Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

The Exorcist (1973)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

The Exorcist (1973)

In William Friedkin's blockbuster horror film about demonic possession, there were many scary scenes of a possessed twelve year-old's monstrous appearance with a vicious demon inside of her; the film's intense special effects and violent horrors of devil possession were visibly presented; the horror film masterpiece, the first major horror blockbuster, was one of the most opposed and talked-about films, especially during its pre-release time period:

  • in the film's opening at ancient temple ruins in Northern Iraq, Father Lankester Merrin (Max von Sydow), an elderly (with heart issues), scholarly Jesuit Catholic priest and archaeologist, unearthed a small, greenish, gargoyle-like stone amulet or statuette [in the figure of the Mesopotamian demon Pazuzu, known for its serpent-like phallus] - a symbol of pure pagan evil; shortly later, he visited ancient temple ruins and looked up at a full-sized stone statue of the demon Pazuzu, as the camera zoomed in on the face of the open-mouthed, fearsome creature

Small Pazuzu Amulet or Statuette Found in Archaeologist's Dig

Disturbed Father Merrin (Max von Sydow)

Full-Sized Demonic Pazuzu Creature
  • at Halloween-time in the Washington DC suburb of Georgetown, divorced mother Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn) lived in a two-story brick house with her sweet, pre-teenaged, 12 year-old daughter Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair); there were preliminary signs that the house was beginning to become infested or possessed by an evil, malevolent spirit; there were unsettling sounds from the attic similar to the dirt-digging sounds of the prologue; Chris was an actress working with British director Burke Dennings (Jack MacGowran) on a film set; she was expressing torment about her recent well-publicized breakup with her husband

Father Damien Karras (Jason Miller) - Doubting Jesuit Priest

Karras' Elderly Sick Mother (Vasiliki Maliaros) Before Her Death
  • another secondary character was introduced - troubled priest Father Damien Karras (Jason Miller) who was overheard by Chris as she walked home; Karras was expressing doubts about his profession and faith: "There's not a day in my life that I don't feel like a fraud"; he often visited his dying, white-haired, sick mother, Mother Karras (Vasiliki Maliaros) who lived alone in a tenement building in a derelict section of NYC; shortly later in a local bar, he told his superior priest: "I need out. I'm unfit. I think I've lost my faith"
  • one of the more objectionable and blasphemous scenes was the sight on the Georgetown University campus of a white marble statue of the Virgin Mary, discovered by one of the Jesuit priests in the chapel; it had been desecrated with red paint and other materials, and taken on the appearance of a harlot. The defiled statue had long, conical red-tipped breasts, red color on both hands, and an elongated, erect yet sagging penis-shaped clay protuberance also daubed in red
  • during a physical exam to treat a string of Regan's recent symptoms, including hyperactivity, a bad temper, and the telling of lies (she claimed her bed shook at night), she let loose a string of obscenities and swear words; Dr. Klein (Barton Heyman) diagnosed Regan as having a "disorder of the nerves...often seen in adolescence," and she was prescribed the stimulant Ritalin to counteract her symptoms; the doctor speculated her problems might stem from her father's recent separation; during Regan's exam, she had her first vision of a demonic creature
  • psychiatrist-priest Father Karras was summoned to Bellevue psychiatric hospital where his mother, now distressed, haggard and hearing voices; Karras was made to feel guilty by his Uncle because of his career choice of God and the priesthood, rather than entering lucrative private practice as a psychiatrist that left his mother destitute; she blamed her son for her 'imprisonment': "Dimmy, why would you do this to me, Dimmy?"; Karras raged against all the demons and turmoils in his crumbling life, and a few nights later, she passed away
  • during a big dinner party at the MacNeil house hosted by Chris, Regan seemed happy and was put to bed, but shortly later, she interrupted a song-fest at the piano by appearing downstairs in her nightgown, when she inappropriately told an Astronaut (Dick Callinan) guest: "You're gonna die up there"; trance-like, she urinated on the carpet-covered floor in front of everyone; it was very embarrassing and confusing for Chris; was she truly possessed by a malevolent evil spirit?; during a hot spong bath, Chris asked Regan: "What made you say that Regan?" but there was no response; when Regan was put to bed, she asked: "Mother? What's wrong with me?"; Chris responded briefly with the doctor's diagnosis of a nervous disorder
  • later that night, Chris heard screaming and crashing noises generated from Regan's room with the door closed; she rushed there, where she saw Regan holding on desperately to on her shaking, convulsing and thumping bed ("Mother help me!")
  • meanwhile, Father Karras was wracked with guilt over not being present when his mother died, and he began to skeptically doubt his decision to pursue a career as a priest; that night as he slept, his dreams were filled with a montage of surrealistic images involving his deceased mother emerging and then disappearing back into a NYC subway station, including the appearance of a ghoulish, ghostly-white demonic face
The Hospital Medical Examination Sequence - Arteriogram
  • Chris was forced to return Regan to Dr. Klein for more tests, as she protested with more curse words and screaming, and a new diagnosis concluded that Regan had a brain tumor; one of the most controversial scenes was the long intercut sequence of invasive medical testing performed on the hapless patient - criticized as medical pornography; during a terrifying visit to a hospital, Regan was subjected to a controversial, loud and lengthy excruciatingly-torturous, "deflowering" medical examination sequence (and blood-letting) known as an arteriogram (or angiogram) - with markedly sexual overtones; to Dr. Tanney's (Robert Symonds) surprise after viewing a series of skull X-rays, he declared: "There's just nothing there. No vascular displacement at all"
  • once Regan was returned home, her hysterical, despairing screams were heard and "things have gotten worse...they've gotten violent"; doctors were summoned to her room, where they witnessed Regan's upper torso violently being whipped and thrown back and forth on the bed, as she cried out: "Mother make it stop!"; her uncontrollable seizures were accompanied by low gutteral growls, almost animalistic, and her throat below her chin bubbled out; she back-handedly slapped Dr. Klein across the face and knocked him onto the floor, as her physically-repulsive voice warned: "Keep away! The sow is mine!"; from the camera's POV behind her, she pulled up the front of her nightgown, pantomimed rubbing herself, and in a deep, strange voice, beckoned: "F--k me! F--k me!"; to calm her down, she was given a strong sedative injection by Dr. Klein

