The Devil In Films - Featured Image - Films - RetroWitch Film Blog

The devil and Hell depicted in Films-Insider story

Several texts through history explore versions of the the afterlife, specifically ‘hell’ and depictions of the ‘devil’ himself. What he may look like, or what are the laws of hell, and who are those that go to hell. This dates back to the time of when the Bible was written, with the most popular depiction of what we may see as ‘hell’. A belief in Hell has been a staple of Christian thought from the earliest period of this religion. The depiction of Hell and its denizens – the devil, demons and the punished sinners – has an equally long history going back to at least the sixth century. From the eleventh century onwards, images of Hell become proliferated and more detailed in their presentation of the damned and their torments – in parallel to such texts as the popular ‘Apocalypse of the virgins’. Artists come up with different solutions in picturing the various torments inflicted upon the sinners as well as the places where these torments take place. 

Jack Nicholson from Witches of Eastwick

In the art of the late Byzantine period and the late medieval west, the various figures of the damned are presented with inscriptions detailing the crimes and sins for which they are being punished. In western Europe, literary texts add detail to the vision of Hell as well, starting with the ‘Vision of Tondal’ and culminating in Dante’s Divine Comedy. The images, as well as the texts that we assume they are illustrating, offer a rich field for research. Questions of iconography as well as the exploration of social meanings attached to these powerful representations present themselves. The exploration of developments within the body of texts on and depictions of Hell can be particularly fruitful. Pop culture, media/ television/ books have explored the place Hell occupied within society and art as well as the way Hell was envisaged as a physical place. However with these several versions very apparent in history are constantly evolving and changing with time as with the modern day relevance of religion. 

A very common perception of ‘hell’ stereotyped in the modern day as a result of christian imageries , that has had j on media/ television content till date as we see red flaming fiery interiors, demons torturing souls and the devil himself with red horns and a pitchfork. But there is the idea of the conventional physical hell also, mainly propounded by myths and mythologies. It is a limitless and terribly dark place where the liquid fire burns eternally for torturing the damned souls of despicable sinners. then there is the spiritual hell created by the mind of man within himself and the source of suffering of this hell is the consciousness of impending doom and damnation as well as the loss of eternal bliss of heaven .


This has almost been turned into a mockery in the modern day  as we see battles between the angel and the devil or the character indecisive about who to listen to in order to make choices such as in the very popular play ‘Doctor Faustus’ where good or bad choices must be made that will decide his fate. . A popular example of ‘hell’ being loosley tied in modern day media is in one episode of ‘Tom and Jerry’ where tom goes to hell for chasing Jerry, which leads to hell directly, then he falls through it into the cauldron in hell where Spike is going to eternally torture him, using a pitchfork to heat him in a cauldron. 

 In most of the images the Devil depicted as an old bearded man mounting a monster holds a small figure of a naked child on his lap that in some late Cretan frescoes is identified with Judas. It is evident that Judas is placed under the protection of the Hell’s Prince. However there are yet various interpretations.. Either ‘comedic’ or even ‘horrifying’. People have played with the theme of ‘hell’ and ‘the devil’ very often in movies and television, sparking an interesting curiosity of the unknown. A 2015 stop motion movie called ‘Hell and back’ explores the comedic elements of Hell, friends breaks a blood oath over a mint, a portal opens and sucks him into hell. Two best friends risk everything and go through the portal to save him from demons and the devil himself. Interestingly here the devil is a ‘grey’ character, a normal average man doing his jobs, just like us he has flaws and insecurities, and happens to be in love with an angel from heaven. 

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Al Pacino – THE DEVIL’S ADVOCATE (1997)

Al Pacino chooses a different method in The Devil’s Advocate, and plays the horned one with all the energy, zest, and gusto of a camp Tasmanian devil with a hardcore methamphetamine habit. Going by the name of John Milton, the famous poet who wrote the epic Paradise Lost, Pacino’s take on the tormentor of souls is that of a lovable rogue. He’s charismatic, cheeky, a hit with the ladies, but his big downside is that he’s also a lawyer. In fact he’s a head of a New York City law firm who wants to corrupt an eager young attorney called Kevin Lomax (Keanu Reeves). The sex adoring, sick manipulator is how most may see the Devil. Al Pacino blows us away with his hit performance.

Tim Curry – LEGEND (1985)

Before Tom Hardy made cinematic history by playing both Ronnie and Reggie Kray in the upcoming Legend, Tim Curry was having it large and owning the manor 30 years previous in a film of the same name. Ridley Scott’s Legend may not have featured any psychotic East End villains, but it did boast a colorful selection of unicorns, goblins, and fairies, and featured a young Tom Cruise in the role of a forest dwelling elf who was battling the ancient Lord of Darkness himself.

Legend may not have gone down in history as a cinematic masterpiece, but Curry’s portrayal of the devil is almost as iconic as his role as Dr. Frank N. Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Mainly because Curry’s make-up is fiercely flamboyant and makes him look exactly like the devil from everyone’s childhood. He is an angry red, boasts huge horns, snarls in a sinister baritone, laughs like a creature who murders serial killers, and looks over-the-top even by the standards of medieval painters. Yet if you want a devil to scare a child, then this is it.

Jack Nicholson – THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK (1987)

Similar to Al pacino’s Devil, Jack Nicholson too portrays a mean little devil. If ever there were ever an actor born to play the devil, it would be Jack Nicholson. He embodies a slightly-unhinged-but-charming quality that, in the blink of an eye, can turn into a frothing-at-the-mouth, howling-at-the-moon, axe-wielding type of full blown insanity. Audiences first realized just how effective Nicholson was at going from 0 to 100 in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.

Of course, The Witches of Eastwick is a different kettle of fish, but Nicholson still delivers a full throttle performance as Daryl Van Horne. He’s a manipulative womanizer who uses his considerable charm to divide, conquer and control people with all the determination and ability of a born again cult leader.

Robert De Niro – ANGEL HEART (1987)

Any film featuring the twin talents of Robert De Niro and Mickey Rourke on top of their game was always going to be demonic by nature, and Alan Parker’s noir horror mystery Angel Heart doesn’t disappoint. De Niro plays the immaculately suited and booted, cane-carrying, Louis Cyphre. Yet it doesn’t dawn on Harry Angel (Rourke) that his employer is the sworn enemy of mankind until the end of the film, when he finds out that he sold his soul to Satan many moons ago and had conveniently forgotten all about it. De Niro’s depiction of the devil is often overlooked, the role and dialogue he uses to great effect could easily have been hammy in another actor’s hands. This Satan steals the show with the authentic air of an old, ancient, and almost weary evil, which is sick of the sordid sins of man. Be warned. After watching Angel Heart you’ll never view a boiled egg in the same way again.

Elizabeth Hurley , Bedazzled

The Devil, also known by many names such as. Satan, Lucifer, Beelzebub, the Prince of Darkness, actually, Princess of Darkness (in her current form and gender), is the former main antagonist of the 2000 supernatural comedy remake film Bedazzled. She was portrayed by Elizabeth Hurley, who also portrayed Vanessa Kensington in the Austin Powers films and will later portray Morgan le Fay in Marvel’s Runaways.

'A touch of Mystique to everything I do' Roshni Srinivasan write a Blog dedicated to B-movies and underground film, the lesser known gems. Especially dedicated to cultivating a space for Horror enthusiasts like myself and misfits interested in topics of 'absurdity', 'the mystical' and 'the Obscure'

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