7 Reasons to Sell Your Soul to the Devil, According to the Movies

7 Reasons to Sell Your Soul to the Devil, According to the Movies

Oct 30, 2014

In Alexandre Aja's Horns, Daniel Radcliffe's Ig finds himself wrongly accused of murdering the love of his life. Framed and desperate, he awakes one morning with horns sprouting out of his head and newfound Satanic powers. You can guess what happens next.

Although Ig's deal with the forces of Hell is left intentionally vague, it's another example in a long line of movies where the protagonist (or someone close to the protagonist) gives up their soul to get something they desire. So join us, won't you, as we take a quick tour through the decades and examine some of the more memorable times that movie characters have sold their soul to the Devil.

 

Faust (1926)

The Reason for Soul Selling: Faust's hometown is beset by the plague, which is causing widespread death and devastation. When his prayers to God go unanswered, he decides to consult the other guy and offers his soul in exchange for the salvation of his city.

The Result: His deal with the Devil doesn't go over well with his friends and neighbors, who immediately reject him when they realize he's made a pact with Satan. With nothing and no one on his side, Faust decides to commit fully to the dark side and live a life of Hell-assisted debauchery, which includes eternal youth. It turns out that Faust is only a puppet in a wager between Satan and God over whether or not the former can corrupt an innocent soul. Naturally, things only get worse before a tacked-on happy ending.

 

Bedazzled (1967)

The Reason for Soul Selling: Stanley Moon (Dudley Moore) is a shy, socially awkward man who pines for Margaret, who won't even give him the time of day. Distraught, Stanley attempts suicide, only to meet the Devil (Peter Cook), who offers him seven wishes in exchange for his soul. Seeing an opportunity to fix his life and get the girl of his dreams, Stanley accepts.

The Result: As you'd expect, Satan twists each of Stanley's requests, taking even the most well-thought-out wish and finding an angle that makes it unbearable. A request to be more articulate transforms Stanley into a pretentious and unbearable intellectual. A wish to become a rock star only sees him instantly overshadowed by a newcomer. Eventually, the Devil has pity on Stanley and, in an uncharacteristic move, lets him out of the deal. The 2000 remake follows similar beats, except that Brendan Fraser's modern protagonist breaks his Satanic contract by using his last wish to hope for someone else's happiness.

 

Rosemary's Baby (1968)

The Reason for Soul Selling: Most of the movies we're talking about here feature a character compromising their own soul to get ahead in life. Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby is unique in that it features someone selling the soul of a loved one. That particular scumbag is Guy (John Cassavetes), who offers the body and soul of his wife (Mia Farrow) to a Satanic cult in their apartment building. In exchange for their cooperation, Guy is promised that his acting career will receive some assistance from a very dark place.

The Result: Rosemary finds herself knocked up with the Devil's baby, and her life only goes downhill from there. However, there's little she can do, and when she gives birth to a demonic monstrosity, she finds herself loving it as only a mother would.

 

Phantom of the Paradise (1974)

The Reason for Soul Selling: Although Brian De Palma's wacky horror musical mostly follows a jilted and mutilated songwriter who finds himself screwed over by an evil record producer, it's the latter, Paul Williams' mysterious Swan, who is the real mystery. You see, he sold his soul to Satan 20 years prior for eternal youth, allowing him to continue creating, showcasing and stealing great music for all eternity. 

The Result: Swan has to live an incredibly private life. He may be ageless, but portraits of him are not. Any image of him ages, Dorian Gray style, showcasing his curse to anyone willing to do a little research. The only way to defeat him is to destroy the original recording of his pact with the Dark Lord, and since he's the bad guy in this movie, you can guess what happens.

 

Spawn (1997)

The Reason for Soul Selling: Al Simmons (Michael Jai White) is a badass soldier and assassin who finds himself betrayed by one of his comrades. Killed in action, he turns up in the fires of Hell, where Satan offers him the chance to see his family one more time... as long as he agrees to become the general of Satan's demonic army.

The Result: Simmons agrees to the deal, transformers into a superpowered Hell monster and is ejected back into the mortal plane, where he learns that five years have passed and that his family has moved on (his wife has married his best friend). Although various forces tempt him to seek vengeance, fulfill his destiny and become Satan's right-hand man, he ultimately decides to use to newfound powers for good and become a superhero. Because of course.

 

Ghost Rider (2007)

The Reason for Soul Selling: When young Johnny Blaze (Matt Long) learns that his father has terminal cancer, he makes a deal with Mephistopheles (Peter Fonda), the Satan of the Marvel comic book universe. In exchange for Blaze's soul, his father will be cured. And he is! Hooray!

The Result: But on the same day he is declared cancer-free, Daddy Blaze is killed in a horrible motorcycle accident, because, you know, Satan. Years later, Mephistopheles utilizes his leverage over Johnny (now Nicolas Cage), forcing him to become the demonic entity known as "Ghost Rider" to punish evil souls and bring a few escaped demons to justice. Naturally, Johnny uses his newfound abilities to, you guessed it, become a superhero.

 

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009)

The Reason for Soul Selling: In one of the stranger soul sellings in movie history, we learn that Doctor Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) used to belong to a group of monks who kept the world alive by telling stories. When Mr. Nick (aka Satan) challenges their authority, Parnassus puts his own soul on the line, betting he could win more souls to the side of righteousness than Nick could bend to to his own means.  

The Result: For a while Parnassus succeeds, becoming immortal in the process. And then modern times arrive and people stop caring about Doctor Parnassus and his outdated tales. Now on the ropes, Parnassus' lovely daughter (Lily Cole) finds her own soul in danger, forcing the doctor and his troupe to take drastic action to save her from a fiery end.

 

 

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