The Exorcist

From Wikipedia the free encyclopedia

The Exorcist
A man with a hat on his head, holding a suitcase, arrives in from of a house in the night
Theatrical release poster by Bill Gold
Directed byWilliam Friedkin
Written byWilliam Peter Blatty
Based onThe Exorcist
by William Peter Blatty
Produced byWilliam Peter Blatty
CinematographyOwen Roizman
Edited by
Music byJack Nitzsche
Hoya Productions[1]
Distributed byWarner Bros.[1]
Release date
  • December 26, 1973 (1973-12-26) (United States)
Running time
  • 122 minutes (1973)
  • 132 minutes (2000)
CountryUnited States
Budget$12 million[2]
Box office
$441.3 million[2][3]

The Exorcist is a 1973 American supernatural horror film directed by William Friedkin and written for the screen by William Peter Blatty, based on his 1971 novel of the same name. It stars Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, Lee J. Cobb, Kitty Winn, Jack MacGowran (in his final film role), Jason Miller and Linda Blair. It follows the demonic possession of a young girl and her mother's attempt to rescue her through an exorcism conducted by a pair of Catholic priests.

The book was a bestseller, but Blatty, who also produced, and Friedkin, his choice for director, had difficulty casting the film. Unable to hire major stars of the era, they cast relative unknowns Burstyn, Blair and Miller (author of a hit play with no film acting experience), choices vigorously opposed by Warner Brothers executives. Principal photography was also difficult. A fire destroyed most of the set, and Blair and Burstyn suffered accidental long-term injuries. Production took twice as long as scheduled and cost more than twice the initial budget.

The Exorcist was released in 24 theaters in the United States and Canada in late December 1973. Audiences flocked to it despite mixed reviews, waiting in long lines during winter weather, many more than once. Some viewers suffered adverse physical reactions, fainting or vomiting to scenes in which the protagonist undergoes a realistic cerebral angiography and later violently masturbates with a crucifix. Heart attacks and a miscarriage were reported among viewers; a psychiatric journal published a paper on "cinematic neurosis" triggered by the film. Many children were allowed to see it, leading to charges that the MPAA ratings board had accommodated Warner Bros by giving the film an R-rating instead of the X-rating they thought it deserved, in order to ensure its commercial success. Several cities attempted to ban it outright or prevent children from attending.

The cultural conversation around the film, which also encompassed its treatment of Catholicism, helped it become the first horror film to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture,[4][5] one of 10 for which it was nominated, and winning for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Sound. It has had several sequels, and was the highest-grossing R-rated horror film (unadjusted for inflation) until the 2017 release of It. The Exorcist has had a significant influence on popular culture[6][7] and has received critical acclaim, with several publications regarding it as one of the greatest horror films ever made.[5] English film critic Mark Kermode named it his "favorite film of all time".[8] In 2010, the Library of Congress selected the film to be preserved in its National Film Registry, citing it as "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".[9][10][11]


Theatrical cut[edit]

In northern Iraq, Catholic priest Lankester Merrin participates in an archaeological dig which unearths a medallion of Saint Joseph and an artifact representing Pazuzu, an ancient demon. As Merrin prepares to leave Iraq, he encounters a large statue of Pazuzu and observes two dogs fighting in the desert.

In Georgetown, actress Chris MacNeil works on a film directed by her friend Burke Dennings. Chris lives for the production in a well-appointed house with servants and her daughter Regan. Georgetown-based priest Damien Karras visits his mother in New York. He confides to a colleague that he feels unfit in his role as counselor to other priests, citing a crisis of faith. Chris hears noises in the attic, and Regan tells her of an imaginary friend named "Captain Howdy". In a local church, a statue of Mary is found desecrated.

Chris hosts a party. Karras' friend Father Dyer, a guest, explains Karras' role as a counselor, mentioning that Karras's mother died recently. Regan appears and urinates on the carpet. After Chris puts Regan to bed, her bed shakes violently. Dyer consoles Karras, and Karras expresses guilt at not having been with his mother when she died. Karras dreams of his mother, a Saint Joseph medallion and—briefly—a demonic face.

Regan becomes violent. She is subjected to several medical tests which fail to find anything physically wrong with her. During a house call, a demon possesses Regan's body; the possessed Regan exhibits abnormal strength. One night, Chris finds the house empty except for a sleeping Regan. Dennings is found dead at the foot of an outdoor staircase beneath Regan's window. Homicide detective William Kinderman questions Karras, confiding that Dennings' body was found with its head turned backward.

Regan's condition worsens, and her body becomes covered with sores. A doctor mentions exorcism as a remote option, suggesting a possible psychological benefit. Kinderman visits Chris, explaining that the only plausible explanation for Dennings' death is that he was pushed from Regan's window. As Kinderman leaves, the possessed Regan stabs her genitals with a crucifix. To Chris' horror, the possessed Regan turns her head backwards and speaks in Dennings' voice. The possessed Regan is confined to her bedroom.

Chris seeks out Karras, who visits Regan. Over two meetings, the possessed Regan claims to be the Devil himself, projectile vomits into Karras' face, speaks in tongues, and reacts violently when tap water is sprinkled on her, which Karras had claimed was holy water—a point against genuine possession. The demon says it will remain in Regan until she is dead. Desperate, Chris confides that the possessed Regan killed Dennings. At night, Regan's nanny calls Karras to the house. They witness the words "help me" materialize on Regan's skin. Still ambivalent, Karras nevertheless concludes that an exorcism is warranted. His superior grants permission on the condition that an experienced priest leads the ritual while Karras assists. Merrin, having performed an exorcism before, is summoned.

Merrin arrives at the house, warning Karras that the demon uses a psychological attack. As the priests read from the Roman Ritual, the demon curses them. It focuses on Karras, verbally attacking his loss of faith and guilt over the circumstances of his mother's death. The priests rest momentarily and Merrin, shaking, takes nitroglycerin. Karras enters the bedroom where the demon appears as his mother. Showing weakness, Karras exclaims that the demon is not his mother. Merrin excuses Karras and continues the exorcism by himself. Karras assures Chris that Regan will not die and re-enters the room, finding Merrin dead. Karras beats the possessed Regan and demands that the demon take him instead. The demon rips a medallion of Saint Joseph from Karras' neck and begins to possess him, freeing Regan. Karras hurls himself out the window, tumbling down the stairs outside. Chris and Kinderman enter the room. Chris embraces the healed Regan, and Kinderman surveys the violence and confusion. Outside, Dyer administers the last rites as Karras dies.

The MacNeils prepare to leave, and Father Dyer says goodbye. Despite having no memory of her ordeal, Regan is moved by the sight of Dyer's clerical collar to kiss him on the cheek. As the MacNeils leave, Chris gives Dyer the medallion found in Regan's room.

Director's cut ending[edit]

In 2000, "The Version You've Never Seen" or the "Extended Director's Cut", was released. In the ending of this version, when Chris gives Karras' medallion to Dyer, Dyer places it back in her hand and suggests that she keep it. After she and Regan drive away, Dyer pauses at the top of the stone steps before walking away and coming across Kinderman, who narrowly missed Chris and Regan's departure; Kinderman and Dyer begin to develop a friendship.[12][13]



Aspects of Blatty's novel were inspired by the 1949 exorcism performed on an anonymous boy known as "Roland Doe" or "Robbie Mannheim" (pseudonyms) by the Jesuit priest William S. Bowdern.[a] The novel changed several details of the case, such as the sex and age of the allegedly possessed victim.[4][5] Harper & Row, strongly believing the book would sell well, published it and sent Blatty on a 26-city book tour to promote it. But despite enthusiastic reviews, sales were not as strong as the publisher had hoped; at one point on the book tour the bookstore cancelled Blatty's appearance because, it told him, so few copies had been sold that it was remaindering the unsold ones back to the publisher. Harper was about to give up and had even, according to Blatty, treated him to a farewell lunch, when an opportunity to appear on The Dick Cavett Show came up after one guest canceled and the other, actor Robert Shaw, was too drunk to go on. Cavett was uninterested in the supernatural, but let Blatty talk about The Exorcist at length,[15] captivating the audience with discussions of whether the devil existed.[16] Soon afterwards the novel was atop the New York Times best seller list.[15]

Despite Blatty's previous experience working in Hollywood as a writer for Blake Edwards' films, film studios had generally been uninterested in adapting The Exorcist before its publication.[15] Shirley MacLaine, a friend of Blatty's on whom he had based the Chris McNeil character in the novel, to the point of using some things she had said in the past as dialogue, had been an exception. But she and her partners refused to back the film if, as Blatty insisted, he not only write the screenplay but produce.[16]

After it became a bestseller, Warner Bros. bought the movie rights for $641,000 ($3.2 million in modern dollars[17]).[18] Blatty recalled that studio head John Calley had been reading the book at his home, alone, in his bedroom, and found his dog unusually unwilling to join him on the bed. He tried to drag the dog onto the bed but the animal resisted vigorously. When he finally succeeded, he found the book was hot to the touch.[15]


Blatty's screenplay follows the plot of his novel closely, but narrows the story's focus. Subplots like the desecration of the churches (and the relationship between Karras and Kinderman that develops from the latter's investigation), Karras's efforts to get the Church bureaucracy to approve the exorcism, and the ongoing medical investigations of Regan's condition, are acknowledged in the film but to a much lesser degree than they are in the novel. Similarly, characters such as Chris's household staff, Dennings, and Regan's father, play a much smaller role, and the overall time frame of the plot is condensed.[19][20]

Some scenes, particularly those with sexual content, were toned down for the movie since an actress of approximately Regan's age was expected to be playing the part. The scene where Regan masturbates with a crucifix was, in the book, more prolonged and explicit, with Regan seriously injuring herself yet attaining orgasm.[19][20] The film also excludes the detail from the book that when possessed, Regan experiences constant diarrhea, requiring that she wear a diaper and giving her room a strong odor.[21] One of the film's religious advisers, Father John Nicola, who had opposed including both the crucifix scene and the desecration, nevertheless advised that the language used by Pazuzu when possessing Regan should be even more profane than it was in the book, to an extent he considered more realistic; it was changed accordingly.[16]

Blatty also made the screenplay unambiguous about Regan's condition. In his novel every symptom and behavior she exhibits that might indicate possession is counterbalanced with a reference to an actual case where the same phenomena were found to have natural, scientific causes. Beyond Karras' initial professional skepticism, that perspective is absent from the film.[19][20]

When Friedkin came onto the project as director, Blatty expected that, as directors usually do, he would propose some changes to the story. But Friedkin did not, insisting on following the novel closely. According to Blatty, Friedkin even asked him, in one scene, to restore some slight changes to his dialogue to what it had originally been in the book.[16]


Blair and Burstyn as Regan and Chris MacNeil.

The film's lead roles, particularly Regan, were not easily cast. Although many major stars of the era were considered for the role, with Stacy Keach signed to play Father Karras at one point, Blatty and Friedkin ultimately went with less well-known actors, to the consternation of the studio.[22]

Chris and Father Karras[edit]

The studio wanted Marlon Brando for the role of Lankester Merrin.[23] Friedkin immediately vetoed this by stating it would become a "Brando movie". Jack Nicholson was up for the part of Karras before Stacy Keach was hired by Blatty. According to Friedkin, Paul Newman also wanted to portray Karras.[24]

Friedkin then spotted Jason Miller following a performance of Miller's play That Championship Season in New York, and asked to talk to him. He originally went to talk to Miller solely about the lapsed Catholicism in the play, as background for the film. Since Miller had not read the novel, Friedkin left him a copy.[22]

Three A-list actresses of the time were considered for Chris. Friedkin first approached Audrey Hepburn, who said she was willing to take the role but only if the movie could be shot in Rome, where she had moved with her husband. Since that would have raised the costs of the movie considerably, created language barriers and made it impossible to work with crew members Friedkin was comfortable with, like cinematographer Owen Roizman, he looked next to Anne Bancroft. She, too, was willing but asked if production could be delayed nine months as she had just gotten pregnant. Again, Friedkin declined her request as he could not wait that long; he also did not think the material was something she would want to be working on while tending to a newborn, which would also pose its own challenges. Jane Fonda, next on the list, purportedly derided the film and turned it down.[22][25]

Blatty suggested his friend Shirley MacLaine for the part, but Friedkin was hesitant to cast her, given her lead role in another possession film, The Possession of Joel Delaney, two years before.[22] Ellen Burstyn received the part after she phoned Friedkin and emphatically stated that she was "destined" to play Chris. Studio head Ted Ashley vigorously opposed casting her, not only telling Friedkin that he would do so over his dead body, but dramatizing that opposition by making Friedkin walk over him as he lay on the floor, then grabbing the director's leg and telling him he would come back from the dead if necessary to keep Friedkin from doing so. However, no other alternatives emerged, and Ashley relented.[22][26]

With Burstyn now set in the part, Friedkin received a surprise return call from Miller. He had read the novel, and told the director "that guy is me", referring to Father Karras. Miller had had a Catholic education, and had studied to be a Jesuit priest himself for three years at Catholic University of America (also in Washington) until experiencing a spiritual crisis, as Karras does at the beginning of the story. Friedkin thanked him for his interest but told him Keach had already been signed.[22]

Miller, who had done some stage acting but had never been in a film, asked to at least be given a screen test. After taking the train to Los Angeles since he disliked flying, Friedkin had the playwright and Burstyn do the scene where Chris tells Karras she thinks Regan might be possessed. Afterwards, he had Burstyn interview Miller about his life with the camera focusing on him from over her shoulder, and finally asked Miller to say Mass as if for the first time.[22]

Burstyn felt that Miller was too short for the part, unlike her boyfriend at the time, whom Friedkin had auditioned but passed on. The director felt the test was promising but, after viewing the footage the next morning, realized Miller's "dark good looks, haunted eyes, quiet intensity, and low, compassionate voice", qualities which to him evoked John Garfield, were exactly what the part needed. The studio bought out Keach's contract.[22]


Directors considered for the project were skeptical that a young actress could carry the film.[4] Mike Nichols had turned down The Exorcist specifically because he did not believe a 12-year-old girl could play the part, as well as able to handle the likely psychological stress it would cause, could be found.[22] The first actresses considered for the part had been in other successful films and television series. Pamelyn Ferdin, a veteran of science fiction and supernatural drama, was a candidate, but was ultimately turned down because she was too familiar.[27] Denise Nickerson, who had apeared in two roles on the horror-soap opera Dark Shadows and had played Violet Beauregarde in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, said in later interviews her family refused to let her play the part because the film was too dark.[28] Jamie Lee Curtis was asked to audition, but her mother Janet Leigh declined.[29]

Friedkin had started to interview young women as old as 16 who looked young enough to play Regan, but was not finding any who seemed able to.[22] Then Elinore Blair[b] came in unannounced to the director's New York office with her daughter Linda; her agency had not sent her for the part, but she had previously met with Warner Bros. Pictures' casting department and then with Friedkin.[30] Both mother and daughter impressed the director. Elinore was not a typical stage mother, and Linda's credits were primarily in modeling (a field she said in 2021 that she had grown tired of by that point[31]) and a single soap opera role; she was mainly interested in showing and riding horses around her Westport, Connecticut, home. "[S]mart but not precocious. Cute but not beautiful. A normal, happy 12-year-old girl", Friedkin later recalled.[22]

