The Best Movies You've Never Seen Featuring The Devil

(Welcome to The Best Movies You've Never Seen, a series that takes a look at slightly more obscure, under-the-radar, or simply under-appreciated movies. This week we get a bit devilish and go looking for great movies starring Satan or his imps.)

Satan. Beelzebub. Lucifer. Ol' Scratch. Big Red. Old Horny.

The name might change along with the look, but the one constant in Satan's numerous onscreen appearances is that he's something of a jerk. He's always spreading evil, stealing souls, and being a general pain in the rear end for no reason beyond a simple desire to cause suffering. The devil is a fairly frequent visitor to the silver screen, and he's unbound by genre, gender, or general guidelines – because he's the devil.

Tim Curry's devil (Legend, 1985) is big and imposing, Robert De Niro's (Angel Heart, 1987) is mysterious and fond of eggs, Elizabeth Hurley's (Bedazzled, 2000) is playfully wicked, John Carpenter's (Prince of Darkness, 1987) is a mathematically inclined jar of swirling goo, Bill Cosby's (The Devil and Max Devlin, 1981) is currently serving three to ten in a Pennsylvania State Correctional Facility – the list of memorable appearances by the devil is legion. But what about the lesser known ones? The onscreen devils that haven't passed over from hell into the undying hellscape that is pop culture?

Keep reading for a look at some of the best movies you haven't seen starring the devil... or reasonable facsimiles thereof.

I Trapped the Devil (2019)

The holidays can be a difficult time for people, and family often makes it worse. Steve finds this out the hard way when his Christmas plans are interrupted by a surprise visit from his brother and sister-in-law. What are those plans you ask? Well, Steve has the devil locked in a room in his basement, and he needs to watch over the bastard because he's pretty sure someone is coming for him.

Fans of slow-burn horror will want to seek out writer/director Josh Lobo's feature debut as it introduces the characters, reveals the setup, and then lets the tension grow minute by minute en route to a deadly finale. Is the person in the basement actually the devil? I'll leave that for you to discover, but Steve's belief is more than enough to infect the house and its occupants with doubt and fear which in turn begins to fester in viewers too. Scott Poythress and A.J. Bowen do great work as brothers unable to bridge the distance that's grown between them – and the devil in the basement certainly isn't helping in that regard.

One of the film's strengths is in its approach to our very perception of evil. Our desire to find someone or something to blame for the horrible things that happen to those we love can lead to all manner of mental gymnastics – something the film captures well through the elaborate display of newspaper clippings linked together by conspiracy-colored string. It's easier for some people to accept a supernatural, external force affecting our lives than it is to believe in random chance or the banality of man's own evil deeds, but belief and experience aren't always aligned. Especially when, you know, the devil is locked up in your basement.

I Trapped the Devil is not currently available but will be released by IFC Midnight on April 26th, 2019.

Errementari (2017)

A blacksmith living in a small town in 19th century Spain is shunned and feared for the secrets and nightmares locked away behind his gate. Two people enter his life – one is a government agent suspecting the blacksmith of hoarding ill-gotten gold, and the other is a young orphan girl made accidental witness to a nightmare. Also in the mix? The devil named Sartael that the blacksmith keeps locked and chained in a cage who claims he's owed the man's soul. It was his bad luck to make such a deal with perhaps the meanest man alive.

This Spanish fable explores the life of a very bad man whose deal with the devil brings him safely home from the war only to reveal why such deals are a fool's errand. The film makes his presence a threatening one, but just as we come to accept him as the antagonist the story shifts and surprises with new introductions and revelations. It's a blend of thrills both historical and supernatural, character growth, and a blackly comic heart. It's great fun for folks who don't mind darkness pouring from every corner of their morality tales.

This is also a minor cheat on my initial list premise as the devils here are mere demons and not the big red one. I'm allowing it, though, because Sartael is both referred to as "the devil" and looks the part with his red skin, sharp horns, and a pitchfork. He's made a deal for a human's soul too, and as the film moves into the third act more little devils – and one not so little – make their appearance too. Lots of terrific practical effects work fills the screen leading to an ending that nearly demands a sequel. For the record, I'm demanding one too.

Errementari is currently streaming on Netflix as one of the service's Originals.

Father's Day (2011)

A serial killer with a particularly nasty M.O. has returned after a ten-year hiatus, but now he's back to assaulting and killing unsuspecting dads. A pair of now-grown siblings whose own father was murdered by Chris Fuchman team up with a priest and a male prostitute to stop the madman, but they discover a startling truth. The killer is actually a demon, and their fight with the unholy beast will bring them all the way to hell.

You know how people say a movie isn't for everyone? Well, that's true about every movie, but it's even more true about this one. The entire thing is a wildly offensive ride built on inappropriate bones (and at least one boner), but it's not designed solely to shock and disgust. There's a smart dissection of revenge movie tropes beneath the latex, T&A, grisly violence, and fake blood, and for those in the right mindset there are also plenty of laughs. It's an Astron-6 production, and while their best film remains The Editor (2014) I've got a soft spot for this ridiculous romp.

Like Errementari above, the demon at the heart of the film isn't actually the devil, but Satan does make an appearance at the end in an unlikely guise – both in character and the choice of performer. The demon elements are gooey, gory, and every bit as abrasively over the top as the rest of the film as our heroes head into the bowels of hell. The abrasiveness spills over into the visual style of the film too as its low budget and intentional "grindhouse" look might prove challenging for some viewers. Most viewers even. But it's their loss as this is the kind of movie that entertains every time you watch and continues to delight as you attempt to summarize it for friends, family, and passersby.

