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Satan in popular culture

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Satan in popular culture

The Devil appears frequently as a character in works of literature and popular culture. In Christianity, the figure of the Devil, or Satan, personifies evil.[1]



Classical Music

The musical interval of an augmented fourth, or tritone, was called the Devil's Chord (Latin: Diabolus in musica – the Devil in music) and was banned by the Roman Catholic Church in the Middle Ages.[2] Composers avoided the interval, and although it is sometimes found in secular music of the time, it was used in religious music only in very specific circumstances until the existing system of keys came into use.

The Devil is featured as a character in many musical representations from the Middle Ages to modern times. Hildegard of Bingen's 11th-century Ordo Virtutum features him, as do several baroque oratorios by composers such as Carissimi and Alessandro Scarlatti. During the 19th century, Gounod's Faust, in which the Devil goes by the name Mephistopheles, was a staple of opera houses around the world.

Highly virtuosic violin music was sometimes associated with the Devil. Tartini's Devil's Trill sonata and Paganini's Devil's Laughter caprice are examples. The theme is taken up by Stravinsky in the "Devil's Dance" from The Soldier's Tale.

"Archangel of Light" (another name for Lucifer) is a title song of the classical music band with the same name, by the composer Carlos David López Grether

Popular music

Film and television

When Satan is depicted in movies and television, he is often represented as a red-skinned man with horns or pointed ears on his head, hooves or bird-legs, a forked tail (or one with a stinger), and a pitchfork. When trying to blend in or deceive somebody, he is often represented as an ordinary human being, and sometimes only his voice is heard.


Satan as a personification of evil provides many narrative opportunities. Struggles with Satan have been used to symbolize human weaknesses and tempatations, as in the films Bedazzled (1967, remade 2000) and Oh, God! You Devil (1984). In horror and suspense films, Satan provides for a virtually all-powerful foe.

  • Angel on My Shoulder (1946), the Devil uses a person's desire for revenge to his own ends
  • Damn Yankees (1955 musical film), in an uncharacteristically benign treatment, the Devil uses his powers to defeat a sports team (the New York Yankees) that he apparently dislikes
  • The Story of Mankind (1957) The Devil, though not called that in the movie, goes by the name of Mr. Scratch and opposes the Spirit of Man at a trial to determine the fate of mankind and the planet Earth in front of the High Judge (God, though not called 'God' by name) when the potential of nuclear war with the H-Bomb becomes apparently inevitable to all in Heaven.
  • Rosemary's Baby (1968) Rosemary Woodhouse is raped by the Devil and gives birth to the Antichrist.
  • The Omen (1976) film series, Satan's son Damien Thorn is the Antichrist
  • Croosroads (1986) The Devil is portrayed as a trickster who takes souls in exchange for unparalleled musical prowess, a la Faust.
  • Angel Heart (1987), Robert De Niro plays the character "Louis Cypher", a play on the name "Lucifer", who is revealed to be the Devil at the end of the film
  • The Prophecy (1995), Viggo Mortensen plays the devil Lucifer, attempting to prevent Gabriel from triggering an angelic civil war that will create a new Hell to 'compete' with Lucifer's own
  • The Ninth Gate (1999), a trio of 17th century books feature engravings supposedly created by Lucifer; legend states that the three engravings, when brought together, reveal an inscription that will summon the Devil
  • The Devil's Advocate (1997), Al Pacino portrays a character named John Milton — a reference to Paradise Lost — who is ultimately revealed to be Satan in human form, manipulating his son (Keanu Reeves), an criminal attorney who is ignorant of his true parentage, to accept his demonic heritage.
  • End of Days (1999 action/horror), Satan is the main villain in which he is portrayed as a malignant, invisible force that takes possession of a businessman (Gabriel Byrne) in order to conceive the Antichrist before the turn of the millennium, only to find himself opposed by an atheist ex-cop-turned-private-security when he attempts to capture and rape the young woman chosen by prophecy as his bride.
  • Little Nicky (2000), Lucifer is the father of Satan and preparing to retire as ruler of Hell, portrayed by Rodney Dangerfield, presented as a sympathetic character more interested in maintaining balance than actually taking over the world.
  • The Crow: Wicked Prayer (2001), Luc "Death" Crash (a Satanic cult leader), is possessed by Lucifer (here called Satan) and wishes to jumpstart the Apocalypse by impregnating Crash's fiancee Lola Byrne (who is also a part of the cult) with the Antichrist, but is distracted by Jimmy Cuervo. The sun rises before Lola can be impregnated and Jimmy impales Crash on a spike and slits his throat. Lucifer is sent back to hell following his host's death.
  • The Passion of the Christ (2004), Satan is portrayed by a woman (Rosalinda Celentano) and has a more androgynous appearance than the traditional image of a red-skinned, horned satyr-like monster. She is implied to be the mastermind behind the Pharisee's plot to kill Jesus and also the one who influenced Judas' betrayal. She tries to distract Jesus while he prays at Gethsemane, watches sadistically as Jesus is whipped 39 times with the cat-o-nine-tails (while holding a demonic child) and follows Jesus through the crowd as the Christ walks to his death. She also sends several of her demons to torment Judas after the 12th disciple betrays Jesus, which leads to his suicide by hanging from the rope used to lead the donkey that carried Jesus to Jerusalem. After Jesus' death and the destruction of the Temple (as Jesus had prophesied), Lucifer returns to Hell and screams in anger at her defeat.
  • Constantine (2005), Lucifer, portrayed by Peter Stormare, makes an appearance after being summoned by John Constantine to prevent Mammon from entering the human world; he later removes the source of Constantine's lung cancer to give the redeemed Constantine another chance to prove that he belongs in Hell after Constantine sacrifices a chance to save his own life to ask Satan to release someone else from Hell.
  • The Devil's Carnival (2012 musical), Lucifer is the leader of a Carnival occupied by demons portrayed as Carnies, in which three sinners must go through; God is depicted as the enemy of Lucifer.


