Skip to main content

By using this site, you agree to the Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

The Exorcist (1973)

Even with the passage of 50 years, two sequels, two prequels, a TV series, and numerous rip-offs, this adaptation of William Peter Blatty’s novel remains one of the most unsettling horror films ever made. The tale of a movie star’s daughter possessed by a demon created a national furor. There were reports of audience members fainting and getting sick and even a rumor that a pregnant woman had miscarried because the film was so frightening. There was also curiosity about how they achieved such effects as the possessed girl’s levitation, the rotating of her head 360 degrees, and the projectile vomiting of what turned out to be split pea soup.

But even those who derided The Exorcist as sensationalistic had to admit that it was miles beyond the cheap exploitation pictures that had come to dominate the horror genre. Warner Bros. had given it a then-respectable $12 million budget and hired Oscar-winning director William Friedkin. The cast included past Oscar nominees Ellen Burstyn and Lee J. Cobb, international star Max von Sydow, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Jason Miller, and stage legend Jack MacGowran.

The film’s most shocking performance, however, came from 13-year-old Linda Blair as Regan, the possessed girl. Fans marveled at her commitment to a role that took her to physical and vocal extremes. Detractors were appalled at the things the child was required to do, though her mother said she took her to the audition because “it sounded like a fun part.” She received one of the film’s ten Oscar nominations. It won for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Sound, heralding horror’s move into the mainstream and making possible such later big-budget horror films as The Omen (1976) and The Shining (1980).

The Exorcist will be screened in its 2000 “Director’s Cut” edition.

d. William Friedkin, 132 minutes, DCP

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Classics