With Linda having demonstrated the personal qualities Friedkin was looking for, he then went on to see whether she could handle the material. He asked if she knew what The Exorcist was about; she told him she had read the book.[c] "[I]t's about a little girl who gets possessed by the devil and does a whole bunch of bad things." Friedkin then asked her what sort of bad things she meant. "[S]he pushes a man out of her bedroom window and she hits her mother across the face and she masturbates with a crucifix." Friedkin then asked Linda if she knew what masturbation meant. "It's like jerking off, isn't it?", and she giggled a little bit. "Have you ever done that?" he asked. "Sure; haven't you?" she responded.[22]

She was quickly cast as Regan after tests with Burstyn; Friedkin wanted to keep that level of spontaneity on set.[22] "After all these difficult scenes she'd tiptoe around and giggle, after every bit", Blatty recalled. "It was all a big funhouse ride for her. She was disturbed only one time, and that was when her pet mouse died."[32] After filming, Friedkin had similar praise: "She is the most totally pulled together, stable, mature young person I've ever met. The whole thing was a game to her." Of the 500 actresses he said he saw audition, "there wasn't one other I would have considered."[33]

Friedkin originally intended to use Blair's voice, electronically deepened and roughened, for the demon's dialogue. He felt this worked fine in some places, but the scenes with the demon confronting the two priests lacked the dramatic power required and selected Mercedes McCambridge, an experienced voice actress and Oscar winner, to provide the demon's voice.[30] After filming, Warners did not credit her, until Screen Actors Guild arbitration.[34] Ken Nordine was also considered for the demon's voice, but Friedkin did not want to use a man's voice.[35]

Actress Eileen Dietz, 15 years older than Blair, stood in for Blair in the crucifix scene, the fistfight with Father Karras, and other scenes that were too violent or disturbing for Blair to perform. She also appears as the face of Pazuzu. Friedkin never gave her any notes, just telling her to play the possessed Regan as "a primal force of malevolence ... I wasn’t playing a little girl, I was playing the demon that possessed a little girl".[36] Reportedly Warners had forced Friedkin to hire her; he in turn used her in scenes only when absolutely necessary. Blair, who recalls Friedkin telling her the film would not succeed if she was not in as many shots as possible, estimates that Dietz's total screen time amounts to 17 seconds.[31]

Supporting roles[edit]

The film's supporting roles were more quickly cast. After Blatty showed Friedkin a photograph of Gerald Lankester Harding, his inspiration for Father Merrin, Friedkin immediately thought of Max von Sydow for the part. "He portrays great spiritual quality on film."[33] Von Sydow accepted it as soon as he finished reading the script. While out seeing a play starring an actor who had been recommended to them for the film, Blatty and Friedkin ran into Lee J. Cobb, who was cast as Lt. Kinderman. Father William O'Malley, another Jesuit priest who taught English and theology at McQuaid Jesuit High School outside Rochester, New York, had become acquainted with Blatty through his criticism of the novel. After Blatty introduced him to Friedkin, they decided to cast him as Father Dyer, a character O'Malley had considered clichéd in the novel.[22]

Some sources from early in the film's production, such as cast sheets in The Hollywood Reporter and a Warners press release, list British director J. Lee Thompson as a member of the cast. It was suggested that he would be playing Dennings, but Jack MacGowran got the role instead. A later cast listing adds Mary Boylan and The Rev. John Nicola, one of the film's technical advisors, in small roles.[1]

Greek actor Titos Vandis was cast as Father Karras's uncle. He wore a hat in one shot to obscure his face, as Friedkin felt that it would be connected with Vandis's previous role in the Woody Allen film Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask).[37]


Warners had approached Arthur Penn, Stanley Kubrick, and Mike Nichols to direct, all of whom turned the project down.[38] Blatty recalled in 2015 that one director wanted to relocate the film to Salem, Massachusetts, which he rejected because he considered the contrast between the worldly nature of the capital and the supernatural aspects of the plot to be essential to the film.[39]

Originally Mark Rydell was hired to direct, but William Peter Blatty insisted on Friedkin as he had been impressed by The French Connection.[40] He also knew Friedkin, having met him before that film was made, and had lunch while working with Edwards on the Darling Lili screenplay, some of which the director had critiqued for him. For The Exorcist, Blatty recalled thinking in a 2000 interview, "[h]ere is a director who can bring the look of documentary realism to this incredible story, and also, just as important, here is a guy who is never going to lie to me." Even after all of the other higher-profile directors Warners wanted had turned the film down, the studio was still resistant, until The French Connection was released to commercial success and a Best Picture Academy Award.[32]

Early in production, Blatty fired Friedkin per the latter's challenge to do so after the two clashed over what the director alleged was his poorly handled refusal of Burstyn's request that a limousine pick her up from the airport, a policy Friedkin himself had instituted. Blatty assumed the two would soon reconcile. Two days later, according to Blatty, he was summoned to a meeting with not only Friedkin but his agent and seven studio lawyers who told Blatty he could not under any circumstances fire the director. After that, Blatty recalled to Peter Biskind, he informed the studio he could no longer have any responsibility for controlling the film's budget, which he had believed to be his primary role as the film's producer; he and Friedkin did reconcile and got along well for the rest of the picture. Production costs soon exceeded the film's initial $4.2 million ($20.1 million in modern dollars[17]) budget.[41]

Friedkin went to great lengths manipulating the actors, reminiscent of the old Hollywood directing style, to get the genuine reactions he wanted.[30] Later, Friedkin was unsatisfied with O'Malley's performance as Dyer ministers to the dying Karras at the end of the film, telling him he was doing it "by the numbers". O'Malley protested that it was 2:30 a.m. and he had just administered last rites to his friend for the 15th time. Friedkin then asked if O'Malley trusted him, and when the priest said yes, Friedkin slapped him hard across the face to generate a deeply solemn yet literally shaken reaction for the scene, offending the many Catholic crew members on set.[41] "It was beyond what anyone needs to do to make a movie," Burstyn said in 2019.[16]

He also fired blanks[24] without warning to elicit shock from Miller for a take;[16] Dietz recalls him doing this during the scene where Regan assaults the doctors who have come to see her.[36] Friedkin also told Miller that the vomit, porridge colored to resemble pea soup and pumped through a hidden tube, would hit him in the chest during the projectile vomiting scene, and rehearsed it that way. But when filmed, the soup hit his face, resulting in his disgusted reaction.[42]

Dietz recounts another of Friedkin's manipulations. Since the demon's presence was, in the book, accompanied by the stench of Regan's near-continous diarrhea, to ensure a equally distasteful odor on set the director would hide rotten meat or eggs on the set. While it worked initially, "[t]he problem was the crew and the cast all got sick so we had to stop shooting", she said.[36]

Crewmembers found Friedkin demanding and sometimes difficult to work with. One of the first shots for the movie when production began in New York was bacon being cooked in a griddle. The shot begins as a close-up and then pulls back. A wall had been built opposite the stove, leaving almost no space for the dolly, so Friedkin had shooting halted while it was removed. After that, he decided he did not like the way the bacon curled as it was being cooked, so the prop master was sent to look for preservative-free bacon, difficult to find at the time, further delaying the scene. Another crewmember recalls returning after three days of sick leave to find Friedkin still shooting the same scene.[43]

Dietz recalls that shooting took so long because Friedkin reshot most of the film. Even scenes that had been difficult to stage and film the first time, such as Regan's bed shaking, were redone. "People were literally placing bets on what he would re-shoot next."[36]

As Blatty had with him, Friedkin also fired and rehired crew regularly. One crewmember recalls seeing the director shake hands warmly with someone, and then seconds later tell a second person to "get this guy outta here". This mercurial behavior led the crew to call him "Wacky Willy".[43]


Director of photography Owen Roizman had worked with Friedkin in that capacity on The French Connection. The two collaborated again on The Exorcist, with Roizman in charge of filming every scene in the film save those in the Iraqi prologue, shot by Billy Williams. In a 1974 interview with American Cinematographer, the magazine of the American Society of Cinematographers, Roizman discussed The Exorcist at length.[44]

"[H]e figured that since we'd done so well the last time, maybe we could do it again", Roizman said, recalling how Friedkin had gotten him to work on The Exorcist. They agreed that, like their earlier film, they wanted the next one to look as if shot with available light. But this time they would eschew Connection's documentary look. The MacNeil house was, unlike house interiors in horror films such as Psycho, designed to look normal and inviting. "What we tried to do, by means of the lighting, was to give it a kind of ominous feeling—as if some lurking, mysterious thing were hanging over it. That's about as far as we went with photographic style."[44]

While much of the filming took place in the set for Regan's bedroom, there were some other parts of the house set that presented challenges when filming. Roizman said the 7-foot (2.1 m) ceiling of the basement set left no room for conventional lighting setups. "There was really no place at all to put lights and, in doing any sort of pan around or dolly shot, we would have been fighting ourselves had we tried to use conventional lighting units." But the crew was able to make those shots work by replacing the ceiling's practical light bulbs with photofloods.[44]

"Friedkin demanded complete realism", Roizman recalled. "He wanted to see pictures with glass in them, mirrors on the walls and all of the other highly reflective surfaces you would naturally find in a house, we never tried to cover anything up, as we would normally do for expedience in shooting." This realism meant that the kitchen set, with much stainless steel and glass, was "virtually impossible" to light beyond the practical ceiling fixtures and whatever other lights they could manage to sneak in and hide. "[W]e'd walk in, hit the switch and shoot—through not much choice."[44]

One shot early in the film seemed simple when seen but, according to Roizman, required intense preparation and rehearsal. In it, Sharon greets the police detectives and escorts them upstairs to Regan's room. The camera starts the scene at the top of the staircase, follows the actors from there as they walk towards it, tracks backward in front of them as they walk up to it towards the room around two corners and then turns again to let the actors pass, pan right and follow Karen as she goes to the door. It was necessary first to build a specialized chair for the camera operator on a track along the ceiling, then the grips had to move the camera in sync with the actors without causing any bumps. It was then necessary to light the scene while avoiding any crew shadows, which they did with photofloods and striplights through overhead muslin. "If I were to do that shot over again, I would probably underexpose a bit more to accentuate the shadows, but, all in all, the shot worked very well" said Roizman[44]

Filming and locations[edit]

The "Exorcist steps", looking north, Georgetown, Washington, D.C.

The film's opening sequences were filmed in and near the city of Mosul, Iraq, a country with whom the U.S. did not then have diplomatic relations, and was also experiencing civil unrest that later grew into civil war; Warners feared that Friedkin and his crew might not be able to return. Friedkin negotiated filming arrangements directly with the local officials of the ruling Ba'ath Party. He was allowed to shoot only on the condition that he hire lots of local workers as crew[1] and teach some classes in filmmaking to interested residents,[45] primarily in how to create and use fake blood.[1] The archaeological dig site shown is ancient Hatra, south of Mosul.[46] Temperatures during the days filming took place reached 130 °F (54 °C), limiting shooting to the early mornings and evenings.[47]

The stairs were padded with half-inch-thick (13 mm) rubber to film the death of the character Father Damien Karras. Because the house from which he falls was set back slightly from the steps, the crew built an eastward extension with a false front to film the scene.[48] The stuntman tumbled down the stairs twice. Georgetown University students charged people around $5 each to watch the stunt from the rooftops.[49][30]

Although the film is set in Washington, D.C., many interior scenes were shot in various parts of New York City. The MacNeil residence interiors were filmed at CECO Studios in Manhattan.[50] Exteriors of the MacNeil house were filmed using a family home on 36th and Prospect in Washington, on the former site of E. D. E. N. Southworth's residence.[51] A mansard roof was added for the scene in which Chris investigates the scratching noises in the attic.[52]

Several scenes were shot in the basement of Keating Hall at Fordham University in the Bronx.

The scene where Father Karras listens to the tapes of Regan's dialogue was filmed in the basement of Keating Hall at Fordham University in the Bronx.[53] where O'Malley, who plays Dyer, was an assistant professor of theology.[54]

The interior of Karras' room at Georgetown was a meticulous reconstruction of theology professor Father Thomas M. King's "corridor Jesuit" room in New North Hall. King's room was photographed by production staff after a visit by Blatty, a Georgetown graduate, and Friedkin. Back in New York, every element of King's room, including posters and books, was recreated, including a poster of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a theologian on whom Merrin was loosely based. Georgetown was paid a thousand dollars ($6,000 in modern dollars[55]) per day of filming. Locations on campus included both exteriors such as Burstyn's first scene, shot on the steps of the Flemish Romanesque Healy Hall, and interiors such as the defilement of the statue of the Virgin Mary in Dahlgren Chapel, and the Archbishop's office, actually the office of the university's president. One scene was filmed in The Tombs, a student hangout across from the steps.[56]

Dahlgren Chapel interior in 2022

Roizman recalls the scenes in the chapel as the hardest interior to light outside of the house sets. In order to give it the same available-light look as the house interiors for an establishing shot that included the stained glass windows, it was necessary to rig it with 225-amp "Brute" arc lights on 30-foot (9.1 m) parallel mounts. "It was backbreaking work ... but the results were quite pleasing."[44]

Exorcism scenes[edit]

The scenes where Merrin and Karras perform the exorcism were a great challenge to film. Following the novel, Friedkin wanted the bedroom set to be cold, cold enough that the actors' breath could be seen.[d] A refrigeration system, which Friedkin describes as an air conditioning system powerful enough for a restaurant,[57] was installed at a cost of $50,000 ($239,000 in modern dollars[17])[1] that could lower the temperature within to −20 °F (−29 °C),[16][44] cold enough that a thin layer of snow fell within it one humid morning, so the characters' breath would be visible.[58] Since the set lighting warmed the air, it could only remain cold enough for three minutes of filming at a time.[59] It broke down frequently,[1] and Friedkin was only able to complete five shots each day; the complete scene thus took a month to film, in continuity, the order they were written in the script.[57]

Originally it was hoped that the room would not have to be chilled to that point, but at just below freezing, while the actors' breath was visible, the filming equipment warmed the set enough to quickly negate that. Going down to 0 °F (−18 °C) worked, but according to Roizman Friedkin decided on the maximum in order to improve the actors' performance. "An actor on his knees for 15 minutes at 20 below zero is really going to feel cold. It worked out very well."[44]

Having gotten the actors' breath to appear, the next challenge was filming it. This required backlighting the actors, which while it is easy enough to do in still photography is much harder while filming a movie. "[W]ith the actors moving all the time, it got to be a bit difficult. It was always a matter of finding a place to hide the backlight and finding a way to keep it off of the actors", Roizman said.[44]

Blair wore green contact lenses meant to give her eyes a bestial appearance for scenes where Regan is possessed. To accentuate them, the crew used a soft light with its barn doors nearly closed to throw a narrow strip of light across her eyes. "It's probably a 75 mm lens, because we used that a lot", Friedkin recalls.[57]

It was easier to film some of the other supernatural manifestations, such as the bed rocking and the curtains blowing, in Regan's room since the walls and ceiling of the set were wild, or capable of being moved to accommodate a camera, until the scene where the ceiling cracks and it was necessary to use a hard one afterwards. The scene where Regan levitates as the priests chant "The power of Christ compels you!", for which a hole was cut in the ceiling for the rig to go through, was the most challenging.[44] the 80-pound (36 kg) Blair wore a bodysuit under her nightgown to which hooks for monofilament wires had been attached.[57]

