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25 Fascinating Facts About The Exorcist

It is probably obvious to many who have been around listverse for the last two years, that one of my favorite horror movies is the Exorcist. I have watched it countless times and love trivia relating to the picture. After watching it for the umpteenth time last night, I decided to post a list of trivia excerpts about the film (which seems apt as Halloween is nearly here and I am hoping to do a list on real exorcisms soon). This list is mostly derived from IMDB and MovieMistakes as they essentially summarize all that the director and actors have said about the film. There really is little I can add (hence the future list on exorcism). Be sure to watch the movie at least once this halloween. These facts relate to the original film release (and I recommend that as the one to watch – the new release version contains scenes that upset the balance of the film).


Facts 1 – 5

10867737 Gal

1. The young priest who gave Father Karras confession at the end of the film was (and still is) a Catholic priest (Reverend William O’Malley). In order to make him visibly shocked in the final scene, the director (William Peter Blatty) slapped him across the face unexpectedly and yelled “action!” Father O’Malley still teaches to this day at Fordham University.

2. On the first day of filming the exorcism sequence, Linda Blair’s delivery of her foul-mouthed dialogue so disturbed the gentlemanly Max von Sydow that he forgot his lines.

3. Very brief cutaways appear in the film in order to make the audience uneasy. The most famous is the demon face (seen above) – the face was that of Eileen Dietz who also starred in Happy Days and General Hospital. The face is, to me, the most memorable scene from the film and it still gives me a fright when I see it.

4. In the disturbing scene where Regan is masturbating with the crucifix, Eileen Dietz (as mentioned in number 3) was used for the shot where Regan belts her mother across the face. William Friedkin felt they needed someone with more heft physically to perform the stunt, and the double was shot from the back. The crucifix scene was filmed with Linda Blair, who says she wasn’t totally aware of what she was doing or the implications of the vulgar acts.

5. The scream of the demon being thrown out of Linda Blair was actually created by recording squealing pigs being driven into slaughter.


Facts 6 – 10


6. Ellen Burstyn received a permanent spinal injury during filming. In the sequence where she is thrown away from her possessed daughter, a harness jerked her hard away from the bed. She fell on her coccyx and screamed in pain – this was caught on film and adds to the realism of that scene.

7. The refrigerated bedroom set was cooled with four air conditioners and temperatures would plunge to around 30 to 40 below zero. It was so cold that perspiration would freeze on some of the cast and crew. On one occasion the air was saturated with moisture resulting in a thin layer of snow falling on the set before the crew arrived for filming. This obviously negated the need for fake breath mist which is prevalent in many modern movies.

8. When originally released in the UK a number of town councils imposed a complete ban on the showing of the film. This led to the bizarre spectacle of “Exorcist Bus Trips” where enterprising travel companies organized buses to take groups to the nearest town where the film was showing.

9. A filmgoer who saw the movie in 1974 during its original release fainted and broke his jaw on the seat in front of him. He then sued Warner Brothers and the filmmakers, claiming that the use of subliminal imagery in the film had caused him to pass out. The studio settled out of court for an undisclosed sum. The film affected many audiences so strongly that at many theaters, paramedics were called to treat people who fainted and others who went into hysterics.

10. If adjusted for inflation, the Exorcist would be the top grossing R-rated film of all time.


Facts 11 – 15

19831  Exorcist L

11. Due to its controversial material, this movie was not available on video in the UK until 1999 when the British Board of Film Censors (BBFC) approved an uncut version.

12. The substance that the possessed Regan hurls at Father Damien Karras (Jason Miller) is thick pea soup. Specifically, it’s Andersen’s brand pea soup. The crew tried Campbell’s but didn’t like the “effect.”

13. Director William Friedkin asked technical advisor Reverend Thomas Bermingham to exorcise the set. He refused, saying an exorcism might increase anxiety. Rev. Bermingham wound up visiting the set and gave a blessing and talk to reassure the cast and crew.

14. Gonzalo Gavira was called on to create many of the special sound effects after William Friedkin recalled his work from El topo (1970). One of the more memorable sounds, the 360-degree turning of Regan’s head, was actually made by twisting a sound crew member’s old leather wallet in front of a mike.

15. William Peter Blatty based his novel on a supposedly genuine exorcism from 1949, which was partially performed in both Cottage City, Maryland, and Bel-Nor, Missouri. Several area newspapers reported on a speech a minister gave to an amateur parapsychology society, in which he claimed to have exorcised a demon from a 13-year-old boy named Robbie, and that the ordeal lasted a little more than six weeks.


Facts 16 – 20


16. One of the most famous scenes in the movie and the shot used for the posters and the cover of the DVD/VHS releases was inspired by the 1954 painting “Empire of Light” (“L’Empire des lumières”) by René Magritte. It is the scene where Fr. Merrin steps out of a cab and stands in front of the MacNeil residence bathed in an eerie glow.

17. Linda Blair injured her back when a piece of the rig broke as she was thrown about on the bed

18. Linda Blair received her Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination before it was widely known that previous Supporting Actress winner Mercedes McCambridge had actually provided the voice of the demon. By Academy rules once Blair was given the nomination it could not be withdrawn, but the controversy about Blair being given credit for another actress’ work ruined her chances of winning the award.

19. For the vomiting sequences, Eileen Dietz doubled (uncredited) for Linda Blair, and later sued unsuccessfully for puking credit. Makeup veteran Dick Smith rigged Dietz’s facial contours with sheets of heat-formed plexiglass that were secured at the corners of her mouth and behind her head. A camouflaged nozzle anchored in Dietz’s oral cavity provided the apparatus through which the “vomit” could be forcefully discharged, fed by supply tubes discreetly embedded in the plexiglass on both sides of her face. Such was the complexity of the set-up that Dietz could barely swallow or close her mouth.

20. The “Exorcist steps”, 75 (or 74 – one is very small) stone steps at the end of M Street in Georgetown, were padded with 1/2″-thick rubber to film the death of Father Karras. The stuntman tumbled down the stairs twice. Georgetown University students charged people around $5 each to watch the stunt from the rooftops.


