An ancient myth tells of a fallen angel. A character who granted and cursed humankind with forbidden knowledge. This character goes by many names. Satan, Belial, Lucifer, and The Devil. There are many ways to tell their story. One of the earliest screen depictions is the 1911 short film L’Inferno, which shows the devil chewing on a struggling human. Beneath all of the mythology and fantasy is religion. Hail Satan? is a documentary about a religion rooted in social activism. Entertaining and surprisingly inspiring, the film explores the humanitarian heart of Satanism.
Many of the films on this list, like the devil themself, are a mix of historical fact and myth. Historic artifacts such as the Codex Gigas and the Gnostic texts found in Egypt support the possible existence of their main character. Demonic exorcism is a historical practice that continues today. While the demons and the priest battle, the vessel between them becomes sicker and weaker, sometimes dying. Is there really a fallen angel ruling over all the darkness that surrounds us? Or are all of the stories fiction and folklore? Keep reading, and maybe you’ll decide.
Best Movies About Satan
This Swedish faux documentary takes us through the middle ages to the 20th century. The film suggests that mental and neurological disorders afflict those accused of witchcraft. Mass hysteria and the medieval world’s violent justice system are also explored. In this silent film, Satan works through women and against them. The United States censors originally objected to this film, calling it anti-clericalism.
Rosemary and Guy move into their new NYC apartment. Blessings and curses that are often indistinguishable from each other quickly befall them. A lonely Rosemary makes friends with her eccentric elderly neighbor. Soon after, she discovers that she is pregnant. While these two things may or may not be blessings, they are certainly connected. Rosemary’s neighbors are part of a satanic cult. They summon Satan to impregnate Rosemary while she is unconscious in her bed. When this dark demigod is born, its appearance is up to your imagination. Aside from one clue… “He has his father’s eyes.”
Catholic priests attempt to exorcise a young girl, Regan (Linda Blair), of the demons that possess her. Eventually, even the Devil uses the innocent girl to talk through. When he does, it’s almost impossible not to delight in his sick humor. Director William Friedkin says his film is not really about the Devil, but rather “about the mystery of faith.” The Exorcist is one of the first films to trigger mass cinematic neurosis. As the demon-host Regan projectile vomits on screen, so too does the audience. The film is based on the novel by William Peter Blatty.
In Rome, Katherine’s (Lee Remick) baby dies moments after birth. Her husband Robert (Gregory Peck) secretly replaces their child with another. Kathy doesn’t know that this child, Damien, is not the one she gave birth to. Neither of them knows his true origins. After his fifth birthday, everything surrounding the mysterious Damien becomes darker and deadly. When the mark of the Antichrist 666 is found on the sleeping boy’s body, it becomes clear who he is. The son of Satan. And he is here to do his father’s bidding.
The Lord of Darkness in Legend is one of the most iconic portrayals of Satan in all of cinema. Though the character (played by the amazing Tim Curry) is never explicitly referred to as the Devil, the horns, hooves, red skin, and exaggerated features are all clearly inspired by the popular perception of the Prince of Darkness. In fact, darkness is exactly what he wants, with the character’s goal being the implementation of eternal night in the fairy-tale land of Legend.
Quantum physics students assist a priest (Donald Pleasence) in investigating a mysterious liquid. This ancient liquid turns out to be a fluid embodiment of Satan. In the student’s investigations, the liquid is accidentally released, therefore releasing the powers of the Devil onto humanity. The demonic liquid passes from person to person, infecting them with a disease of darkness. This may be an allegory for the AIDS epidemic. A true horror of the ’80s that was surrounded by sensationalism and mystery.
In Angel Heart, Robert de Niro plays Louis Cyphre, a mysterious (and creepy) man who hires Harry Angel (Mickey Rourke) to track down a missing man. Angel’s investigation leads him to New Orleans where he becomes entangled in a supernatural mystery that reveals some truly disturbing truths about himself and the man he is working for. Spoiler: Louis Cyphre sounds a lot like Lucifer.
The antique shop ‘Needful Things’ opens in a small town in Maine. There, you will find whatever you need. But there is a high price to pay. As disaster strikes, citizens turn against each other instead of seeing what is right in front of them: the Devil himself. Here, the Devil doesn’t possess horns or have bright yellow eyes and angry red skin. He looks like an average human from Ohio. Perhaps humankind was made in the Devil’s image as well. This horror is based on the 1991 novel by Stephen King.
After winning countless corrupt cases, a New York City lawyer (Keanu Reeves) quickly rises to the top of his firm. A firm, to nobody’s surprise, run by Satan (Al Pacino) in human form. This version of Satan is so charming that his existence almost seems altruistic. Believing that humans are inherently dark, it is a kindness to nourish their darkness and a delight to watch it grow. This film concludes with one of the most famous Devil monologues of all time. Al Pacino declaring God as an absentee landlord is both comedic and tragic. Pacino excitedly took the part where he “could do almost anything with the role. How are you going to be judged? Anything goes when you’re playing the devil.”
Dean Corso (Johnny Depp) assists a collector in authenticating a rare book. This book is said to summon the Devil, who happens to be the book’s co-author. We voyage across Europe in this adventurous thriller, and perhaps even to Hell. This horror fantasy is based on a 1993 novel written by Arturo Pérez-Reverte but is also reminiscent of the real text, Codex Gigas.
The Devil attempts to tempt Elliot (Brendan Fraser), and ordinary man with a dead-end job and a serious lack of confidence. The Devil gives Elliot seven wishes. The price: Elliot’s eternal soul. As you’d expect, each of Elliot’s wishes are twisted in some way by the Devil, leading to Elliot learning some valuable life lessons (and making a devilish friend along the way). This light-hearted comedy was directed by Harold Ramis.