Roizman said that while he had filmed similar scenes many times in television commercials, painting the wires to match the background so they would not show on camera was difficult on The Exorcist because of the changes in background. "We had to practically paint them frame by frame", he told the magazine. While most directors would have been satisfied to use editing to smooth out the scene, Friedkin wanted it in longer takes.[44] So effective was that painting that, when Friedkin returned to the film to prepare it for optical media release in the late 2000s, he found it unnecessary to apply any digital editing to that scene.[57]

Friedkin decided that he did not want any scenes in the movie to have "any kind of spooky lights that you typically saw in horror films." So all the lights in the bedroom come from a visible source.[57] This was challenging because at one point one of the lamps lighting it falls on the floor; changing the way it had to be lit to preserve the impression of available light. At other times they flicker and dim, supposedly due to Pazuzu's influence. Lastly, at the end of the sequence, Friedkin wanted the lighting's mood to change, to "have an ethereal quality—a very soft, glowing, cool sort of thing" without any apparent change in its sources. "We tried, at that point, to work with absolutely no shadows in the room, using just bounce light—and I think we achieved the correct overall effect."[44]

Since it was so necessary to hide the lights with such a small room and so many people in it both on and off camera, Roizman and his crew mostly used "inkies", small incandescent bulb lights usually used to accentuate objects within the frame, "hidden wherever we could find a place for one. We were constantly controlling them with dimmers, so that if someone got too close to one, we'd take it down." He recalls his gaffer at one point controlling four of them; as a joke he put sheet music in front of the man one day. Due to the low light used, it was necessary to use wide aperture settings in most of the interiors, not just Regan's room. "I shot 90 percent of the picture wide open, as usual."[44]

The room's color scheme also worked to create the impression of black and white. The walls were a gray taupe, Regan's bedding a neutral beige, and the priests wore black. White, according to Roizman, would have been too dominant. "In toning everything down like this, the only real color in the room became the skin tones—an effect which I personally like very much", he said. "This sequence has an almost black and white feeling; yet, there is subtle color there."[44]

Father Merrin's arrival scene[edit]

Father Merrin's arrival scene was filmed on Max von Sydow's first day on set. The scene where he steps out of a cab and stands in front of the MacNeil residence, silhouetted in a misty streetlamp's glow and staring up at a beam of light from a bedroom window, is one of the most famous scenes in the movie, used for film posters and home media release covers. It was inspired by René Magritte's 1954 painting Empire of Light (L'Empire des lumières).[60]

Friedkin wanted to evoke visually the language Blatty used in the novel for this scene, likening Merrin to "a melancholy traveler frozen in time", standing next to a streetlight in the fog when he gets out of the cab. He gave the crew a full day to light the scene, using mainly arc lights and tripod-mounted "troopers", and boosting the brightness of the existing streetlamps. "After a great deal of trial and error, we filmed on the second night."[57]

Roizman said of all the nighttime exterior shots in the film, Merrin's arrival was "the trickiest".[44] In order to get the beam of light the way Friedkin wanted it, the crew had to take the window frame out of the facade they had attached to the house for filming, put it behind the window and then put the spotlight in between the window and frame.[61] "[I]t was difficult to get that bright of a glow from a shaded window and we also had to hold a fog effect all the way down the street", Roizman said. "Of course—wouldn't you know—just as we were ready to shoot, the wind came up, which made it more difficult to keep the fog settled in." By working quickly, he and the camera crew were able to get the shot,[44] with Friedkin finding the first take satisfactory.[61] At the time Roizman recounted this, the film had not yet been released and, based on dailies he had seen during production (which he allowed were not shown under the best possible conditions), he might have overlit the scene out of fear of missing detail. "However, with proper printing, I'm sure it will come out dark enough."[44]

Head spinning[edit]

The scenes where the possessed Regan's head rotates 180 degrees so that she appears to be looking directly backwards drew significant notice from audiences and critics when the film was released. "All I can tell you is that the way you think I did it is not the way we did it," Friedkin told Castle of Frankenstein at the time.[33] Today it is known that that scene, like others in the film, relied on effects performed live in front of the camera rather than added in post-production. A life-size animated dummy of the character was built, one so realistic that Blair felt uncomfortable in its presence.[31]

The Regan dummy

Special effects supervisor Marcel Vercoutere built the dummy, primarily of latex based on casts of Blair's body, with help from makeup artist Dick Smith. They tested its realism by putting it in the front seat of a New York City taxicab and, when enough people were looking, turning the head.[62] They had given the dummy's face the capability to move and appear to speak, even adding a condom so its throat would bulge when speaking, but it still did not quite look real in the bedroom set. Then Roizman noted that unlike the other characters in the scene, it did not exhale, so its breath was not visible in the chilled air, and a tube was added for simulated breathing, which produced the requisite clouds of vapor.[44]

Crucifix scene[edit]

The scene where the possessed Regan masturbates with a crucifix was filmed with Dietz playing the character since Blair was too young. To make it seem bloody, she struck it against a sponge soaked in stage blood that had been taped to her stomach. Dietz and Friedkin had a lengthy discussion before filming it about exactly how she was to move her arm. "[H]is method wasn't correct, well, anatomically speaking", she recalls. "We had this long discussion about the right way to jerk off and I showed him why a woman has to churn her wrist [more than a man does]."[36]

As they were arguing about this, a photographer visiting the set was taking pictures of the two of them. When Friedkin saw this, he went over to the photographer, removed their film from the camera, and tore it up, then cleared the set so the two could consider the sensitive discussion privately. Dietz was appreciative of this display of control on his part. "He knew how to create an environment where horror actors would be at their best."[36]

"This particular scene is the most thought about and talked about scene for the obvious reason that it programs two things that are generally not programmed up-front in the human mind ... sex and religion", Friedkin said at the time. It lasts only 50 seconds, yet to many viewers seems much longer, he noted. He had filmed much more, but ultimately decided, on his own without previewing it or consulting anyone, that it was about "how much I could take". While other directors might have used more (he joked that Russ Meyer might have made it the entire movie), "to me, it was worth about 50 seconds."[33]

Angiography scene[edit]

The angiography scene

The angiography scene, in which a needle is inserted into Regan's neck and spurts blood, as Blair undergoes the actual procedure,[63] caused audiences the most discomfort, according to Blatty, who himself admitted he never watched it when viewing the film.[32] It has been criticized as "unappetizing",[64] the film's "most needless scene",[65] and "revolting".[66] British comedian Graeme Garden, who has a medical degree,[67] agreed the scene was "genuinely disturbing" in his review for the New Scientist; he called it "the really irresponsible feature of this film".[68]

Medical professionals have described the scene as a realistic depiction of the procedure. It is also of historical interest in the field, as around the time of the film's release, radiologists had begun to stop using the carotid artery for the puncture (as they do in the film) in favor of a more distant artery.[69][70] It has also been described as the most realistic depiction of a medical procedure in a popular film.[71] In his 2012 commentary on the DVD release of the 2000 cut, Friedkin claimed that the scene was used as a training film for radiologists for years after the film's release.[63]

Roizman recalled the challenges of filming the scene in his American Cinematographer interview. It was shot with limited time available on a Saturday afternoon, in one of the actual rooms used for the procedure. "The space was cramped and there was really no room for rigging lighting equipment, so I decided to shoot the whole thing with available light, which, in this case, meant fluorescent light." Unlike most of the other interiors in the film, that was more than enough light to be adequate and he was able to use a narrower aperture. Roizman's crew changed the light bulbs in the hallways so they would be the same color as those in the examining room. He was so pleased with the resulting footage that, for a later scene shot at a medical complex on Long Island, where they had more space and control, they again used the existing fluorescent lighting with just some color correction filters in the camera and exterior light from the shades to compensate. "[T]here was virtually no correction necessary in the lab, and the results were the best that I've ever had with fluorescents."[44]

"Spider-walk" scene[edit]

Stuntwoman Ann Miles performed the spider-walk scene in November 1972. Friedkin deleted this scene over Blatty's objection just prior to the premiere, since he thought it appeared too early in the film. In the book, the spider-walk is more muted, consisting of Regan following Sharon around near the floor and flicking a snakelike tongue at her ankles. A take more like this was filmed. A different take showing Regan with blood flowing from her mouth was inserted into the 2000 director's cut of the film.[citation needed]

Special effects[edit]

The Exorcist has several special effects, engineered by makeup artist Smith. In one scene from the film, Max von Sydow is actually wearing more makeup than Linda Blair, as Friedkin wanted some very detailed facial close-ups. At the time of shooting, von Sydow was 44, made up to look 30 years older. Many viewers did not realize he was made up at all, which Alan McKenzie calls "a tribute" to Smith.[72] According to Friedkin, it took four hours to apply the makeup every morning. "Dick Smith just happens to be the best in the world", he says. He said that if there was a regular Academy Award for makeup, Smith would have received it.[33]

A latex stomach was built for the scene where the words "HELP ME" appear to be written on the possessed Regan's body. The letters were scratched in, and then heated to make them disappear. This part of the process was filmed and then run backward in the edit so the letters seemed to be appearing in the finished film.[33]

The scene in which the demonic entity leaves Father Karras was originally achieved by filming Miller in possession makeup, then stopping the camera and shooting him again with makeup removed. This creates a noticeable jump in Karras' position as he is unpossessed. The 25th anniversary video smooths over the jumpy transition with a subtle computer morphing effect, an update was not featured in prints used for Warner's 75th anniversary at film festivals.[citation needed]

To appease Blatty and some fans, Friedkin restored the bloody variant of the spider-walk scene for the 2000 theatrical re-release. Linda R. Hager, the lighting double for Linda Blair, was incorrectly credited as the stunt performer. In 2015, Warner acknowledged that Miles is the only person who performed the stunt.[citation needed]



Bud Smith, who had gotten to know Friedkin while he was working on Putney Swope and other films with Robert Downey Sr. during the production of The French Connection, recalls Friedkin calling and asking him to work on The Exorcist after shooting was done. Friedkin had already hired three other editors (Jordan Leonduopoulos, credited as "supervising editor", Norman Gay and Evan Lottman), but told Smith he would be the lead editor. Seeing how much film there was to edit, he asked Friedkin if he could take one large rack of footage and try cutting it. It was the Iraq sequence at the beginning of the film, and after Friedkin disliked his first attempt, Smith worked through a weekend to recut the footage to a rhythm based on the sound of a blacksmith hammering an anvil near where Father Merrin is having his tea, a change that the director liked more.[73]

While working on the film, Smith also created a trailer for the film known as the "flash face" trailer. After starting with Merrin's arrival scene and a voiceover broadly explaining what is happening, it cuts to a montage of faces from various scenes in the film, still, all appearing in all-white against a black background, which quickly swells to almost all white and then fades back to nearly black, making a strobe-like effect, as tense string music plays, ending after almost a minute and a half with the title. Friedkin said in 2018 that Warners declined to use it as they feared it would scare audiences too much. He considers it the best trailer made for the film.[74]

In his tweet discussing this, Friedkin referred to Grant as "the film's editor", although the other three were credited. During principal photography, the editor then hired had never worked on a movie before and was forbidden from making any cuts to the raw footage. After shooting wrapped, he hired Lottman and closely supervised his work as he began editing. "It was all about power," Lottman said. "He wanted to be in control of the film." All four shared the Academy Award nomination the film received for its editing.[75]

Friedkin's final cut was 140 minutes long; despite his insistence that it was perfect, Warners insisted he trim the film to much closer to two hours to allow for more showings each day. Blatty was willing to fight for the whole film as it was, but over his objections Friedkin cut roughly 10–12 minutes. Some of the excluded scenes were among Blatty's favorites, including the original ending, with Dyer and Kinderman connecting and agreeing to go to the movies together at some point, and a scene where Karras and Merrin take a break from the exorcism and discuss the demon's motivation for possessing Regan on the MacNeil stairs. These scenes had been in Blatty's novel, and he believed that in the movie they made it clearer at the end that good had triumphed and what was at stake. Friedkin also cut the "spider-walk" scene early in the film, where the possessed Regan walks downstairs on her hands feet, her face looking upwards, and harasses her mother's guests.[76]

Sound effects[edit]

Special sound effects for the film were created by Ron Nagle, Doc Siegel, Gonzalo Gavira, and Bob Fine.[77] Nagle spent two weeks recording animal sounds, including bees, dogs, hamsters, and pigs; these were incorporated into the multilayered mix of the demon's voice.[78] Gavira achieved the sound effect of Regan's head rotating by twisting a leather wallet.[78][79]

Alleged subliminal imagery[edit]

The Exorcist was also at the center of controversy due to its alleged use of subliminal imagery introduced as special effects during the production of the film. Wilson Bryan Key wrote a whole chapter on the film in his book Media Sexploitation, alleging repeated use of subliminal and semi-subliminal imagery and sound effects. Key observed the use of the Pazuzu face (which Key assumed was Jason Miller in death mask makeup). He claimed that the safety padding on the bedposts was shaped to cast phallic shadows on the wall and that a skull face is superimposed into one of Father Merrin's breath clouds. Key also wrote much about the sound design, identifying the use of pig squeals, for instance, and giving his opinion of the subliminal intent.[citation needed]

A detailed 1991 article in Video Watchdog examined the phenomenon, providing still frames with several uses of subliminal "flashing" throughout the film. Friedkin told the authors, "I saw subliminal cuts in a number of films before I ever put them in The Exorcist, and I thought it was a very effective storytelling device ... The subliminal editing in The Exorcist was done for dramatic effect — to create, achieve, and sustain a kind of dreamlike state."[80] In an interview for a 1999 book about the film, Blatty addressed the controversy by explaining that, "There are no subliminal images. If you can see it, it's not subliminal."[81]


The editing of the title sequence was the first major project for the film title designer Dan Perri. Friedkin had sought him out after seeing his work on Electra Glide in Blue, before The Exorcist was even completed. "It took a long time to design the simplicity of what we wound up using due to experimenting as the film changed shape". Perri recalled. "As [Friedkin] was tightening and evolving the story it would affect how the opening took place."[45]

When Friedkin played for Perri the music he wanted to use over the opening titles, preceded by a brief pan from the MacNeil household, as the light goes out in Regan's room, to the street, then a brief shot of the head of the Virgin Mary statue in the chapel, that pushed the title designer further in the direction of having the titles be very simple. "On screen, the fewer the elements, the more important each becomes. So we're dealing with two elements: a screen that's black and type, the name of the film." The only other elements besides the title that had to be at the beginning of the film were the studio's name, and Blatty's and Friedkin's. The latter two were not on the best of terms at the time, according to Perri[45] (Blatty had sued Friedkin and the studio almost two months before the film's release to make sure his name was included in the opening credits[1]), which affected how he styled their names in the credits: "[Legally], their names had to be the same size but where Bill Blatty has three names, of course they had to be the same size." Perri first showed Friedkin a version in which both of them had their names in two-line stacks, but later changed it so Friedkin's name was on one line, to distinguish him slightly.[45]

For the words themselves Perri chose to keep the Weiss Initials typeface that had been used on the cover of Blatty's novel. The consensus among the filmmakers was that the words had to be red. But choosing an exact shade took some more time. "When it's exposed against black it tends to, what's called, bloom. It swells, it glows, it's very hard to control. I had to do a lot of exposure tests just to get the right red that wouldn't bloom."[45]