Facts 21 – 25


21. Due to death threats against Linda Blair from religious zealots who believed the film “glorified Satan”, Warner Bros. had bodyguards protecting her for six months after the film’s release.

22. The demon that possesses Regan MacNeil is actually named Pazuzu, however the demon’s name is never mentioned in any way in either version of ‘The Exorcist’ (or ‘The Exorcist: The Restored Version’). During the film Pazuzu lies to Father Damien Karras claiming to be the actual Devil. Conversations with Father Lankester Merrin show this claim to be false

23. Mercedes McCambridge regurgitated on a mixture of chewed, mushy apple and raw egg to produce the sound effect of Regan’s projectile vomiting.

24. At one point the search for a young actress capable of playing Regan was so trying that William Friedkin claims he even considered auditioning adult dwarf actors.

25. There are tales about ominous events surrounding the year-long shoot, including the deaths of nine people associated with the production and stories about a mysterious fire that destroyed the set one weekend. Actors Jack MacGowran (who played Burke Dennings) and Vasiliki Maliaros (Father Karras’ Mother) died before the film was released.

Listverse Staff

Listverse is a place for explorers. Together we seek out the most fascinating and rare gems of human knowledge. Three or more fact-packed lists daily.

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  • rain

    Damn spooky pics. O_O

  • dbrownl

    scariest movie ever bar none

  • Kaze

    Nice list! Loved the movie, no other movie has been as good although Paranormal Activity comes damn close when seen in a theater.

    • awesomeo

      Paranormal Activity was the most boring movie I have ever seen, bar none.

      • Oogla

        sooooo true, paranormal activity can NO WAY be compared to the Exorcist; SCARIEST MOVIE OF ALL TIME!!!
        o ya

  • sheila

    I will definetely watch this movie again tonight! Awesome list as usual!

  • Jeremy

    Man, I haven’t seen this in so long, but now I REALLY need to!

  • Rufus

    wow this movie is old! (looked it up in wikipedia)
    nah i’m not gonna watch movies to scare myself…

  • saopauloesquecida

    This movie is certainly one of the most important in film industry. But when I watched the uncut version at the movies I wasn’t really scared, and it was the first time I watched it.

  • JesusFuckFest

    Awesome film.

  • Scaredformylife

    Yes great movie, but not that scary…

    • mona

      i wasnt able to sleep for a month after watching this movie…..damn scary

  • Jessy

    6. Ellen Burstyn received a permanent spinal injury during filming. In the sequence where she is thrown away from her possessed daughter, a harness jerked her hard away from the bed. She fell on her coccyx and screamed in pain – this was caught on film and adds to the realism of that scene.

    17. Linda Blair injured her back when a piece of the rig broke as she was thrown about on the bed

  • Jessy

    Forgot to write this in my previous post… They both hurt their back in the movie, coincidence…? :P

    I’ve never seen this movie before. Might have to one day.

  • El the erf

    Yup,the appearance of the demon face for a split second really throws you off your seat. However,it doesn’t look all that scary when you look at the still picture

  • Sjoerd Zegers

    That brings back memories! I haven’t seen this movie for a long time. First watched it when I was 12 years old. At that time I was terrified of horror-movies. These days I love them. ;)

    Great list!

  • El the erf

    The staircase scene was the most horrifying scene I had seen as a kid. It took me almost about a month to forget about it.

  • Eric

    Still to this day I can’t watch this film without being scared. I have to watch it with friends.

  • nuriko

    awesome list! I love this movie! :)

  • Qabandi

    I don’t think I ever saw the original version with the staircase scene.

    will watch this soon :)

    you should of told us how bad the sequals were :D

  • El the erf

    This list would be better off without the spoiler in fact no. 20

  • mandiemurder

    The original Exorcist does nothing for me. I think Exorcist III is one of the most underrated, scariest movies of all time. Here are two scenes why I feel this way.



  • El the erf

    Blockbusters being jinxed isn’t surprising…look what happened to the Dark Knight.

  • El the erf

    Exorcist III plot. Wikipedia. What the…?

  • mandiemurder

    Yeah, it was never intended to be an Exorcist movie. And really it’s not. Besides the original priest being possesed. I just really like this movie. It creeps me out. It’s probably not for everyone.

  • El the erf

    Woweee! Chills and Thrills! Next on my downloads list-Exorcist III. Thanks mandie.

  • El the erf

    A girl who pisses in her gown makes people piss in their pants. What a movie!

  • Davy

    Great list Jamie. I haven’t seen this movie for years.

  • mandiemurder

    @El the erf (23): You are quite welcome. Horror movies are my passion. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

  • Davy

    @mandiemurder (19): Cool clips. I’ve never seen Exorcist III, but I will soon!

  • woody

    Hey jamie what is the excorist? i’ve never heard of it

  • gr8flddfn

    #15 great list as always!! keep them coming! :)

  • Conn

    I was 12 when i first watched this movie with my friends. Scared the hell out of me. Although i did spend half the movie hiding in my sleeping bag it took a month to get over it.

  • El the erf

    woody, born October 30th, 2009 at 4:58 am

  • Wingnut

    Very interesting article that covers the “real” story behind the novel and movie:

  • Shagrat

    Mandiemurder #19 – it’s all a matter of personal taste, I guess. However, as a bit of a film nut I have read a lot of “movie lists” official and unofficial and I’d say that, conservatively; about 95% would rank The Exorcist as the scartiest movie of all time: I’d certainly agree.

    As a 19-year-old when I saw it for the first time, it scared the shit out of me – and I have always been a pretty hard-core horror fan: so much so that I refused to sleep with the light off for almost three months! I’ve seen it twice since and it’s still a bloody good scare: dated as it is in film technique and no CGI; it can still hold its own with any other horror flick today.

    The only other film that scared me almost as much was the original ‘Alien’: In Space, No-one Can Hear You Scream! I spent the next 3 or 4 weeks reaching around door jambs and flicking on the light before entering a room if walking around the house at night!