Rolled-Back Eyes

Bubbled Up Throat

"Keep away! The sow is mine!"

Pulling Up Nightgown
  • another spinal test was recommended - a pneumoencephalogram - a high-tech, painful test and diagnostic procedure involving an X-ray of the brain made by replacing spinal fluid with a gas (often oxygen); again, the diagnosis was that nothing was wrong with her brain
  • after Chris returned home (with the lights strangely flickering), she found Regan asleep in her freezing cold and dark upstairs bedroom - her breath was visible in the air; she also received bad news - after Burke had come to visit Regan, his body was found at the bottom of a long and very steep flight of stairs (just outside Regan's bedroom window) - he died of a broken neck
  • [Note: in the extended version of the film, The Exorcist: The Version You've Never Seen (2000), in addition to other minor additions and changes, at this point in the plot, Regan swiftly and quietly descendson all fours down the stairs, upside-down with blood dripping from her mouth, to everyone's horror.]
  • for further assessment, Regan met with a psychiatrist (Arthur Storch) in her home; she sat in her bedroom's chair and was asked questions about her invisible friend inside of her named Captain Howdy; the session ended abruptly when Regan fiercely growled and reached out to grab the psychiatrist's crotch-area and painfully squeezed him
  • wily homicide Detective Lt. Kinderman (Lee J. Cobb) questioned knowledgeable Father Karras about the subject of witchcraft, divulging that Burke Dennings was found dead "with his head turned completely around - facing backwards" - judged as "a witchcraft kind of murder"; he also mentioned the defilement of the Virgin Mary statue; he asked if the priest might be able to identify any of those he counseled who would be capable of committing the murder
  • at a clinic, Regan was strapped down with symptoms and ailments similar to a form of possession; it was suggested to her distressed mother Chris by the Barringer Clinic's Director Dr. Barringer (Peter Masterson) that a religious exorcism might cure and rid Regan of her possession
  • at the same time, Lt. Kinderman was poking around the location of Dennings' death at the foot of the stairs outside Regan's window, where he found a pig-faced stone statuette - resembling the Pazuzu amulet found in Iraq in the film's first sequence; shortly later, he spoke to Chris about finding ominous signs in his investigation that Regan was a prime suspect in Burke Dennings' death - the bedridden Regan was the only one in the house with Burke just before his death; he also noticed that small sculpted clay animals in the MacNeil house - made by Regan - matched the one he had just found at the base of the stone stairway
The Notorious Crucifix-Stabbing Scene
  • Chris heard disturbing crashing sounds from her daughter's room; as she entered, objects were being hurled at the bedroom's closed window; she watched as her daughter performed sacrilegious self-abuse under her blood-splattered nightgown, symbolically simulating the loss of virginity for the young teenager as she stabbed her crotch with a bloody crucifix; the camera registered the horror on the face of Regan's mother Chris, as Regan c bellowed obscenities in the Devil's voice: "Let Jesus f--k you, let Jesus f--k you! Let him f--k you!"; there was a violent struggle to get the cross out of Regan's super-strong arm and her mother tussled with her for control of the offending object; Regan held her mother's head down into her crotch and repeated: "Lick me!" - covering her mother's face in blood
