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10 Best Exorcism Movies Of All Time

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When done right, exorcism films combine the psychological chills of the unseen and unexplained with the visceral delights of jump scares and genuinely gross and grotesque imagery. The trouble is that they’re often not done right or rely too much on worn-out tropes which make them feel predictable and samey. Plus, the good ones often result in bad sequels—The Exorcist II: The Heretic, anyone?

But the genre caught on for a reason, and films like The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby set a standard for satanic horror that stands to this day. The horror genre is undeniably cluttered with cheap thrills and unimaginative cash grabs, but these movies help to remind fans of why they find horror so compelling in the first place.

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Updated on June 20th, 2022 by Tanner Fox: Many hardcore horror hounds will make the claim that exorcism films are played out; while influential adaptations like The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby set a high standard for scares in the 1960s and 1970s, the industry has since moved on.

While it is true that many films featuring exorcisms are unbearably clichéd, that doesn’t mean the industry needs to abandon the premise completely. From interesting new takes on the subject matter from Robert Eggers to new twists on old classics from up-and-comer Alejandro Hidalgo, it may not yet be time to excise exorcisms from horror storytelling.


Honorable Mentions

The Devil Inside (2012)


Suzan Crowley as Maria in The Devil Inside

• Available on fuboTV

The 2007 found-footage film Paranormal Activity cast a long shadow, inspiring dozens upon dozens of copycats that tried to replicate its terrifyingly-authentic approach. Few succeeded, and many would lump The Devil Inside with the rest of the lame attempts to elicit fear from that era of horror filmmaking, far removed from the gest exorcism movies of all time.

RELATED: 10 Things Fans Never Knew About The Exorcist III

Yet, as outlandish and silly as it is in places, it’s strangely enjoyable. There’s a noteworthy exorcism scene midway through the film that comes across as genuinely eerie, and the film may have been more well-received were it not for its horrifically abrupt ending.


The Possession (2012)


Natasha Calis as Emily in The Possession

• Available to rent or purchase on Amazon Prime Video

2012’s The Possession relies quite a bit on standard genre fare, though it includes a few experimental elements that allow it to stand apart from the deluge of similar films. Its most memorable deviation from the norm stems from a focus on Judaism and Jewish mythology, something not often seen in a genre almost obsessed with Christian ideology.

The young girl finds a dybbuk box on eBay, and the box is said to be a wine cabinet haunted by an evil spirit called a dybbuk. In the movie, when the girl opens it, all kinds of horrors befall her and her family, not the least of which being that she seems to be possessed by the spirit. Medical tests show disturbing images of the dybbuk inside her, and the film’s climax is a Hasidic Jewish take on the exorcism ritual which is a nice change of pace for the genre. Plus, there’s a solid cast featuring Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedgwick as the girl’s parents, not to mention Sam Raimi producing.


The Exorcism Of God (2021)


A still from the 2021 film The Exorcism of God.

• Available to rent or purchase on Amazon Prime Video

A priest commits an unforgivable sin while possessed in the aftermath of an exorcism and spends the next eighteen years living in a remote Mexican village. However, he cannot hide from his past forever, and he’s eventually made to reap the terrible seeds he has sown.

The Exorcism of God may sound outrageous enough to be hyperbole, but it represents an earnest attempt to break new ground in a very played-out genre. A mix of newer films like The Nun and classics like The Exorcist, this is definitely one of the best exorcism movies to debut in quite some time.


Keeper of Darkness (2015)


Nick Cheung in Keeper of Darkness

Directed by and starring Hong Kong-born award-winning actor Nick Cheung, Keeper of Darkness spent its first two weeks at the number one spot at Hong Kong’s box office and was nominated for six Hong Kong film awards. Cheung gives fans another new take on the exorcism tale, one mostly devoid of religion.

RELATED: 10 Best Asian Horror Movies On Shudder

Cheung’s character, Fatt, is just a civilian who happens to be able to talk to spirits, and he exorcises them simply by having a good chat, convincing them to leave people alone. As one might imagine, this works fairly easily when he’s dealing with more benevolent spirits, but he eventually comes across a father-daughter ghost team that’s not so easily convinced, and that’s when things get good. It’s a movie with some slick, spooky effects for good scares, but there’s also a healthy dose of humor to balance things out.

The Last Exorcism (2010)


The Last Exorcism

• Available on Peacock

With a modest $1.8-million budget, 2010’s The Last Exorcism is one of those little horror movies that could, raking in $67.7 million domestically. Unlike a film like The Devil Inside, which was an even bigger box office success, this one made good money because it was actually good.

