Good Exorcism Movies

Thursday, January 27, 2011 at 11:10 am

Ever since Regan MacNeil showed the terrifying potential of pea soup, exorcism movies have been a legitimate offshoot of the horror or thriller genres. While interest was sporadic in the ‘80s and ‘90s, business has been booming since the dawn of the new millennium. Seven of the ten films about exoricists listed here have been made since 2000. With The Rite opening in theaters on Friday, the trend shows no signs of slowing.

Here’s a list of 10 exorcism movies you’ll want to become familiar with. Some focus on the human element, while others enjoy playing up the terror and demonic possession. One’s even played for laughs thanks to the always-wacky Tim Burton.

If your local video store doesn’t carry all my recommendations, become a member of Netflix. They carry all these exorcism movies, plus more than 100,000 films from other genres.

The Last Exorcism (2010) – No doubt inspired by the success of Paranormal Activity, this handheld “documentary” follows faithless evangelical minister Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian) as he performs one last exorcism in order to expose the absurdity of the practice. But as he works with the devout and terrified Nell Sweetzer (Ashley Bell), he comes to wonder if real evil truly exists. One part horror movie and one part effed-up family drama, be sure and stick with it for the big payoff during the film’s waning minutes (although I found the early parts of the production to be more interesting).

Possessed (2000) – Inspired by the same case that was the basis for The Exorcist, this Showtime movie stars Timothy Dalton as a priest and World War II veteran with a drinking problem and some serious anger issues. But when young Robbie Mannheim shows signs of being possessed, the priest has to get his act together in order to help. Co-starring Christopher Plummer, Henry Czerny, and Piper Laurie.

Beetlejuice (1988) – Michael Keaton shows off his comedic talents as Betelgeuse, a “bio-exorcist” who specializes in terrifying the living. When a mild-mannered ghostly couple (Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin) find a new family moving into their former home, they turn to the “ghost with the most” to help them out of a bind. But Betelgeuse has plans of his own, especially when it comes to sullen goth teen Lydia Deetz (Winona Ryder). Made before Tim Burton’s quirkiness had become a cliché, the film showcases a couple of toe-tapping Harry Belafonte tunes, Robert Goulet, and plenty of sand worms. Just writing about Beetlejuice–and having recently seen The Other Guys–makes me wonder why Michael Keaton isn’t utilized more in modern-day Hollywood.

Requiem (2006) – Shot in the style of a documentary movie, this German film depicts the real-life events surrounding Anneliese Michel, a young epileptic who believes herself possessed by a multitude of demons. Local religious leaders believe the same, and soon an exorcism is called for…with disastrous results. A fascinating look at both religious fervor and mental illness, although it’s often difficult to distinguish one from the other.

Try Netflix’s selection of horror movies.

Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist (2005) – Directed by Paul Schrader, this prequel to The Exorcist follows a much younger Father Lankester Merrin (Stellan Skarsgard) as he first encounters the demonic being known as Pazuzu. Many of the reviews for the film were negative, but author William Peter Blatty paid it a compliment by calling it “a handsome, classy, elegant piece of work.”

The Exorcist (1973) – Without the success of this ‘70s blockbuster, the other exorcism movies on this list might not even exist. Directed by William Friedkin and adapted from the novel by William Peter Blatty, The Exorcist stars Linda Blair as Regan MacNeil, a 12-year-old girl possessed by a demonic spirit known as Pazuzu. When her actress mother (Ellen Burstyn) exhausts all known scientific methods to help her daughter, she turns towards a spiritual solution in the form of Father Damien Karras (Jason Miller), a priest whose own faith has dimmed recently. Assisted by veteran exorcist Father Lankester Merrin (Max von Sydow), Karras braves demonic taunts and projectile vomiting in an effort to save the young girl. The Exorcist earned 10 Academy Award nominations and became the highest-grossing R-rated film in history (adjusted for inflation).

The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) – Loosely based on a true story, this blend of courtroom drama and supernatural thriller revolves around a priest (Tom Wilkinson) accused of negligent homicide after college student Emily Rose (Jennifer Carpenter) dies during an exorcism. Laura Linney stars as the agnostic defense attorney who has her eyes opened as the case proceeds.

The Exorcist III (1990) – Dissatisfied with the awful second movie in the series, author William Peter Blatty adapted his own novel Legion to the big screen, completely ignoring the previous film. In the process, he created a nightmarish supernatural thriller filled with genuine scares, well-crafted dialogue, and a pervading sense of madness and despair. George C. Scott stars as Lt. William F. Kinderman, a Georgetown cop who also happened to be close friends with Father Damien Karras (the self-sacrificing priest from The Exorcist). Fifteen years after the events of the original movie, Kinderman finds himself on the trail of a serial murderer with the same style as the Gemini Killer (Brad Dourif). But the Gemini has been dead for years, executed in the electric chair for his grisly crimes. Kinderman pays a visit to the local psyche ward of a hospital, and one of the patients chills him to the bone. Co-starring Ed Flanders, Nicol Williamson, and Scott Wilson. And how can you not love a movie that features cameos from Patrick Ewing (as an angel of death) and Larry King (as himself)?

Constantine (2005) – Adapted from the DC Comics title, this supernatural action movie follows the adventures of John Constantine (Keanu Reeves), an expert on the occult who’s dedicated his life to combating the forces of Hell. This consists of blasting demons with shotguns and punching them in the face with holy brass knuckles, but the opening moments of the film also detail a high-energy exorcism. The supporting cast is excellent, including Rachel Weisz as a cop trying to come to grips with her identical twin’s suicide, Tilda Swinton as the archangel Gabriel, Shia LaBeouf as Constantine’s young assistant, Peter Stormare as Lucifer, and Djimon Hounsou as our hero’s former partner.

That finishes our look at some of the better exorcism movies currently available.

All of the exorcism movies above are available at Netflix . We get a small commission if you sign up, but any profits go right back into our site.

See also:

  1. Tales from the Darkside: The Complete Series
  2. 20 Strange Movies
  3. David Lynch Movies
  4. Tales from the Crypt Box Set
  5. Alien Anthology Box Set
  6. Friday the 13th Box Set
  7. Masters of Horror Box Set

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