close [×]

Dear Flixster Community,

After seven fabulous years with you all, we are sorry to let you know that we're going to be retiring the Flixster Community site on September 30, 2014. Please note that you can still access your ratings, reviews, and quizzes on Flixster and Rotten Tomatoes using your same login. We have had so much fun building this community with you.

Thanks for all the memories,

Get movie widget Recommend it Add to Favorites

Ellen Burstyn, Linda Blair, Max von Sydow, Jason Miller, Kitty Winn ... see more see more... , Lee J Cobb , Jack MacGowran , Rev. William O'Malley , Barton Heyman , Peter Masterson , Rudolf Schündler , Robert Symonds , Ron Faber , Donna Mitchell , Roy Cooper , Robert Gerringer , Mercedes McCambridge , Vasiliki Maliaros , Titos Vandis , Wallace Rooney , Jay Robinson

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... read more read more... 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 out of hand, Chris calls in young priest Father Karras (Jason Miller), who becomes convinced that the girl is possessed by the Devil and that they must call in an exorcist: namely, Father Merrin (Max von Sydow). His foe proves to be no run-of-the-mill demon, and both the priest and the girl suffer numerous horrors during their struggles. The Exorcist received a theatrical rerelease in 2000, in a special edition that added 11 minutes of footage trimmed from the film's original release and digitally enhanced Chris Newman's Oscar-winning sound work. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Flixster Users

87% liked it

415,709 ratings


88% liked it

57 critics

R, 2 hr. 2 min.

Directed by: William Friedkin

Release Date: December 26, 1973

Invite friends to see

DVD Release Date: December 1, 1998

Stats: 25,106 reviews

Your Rating

clear rating

Flixster Reviews (25,106)

  • fb100000293612769
    May 11, 2014
    An exceptional film with superb acting, writing, directing, and cinematography. With no missteps and with a realistic approach to a supernatural premise, The Exorcist is an epic and ingenious classic film with one of the greatest openings in cinematic history.
  • January 22, 2014
    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... read more 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.
  • June 11, 2013
    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 la... read moreugh 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.
  • November 1, 2012
    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 ... read moresevere 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.
  • fb1442511448
    October 30, 2012
    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... read more set the standards for modern day horror/supernatural suspense/thrillers. 4/5
  • fb100000716838411
    October 11, 2012
    Here it is, the movie that every horror movie today seems to be ripping off. The Exorcist is the classic movie about a little girl possessed by the Devil. The little girl is sweet, she's trying to live a normal life, then BOOM! Satan's making you masturbate with a crucifix. The o... read morepening scene sets up what you're in for with this film; something mysterious and eerie at the same time. You can't watch this film and not be disturbed by what's happening. The idea of a little girl being possessed is pretty tiring for today's standards, but back in 1973, this stuff was every movie goers worst nightmare. People fainted, some left the theaters in ambulances, there were theaters that provided barf bags because everyone kept puking into the wind during this movie. I can't blame them. This movie delivers a lot of genuinely terrifying stuff that sticks with you long after the movie is over. Everyone knows about the barf and head spinning scenes and those are all disturbing, but the thing that really got me was the spider walk scene. I'm telling you, that's creepy stuff that can't be forgotten easily. The special effects are fantastic in a really demented way. There is stuff that happens in this movie that I think even modern filmakers would struggle with. The dialogue is really interesting and the characters are all respectable, but the acting...holy shit is the acting great. Max von Sydow and Jason Miller are both great as priests, Ellen Burstyn does a really good job, but the show-stealer is Linda Blair in her infamous role as the possessed girl. Her performance is part of what drives the movie. No possession movie is complete without someone who's possessed and Linda Blair knocks it out of the park. I actually felt fear for this little girl, not because she could rip my face off in a heart beat, but because she's just a normal girl who can't really control whatever the Devil makes her do. The movie does a really good job of making you root for the priests. When it all hits the fan and the climax comes around, it really slaps you in the face. The climax for the movie is one of the most intense scene in any horror movie ever. It's actually quite surprising. If you haven't seen it, I won't spoil it, but if you have, then you know what I'm talking about. This is one of those films where you're not really sure if you want to rewatch it because of what was just seen. The Exorcist is without a doubt one of the scariest movies ever made. If you love horror films, this one is a must see. If you're feint-hearted, then don't see this movie. It's likely to put you in a shock coma.
  • August 30, 2012
    I'm very impressed with this film. First off, for being made in 1973 the special effects still hold up well today. Second, it's damn scary. The beginning is a bit slow, but once things start happening, it's disturbing. Not many horror films are this good, and "The Exorcist" ranks... read more alongside some of my favorites.
  • April 23, 2012
    "Somewhere between science and superstition, there is another world. The world of darkness."

    When a girl is possessed by a mysterious entity, her mother seeks the help of two priests to save her daughter.

    ... read more/b>
    The story is simple enough. Innocent girl possessed by a demon. But what makes "The Exorcist" different from any horror film is that it's not about blood and gore like most slasher films, and there are characters we care about, rather than just a bunch of airheads in which we tend to find ourselves rooting for the villain to slaughter them. Yes, there is plenty of disturbing scenes throughout "The Exorcist", but it's a character-driven film. That's what I really enjoyed about this movie. All the performances are brilliant. Ellen Burstyn perfectly conveys the tension and fear a mother would experience during such a horrific supernatural event. Max Von Sydow (who's only in the movie for about twenty minutes) gives a performance that should've won him an Oscar. He conveys the sense of hope in the film. His words, "The power of Christ compels you!" still rings in my mind.