The documentary-style film follows an affable but faithless exorcist named Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian) who’s called to a farmhouse to perform an exorcism on the farmer’s daughter, Nell (Ashley Bell). A bit of a hustler, Marcus is used to performing fake exorcisms just to appease his clientele, but he’s in for a surprise. The film’s intensity ramps up gradually as the spirit controlling Nell gains more and more control over her body. Bell, in her first major film role, displays leering evil and a wonderfully disturbing ability to contort her body. Then there’s the wild, unexpected ending.

The Best Exorcism Movies Of All Time

The Rite (2011)


• Available on Netflix

Like The Devil Inside, The Rite (2011) is not a particularly great movie, but it still has some solidly creepy moments for fans of possession and exorcism movies. Plus, it stars Sir Anthony Hopkins as Father Lucas, and he’s always a blast to watch. He displays a calm kind of wisdom as a time-hardened exorcist that lays a solid foundation for the film.

Inspired by a true story—a familiar tagline for many films of this nature—the plot follows Michael (Colin O’Donoghue), a reluctant priest who is pushed into training to become an exorcist. Like The Devil Inside, it’s a movie with more than one exorcism on more than one possessed person, and there is a bit of a twist buried in that shouldn’t be spoiled, but it certainly gives Hopkins more room to shine.


The Witch (2015)


A still from the 2015 horror film The Witch.

• Available on Showtime

The Witch, sometimes stylized as The VVitch, is the 2015 directorial debut of horror legend Robert Eggers. A tale that places a particular emphasis on historical accuracy, it’s a bleak and rugged story of seventeenth-century English colonizers enduring the horrors of witchcraft.

RELATED: 10 Horror Movies Based On American Folklore

Lifting language directly from old accounts of the era, it’s a bit of a dry watch, particularly in the beginning, but it features a haunting ending and a sort of Blair Witch approach that’ll have viewers wondering what could be hiding just beyond the boundaries of the frame.

Constantine (2005)


Keanu Reeves in Constantine

• Available on HBO Max and Peacock

Loosely based on the DC comic book series Hellblazer, the 2005 film Constantine stars Keanu Reeves as John Constantine, a cynical sort who also happens to be able to see angels and demons on Earth and has the power to exorcise evil demons. He also knows he’s doomed to spend eternity in Hell thanks to a near-death experience he had as a teenager. It’s not a particularly easy life for poor John.

It’s a different kind of exorcism movie, though; rather than possessing humans—though that does happen—most demons and angels are seen in their true forms. Plus, it’s more of an action movie than a real horror story. Still, it’s a unique take on the exorcism subgenre, and there are some intriguing performances from Reeves and Tilda Swinton, who plays an androgynous angel named Gabriel. The big-budget film bombed in the U.S. but more than made back its budget thanks to the worldwide box office, and it ultimately led to the NBC TV series of the same name.

Deliver Us From Evil (2014)


A still from an exorcism scene in Deliver Us From Evil.

• Available to rent or purchase on Amazon Prime Video

Another film purported to be based on a true story, Deliver Us From Evil has a solid pedigree thanks to director Scott Derrickson. He also helmed the solid horror flick Sinister, and he previously contributed to exorcism movie lore with The Exorcism of Emily Rose, though he’s now best known for his work on the Marvel franchise Doctor Strange.

This film differs from a lot of other exorcism movies in that it largely takes the form of a cop drama with decidedly creepy elements. A cop named Ralph Sarchie (Eric Bana) investigates strange events, but things get stranger as he meets a young, shaggy-haired priest/exorcist named Mendoza (Edgar Ramirez). Overall, fans get some solid jump scares, an intense family drama, atmospheric creepiness, and the requisite preternatural intensity of possession.


The Priests (2015)


Kang Dong-won and Kim Yoon-seok in The Priests

The 2015 horror outing The Priests returns to standard Christian exorcism fare, but, a South Korean film, it feels like a decidedly fresh take on the genre. It features a neat camaraderie between a Catholic priest exorcist and a traditional Korean shaman exorcist, and the Korean importance of dates and years also plays a role.