  • Joel Grey played the otherworldly being "Adam" in the series finale of Dallas on May 3, 1991, who shows J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman) what the world would be like if he (J.R.) had never been born, revealing only in the show's final moments that he is The Devil come to make J.R. destroy himself through his own self-loathing.
  • The third series of Ashes to Ashes introduces the character Jim Keats (played by Daniel Mays), a Discipline and Complaints officer sent to audit the Fenchurch East police station. Fenchurch East is revealed as a purgatory for police officers, Gene Hunt as an "archangel" saving souls and sending them to Heaven, and Keats as the Devil taking souls to Hell.
  • The fifth season of BBC supernatural drama Being Human reveals that the Devil was trapped in a human form in 1918 as part of a plan to kill him- the Devil having apparently triggered the First World War as part of a plan to provoke a vampire/werewolf conflict so that he could feed on the resulting energy-, only for the ritual that was being used to be disrupted so that the Devil would be bound but not completely weakened or killed. Surviving into the present day, the Devil attempts to manipulate Hal Yorke (the vampire who originally participated in the ritual to bind him) and Tom McNair (a werewolf who now shares a house with Hal) into conflict with each other so that he can feed on the energy they create. Although he eventually gains enough power to manifest his full powers, he is killed in the series finale when Hal, Tom and their ghost friend Alex Millar perform the binding ritual once more, the Devil's death apparently restoring them to humanity.
  • John Glover portrayed the fallen angel Lucifer in the short-lived series Brimstone.
  • The two-part Doctor Who story "The Impossible Planet"/"The Satan Pit" features a version of the Devil called "the Beast", who claims to have served as a subconscious basis for devil-like entities in religions throughout the universe. This depiction places more emphasis on the monstrous appearance of the Devil, depicting him as a gargantuan, red-skinned beast with horns and a skeletal face.
  • Fallen, the ABC Family trilogy, shows Lucifer as a major character.
  • Northern Exposure season 3 episode 5 "Jules et Joel" features an adult male Halloween trick-or-treater dressed as the devil who demands Joel Fleishman give him a treat, which he denies. The man sprays Joel with silly string and runs off, being chased by Joel who doesn't make it past his porch before running into a support and getting knocked out.
  • Reaper portrays Satan (played by Ray Wise) as a smooth-talking gentleman, often with a jocular manner, making contact with Sam Oliver to inform Sam of his missions as Satan's bounty hunter due to a deal his parents made prior to his conception.
  • The Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Devil's Due" includes a character pretending to be Satan with both the traditional image and the Klingon version. Throughout the episode, she appears in a default form of an attractive mischievous woman. She is eventually revealed to be a con artist attempting to exploit a planet's mythology to take control of it.
  • Stargate SG-1 has an alien character, Sokar, who adopts the persona of Satan, possessing a great army with which he wanted to take control of all other System Lords, and ultimately of the galaxy itself. He creates his own Hell on Ne'tu, the satellite of his homeworld, where he sends his enemies for torture and punishment.
