Mephisto is the main antagonist of the 1926 silent film Faust, directed by F. W. Murnau, an adaptation of the German legend of the same name. Portrayed in the role of the Devil opposed to God, Mephisto attempts to corrupt the soul of a righteous man and claim dominion over the Earth and all its inhabitants.
He is portrayed by the late Emil Jannings.
Mephisto is wicked, cruel, conniving, murderous, sadistic, arrogant, perverse, and power-hungry. He has no value of human life, willing to murder dozens in order to succeed in his goals, but is also very skilled in manipulation, able to trick Faust into making a deal with him.
Mephisto first attempts to corrupt the Earth by unleashing his Four Horsemen to create chaos, but is stymied by the arrival of an archangel. Rather than submit, Mephisto challenges the angel to a bet: if Mephisto can corrupt the soul of a righteous man, than he shall be allowed to rule over the Earth. The angel agrees, and Mephisto selects an elderly alchemist by the name of Faust to torment.
Mephisto casts a plague on Faust's village, resulting in the alchemist became disillusioned after his attempts to pray to God to stop the plague yearns no results. After burning his alchemy books and the Bible, Faust reads a book that entails the glory of making a pact with the Devil, Mephisto. Faust being desperate to save his village, summons Mephisto from the crossroads.
Mephisto makes a pact with Faust, putting the alchemist in his service for 24 hours. Mephisto bestows Faust with the power to heal the sick, but it makes him unable to face a cross. However, the villagers shun him when they learn that he cannot face a cross, and they attempt to stone him, forcing him to retreat into his house.
Mephisto offers Faust his youth and a wife in exchange for his soul as a means to escape. Mephisto takes Faust to Parma, where Mephisto forces the Duchess of Parma to fall in love with Faust. Faust and the Duchess leave, and Mephisto murders her groom. The 24-hour time limit runs out, and Mephisto threatens to rescind his deal. Faust is obliged to seal a permanent deal, putting him in Mephisto's debt forever.
Faust eventually grows weary of a live of debauchery and wishes to return home. Mephisto takes him home, where Faust falls in love with a girl named Gretchen. During Faust's visit to Gretchen's house, Mephisto lures Gretchen's mother to the scene, where she dies of shock. Mephisto then informs Gretchen's soldier brother, Valentin, of the situation, spurring him to return and fight Faust in a duel. Mephisto, however, intervenes and mortally wounds Valentin, who curses Faust and Gretchen in his dying breath.
Gretchen is put in the stocks and subjected to torment from the village. She gives birth to a child, and is rendered homeless. Gretchen inadvertently kills the infant by setting it down in the snow after having a vision of a warm cradle. Gretchen is subsequently labelled a murderer and subjected to execution via burning at the stake. Mephisto takes Faust to the execution, but is too late to stop Gretchen from being burned at the stake. Faust revokes his deal for his youth, prompting Mephisto to take away Faust's youth. Faust then joins Gretchen in death, and their spirits rise together into heaven.
Mephisto returns to the archangel to claim his debt, but is dismayed to learn that he had lost his bet; love had triumphed after all, and Mephisto had failed to corrupt Faust. A horrified Mephisto then retreats from the angel, defeated.