In honour of the completely wacky looking Legion, starring Paul Bettany as the archangel Gabriel and Dennis Quaid as some guy with a shotgun (opening January 22), my list of favourite angels from the movies.
1. The Exorcist III (1990). Oddly enough, the novel the third Exorcist movie was based on was called...Legion. Hoo ha! A surprisingly effective horror movie that generated almost no box office, The Exorcist III has terrific acting turns from George C. Scott, Jason Miller and Brad Dourif. At one point, Scott's police detective has a weird dream set in what appears to be a departure lounge for the afterlife. There's even an angel playing a trumpet, which I've always assumed was a veiled reference to Jack Benny's angel comedy, The Horn Blows at Midnight. But that's not what makes this scene great. What's great is that Fabio and Patrick Ewing have cameos as angels, complete with white robes and giant white wings. Fabio and Patrick Ewing! That is fucking ridiculous!
2. The Prophecy (1995). This is one of those revisionist Christian fantasies for which the creators make a lot of shit up and hope it sounds plausible. But what makes it awesome isn't its out-of-left-field collision of fake Christian mythology and fake Native American spirituality. No, it's Eric Stoltz and Christopher Walken playing angels and Viggo Mortenson playing Lucifer! Christopher Walken is typically awesome playing Christopher Walken playing Gabriel. No dancing, though.
3. Dogma (1999). No, not for Affleck and Mattttt Daamonnn. For Alan Rickman as the Voice of God, Metatron, who's snarky and anatomically incorrect when it comes to his groinal area. Technically, Metatron isn't exactly an angel -- he's more like God's press secretary, and he used to be the prophet Enoch. Still, pretty funny.
4. Diablo II Expansion Version: Lord of Destruction (2001). OK, so it's not a movie. But the folks at Blizzard did some fine design work on Tyrael, the angel who occasionally helps your character out. And by 'occasionally', I mean 'not much at all, you lazy bastard. Even Deckard Cain gives me unlimited free identification of magical objects!' Basically, Tyrael's role is to bitch about you not arriving fast enough to save his angelic ass from imprisonment at the hands of Baal and Diablo, and to let you do all the dirty work fighting the forces of darkness while he chills in the Pandemonium Fortress. As a plus, he does finally do some heavy lifting by destroying the WorldStone in the awesome final animation sequence, and he also gives you 2 skill points for killing Izual. So I guess he's all right. Plus he has cool wings.
5. Wings of Desire (1988). Oh, those sad, compassionate angels wandering around Berlin and occasionally running into Columbo's Peter Falk. This is pretty much the only film directed by art-house legend Wim Wenders that more than ten non-Germans have seen, and it's occasionally gloomy, existential fun. The only really bad thing about this movie is that it got remade as City of Angels with Nicolas Cage and Meg Ryan. Sweet fancy Moses!
6. Constantine (2005). I wouldn't call this a good movie exactly, but it does feature Tilda Swinton as an androgynous, somewhat loopy Gabriel. Yes, with the release of Legion, the archangel Gabriel has now been played by Christopher Walken, Tilda Swinton and Paul Bettany. That's got to win some sort of award for weirdest trio of oddball actors to portray the same character in three different movies.