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The Exorcist

The Exorcist (1973)



Average Rating: 8/10
Reviews Counted: 57
Fresh: 50 | Rotten: 7

The Exorcist rides its supernatural theme to magical effect, with remarkable special effects and an eerie atmosphere, resulting in one of the scariest films of all time.


Average Rating: 7.3/10
Critic Reviews: 10
Fresh: 8 | Rotten: 2

The Exorcist rides its supernatural theme to magical effect, with remarkable special effects and an eerie atmosphere, resulting in one of the scariest films of all time.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.7/5
User Ratings: 414,819

My Rating

Movie Info

Novelist William Peter Blatty based his best-seller on the last known Catholic-sanctioned exorcism in the United States. Blatty transformed the little boy in the 1949 incident into a little girl named Regan, played by 14-year-old Linda Blair. Suddenly prone to fits and bizarre behavior, Regan proves quite a handful for her actress-mother, Chris MacNeil (played by Ellen Burstyn, although Blatty reportedly based the character on his next-door neighbor Shirley MacLaine). When Regan gets completely


Classics, Horror

Dec 1, 1998

Warner Bros. Pictures - Official Site External Icon

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All Critics (57) | Top Critics (10) | Fresh (50) | Rotten (7) | DVD (12)

I loved it.

January 18, 2013 Full Review Source: Chicago Tribune
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It's good stuff but, basically, The Exorcist is a museum piece, something to be enjoyed for its historical value, its datedness and its almost quaint shock value.

October 8, 2012 Full Review Source: Washington Post
Washington Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Some movies aren't just movies. They're closer to voodoo -- they channel currents larger and more powerful than themselves.

September 7, 2011 Full Review Source: Entertainment Weekly | Comment (1)
Entertainment Weekly
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Friedkin and Blatty seem to care nothing for their characters as people, only as victims-props to be abused, hurled about the room, beaten and, in one case, brutally murdered.

August 24, 2008 Full Review Source: TIME Magazine | Comments (15)
TIME Magazine
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The Exorcist is not an unintelligently put-together film, which makes one all the more impatient with it.

March 19, 2008 Full Review Source: New York Times | Comments (20)
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

If movies are, among other things, opportunities for escapism, then The Exorcist is one of the most powerful ever made.

September 21, 2007 Full Review Source: Chicago Sun-Times | Comments (2)
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The Exorcist not only tops the horror genre but transcends it, resulting in a profound experience where moviemaking horror, thrillingly dramatic storytelling and deeply felt spirituality of the Catholic kind make for pivotal viewing.

March 25, 2014 Full Review Source: Matt's Movie Reviews
Matt's Movie Reviews

a brilliantly constructed, chilling tale of demonic possession and medical torture

January 18, 2014 Full Review Source: 7M Pictures
7M Pictures

A finely crafted thriller that benefits immensely from William Friedkin's controlled direction, William Peter Blatty's thematically fruitful script, Owen Roizman's imaginative camerawork and Dick Smith's startling makeup designs.

October 26, 2013 Full Review Source: Creative Loafing
Creative Loafing

The Exorcist is what it purports to be, no less than one of the best horror films, one of the best films, of all time.

October 23, 2013 Full Review Source: PopMatters

Friedkin's Exorcist holds up remarkably well.

October 8, 2012 Full Review Source: PopMatters

This notorious battle between good and evil, nominated for eight Oscars when it was originally released in 1973, is both a hysteric scream and an intentional as well as unintentional hoot.

October 8, 2012 Full Review Source: Sacramento News & Review
Sacramento News & Review

Essential viewing for anyone who loves cinema. If you can endure it...

October 8, 2012 Full Review Source: Total Film
Total Film

succeeds best in developing its characters

June 20, 2012 Full Review Source: Old School Reviews

There's something new to be discovered in every viewing of The Exorcist.

July 28, 2011 Full Review Source: Film Blather
Film Blather

The Exorcist is likely just as disturbing today as it was 25 years ago.

February 28, 2011 Full Review Source:

But, is it just me, or is Karras's the only story that's really compelling?

February 15, 2011 Full Review Source: Film Freak Central | Comment (1)
Film Freak Central

It just never gets un-scary. That's the best part.

January 9, 2011 Full Review Source: FEARnet

Trendsetting shocker about a possessed child.

December 15, 2010 Full Review Source: Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media

An unforgettable horror film that doesn't just get under my skin - it stays there.

October 15, 2010 Full Review Source: IGN DVD

...the movie is right up there with the cinema's better chillers.