Perri's input into the film's opening continued after those credits, as the music abruptly shifts to an ululating male voice and the scene to the archeological dig site in northern Iraq. Friedkin told him he wanted the film to begin with a sunrise, even though he had not filmed one while there on location. The closest shot he had was one filmed at midday, of the sun in an orange sky, with rising heat visible. "I suggested that we create an implied sunrise and that's what's in the film now", Perri says, "a very, very long fade in, like a 30-second fade in of the sun in the sky but in black and white. It very slowly dissolves into color" That image gave the film the sense of beginning it had lacked.[45]

The title design was carried over into prerelease marketing for The Exorcist. Perri designed a poster with the scene where Merrin seems to be confronting the Pazuzu statute entirely in silhouette, an orange sky behind them and the film's title in orange below. It was used as an international teaser poster. "That went out in six languages and they gave me the translation in each language and I set the type in the same style and I fortunately was able to supervise the printing—silk screened rather than lithography—and printed thousands of each and they were distributed around the world", Perri recalls.[45]

As a result of the success of The Exorcist, Perri went on to design opening titles for a number of major films including Taxi Driver (1976), Star Wars (1977), and Gangs of New York (2002).[82] In a 2019 article where Perri discussed how he worked with Friedkin to create the credits, the Art of the Title website observed that the disjuncture between Georgetown and Iraq, "two locations with an unclear connection", the title sequence enhances the film by keeping the audience off balance until Merrin arrives at the MacNeils in the last act. "The film asks its audience to hold ideas, timelines, and locations on the other side of the world in mind", the site says. "The importance of these varied narratives of the main characters in the film allows The Exorcist to extend the battle between good and evil beyond a family home in Georgetown, Washington and reveal the demons that lurk all around us."[45]


Friedkin rejected Lalo Schifrin's working score. The composer had written six minutes of music for the initial trailer but audiences were reportedly too scared by its combination of sights and sounds. According to Schifrin, Warner executives told Friedkin to instruct him to tone it down with softer music, but he never did; Schifrin disclosed in 2005 that he believes this was in retaliation for an earlier "incident" between the two that he declined to describe as he was already going against legal advice by saying that much.[83] It has been claimed Schifrin later used his original Exorcist music several years later for The Amityville Horror,[84] but he denies this. According to The Fear of God: The Making of the Exorcist,[85] on the 25th Anniversary DVD release of the film, Friedkin took the tapes that Schifrin had recorded and threw them away in the studio parking lot.[86]

In his Castle of Frankenstein interview shortly after the film's release, Friedkin discussed the evolution of the film's music. He said he had hired a composer, whom he did not name, to write a score, "and he did a score all right, and I thought it was terrible, just overstated and dreadful." He decided instead to use the music he had given the composer as inspiration. "In other words, rather than get bad imitation Stravinsky, I might as well have the real thing."[33]

Bernard Herrmann, famous for his scores for Orson Welles and Alfred Hitchcock, including the staccato string bursts that accompanied the killings in Psycho, was offered the opportunity to score the finished film. He was flown from London to New York, where he viewed a rough cut, and declined. He felt the minimal opening credits deprived a composer of the opportunity to establish a musical mood with an overture, and only Welles' Citizen Kane had been strong enough as a film to overcome that.[87] In a 1975 interview with High Fidelity magazine, Herrmann said that Friedkin objected to his intention to use an organ in the score, saying "I don't want any Catholic music in my picture" and insisted on sharing credit with him for the music.[88]

In the soundtrack liner notes for his 1977 film, Sorcerer, Friedkin said that if he had heard the music of Tangerine Dream earlier, then he would have had them score The Exorcist. Instead,[89] he used modern classical compositions, including portions of the 1972 Cello Concerto No. 1, of Polymorphia, and other pieces by Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki, Five Pieces for Orchestra by Austrian composer Anton Webern as well as some original music by Jack Nitzsche. The music was heard only during scene transitions.[90] The 2000 "Version You've Never Seen" features new music by Steve Boeddeker, as well as brief source music by Les Baxter.[citation needed]

What is now considered the movie's theme, the piano-based melody which opens the first part of Tubular Bells,[91] the 1973 debut album by English progressive rock musician Mike Oldfield, became very popular after the film's release, although Oldfield himself was not impressed with the way it was used.[92] There is a total of 17 minutes of music in a film slightly over two hours long. Friedkin was satisfied. "What I wanted", he said, "what I think we have in the film, is understated music. The music is just a presence like a cold hand on the back of your neck, rather than assertive."[33]

In 1998 a restored and remastered soundtrack was released by Warner (without Tubular Bells) that included three pieces from Schifrin's rejected score. The pieces are "Music from the unused Trailer", an 11-minute "Suite from the Unused Score", and "Rock Ballad (Unused Theme)".[93] That same year, the Japanese version of the original soundtrack LP did not include the Schifrin pieces but did include the main theme, and the movement titled Night of the Electric Insects from George Crumb's string quartet Black Angels.[94] Waxwork Records released the score in 2017 on two different variations of 180-gram vinyl, "Pazuzu" with clear and black smoke and "Exorcism" that featured blue and black smoke. The record was remastered from the original tapes; it included liner notes from Friedkin with art by Justin Erickson from Phantom City Creative.[95]

The Greek song playing on the radio when Father Karras leaves his mother's house is "Paramythaki mou" (My Tale), sung by Giannis Kalatzis. Lyricist Lefteris Papadopoulos said that a few years later, when he was in financial difficulties, he asked for some compensation. Part of Hans Werner Henze's 1966 composition Fantasia for Strings is played over the closing credits.[96][97]

Production difficulties and purported curse on film[edit]

Principal photography began in August 1972; it was scheduled to last 105 days. Due to production problems and accidents on set, it took over 200 days to wrap. As a result the film went $2.5 million ($12 million in modern dollars[17]) over budget,[18] ultimately costing the studio $12 million ($57.4 million in modern dollars) to make.[2]

Early on, the set in New York for the interiors of the MacNeil house was destroyed by a fire started when a bird flew into a circuit breaker,[98] with the exception of Regan's room, which remained unharmed. Production was delayed for six weeks while it was rebuilt. Later, another set was severely damaged when the sprinkler system activated. A two-week delay resulted when the 10-foot (3.0 m) statue of Pazuzu was shipped to Hong Kong instead of Iraq.[18]

Injuries to cast and crew also affected production, and had permanent consequences. Burstyn's back injury during the scene where the possessed Regan throws Chris backwards before the head-spinning, the take used in the film, left her unable to film for two weeks and using crutches for the remainder of the production;[99] the coccyx fracture she suffered[e] has caused her continuing problems since it was inadequately treated at the time.[101]

Blair also suffered a back injury, in her case a lower spinal fracture, during a take that was also used in the film, after being too loosely strapped to the bed when it was being rocked around.[102] She developed scoliosis as a result: "[It] was far more serious than I ever imagined and really affected my health negatively for a long time."[31] She further developed a lifelong aversion to cold due to having to spend so much time in the refrigerated bedroom set wearing only a nightgown and long underwear. A carpenter cut his thumb off and a lighting technician similarly lost a toe in another accident.[18][16]

There were also more deaths among people connected with the film and their family members. Among the cast, McGowran died a week after completing his scenes as Dennings with the character's death;[18] Maliaros also passed away, like her character, before the film was finished.[98] Deaths among or close to the crew included the night watchman and the operator of the refrigeration system for Regan's room, along with the assistant cameraman's newborn child.[18][16]

Blair's grandfather died during the first week of production, and von Sydow had to return to Sweden after his first day on set shooting the entrance scene after he learned that his brother had died, adding another delay to the production. Miller's son nearly died when, while he and his father were out at the beach, a motorcycle that unexpectedly appeared struck him, leaving him in critical condition and requiring weeks in intensive care to heal from the injuries.[18][16] Several years after the film's release, Paul Bateson, the radiological technician in the angiography scene, was convicted of murder in the death of journalist Addison Verrill;[71] in 2015 Hatra, the World Heritage Site where the prologue had been shot, was demolished by ISIL militants.[103]

Friedkin believed that there might have been some supernatural interference with the film. "I'm not a convert to the occult", he told the horror-film magazine, Castle of Frankenstein, "but after all I've seen on this film, I definitely believe in demonic possession ... We were plagued by strange and sinister things from the beginning." He said some striking visuals in the film had not been intended and could not be explained.[18]

Vercourtere, the special effects supervisor, also felt uncomfortable working on the film. "There was definitely a feeling something [bad] could happen," he recalled. "I felt I was playing around with something I shouldn’t be playing around with." Concern among the production was significant enough that Friedkin asked Father Thomas Bermingham, the film's technical advisor (who also played Georgetown's president in the film), to perform an exorcism on the set. Bermingham instead blessed the cast and crew, believing that an actual exorcism would only make the cast more anxious.[16]

British film historian Sarah Crowther believes stories of the curse were partly disseminated by Warner's marketing department, which she believes was purposely courting controversy by releasing the film just after Christmas. "[They] spread speculation of the curse prior to release. It was an extremely hot topic in global media when it hit cinemas", she told in 2018, likening the curse to the elaborate marketing gimmicks employed by producer William Castle to stimulate viewer interest in his horror films during the 1960s. Crowther believes most of the aspects of the curse are really just the result of Friedkin's driving, relentless production over a prolonged period, which fatigued many members of the cast and crew.[98]

In 2000, Blatty joked that "There is no Exorcist curse. I am The Exorcist curse!" when asked if the death of Blair's pet mouse was possibly due to the alleged curse.[32]


Theatrical run[edit]

Warners scheduled The Exorcist for release the day after Christmas in 1973. Originally it had been scheduled for an earlier release, but that was postponed due to postproduction delays.[104] Friedkin was, even years later, angry about this choice of release date, believing that it hurt the film at the box office. He had wanted a release before the holiday, or on it, as is more common at the time of year; it has been speculated that Warners wanted to avoid any controversy that might have come from releasing a film about demonic possession before a major religious holiday. Friedkin supposedly had seen what Paramount had done to make The Godfather, which had had similar issues, a runaway success a year and a half before and had wanted Warners to emulate it with a more preferable release date, such as March, as that film had had.[105]

The post-holiday release served to help The Exorcist sell tickets, as most moviegoers had all or most of the week off to go see it. It is the second all-time highest-grossing Christmas week release after 1997's Titanic. It has also outgrossed The Godfather.[105] Ultimately it played on screens for 105 weeks, or just over two years.[3]


In 1979, the film was re-released theatrically and was converted to 70mm, with its original 1.75:1 aspect ratio[106] expanded to 2.20:1 to use all the available screen width that 70mm offers. The sound was remixed to six-channel Dolby Stereo, later used on most home releases.[citation needed]

A new edition labeled "The Version You've Never Seen"[107] (later re-labeled "Extended Director's Cut") was released in theaters in September 2000,[108] with additions and changes.[12]

Television versions[edit]

The network TV version originally broadcast on CBS in 1980 was edited by Friedkin, who filmed a shot of the Virgin Mary statue crying blood to replace the desecrated statue image. Friedkin himself delivered the demon's new, censored dialogue because he was unwilling to work with McCambridge again. The lines "Your mother sucks cocks in hell, Karras, you faithless slime!" and "Shove it up your ass, you faggot!" were redubbed as "Your mother still rots in hell" and "Shut your face, you faggot". Several of Chris' lines were redubbed by Burstyn, replacing "Jesus Christ" with "Judas Priest" and omitting the expletive "fuck". Moments in which Regan masturbates with a crucifix and forces her mother's head into her crotch are removed, along with most of the character's profanity. There is also a brief alternative shot shortly after Merrin arrives at the MacNeil house of Regan's face morphing into the demon's white visage (theatrical versions show only the beginning of the transformation). In some network versions Regan is not masturbating but having another fit.[citation needed]

In both the TV-PG and TV-14 rated network edits, the image of the obscenely defiled statue of the Virgin Mary is intact, appearing on-screen for several more seconds in the TV-14 version. In the original TV airings, the desecrated statue was replaced by an alternative version[109] showing the face smashed in, but no other defilement. Edits may vary between networks; non-premium cable networks usually show only edited/censored versions of the film.[citation needed]

Home media[edit]

Special edition 25th anniversary VHS and DVD release[edit]

A limited 50,000-copy special edition box set was released in 1998 for the film's 25th anniversary. There are two versions: one for VHS released in November,[110] and a DVD released a month later.[111] Both have identical material. A 30th anniversary edition was released on DVD by Warner Home Video in August 2003.[citation needed]

The 25th Anniversary Special Edition DVD includes the original ending (not used in the theatrical release) as a special feature: as Father Dyer walks away from the MacNeil residence, he is approached by Lt. Kinderman. They talk briefly about Regan and the events that took place and then Kinderman invites Dyer to the movies to see Wuthering Heights. Kinderman quotes Casablanca, telling Dyer, "I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship".[32]

Blatty was pleased that the scene was restored. The night before the scene was shot, he and Friedkin had worked very hard on blocking it, to make sure it would be clear to the audience that the film ended on an upbeat moment. "My theory over the years has been that at that point in the movie, most of the audience is a little out of it" he said two years later. "They're really not seeing what's happening there, and, of course, the film lost its original ending and instead ended with Father Dyer looking down the steps ... [which] gives an audience an emotional cue about how they're supposed to feel." Overall, he said, the 25th anniversary cut is "the version that I first saw on the moviola in the editing room all those years ago, and it's the way it ought to be seen."[32]

The Special Edition DVD contains The Fear of God, a 75-minute documentary on the making of the film,[85] with screen tests and additional deleted scenes.[citation needed]

DVD features[edit]
  • The original film with restored film and digitally remastered audio, with a 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio.[112]
  • An introduction by Friedkin.
  • The 1998 BBC documentary The Fear of God: The Making of "The Exorcist".
  • Two audio commentaries.
  • Interviews with Friedkin and Blatty.
  • Theatrical trailers and TV spots.
Box set features[edit]
  • A commemorative 52-page tribute book, covering highlights of the film's preparation, production, and release; features previously unreleased historical data and archival photographs.
  • Limited edition soundtrack CD of the film's score, including the original (unused) soundtrack ("Tubular Bells" and "Night of the Electric Insects" omitted).
  • Eight lobby card reprints.
  • Exclusive senitype film frame (magnification included).