    Only thing wrong with the original and the new ‘uncut’ version is that they BOTH cut out the “spider-walk down the stairs” scene performed by Reagan.


    PS: Woody – – – live a little, man: Hire it and scare yourself stupid.

  • Mrs Polidori

    Great facts! Father Karras rocks! He’s sexy and scary at the same time :)

  • mandiemurder

    @Shagrat (33): I am not denying the overwhelming consensus of it being one, if not THE, scariest movie, ever. I have tried to figure out why I don’t like it very much and I suppose it just boils down to the personal taste issue. It’s just not for me. I would wholeheartedly recommend a veiwing to all those who have not seen it, however. The vast majority of the world can’t be wrong, I guess.

    Or can they, muahahaahaaha…

  • El the erf

    @shagrat. Then how come the movie I’ve got has the spider walk scene in it ?? Surely its torrent is available on the net,uh?

  • General-Jake

    Ive never felt faint of heart but i dont mind admitting that exorcist scared the crap outta me. Same with the grudge. People half my age werent scared but it did me in.

  • oouchan

    Love the list and love the movie. Some of these facts I knew and some I didn’t. Love how they didn’t like the brand of pea soup and used another. :)

  • teacherman

    Shouldn’t it be noted somewhere that these facts were just copied from IMDB? Personally I don’t care, but I believe give credit where credit is due.

  • flamehorse

    Damnation, Jafe, you gotta warn people before you show that daggone demon picture!!! Nah I’m just kidding. Outstanding movie, and outstanding list. The only scary movie ever made.

  • stepha22

    great list…. this movie terrified me as a kid. I can’t watch possession movies anymore. and you know, this movie still holds up. A lot of older horror movies (mostly slasher movies) just become cheesy as time goes by and new technologies come out, but this one, in my opinion stays scary!!!!

  • ImElvis666

    I’m not the biggest horror fan in the world as most horrors do not scare me but this, along with The Omen, caused me many a sleepless night as a 13 year old. It was absolutely ground breaking for its time.

    It is almost impossible to make movies scary in the same way the Exorcist did as audiences just cannot really be shocked anymore. At least not in the same way The Exorcist did when it was released.

    How they got real priests to participate in this movie is beyond me! I wonder if any helped out on Monty Python’s Life of Brian!!!

  • sg

    if you have netflix you can watch it instantly!!

  • littlegoldwoman

    My ignorant sister took me to see this when I was 6 years old. I would never let my kids watch it.

  • teacherman

    My apologies, didn’t read the complete intro!

  • Ellie

    I thought the movie was so over the top that it was kind of comical. That was a bit of a disappointment.

  • Mike Diamente

    I am a student at Fordham University, and the bedroom scenes were filmed at the University.

    The same school that the young priest teaches at.

  • damien_karras

    The movie doesn’t do justice to the haunting use of twisted language from the original Blatty novel. The dialogue between Father Karras and Regan goes MUCH
    more in-depth. It’s a shame a lot of this interaction didn’t make it to the screenplay:

    Regan: “Hello Karras.”

    Karras: “Hello Devil.”

    Regan: “Who said I’m the devil?”

    Karras: “Are you saying that you AREN’T the devil?”

    Regan: “Just a poor, struggling demon. A devil. A subtle distinction. Incidentally, you won’t mention my slip of the tongue to him, Karras, now will you?
    Eh? When you see him?”

    Karras: “See him? Is he here?”

    Regan: “In the piglet? Not at all. Just a poor little family of wandering souls, my friend.”

    Karras” And how long are you planning to stay?”

    Regan: “Until the piglet DIES!… Incidentally, what an excellent day for an exorcism, Karras. Do begin it soon.”

    Karras: “You would like that?”

    Regan: “Intensely.”

    Karras: “But wouldn’t that drive you out of Regan?”

    Regan: “It would bring us together.”

    Karras: “You and Regan?”

    Regan: “You and US, my good friend, you and us… Yes, you’ll join our little family, Karras. You see, the trouble with signs in the sky, my dear morsel,
    is that once having seen them, one has no excuse.”

    Karras: Can you tell me what I’m thinking right now?”

    Regan: “Your thoughts are too dull to entertain.”

    Karras: “You’re a fascinating person. I’d like to know more about your background.You’ve never told me which devil you are, for example. What’s your name?

    Regan: “Ah, now, what is in a name, Karras? Never mind my name. Call me ‘Howdy’ if you find it more comfortable.”

    Karras: “Oh, yes, Captain Howdy. Regan’s friend. Who’s the person who was speaking earlier? The one with the British accent?”

    Regan: “Just another good friend of the sweet honey piglet, dear Karras.”

    Karras: “May I speak to him?”

    Regan: “No!”

    (At this point Karras takes out the vial of holy water.)

    Regan: “What is that?”

    Karras: “It’s Holy Water, Devil.” (starts sprinkling)

    Regan: “It burns! Ahhh, STOP IT! Cease, priest bastard!”

    Karras: “Who are you?”

    Regan: “…Nowanmai…Nowanmai”

    • meh

      Kinda remember the demon in Regan calling Regan a SOW not a piglet.

      • Wouldn't make much sense, would it, considering a SOW is the mother of the piglet.

  • ianz09

    Dang, all these Halloween-themed lists! Boogeymen, shapeshifters, classic horror films, haunted roads, and now creep behind the scenes info on a freaky movie. Listverse is the place to be for Halloween lol

  • cryan

    @El the erf (23): do you even have a life? whats your problem?

  • Randall

    Great list…

    By the way…

    Coincidences can be great fun. Fact #16 has a direct bearing on my book… At least the title. :-) But the odd thing is, while I know my Exorcist trivia fairly well, the connection with Magritte’s painting had never occurred to me. Odd.

  • sid

    jamie i think the ‘mike’ in 14 should be mic :)

  • Pat

    the movie doesn’t scare me anymore, but for some reason those pictures freaked me out

  • Kanza

    I am not particularly fond of The Exorcist – I saw it only once, some 20 years ago – but I liked the list.

    Jamie, shouldn’t it be “William Friedkin” instead of “William Peter Blatty” in #1?

