The Devil was traditionally represented as a menacing, horned figure with crimson skin, a tail, and a pitchfork. This imagery has been greatly impacted by religious literature and art. However, more complex and varied depictions of the Devil have been explored in modern films and television shows.
These various depictions show how filmmakers have embraced artistic freedoms, moving away from representations of the Devil that are simplistic and one-dimensional in favor of more sophisticated, thought-provoking, and dynamic characters. Besides well-known movies with acclaimed Devil portrayals such as Constantine, The Devil’s Advocate, and Angel Heart, there are lots of television shows that also excel in that area.
10 ‘American Horror Story: Apocalypse’ (2018)
American Horror Story: Apocalypse is the eighth season of the anthology horror series American Horror Story that combines elements from two previous seasons, Murder House and Coven, and creates a new storyline. The season tells of a catastrophic nuclear event that occurs, leading to the near-extinction of humankind.
In Apocalypse, the Devil, or more precisely the Antichrist, known as Michael Langdon, is portrayed as a malevolent and powerful force with a connection to supernatural and apocalyptic events. As the Antichrist, Michael embodies evil and represents the destructive forces that threaten humanity throughout the season. Thus, the portrayal of the Devil in the show delves more into themes of temptation, the battle between good and evil, and the destructive nature of power.
9 ‘Reaper’ (2007 – 2009)
Reaper follows Sam Oliver (Bret Harrison), a young man who discovers on his 21st birthday that his parents sold his soul to the Devil before he was born. As a result, Sam is now obligated to work as a bounty hunter for the Devil, capturing escaped souls who have returned to Earth.
In Reaper, the portrayal of the Devil is somewhat different from traditional interpretations. The Devil, played by Ray Wise, is charismatic, cunning, and often seen as a charming and enigmatic figure. Therefore, the show’s portrayal tends toward a more whimsical and sophisticated interpretation, adding levels of mystery and unpredictability to the character while still embodying a figure of darkness and seduction.
8 ‘Sleepy Hollow’ (2013 – 2017)
Sleepy Hollow reimagines the classic Washington Irving short story, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, intertwining it with a modern-day setting. It follows Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison), a resurrected Revolutionary War soldier, who awakens in present-day Sleepy Hollow. Crane discovers that he is now in a world filled with supernatural creatures and dark forces.
The Devil, in the first three seasons, was frequently alluded to. In the fourth season finale, he made his one and only appearance, serving as the series’ final antagonist. Sleepy Hollow, unlike other shows, presents a portrayal of evil and the Devil as entities that pose a constant threat and test the strength and resilience of the show’s protagonists. While the character of the Devil may not have a direct representation, the presence of various demonic forces underscores the ongoing struggle between light and darkness in the series.
7 ‘Supernatural’ (2005 – 2020)
Supernatural follows two brothers, Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles), who become hunters and travel throughout the United States to fight supernatural creatures. Lucifer (Mark Pellegrino) first appeared on Supernatural in the show’s 5th season with the ultimate goal being to pit the Winchester brothers against each other, with one of them becoming his vessel to fulfill the apocalyptic events described in the Book of Revelation.
While Supernatural primarily focuses on the character of Lucifer as a fallen angel rather than the traditional Devil, its portrayal of Lucifer is captivating and multifaceted. Moreover, what sets the show apart is its exploration of Lucifer’s inner conflicts and emotional struggles which delves into his deep-seated resentment towards his father (God) and his intricate relationship with his fallen angel brothers.
6 ‘The Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina’ (2018 – 2020)
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina follows the titular character, Sabrina Spellman (Kiernan Shipka), a half-witch who must navigate the challenges of balancing her mortal life with her magical heritage. The Devil, played by Luke Cook in the show is often referred to as the Dark Lord or Satan. He is portrayed as a powerful and malevolent entity worshiped by the coven of witches in the town of Greendale.
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’s depiction of the Devil is a dark and malevolent one which showcases him as a seductive and cunning entity, playing on the desires and vulnerabilities of the characters to gain their loyalty. It also emphasizes the Devil’s relentless pursuit of power and dominance, making it one of the best Devil portrayals on TV.
5 ‘Penny Dreadful’ (2014 – 2016)
Set in Victorian-era London, Penny Dreadful follows the story of several complex and troubled individuals who are drawn together by supernatural forces and dark secrets. As the series unfolds, these characters find themselves entangled in a web of supernatural occurrences, battling supernatural creatures, and confronting their own inner demons.
The Devil, who does not make an official appearance in the show, is depicted as a manipulative force, often taking the form of various characters and influencing events from the shadows. His presence emphasizes his ability to exploit humanity’s weaknesses and desires, reminding viewers that evil is always present even when they can’t perceive it.
4 ‘The Sandman’ (2022 – )
Based on the critically acclaimed comic book series of the same name by Neil Gaiman, The Sandman follows Dream (Tom Sturridge), also known as Morpheus or the Sandman, who is one of the Endless—a group of powerful beings representing fundamental aspects of existence. Lucifer Morningstar, in the show, is gender-swapped and played by Game of Thrones actress, Gwendoline Christie in episodes “A Hope in Hell” and “Lost Hearts” in which she challenges Dream to a duel.
Despite drawing from the same source material as Lucifer, The Sandman‘s portrayal of the devil is fascinating and different because it not only gender-swapped Lucifer but also showed her in a diabolical, unfriendly, and unlikable light. However, the limited screen time prevented fans from getting to know her better, which will hopefully be explored in season 2.
3 ‘Constantine’ (2014 – 2015)
Based on the DC Comics character John Constantine, Constantine follows the titular character, played by Matt Ryan, a British exorcist and occult detective with supernatural abilities. Constantine also struggles with his own inner demons while fighting against supernatural threats and protecting humanity from the forces of darkness.
Satan does make appearances, but his depiction remains limited. While the character does not play a central role in the show, the presence and influence of the Devil are felt throughout the narrative. The show portrays the Devil as a powerful and manipulative being, who is known for making deals and tempting individuals to commit acts of evil. Also, it’s crucial to note that Satan in Constantine is used as a trigger for paranormal activities and the moral difficulties that the protagonist encounters. Hence, the character is depicted more as a malevolent force that must be reckoned with, rather than a fully developed and complex character.
2 ‘Preacher’ (2016 – 2019)
Based on the comic book series by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon, Preacher follows Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper), a former criminal turned preacher in a small Texas town. After merging with a supernatural entity called Genesis, Jesse gains the power to make anyone obey his commands.
The Devil, portrayed by Jason Douglas, is known as Satan or Prince of Darkness. He plays a significant role in Preacher, but his depiction is not a traditional one. In the show, the Devil is shown as a brooding and menacing figure who is imprisoned in Hell and orchestrates events behind the scenes. While his appearance is limited, his influence is felt throughout the series.
1 ‘Lucifer’ (2016 – 2021)
Lucifer centers on the titular character, Lucifer Morningstar, portrayed brilliantly by Tom Ellis, who is tired of his monotonous life in Hell, Lucifer abandons his throne to explore the mortal world. He became a consultant of the LAPD alongside Detective Chloe Decker (Lauren German) who seemed to bring out Lucifer’s vulnerability.
The portrayal of the Devil in Lucifer is one of the best on television. Unlike the traditional image of a menacing and evil figure, Lucifer presents the Devil as a complex and multidimensional character with charm, wit, and surprising relatability. Moreover, the show explores his human experiences and emotions rather than only concentrating on his demonic nature. This portrayal makes the character more than just a symbol of evil; he becomes a captivating anti-hero with vulnerabilities and a yearning for connection.
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