Lucifer has hit our televisions like a bag of wet laundry, which is a bummer because procedural Satanism carries so much potential. In an effort to cheer ourselves up, here’s a list of some great actor who took on the Horns and did much better in the Dark Lord’s name.
Legend: Tim Curry
One of the greatest costumed performances of all-time, Tim Curry appears as the Lord of Darkness to teach us how to propose to a lady. His acting mannerisms and twists are so delightfully evil that each time the camera cuts away from him, you’re practically shouting, “No! Where are you going! The movie is right here!” Also, those horns bursting through flesh on top of his head are just impossible not to stare at. What a goddamn delightful nightmare.
Reaper: Ray Wise
After getting to play basically the same character in every role he’s ever had, Ray Wise has made some peace with the devil. His turn on Twin Peaks was the scariest thing to ever happen on network television, so bringing him back as a bloodthirsty good-time Daddy was exactly what the world needed. Seriously, if you’ve never taken the time to plow through the two seasons of this show, it’s available on Hulu and well worth a weekend.
Needful Things: Max von Sydow
Look, I saw this too young in 1991, and no one else will ever be the real Darkness except for this dude right here. The utter mustache-twirling joy with which von Sydow twists and nearly-giggles every single line is just a contagious joy. It also serves to end the entire Stephen King Castle Rock series of books, since von Sydow tricks the town into blowing itself up at the end. Truly, the un-toppable demonic performance.
The Devil’s Advocate: Al Pacino
Upon re-watch, this film is proof that some higher power exists. It comes from the writer of Armageddon and the director of An Officer and a Gentleman, both doing their take on John Grisham-esque story. Charlize Theron has a nude scene and there’s real impetus for Al Pacino to turn it up to 11.
Pacino’s Satan loves to let people prove themselves by giving them just enough information to make a truly damning choice. Even though this story borrows heavily from Grisham’s The Firm, the evil law firm in that film also supplied Tom Cruise’s character with a free dog when he accepted their offer, which in many practical ways feels creepier than most of what happens here.
Constantine: Peter Stormare
While he gets only a few minutes of screen time, Stormare’s sweaty sickening approach is one of those great performances that transcends a pretty poor film. He toys with John Constantine (Keanu Reeves’ second appearance on this list) by dangling the lighter for his cigarette just out of reach. Later, he sucks the cancer out of Constantine’s body as a bizarre punishment/reward that helps add to the mystique of this turn on the role.
Bedazzled: Elizabeth Hurley
Hear me out — this is the movie the actual Devil would make. It’s so middle of the road and tame that it wouldn’t surprise me if they’d redacted any lines referring to her by name and instead recast this as some kind of “genie gone wrong” adventure. It’s Elizabeth Hurley in 2000 — peak Hurley! — making Brendan Fraser’s life a living hell, which is fun to watch in a meta sense.
South Park: Trey Parker
Satan has almost always been portrayed as a friendly character on South Park, with the exceptions of the times his forlorn heart has led him to follow Saddam Hussein’s path. Of all the great moments and songs, including from the Bigger, Longer & Uncut movie, this 2014 moment very much sums up what I think Satan does best on the show, when he has to explain the basics of naturalism as a system of addiction, based on the rise of free to play games.
We’d be remiss to not include this album cover to end on, because it is never not funny.
And you know what? Let’s go out with a bang.