  • General Tits Von Chodehoffen

    I should watch this

  • cindyrulz

    I absolutely love this movie, and I have seen it many, many times. I was raised Catholic, and church/Priests always freaked me out anyway. ( I think it was all of the acapella (sp?) singing.) This movie did not help. Loved the list!

  • get a clue

    It’s a movie. With special effects. People die before, during and after every movie. Intelligent people know that mental illness explains all “posessions” and that organized religion–especially Catholicism–is just so much more silliness piled even higher. It had a successful advertising campaign, which just proves how many stupid people there are willingt o be taken in by something they paid to see. It’s a fun romp as ‘scary movies’ go, but that’s all.

  • notorioustgb

    sweet list. saw the movie when I was 13 and it scared the bejeezus out of me. my best friend and I borrowed a line from the movie as one of our taglines anytime we did something naughty or scandalous: “Do you know what she did? Your c**ting daughter?”

    cracked us up every time.

  • Carole

    Good List Not at all scary a scary movie.I found it kind of silly. My grandparents had their house exorcised before they would live in it.

  • Vera Lynn

    Great List. Love the movie. You have William Peter Blatty listed as the director in fact 1 and as William Friedkin later. Did they both direct? I know WPB was the author.

  • cindyrulz

    @get a clue (56): There are plenty of athiests on this site that will agree that organized religion is “sillieness”, but you shouldn’t imply that people who belong to an organized religion are not intelligent. This statement is not true. I tend to lead toward the athieat side of the arguement, but I admit that I cannot know the truth. I am tired of athiests thinking that they are the “enlightened ones” and everyone else is stupid. That is a very arrogant additude to have, and makes you no better than the bible beaters who try to take a similar “enlightened” stance.

  • bucslim

    My favorite thing about The Exorcist is when they play it on network TV, which generated the following line:

    “Your mother sucks socks that smell.”

    Bonus points for figuring out what she really said.

  • chunkified

    Friedken directed the film. Blatty wrote the the novel as well as adapted screenplay. Good list.

  • SS

    your mother fu*ks co*ks that well or something :P

    O_o this reads like something on IMDB….

    tsk tsk….

  • damien_karras

    The rite of exorcism is explained as using the power of suggestion upon one who has been diagnosed as having a mental illness. The exorcist himself is supposed to rule out all causes other than ‘demonic’ during his preliminary investigation. Fraud and trickery are examined followed by the ruling out of medical causes. An exhaustive psychiatric examination must be issued.
    The signs of possession seem to agree from one religion to the next:

    1. Revulsion to the truths and symbols of religion
    2. A foul stench emanating from the victim.
    3. A pervasive coldness is present.
    4. Exhibits telepathic powers involving moral and religious patterns.
    5. Unusual distortions of the face, sometimes with unlined skin.
    6. The victim exhibits abnormal feats of strength and is also physically heavier.
    7. The ability to speak in languages not known to them.
    8. The ability to divine the future.
    9. Demonstrates an extraordinary tolerance to pain.

    This recording I found raised the hairs on the back of my neck when I heard the victim lowing like a steer and sounding like various animals. I thought to myself, upon hearing it, is this genuine? If so, how was the victim able to produce sounds like this?
    The subject in question is Anneliese Michel, (the movie “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” was based on her ordeal).

  • Davy

    @damien_karras (64): Wow scary stuff

  • Blogball

    This is still to this day the scariest movie I have ever seen.

    @bucslim (61):
    bucslim, That is from a Saturday Night Live skit. I might be wrong but I don’t think they use that line on network TV to cover up the real words.

  • get a clue

    Dear “cindyrulz,”
    Your inability to spell or to put together a logical series of statements simply proves my point. Thanks for outing yourself as stupid. And good luck as you continue to work towards that G.E.D.

  • General-Jake

    Scariest movie i save for every halloween: Fire In The Sky. I know most will call me a wimp but it scared/scares the daylights outta
    me. They say based on a true story which only makes it worse.

  • cindyrulz

    @get a clue (67): I do have a problem with spelling words correctly. I admit that. As far as “outing myself as stupid,” think what you like. Have a nice day.

  • Cody

    Getting very tires of these spooky or horror’ish lists…. cant wait for halloween to be over

  • Marv in DC


    Thanks for mentioning the book. I read it and actually enjoyed it as much if not more than the movie. It was really interesting since it dealt more with the Priest trying to decide whether it was an actual possession or mental illness. The exocism itself is not as major a factor in the book as in the movie.

    get a clue,
    I’m not really that religous at all but you really make the “enlightened” people look bad. Just had to get in a dig on religon didn’t you?

  • El the erf

    @get a clue. What do you want?? (think about it!)

  • archangel

    Wow… never knew that stuff. Cool! Would love to see that exorcism list!

  • AJ

    In order to make him visibly shocked in the final scene, the director (William Peter Blatty) slapped him across the face unexpectedly and yelled “action!”

    I believe the Director of “Exorcist” is William Friedkin and William Peter Blatty is the one who wrote it.

  • Victoria

    AWESOME list. This film is the epitomy of what a horror film should be. :)

  • Davy

    The pictures on the list show the horror of the movie.

  • Miss_Info

    How can you get possessed by a demon anyway.. Can someone tell me… I know what I wanna be for halloween now :)

  • darew

    the directors name was william friedkin, not blatty…

  • sadaf

    gosh man!!!till date d scariest on it!!!!!!

  • Randall

    @damien_karras (64):

    That poor girl *died* during that ordeal.

    She was just a crazy, tortured soul who in the end lost her life partly because of religious superstition. Very sad.

  • damien_karras

    @Randall (80): It’s the zealots who eventually snuffed out her life, I agree. I’m going to do some more fact checking on this case.

  • El the erf

    Sitting close to the pc with headphones while watching the exorcist was a far more horrifying experience than when I watched it on my good ol’ vcr. Oh! The roar of puzuzo…terrible! Why did I even read this list first place…God…

  • El the erf


  • Randall

    The confusion regarding Friedkin and Blatty is a simple mixup, it’s true. But it should be remembered that Blatty DID direct the Exorcist III.