October 9, 2010 Full Review Source: Movie Metropolis
Movie Metropolis

If it failed on all other levels (which it doesn't), The Exorcist would nevertheless be an excellent family horror story.

September 1, 2010 Full Review Source: Antagony & Ecstasy
Antagony & Ecstasy

From the day of its first release in 1973, "The Exorcist: was the greatest horror film ever made, and it remains so to this day.

August 27, 2010 Full Review Source: Cinefantastique

Audience Reviews for The Exorcist

Before the impact that was "Jaws". Before the sensation that was "Star Wars".
Before "Rocky", "Close Encounters of the Third Kind", "Saturday Night Fever",or even "Grease",there was the first major blockbuster phenomenon that not only shattered box-office records,but made motion picture history as one of the first horror movie in the genre that had a powerful influence that define a decade and established itself as the film that became one of the biggest hits of the 1970's.

That motion picture was "The Exorcist". Never before has a horror film been the subject of so much prerelease hype,but without speculation as to why people went to see this movie again and again in droves upon it's general release. As to why people who saw this movie had psychological nightmares upon its viewing to watch something reputed to having it audiences having fits of vomiting,fainting,even temporary psychosis. The culture impact of "The Exorcist" challenged existing regulations specifying what was acceptable to show on the big screen that was unheard of in 1973. The film stole newspaper headlines away from the ongoing scandal that was 'Watergate',not to mention the esculating choas of the 'Vietnam War'. Inspired by newspaper reports that was based on a 1949 incident of a thirteen year-old Maryland boy that was taken over by demonic forces,novelist William Peter Blatty made the possessee a girl. The book on which it is based had heavy doses of philosophical-theological speculation on the nature of evil which became one of the New York Times' top ten best seller list in 1971. After its phenomenol success as a best selling novel,the studio Warner Brothers purchased the film rights,and after numerous rewrites of the original script,Blatty finally came up with a version of "The Exorcist" that managed to meet director William Friedkin's exacting demands.
"The Exorcist" was William Friedkin's first-ever horror movie,and this was two years after he scored critical acclaim with his crime thriller "The French Connection" which became one of the biggest hits of 1971 and garnered five Oscars including the Best Picture of that year. "The Exorcist" deals with the crisis situation involving Regan MacNeil(Linda Blair),the almost-pubescent daughter of divorcee and well-known movie star Chris MacNeil(Ellen Burstyn). When the child prophesis the death of her mother's acquaintance and urinates in front of a roomful of dinner guests,Chris starts to wonder what has gotten into her daughter. More odd and shocking behavior continues when Regan lands in the hospital and is subject to medical procedures proves nothing,and from there the terror begins when Chris seek the help of a priest Karras(Jason Miller) in a bold and daring effort to save her daughter from the demonic forces that has taken over her. An intense battle between Karras and Regan's demonic possessor along with the experienced exorcist Father Merrin(Max Von Sydow),dies in the struggle. At the end Karras finally saves Ragan's life by accepting the demon into his own body,only to be throw himself,or let himself be thrown,out of a window to his death.

"The Exorcist" was a phenomenon in an era that was at the height of student protest,experimental drug use,and general questioning of authority. The film allows viewers to take pleasure in the terrible and sometimes shocking scenes of punishments inflicted on the rebellious Regan. But by making the demon so fascinating to watch,the film is full of nasty surprises that include scenes that were not for the squeamish or fate of heart. "The Exorcist" was so successful it became the top grossing film of 1973. It also made motion picture history as the first horror movie in the genre to be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. The film was nominated for an astounding 10 Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director(William Friedkin), Best Actress (Ellen Burstyn), Best Supporting Actress (Linda Blair), Best Actor (Jason Miller),
Best Supporting Actor (Max Von Sydow), and Best Cinematopgraphy (Owen Roizman). It was victorious in winning 4 Golden Globes including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress(Linda Blair), Best Director (William Friedkin),
Best Adapted Screenplay (William Peter Blatty). It won 2 Oscars in 1973 for Best Adapated Screenplay(William Peter Blatty),and Best Sound(Chris Newman and Robert Knudson). "The Exorcist" stands as one of the top ten movies of 1973 in a year that was dominated by "The Sting", "Papillon",
"American Graffiti", "Serpico", and "The Paper Chase".