RELATED: The 15 Best Asian Horror Movies

As is often the case, the possessed in this movie is a young girl, but, in this film, she’s initially in a coma as a result of an accident. Yet, through the first two-thirds of the flick, viewers get a lot of fascinating research and preparation from the older priest/exorcist and his younger, more skeptical assistant that has almost nothing to do with the possessed girl. Nevertheless, there’s plenty of creepiness and jarring possession scenes to keep exorcism fans more than entertained in this solid first feature from writer/director Jang Jae-Hyun.

The Exorcist III: Legion (1990)


George C Scott in The Exorcist 3

• Available on Pluto TV, Tubi, Crackle, Vudu, Amazon Prime Video, fubo TV, and Peacock

The Exorcist was followed by The Exorcist II: The Heretic, which saw the return of Linda Blair as Regan and Max von Sydow as Father Merrin four years after the original—but it was a truly horrible mess of a film by just about every measure. Fortunately, the franchise returned 16 years later with The Exorcist 3 which featured only one actor from the original cast, but it more than had the blessing of the original writer of the novel, William Peter Blatty. It was based on a story by Blatty, who also wrote the screenplay and directed the film.

It’s by no means a perfect film, and it’s not nearly on par with the original, but it still serves as a quality horror movie with some really solid scares. The plot is a little on the complicated side, but, essentially, the demon that was exorcised from Regan’s body in the ’70s was so angry at Father Karras (Jason Miller) that it put the soul of a serial killer in his body, and that soul was used to commit murders by jumping into other people at night.

The Conjuring (2013)


Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga in The Conjuring

• Available on Netflix and HBO Max

Australian director James Wan had laid claim to the horror genre in the mid-2000s with the gore-soaked Saw, but his later effort, 2013’s The Conjuring, may have eclipsed his original outing in terms of popularity. Featuring a hapless family tormented by the spirit of a witch, The Conjuring tells an aggrandized tale of real-world paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren.

While Saw was a cerebral effort that sought to defy audience expectations, The Conjuring did everything by the books, but it made an exemplary effort of it, providing a thrilling, petrifying horror experience that proved just how great exorcism films can be when they get the fundamentals right.

Rosemary’s Baby (1968)


Rosemary is in shock after seeing her new baby

• Available on Paramount+

Based on the 1967 novel of the same name, Rosemary’s Baby, along with The Exorcist, helped to establish many of the tropes commonly encountered in media involving demonic possession. Involving a secretive covenant and a plot to birth the son of Satan, it laid the groundwork for everything from The Conjuring to American Horror Story.


Unlike The Exorcist, however, Rosemary’s Baby is much more of a psychological thriller, continually teasing the viewer and holding its greatest reveals for the end. It may not be as out-and-out scary as other films in the genre, but there’s a reason for its sterling reputation.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)


Jennifer Carpenter in The Exorcism of Emily Rose

• Available on HBO Max and Tubi

Near the beginning of the film, it is made clear that the titular Emily Rose (Jennifer Carpenter) dies following exorcisms performed by a Catholic priest named Father Moore (Colin Wilkinson), and the film jumps back and forth between Moore’s trial for negligent homicide and the events that took place at the Rose family’s farm that led to her death. Those events are downright horrifying; Emily suffers from terrifying visions, eats bugs, contorts herself, and is pinned to her bed and choked by an invisible hand.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose was marketed as being an adaptation of a true story, and, incidentally, two other films have been made based on the real-life events that led to the death of German teenager Anneliese Michel in 1976. Due to her strange behavior, the Catholic church granted the rare approval to perform an exorcism on the girl. However, it wasn’t just one exorcism; it was 67, performed over the course of almost a year. Eventually, she was so malnourished and dehydrated that she died, resulting in her parents and two priests being charged with negligent homicide.

The Exorcist (1973)


• Available on Netflix

The 1973 adaptation of William Peter Blatty’s novel The Exorcist is simply the best, and it laid the groundwork for all exorcism movies that followed. In many cases, other exorcism movies are merely faded copies of the pure dramatic horror and grotesque visuals of the original. It ranks at the top of many lists of the best horror movies of all time.

It, too, is based on a true story and was infamously plagued by strange happenings to cast and crew on and off the set. But, it’s what we see on-screen that makes it the best, most terrifying exorcism movie of all time. It’s the psychological nightmare of a mother who doesn’t know what to do about her daughter’s strange behavior and the terrifying things that happen to her. Most famously, it’s the blaspheming, head-spinning, upside-down-walking, projectile-vomiting performance of Linda Blair as Regan—along with the special effects that made her possession appear so nightmarishly realistic—that make this classic so damn good.


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