In Judeo-Christian theology, angels are divine servants of God who live in Heaven. This is true of angels in pop culture as well… but sometimes they’re also dicks. For some reason, TV shows, movies, comics, and more are obsessed with the idea of these heavenly beings embodying humanity at its worst. How many angels can be jerks on the head of a pin? Well, here are at least a dozen.
There are a few Angels in Todd McFarlane’s Spawn comic, and most of them seem to be cleavage-baring women. What sets Zera apart from Angels like Angela and Tiffany is the fact that—despite being an angel—she’s totally insane and a homicidal maniac. God keeps her imprisoned, trotting her out the few times he needs someone killed, which is of course a totally reasonable thing for an omnipotent being to do. Her bloodlust is so great it can actually turn into what is basically a holy yeti that breathes fire.
Kevin Smith’s movie Dogma has its fans and its detractors, but one thing everyone agrees on is that it’s about two fallen angels, Bartleby and Loki, who get exiled to Earth for getting drunk and raising hell (metaphorically speaking). Bartleby (Ben Affleck) and Loki (Matt Damon) concoct a plan to get back into heaven by being in a new church as its re-dedicated, which is a sort of Catholic “Get out of jail/Earth free” card. But if they’re admitted back to heaven after God banished them, that makes God wrong, and the universe basically imploded. Once he discovers this small flaw in their plan, Loki immediately quits, but an angry Bartleby decides to see it through, which is a total jerk move. Also he kills a bunch of people.
Gabriel, Legion and Dominion
Not that I really want devout Christians to decry every single movie that takes a non-traditional look at Judeo-Christianity, but I have to wonder where the people who freaked out about Dogma were when Legion was made. This is a movie where a pregnant waitress played by Adrianne Palicki is going to have a kid who saves humanity. The problem is that God himself doesn’t want humanity saved—he’s kind of sick of us—and thus he sends his Angels, led by Gabriel, to murder an unborn child. Not cool, heaven! In the bizarre TV sequel Dominion, set 25 years after the movie in a semi-post-apocalypse, Gabriel is still trying to kill all humans, although at least God has the decency to have gone missing.
Angels of the Tenth Realm, Marvel Comics
These guys are weird. They’re angels—they have wings, and they live in a place called “Hevan”—but somehow they’re part of Marvel’s Norse mythology. They live in the previously unknown Tenth Realm, which was locked away by Odin because… well, because the angels were all assholes, really. They’re selfish, they’re conceited, and they’re vindictive as hell (no pun), and they’re very pro-baby murder, as you can see above. If you’re wondering whether Angela, the former Spawn character recently brought into the Marvel universe, is one of these angels, she indeed thought she was… but it turns out she was Thor’s sister. Sure!
If you need a jerk angel in your story, Gabriel is apparently the angel to pick. This Gabriel, played by Tilda Swinton in the 2005 Keanu Reeves film, seems enigmatic but is still a huge asshole. The androgynous angel’s plan is to help Satan’s son Mannon take over Earth so that humans, uh… have a chance to die for a good cause and get into heaven? It doesn’t seem particularly well thought out. Even if Gabriel’s motive are pure—and they almost certainly are not—he/she still brutally murdered Constantine’s pal Chas when Constantine tried to stop hell from literally being on Earth. Yes, Chas was played by Shia LaBoeuf, but it was before the Transformers movies and his weirdness, so at the time it was kind of a shame.
We still lament the flawed but charming Constantine TV series, mainly because when the show’s first season ended, we learned that Manny—the angel supposedly sent to watch over Constantine and (sort of) help him in his battles against the Rising Darkness—was actually working for the Rising Darkness the whole time. We don’t know why; we don’t even know if Manny was actually an angel that had Heaven fooled, a demon in disguise, a fallen angel, or what. All we know is that he put Constantine through some serious grief and was lying to his face the entire time.
Zadkiel, Marvel Comics
Much like Zera in Spawn, Zadkiel is God’s personal angel warrior who is shockingly efficient at killing things and doesn’t care much (or at all) about humanity. Unlike Zera, Zadkiel thinks he can do a better job than God at ruling the universe (also, Zadkiel gets a much less revealing outfit than Zera). Using a couple of Ghost Riders as unwitting pawns, Zadkiel actually did manage to take over heaven… for a while.