Father's Day is available to stream and on Blu-ray/DVD.

Storm of the Century (1999)

A small island town is surprised by a winter storm that seems unusually strong, but a bigger threat walks between the snowflakes. A stranger has arrived, and he quickly proves himself capable of manipulating the locals to their death. He says he'll go away if they give him what he wants, but while most will readily agree to the inhuman man's demands some will find the price far too high to pay.

It's true, this is technically a mini-series rather than a movie, but if you watch all 257 minutes in one sitting then it's basically just like an Avengers movie. Stephen King's filmography consists mostly of adaptations of his written work, but this under-appreciated gem was written directly for the (small) screen. It's no less powerful or affecting for it, though, thanks in part to a strong cast headlined by Tim Daly, Jeffrey DeMunn (his third of four appearances in a King project), and Colm Feore as the demonic presence terrorizing the community. Give it your attention, and it will lull you into its atmospheric and devastating tale.

Those familiar with King's work will find threads familiar to the likes of The Mist and Needful Things, both used to positive effect, but the story remains its own thing. Mob mentality, selfishness, and humanity's naturally fearful state are all on display here for judgment – by King, by viewers, and by the town's mysterious visitor. It contrasts our numerous weaknesses against a handful of strengths, and it's bitterly honest about the outcome. The real world might not have the devil, or Legion as the case may be, to force our hand, but sadly humanity is prone to committing its acts of evil and indifference even without supernatural influence.

Storm of the Century is available on DVD.

Mister Frost (1990)

When a detective arrives at the large home of a seemingly well-to-do man as part of a murder investigation he discovers the grounds are home to more than just one body. The man, a cordial but ice-cold Mister Frost, admits his wrongdoing and then goes silent for years. He only begins to speak again in the presence of a psychiatrist, and it's to her that he tells his secret – he is the devil incarnate.

Jeff Goldblum as a serial killer who may or may not be the devil? Yes, and it's every bit as good as that brief descriptor sounds as Goldblum puts his considerable charm to much darker use than most viewers are used to seeing from him. There's a seductive nature to his performance, by design, as he manipulates those around him in their actions and thoughts. Kathy Baker plays the doctor who's caught his eye, and the result is something akin to the relationship in The Silence of the Lambs as the two banter and test each other.

The film does a fantastic job teasing both possibilities – that Frost is a calculating madman, or that he's actually Satan – to the point that either outcome would prove satisfying. It's a slow-burn and far from an action/thriller, but just as Frost is able to hold court through his calm words the film holds viewers' attention through its steady, methodical pace and unfolding story. It's a very intimate tale on the one hand in its focus on these two souls, but it's every bit the story of humanity's own inevitable reach towards violence.

Mister Frost is not currently available.

The Evil (1978)

A rundown Civil War-era mansion seems like a good investment opportunity, but when you factor in the supernatural shenanigans it becomes a money pit filled with blood. Of course, the good doctor and his wife don't know that going in, but when they invite some friends over to help renovate the weekend get together quickly turns deadly. Bodies hit the floor as the doc races to discover the truth behind the house's evil interior design.

This late 70s horror film is easily the least great of this week's picks, but it's a fun and effective chiller all the same. The horror element stems from a familiar place in the haunted house subgenre, and while the expected elements are present – a dark history, ghostly figures, spectral antics – the movie goes out of its way to throw everything at viewers. We get shimmering ghosts via optical effects, invisible phantoms threatening to remake The Entity with one young woman, hairy animal-like arms dragging people into the shadows, and more. The film, like the house, is full of surprises, and while they're familiar they're also crafted well enough.

The reason it's here on this list, though, is for the guy pictured above. He's the devil in case you hadn't figured that out, and it's such a ludicrous presence in this otherwise solid but typical haunted house movie that it raises it just far above the fray. Our hero, played by Richard Crenna, stumbles through a secret basement, enters a room, and suddenly finds himself in what looks at first like something out of a Lucio Fulci film – before revealing itself to instead be the portly, bearded man above smiling down from his throne. It's surreal in a way the previous antics weren't, and it's a rare example of the devil's appearance in a straight horror film being the absolute least frightening thing about it.

The Evil is available to stream and on DVD.

The Devil with Hitler (1942)

Hell's board of directors decides that the devil is being upstaged by a human, one Adolph Hitler to be precise, and so they plan on booting the former and putting the latter in charge of Hell. Satan's not too keen on that idea, so he sets out to show them Hitler's not right for the job – by convincing the Nazi leader to do a good deed.

I'm including this one as a bonus pick as it only runs 44 minutes, but it's a highly entertaining watch for fans of physical comedy, wordplay, and fascist-bashing. The great Alan Mowbray plays Satan, or Gesatan as he introduces himself to Hitler, and it's a jolly good time watching him juggle his duties as the lord of suffering with his efforts up on the surface to force Hitler's hand in doing something nice. Talk of concentration camps exists side by side with Three Stooges-like slapstick, and while some of the stereotypical humor doesn't age well – the leaders of Japan and Italy see their accents played up something fierce – all three members of the Axis are portrayed as fools worthy of mockery. The fascination with sticking things up Hitler's behind is also a bit odd, but what are you going to do.

The Devil with Hitler isn't currently available (outside of YouTube).