    Jason Miller expresses the sadness and imperfection that every person experiences, which is particularly unique since his character is a priest. And I can't forget Linda Blair as the little girl who's possessed. Even though Mercedes McCambridge did the voice of the demon (a voice that I will never forget), Blair's facial expressions and actions throughout the film as she transforms from good to evil is nothing short of perfect. And the fact she did this role at such a young age should've also garnered her an Oscar. The other aspect I cannot overlook in this film is the technical feats. I found the works of cinematography, editing, and sound design to be top-notched, even by today's standards. I mean, the filmmakers made a bed float in the air before the invention of CGI! That cannot be beaten. And the whole exorcism sequence, well, I'll just say I could not keep my eyes off of the screen. I've now have come to appreciate William Friedkin as a legendary director for pulling off such a brilliant film. This movie won 2 Oscars back in 1974 for adapted screenplay and sound. Yet again, another superior film has been screwed over by the academy. I try not to put much stock in awards, but "The Exorcist" is a rare jewel that should not have been so sourly overlooked. This may be a horror film, but it's not like any other one. There's plot, characters, symbolism, and important messages of self-sacrifice and the presence and triumph over unimaginable evil. Of all the words I've used to describe this film, there is one that can sum it up. Unforgettable.
  • March 24, 2012
    The Exorcist is classic horror at its finest. One of the defining films of the genre, The Exorcist remains one of the benchmark films in the genre by generating some of the scariest moments ever put before a viewing audience. In my mind, there is no scarier horror film than The E... read morexorcist. Sure there has been the many reasons as to why this film is scary, the spider walk scene, the Exorcism scene and such. One thing though that keeps the horror constant throughout this picture is the atmosphere and tension. William Friedkin is a phenomenal director that delivers an effective and memorable horror experience. This film has definitely stood the test of time. Four decades after its release, The Exorcist still stands among countless imitators as The great film that redefined the genre. The cast is brilliant with powerful performances by Linda Blair as the possessed girl Regan, Ellen Burstyn as Regan mother and Max Von Sydow. All the actors deliver here, and each bring a powerful, memorable performance that elevates The Exorcist to the status that it is today. Many people have claimed that this isn't a scary film or what not. Well, I have to disagree. The Exorcist is a powerful film that delivers memorable scares. Unfortunately with an audience like today, they'll obviously scorn a great film like The Exorcist and say that it's not scary and what not. Well in the end, this is truly a film for cinema elitists and unlike cheap jump scares that induce 10 seconds of terror; this classic has a powerful and genuinely unnerving atmosphere for two hours that cannot and will never be topped. Horror fans still vote this as the best horror film ever made, and it's easy to see why.
  • February 19, 2012
    It wasn't terrifying but instead was very engaging and it creeped me and freaked me out a lot. The Exorcist has brilliant acting, special effects for the time and will never fail to give you the ultimate mindf**k. It started out slow (too slow) but there's still a lot to admire t... read morehough in this Kubrick-esque psycho horror. It poses questions without giving answers or a back story and with it's slightly gothic and entirely religious overtones, The Exorcist deserves to be called a classic. It's very eery and has a brilliant conspiracy/true story set up that makes it even creepier.

Critic Reviews

Gene Siskel
January 18, 2013
Gene Siskel, Chicago Tribune

I loved it. Full Review

Desson Thomson
October 8, 2012
Desson Thomson, Washington Post

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. Full Review

Owen Gleiberman
September 7, 2011
Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly

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

Jay Cocks
August 24, 2008
Jay Cocks, TIME Magazine

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. Full Review

Vincent Canby
March 19, 2008
Vincent Canby, New York Times

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

Roger Ebert
September 21, 2007
Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

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

Peter Travers
September 21, 2007
Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

There's something elemental about The Exorcist.

James Berardinelli
September 21, 2007
James Berardinelli, ReelViews

There is nothing dated about The Exorcist, which remains an effective excursion into demonic possession more than a quarter of a century after it was first unveiled to the public. Full Review

Variety Staff
September 21, 2007
Variety Staff, Variety

An expert telling of a supernatural horror story. Full Review

Jonathan Rosenbaum
September 21, 2007
Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader

This 1973 horror thriller is highly instructive as well as unnerving. Full Review

Critic ratings and reviews powered by

Fresh (60% or more critics rated the movie positively)

Rotten (59% or fewer critics rated the movie positively)

More Like This

Click a thumb to vote on that suggestion, or add your own suggestions.

  • The Exorcism of Emily Rose
    The Exorcism of Emily Rose (79%)
  • Antichrist
    Antichrist (91%)
  • The Last Exorcism
    The Last Exorcism (96%)
  • The Invisible Man
    The Invisible Man (100%)


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

The Exorcist : Watch Free on TV

The Exorcist Trivia

  • What is the highest grossing R-rated horror film of all time?  Answer »
  • Stanley Kubrick turned down making a sequel to this movie and instead went on to make 'The Shining', what movie sequel did he turn down?  Answer »
  • Which horror movie in the 1970's upset audiences so badly that it was pulled from dozens of theatres after it's release?  Answer »
  • Which movie is this quote from "Keep away. The sow is mine."  Answer »

Movie Quizzes

Recent Lists

Most Popular Skin