The Exorcist
The Exorcist poster
Directed by William Friedkin
Produced by William Peter Blatty

Ellen Burstyn
Max von Sydow
Lee J. Cobb
Kitty Winn
Jack MacGowran
Jason Miller
Linda Blair
Mercedes McCambridge

Music by Jack Nitzsche (additional)
Cinematography Owen Roizman
Editing by Norman Gay
Jordan Leondopoulos
Evan a. Lottman
Bud S. Smith
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release December 26, 1973
Running time 122 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $10,497,444
Gross revenue $441,071,011
Followed by Exorcist II: The Heretic

The Exorcist is a 1973 American horror film directed by William Friedkin, adapted by William Peter Blatty from his 1971 novel of the same name. The book, inspired by the 1949 exorcism case of Roland Doe, deals with the demonic possession of a 12-year-old girl and her mother's desperate attempts to win back her child through an exorcism conducted by two priests.

The film features Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, Jason Miller, Lee J. Cobb, Linda Blair, and (in voice only) Mercedes McCambridge. It is one of a cycle of "demonic child" films produced from the late 1960s to the mid-1970s, including Rosemary's Baby and The Omen.

The Exorcist was released theatrically in the United States by Warner Bros. on December 26, 1973. The film earned 10 Academy Award nominations, winning two (Best Sound Mixing and Best Adapted Screenplay), and losing Best Picture to The Sting. It became one of the highest-grossing films of all time, grossing over $441 million worldwide. It is also the first horror film to be nominated for Best Picture.

The film has had a significant influence on popular culture. It was named the scariest film of all time by Entertainment Weekly and and by viewers of AMC in 2006, and was No. 3 on Bravo's The 100 Scariest Movie Moments. In 2010, the Library of Congress selected the film to be preserved as part of its National Film Registry. In 2003, it was placed at No. 2 in Channel 4's The 100 Greatest Scary Moments in the United Kingdom.


In Northern Iraq during an archeological dig, archeologist and priest Father Lankester Merrin (Max von Sydow) discovers a small amulet, and after studying it discovers it resembles a statue of Pazuzu, a monstrous demon in the form of a man, falcon, serpent and lion. Merrin suspects Pazuzu, whom he defeated many years ago, will return.

In Georgetown, Washington D.C., actress Chris McNeil (Ellen Burstyn) begins noticing strange and frightening behavioral changes in her daughter Regan (Linda Blair) such as constant swearing and abnormal strength. When medicine fails, Regan is given a few unpleasant tests, but X-rays results prove "negative" much to the confusion of the doctors. In reality, Regan is now possessed via a Ouija board by Pazuzu, who pretended to be her imaginary friend "Captain Howdy."

Burke Dennings (Jack McGowran), Chris's British director, dies mysteriously after falling from Regan's open bedroom window while Chris' secretary Sharon Spencer (Kitty Winn) was out. His murder is investigated by detective William Kinderman (Lee J. Cobb), who questions both Chris and a young priest named Damien Karras (Jason Miller) who has lost faith in God after the death of his ill and elderly Greek mother, with only Chris suspecting Regan. After Regan assaults a psychiatrist, the doctors finally decide an exorcism may be Regan's only hope. Chris, however, is tentative as she and Regan have no religious beliefs.

Karras agrees to see Regan for Chris but refuses to perform an exorcism; however, further supernatural phenomena force him to accept Regan needs an exorcism. Karras is given permission by the bishop, who, at the request of the university's president, also hires Merrin to help, since he has prior experience with exorcisms.

Working together, Karras and Merrin attempt to exorcise Pazuzu from Regan, but the demon taunts them, especially Karras for his weak faith and guilt over his mother's death. Karras is dismissed after a break, as Merrin knows he is not mentally fit for a second attempt. Despite this, Karras returns to the room where Regan is now free from her binds and Merrin lies dead. In a fit of rage he assaults Regan and orders the demon to take him instead. Pazuzu obeys and Karras throws himself from the window. He then dies of his injuries, but not before receiving last rites from his friend Father Dyer (William O'Malley).

Days later the McNeils leave for Los Angeles. They meet Dyer and say goodbye. Regan remembers nothing, but embraces him after noticing his white collar. After missing the duo, Kinderman decides to befriend Dyer by inviting him to see a movie with him.


  • Ellen Burstyn as Christine "Chris" MacNeil, a famous actress temporarily living in Washington, D.C., with her daughter. She is an agnostic and has a quick temper but is also a loving mother. When Regan displays strange behavior, Chris experiences an emotional breakdown and tries to find help for her daughter, consulting neurosurgeons, psychiatrists, and finally a Catholic exorcist.
  • Jason Miller as Father Damien Karras, a troubled priest, vocational counselor, and psychiatrist. He suffers deeply when his mother dies and confesses to have (apparently) lost his faith in God. Jack Nicholson was the original choice for the role, but Miller was cast after Friedkin saw his play, That Championship Season, and meeting the playwright/actor after the performance.
  • Max von Sydow as Father Lankester Merrin, an elderly priest and archeologist. A quiet and patient man with great faith, he has prior experience in performing exorcisms and is aware of the risks of facing evil.
  • Linda Blair as Regan Teresa MacNeil, Chris's friendly, loving, faithful, and sweet twelve-year-old daughter. She displays strange and aggressive behaviors after playing with a Ouija board, which are later revealed as early symptoms of demonic possession.
  • Lee J. Cobb as Lieutenant William F. Kinderman, a police detective investigating Burke Dennings's death. Assertive and cunning, he thinks Regan was involved in Dennings's death, which may be related to the recent desecration of a nearby church.
  • Mercedes McCambridge provided the voice of the demon, Pazuzu.
  • Kitty Winn as Sharon Spencer, Chris's friend and personal assistant who acts as Regan's tutor.
  • Jack MacGowran as Burke Dennings, an eccentric film director and close friend of Chris; his unexplained death while looking after Regan elicits a police homicide investigation.
  • Father William O'Malley as Father Joseph Dyer, a close friend of Karras's who tries to help him deal with his mother's death.
  • Robert Symonds as Dr. Taney.
  • Barton Heyman as Dr. Samuel Klein, a doctor who suggests that Regan needs "special" help.
  • Arthur Storch as the psychiatrist.
  • Titos Vandis as Karras's uncle.
  • Eileen Dietz as a face associated with the demon, seen only in visions and flash cuts.

The Exorcist Films vte
Films The ExorcistExorcist IIThe Exorcist IIIExorcist: The BeginningDominion: Prequel to the Exorcist
Characters Regan MacNeilFather Damien KarrasFather Lankester MerrinPazuzu

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