  • Supernatural has Lucifer stated to be the god of the demons in the season 3 episode "Sin City", later stories revealing that he created the first demon by taking a human soul and corrupting it into a demon as part of his rebellion against God. Season 4 of the series deals with demons trying to release him from Hell by breaking the sixty-six Seals keeping him contained, and eventually succeeding in the finale. In Supernatural, Lucifer is presented as less evil and more of a tragic villain, claiming that he was condemned to Hell because he defied God's commandment to love humanity over him and claiming that their actions since he fell have merely proven him correct in his disdain of them. Many of the angels in the series joke that he is "a spoiled child with daddy issues going through a temper tantrum", fellow Archangel Gabriel and Horseman of the Apocalypse Death both comparing him to the former favourite child getting upset because his father (God) liked the new baby (Humanity) more than him. In the Season 5 premiere, the risen Lucifer convinces a grief-stricken man to become his human vessel (being an angel, Lucifer must obtain permission before possessing someone), but reveals that his 'True Vessel' -- the Vessel which will grant him full access to his power on Earth -- is Sam Winchester. The relationship between Lucifer and Michael, a major focus of the fifth season, is portrayed as a tragic story of once-close brothers becoming reluctant enemies, this role being further emphasized with the discovery that Sam's brother Dean is Michael's Vessel. Although each is resolved to kill the other, the complexity of this relationship is apparent in the season 5 finale, when the angel Castiel strikes Michael with "holy fire", and in brotherly protectiveness, Lucifer destroys Castiel with the words "Nobody dicks with Michael, but me". As the end of Season 5, Lucifer is returned to his prison when Sam accepts his role as a Vessel and takes control of his body in time to send Lucifer back into his Cage. Sam is later rescued by the demon Crowley and the angel Castiel, but without his soul, which is retrieved by Death. In season 7 Lucifer returns as an hallucination as a side effect of Sam's soul being returned to his body. Lucifer torments Sam and continually leads Sam to believe that he is still in the cage and even tries to get Sam to kill Dean. Eventually Sam's illness leads him to be locked up in a hospital where he continues to torment him until a resurrected Castiel transfers the illness to himself.
  • Touched by an Angel has Satan occasionally appear in the guise of a human being. Each time, he manipulates people around him in an attempt to thwart the angels Monica, Tess and Andrew in their efforts to work for God. John Schneider, Todd Rulapaugh and Mandy Patinkin each portrayed Satan in one episode, and David Ogden Stiers appeared as Satan in the two-episode series finale.
  • The Twilight Zone is known for having various depictions of the Devil in its episodes with Burgess Meredith, Sebastian Cabot, Thomas Gomez, Robin Hughes and Julie Newmar playing the role in the original series and Ron Glass and Gene Barry in the 1987 revival series.
  • Torchwood episode "End of Days" features a gigantic demonic being named Abaddon, called the "Son of the Great Beast" (a reference to the aforementioned Doctor Who episodes). Abaddon kills people by casting his shadow over them to absorb their life energy, which becomes his downfall when he absorbs the immortal Captain Jack Harkness, choking him to death.
  • Xena: Warrior Princess season 6 episode "Heart of Darkness" shows Lucifer as a fallen archangel after Xena causes him to commit all seven deadly sins. After his transformation into Satan, she promptly shoves him into a portal to Hell, taking the place of former leader of Hell, Mephistopheles, whom Xena had killed.
Anime and cartoons