The film set the standard for the horror genre of films to come and opened the doors for the next array of horror movies to dominated the 1970's like "The Omen",and "Halloween". "The Exorcist" held the title of the first horror movie in the genre to be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar,a title that would stand for the next 18 years until 1991 when "Silence of the Lambs" wins the Best Picture Oscar and the first horror movie to do so. The succes of "The Exorcist" spun three sequels and a dozen remakes,but none of them has held up since the original that started it all in 1973.
January 22, 2014
Mister Caple

Super Reviewer

When something is billed as being the scariest film of all time, it's already setting itself up for a fall. Being scared is an entirely subjective experience: what will leave one person catatonic with terror would have almost no effect on another - worse still, they might even laugh at it. The Exorcist still has much to offer in the ideas it raises, or the performances through which they are raised, but after 40 years of iconic pop culture status, it's nothing like as scary as once it was.

Much like its cult contemporary The Wicker Man, there are whole sections of The Exorcist which don't feel like a horror movie at all. It spends a lot of its running time as a mystery film or character drama, and only truly becomes a horror film in its last couple of reels. Both films seek to create unease through a series of strange events, which arouse our suspicions while also leaving the possibility that we are just being paranoid. But for all its odd diversions into musical and comedy territory, Robin Hardy's film is the more effectively unnerving.

The reason for this lies in the director's sensibility. Throughout his career William Friedkin has been a filmmaker who has confounded expectations, in ways both good and bad. He has always made the films he wants, just the way he wants them, and to be a true Friedkin fan we have to totally buy into these unusual creative decisions. But where Hardy's juxtapositions in The Wicker Man actually contribute to the unnerving atmosphere by throwing us off the scent, Friedkin's choices feel more archly choreographed, like he is toying with us often at the expense of the film's content.

This practice of counterpointing the serious and the frivolous can be seen at the beginning of The French Connection. We are introduced to Popeye Doyle, one of the roughest, toughest, hardest detectives in film history - and one of his first scenes involves him busting a drug dealer while wearing a Santa outfit. Likewise, in The Exorcist, Friedkin shoots one of the main conversations about the ethics of exorcism in front of some nubile young ladies playing tennis. In both cases the juxtaposition makes the film memorable, but it also offsets and compromises the intended mood; we might remember it, but there's no guarantee that we'll remember it fondly.

Because of its iconic status, it's very hard to judge The Exorcist impartially. Most new viewers will be aware of some aspect of its legacy, whether it's the infamous spider-walk (cut from the original version), Regan's head spinning all the way round, the levitating bed, or the opening theme of Tubular Bells (which barely appears at all). There is a real danger of judging the film by its reputation, rather than actually seeing if it works plain and simple as a film. The only way to do this is to look at its different components in turn, assessing its technical strengths and the ideas it seeks to raise.

Whatever Friedkin chooses to fill his scenes with, The Exorcist is a good-looking film, at least for the time. Owen Roizman collaborated with Friedkin on The French Connection, and would later shoot The Stepford Wives, Network and Tootsie - in short, he knows what he's doing. His use of shadows is very effective, particularly in the exterior scenes around the Georgetown steps and the corners of Chris and Regan's house. Some shots are overly static, lending the film a creaky feel, but it never feels like the cinematographer is trying to impose himself or a given genre onto the story.

The film also has a very good cast, many of whom have become icons of the horror genre. Linda Blair is magnificent in her most famous role, drawing us in with the sweetness and innocence of Regan, and then freaking us out as this part of her is steadily drained and corrupted, before finally being rediscovered. Jason Miller is great as Father Karras, using his slumped shoulders and the lower part of his face to convey the burden on the troubled priest. Max von Sydow has a good amount of gravitas as Father Marin, and Ellen Burstyn rounds the cast out nicely as Chris McNeil, though she can be annoying at times.

The ideas raised in The Exorcist remain hugely controversial, particularly in this age of increased public scepticism and a heightened awareness of church scandal and corruption. Its main idea is that there can be discernible, physical proof of the existence of good and evil, and that faith is a powerful and important means of combatting the latter. While many film villains are built around and ultimately explained through trauma and psychology, Pazuzu is far more intangible, and the film offers few answers about his origins, motivations or eventual fate.

The four main characters are arranged on a spectrum according to the extent of their faith, and in what force they chose to believe. Chris has no faith, referring to priests as "witch-doctors" when the idea of an exorcism is first floated. She spends the film is a state of desperation, barely clinging on, and arguably the only reason she survives is because the demon did not target her initially.

