Hollywood has gotten quite a bit of mileage out of exorcism over the decades, and audiences’ fascination shows no signs of waning. Exhibit A: this week’s The Devil Inside, a highly anticipated horror film (with a poster that we can’t seem to unsee) about, you guessed it, possession and exorcism. Here are our favorite such films that came before it. For more, check out our brief history of cinematic exorcisms!
Surprising in both its quality and drama, The Exorcism of Emily Rose is part of a new breed of exorcism films – and possibly the best. Director Scott Derrickson very adeptly blended genres, combining Law & Order-type drama with scenes of genuine horror, to often great results.
Although not quite as horrifying as Silence of the Lambs – OK, not even close – this 2011 Anthony Hopkins-starring thriller gets bonus points for its great performances and, more importantly, the fact that it, like the book from which it is adapted, is based on real events. Sorta.
This “found footage” take on the exorcism theme – which, in a way, sums up this week’s The Devil Inside – is in the vein of Paranormal Activity: small budget, big profits, even bigger scares. Also like PA, its starlet, Ashley Bell, was nominated for the prestigious Best Scared-As-Shit Performance award at MTV’s VMAs.
The undisputed king of exorcism movies, if not the entire horror genre, The Exorcist kicked things off in earnest and launched a ton of followers that continue to this day. (Sadly, it also launched subpar sequels, prequels, miniseries and more.) The William Friedkin-directed Oscar winner is as scary today as when it was released in 1973, as horrifying on its 50th viewing as its first. At least for me.
Repossessed is pretty terrible, sure, but we’re all guilty of enjoying the occasional undeniably terrible movie. Plus, by 1990, levity was very necessary for The Exorcist and what was becoming a stale subgenre overall – and who better to send it up than onetime spoof king himself, Leslie Nielsen, and one-time Exorcism poster child (quite literally) Linda Blair?
Best Quasi-Exorcism Movies
REC 2: A chilling follow-up to the original Spanish horror film (or Quarantine to American moviegoers) that mixes in some exorcism-ish drama.
Constantine: Keanu Reeves can’t exorcise (hehe) his bad-acting demons, but this based-on-a-comic-book sorta-exorcism thriller is worth watching for the visuals alone.
Poltergeist: Who said exorcisms can’t be performed on houses possessed by ghost-like entities?! Hey, any excuse to include this Spielberg-produced masterpiece on our list. Also …
Beetlejuice: Ditto our above rationalization: One of Tim Burton’s all-time greats can make the cut. Can’t it?? After all, Beetlejuice himself was a "bio-exorcist."