The Angels of Evangelion are generally bizarre monsters ranging from giant humanoids to weird spheres that actually only exist in their shadow. It’s hard to typify them as jerks, just like its hard to see the monsters Godzilla fights as jerks. But Kaworu, who appears and acts just like a human, doesn’t have this problem. He arrives in Tokyo-3, gets into NERV’s Evangelion program, and befriends the psychologically damaged protagonist Shinji, knowing that he’s going to betray him later. Yes, it appears that Kaworu really cares for Shinji, especially when he basically allows Shinji to grab him with his EVA Unit, but this still forces Shinji into a situation where he has to brutally murder his best (only?) friend. The fact that the friend lets him makes the situation worse, so it’s definitely a jerk thing to do. Killing Kaworu is the final straw that sends Shinji spiraling into insanity and, depending on which version of Evangelion you’re watching, destroying the world.
Gabriel, The Prophecy
Another Gabriel? You bet! This one is played by Christopher Walken, so you know he’s up to no good. In this 1995 movie, there’s an Angel Civil War, and Gabriel wants to overthrow the current regime and take over, which even Lucifer knows is a bad idea since heaven will basically become a second hell (which is bad for business). The fact that Gabriel needs a “dark soul” of a Korean war vet who committed war crimes does not seem to bother him. Also, we find out in the second Prophecy movie, in which Walken’s Gabriel tries again to win the Angel Civil War that he started, that 1) no soul has been allowed to enter heaven since Gabriel revolted, which sucks for all the dead people, and 2) the whole reason Gabriel is basically tearing all of theology apart is because God stopped talking to him and he feels bad.
Pyrial, The Prophecy 3: The Ascent
So this villain of the third Prophecy movie is yet another angel who wants to take over heaven. He’s known as “The Angel of Genocide,” which I think pretty much says everything you need to know about him. Again, I feel a literal angel of genocide is significantly more sacrilegious than anything that happened in Dogma.
In the world of DC Comics (and the world of Vertigo, which sort of overlaps with it), Lucifer is a pretty chill dude. Sure, he abandoned his job as king of hell and that caused a bit of a mess, but it all worked out and he’s running a piano lounge in Los Angeles. But the angel Amenadiel has never forgiven Lucifer for betraying God, and he keeps looking for ways to make the devil pay—which never, ever works out. Lucifer is too smart, and Amenadiel is too dumb, and every time the angel blows it, he gets angrier and stupider, to the point where he actually invaded L.A. with an angelic host. People died. Suffice it to say Amenadiel is all about his ego, and not about fighting evil.
Basically Every Single Angel on Supernatural
I honestly don’t mean this to be a pun, but holy shit. There is no series with a more obvious anti-angel agenda than The CW’s long-running Supernatural. The nicest angel of the bunch of Castiel, who helps the protagonists Sam and Dean fight the forces of evil, but is still totally cool with basically torturing a child to get information when necessary. The second least horrible angel is Gabriel (him again) who not only spent centuries masquerading as Loki, but trapped Sam in a pocket universe where he was forced to witness the death of his brother 100 times. That’s the second nicest!
The rest don’t even try to be nice, and its clear they almost invariably think of humans as humans think of cockroaches—incredibly beneath them and totally gross. They kill humans without remorse (one particularly awful angel, Zachariah, even gives Dean fatal stomach cancer and removes Sam’s lungs for a few minutes just to make a point—you can see it in the video above). In fact, in the series’ first half, most of the angels basically want Satan to escape from Hell so the apocalypse can happen, partially to get it over with, but mainly because they’re bored—despite the fact that half of humanity would almost certainly die. Another angel, Metatron, managed to kill a lot of innocent people in his (quite successful!) bid to take over heaven, as well as a bunch of angels. Metatron also turned angels into suicide bombers, which is totally goddamned insane. Angel suicide bombers. Do not ever pray in Supernatural.