Se7en: Dante’s influence on pop culture

16 Oct

Se7en is a 1995 American crime film starring Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, and many other star-powered actors and actresses. The film is about the hunt of two homicide detectives, Detectives Sommerset and Mills, for a sadistic serial killer who murders in correspondence to one of the Seven Deadly Sins which his victim has committed. The murderer is determined by his desire to punish the world for its ignorance of the Seven Deadly Sins, viewing himself as akin to the Sword of God in handing out punishment of sins. As Detective Sommerset researches the Seven Deadly Sins to better understand the motive of the killer, Detective Mills simply scoffs at his efforts. Throughout the film, the detectives make numerous references to Dante’s Inferno. It can be said that the entire movie is based on the Seven Deadly Sins, just as Dante’s “Purgatory” was.

In the Divine Comedy by Dante, written between 1308-1321, the three canticas, “Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradise”, make the entirety of the story. In the “Purgatory”, Dante tells of seven terraces that correspond to the Seven Deadly Sins. These sins are pride, envy, wrath, sloth, greed, gluttony, and lust. In the movie, Se7en, the serial killer also acts with murder on the Seven Deadly Sins which his victims commit. In both, Dante’s “Purgatory” and Se7en, the people are punished according to the sin in which they committed.

The murderer, John Doe, speaks this quote in the movie :

“We see a deadly sin on every street corner, in every home, and we tolerate it. We tolerate it because it’s common, it’s trivial. We tolerate it morning, noon, and night. Well, not anymore. I’m setting the example. What I’ve done is going to be puzzled over and studied and followed… forever.” 

Also, Detective Mills, makes a direct, outraged reference to Dante when he says:

“F***in’ Dante… poetry-writing fa**ot! Piece of s**t, motherf***er!”


In Se7en, the victim who commits gluttony, a greatly obese man, is forced to eat until he can not eat any longer. Then the killer kicks him in the side, causing his stomach to burst.

In “Purgatory” the gluttonous must experience excruciating hunger and thirst.

In the film,  the lawyer who was greedy, the side of his abdomen was sliced off. 

For Dante, the greedy were forced to lay face-down on the hard ground.

Se7en (Seven, 1995) - Sloth

The slothful man in Se7en was strapped to a bed for a year, where he lay rotting away.

In “Purgatory”, the slothful souls must run constantly.

In Se7en, the man full of envy kills a woman by cutting her head off.

In Dante’s version, the envious must stand together with their eyes sewn shut.

A man, in his wrath, shoots another man in the head in the film.

In the “Purgatory” the wrathful must walk through acrid, dark smoke, unable to see the outside world.

In Se7en, the woman who is too concerned with her outer beauty has her nose cut off. She is then so proud, that her outer deformity causes her to commit suicide by overdosing on prescription drugs.

In the “Purgatory”, prideful people must walk with heavy stones on their backs.

In the flm, a man is forced to murder a prostitute for her great sense of lust by raping her with a razor-bladed dildo.

In Dante’s “Purgatory”, the lustful are thrown violently in a potent wind.

 The direct and indirect references of Dante’s influence on Se7en is definitely evident throughout the film. 

Works Cited
Leach, Shawn. “Movie Spoiler for the Film – SEVEN.” The Movie Spoiler. Web. 16 Oct. 2010.<;
Saunier, Michael. “Se7en (Seven) Horror Movie Review by BHM: Mainstream Horror That Thrills.” The BEST Horror Movies, For the Discerning Horror Freak… 8 Sept. 2007. Web. 16 Oct. 2010. <;
“Se7en (1995) – Parents Guide.” The Internet Movie Database (IMDb). 16 Sept. 2010. Web. 16 Oct. 2010. <;.


Posted by on October 16, 2010 in Dante


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4 responses to “Se7en: Dante’s influence on pop culture

  1. Mrs. Gardner

    October 17, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    Why didn’t you leave the library clip from youtube in there?

  2. Sammie

    October 22, 2010 at 7:27 pm

    That’s a really interesting blog post. Even though I think the movie is kind of gross in places it’s really cool that they took a piece of classic literature that a lot of people might find boring and turned it into a movie that millions of young people would watch and enjoy without even realizing that they were being influenced by Dante’s Inferno. I just wonder how many liberties they took with the story because we didn’t really read about all of these things in class. That would be an interesting thing for you guys to include.

  3. Jordan

    October 25, 2010 at 3:07 am

    I thought this was very interesting. After learning about Inferno, Purgatory, and Paradise, I want to go watch this movie! The pictures you two used for your blog (even though they freaked me out a bit) were really cool. I think that this movie would be thrilling for someone who actually knows what/why these horror events are taking place. Great job guys!

  4. Carly

    October 25, 2010 at 11:43 am

    i really want to go watch this movie after seeing that clip from the internet, it almost reminds me of the Saw films.


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