The Exorcist

Movie review by
Charles Cassady Jr., Common Sense Media
The Exorcist Movie Poster Image
Popular with kidsParents recommend
Trendsetting shocker about a possessed child.
  • R
  • 1973
  • 132 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 60 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 146 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Themes of redemption, especially around the doubting Father Karras, who sacrifices himself to save a life, but it's the sense of evil in the film that stays with you.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The "good" characters seem bewildered and powerless. Regan's mother refuses to even tell the girl's father what's been happening.


The demonic Regan punches her mother and other investigators and (offscreen) brutally murders a man. She also mutilates herself, vomits blood, and in a famous moment, rotates her own head completely around. Another character falls fatally out a window and down a flight of steps.


Nothing seductive or titillating, but still intense, as the possessed girl lewdly propositions men, talks about oral sex, and is briefly shown rubbing a crucifix in her groin.


A little girl taken over by the devil doesn't hold back much in the cursing department.


Soft-drink signs, movie-company logos.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Social imbibing, and a character is drunk at a party. Mention of pills and pot.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Exorcist is a mature horror film, not aimed at (or paced for) kids. No rock-music soundtracks or look-out-the-killer-is-behind-you scares, but rather an awful sense of corruption as demonic possession takes over an adolescent girl like a loathsome progressive disease. The infamous makeup effects of projectile vomiting and blood, blaspheming, and gutturally obscene language were meant to disturb the viewer as nothing before seen in movies, and they still convey solid shocks.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 13-year-old Written bycolten97 October 10, 2012

The Devil Made Her Do It

In late 1973 and early 1974, women and men were lined up for blocks. People were known to become ill watching it. Some fainted. Some ran out of the theater in t... Continue reading
Parent of a 11 and 14-year-old Written byjennlea1 October 7, 2010

inappropriate rating

this movie may not have butchering, murdering, scary jump out at you scenes but is the scariest movie i have ever scene. as an adult i still do not watch it. i... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byErc27 April 1, 2015


This can be a scary movie for some kids, but I found it almost laughable. The effects were horrible but I understand for that time. My mom is so scared of that... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old August 2, 2010

What's the story?

In THE EXORCIST, Linda Blair plays Regan MacNeil, the bright 12-year-old daughter of successful actress Chris (Ellen Burstyn), who can afford to raise the girl in a nurturing atmosphere with live-in cooks and nannies (Regan's absentee father is written off as self-absorbed and oblivious). The first signs of trouble include Regan playing with a Ouija board and claiming she's communicated with a ghost she calls Captain Howdy. Then the girl begins behaving abnormally, urinating in front of party guests and foretelling death for Chris' film-director boyfriend. While Regan suffers grueling medical exams and gets progressively worse, the story line simultaneously follows Father Damien Karras (Jason Miller), a Greek-American Catholic priest with some doubts about his religion. When medical science fails to cure the howling, obscenity-spewing, uncontrollable Regan, doctors point Chris to Father Karras, whose background in psychology includes the now-rare rite of exorcism. Karras summons another priest to help, the wiser and older Father Merrin (Max Von Sydow), and together they begin to do battle with Regan's occupier.

Is it any good?

If you think your teen is ready for this shocking film, keep in mind that some audience members in the '70s reportedly fainted after seeing Dick Smith's grisly makeup effects on Blair. In some extreme cases, viewers even required psychiatric care. Also, the moans, snarls, and profane utterances from Regan (most are actually the dubbed-in voice of a well-known older actress, Mercedes McCambridge) amount to some of the most chilling audio ever done for film.

Thanks in part to Linda Blair's wrenching, Oscar-nominated performance, The Exorcist was a huge hit, earning back 10 times its $10 million budget (a then-lavish sum, outrageous for a "mere" horror flick). Movie historians cite it (along with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) as the conclusive end of old-school spook shows featuring Dracula and Frankenstein and bobbing rubber bats.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the film's religious and scientific overtones. Does Father Karras regain his religious faith in the finale, and how does he become almost Christlike?

  • What do you think about the novel's suggestion that this might not be a "real" demon but rather some terrible but explicable mental disorder?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love horror

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