In anime and cartoons, when a character is unsure what to do, a devil version and an angel version of the character may appear, representing the two sets of motives.

  • Demon Lord Dante (魔王ダンテ, Maō Dante), Demon Lord Satan helps Dante in his battle against God and his angels
  • Digimon, known as Lucemon and one of the franchise's Seven Great Demon Lords, is based upon Lucifer; this character's backstory is notably similar to Lucifer's fictional fall from grace. This Digimon possesses numerous forms of increasing power, including his Chaos/Falldown Mode, Shadow Lord/Satan mode, and Larva Mode.
  • Metalocalypse episode "Dethreligion" has William Murderface joins the Church of Satan after nearly dying in a drunk driving accident. During a mass, one of the priests tries to summon Lucifer, along with Belial, Beelzebub, and Mephistophiles, by shouting out their names in an obnoxious, loud tone. He later appears along with the other three demon lords (with only his arm visible) to murder the church members and its inhabitants.

Satan has been featured as an occasional character in many other series, including Cow and Chicken, Family Guy, Futurama (as the "Robot Devil" who runs Robot Hell), Powerpuff Girls, Robot Chicken, Saturday Night Live, South Park, and The Simpsons.


The BBC Radio 4 comedy show Old Harry's Game features Andy Hamilton in the leading role as Satan; in the first episode of Series Six, Satan states that he's gone by many names over the centuries including Beelzebub, Mephistopheles, Old Nick, Old Harry and Simon Cowell (one of his Satanic guises),


Many writers have incorporated the character of Satan into their works. Among them are, in chronological order:


In DC and Vertigo comics, the Devil is represented by Lucifer Morningstar, the fallen angel, former ruler of hell, and leader of the Unholy Trinity - although other figures, such as Neron and the First of the Fallen, sometimes portray the Devil. In Underworld Unleashed, Neron gives powers to numerous villains. Darkseid is also associated with the Devil in the forms of Lucifer, Hades, the Greek God of the underworld, and the Hindu goddess Kali.

In some Marvel Comics publications, a "Lucifer" has been mentioned as being a hell lord with the same "fallen from Heaven" backstory. In the recent Ghost Rider series, Johnny Blaze faces a demon who claims to be Lucifer. In other Marvel plotlines, several high-level demons, such as Mephisto, Azazel, Marduk Kurios, and Satanish, have claimed to be the biblical Satan. In Marvel Comics the Norse trickster-god Loki is shown as the main adversary of his adopted brother Thor and a common enemy of both Earth and Asgard. Although Loki has conjured up somewhat demonic magic, he is not a demon but a misshapen frost giant. Among the characters related to Norse mythology, the fire giant Surtur is more reminiscent of a demon. The Egyptian demon-god Seth and the Japanese demon-god Amatsu-Mikaboshi have Satan-like roles in Marvel Comics.

Satan is a main character in the manga Devilman by Go Nagai.

Jio Freed, the main character from the manga, O-Parts Hunter, contains Lucifer/Satan, the most powerful demon in the series.

In the manga series Bastard‼: Heavy Metal, Dark Fantasy by Kazushi Hagiwara, Satan appears as a large monster that has destroyed the Milky Way Galaxy by flying across it. Satan also helps Dark Schneider by telling him that he is a major part of the end times prophecy, who will lead demons and mankind to war against God and his army.

In the Image Comics comic book series Spawn, Satan is depicted as the twin brother of God. Both God and Satan are depicted as havong squandered their powers as creator gods in endless fighting and were punished for it by the Mother of Creation.

In the Japanese manga series Dragon Ball Z by Akira Toriyama, Satan is portrayed by Dabura, ruler of the Demon Realm. Dabura is placed under the wizard Babidi's control by a spell, becomes his right-hand man, and does his bidding. Dabura later retaliates against Babidi's orders. Majin Buu turns him into a large cookie and eats him. Dabura appears as a red demon with two huge horns like a minotaur's and a blue outfit with a white cape.

The title character of Johnny the Homicidal Maniac is sent to hell and has an extensive conversation with Señor Diablo (Spanish for Mr Devil). In the spinoff series Squee!, the Devil is married to a Christian woman and has a son, Pepito the Antichrist, who befriends the unwilling Squee. Squee is invited to Satan's house for dinner, where Satan and Pepito both try to get Squee to join them, but he refuses and leaves after finishing dinner.

Satan is the main character in Normal Bob Smith's satirical Satan's Salvation.

In the manga series Blue Exorcist by Kazue Kato, the main character, Rin Okumura, is Satan's son and emits blue flames, a sign of Satan.

Lucifer appears in the Saint Seiya anime and manga series.