    I’m not sure of the truth of this or the accuracy of it, but I seem to remember that there was some disagreement and animosity between Blatty and Friedkin over the way the latter handled the first film, and I think they did not get along on the set. I believe Blatty published his own version of the final script, which I THINK Friedkin had changed markedly (again, I apologize if I’m remembering any of this incorrectly—I could be confusing these two and the situation with someone and something else). And then, after the debacle of Exorcists II—one of the worst movies ever made, some critics say—Blatty pushed to direct Exorcist III himself.

    I ought to say here… while I LIKE the Exorcist (and I should remind people who know me that I am a HUGE horror film fan) I never really got behind it as a great movie, and it’s not one of my favorites. There are some GREAT, chilling scenes… without question. There’s no doubt it’s a very good film. But I always thought there was something viciously cold about it.

    Now, one’s immediate thought would be, yeah—it’s a horror film about satanic-possession. It can’t be warm and fuzzy.

    But that’s not what I mean. I mean, in part, that you never really care for the characters. Of all of them, Father Karras is the one we identify with, because he’s the most accessible. But even his character’s humanity seems stifled and stilted. I’ve always blamed Friedkin, who was surely a very good director when it came to technical matters of any variety. He knew tension, and how to illustrate it and communicate it. He understood the use of visual imagery to underline tension and visceral horror. He knew how to do lots of things very well. But he seems a cold fish who made some cold, dark movies. Now, nothing wrong with that per se… because when you put Gene Hackman into the hands of a guy like that, Hackman’s going to still act and put himself into the film. But in the Exorcist, where the bulk of the acting is done by Ellen Burstyn and Linda Blair–who was a child at the time–and the guy playing Karras (whose name escapes me)…. you’re left with a chilly void.

    It’s not to say I don’t like The Exorcist, it’s scary (though I’ve always found it more revolting than actuall “scary”) and certainly good for a very creepy evening. But it doesn’t seem to be a movie you really warm up to, at least not for me. Maybe it’s the bleakness of it. Anybody else have that feeling?

    Anyway, side note to this… I was about 8 years old when The Exorcist first came out. I distinctly remember the controversy and uproar about it then. There was not only a lot of hype, but a lot of hostility to it. I can remember the TV ads for it and thinking there was no way mom would let me see that one, even though I loved “scary” movies—that was clearly a “grown-up” horror movie, not one with loveable monsters.

    Same thing had happened with “Rosemary’s Baby” a few years before, though I think I was too young to remember when that came out… but I remember when both films showed up on TV in the mid 70s, and how that was a VERY big deal. I can’t remember watching all of Rosemary’s Baby (I have a DVD copy now and when I sat down to watch it I realized I *hadn’t* ever seen the whole film) but I DO remember watching the Exorcist, and being quite terrified for a few days. I was probably ten or eleven.

    And then next thing we knew, it was Halloween and My Bloody Valentine and Friday the 13th and all the other “mad slasher” movies—which I never liked because I found them more to rely on “shock” than actual “horror” to scare you. (Except for the original Halloween, which I thought was amazing, and still do). Funny how everything just suddenly turned and changed during that time in the 70s, from about 73 to 78. Not just horror movies, but music, culture, politics… weird.

  • El the erf

    Already started seeing things in the lavatory shaft… No!..No!

  • Randall

    @damien_karras (81):

    I believe she was a VERY devout Catholic, and therefore her severe mental illness (schizophrenia probably) manifested itself with a HEAVY Catholic theme—so it’s not surprising that it took on a seemingly “supernatural” air… but yeah, the fact is she was just a poor, sick girl who needed very close medical and professional attention, and in the end didn’t get it.

    Some might say that religion pushed her into the state she ended up in, and I suppose there’s an argument to make for that… but also, mental illness is GOING to manifest itself through whatever mien and means the individual is most familiar with.

    Still, very sad. You look at her picture when she was “normal,” and she was such a pretty girl… it’s just very sad.

  • gav

    Regan: “…Nowanmai…Nowanmai” (“I am No One” backwards, for those who didn’t notice)

    This is the standard. I think the age of the film benefits it greatly. These days, everything is so crisp, clean and crystalized that they lack any character. It’s like listening to Leadbelly on CD. Certain films just work better on the older technology. I think this is one element in “Blair Witch” and “Paranormal Activity” which works to their benefit. Just compare the first “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” to the remake. I’m not talking about the quality of acting or script or even directing. Just the film stock and the effort that goes into creating the illusion compared to the CGI and digital ambiance (or lack thereof) today.

    No, you can’t go back. But you can at least hold on to what works best.
    Exorcist set the bar so high that we’ve just been pelted with slashers, hostile ghosts and serial killers ever since, for lack of anything more frightening and disconcerting than an innocent 12-year old girl possessed.

  • El the erf

    @Randall(84) So,…do you think the director might have achieved making a blockbuster by fluke?

  • ants1

    @mandiemurder (19):

    3 was so much better then 2 but i still think 1 when it was released was way ahead of its time, on the the Brutal scale.

  • Davy

    I like pizza

  • Dionysiaa

    Hehe… I managed to read this list and not look at any of the pictures, unfortunately my imagination is much worse :(

  • Randall

    @El the erf (88):

    No, not at all. Friedkin had previously made The French Connection. I didn’t mean to imply that he was a BAD director–he’s a good one. (Though he had few successes after The Exorcist—he was responsible for a financial debacle called “Sorcerer” after that, and then came back with “To Live and Die in LA” in the 80s). I just thought that, you know… the atmosphere of his films is kind of cold and distant.

  • Shadow Lord

    Well, I watched the movie when I was 16. Didn’t scare me that much. But this movie is a classic and will stay as a legend.

  • @Jessy (11): The coincidence was a brutal director :) In the case of Linda Blair she was harnessed to the bed and tossed about – in the case of Ellen Burstyn she was attached to a rope and one of the stage hands had to yank her as hard as possible from one side of the room to the other. In both cases the results are caught on film and are (obviously) extremely realistic.

