The 100 best horror films - the exorcist

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Number 1: The Exorcist

By Derek Adams, Dave Calhoun, Cath Clarke, Sarah Cohen, Nigel Floyd and Tom Huddleston, with the generous support of everyone at FrightFest and Cine-Excess. Explore the individual top tens of every contributor.

| 100-91 | 90-81 | 80-71 | 70-61 | 60-51 | 50-41 | 40-31 | 30-21 | 20-11 |           | No 10 | No 9 | No 8 | No 7 | No 6 | No 5 | No 4 | No 3 | No 2 | No 1 |

1

The Exorcist (1973)

Dir William Friedkin (Ellen Burstyn, Linda Blair, Jason Miller, Max von Sydow)

Forty years of sucking cocks in hell

By the ’70s, horror had divided into two camps: on one hand, there were the ‘real life’ terrors of ‘Psycho’ and ‘Night of the Living Dead’, films that brought horror into the realm of the everyday, making it all the more shocking. On the other, there were the more outrageous dream-horrors popular in Europe, the work of Hammer Studios in the UK and Mario Bava and Dario Argento in Italy, films that prized artistry, oddity and explicit gore over narrative logic. The first film to attempt to bring the two together was ‘Rosemary’s Baby’, but Polanski’s heart clearly belonged to the surreal. The first to achieve that blend with absolute certainty was ‘The Exorcist’ – which perhaps explains its position as the unassailable winner of this poll.

In cutting from the clanging bazaars of Iraq to the quiet streets of Georgetown, in blending dizzying dream sequences with starkly believable human drama, Friedkin created a horror movie like no other – both brutal and beautiful, artful and exploitative, exploring wacked-out religious concepts with the clinical precision of an agnostic scientist. And make no mistake: whatever its creator may say, ‘The Exorcist’ is most definitely a horror film: though it may be filled with rigorously examined ideas and wonderfully observed character moments, its primary concern is with shocking, scaring and, yes, horrifying its audience out of their wits – does mainstream cinema contain a more upsetting image than the crucifix scene? That it still succeeds, almost four decades later, is testament to Friedkin’s remarkable vision. TH

Read our interview with William Friedkin, director of 'The Exorcist'

What the experts said

  • ‘Still the best exorcism movie ever made. It's still hard to believe that a mainstream Hollywood film could get away with depicting the deeply sexual and disturbing possession of a barely pubescent girl in such graphic detail.’

    Bruce LaBruce
  • ‘They captured something shooting this film that just wasn't right.’

    Eduardo Sanchez
  • ‘The Catholic religion has always been a source of inspiration for horror and this is one the finest examples... It’s a fascinating and powerful horror one cannot escape from.’

    Coffin Joe
  • ‘I have fond memories of seeing it on the day of its release, with priests walking the queue handing out flyers with details of ‘after care’ for those disturbed by the film...’

    Billy Chainsaw

Watch a film inspired by 'The Exorcist'

Check out the hilarious Turkish film ‘Seytan’, a low-budget shot-for-shot remake of Friedkin’s masterpiece

| 100-91 | 90-81 | 80-71 | 70-61 | 60-51 | 50-41 | 40-31 | 30-21 | 20-11 |           | No 10 | No 9 | No 8 | No 7 | No 6 | No 5 | No 4 | No 3 | No 2 | No 1 |



Users say

27 comments
phillip
phillip

great list exorcist deserves top place for the scariest movie ever and i will stand by that till the day i die, no opther movie can scare me like that one especially with the faces that popped up randomely

Bury Bob
Bury Bob

Nah man. Overrated by a mile. The Shining, Wicker Man, Halloween are all better horrors by far. The Omen, with a similar religious overtone is a superior movie. Do your poll again, this ones clearly a horror all of it's own.

trigg
trigg

No wicker man?

ashish
ashish

maa chudalo apni

jack s
jack s

No scream? friday the 13th? come on man

Justin
Justin

Okay, I'm not bashing the Exorcist in anyway. The Exorcist is a great film, but there is one film that is no longer a "lost" film that should be recognized as a horror film that is not getting the recognition it deserves. L'Inferno (Dante's Inferno) 1911. I was blown away by the imagery and effects in this film. It's so simple and so effective. I have watched this film three times already and no film in any era can match the sheer awesome magnitude of what this film has achieved. Dante's Inferno is my personal template of how I measure every horror film I watch and it also appears to be the first feature length movie ever made, and any movie that is the first of something deserves big points.

