). Occasionally, Ellis will show his red “devil face,” but usually he just looks like himself and speaks with a British accent.
The Devil’s Advocate (1997) — Al Pacino can pull off any role. His portrayal of the horned one, sans horns, is the best thing about this movie. That, and the creepy wall with the writhing bodies.
Angel Heart (1987) — Equal time here. I can’t praise Pacino without doing the same for Robert De Niro. His Satan looked mostly like De Niro with long fingernails until he let his hair down and his eyes turned yellow. Again, best thing about this movie. Anyone else remember when people actually wanted to see Mickey Rourke in a movie?
The Witches of Eastwick (1987) — Jack Nicholson was born to play the Devil. ‘Nuff said.
Little Nicky (2000) — Harvey Keitel is a more traditional Satan, the son of Rodney Dangerfield’s Lucifer, in this hellish Adam Sandler vehicle. Another great actor who demonstrates that he knows a good role when it’s offered to him, regardless of the overall quality of the movie.
Bedazzled (2000) — The devil is supposed to be all about temptation, right? Elizabeth Hurley drives this aspect of the Lord of Hell home in this comedy. You never watched it? Are you tempted to now?
Legend (1988) — Technically, Tim Curry was the Lord of Darkness in this ’80s Tom Cruise fantasy flick. But, come on! Is this not Satan, in the flesh? I personally find Curry to be creepy in nearly every role.
Reaper (2007 – 2009) — Ray Wise made a particularly dapper Satan in this brief television comedy. Of course, Wise always seems dapper.
Constantine (2005) — the second Keanu Reeves movie featuring Lucifer as a character, this time played by Peter Stormare, who has been in virtually every movie I’ve ever seen. This is only a slight exaggeration.
I can’t imagine that this is the last we’ll be seeing of the character. It’s just too juicy a role.