Parent reviews for The Exorcist

Common Sense says

Trendsetting shocker about a possessed child.
Based on our expert review

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 58 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 136 reviews
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 tears. There were reports of people having to be institutionalized, and at least one miscarriage was attributed to viewing it. No, it wasn't a Rolling Stones Concert. It was a film called The Exorcist.

The first time I had heard of something called The Exorcist was on late night television when the author, William Peter Blatty, was a guest on The Tonight Show. The conversation centered around how horrible some of the things in the book were. I had also seen the novel listed on The New York Times Bestseller List, and it seemed as if it would remain there forever. After having been on the waiting list for what seemed like an eternity at the local library, I was finally able to obtain a copy. It was the first book I had read in one sitting since probably Nancy Drew and The Hidden Staircase quite a few years earlier. And yes, for it's time it was filled with gut wrenching details of what happens when for some unexplained reason; an innocent girl is possessed by Satan. While reading the book I was sure that if it ever made its way to film, most of the details would certainly be either `cleaned up' or omitted altogether. As you know the film was made and it spared the movie going public absolutely nothing in the way of details.

Certainly many of the people who lined up to see The Exorcist did so to watch some of the more gruesome scenes, the worst of which involved Regan's masturbation with a crucifix. Yet, the hysteria went well beyond the fact that such scenes were so vividly depicted. I think one needs to look no further than Mel Gibson's The Passion to find the answer as to why. I'm sure most of you have read the story of people leaving Mel's film in tears, some to the point of being hysterical. From most articles I have read, it seems that the majority of the audience that was moved were those people of strong religious beliefs. For many others, the depiction of the brutality in The Passion may have been uncomfortable to sit through, but weren't emotionally effected to any degree. Much of this same feeling can explain the hysteria surrounding The Exorcist. Those who had a definitive belief in Heaven and Hell, of Good and Evil, of Jesus as The Savior and Satan as the epitome of pure evil were affected by The Exorcist far more than those who were agnostic or just never had a strong belief in spiritual matters. There is no doubt though that much in the way The Passion did, The Exorcist caused many to reconsider how they felt about their faith. The Exorcist made the prospect of Satan being alive and well and a life of eternal damnation a very uncomfortable prospect. The fact that Blatty claims his book and screenplay were based on a true story seemed to give the film even more credibility.

For me, The Exorcist has always been more about the never ending conflict between pure evil and pure innocence than about being an average horror story. There are many more levels to this film than what initially meets the eye. There is no doubt that while the main story revolves around an innocent young girl, Regan McNeil, being inhabited by Satan himself, Blatty enhances it greatly by adding different characters in various stages of conflict. Regan's mother, Chris McNeil obviously cares deeply for her daughter. Yet she is not beyond reproach. In one scene when Reagan's father hasn't called on Regan's birthday, we see her desperately on the phone doing battle with an overseas operator. The problem is not how vicious the phone call is, but that she does it within ear shot of her daughter as if to drive the point home to Regan how worthless her father is. When, she finally does seek the aid of Father Damian Karras, we don't feel that she believes in exorcism anymore than he does, but is desperate enough to accept the fact that it is possible and will take any and all measures to save her daughter.

Father Karras is a priest torn by conflict. He is ridden by overwhelming guilt for having abandoned his mother to enter the priesthood. He is torn spiritually by the confessions of those priests who seek his help as a psychiatrist, so much so that he now questions his own faith. When he states to the Bishop that `Regan's case meets all the criteria,' we know that even more than Chris, he doesn't really believe in the power of Satan to inhabit a living being in the manner that it has taken over Regan. Yet, he will do what is required of him as a priest concerned about the health of a child.

Jack McGowran gives a terrific performance as the alcoholic director filming Chris's latest film in Georgetown. Kitty Winn is Sharon Spencer, the secretary who works for Chris and always seems to be in the line of fire when Chris is angry. She is always there but for all the horror she witnesses, Winn appears too bland and emotionless and her performance is probably the weakest in the film.

Max Von Sydow as Father Lancester Merrin is a no nonsense aging priest. He has done battle with evil before and he shows us its effect in every scene he occupies. One could pass it off to being just good make-up but it is so much more than that as Sydow demonstrates all the nuances that brings to life a man who has faced Satan and lived to tell about it. He knows what he is up against, understands he must do it again and the consequences of what that battle may be.

If I have a small complaint with The Exorcist it is in regards to the character of Lt. Kinderman. I have never been able to buy into the character. It is not the fault of Cobb who is his usual stalwart self in the role. The whole character should at best have only been necessary for a few brief scenes yet; he has several that go on way too long and do not add anything to the story. Even in his scenes with Chris or Damian, Kinderman is so odd that he distracts us too much from their characters and it is Chris and Damian's reactions that are more important to us, not his investigation. For all you trivia buffs out there, Blatty once sued the producers of Columbo, stating they based Peter Falk's character on Kinderman. If memory serves me correctly Blatty lost that one.