  • Magic 8 Ball

    I actually laughed aloud at #8, something that I really wasn’t expecting to do when I clicked on this list. xDD Also, thanks for giving the brand of the pea soup used-I’m being Regan for Halloween tomorrow. :D

    • annie

      lol!!!!!! i hope you won't mind but after reading this i kinda took the idea……sorry :-)

  • Davy

    @jfrater (94): Wow, I never knew that the director of The Exorcist was violent.

  • mandiemurder

    @ants1 (89): BRUTALLLL!!!!

  • updatecogitz

    when will you going to update cogitz?

  • Kanza

    @Randall (84;92):

    I agree with your view on Friedkin’s movies. As I said in another post, I am not fond of the Exorcist, and neither of French Connection. I don’t think they are bad movies (though I remember disliking some aspects of The French Connection – especially the editing and one or two leaps in the storyline), though; I just think they are… uninteresting. It could very well be due to the coldness and bleakness that you mentioned.

    The changes in the 70’s are a very interesting and important theme, and they had a deep impact on cinema – money started talking even louder since then, which led to increasingly frequent compromising. It’s a shame.

  • Erin

    Great list as usual Frater :)

    But I must admit, I haven’t actually seen this movie…

  • Vera Lynn

    I read The Exorcist the summer of 4th grade after I read Jaws. Then I read the Hite Report. I needed something lighter ;)

  • Korinthian

    Yeah, like others have pointed out: Copy/pasted from

    Shame on you.

  • Kanza

    To all people complaining about the lack of credit to IMDB:

    “This list is mostly derived from IMDB and MovieMistakes”

    Well, I think Jamie made no effort to conceal his sources…

  • kennypo65

    Hey Randall, the actor who played Father Karras was Jason Miller.
    When this movie came out I was seven. I didn’t see it then but I did see the trailer and it gave me nightmares. Seeing the film a few years later didn’t disappoint. I love this film.

  • ac

    I believe the line from Saturday Night Live was, “Your mother sews socks that smell.”

  • Diogenes

    I remember years ago Universal Studios was trying some fun and shmaltzy(sp?) Horror Hall of Fame Awards thingy that they broadcasted on TV and I may still have a VHS copy I made of parts. They inducted The Exorcist of coarse and had a good mini doc that they showed with interviews of most all those involved. I recall the narrator saying that Friedkin would, unbeknownst to the cast, have a shotgun fired on set to startle/scare/and keep everyone on their toes and nervous.
    or maybe to get a reaction during a scene.

    Ahh, lists like these are really all in the name of Paganistic fun, eh?
    though it aint Halloween joy for one and all.
    in the land where I come from,we do have our own day off such as the likes here derived from -what is termed as a ‘Devil’s Navel’s Playground’ and ‘All Gallows Eve’.
    Our island has a center axis where razorblade slides for tots and snugly noose caravans revolve in grisly procession— spiraling in the vortex depths of darkness.
    Grand is our makeup for the rest of the year and the tourist trade is like our inside joke because most days we fool ourselves with a wink of the eye.

    So linda blair’s head was cast with her eyes opened. A difficult feat to accomplish. (this is a double sided joke here that you whould have to know what i’m talking about to know what i’m talking about)
    yet who says she wasn’t traumatized by being subjected to such horrors at a young age? Sometimes it takes years before it manifests. Circus of the stars anyone? Chained Heat? Rollerboogie? But dont we love her more for it?
    did i say love? i meant lust.
    Is there no Regan on a movie bad girls list? Bad Seed, Spider Baby?, Beat Girl? Heavenly Creatures? Lolita? Switchblade Sisters? Don’t Deliver Us From Evil? The Exorcist?

    i saw the exorcist labeled as catholic cult cinema somewhere.
    what does that mean?
    I know that the last temptation of christ had a similar negative outcry reaction as the exorcist (or at least by those that pushed for public denouncement) yet there must be an underbelly thriving that is giddy by such devilishness. flirting with evil or cultfilmlike appreciation for something that gets closer to something misunderstood or not delved into by such show in pop form.
    ect ect.

  • Diogenes

    what do yah know, I posted a year from today!

    gav @88, I agree

  • Diogenes

    okay this is going to continue-
    so yes, [email protected], I agree but what is technology is always new and old all the same. film is such a place now that the amount of schools and software and festivals and film as art and film in the theater as art–has such an overgrowth today of stumbling brainiacs of cinema that all the colors of the pallet are at disposal to such a degree and the dispersal of activity is stumbling over itself that the Frank Zappa statement or idea (sorry, I dont know Zappa) that something to the affect that it’s only a matter of time before the next Beethovin or Mozart take bloom from some suburban car garage.

  • steeveedee

    When I first saw The Exorcist, I was a teenager and it creeped me out as a great horror film. Now, watching it as a parent, I see it in a whole new light. The fear comes from watching a mother go through this with her child, and it is a whole different kind of horror.

    Love this movie. And I think one of the greatest horror films of all time.

  • Davy

    Scary crap!

  • Vera Lynn

    I had just referenced this film and the scene with the crucifix the other day on the controversial album covers list.

  • Seth

    One of my favorites so far! I was just about to leave home to rent it. Thanks.

  • saber25

    Exorcist is great. Ok
    happy halloween everybody!! :)

  • Moloch1123

    Wonderful list!

  • ccjohnson


    I consider myself to be a pretty intelligent guy, but you just made 3 posts and, for the life of me, I can’t make sense of any of them.

    Great list, by the way, JFrater.

  • sof

    I always wonder if the stories about numerous people fainting while watching it are a bit exaggerated.

  • astraya

    I watched this once on video and understood almost nothing of the plot, but I distinctly remember the line as “Your mother sucks cocks in hell”, so either you’ve been mishearing or I have.

  • Audrey

    Excellent list! This movie still scares the crap out of me.

  • segue

    This was one of the very few times (in fact, I cannot think of another), when the reading of the book when it was first released scared me so badly that I never, to this day, wanted to see the movie!
    In fact, I began to read the book in the middle of the afternoon, and was so scared that I couldn’t even stop to eat or sleep until I was finished.
    Crap novels never have that effect on me, but somehow this one did.