Video games

  • Satan is a green-haired demon that serves as the comical villain in the Puyo Puyo series.
  • Satan is the final boss in Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. He appears as a long-haired, nearly naked man.
  • Satan is the name of one of the Seven Sisters of Purgatory in the series Umineko: When They Cry.
  • Satan is a bird-like creature that serves as an assist character for Pekomaru in Daemon Bride. Another version of this character, named Holy Demon Lucifer, serves as an assist character for Reizei's angel counterpart, Shining Rebelion.
  • In the Shin Megami Tensei series, Satan appears as a neutral character that works as either support or opposition. He also appears in the form of a human named Louis Cyphere in his child, adult, and elderly forms throughout the games. He is shown as an enemy of Satan and Yahweh. He also appears in the Devil Survivor spin-off, as one of the most powerful monsters in the game.
  • The Persona video game series depicts a seraphim version of Lucifer known as Helel and a demonic version that keeps the original Lucifer name. Many players have considered him to be one of the most powerful personae in the games due to his Armageddon fusion spell consisting of Lucifer and Satan as well as having the most powerful multi-hit spell known as Morning Star.
  • The Ghosts 'n Goblins series have a recurring motif thorough the series in which main characters in each game uses a name given to the biblical Satan, although they are all different characters. In Ghouls 'n Ghosts, the character is named Lucifer. The character was renamed Loki in the international versions of the Sega Genesis port and Rushifell (a misromanization of Lucifer) in Gargoyle's Quest.
  • In El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron, Lucifer (referred to as Lucifel) assists Enoch in his battle against the fallen angels. Lucifel is portrayed as a wisecracking trickster like character who shares a comical, friendly relationship with God.
  • In Dante's Inferno, Lucifer appears as shadowy spirit at the start before Dante Allighieri faces him in his physical form, only to be revealed as a shell-like imprisonment that holds the real Lucifer: A malformed angel with his wings ripped off, having been banished from Paradise after his failed rebellion against the Creator. It is revealed that he needs Dante to free him so he can have his revenge on God, but ultimately fails, and is sealed back into his icy prison by the holy power of Dante's cross, combined with every single soul that Dante absolved in Hell.
  • Devil May Cry 4 features a demonic weapon known as Lucifer that Dante obtains after he kills Berial. The weapon is depicted as a skull holding a rose in its mouth. The weapon is capable of firing infinite explosive mini-swords.
  • In Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, Lucifer (under the alias of Lou) is shown as a manager for the player's band. It is later revealed that the band inadvertently sold their souls to him.
  • In Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams, the character Roberto Frois uses gauntlets featuring the names of several archangels of Abrahamic myth with the Lucifer Gauntlets being his strongest darkness based weapon.
  • In Mega Man X8, the character Lumine is based on Lucifer, and includes a final attack called Paradise Lost.
  • He makes an appearance as the King of Dem in the video game series Demikids.
  • Lucifer appears in the Painkiller video game series, where he is shown as a classical red demon.
  • Lucifer also appears as a secret boss in Final Fantasy II in the palace of Arubboth.
  • Lucifer is an assist character in Daemon Bride that serves as a partner to Reizei Abane.
  • Lucifer, or alternatively, "Doom Bringer," is a playable character in Defense of the Ancients.
  • In Monster Retsuden Oreca Battle, there is a card called Fallen Angel Lucifer, as well as her false form Lucif.

Role-playing games

Devil's Dictionary

Ambrose Bierce's The Devil's Dictionary gives a satirical view of Satan as "one of the Creator's lamentable mistakes". When expelled from Heaven, he asks that mankind be allowed to make its own laws, and the request is granted.

U.S. Justice

In 1971, Gerald Mayo brought a civil rights action in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania against Satan and his servants, who allegedly placed deliberate obstacles in Mayo's path. In its written opinion, the Court did not deny Satan's existence, but asserted that it was unlikely that Satan was ever present in the Western District of Pennsylvania, stating, "We question whether plaintiff may obtain personal jurisdiction over the defendant in this judicial district."

In a jocular reference to The Devil and Daniel Webster, the court implied that Satan might live in New Hampshire, stating, "While the official reports disclose no case where this defendant has appeared as defendant there is an unofficial account of a trial in New Hampshire where this defendant filed an action of mortgage foreclosure as plaintiff." This appears to be the only published legal case in the U.S. concerning Satan, and the present U.S. official position seems to be that Satan may exist and, if so, might be found in New Hampshire.

See also


Further reading

  • The Comics Go to Hell: A Visual History of the Devil in Comics (by Fredrik Stromberg, 360 pages, Fantagraphics Books, 2005, ISBN 1-56097-616-0)
  • The Lure of the Dark Side: Satan & Western Demonology in Popular Culture (by Eric S. Christianson and Christopher Patridge, 256 pages, Equinox Publishing Ltd, SW11, 2008, ISBN 1-84553-310-0)
  • The Satanic Screen: An Illustrated Guide to the Devil in Cinema (by Nikolas Schreck, 256 pages, Creation Books, 2001, ISBN 1-84068-043-1)

External links

  • Thirty-two years of Satan in popular culture, SF Weekly.
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