Extended edition DVD releases[edit]

The extended edition labeled "The Version You've Never Seen" (released theatrically in 2000) was released on DVD in 2004.[113] It was re-released on DVD (and Blu-ray) with slight alterations under the new label "Extended Director's Cut" in 2010.[114]


In a 2008 DVD Review interview, Friedkin said he was scheduled to begin work on The Exorcist Blu-ray in 2008.[115] This edition featured a new restoration, including both the 1973 theatrical version and the 2000 "Version You've Never Seen" (re-labeled as "Extended Director's Cut").[116] It was released two years later.[117][118][119] A 40th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray was released in 2013, containing both cuts of the film and many of the previously released bonus features in addition to two featurettes about Blatty.[120]

The Exorcist: The Complete Anthology[edit]

The Exorcist: The Complete Anthology, a box set, was released on DVD in 2006,[121] and on Blu-ray in 2014.[122] This collection includes the original theatrical release version of The Exorcist, the extended version (labelled The Exorcist: The Version You've Never Seen on the DVD release and The Exorcist: Extended Director's Cut on the Blu-ray release), the sequels Exorcist II: The Heretic and The Exorcist III, and the prequels Exorcist: The Beginning and Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist. Morgan Creek, the current owner of the franchise, produced a television series of Blatty's novel, which is also the basis for the original film.[citation needed]


Box office[edit]

Since it was a horror film that had gone well over budget and did not have any major stars in the lead roles, Warner did not have high expectations for The Exorcist. It did not preview the film for critics and booked its initial release for only 30 screens in 24 theaters,[123] mostly in 21 large cities and their metropolitan areas.[124] The film grossed $1.9 million ($8.62 million in modern dollars[55]) in its first week, setting house records in each theater,[123] with an average of $70,000, equivalent to $300,000 at modern ticket prices.[105]

Within its first month it had grossed $7.4 million nationwide, ($30.8 million in modern dollars[55]) by which time Warners' executives expected it to easily surpass My Fair Lady's $34 million take to become the studio's most financially successful film.[125] The huge crowds attracted to the film forced the studio to expand it into wide release very quickly, to 366 screens.[126] At the time that releasing strategy had rarely been used for anything but exploitation films.[127][f] Many of the theaters in large cities were not located near downtowns, where Warners had booked Magnum Force, the Dirty Harry sequel, before planning the release of The Exorcist.[105] In February it accounted for 15 percent of all Warners' grosses in key markets.[128]

None of the theaters were in Black neighborhoods such as South Central Los Angeles since the studio did not expect that audience to take much interest in the film, which had no Black characters. But after the theater in predominantly white Westwood that had shown the film was overwhelmed with moviegoers from South Central, it was quickly booked into theaters in that neighborhood.[124][g] Black American enthusiasm for The Exorcist has been credited with ending mainstream studio support for blaxploitation movies, since Hollywood realized that Black audiences would flock to films that did not have content specifically geared to them.[130][131]

The New York Times took notice that the audience lined up to see the film was between one-quarter and one-third Black at one theater on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, a mostly white neighborhood of the city, showing the film in late January. "A lot of blacks relate to voodoo and witchcraft and that kind of devil stuff," one Black patron said, when asked why so many Black people were sufficiently attracted to the film to go to such lengths to see it. "Many still believe in black magic, especially those from Haiti and the Deep South."[132]

The Exorcist earned $66.3 million ($276 million in modern dollars[55]) in distributors' rentals during its theatrical release in 1974 in the United States and Canada, becoming the second most popular film of that year (trailing The Sting which earned $68.5 million)[133] and Warners' highest-grossing film of all time.[134] The high returns were made possible by the use of four-wall distribution, where the contract provides that the studio rents the theater from the owner and thus keeps all the ticket revenue, in the initial run. It was the first time a major studio had used that practice. Warners also used some practices that had made The Godfather successful for Paramount the year before, such as making theaters commit to showing the film for at least 24 weeks.[126]

Overseas, the film earned rentals of $46 million[135] for a worldwide total of $112.3 million ($509 million in modern dollars[55]). It became the highest-grossing film in Japan with rentals of over $8.2 million in its first 11 weeks.[136] After several reissues, the film has grossed $232.6 million in the United States and Canada,[3] which when adjusted for inflation, makes it the ninth highest-grossing film of all time in the U.S. and Canada and the top-grossing R-rated film of all time.[137] As of 2019, it has grossed $441 million worldwide,[3] or $1.8 billion adjusted for inflation by 2014.[138]

In Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, journalist and film historian Peter Biskind wrote about Warner's reaction to the success of the film. Executives were happy, but also nervous, since the huge earnings meant that the more free-wheeling and experimental parts of what the studio had done would become limited in favor of a focus on finding profitable film ideas and projects.[128]

Critical response[edit]

Stanley Kauffmann, in The New Republic, wrote, "This is the scariest film I've seen in years – the only scary film I've seen in years. ...If you want to be shaken—and I found out, while the picture was going, that that's what I wanted—then The Exorcist will scare the hell out of you".[139][140] Arthur D. Murphy of Variety noted that it was "an expert telling of a supernatural horror story. ...The climactic sequences assault the senses and the intellect with pure cinematic terror".[141] In the horror-film magazine Castle of Frankenstein, Joe Dante, later director of Piranha and The Howling, called it "an amazing film, and one destined to become at the very least a horror classic. [It] will be profoundly disturbing to all audiences, especially the more sensitive and those who tend to 'live' the movies they see ... Suffice it to say, there has never been anything like this on the screen before".[142]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film a complete four-star review, praising the actors (particularly Burstyn) and the convincing special effects, but at the end of the review wrote: "I am not sure exactly what reasons people will have for seeing this movie; surely enjoyment won't be one, because what we get here aren't the delicious chills of a Vincent Price thriller, but raw and painful experience. Are people so numb they need movies of this intensity in order to feel anything at all?" Ebert, while praising the film, believed the special effects to be unusually graphic. He wrote: "That it received an R rating and not the X is stupefying".[143]

In the middle of the range of critical response was Judith Crist. Her review in New York called the film "half-successful". She praised Friedkin's direction, its "to-the-point performances", the special effects and makeup, and in particular the film's "sparing and adventurous" use of music. But she felt that Blatty, in adapting his novel, had taken out the things that made the reader connect with the characters, and was perhaps limited by the fact that the film could not leave things to the imagination the way the book had.[64]

Vincent Canby, writing in The New York Times, dismissed The Exorcist as "a chunk of elegant occultist claptrap ... a practically impossible film to sit through ... [e]stablish[ing] a new low for grotesque special effects."[144] Andrew Sarris of The Village Voice complained that "Friedkin's biggest weakness is his inability to provide enough visual information about his characters ... Whole passages of the movie's exposition were one long buzz of small talk and name droppings ... The Exorcist succeeds on one level as an effectively excruciating entertainment, but on another, deeper level it is a thoroughly evil film".[145] Writing in Rolling Stone, Jon Landau felt the film was "nothing more than a religious porn film, the gaudiest piece of shlock this side of Cecil B. DeMille (minus that gentleman's wit and ability to tell a story)."[146] Film Quarterly's Michael Dempsey called The Exorcist "the trash bombshell of 1973, the aesthetic equivalent of being run over by a truck ... a gloating, ugly exploitation picture."[66] The San Francisco Bay Guardian's reviewer called it "quite simply the dumbest, most insultingly anti-intellectual movie I have ever come across".[142]

Rating controversy[edit]

The Motion Picture Association of America's (MPAA) ratings board had been established several years before to replace the Motion Picture Production Code after it expired in 1968. It had already been criticized for its indirect censorship—as many as a third of the films submitted to it had had to be recut after being rated X, meaning no minors could be admitted. Since many theaters would not show such films, and newspapers would not run ads for them, the X rating greatly limited a non-pornographic film's commercial prospects.[124]

While Friedkin wanted more blood and gore in The Exorcist than had been in any Hollywood film previously, he also needed the film to have an R rating (children admitted only with an adult) to reach a large audience.[124] He believes that part of the reason for Warners' decision to open the film in limited release was the studio's certainty that the film would be rated X, severely attenuating its commercial prospects.[104] Before release, Aaron Stern, the head of the MPAA ratings board, decided to watch the film himself before the rest of the board did. He then called Friedkin and said that since The Exorcist was "an important film", he would allow it to receive an R rating without any cuts.[124]

Some critics, both anticipating and reacting to reports of the film's effect on children who might be or had been taken to see it, questioned the R rating. While he had praised the film, Roy Meacham, a critic for Metromedia television stations based in Washington, D.C., wrote in The New York Times in February 1974 that he had strongly cautioned that children should not be allowed to see it even with an adult, a warning his station repeated for several days. Nevertheless, some had, and he had heard of one girl being taken from the theater in an ambulance.[147]

In Washington, the film drew strong interest as well since it was a rare film set in the area that did not involve government activity.[39] The children Meacham saw leaving showings, he recalled, "were drained and drawn afterward; their eyes had a look I had never seen before". He suggested that the ratings board had somehow yielded to pressure from Warner not to give the film an X rating, and was skeptical of MPAA head Jack Valenti's claims that since the film had no sex or nudity, it could receive an R. After a week in Washington's theaters, Meacham recalled, authorities cited the crucifix scene to invoke a local ordinance that forbid minors from seeing any scenes with sexual content even where the actors were fully clothed; police warned theaters that staff would be arrested if any minors were admitted to see The Exorcist.[147]

"The review board [has] surrendered all right to the claim that it provides moral and ethical leadership to the movie industry", Meacham wrote. He feared that, as a result, communities across the country would feel it necessary to pass their own, perhaps more restrictive, laws regarding the content of movies that could be shown in their jurisdictions: "For if the movie industry cannot provide safeguards for minors, authorities will have to."[147]

Two communities, Boston and Hattiesburg, Mississippi, attempted to prevent the film from being shown outright in their jurisdictions. A court in the former city blocked the ban, saying the film did not meet the U.S. Supreme Court's standard of obscenity.[148] Nonetheless, in Boston the authorities told theaters they could not admit any minors despite the R rating.[124] In Mississippi, the theater chain showing the movie was convicted at trial, but the state's Supreme Court overturned the conviction in 1976, finding that the state's obscenity statute was too vague to be enforceable in the wake of the Supreme Court's 1972 Miller v. California decision which laid down a new standard for obscenity.[149]

The New Yorker's film critic, Pauline Kael, echoed Meacham's insinuations that the board had yielded to studio pressure in rating the film R: "If The Exorcist had cost under a million or been made abroad, it would almost certainly be an X film. But when a movie is as expensive as this one, the [board] doesn't dare give it an X".[124]

There was also concern that theaters were not strictly enforcing the R rating, or even enforcing it at all, allowing unaccompanied minors to view the film. Times critic Lawrence Van Gelder reported that a 16-year-old girl in California said that not only was she sold a ticket to see the film unaccompanied, others who seemed even younger were able to do so as well.[125] On the other hand, another Times writer, Judy Lee Klemesrud, said she saw no unaccompanied minors, and indeed very few minors, when she went to see the film in Manhattan. Nevertheless, "I think that if a movie ever deserved an X rating simply because it would keep the kids out of the theater, it is The Exorcist".[132]

In 1974, Stern's tenure as chairman of the MPAA ratings board ended. His replacement, Richard Heffner, asked during the interview process about films with controversial ratings, including The Exorcist, said: "How could anything be worse than this? And it got an R?" After he took over as head, he would spearhead efforts to be more aggressive with the X rating, especially over violence in films.[124]

Viewing restrictions in United Kingdom[edit]

The Exorcist was released in London in March 1974.[150] The film drew protests around Britain from the Nationwide Festival of Light (NFL), a Christian public action group concerned with the influence of media on society, and especially on the young. Members of local clergy and concerned citizens handed out leaflets to those queuing to see the film, offering spiritual support afterwards to those who asked for it.[151] A letter-writing campaign to local councils by the NFL led many to screen The Exorcist before permitting it to be shown in their districts.[152] It was thus banned in some areas, such as Dinefwr Borough and Ceredigion in Wales.[153][154]

The Exorcist was available on home video from 1981 in the UK.[155] After the passage of the Video Recordings Act 1984, the film was submitted to the British Board of Film Classification for a home video certificate. James Ferman, the board's director, vetoed the decision to grant it over a majority vote. He believed that, even with a proposed 18 certificate, the film's notoriety would entice underage viewers to seek it out. As a result, all video copies of The Exorcist were withdrawn in the UK in 1988 and could not be purchased for 11 years.[155]

Following a successful 1998 theatrical re-release, the film was submitted for home video release again in 1999.[156] It was passed uncut with an 18 certificate, signifying a relaxation of the censorship rules for home video in the UK, in part due to Ferman's departure. Channel 4 showed The Exorcist on broadcast television in the UK for the first time in 2001.[157]

Since release[edit]

The Exorcist set box office records that stood for many years. For almost half a century, until the 2017 adaptation of Stephen King's It, it was the top-grossing R-rated horror film.[158] In 1999, The Sixth Sense finally bested The Exorcist as the highest-grossing supernatural horror film; it remains in third place after It claimed that title as well.[159] On both charts The Exorcist, along with The Blair Witch Project, are the only 20th-century releases in the top 10.[158][159]

Since its release, The Exorcist's critical reputation has grown considerably. According to the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 83% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 83 reviews, with an average rating of 8.30/10. The site's critics consensus states: "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".[160] At Metacritic, which assigns and normalizes scores of critic reviews, the film has a weighted average score of 82 out of 100 based on 20 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[161] Chicago Tribune film critic Gene Siskel placed it in the top five films released that year.[162] BBC film critic Mark Kermode believes the film to be the best film ever made.[163]

Director Martin Scorsese placed The Exorcist on his list of the 11 scariest horror films of all time.[164] Other filmmakers, including Stanley Kubrick,[165][166] Robert Eggers,[167] Alex Proyas[168] and David Fincher[169] also have cited The Exorcist as one of their favorite films. The musician Elton John listed it in his five favorite films of all time.[170] In 2008, the film was selected by Empire as one of The 500 Greatest Movies Ever Made.[171] It was also placed on a similar list of a thousand films by The New York Times.[172]

Audience reaction[edit]

On December 26 a movie called The Exorcist opened in theatres across the country and since then all Hell has broken loose.