  • saber25

    P>S> I haven’t visited listverse for a while.

  • Kiroux

    I honestly have seen this movie quite a few times (mostly because other people wanted to see it) and I didn’t think it was scary at all. It was actually funny… Poltergeist was way worse for me. But it is quite a revolutionary film for its day.

  • furball excel 5

    i thought the exorcist was pants, could never see what all the fuss was about, terrible overacting by the girl.

  • Mrs Polidori

    Well, think about it, wouldn’t you overact if you were possessed?

  • furball excel 5

    possibly, but with more sarcasm.

  • Innapropriate

    @damien_karras (48): Wow!! Do you have the rest of the conversation? or Blatty’s book on PDF?? I’d greatly appreciate it!!

  • Awesome list and great facts!

  • Lady C

    Scariest freakin movie I have ever seen. The backwalk downstairs was on the new revised version. Your mother
    s–ks c–ks in hell is what Regan told Father Karas.Only new movies like The Ring, Mirrors, The unborn and Grudge was kinda close. I was able to watch the screen but The exorcist I was hiding straight through I am 41 now and I watched it in my early teens. It’s scary Exorcist the beginning was a bit scary too. Part 2 and 3 a walk in the park!

  • sofkes

    @El the erf (20): What happened with the filming of the Dark Night?

  • mattricks

    @ ImElvis66,

    I agree whole heartedly about The Omen being up there with the Exorcist.

    Both movies are total mind f#ckers!

  • Should NOT have read this last night at Halloween. @[email protected]
    So scaryy. Number 14’s image made my skin crawl.

  • MN

    I saw this movie when I as six or seven years old, back when I was Catholic and actually believed that demon possession was possible. It never bothered me. I remember thinking it as more of a comedy, a feeling that has only intensified over the years, especially now that I think of anything religious as a joke (no offense, folks, I could care less what anyone else believes so long as they leave me alone about it). I can certainly understand how it would scare people, religious or not, but maybe I’m just weird.

    There are no such things as curses. Curses surrounding movies like this are created by people reading far too much into things or trying to create extra hype.

  • Mrs Polidori

    Never doubt curses. I know of a few, not to do with movies. My ouse even had to be kind of exorcised at one point because of negative spirits causing bad things, eg, flying ornaments, pushing people over, disgusting smells that were inexplainable.

  • Mrs Polidori

    Holy water was used in my house and the negativity disappeared.

  • astro

    I promise this is a true story. I grew up attending a Jesuit school in Sydney, Australia and I can remember Reverend William O’Malley (see point no.1) coming to our school and talking to the students. This was in the mid-80’s, so I was only young…but I will always remember having him stand up in front of us and warning all the students to “NEVER play with a Ouija Board”. He didn’t say why, but that warning scared the hell out of me. The Exorcist, for that reason, is the scariest film I’ve ever seen.

  • AuthorityFigure

    It’s a superb film, but these behind-the-scenes facts seem to destroy the mystique…

  • kehmet

    You frogot to mention that dana Plato was to play the part but her mother,I believe,basically said no.Think how different Dana’s life would have been.Creepy.

  • Jaryuki

    I was around six or seven when I first saw the film but I didn’t react to it at all. Watched it again when I was 13 and it still wasn’t scary. I seen this movie one or two times after that too but I never find it any scarier. Then again I wasn’t even in school when my favorite movie was “Nightmare on Elmstreet”

    I used to have nightmares about care bears though…

  • GTT

    Jfrater: Great list!

    This is one of my all-time, favorite horror movies. Horror movies today are just bloody, gory, slasher flicks. IMO, there is no art in scaring people with constant, randomly sprayed blood. I refuse to watch them as I think they are a total waste of time.

    This movie, however, is different. It freaks you out completely, it keeps you tense, horryfied (and for me at least) on the verge of tears from sheer terror. The spider-walk down the stairs is one of my favorite scenes. Creepy as all hell.

    As a side note, my employer thanks you considering that I just got back from a well-deserved vacation and cannot seem to focus on my first day back because of this list. Thanks! ;)

  • Bearglove

    Why is this still considered one of the greatest horror movies of all time? It’s slow, boring, not scary and nearly unwatchable.
    I tried watching this movie for the first time when I was around 10 and fell asleep about 40 minutes in. A few months later, my buddy(a fellow horror movie fan), had me come over to watch the movie. I complained about being bored, and he fast forwarded to the “good parts”(head spinning, projectile vomiting, crucifixion masturbation, etc.), and was still completely bored with the whole idea, outside of the now classic line “your mother sucks cocks in hell”.
    Anyways, I’ve given the movie quite a few chances since then(I am now 25), and can honestly say I’ve never finished this movie in one sitting.
    It’s stupid, and I just don’t understand the hype, and never will.
    Reminds me of the Blair Witch Project as far as that goes.

  • Ventego

    Interesting and informative. But will you write about this one more?

  • Brian

    “The Exorcist” was NOT directed by William Peter Blatty (he adapted his own into the screenplay). William Friedkin directed. Blatty did direct “Exorcist III: Legion.”

  • Marian

    For (62) — The answer is that she was saying, “Your mother sucks cocks in hell”.

  • Marian

    This is a great movie, one of my all-time favorites. I remember when the book first came out, I was a teenager and had a helluva hard time getting it. Bookstores wouldn’t sell it to a minor, libraries wouldn’t loan it to a minor, etc etc. As is typical with book censorship, it only made me that much more determined to get a copy (all you people in favor of book banning or censorship should take note). When this book came out it knocked everybody over; remember, we had not had years of Stephen King, cable TV, and the Internet to make us jaded to horror. This book (and the movie) creeped us out like you wouldn’t believe.

  • totalstranger

    I thought the demons name was Captain Howdy? I guess it’s REAL name was Pazuzu…

  • William M

    Randall has a problem with religion…Boo Hoo!! ;)


    @Randall (93):

    Randall, whats the problem you have with religion?