Karras wears the cloth but is troubled by the death of his mother; the demon exploits his insecurity, and only when faced with the reality of his own death does he fully commit, and in doing so save Regan. Marin's faith is rock-solid: previous experiences with exorcism, coupled with a life spent in the service of God, have completely removed his fear of death. In the middle of all this is Regan, the unfortunate innocent who is not yet capable of understanding the forces warring over her soul. We could spend an age discussing the role and purpose of her suffering in a theological context, but the debates are perhaps too nuanced and complex for such a brief review.

The film also uses Chris' scepticism as a means of exploring the position accorded to medicine in Western society. So much of the discourse around science concerns its place in a grand narrative, moving humanity out of superstition and into a place where we know all the answers. But Chris is ultimately just as shaky and insecure in the doctors' keeping as she is with the priests. The fear of the unknown still dogs her, and the emphasis we place on science and reason is not proof that evil doesn't exist, nor an effective means to combat it when it manifests itself.

The central problem with The Exorcist is that it fails to manifest these fascinating ideas in a way which can genuinely terrify an audience. Giving evil physicality is an interesting idea, and it's easy to appreciate the craft that went into Dick Smith's make-up. But the film becomes reliant on these physical effects to such an extent that the atmosphere built up in its early sections is compromised. It's not a shock-fest, but it isn't as intimidating as it should be.

When he made Rosemary's Baby five years previously, Roman Polanski very consciously played on the characters' surroundings to increase the tension. By emphasising the intimidating architecture of Rosemary's flat and the apartment complex as a whole, he created a sense of the whole world being against her even before the devil worshippers were introduced.

The Exorcist has moments where it becomes visceral and very scary - one of the main ones being where Regan is under medical examination. But these moments are interspersed with long sections of rudderless calm, so that when the scares intrude, they seem like more of a gimmick than was ever intended. You will be scared at some point watching the film, but Friedkin never quite achieves the level of unrelenting terror that Polanski created. There's something not quite right when a story driven by the Devil's influence isn't constantly intimidating.

The Exorcist is an intelligent and interesting horror movie which is more successful as a series of theological problems than as a means to be constantly scared. The cast and production values are very solid, and its ideas are well-formed without being neatly resolved - it just isn't scary enough to match the standard laid down by Polanski or his predecessors. In the end, the film is a must-see but not a must-love, and is by no means Friedkin's finest hour.
June 11, 2013
Daniel Mumby
Daniel Mumby

Super Reviewer

It's only when I watch a truly brilliant horror film that I begin to realize why the genre has deteriorated in recent years. Such films as The Exorcism of Emily Rose and The Rite want to be the new Exorcist, but it's humanly impossible to shape garbage into glory on a budget and severe time constraints. We sit in front of such clones and see the crust of The Exorcist: mutilated and demonic bodies vs. priests. But there's no inner core, no depth to keep us awake throughout the film, let alone throughout the night.
November 1, 2012

Super Reviewer

William Friedkin does an exceptional job inducing fear and graphic supernatural horrors in the 1970s classic. Though some dialogue may be difficult to interpret, what sets this upon a pedestal is its dynamic cast and eerie, disturbing and at times gory scenes. The Exorcist really set the standards for modern day horror/supernatural suspense/thrillers. 4/5
October 30, 2012
Eugene Bernabe

Super Reviewer

    1. The Demon: Your mother sucks cocks in hell!
    – Submitted by Matthew D (2 months ago)
    1. Father Damien Karras: The power of Christ compels you!
    – Submitted by Ben D (3 months ago)
    1. Father Merrin: I cast you out! Unclean spirit!
    2. The Demon: Shove it up your ass, you faggot!
    – Submitted by Lucas M (7 months ago)
    1. The Demon: Your mother's in here, Karras. Would you like to leave a message? I'll see that she gets it.
    – Submitted by Lucas M (7 months ago)
    1. The Demon: I'm not Regan.
    2. Father Damien Karras: Well, then let's introduce ourselves. I'm Damien Karras.
    3. The Demon: And I'm the Devil. Now kindly undo these straps.
    4. Father Damien Karras: If you're the Devil, why not make the straps disappear?
    5. The Demon: That's much too vulgar a display of power, Karras.
    – Submitted by Lucas M (7 months ago)
    1. The Demon: What an excellent day for an exorcism.
    2. Father Damien Karras: You would like that?
    3. The Demon: Intensely.
    4. Father Damien Karras: But wouldn't that drive you out of Regan?
    5. The Demon: It would bring us together.
    6. Father Damien Karras: You and Regan?
    7. The Demon: You and us.
    – Submitted by Lucas M (7 months ago)
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Foreign Titles

  • Der Exorzist (DE)
  • L'Exorciste (FR)
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