— Newsweek, February 2, 1974, quoted in Shock Value, by Jason Zinoman[124]

At the only sneak preview held before release, audience members screamed and ran out of the theater during the showing.[16] When it was over, Calley and the other Warners executives, instead of leaving without comment as studio executives usually do after those events, remained in their seats, stunned. "What in the fuck did we just see?" Calley asked. They believed the film was brilliant, but did not know how to market it, and decided on the limited early release after Christmas, with a trade screening on December 21.[173] Burstyn recalled watching television the morning the film opened of viewers in Montreal lining up at 4 a.m. in frigid temperatures. "I thought, how can a movie have that kind of impact before it even opens? I just couldn't believe it."[174]

Despite its mixed reviews and the controversies over its content and viewer reaction, The Exorcist was a runaway hit. In New York City, where its initial run was limited to a few theaters, patrons endured cold as severe as 6 °F (−14 °C) sometimes with rain and sleet,[125] waiting for hours in long lines during what is normally a slow time of year for the movies to buy tickets, many not for the first time. The crowds gathered outside theaters sometimes rioted, and police were called in to quell disturbances in not only New York but Kansas City.[124][h]

The New York Times asked some of those in line what drew them there. Those who had read the novel accounted for about a third; they wanted to see if the film could realistically depict some of the scenes in the book. Others said: "We're here because we're nuts and because we wanted to be part of the madness". A repeat viewer told the newspaper that it was the best horror film he had seen in decades, "much better than Psycho. You feel contaminated when you leave the theater. There's something that is impossible to erase". Many made a point of saying that they had either never waited in line that long for a movie before, or not in a long time. "It makes the movie better," William Hurt, then a drama student at Juilliard, said of the experience. "The more you pay for something, the more it's worth."[132]

Reports of strong audience reactions were widespread. Many viewers fainted; a woman in New York was said to have miscarried during a showing.[132] One man at another showing lasted only 20 minutes before he had to be carried out on a stretcher.[87] Nausea was the most commonly reported reaction. "We have a plumber practically living here now", said the manager of a Toronto theater showing the film.[87] A reviewer for Cinefantastique said that there was so much vomit in the bathroom at the showing he attended that it was impossible to reach the sinks.[127] Some theaters have been said to have provided "Exorcist barf bags";[175] while there are no contemporary reports of any even providing regular sickness bags, Mad magazine depicted one on the cover of its October 1974 issue, which contained a parody of the film.[39]

Other theaters arranged for ambulances to be on call. Some patrons had to be helped after showings to leave the places they had hidden. Despite its lack of any supernatural content, many audience members found the angiography, where blood spurts from the tube inserted into Regan's neck, to be the film's most unsettling scene[65][68] (Blatty said he only watched it once, while the film was being edited, and avoided it on every other viewing).[176] Friedkin speculates that it is easier to empathize with Regan in that scene, as compared to what she suffers while possessed later in the film.[177]

In 1975, The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease published a paper by a psychiatrist documenting four cases of what he called "cinematic neurosis" triggered by viewing the film. In all he believed the neurosis was already present and merely triggered by viewing scenes in the film, particularly those depicting Regan's possession. He recommended that treating physicians view the movie with their patient to help him or her identify the sources of their trauma.[178]

Other causes were suggested outside the psychiatric context. One writer at Castle of Frankenstein took note of Friedkin's pride in the movie's sound, which theaters played at maximum volume, and wondered if some of the low frequencies had induced or amplified feelings of dread or uneasiness in patrons.[87] Another writer there blamed the reactions on the mainstream audience's general unfamiliarity with horror cinema and its conventions. "We have all no doubt heard of people who stood in line for four hours to see this movie, then threw up in mid-film and walked out," he wrote. "I can't say for sure, but my guess is that these people hadn't gone to see a monster movie since 1935."[179]

"The Exorcist ... was one of the rare horror movies that became part of the national conversation", wrote Zinoman almost 40 years later: "It was a movie you needed to have an opinion about". Three separate production histories were published. Journalists complained that coverage of the film and its controversies was distracting the public from the ongoing Watergate scandal.[124] Much of the coverage focused on the audience which, in the words of film historian William Paul, "had become a spectacle equal to the film". Paul cited an Associated Press cartoon in which a couple trying to purchase tickets to the film was told that while the film itself is sold out, "we're selling tickets to the lobby to watch the audience." He did not think any other film's audience has received as much coverage as The Exorcist's.[127]

Legal disputes[edit]

Within a year of The Exorcist's release, two films were quickly made that appeared to appropriate elements of its plot or production design. Warner took legal action against the producers of both, accusing them of copyright infringement. The lawsuits resulted in one film being pulled from distribution and the other one having to change its advertisements.[180]

Abby, released almost a year after The Exorcist, put a blaxploitation spin on the material. In it a Yoruba demon released during an archeological dig in Africa crosses the Atlantic Ocean and possesses the archaeologist's daughter at home in Kentucky. Director William Girdler acknowledged the movie was intended to cash in on the success of The Exorcist. Warner's lawsuit early in 1975 resulted in most prints of the film being confiscated; the film has rarely been screened since and is not available on any home media.[181]

Later, in 1975, Warners brought suit against Film Ventures International (FVI) over Beyond the Door, which had also been released near the end of 1974, alleging that its main character, also a possessed woman whose head spins around completely, projectile vomits and speaks with a deep voice when possessed, infringed the studio's copyright on Regan. Federal judge David W. Williams of the Central District of California held first that since Blatty had based the character on what he was told was a true story, Regan was not original to either film and thus Warner could not hold a copyright on Regan. Even if she had been a creation, she could not be copyrighted since she was subordinate to the story. The writers of the FVI film had also further distanced themselves from an infringement claim by having their possessed female, Jessica, be a pregnant adult woman.[182]

Williams held for Warners on a minor issue. Some of Beyond the Door's advertising graphics, such as an image of light coming from behind a door into a darkened room, and the letter "T" drawn as a Christian cross, were similar enough to those used to promote The Exorcist that the public could reasonably have been confused into thinking the two films were the same, or made by the same people, and enjoined FVI from further use of those graphics.[182]


"The Exorcist has done for the horror film what 2001 did for science fiction", wrote the Cinefantastique reviewer who had described the vomit-covered bathroom, "legitimizing it in the eyes of thousands who previously considered horror movies nothing more than a giggle".[127] In the years following, studios allotted large budgets to films like The Omen, The Sentinel, Burnt Offerings, Audrey Rose and The Amityville Horror, all of which had similar themes or plot elements and cast established stars,[183] who until then had often avoided the genre until their later years.[124]

The film's success led Warner to initiate a sequel, one of the first times a studio had done that with a major film that had not been planned to have one, launching a franchise. While many of the classic horror films of the 1930s, like Frankenstein and King Kong had spawned series of films over the decades, the practice had declined in the 60s, and although there had been some exceptions, like Bride of Frankenstein, most sequels had been considered secondary properties for the studios. The other big-budget horror films made in the wake of The Exorcist also led to sequels and franchises of their own.[124]


The Exorcist was nominated for 10 Academy Awards in 1974, winning two. It was the first horror film to be nominated for Best Picture.[184] The film was also nominated for seven Golden Globe Awards, winning four, including Best Motion Picture – Drama.[185]

Robert Knudson and Chris Newman won The Exorcist's first Oscar, for [[Best Sound|Best Sound]], thanking Friedkin, the studio and their crews.[186] Blatty won for Best Adapted Screenplay; the award was presented by Angie Dickinson and Miller, who applauded vigorously as Blatty came out to accept it. In his short speech, Blatty posthumously thanked William Bloom, "who taught me the rudiments and the craft of screenwriting" and Friedkin. He also paid tribute to both his parents, "who came to this country on a cattle boat and whose love and whose courage have brought me to this moment and to this place."[187]

The morning after the ceremony, Blatty complained bitterly about the minimal awards the film had received. In commentary published on the front page of The Hollywood Reporter (THR), he said it was a "disgrace" that The Exorcist had not won more awards, that it should have won all it was nominated for. It was, he asserted, "head and shoulders, the finest film made this year and in many other years".[188]

"Since I won an award, perhaps it would be considered ungracious," he admitted to THR. "But I'd rather be ungracious than be a hypocrite." He accused veteran director George Cukor of having led a campaign against giving the film any awards, accounting for its meager haul.[188]

Award Category Nominees Result Ref.
Academy Awards Best Picture William Peter Blatty Nominated [184]
Best Director William Friedkin Nominated
Best Actress Ellen Burstyn Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Jason Miller Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Linda Blair Nominated
Best Screenplay – Based on Material from Another Medium William Peter Blatty Won
Best Art Direction Bill Malley and Jerry Wunderlich Nominated
Best Cinematography Owen Roizman Nominated
Best Film Editing Jordan Leondopoulos, Bud Smith, Evan A. Lottman and Norman Gay Nominated
Robert Knudson and Chris Newman Won
Golden Globe Awards Best Motion Picture – Drama Won [185]
Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama Ellen Burstyn Nominated
Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture Max von Sydow Nominated
Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture Linda Blair Won
Best Director – Motion Picture William Friedkin Won
Best Screenplay – Motion Picture William Peter Blatty Won
Most Promising Newcomer – Female Linda Blair Nominated

American Film Institute Lists[edit]


The film has gone on to spawn multiple sequels and an overarching media franchise including a television series.[1]

Direct sequels[edit]

In August 2020, a reboot of the film from Morgan Creek Entertainment was announced to be in development.[191][192] The announcement received a generally negative reaction from audiences loyal to the original and resulted in a petition being launched to have the project canceled.[193][194] Later in December, Blumhouse and Morgan Creek said that the reboot would be a "direct sequel" to the 1973 film and that David Gordon Green would direct.[195][196]

In July 2021, a trilogy of sequels was revealed to be in development with David Gordon Green attached as director for all. Jason Blum will produce, alongside James Robinson and David Robinson.[197] Burstyn will reprise her role from the original film, with Leslie Odom Jr. co-starring. The projects will be joint ventures between Blumhouse Productions and Morgan Creek Entertainment, with Universal Pictures serving as distributing company. Universal collaborated with Peacock to purchase distribution rights for $400 million total. The second and third films of the trilogy are being optioned as Peacock exclusive films. The first film is scheduled to be released on October 13, 2023.[citation needed]

Related works[edit]