  • Michael M

    Watched this movie a few months after it was released with my girlfriend. Under normal conditions it would have bothered me a bit, BUT we went to a midnight showing at a large mall in LA. Somehow we managed to be the only people in the theater, about halfway through the movie an usher walked up behind us and I about jumped out of my skin. When the movie was over, we had to walk through a deserted, dark mall and take an elevator down to the parking garage. On the way down the lights in the elevator started flickering.. When the doors finally started to slid open at the garage level I was as scared as I have ever been in my life. Trying not to let my girlfriend know how shaken I was made it even worse. Before this movie I loved horror movies, but to this day I avoid watching them. It sounds silly now, but the impression this film made on me has never gone away. And in case you think I’m just some pansy, I have been under enemy fire in the military and it didn’t bother me as much as this movie did.

  • themedic89

    A Roman Catholic priest’s title is ‘Father’ not ‘Reverend’.

  • Ng

    Actually, the Full title of a Catholic Priest is Reverend Father.

  • katerinaelaena

    ACKKK! SCARY! Eve the pictures sent chills down my spine. I don’t think i’ll ever watch this willingly..

  • nicoleredz3

    Awesome facts! Even this list is creepy! :-)

  • bigben235

    I was wondering if Anneliese Michel had seen The Exorcist some time in her life.

  • pazuzu

    i am pazuzu and going to chose one of you to possess.

  • Mike

    Those exorcist steps always scared me when I was in Washington, DC…they are friggin' high

  • juleigh

    The Exoercist has got to be THE scariest movie I have ever seen, and I LOVE a good scary movie. For as old as it is, it is actually very intrepid with the makeup and the special effects. Exorcist II sucked, but Exorcist III-Legion scared the crap outta me.

  • Gypsie Rose

    Awesome list hun. I loved the movie then and still love it today. I am 33 years old and still get a case of the willies and goose bumps. I asked my mother if she wanted to see it with me a while back and she said she couldn't because every time she sees it she has nightmares lol.

    By the way Regan's demon said SOW not piglet.

    • damien_karras

      In the book the demon used the term piglet to refer to Regan and used the term SOW to describe Regan's mother.

  • its kind of funny, but that movie horrified my mother, even though she never saw it, we're not allowed to watch it in the house.

  • Hey you forgot this fact?

    Linda Blair, who played Regan, played Joni in LA 7

  • Yamama

    Dave chappelle said that he lived right next to the exorcist stairs lol

  • Lexi Mac

    Well, the director was William Friedkin. The author of the novel was William Peter Blatty, but he did adapt the screenplay.

  • sweetheart

    i think that some parts of the movie was kinda funny!!!!!!! and when that lady fell on her back and some thingy permanents shit it up I would have sued them sooooooo bad

  • thalia

    this is an awesome list and i have too see the movie!!!!! i will try the pea soup thingy on my sister

  • annie

    cool pics loved them and awesome facts….. i gotta try the pea soup one!!!

  • peeter

    they don`t make horror like “Exorcist” anymore, “Nightmare on Elm street” was pretty scary too and they made like 5 sequels. but this Robbie kid that you were talking about was really posessed.


    are you kidding me this movie was crap i was laughing it wasn’t an ounce scary

  • sarah

    i’ve always wanted to get a role in one of those movie playing the possessed girl….lucky linda blair….

  • brian

    A couple updates:
    Rev. William Faherty, who appeared in the documentary “The Haunted Boy”, by twin filmmakers Phillip and Christopher Saint Booth, recently passed. The documentary was given nearly unrestricted access to real locations involved in the original occurance, recording few instances of paranormal activity, and were blocked from entering one area of the hospital by a man who could later not be identified by staff.

    A St. Louis area paranormal group, “Paranormal Task Force”, was allowed to take investigation tours of the residence in Bel Nor, MO the weekend before and after Halloween this year, something that rarely happens. PTF was originally founded by a man, Stephen LaChance, when he experienced a case similar to George Lutz’ in Amityville, and had no resource to turn to.

    Steve and his son later helped the Booth Brothers on the Haunted Boy documentary (among others) and are trying to push the movement of RESPECT to the spirits of those who have passed after seeing the “Hollywood investigators” mock and rile up the spirits in the locations they “investigate” before running away.

  • gator

    It may be kinda late to comment on this list but linda blair did have a body double for the masturbation scene. For legal reasons they had to. Linda Blair was very young and they could have faced child pornography charges. The body double. Was 21 years old. Source: Interviews and behind the scenes footage At the end of the 25th anniversary addition of the exorcist.

  • Sunshine

    My ex wifes name is regan theresa . she is evil . born in the early 60’s. family name was o’malley. spookey with all those connections . I asked a riest to exorcise her but he died soon after ….

  • Well thanks a lot listverse now im not gonna be able to sleep with the light off for a while them pictures are horrendous

  • trenton

    William Friedkin was the director, not Blatty.

  • Great Movie!!!!! Nothing like it today…


    I’ve seen scarier russians!

  • Josh

    Willam Peter Blatty didn’t direct this…

  • hottiemolly

    any one know what month regan was born and day plz no pics i dont like scary things to be honest :'(

  • William Peter Blatty is not the director.

  • K. Twitty

    Is anyone interesed in owning the original painting that hung on the wall at the top of the satirs in the Excorcist. It is for sale.

  • Ryan

    I’m too lazy to read the comments to see if this mistake has already been corrected but the director was not William Peter Blattey. It was William Friedkin. Blattey was the author.

  • Robko

    This movie was released on video prior to 1999 – It was in fact taken of the shelve around84-86 when the video recordings act came in meaning that they needed to be submitted to the BBFC to receive a certificate – Warner brothers never bothered to submit it and hence it was taken off the shelves until the late 90’s

  • scott palfrey

    excellent work my freind

  • Peter Charlie

    in my opininon it is the scariest/creepiest film ever , also its based on a true story , the crucifix scene is the most disturbing , i say the bit where she tells father karras yh and im the devil is a great line , the bit where she spins her head is the most creepy scene