Home Men's Health How to Watch ‘The Exorcist’ Movies In Order

How to Watch ‘The Exorcist’ Movies In Order

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How to Watch ‘The Exorcist’ Movies In Order

WHEN THE ORIGINAL Exorcist movie, based on William Peter Blatty’s novel of the same name, came out in 1973, it was an absolute sensation, winning Oscars, getting nominated for more, and grossing a colossal $441 million—against a $12 million budget—at the box office. The movie, helmed by the late director William Friedkin, tells the story of a pair of priests who help a mother and her daughter dealing with a very specific problem; it proved to be a bona fide smash both critically and commercially, still considered one of the greatest horror movies ever made to this day.

Making a lot of money, though, also invites other ideas in: how can we do this again. That means sequels, that means prequels, that means follow-ups, that means more. And so in the 50 years since The Exorcist was originally released, attempts have rarely halted for too long to capture that original magic. And while some have been worthy (more on that in a bit), matching the success of the original has proven to be a difficult endeavor.

Next up, Universal is taking a $400 million swing at The Exorcist with a new trilogy from director David Gordon Green and co-writer Danny McBride, starring Hamilton‘s Leslie Odom Jr. and original Exorcist star Ellen Burstyn, that serves as a sequel only to the original movie, ignoring everything else (the Gordon Green/McBride duo recently completed a Halloween trilogy with a similar strategy, bringing Jamie Lee Curtis back and ignoring all the sequels and remakes).

But even if the movies themselves are ignoring some Exorcist installments, that doesn’t mean the movies no longer exist, and it doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy them. If you’re a fan of The Exoricist—or just want to get into this series and this world—it could be more than worth your time to check out the many riffs that have been made on the legendary story of horror and possession.

Below, you can check out a full guide to all of them.

The Original

The Exorcist (1973)

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The original film—you know all about this one. Ellen Burstyn plays the worried, frazzled, humane mother who cannot understand what’s happening to her young daughter (played by Linda Blair), and so she seeks the help of two priests, played by Jason Miller and Max Von Sydow. The movie is a masterpiece of horror, at times weird, at times gross, at times funny, and always very, very scary. It holds up—if you haven’t seen it somehow, the time to take the plunge is now.

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The Hated First Sequel

The Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977)

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After the success of The Exorcist, a sequel entered production, but neither director William Friedkin nor book author/screenwriter William Peter Blatty were involved (they had lots of behind the scenes problems during production of the original film and the aftermath). But ahead things rolled with a sequel, where both Linda Blair and Max Von Sydow return as a girl still dealing with the aftermath of the possession depicted in the original film, and the priest who helped to finally complete the exorcism. The movie was poorly received, currently holding only a 9% on Rotten Tomatoes.

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The Redeemed Second Sequel

The Exorcist III (1990)

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Much like Halloween III: Season of the Witch (which took the Halloween franchise in a direction away from chief villain Michael Myers), The Exorcist III takes the franchise in an entirely new direction as well. Set 15 years after the events of the original Exorcist (and ignoring the events of The Exorcist II), this film finds the return of William Peter Blatty as both writer and director for a film based on Legion, the follow-up to his original Exorcist novel (Friedkin was attached but had to drop out of the project). Rather than be centered on a possession and an exorcism, Exorcist III is more of a serial killer thriller, with the investigator from the first film (Lieutenant William F. Kinderman, now played by George C. Scott) hunting down a serial killer known as the Gemini Killer (based on the real-life Zodiac killer). But, of course, things do take a supernatural turn.

This movie received mixed reviews at the time (and Blatty has noted studio interference with the original cut of the movie), but has since been reclaimed as a pretty darn good sequel.

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The Prequels

Exorcist: The Beginning (2004)

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We should be clear: the situation with the Exorcist prequels is a bit confusing. Essentially? Paul Schrader (First Reformed, Taxi Driver) was originally hired to make an Excorcist prequel film, and when he turned in his cut… the studio was not happy with it. So unhappy with it, in fact, that they ultimately hired another director and underwent extensive reshoots to retool the movie entirely.

And that movie became Exorcist: The Beginning, a poorly-received (anyway) movie where Stellan Skarsgård plays a young version of Max von Sydow’s character from the original Exorcist film. Blatty said that watching Exorcist: The Beginning was his “most humiliating professional experience.”

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Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist (2005)

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After Exorcist: The Beginning was a critical and commercial flop, Schrader worked out a deal to finish his version of the prequel (he was given only $35,000 to finagle things together) and get it a limited release via Warner Bros. The result, Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist was still poorly received, but got better reviews than The Beginning. And, for what it’s worth, Blatty said Dominion was a “a handsome, classy, elegant piece of work.”

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The TV Series

The Exorcist (2016-2017)

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In 2016, The Exorcist made its first (and so far, only) jump to the small screen for a FOX TV show that ignored all the sequels and prequels and directly fed from the original film. The show’s first season featured Geena Davis playing a grown-up version of Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair’s character from the first film), while the cast also included Alan Ruck, Sophie Thatcher, and featured Ben Daniels and Alfonso Herrera as priests investigating occurrences of possession. John Cho was among the new cast members to join for the show’s second season.

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The New Continuity

The Exorcist: Believer (2023)

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And that brings us to 2023, where a new sequel to The Exorcist—titled The Exorcist: Believer and directed by David Gordon Green—is hitting theaters as the first of three planned Exorcist films from Universal and Blumhouse. The movie, like many others on this list, is a sequel only to the original film, ignoring everything else. Leslie Odom Jr. (Glass Onion, Hamilton) leads the way, while Ellen Burstyn returns as her character from the original Exorcist, giving the movie that real “requel” feel.

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Evan is the culture editor for Men’s Health, with bylines in The New York Times, MTV News, Brooklyn Magazine, and VICE. He loves weird movies, watches too much TV, and listens to music more often than he doesn’t.