As for Director William Friedken, although he won the best director award for The French Connection, for me The Exorcist will always remain his defining film. The Final half hour of The Exorcist are still as dynamic today as they were 31 years ago, French Connection car chase be damned.

It seems that to many of the younger movie audiences of today, The Exorcist has become more of a joke than anything else. That's not surprising considering how many times it has been lampooned, even by Linda Blair herself in Repossessed. Yet, if they were to view the film in a more serious vein, not as just another creature feature, they may just find that there really is more to this film than a little girl spewing pea soup and spinning her head around 360 degrees. It is the ultimate battle between Heaven and Hell and Good and Evil. It is the story of the complete and total degradation of innocence. It is a study in character, and whether a man torn by the forces surrounding him, can regain his faith and his belief in God and mankind to save the life of a little girl, caught up in forces beyond her control.

Call it a horror film, call it a religious film, call it what you want. For me, The Exorcist is and will always remain a classic in every sense of the word. And if I regard you as a classic of any kind I have no choice but to leave you with my grade, which for The Exorcist is an A.

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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 can not believe this movie is rated allowable for teens. it should be no kids. because of this rating for this movie, i do not trust this website and will not use it again to monitor what my kids are exposed to.
Adult Written byITzSlider July 17, 2019

The Exorcist is a masterpiece.

I’m not going to beat around the bush, this film is pretty hardcore and disturbing. It has scenes of self-mutilation, violence of the sexual and non-sexual varieties, as well as blasphemous imagery, all centered around a possessed little girl. On top of that, The Exorcist is pretty scary. I’m a big fan of horror movies, but this is quite possibly the scariest movie I’ve ever seen. This is not a gory, jump-scare heavy, fright fest, it’s a slow burn movie that doesn’t need those things to scare you. That being said, The Exorcist has an uplifting message centered around a Jesuit priest who has lost his faith, as well as messages of parenthood. In the end, you know your kid(s) better than I do, if you think your kid can handle it, I strongly recommend you accompany him/her. I watched this movie for the first time when I was 15 and I handled it just fine. I was even mature enough to appreciate it.

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Adult Written byFlowers4You March 6, 2019

Not As Bad As It Seems

Don't let the R rating fool you. These days, kids see all sorts of things that would probably horrify their parents. This film is FAR more tame than what kids are (not supposed to be) watching nowadays (IT, The Hunger Games, heck, even Zootopia).
There is some mature subject matter, and a (not graphic) suicide, but if your teen is able to understand these subjects, they are probably capable of watching this film without problems. If your kid has already seen things along the lines of Jaws or The Sixth Sense, they're ready for this movie that technically wouldn't be R in the modern day.
It's a horror classic and I recommend it to all who appreciate plot and dedicated acting over soundtrack and special effects.

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Adult Written byFilmFan E January 28, 2019

The best horror movie ever made is not as graphic as it seems

The Exorcist is a masterpiece and definitely one of my favourite movies. It contains many powerful themes such as the battle between good and evil, the restoration of faith and the purpose of religion in modern society. This film is by no means a kids movie though, it contains many disturbing scenes such as the infamous crucifix masturbation scene. Very graphic language including two uses of the c-word, and graphic self-mutilation scenes. However, despite scenes like that the film does not rely on over the top gore and thus scenes like this are not frequent. The film is very important in the history of not only the horror genre but also cinema itself. The film relies on brilliantly built up suspense throughout rather than random jumpscares like so many horror movies especially more recent ones like the Paranormal Activity series. This is a horror movie in it's purest form and it is an uncomfortable watch at times but at the end of the day is a beautiful film and one of the most important movies ever made.

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Adult Written byMichael O. February 16, 2019

It Will Linger In Your Mind Forever

Truly shocking and scary film...the scariest and most visceral of all time.

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Adult Written bycritic sense November 4, 2012

Recommended Rating: 14+ for moderate violence, disturbing/frightening scenes, strong language and sexual references

A famous horror film, The Exorcist still has the ability to scare viewers. The film is not very violent, but there are many jump scares and disturbing scenes, many of which may be too frightening for younger viewers. It deals with themes of demonic possession and maintains an unsettling atmosphere throughout. The possessed girl talks in an eerie voice and has physical deformations (including rotating her head completely around and spitting green slime).
There are some scenes that contain strong language, including the F-word, in a sexual context. The possessed girl puts a cross up her crotch and blurts out sexual language.

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Adult Written byIdkidkidkabcd July 10, 2020

Cursed af

It is a good movie but it is cursed I got sick and had to have surgery right after never let your kid watch it.
Parent Written byAaron C. June 18, 2020

Slow Poison Cult Classic. NOT FOR EVERYONE.

Disclaimer: I watched the Extended cut (132 mins).
The Exorcist is a Slow Poison, mainly because it takes A LOT of time for the movie to get to the actual story, but that's what they intended; to build up the horror & tension bit by bit. It has remarkable taking & production values for the era. It's a fine blend of Supernatural & Psychological horror. That's why, it's NOT FOR EVERYONE. This movie requires patience. But it pays off at the end.