Hal
Hal

I saw the movie in 1973 (I was a college student), and felt the film was somewhat cliche and boring, with no suspense at all, and the fine makeup job on Linda Blair was cute, but not scary. I later saw a TV documentary of the original story: a boy who lived in St. Louis in 1949 and was possessed. This program was much more interesting than the movie adaptation. Definitely not a #1 choice.

BJ
BJ

Really on this entire list, and how lame of a list it was, there is no Friday the 13th? How come exorcist is #1? It was not scary, the acting was suckish, and the script was way off. Was this based off of other horror lists, or was this your own opinion. I will give you credit for one thing and that's that this is the only list so far that I've seen that doesn't have zombieland in the top 100 list. Thank God for that.

MiJoDo
MiJoDo

The mere fact that The Descent is several places above the Wicker Man basically voids this chart. How can we possibly take you seriously?

Rob
Rob

None of my comments will be shown as they drive to the core of Timeout's pointless exercise in this realm of reviewing. You cannot possibly call Del Toro's "Cronos" a horror film. I saw it back in the 90s on VHS...in my tender 20s. And was rather disappointed from start to finish. Even the blurb on the box said it was a horror. There was no acting, script or scene in that film that is even remotely horrific. Artistic yes. And I feel Timeout is rather preoccupied with artistic concerns than what actually constitutes a good horror film...ultimately the ability to SCARE the watcher.

Rob
Rob

The Shining is universally recognised as THE horror film. And what makes it to number one???? Some lame bed shaking animatronic fake vomit voice dubbed standin of a horror movie. Originally banned...but why? I'm not sure if this list is to justify the writer's arty farty ramblings or is actually considered genuine. I could write better than that. And I could do a better job of compiling a horror film list that reflects the desires and appreciations of ACTUAL horror fans.

Ringo
Ringo

The Exorcist?? Just once I would like to find a list that rates these movies based on how SCARY they are....none of this 'Emperors New Clothes' bullshit of putting in all the movies that you're SUPPOSED to love..go withyour gut..what really disturbed YOU.

dev
dev

at first I thought that the exorcist will be sooooooooo horrrorrrrr!!!!!!But I saw that...................i felt sick that how can be the world's horrorest movie sooo comedy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I think that it is the world's ugliest movie.

dale
dale

after so many spoofs about the excorcist young audience are a bit immune to the great horror film it is i saw it 35 yrs ago and there was nothing to compare ...dont start talking about saw 1_25 blood and gore does not make a horror film its tension and dread

NoShame267
NoShame267

Ahem , no Bela Lugosi Dracula - in the words of Ed Wood - Are you people insane ?

memola
memola

How can the exorcist be listed on so many top horror-movie lists? While people may have been scared by i when it came out, for me it's more like a comedy. I mean, all the "scary" things just makes you laugh.

JustRJ
JustRJ

Who in the world listed any of the Evil Dead movies? I saw them for the first time and they are L-A-M-E! Predictable as they come, cheesy makeup, and, well...that pretty much covers them. And what kind of a "sequel" was ED2? It started a whole new story. That is NOT a sequel! L-A-M-E!

Rolph
Rolph

Predictable that the exorcist is number 1. For me the flashing image of the face freaks me out more than Reagan herself. My number 1 would be don't look now or salo.

Ryan Raze
Ryan Raze

Wait a second, no Halloween, no Inside? I am baffled

Keith
Keith

As someone before me said - 'they captured something shooting this film that just wasn't right' - nods head in agreement big time. As for number 1 horror film? God, top 100 or 10 lists are created just so people can disagree, agree and discuss. I hate to make an absolute 100% NUMBER 1 choice..

Joan Alperin
Joan Alperin

I'm very surprised my husband's films 'Faces Of Death' weren't on the list. I've never seen them, but I heard they were pretty horrific

Al
Al

An outstanding list. Informed and tasteful. About time Argento was fully acknowledged as The Master.

Ward
Ward

The perfect number 1, it's simply the best!

Pia
Pia

Just last week I said 'I'm starting to think it is virtually impossible to make a good horror film. Is 'The Exorcist' the only one?' Then I allowed 'The Shining.' There are nervy films, spooky ones, cruel ones. Anyhow, I totally agree with the top two choices. You can't even define the how and why of 'The Exorcist' it is something unto itself. As I saw it in 1973, it's safe to say it'll never leave my mind.

Sean
Sean

No way would I put the exorcist at number one, it's not that scary and not much happens in it, I do like it, but...apart from that totally agree with the top ten, though ones much lower down deserved to be at the top, such as cannibal holocaust, possession, the beyond and the wicker man...city of the living dead and zombie flesheaters should have been here too - only one Fulci film? Argento's Deep Red isn't even a horror film (neither is sixth sense really, overhyped bore I found, despite my interest in ghosts)