  • Regan then punched her mother with a violent left-handed blow, sending her backwards across the bedroom floor, and then barred the door by telekinetically moving a chair against it, and then menacingly moved a heavy wooden bureau toward her mother sprawled on the floor; as a bloody-faced Regan sat on her bed, she spun her head backwards 180 degrees, threatening in a deep malevolent voice as she imitated the British accent of a dead family friend Burke Dennings, to taunt Chris about his murder: "Do you know what she did? Your c--ting daughter?"
  • Regan's separated, film-star mother called on a dedicated, faith-questioning Jesuit priest Father Damien Karras, recommended by her friend Father Dyer (William O'Malley), to exorcise the malevolent devil from her daughter's body; during Chris' long stroll with Father Karras, he didn't agree to an exorcism, but reluctantly agreed to see and counsel her daughter "as a psychiatrist," believing that Regan's horrible descent into hell was a psychiatric illness; however, Chris was at wit's end about psychiatrists and became exasperated: "She needs a priest. She's already seen every f--king psychiatrist in the world and they sent me to you. Now you're gonna send me back to them?"
  • Father Karras was brought to Regan's bedroom where awful sounds still emanated from her bedroom as they climbed the stairs; when Karras entered, the girl was strapped to a padded four-poster bed. Her face was cut, her hair matted, her eyes wild-looking, and she had a plastic tube taped to one nostril. The grotesque girl spoke with a disgusting, low-pitched growl coming straight from hell "I'm the Devil!"; she claimed where Regan was: "In here, with us" and then taunted him: "Your mother's in here with us Karras, would you like to leave a message? I'll see that she gets it"
  • as he approached closer, in the grossest scene of the film, Regan lurched forward on the bed and spewed bilious, pea-green soup vomit from her mouth in a single projectile stream directly into his face; the thick green slime stuck to his face and clothing; bits of vomit and bile acid also dribbled down onto Regan's nightgown
Father Karras' First View of Regan - Followed by Vomit-Spewing
  • after visiting with Regan, Father Karras Karras went about various tests to determine whether Regan's case of demon possession was authentic; he was impressed by her telekinetic power to open a drawer, and her ability to speak Latin and French phrases; he sprinkled plain tap water on Regan, although she thought it was blessed 'holy water', and it caused her to squirm in pain - and later Karras concluded: "That doesn't help support a case of possession"; he made audio-taped recordings of her voices and took them to a sound expert - who after playing them declared that it was English in reverse; house assistant Sharon secretly showed him raised welts that were developing on Regan's abdomen in her freezing-cold room, reading: "help me" - he surmised that she was pleading for relief
  • after Karras received church approval from a Cardinal, the elderly priest Father Merrin - whose archaeology project had released the Satanic being - was ironically chosen and summoned to the MacNeil's Georgetown house to be the skilled exorcist, while Father Karras would function as his assistant; Merrin's arrival was classically-filmed - his silhouetted image appeared on a dark and foggy night under a lamp-post
  • in the dramatic finale, the two priests entered Regan's ice-cold bedroom, prepared to do spiritual battle at her bedside, to risk their lives (especially Merrin with his heart condition) and administer rites of exorcism with incantations and holy water; garbed in priestly outfits, they also brought weapons of the spirit for exorcism - holy water, holy texts, and a crucifix; the devil's voice emanated from the demonic, staring, fixed-eyes visage of Regan. It cursed at Father Merrin as he recited holy scripture, with the foulest epithet in the film: "Stick your c--k up her ass, you mother-f--king worthless c--ks--ker." Merrin splashed her body with holy water and yelled back: "Be silent!"

