Paul Bettany in Legion

IF HOLLYWOOD HASN’T done enough to rid us of the image of glowing, chubby-cheeked and cherubic angels, then action/horror film “Legion,” which opens in theaters this week, should probably do the trick.

Starring Paul Bettany (actress Jennifer Connolly‘s husband, who you may know from roles in “A Knight’s Tale,” and “A Beautiful Mind“) and directed by Scott Stewart, the film introduces us to a not-too-distant future where God has given up on humanity. Disgusted with the human race, he sends all of his angels to destroy us — and only one angel, the archangel Michael (Bettany) disobeys. Instead, Michael goes rogue, breaking ranks with the rest of the angels and deciding instead to protect a young woman whom he believes is pregnant with the second coming of Christ. Along with a random group of people who are also in the New Mexico diner where the waitress, Charlie (Adrianne Palicki, “Friday Night Lights“) works, Michael fights against the powerful angels in a last-ditch effort to save the world.

Oh, and he does it with lots of violence and fire. If that doesn’t counter the image of angels as harp-plucking cherubs relaxing on fluffy clouds, nothing will.

And “Legion” isn’t the only film which has focused on angelic characters that don’t croon happy songs or flutter around eating cheesecake (here’s looking at you, Philadelphia Cream Cheese Angel). Here are our three favorite heavenly characters without the cleanest track records — Clarence Odbody was just too serene to make the list, you understand.

You may brush off “Angels in the Outfield” as just another saccharine Disney movie, but isn’t that the best kind? The 1994 Disney flick crossed sports with divine intervention, crafting a story where young boy Roger (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra“) desperately wants to reconnect with his father, who would rather have him become a ward of the state.

When Roger pleads to stay with his dad rather than remain in foster care, his father replies that will only happen “when the Angels win the pennant” — which of course means that Roger has to do everything in his power to make that so. He gets a little help, though, from the powers above, especially Al (Christopher Lloyd, “Santa Buddies“), a higher-up angel who helps orchestrate the Angels’ winning streak.

As quirky, eccentric and compassionate as he was in the “Back to the Future” series, Lloyd is solid as the kindly supportive angel, even when he’s telling Roger that one of his idols will be dying soon. And while the closing line, “We’re always watching,” seems a little creepy, it’s also somewhat comforting — Al’s a boss angel; he does what he wants.

Keanu Reeves may be great at playing monotone, confused-looking characters, but it was Tilda Swinton (“The Limits of Control“) his costar in the comic book-based “Constantine,” who stole the show.

As the androgynous angel Gabriel, who John Constantine (Reeves, “The Private Lives of Pippa Lee“) calls a “half-breed” because of his/her ability to influence humans and “whisper in our ears” and “give you courage or turn your favorite pleasure into your worst nightmare,” Swinton is a viciously unlikeable angel with a death wish for most of humanity.

With a calm, collected demeanor and an overwhelming ego, Gabriel could very well be criminally insane, guilty of betrayal, murder and genocide and with a serious religious bent — and Swinton balances it all quite deftly, especially when Gabriel learns God has stripped him/her of all divine powers.

There’s a lot to love about Kevin Smith‘s “Dogma,” from the chemistry between fallen angels Bartleby (Ben Affleck, “Extract“) and Loki (Matt Damon, “Invictus“) to the hilarity of 13th apostle Rufus (Chris Rock, “Good Hair“), but the best of them all is certainly Alan Rickman‘s portrayal of Metatron, the angel who serves as the voice of God.

Whether it’s his lack of genitalia or his sense of intense boredom with Bartleby’s and Loki’s antics, Metatron is hands-down the funniest part of “Dogma” — and “wax on, wax off” isn’t even the best of it. Turning a bat into a fish? Absolutely.

Written by Express contributor Roxana Hadadi

Photo by Lewis Jacobs