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‘The Exorcist’ Was Released 43 Years Ago Today!

the exorcist anniversary

As I mentioned yesterday, it is not often that horror films are released in December. The month is typically reserved for family-friendly films and Oscar contenders, but every now and then a studio will release a horror film, taking a gamble hoping that counter-programming will work in its favor and make a film a box office success. What happens when a horror film is also a potential Oscar contender? The world found out 43 years ago today, when Warner Bros. Pictures released William Friedkin’s adaptation of William Peter Blatty’s novel The Exorcist in theaters. As many of you already know, The Exorcist is one of the greatest horror films ever made. It would go on to become the second highest grossing horror film of all time (after Jaws) when adjusted for inflation. today we celebrate the masterpiece’s 43rd anniversary.

Blatty’s novel was partially inspired by a real-life exorcism that took place in 1949, though he changed many of the details of the event for his novel. When Warner Bros. approached Blatty about adapting his novel, he insisted that Friedkin direct because he had such respect for him after seeing his The French Connection. While the studio was initially hesitant (they wanted The Cowboys‘s Mark Rydell to direct), Blatty eventually got his way after a brief standoff.

Friedkin took over 200 days to shoot The Exorcist (well over its planned 105-day schedule), but it paid off in spades. Friedkin was known for going to extreme measures to get authentic reactions from his actors, and the extended shooting time only added to the stress behind the scenes. The film actually had a fairly troubled production (much like the following decade’s Poltergeist films), leading many to believe that the set was cursed.

The Exorcist was released on December 26, 1973 and would go on to earn 10 Academy Award nominations, winning for Best Sound and Best Adapted Screenplay. It also has the distinction of being the first horror film to be nominated for Best Picture. Shockingly, it received a mixed reception from critics at the time. Contemporary criticism has been much kinder to the film, though it has a surprisingly low (well, low for a film of The Exorcists‘s caliber) 86% Rotten Tomatoes score. Nevertheless, it has been included on many publications’ “Best Horror Films” lists and is usually in the number one spot.

The film took in a domestic haul of $193 million upon its initial release (it would see two additional released in the new millennium) and spawned two sequels (one very bad, the other quite good), two mediocre prequels and a (very, very good) television series. The footprint it left on the horror genre is enormous, and its cultural significance is undeniable.

So join us today in celebrating The Exorcist on its 43rd anniversary. Did any of you see it in theaters when it was originally released? If not, when did you first see it? Share your memories of the film in the comments below!


12 Comments
  • Creepshow

    I was first exposed to it as a child when it was on network television. My mother fibbed and told me Reagan was having epileptic seizures, rather than telling me she was possessed. She also told me that Reagan was swallowing her tongue (seriously). Well none of those equally horrifying lies helped, because I still slept on the floor in my parents bedroom that night (although it could have been more).
    Good times…Yikes!

    • IfYouSeeKaye

      I read this as if you’re talking about President Reagan

      • Creepshow

        Haha. Oh shit!

  • Bobby Jones

    you’re mother knits socks that smell

    • Hey watch your language Buddy, there could be minors posting on this site! How dare you use such filth flarrin’ filth like that?!?! X-D

      • Bobby Jones

        I swear, Ozzy made me do it

  • Se_7_eN

    What an incredibly well done trailer… Notice, they did not fill the trailer with jump scares or every highlight from the movie, they didn’t even show more than 1 face shot of the ‘scare factor’ (the daughter) itself. That way, everything you see in the movie is fresh, new and scary.

    I really wish more movies would learn from the older trailers.

  • This is my favorite horror movie of all time for many reasons. I saw this movie when I was 10 years old, so it REALLY fucked me up for many years. I literally went to bed every night with the image of Reagan’s possessed face in my head for YEARS. This movie didn’t scared me, this movie SCARRED me.

    The people who don’t think this movie are scary usually say the same things. This is a movie only a Christian could be scared of. Well, I was 10 years old, so I wasn’t exactly a devout Christian. Scary is scary, I could have cared less about the religious implications. When a chick is banging herself bloody with a crucifix, shoving her mom’s face into her bloody snatch, and spinning her head around 360 degrees, that’s just scary. That isn’t RELIGIOUS scary, that’s just plain old scary.

    Well, to each their own. Maybe it is just my generation who could find this scary, I don’t know. I told some relatives and friends to watch it when they were MUCH older than I was when I first saw it, they thought it was FUNNY. All I can say is that when this movie came out, IT FUCKED PEOPLE UP. People weren’t just scared of this movie, it was sending people to SHRINKS and CHURCHES in droves. There were people who were FAINTING in the theaters and running out before they could even finish it. This movie was a cultural phenomenon.

    Love it or hate it, remember this; this is the first horror movie to be nominated for Best Picture by the Academy Awards. This is the first time that horror was taken seriously and recognized by the Oscars with many nominations and wins. You can say what you like, but to me this is the first horror movie to REALLY break through to a mainstream audience as well as with so called ‘serious’ movie critics. Not only is ‘The Exorcist’ my favorite horror movie, dare I say that this was the most important HORROR movie ever made? I do. 🙂

    • Creepshow

      Nothing you said here is false. My older brother (as a kid) slept with a rosary around his neck afterwards (HAHA). He has refused to re-watch The Exorcist, and hasn’t watched possession movies at all since.

      • BTW another good recent possession movie is ‘The Possession of Michael King’. I thought it was pretty badass, one of the better possession movies I have seen.

  • IfYouSeeKaye

    iconic at least

  • Chris Genth

    I was born in 73, saw the movie for the first when I was 10. Back then u could watch stuff like that and the world didn’t think it was child abuse. I’m a huge horror fan and this movie just scares the he’ll out of me. I have the special blue ray of this movie and probably only watched it twice. I believe in God, so if there’s good there’s evil. Jason, freddy, Michael, love my slasher. But when it comes to possession movies they always freak me out

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