Blatty's script for the film has been published in two versions. William Peter Blatty on The Exorcist: From Novel to Film, in 1974, included the first draft of the screenplay.[198] In 1998 the script was anthologized in The Exorcist/Legion - Two Classic Screenplays,[199] and again as a standalone text in 2000.[200]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Friedkin is very reluctant to speak about the factual aspects of the film, but has said he made it to immortalize the Doe story. Some relatively minor changes were made, but the film depicts everything that could be verified by those involved. In order to make the film, Friedkin was allowed access to the diaries of the priests, doctors and nurses; he also discussed the events with Doe's aunt in great detail. Friedkin has said that he does not believe that the "head-spinning" actually occurred, but this has been disputed.[14]
  2. ^ Eventually cast in a bit part as a nurse.[1]
  3. ^ Blair said in 2021 that she had not fully understood it. During filming, while she found it "odd" that she was doing the things she was doing with a crucifix and saying the lines that would later be dubbed over by Mercedes McCambridge, she did not appreciate the significance of what she was doing or why as she had been raised a Congregationalist, at a church that did not discuss the Devil much.[31]
  4. ^ Friedkin recalled that, in Hollywood's classic years, film productions that wanted to shoot interior scenes where it was cold enough to see actors' breath, such as The Magnificent Ambersons or Lost Horizon, would build sets at the Glendale Ice Palace, a large ice factory which had closed long before The Exorcist went into production.[57]
  5. ^ Friedkin, who Burstyn said has never apologized to her for the incident,[99] said in 2018 that she did not put in an insurance claim, was not injured and did not miss any shooting.[100] She has said that she should have been wearing padding on her back and/or the floor she landed on should have been padded.[99]
  6. ^ Two years later, Universal learned from The Exorcist and opened Jaws on 500 screens across the country.[127]
  7. ^ Initially the only theater in the Los Angeles area that could be found for a second exhibitor was a small arthouse theater in Beverly Hills; as the audience for the film was at least one-third Black Stephen Farber joked in Film Comment that the film "may have done more to integrate Beverly Hills than any civil rights action".[129]
  8. ^ According to Blatty, the Kansas City police were concerned enough about a riot that they brought tear gas. Reportedly a Chicago crowd used battering rams to break into the theater.[32]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "The Exorcist (1973)". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Archived from the original on February 17, 2019. Retrieved October 27, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c "The Exorcist – Box Office Data, DVD and Blu-ray Sales, Movie News, Cast and Crew Information". The Numbers. Archived from the original on May 9, 2014. Retrieved December 28, 2011.
  3. ^ a b c d "The Exorcist". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Archived from the original on July 18, 2011. Retrieved May 19, 2011.
  4. ^ a b c Susman, Gary (December 26, 2013). "'The Exorcist': 25 Things You Didn't Know About the Terrifying Horror Classic". Archived from the original on December 27, 2013. Retrieved August 19, 2018.
  5. ^ a b c "The Cold Hard Facts Behind the Story that Inspired "The Exorcist"". Strange Magazine. Archived from the original on October 3, 2018. Retrieved August 10, 2015.
  6. ^ Layton, Julia (September 8, 2005). "How Exorcism Works". HowStuffWorks. Archived from the original on June 8, 2010. Retrieved August 19, 2018.
  7. ^ "The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)". Allmovie. September 9, 2005. Archived from the original on April 28, 2021. Retrieved September 26, 2022.
  8. ^ Nunziata, Nick (October 31, 2015). "5 films that frightened the life out of Mark Kermode: 'The Exorcist has never failed me'". Archived from the original on August 28, 2017. Retrieved August 29, 2017.
  9. ^ Barnes, Mike (December 28, 2010). "'Empire Strikes Back,' 'Airplane!' Among 25 Movies Named to National Film Registry". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on December 30, 2010. Retrieved December 29, 2010.
  10. ^ "Hollywood Blockbusters, Independent Films and Shorts Selected for 2010 National Film Registry". Library of Congress. Archived from the original on February 28, 2017. Retrieved September 30, 2020.
  11. ^ "Complete National Film Registry Listing". Library of Congress. Archived from the original on October 8, 2020. Retrieved September 26, 2022.
  12. ^ a b Collins, Brian (May 8, 2012). "Collins' Crypt: The Exorcist Director's Cut Vs. Theatrical Versions". Birth.Movies.Death. Archived from the original on July 16, 2020. Retrieved September 8, 2022.
  13. ^ Kermode 2008, p. 83.
  14. ^ Diane Rehm (April 29, 2013). "William Friedkin: 'The Friedkin Connection: A Memoir'". (Podcast). WAMU-FM. Archived from the original on August 20, 2014. Retrieved September 8, 2022.
  15. ^ a b c d Larman, Alexander (September 1, 2021). "The man of God behind The Exorcist: why William Peter Blatty couldn't outrun the Devil". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved September 12, 2022.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l McDermott, Jim (October 25, 2019). "The Making of 'The Exorcist'". America. Retrieved September 13, 2022.
  17. ^ a b c d Johnston, Louis; Williamson, Samuel H. (2022). "What Was the U.S. GDP Then?". MeasuringWorth. Retrieved February 12, 2022. United States Gross Domestic Product deflator figures follow the Measuring Worth series.
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h Fort, Benjamin (1974). "The Exorcist". Castle of Frankenstein. Vol. 6, no. 22. p. 34 – via Internet Archive.
  19. ^ a b c Kench, Sam (April 29, 2022). "How The Exorcist Differs From The Book". Looper. Static Media. Retrieved September 13, 2022.
  20. ^ a b c Hurych, Amanda (September 22, 2019). "10 Things In The Exorcist That Only Make Sense If You Read The Books". Screen Rant. Retrieved September 13, 2022.
  21. ^ Schnelbach, Leah (October 24, 2017). "The Exorcist TV Series Subverts Its Own Troubled Franchise". Retrieved September 13, 2022.
  22. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Ryan Adams (April 29, 2013). "William Friedkin on casting The Exorcist". Awards Daily. Archived from the original on June 4, 2016. Retrieved May 6, 2016.
  23. ^ Coffin, Patrick (December 1, 2013). "The Unbearable Frightness of Being". Archived from the original on June 17, 2015. Retrieved June 16, 2015.
  24. ^ a b DallasFilmSociety (April 19, 2013). "William Friedkin, director of THE EXORCIST at the 2013 Dallas International Film Festival". Archived from the original on January 7, 2016. Retrieved June 16, 2015 – via YouTube.
  25. ^ Seth Abramovitch and Chip Pope (October 1, 2018). "William Friedkin: The Exorcist". It Happened in Hollywood (Podcast). The Hollywood Reporter. Event occurs at 7:30–9:20. Archived from the original on March 29, 2019. Retrieved February 25, 2019.
  26. ^ Emery, Robert J. (2000). The directors: in their own words. Vol. 2. TV Books. p. 258. ISBN 1575001292.
  27. ^ Nastasi, Alison (February 21, 2015). "The Actors Who Turned Down Controversial Movie Roles". Flavorwire. Archived from the original on June 10, 2016. Retrieved September 9, 2022.
  28. ^ Wiseman, Andreas; Evans, Greg (July 11, 2019). "Denise Nickerson Dies: 'Willy Wonka', 'Dark Shadows' Actress Was 62". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved September 9, 2022.
  29. ^ Clark Collis. "Jamie Lee Curtis was asked to audition for 'The Exorcist'". Retrieved January 23, 2022.
  30. ^ a b c d Friedkin, William (director) (1998). The Fear of God: 25 Years of 'The Exorcist'. BBC (Documentary). Warner Bros.
  31. ^ a b c d e Power, Ed (July 28, 2021). "'It pushed me over the edge': why The Exorcist made Linda Blair's head spin". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved September 26, 2022.
  32. ^ a b c d e f g Blatty, William Peter (March 24, 2000). "The Horror, the Horror". The Austin Chronicle (Interview). Interviewed by Marc Savlov. Austin, Texas. Retrieved September 14, 2022.
  33. ^ a b c d e f g h Myers, Steve (1974). "William Friedkin interview". Castle of Frankenstein. Vol. 6, no. 22. pp. 56–57 – via Internet Archive.
  34. ^ "The Exorcist actress Mercedes McCambridge dies at 85". USA Today. March 17, 2004. Archived from the original on March 14, 2012. Retrieved October 24, 2013.
  35. ^ DallasFilmSociety (April 19, 2013). "William Friedkin, director of THE EXORCIST at the 2013 Dallas International Film Festival". Archived from the original on January 3, 2016. Retrieved June 17, 2015 – via YouTube.
  36. ^ a b c d e f ""We argued over the crucifix scene": what it was like being the demon in The Exorcist". New Statesman. February 5, 2020. Archived from the original on November 2, 2020. Retrieved October 28, 2020.
  37. ^ Clagett, Thomas (1990). William Friedkin: Films of Aberration, Obsession, and Reality. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company. pp. 113–114. ISBN 0-89950-262-8.
  38. ^ Kermode 2008, p. 21.
  39. ^ a b c Dean, Eddie (October 19, 2015). "Think 'The Exorcist' Was Just a Horror Movie? The Author Says You're Wrong". Washingtonian. Archived from the original on March 6, 2019. Retrieved September 12, 2022.
  40. ^ Thurman, Trace (December 26, 2016). "'The Exorcist' Was Released 43 Years Ago Today!". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved September 9, 2022.
  41. ^ a b Biskind 1999, p. 216–17.
  42. ^ Meyer, Joshua (December 6, 2021). "The Exorcist's Bizarre On-Set Accident You Can Actually See In The Movie". /Film. Retrieved September 9, 2022.
  43. ^ a b Biskind 1999, p. 217.
  44. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s Roizman, Owen (February 1974). "Owen Roizman on Filming The Exorcist". American Cinematographer (Interview). Interviewed by Herb A. Lightman. Los Angeles: American Society of Cinematographers. Retrieved September 18, 2022.
  45. ^ a b c d e f g h West, Alexandra (August 31, 2019). "The Exorcist (1973)". Art of the Title. Retrieved September 23, 2022.
  46. ^ Friedkin, William (Director) (2000). The Exorcist: The Version You've Never Seen; director's commentary (audio track) (Motion picture). Iraq, Washington, D.C.: Warner Bros.
  47. ^ McLaughlin, Katie (October 31, 2013). "'The Exorcist' still turns heads at 40". CNN. Archived from the original on April 11, 2019. Retrieved September 27, 2022.
  48. ^ Truitt, Brian (October 7, 2013). "'Exorcist' creators haunt Georgetown thirty years later". USA Today. Archived from the original on February 14, 2014. Retrieved June 24, 2014.
  49. ^ "Excorcist Steps in Washington, DC". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on October 5, 2014. Retrieved October 29, 2014.
  50. ^ Kermode 2008, p. 76.
  51. ^ "Why Do the Exorcist Steps Exist in the First Place?". The Georgetown Metropolitan. October 30, 2015. Retrieved June 19, 2021. There's an interesting article in the Washington Post from December 1894 profiling the elderly famous author Mrs. E.D.E.N. Southworth who lived in a cottage perched next door on Prospect. Here it is after she passed away when it became a bit of a tourist trap:...The cottage was demolished in 1942. In 1950 a new townhouse was constructed in its place. That is the Exorcist house
  52. ^ Andrews, Hockenhull & Pheasant-Kelly 2015, p. 165.
  53. ^ Hayes, Cathy (July 2, 2012). "'Exorcist' priest gets the ax from Fordham school for his old school ways". Irish Central. Archived from the original on November 15, 2014. Retrieved April 29, 2015.
  54. ^ Larnick, Eric (October 6, 2010). "20 Things You Didn't Know About 'The Exorcist'". Moviefone. Archived from the original on May 13, 2016. Retrieved May 6, 2016.
  55. ^ a b c d e 1634–1699: McCusker, J. J. (1997). How Much Is That in Real Money? A Historical Price Index for Use as a Deflator of Money Values in the Economy of the United States: Addenda et Corrigenda (PDF). American Antiquarian Society. 1700–1799: McCusker, J. J. (1992). How Much Is That in Real Money? A Historical Price Index for Use as a Deflator of Money Values in the Economy of the United States (PDF). American Antiquarian Society. 1800–present: Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. "Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–". Retrieved April 16, 2022.
  56. ^ Zak, Dan (October 30, 2013). "William Peter Blatty, writer of 'The Exorcist,' slips back into the light for its 40th anniversary". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on April 18, 2016. Retrieved May 6, 2016.
  57. ^ a b c d e f g h Friedkin, William (Fall 2008). "Devil's Playground". DGA Quarterly (Interview). Interviewed by Jeffrey Ressner. Los Angeles: Director's Guild of America. Retrieved September 20, 2022.
  58. ^ "Friedkin's – The Exorcist". Archived from the original on June 20, 2012. Retrieved August 2, 2012.
  59. ^ Slovick, Matt (1996). "The Exorcist". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on September 30, 2018. Retrieved March 4, 2019.
  60. ^ Faherty, Allanah (January 14, 2015). "I Never Knew That These Artworks Inspired Some of the Scariest Horror Movies of All Time!". Movie Pilot. Archived from the original on June 4, 2016. Retrieved May 6, 2016.
  61. ^ a b Kermode 2008, p. 130.
  62. ^ Trounson, Rebecca (April 21, 2013). "Marcel Vercoutere dies at 87; special effects wizard on 'The Exorcist'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 26, 2022 – via Orlando Sentinel.
  63. ^ a b "34 Things We Learned from 'The Exorcist' Commentary". Film School Rejects. August 30, 2012. Archived from the original on March 6, 2019. Retrieved March 3, 2019. Friedkin used actual doctors from the NYU Medical Center to depict the actual step-by-step procedure of an arteriogram, which is extremely painful and requires the patient to be sedated but conscious. Friedkin claims that for many years this footage was used as training for radiologists who would be performing arteriograms.
  64. ^ a b Crist, Judith (January 21, 1974). "Bewitched, Bothered and Therefore Bewildered". New York. Vol. 7, no. 3. Retrieved September 11, 2022.
  65. ^ a b Peary, Danny (1986). Guide for the Film Fanatic. Simon & Schuster. p. 143. ISBN 9780671610814. Archived from the original on April 28, 2021. Retrieved February 23, 2019. The most needless scene — the one that really made viewers sick — has Regan undergoing a bloody arteriography
  66. ^ a b Dempsey, Michael (Summer 1974). "The Exorcist". Film Quarterly. 27 (4): 61–62. doi:10.2307/1211397. JSTOR 1211397. Retrieved September 12, 2022.
  67. ^ Winkler, Michael (5 March 2005). "Still Goodies ... but oldies". The Age. Melbourne. Archived from the original on 10 September 2007. Retrieved 12 September 2022.
  68. ^ a b Garden, Graeme (April 4, 1974). "Film: The Exorcist". New Scientist. Reed Business Information. 62 (892): 37–38. ISSN 0262-4079. Archived from the original on April 28, 2021. Retrieved February 27, 2019.
  69. ^ Harrigan, Mark R.; Deveikis, John P. (April 20, 2009). Handbook of Cerebrovascular Disease and Neurointerventional Technique. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 88. ISBN 9781603271257. Archived from the original on April 28, 2021. Retrieved February 23, 2019.
  70. ^ Harrigan, Mark R. (August 1, 2012). Catheter-Based Cardiovascular Interventions: A Knowledge-Based Approach. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 304. ISBN 9783642276767. Archived from the original on February 28, 2021. Retrieved February 23, 2019.
  71. ^ a b Miller, Matt (October 25, 2018). "Searching For the Truth About the Actual Murderer in The Exorcist". Esquire. Archived from the original on December 28, 2018. Retrieved February 27, 2019.
  72. ^ Alan McKenzie, Hollywood Tricks of The Trade Archived March 4, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, p.122
  73. ^ William Chamberlain (August 29, 2014). "Legends of Film: Bud Smith" (Podcast). Nashville Public Library. Event occurs at 10:40–12:40. Retrieved September 25, 2022.
  74. ^ Friedkin, William (March 24, 2018). "Replying to @scottderrickson". Twitter. Retrieved September 26, 2022. This was created by Bud Smith, the film's editor. It's the best trailer ever made about The Exorcist. Warner's was scared that it would be too disturbing.
  75. ^ Pelan, Tim (December 26, 2020). "Rats in the Attic: William Friedkin's 'The Exorcist'". Cinephilia & Beyond. Retrieved September 21, 2022.
  76. ^ Kaye, Don (February 3, 2022). "The Exorcist: How One Deleted Scene Can Change A Movie's Meaning". Den of Geek. Retrieved September 28, 2022.
  77. ^ Kermode, Mark (2003). The Exorcist. BFI Modern Classics (2nd revised ed.). British Film Institute. p. 125. ISBN 978-0-85170-967-3. Archived from the original on April 28, 2021. Retrieved August 16, 2020.
  78. ^ a b Marriott, James (2005). Horror Films. Virgin Film. Virgin Books. ISBN 978-0753509418.
  79. ^ "Exorcist effects man Gavira dies". BBC News. January 12, 2005. Archived from the original on September 23, 2016. Retrieved August 16, 2020.
  80. ^ Lucas, Tim; Kermode, Mark (July 1991). "The Exorcist: From the Subliminal to the Ridiculous". Video Watchdog. No. 6. pp. 20–31.
  81. ^ McCabe 1999, p. 138.
  82. ^ Perkins, Will. "Dan Perri: A Career Retrospective". Art of the Title. Archived from the original on August 11, 2017. Retrieved August 11, 2017.
  83. ^ Schifrin, Lalo (May 20, 2005). "Interview with Lalo Schifrin". (Interview). Interviewed by Miguel Ángel Ordóñez. Archived from the original on November 12, 2020. Retrieved September 25, 2022.
  84. ^ Konow 2012, p. 153.
  85. ^ a b Jones, Nick Freand (June 13, 1998), The Fear of God: 25 Years of 'The Exorcist' (Documentary), British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), retrieved March 21, 2022
  86. ^ Leinberger, Charles (2011). "Music in the Horror Film: Listening to Fear". Music, Sound and the Moving Image. 5: 101–105 – via ProQuest Central.