Satan appears in this bloody and violent retelling of the crucifixion of Jesus. Preferring to remain inconspicuous, Satan appears as a hooded man who tempts Jesus at the beginning of the movie, then watches intently as Jesus is tortured later in the film. Biblical and historical significance aside, The Passion of the Christ is a grueling experience.
Constantine (Keanu Reeves) is a terminally ill anti-hero exorcist. He battles demons and expels them from their human hosts. Though, he eventually works as a team with their master, Satan. With the odds stacked against him, Constantine tries to save his soul from damnation. The story and character are based on the DC Comics “Hellblazer.” Director Francis Lawrence talks about creating Satan’s kingdom: “So we decided that it was kind of an eternal nuclear blast except for nothing ever really gets obliterated because it’s eternal and it’s constantly going.”
A Catholic priest (Tom Wilkinson) is charged with the negligent homicide of Emily Rose. Emily died during an exorcism that became violent, as many do. Flashing back, we see Emily battling neurological conditions, while at the same time believing she is possessed by demons. Perhaps even by their master. Is Emily possessed, or is she ill beyond the help of pharmaceutical aid? The film isn’t about answers, but questions. Director Scott Derrickson explains “My intention is to make a film that provokes people to ask themselves what they believe about evil, what they believe about the demonic.” Based on the case of Anneliese Michel, a true story of probable psychosis and malpractice.
A group of strangers gets stuck in an elevator. A scary situation becomes scarier when one after the other dies an impossible death. It soon becomes clear that the Devil is among them. Anxiety builds fast in the claustrophobic setting. The Devil is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, slaughtering the flock from the inside. The film will make you question your own judgments, and who you deem as dangerous. “When the first bad thing happens,” writer M. Night Shyamalan says, “all faces start to look threatening.”
This musical horror is a showcase of Aesop’s Fables intertwined with sin. Timeless stories such as “The Scorpion and the Frog” play out in song. Beneath the carnival tent, Lucifer and his crew put on one hell of a show. “Instead of making a monster movie with a human element,” director Darren Lynn Bousman says, “it’s a human story that happens to have a monster in it.” This version of Hell is unique in its whimsy while remaining torturous and wicked. The film is followed by the sequel Alleluia! The Devil’s Carnival (2015).
An artist (Ethan Embry) and his family move into a home left vacant after a double murder. The killings were caused by an ominous and omnipresent voice that still haunts the house. When the artist hears this voice, he channels it into murals. Realizing his paintings show the faces of missing children, he knows the voices are not simply born from his creative mind. Rather, they come from a carnivorous and ever-hungry Devil. Told with a classic haunted house formula, the film itself is a mural of blood and desperation.
In The Witch, Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy) and her family of English settlers are exiled to live in a barren wilderness. For fertility, they pray to God. But it isn’t God who answers their call. The devil comes, in one of his many disguises. This time, as a feminist black goat. To persuade Thomasin to join him, he offers her simple things, like a “taste of butter.” Filmmaker Robert Eggers received a lot of pushback on that line. Fellow filmmakers told him he should choose something more exotic. “Those were things the devil actually promised,” the filmmaker objected, choosing not to alter the Devil’s line. His studies of the witch trials revealed similar simple objects used to seduce puritan women who mostly sought liberation.
In this third installment of The Conjuring series (and the eight installment of The Conjuring Universe), the Warrens investigate crimes committed during demonic possession. This film is based on the real murder trial of Arne Cheyenne Johnson, the first case to use demonic possession as a legal defense. Though, many criminals claim to be doing the groundwork for a spiritual entity, be it the Devil or God. The Warrens are a real couple, though their claims of battling demonic forces have come to question.
More Movies About Satan
- The Devil Rides Out (1968) – A south Londoner (Christopher Lee) tries to rescue his friend’s son, who is involved with the occult.
- The Mephisto Waltz (1971) – A journalist (Alan Alda) interviews a terminally ill piano-playing Satanist. Before dying, the satanic pianist transfers his soul into the journalist’s body.
- The Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971) – A mysterious corpse is discovered in an 18th-century village. A wave of satanic rituals follows. This is one of the earliest films credited with shaping the folk horror genre.
- Satan’s School for Girls (1973) – After her sister’s apparent suicide, Elizabeth investigates the school she attended. She uncovers a Satanic cult that may be responsible for her sister’s death.
- To The Devil a Daughter (1976) – An occult writer (Richard Widmark) realizes his friend’s daughter might be worshipping a dark deity in the heretical “Children of the Lord” religious order.
- Alucarda (1977) – Orphans in a Catholic convent become possessed by demonic forces. This Mexican film strongly emphasizes the tension between science and religion.
- Oh, God! You Devil (1984) – George Burns plays both God and the Devil in this comedy about a musician who sells his soul.
- Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991) – Bill and Ted briefly encounter the Devil in their trip through the afterlife.
- The Prophecy (1995) – Archangel Gabriel (Christopher Walken) searches for an evil soul. Meanwhile, an angelic civil war descends upon the earth. Viggo Mortensen appears in the film as Lucifer.
- Little Nicky (2000) – Satan (Harvey Keitel) sends his son Nicky (Adam Sandler) to Earth to stop Nicky’s two, even more evil brothers.
- Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny (2006) – Jack Black and Kyle Gass battle Satan (played by Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters) in a rock-off in this silly musical comedy.
- The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009) – Tom Waits plays Mr. Nick (aka Satan) in this imaginative movie from Terry Gilliam.
- I Trapped the Devil (2019) – After a man traps the devil in his basement, his family arrives for a surprise Christmas visit.