Satan and the Silver Screen

Satan and the Silver Screen

On January 28, The Rite opens in movie theaters across the country. The much-anticipated thriller tells the story of California priest who goes to Rome to study exorcism.

Matt Baglio, an American journalist living in Rome, wrote a book based on this story. The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist was published in 2009 by Doubleday (with an audio version by St. Anthony Messenger Press). The film is based on Baglio’s book. St. Anthony Messenger featured an article about the film adaption, written by Matt Wielgos and John Feister, called “The Rite: The Story Behind the Film” for the February issue.

The following films are listed in a sidebar I wrote for that article. Here are some of the more memorable film representations of Satan.

Rosemary’s Baby (1968): This horror classic relies more on subtlety than shock—and to superb effect. Mia Farrow deftly plays a New York housewife who suspects her neighbors are a coven of witches with devilish plans for her unborn child. The final scene still packs a punch.

The Exorcist (1973): After almost four decades, The Exorcist is still a visceral film experience. Linda Blair memorably spouts obscenities—and green pea soup—as a bedeviled preteen.

The Omen (1976): Long-overshadowed by The Exorcist, The Omen tells the story of a loving and affluent couple who suspect their son, Damien, is the Antichrist. Terrifying.

Oh, God! You Devil (1984): George Burns plays both darkness and light in this ’80s comic romp.

Legend (1985): Mostly fairytale fluff, Legend does, however, offer one of the most visually arresting depictions of Satan, played with menacing glee by Tim Curry.

Angel Heart (1987): Director Alan Parker, a master of mood and mystique, helmed this underrated thriller starring Robert De Niro as the bearded dark one.

The Witches of Eastwick (1987): Who says the devil can’t ham it up? Jack Nicholson plays the wily prince of darkness who seduces three New England women.

The Devil’s Advocate (1997): Al Pacino found the perfect role for his signature scenery chewing.

The Passion of the Christ (2004): With simply her presence, Rosalinda Celentano, as a genderless Satan, taunts Christ and terrifies moviegoers.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005): Jennifer Carpenter is astonishing as an inhabited young woman who undergoes an exorcism. Loosely based on real events.

What films did I miss? How else has Satan factored so memorably in motion pictures?


About the Author

Christopher Heffron is the associate editor of St. Anthony Messenger magazine and the editor of its digital edition. He is also the social media editor at Franciscan Media and the editor of,, and this blog site. A seeker at heart, he's a student of pop culture and a lover of good movies, good wine, and good times spent with family and friends.
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  • Ron Riegler Acrtechnical Produ
  • Ron

    Amityville Horror!

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  • Debbie D.

    Passion of the Christ was a fantastic movie. Realism and accepting it is what Christians need today. The horrifying agony of Christ and the deception of the evil one as portrayed, I feel, was very accurate. We, even we Christians, do not intensely meditate upon what Christ’s agony was really like. This movie pierced my soul with the realization of what God Himself did for me so I may attain heaven one day. I constantly watch it so it may imbed my soul and help me to be a better Christian each day that I live.