  87. ^ a b c d Fox, Marion (1974). "The Exorcist". Castle of Frankenstein. Vol. 6, no. 22. pp. 28–31 – via Internet Archive.
  88. ^ Herrmann, Bernard (August 1976). "An Interview with Bernard Herrmann". High Fidelity (Interview). Interviewed by Royal S. Brown. Great Barrington, Massachusetts: ABC Consumer Magazines. Retrieved September 23, 2022 – via The Bernard Herrmann Society.
  89. ^ Pessaro, Fred (February 6, 2015). "William Friedkin on Edgar Froese of Tangerine Dream, the 'Sorcerer' Score, and Why Tool Is "Un-f*ckin'-believable"". Retrieved April 24, 2022.
  90. ^ Morrow, Pamela. "Horror Soundtracks and the Unseen Demonic The Exorcist (1973)" (PDF). Retrieved April 22, 2022.
  91. ^ Sisco King, Claire (2010). "Ramblin' Men and Piano Men; Crisis of Music and Masculinity in The Exorcist". Music in the Horror Film : Listening to Fear. New York: Routledge. pp. 114–133. ISBN 9780203860311.
  92. ^ Lester, Paul (March 21, 2014). "Mike Oldfield: 'We wouldn't have had Tubular Bells without drugs'". The Guardian. Archived from the original on January 25, 2021. Retrieved November 1, 2020.
  93. ^ "The Exorcist (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)". Retrieved April 24, 2022.
  94. ^ "The Exorcist Soundtrack". Discogs. Archived from the original on February 21, 2021. Retrieved October 29, 2020.
  95. ^ Liston, Tyler (November 9, 2017). "Waxwork Records Releases THE EXORCIST soundtrack on vinyl". Nightmare on Filmstreet. Archived from the original on April 28, 2021. Retrieved August 7, 2020.
  96. ^ "Henze: Complete Deutsche Grammophon Recordings" Archived April 26, 2014, at the Wayback Machine by Brett Allen-Bayes, Limelight, January 9, 2014
  97. ^ Muir 2002, p. 263.
  98. ^ a b c Draba-Mann, Joel (October 11, 2018). "The Exorcist's deadly 'curse' explored, 45 years on". Retrieved September 13, 2022.
  99. ^ a b c Lee, Benjamin (April 26, 2018). "Ellen Burstyn: 'Women on screen were prostitutes or victims—I wanted to embody a hero'". The Guardian. Retrieved September 13, 2022.
  100. ^ Bramesco, Charles (April 24, 2018). "William Friedkin: 'You don't know a damn thing, and neither do I'". The Guardian. Retrieved September 13, 2022.
  101. ^ Singh, Ishita (September 5, 2014). "Ellen Burstyn Recalls The Physically Grueling Filming Of 'The Exorcist'". The Huffington Post. BuzzFeed. Retrieved September 14, 2022.
  102. ^ Thomas, DeShawn (February 4, 2022). "How The Exorcist Transformed Linda Blair Forever". /Film. Retrieved September 14, 2022.
  103. ^ Yacoub, Sameer N. (March 7, 2015). "IS destroying another ancient archaeological site in Iraq". Army Times. United States. Associated Press. Retrieved March 7, 2015.
  104. ^ a b Parker, Ryan (October 28, 2015). "'The Exorcist' Director William Friedkin: 'I Didn't Set Out to Make a Horror Film'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved September 25, 2022.
  105. ^ a b c d Brueggemann, Tom (December 30, 2020). "'The Exorcist': The Most Unlikely Christmas Smash". Indiewire. Retrieved September 15, 2022.
  106. ^ "The Exorcist" (PDF). British Board of Film Classification. Archived (PDF) from the original on October 24, 2017. Retrieved September 27, 2022.
  107. ^ "Exorcist: The Version You've Never Seen". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved September 27, 2022.
  108. ^ "The Exorcist (2000 Director's Cut)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved September 8, 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  109. ^ The Exorcist (1973) - IMDb, retrieved March 21, 2022
  110. ^ William Friedkin, Ellen Burstyn, Jason Miller, Linda Blair (1998). The Exorcist – Special Widescreen Edition Box Set (VHS) (VHS tapes) (Feature film). ISBN 9786305256205. Retrieved September 27, 2022.
  111. ^ William Friedkin, Ellen Burstyn, Jason Miller, Linda Blair (1998). The Exorcist, 25th anniversary special edition (DVD) (Feature film). ISBN 079073804X. OCLC 40658210.
  112. ^ William Friedkin, Ellen Burstyn, Jason Miller, Linda Blair (2010). The Exorcist (DVD) (Feature film). Warner Bros. ISBN 9781419888168. OCLC 668448143.
  113. ^ "The Exorcist (The Version You've Never Seen)". Amazon. Archived from the original on January 9, 2017. Retrieved January 8, 2017.
  114. ^ "The Exorcist: Director's Cut (Extended Edition)". Amazon. Archived from the original on January 9, 2017. Retrieved January 8, 2017.
  115. ^ "". October 20, 2008. Archived from the original on February 25, 2012. Retrieved October 2, 2012.
  116. ^ "The Exorcist Announced on Blu-ray". Archived from the original on October 19, 2012. Retrieved August 2, 2012.
  117. ^ "Full Blu-ray Details to Make Your Head Spin – The Exorcist". DreadCentral. October 4, 2012. Archived from the original on October 18, 2012. Retrieved November 15, 2019.
  118. ^ "The Exorcist releasing on Blu-ray in October 2010". Archived from the original on March 7, 2012. Retrieved August 2, 2012.
  119. ^ "'The Exorcist Extended Director's Cut' Available October 5 From Warner Home Videa". Warner Bros. June 21, 2010. Archived from the original on January 9, 2017. Retrieved January 8, 2017.
  120. ^ "The Exorcist: 40th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray". June 20, 2013. Archived from the original on June 26, 2013. Retrieved June 25, 2013.
  121. ^ "The Exorcist: The Complete Anthology (The Exorcist / The Exorcist (Unrated) / Exorcist II: The Heretic / The Exorcist III / Exorcist: The Beginning/ Exorcist: Dominion)". Amazon. Archived from the original on January 9, 2017. Retrieved January 8, 2017.
  122. ^ "The Exorcist: The Complete Anthology (Blu-ray)". Amazon. Archived from the original on January 9, 2017. Retrieved January 8, 2017.
  123. ^ a b "William Peter Blatty's The Exorcist - Warner Bros. Advert". Variety. January 9, 1974. pp. 12–13.
  124. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Zinoman, Jason (2011). "Chapter Five: 'Shock or Awe'". Shock Value: How a Few Eccentric Outsiders Gave Us Nightmares, Conquered Hollywood, and Invented Modern Horror. Penguin Books. ISBN 9781101516966. Archived from the original on March 8, 2021. Retrieved March 3, 2019.
  125. ^ a b c Van Gelder, Lawrence (January 24, 1974). "'Exorcist' Casts Spell on Full Houses". The New York Times. Archived from the original on March 1, 2019. Retrieved March 1, 2019.
  126. ^ a b Hannan, Brian (2018). In Theaters Everywhere: A History of the Hollywood Wide Release, 1913-2017. McFarland, Inc. p. 188. ISBN 9781476674148. Retrieved September 11, 2022.
  127. ^ a b c d e Paul, William (1994). Laughing Screaming: Modern Hollywood Horror and Comedy. Columbia University Press. pp. 288–92. ISBN 9780231084642. Archived from the original on March 8, 2021. Retrieved March 3, 2019.
  128. ^ a b Biskind 1999, p. 224.
  129. ^ Farber, Stephen (May–June 1974). "The Exorcist: A Unique Freak Show ..." Film Comment. 10 (3): 32–35. Retrieved September 12, 2022.
  130. ^ McDonagh, Maitland (2004). "Masters of Exploitation". In Horwath, Alexander; Elsaesser, Thomas; King, Noel (eds.). The Last Great American Picture Show: New Hollywood Cinema in the 1970s. Amsterdam University Press. p. 118. ISBN 9789053566312. Archived from the original on April 28, 2021. Retrieved March 3, 2019.
  131. ^ Guerrero, Ed (2012). Framing Blackness: The African American Image in Film. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. p. 105. ISBN 9781439904138. Retrieved September 10, 2022.
  132. ^ a b c d Klemesrud, Judy (January 27, 1974). "They Wait Hours to Be Shocked". The New York Times. Archived from the original on March 1, 2019. Retrieved March 1, 2019.
  133. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1974". Variety. January 8, 1975. p. 24.
  134. ^ "Updated All-Time Film Champs". Variety. January 8, 1975. p. 26.
  135. ^ Pollock, Dale (May 9, 1979). "WB Adds To Its Record Collection". Variety. p. 1.
  136. ^ "'Exorcist' Leads Japan". Variety. December 18, 1974. p. 39.
  137. ^ "All Time Box Office Adjusted for Ticket Price Inflation". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Archived from the original on May 4, 2009. Retrieved May 19, 2011.
  138. ^ Craig Glenday, ed. (2014). Guinness World Records. Vol. 60 (2015 ed.). p. 351. ISBN 9781908843708.
  139. ^ Travers & Rieff 1974, pp. 152–154.
  140. ^ Kauffmann, Stanley (February 8, 1974). "TNR Film Classics: 'The Exorcist'". The New Republic. Archived from the original on March 31, 2019. Retrieved March 31, 2019.
  141. ^ Murphy, Arthur D. (December 26, 1973). "Film Reviews: The Exorcist". Variety. Archived from the original on March 31, 2019. Retrieved March 31, 2019.
  142. ^ a b Dante, Joe (1974). "The Exorcist". Castle of Frankenstein. Vol. 6, no. 22. pp. 32–33 – via Internet Archive.
  143. ^ Ebert, Roger (December 26, 1973). "The Exorcist Movie Review & Film Summary (1973)". Archived from the original on March 31, 2019. Retrieved March 31, 2019.
  144. ^ Canby, Vincent (December 27, 1973). "Blatty's 'The Exorcist' Comes to the Screen". The New York Times. p. 46. Archived from the original on April 28, 2021. Retrieved August 19, 2020.
  145. ^ Sarris, Andrew (January 3, 1974). "Out, out, damned demon!". The Village Voice. p. 51. Archived from the original on April 28, 2021. Retrieved August 20, 2020 – via Google News Archive.
  146. ^ Travers & Rieff 1974, pp. 158–162.
  147. ^ a b c Meacham, Roy (February 3, 1974). "How Did 'The Exorcist' Escape an X Rating?". The New York Times. Archived from the original on March 1, 2019. Retrieved March 1, 2019.
  148. ^ Hartl, John (August 19, 2004). "Original 'Exorcist' was an event". Today. NBC. Archived from the original on March 6, 2019. Retrieved March 6, 2019.
  149. ^ ABC Interstate Theatres, Inc. v. State, 325 So. 123 (Miss. 1976).
  150. ^ "The Exorcist (1973) Release Info". Archived from the original on March 15, 2021. Retrieved November 13, 2018.
  151. ^ "Clergy Help Those Distressed By "The Exorcist"". East Anglian Film Archive. Archived from the original on November 13, 2018. Retrieved November 13, 2018.
  152. ^ ""The Exorcist" Will Be Shown In Norwich, Given The Go-Ahead By Health Committee". East Anglian Film Archive. Archived from the original on November 13, 2018. Retrieved November 13, 2018.
  153. ^ ""The Exorcist" Banned". The Carmarthen Journal. November 15, 1974. p. 1.
  154. ^ ""Exorcist" Film Banned". Cambrian News. September 20, 1974. p. 1.
  155. ^ a b "Case Studies – The Exorcist (1973) | British Board of Film Classification". Archived from the original on November 15, 2019. Retrieved January 5, 2020.
  156. ^ "Original entry". February 25, 1999. Archived from the original on February 22, 2014. Retrieved August 2, 2012.
  157. ^ "TV premiere for The Exorcist". BBC News. March 4, 2001. Archived from the original on June 24, 2006. Retrieved May 15, 2009.
  158. ^ a b "Horror - R-Rated". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on March 6, 2019. Retrieved March 3, 2019.
  159. ^ a b "Horror - Supernatural". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on June 26, 2019. Retrieved March 3, 2019.
  160. ^ "The Exorcist (1973)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Archived from the original on August 12, 2020. Retrieved September 28, 2022.
  161. ^ "The Exorcist Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Archived from the original on June 15, 2019. Retrieved April 14, 2019.
  162. ^ "The Official Site of Gene Siskel". Archived from the original on April 2, 2012. Retrieved August 2, 2012.
  163. ^ Kermode, Mark (January 20, 2017). "William Peter Blatty obituary: The Exorcist writer was on the side of the angels". British Film Institute. Retrieved September 15, 2022.
  164. ^ Scorsese, Martin (October 28, 2009). "11 Scariest Horror Movies of All Time". The Guardian. Archived from the original on January 2, 2018. Retrieved September 22, 2017.
  165. ^ Far Out Staff (June 19, 2020). "From David Lynch to Quentin Tarantino: A list of Stanley Kubrick's 93 favourite films". Far Out. Far Out Magazine. Archived from the original on October 23, 2020. Retrieved October 18, 2020.
  166. ^ Wrigley, Nick (February 8, 2018). "Stanley Kubrick, cinephile". BFI. Archived from the original on August 11, 2018. Retrieved August 8, 2018.
  167. ^ Damian Jones (October 30, 2019). "'The Lighthouse' director Robert Eggers reveals his favourite horror films". NME. BandLab Technologies. Archived from the original on October 23, 2020. Retrieved October 18, 2020. It is unclear whether the list was in order but among the films he listed were the 1922 German horror Nosferatu, Ridley Scott's Alien, Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, The Exorcist and The Birds.
  168. ^ Yamato, Jen (March 16, 2009). "Five Favorite Films with Alex Proyas". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved August 30, 2021.
  169. ^ "David Fincher's Favorite Movies: See 26 of His Top Picks". IndieWire. Retrieved September 15, 2022.
  170. ^ Tom Taylor (May 17, 2021). "Elton John reveals his five favourite films of all time". Far Out. Far Out Magazine. Retrieved May 18, 2021.
  171. ^ "". December 5, 2006. Archived from the original on October 17, 2012. Retrieved September 28, 2022.
  172. ^ "The Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made". The New York Times. April 29, 2003. Archived from the original on March 29, 2005. Retrieved May 25, 2010.
  173. ^ Biskind 1999, p. 222.
  174. ^ Biskind 1999, p. 223.
  175. ^ Jacobs, Matthew (December 26, 2013). "'The Exorcist' Celebrates Its 40th Anniversary As One Of The Most Terrifying Movies". HuffPost. Archived from the original on December 30, 2013. Retrieved October 28, 2017.
  176. ^ Kermode 2008, p. 53.
  177. ^ Jason Solomons, William Friedkin (December 10, 2008). The Exorcist director William Friedkin talks to Jason Solomons (Internet video). Guardian Media Group. Event occurs at 5:05–5:30. Archived from the original on December 22, 2021. Retrieved February 23, 2019. Most people say that the scariest scene in The Exorcist is the angiogram scene because it's the most realistic ... It's the one people most identify with, being in a hospital—a captive audience—while this weird equipment is circulating around you to determine what's inside of you. It's very science fiction, but true.
  178. ^ Bozzuto, James C. (July 1, 1975). "Cinematic neurosis following "The Exorcist": Report of four cases". The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease. 161 (1): 43–48. doi:10.1097/00005053-197507000-00005. ISSN 0022-3018. PMID 1151359. S2CID 9570535. Retrieved September 28, 2022.
  179. ^ Roen, Paul (1974). "The Exorcist". Castle of Frankenstein. Vol. 6, no. 22. p. 32 – via Internet Archive.
  180. ^ Warner Bros. Inc. v. Film Ventures International, 403 F.Supp. 522 (C.D.Cal. 1975).
  181. ^ "Kentucky Films". 2002. Archived from the original on April 28, 2007. Retrieved March 8, 2019.
  182. ^ a b Film Ventures, at 525–27
  183. ^ Cook, David (2002). Lost Illusions American Cinema in the Shadow of Watergate and Vietnam, 1970-1979. University of California Press. pp. 226–228. ISBN 9780520232655. Archived from the original on April 28, 2021. Retrieved March 7, 2019.
  184. ^ a b "The 46th Academy Awards (1974) Nominees and Winners". Archived from the original on March 15, 2015. Retrieved August 28, 2011.
  185. ^ a b "The Exorcist – Golden Globes". HFPA. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  186. ^ Knudson, Robert; Newman, Chris (April 2, 1974). "Robert Knudson and Chris Newman Acceptance Speech for Best Sound, 46th Annual Academy Awards; April 2, 1974". Academy Awards Acceptance Speech Database. Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved September 27, 2022.
  187. ^ Blatty, William Peter (April 2, 1974). "William Peter Blatty Acceptance Speech for Writing (Screenplay—based on material from another medium), The Exorcist, 46th Annual Academy Awards; April 2, 1974)". Academy Awards Acceptance Speech Database. Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved September 27, 2022.
  188. ^ a b Higgins, Bill (February 27, 2018). "Oscars Flashback: All Hell Broke Loose When 'Exorcist' Was Snubbed in 1974". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved September 27, 2022.
  189. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills". Los Angeles: American Film Institute. Retrieved September 23, 2022.
  190. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes and Villains". Los Angeles: American Film Institute. Retrieved September 23, 2022.
  191. ^ August 2020, Jordan Gerblick 19 (August 19, 2020). "The Exorcist reboot reportedly in development for 2021 theatrical release". Total Film. Archived from the original on August 19, 2020. Retrieved August 26, 2020.
  192. ^ "'The Exorcist' Reboot Is Coming in 2021". Movieweb. August 18, 2020. Archived from the original on August 29, 2020. Retrieved August 26, 2020.
  193. ^ "Horror Fans Launch Petition to Cast Out THE EXORCIST Reboot". Dread Central. August 20, 2020. Archived from the original on August 23, 2020. Retrieved August 26, 2020.
  194. ^ Dressler, Jacob (August 21, 2020). "A Petition Has Been Started To Stop 'The Exorcist' Reboot From Being Made". ScreenGeek. Archived from the original on October 6, 2020. Retrieved August 26, 2020.
  195. ^ Couch, Aaron (December 20, 2020). "'Exorcist' Sequel in the Works with 'Halloween' Director David Gordon Green". Archived from the original on December 22, 2020. Retrieved December 24, 2020.
  196. ^ Katz, Brandon (December 20, 2020). "Exclusive: David Gordon Green in Talks to Direct 'Exorcist' Sequel for Blumhouse". Archived from the original on December 24, 2020. Retrieved December 24, 2020.
  197. ^ Sneider, Jeff (July 26, 2021). "'The Exorcist': David Gordon Green to Direct New Blumhouse Trilogy Starring Leslie Odom Jr". Archived from the original on August 28, 2022. Retrieved September 28, 2022.
  198. ^ Blatty, William Peter (1974). William Peter Blatty on The Exorcist: From Novel to Film. Bantam Books. ISBN 1929750021.
  199. ^ Blatty, William Peter (1998). The Exorcist/Legion—Two Classic Screenplays. Faber & Faber Publishing. ISBN 057120015X.
  200. ^ Blatty, William Peter (2000). The Exorcist. Faber & Faber Publishing. ISBN 057120239X.


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]