Amongst an oceanwide pile of unforgettable franchises in the long-standing horror genre, very few can invoke as much influence and genuine terror as The Exorcist film series. After kickstarting back in the ‘70s with William Friedkin’s spine-tingling original, the polarizing franchise has gone on to spawn several sequels that have remained in the hearts and minds of horror fanatics. And while some of these movies might have remained with folks for all the wrong reasons, it’s certainly difficult to discount how significant these films truly are.
Decades after Friedkin’s horrific masterpiece, Halloween Ends director David Gordon Green has excitedly teamed up with Blumhouse to craft an updated reboot of the original narrative, with Green’s upcoming film set to serve as a direct sequel to the OG project. Of course, with The Exorcist: Believer officially dropping in October, it’s uncertain where it will end up amongst a list of the other Exorcist sequels.
So, let’s dive in and rank each Exorcist movie currently in the film series.
5. Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977)
Following up on Friedkin’s The Exorcist, it might not come as a huge surprise that the hotly-anticipated sequel failed to match the same authenticity and hype as its controversial predecessor. The only saving grace of the project is that franchise veteran Linda Blair does make her much-anticipated return as Regan MacNeil, but the rest of the movie is completely overshadowed by its lackluster premise and overall absurdity. In fact, the film has since been regarded as one of the worst sequels ever made. But when you put James Earl Jones in a locust suit and expect the best, it’s not hard to see why the worst happened.
4. Exorcist: The Beginning (2004)
Between Beginning and Dominion, it’s honestly a toss-up as to which Exorcist movie simply tried too hard to become a sure-fire hit. That’s not to say that either movie is actually bad, but The Beginning is a far cry from a horror movie that can actually be deemed as good. With its slow-paced existential dread which simply fails to deliver actual terror, a variety of underdeveloped characters, and stale storytelling, it makes sense as to why the film places fourth on this list. The only true saving grace is the performance from Stellan Skarsgård, but even that’s ultimately not enough.
3. Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist (2005)
Despite not even being the best movie in the franchise, Dominion has undoubtedly built a recognizable cult following over the years among Exorcist fanatics. Unlike The Beginning, Dominion does harbor plenty of genuinely entertaining moments — although several sequences within the movie do tend to drag. That being said, Stellan Skarsgård’s knockout performance as Father Merrin once again steals the show and Dominion definitely features a familiar feeling to the OG Exorcist which keeps viewers plugged in.
2. The Exorcist III (1990)
If you’re looking for an Exorcist movie that closely holds a candle to the original’s brilliance, then horror fanatics should look no further than The Exorcist III — and for very good reason. One of the biggest reasons for the OG masterpiece’s undeniable success was due to the inclusion of fan-favorite character Father Karras, who proved to be instrumental in saving Regan from the devilish clutches of Pazuzu. In the ever-popular third film, Karras makes his long-awaited return and extends the story’s overall narrative. With a brilliant jump scare and improved storytelling, it’s easy to see why the third movie is so beloved.
1. The Exorcist (1973)
Was there ever any actual doubt? The Exorcist III is a brilliant piece of cinema, but there’s absolutely no denying that The Exorcist reigns supreme as the best movie in the franchise. Widely regarded as the scariest horror movie of all time, Friedkin’s original delved into the warped, twisted nature of performing exorcisms and encountering demonic entities far more powerful than us. Matched with the incomparable performances of Linda Blair and Ellen Burstyn, the mind-melting horror provided a truly horrifying experience that has remained with fans all these years later.