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Adult Written bysimpsonsfan22 June 18, 2020

Great movie

Great horror movie for horror lovers I’ve seen this it is great
Adult Written byStayhomeMom1 June 13, 2020

This movie gave my kids nightmares

I showed them this movie because we were having a horror movie marathon. The kids were so scared it was actually hilarious and I made them stay to the end so I could get pictures and videos but they refused to sleep that night and screamed when they fell asleep. I guess I should join them in therapy.

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Adult Written byC.Diggory May 2, 2020

Pretty creepy!! Made me shudder a couple times, definitely not for the faint of heart.

WARNING: I get into some graphic detail here, just to give you an idea of what the movie is like.

Ok first of all, all of this talk about grown men fainting in the theater and at least one miscarriage being caused by the movie is overhyped. Just because someone saw the movie and had a miscarriage doesn't mean they're related. Correlation does not equal causation! And the fainting and all that may be true, but this happened in 1973! Here's a USA Today article about why it's not as scary: usatoday.com/story/life/entertainthis/2018/12/24/exorcist-45th-anniversary-why-horror-classic-doesnt-feel-scary-anymore/2374247002

Anyway, back to the review.

GREAT MESSAGES: I don't want to spoil anything, but there are some great messages about a mother's love and devotion to her daughter, as well as making sacrifices for others (if you've seen the movie and you're confused about what I mean, think about Karras' final scene).

GREAT ROLE MODELS: I mean there are like 4-5 priests, an awesome mom, and a well-behaved little girl (as long as she isn't possessed).

SWEARING: One of the scenes that will definitely take a couple decades to get out of my head is where Regan, who is possessed by a demon, is laying in her bed, wearing a white robe. The demon is controlling her, forcing her to hold a crucifix over her head and repeatedly slam it down into her vagina, as the words "LET JESUS FUCK YOU" come out of her mouth over and over, in a deep, raspy voice. Regan's robe is soaked with blood surrounding her vaginal area. Also, soon after two priests arrive to exorcise the demon, the demon advises one of the priests to "STICK YOUR COCK UP HER ASS, YOU MOTHERFUCKING USELESS COCKSUCKER," which most of the reviews don't mention, but think about that—the demon just told a priest to penetrate an 8-year-old anally.

Anyway, on to the next one.

SMOKING: Yes, people smoke sometimes in this movie.

Side note: I have a problem with the fact that several reviewers refer to Reagan "masturbating" with a crucifix. Masturbating, by definition, is for pleasure. Reagan was not pleasuring herself. She's 12. That does NOT count as sex. This movie is not sexual in any way.

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Adult Written byunderaged April 24, 2020

to scary and give your child nightmares

Adult Written bySBC2000 March 1, 2020
Adult Written byBill77 February 2, 2020

Great movie. NOT FOR KIDS

This is a horror classic don’t get me wrong. But if your kid is fragile or is easily frightened (DONT LET THEM SEE THIS) it is very scary, and has numerous scenes we’re it gets a little crazy. For example there is a scene were the 12 year old regan is stabbing a crucifixiones in her crotch repeatedly, yelling “ let Jesus f**ck you . Great movie not for kids

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Adult Written byMelizeM September 13, 2019

Amazing film

It’s terrifying, it’s disturbing, it keeps you at the edge of your seat. Truly a masterpiece. Wouldn’t recommend it to kids under 18 because of violence and foul language, but it’s a great movie. It scared the crap out of me, but it’s great. It’s a true psychological horror, it’s not like your typical horror movie where there’s a zombie or evil clown, it’s an innocent young mind that’s possessed by the devil. Amazing film. It will keep you on the edge of your seat.

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Parent of a 9, 12, and 15-year-old Written byBOBRANCHERED August 10, 2019

WELL

I didn’t watch this movie, but my 15 year old did. From what she said, this was a very dirty movie but very good. She really loved it and she thinks it is appropriate for 5 and 6 year olds even though it is very dirty. Oh well, ya know teens!
Adult Written byRarityfan October 25, 2018

Give this a watch

I think many has heard of The Exorcist, and not to be confused with the old Video Game. Made the year I was born. Lot of gross out and impressive effects of that time. Also spoofed so much in other shows and movies. For consumerism lot of things like Universal Halloween Horror Nights.

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Adult Written bythe reviewer101 September 7, 2018

one of the most extreme films in cinema

the exorcist. still remains one of the most explicit films in the whole of cinema the violence and setting is beyond belief and a very frightening film the language doesn't hold back it is a very mature movie. NOT FOR KIDS

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Adult Written byThe Zodiac Killer July 30, 2018

I saw + think "The Exorcist" was the best saterical comidy that I have ever seen.

I saw + think "The Exorcist" was the best saterical comidy that I have ever seen.

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