Foul String of Obscenities Directed Toward Merrin

Rite of Exorcism Attempt

Puking in Merrin's Face and Attempting to Intimidate Him
  • Regan screamed and squirmed away, twisting in pain as if burned by the sanctified water. Regan puked in Father Merrin's face as he read the Rite of Exorcism, and shouted insults at Father Karras: ("Your mother sucks c--ks in hell, Karras"), followed by more threatening gestures as the demon was cast out, including a darting purple tongue, the levitation and rocking of the bed, the opening and closing of cabinet doors, the cracking walls and ceiling, and Regan's 360-degree spinning head as she sat up; she accused Karras of murder ("You killed your mother. You left her alone to die") before her milky-white eyes rolled demonically backwards, and she levitated off the bed; after coming back down through chants of "The power of Christ compels you," Karras tied Regan's hands, but then was struck from behind
  • throughout the film - and especially during the exorcism, Regan's demonic tortured and vulgar voice (supplied by veteran character actress Mercedes McCambridge) screamed foul obscenities and diabolical sounds that emanated from her mouth - growling dogs, squealing pigs, rasping groans, and foul language
  • the forces of the demon were unleashed - symbolized by back-lit demonic Pazuzu statue that appeared behind her; during a brief rest period, Merrin summarized the reason for Regan's torment: "I think the point is to make us despair, to see ourselves as animal and ugly, to reject the possibillity that God could love us"
  • Karras alone reentered the bedroom where Regan had transformed herself into a vision of his mother seated upright on the bed and wearing a white nightgown, condemning him and taunting him with his mother's voice: "Dimmy, why did you do this to me?"; although tormented, he responded with a loud scream: "You're not my mother!"; Merrin, who had returned to the bedroom, perished shortly later - the ordeal was too much for his weak heart
  • in a supremely self-sacrificial act during the cathartic finale, Father Karras taunted the demon inside Regan, provoking and welcoming the demon to leave Regan's body and come into his own so that he could destroy the Evil: ("Take me. Come into me. God damn you. Take me. Take me"); with his eyes turned green, he battled the demon's attempt to get him to kill Regan; however, his will succeeded - he suffered his own demise when he threw himself through Regan's bedroom window to his death in the street below; he gave his own life to save Regan's spirit and life, with the promise of being reborn; Regan was left cowering on the floor, crying but now restored to her own self
Demonic Possession Transferred: "Take me. Come into me. God damn you. Take me. Take me"
  • from the bedroom window, Lt. Kinderman viewed Karras' bloodied body at the foot of the steep staircase steps Father Dyer broke through and grabbed Karras' dying hand, beseeching him to confess, absolve him of his sins and receive his last rites: "Do you want to make a confession? Are you sorry for having offended God and for all the sins of your past life?"; signaling his assent, Karras unclenched and gripped Dyer's hand
  • as the film concluded, the MacNeil's were packing up the house to vacate; Chris told Father Dyer about Regan's state of mind and health after her ordeal: "She doesn't remember any of it"; as Chris drove off, she stopped momentarily to hand Father Dyer Karras' St. Joseph medal for safe-keeping; he solemnly paused at the top of the stairs, just below the boarded-up window of Regan's bedroom

Regan Restored to Herself

Karras' St. Joseph's Medal in Father Dyer's Palm

Actress and Single Mother Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn)

British Director Burke Dennings (Jack MacGowran)

Happy 12 Year-Old Daughter Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair)

Desecrated Virgin Mary Statue in University Chapel

Regan's First Vision of a Demonic Creature During Doctor's Exam

Regan's Appearance in Living Room During Party and Her Warning to Astronaut: "You're gonna die up there"

Regan's Public Urination on the Rug at Her Mother's Party

Regan's Bed Shaking Ferociously: "Mother, help me!!"

Image of Demonic Face in Father Karras' Dream

Extended Version Addition of Regan's Stairway Spider-Walk

Regan Asked Questions by a Psychiatrist Just before Attacking Him

Lt. Kinderman (Lee J. Cobb) - Investigating Dennings' Death and Regan's Complicity

Regan Strapped Down at the Barringer Clinic - An Exorcism Was Suggested

Pazuza-Like Amulet Found by Lt. Kinderman At Foot of Stairs Where Burke Dennings Died

Head Rotation 180 degrees - While Spewing Obscenities: "Do you know what she did?..."

Raised Welts on Regan's Abdomen: "help me"

The Arrival of Father Merrin

Father Merrin Before Exorcism

The Casting Out of the Demon by Father Merrin

360 Degree Spinning Head

Demonic Eye-Rolling

Levitation Off the Bed

The Release of Pazuzu In Regan

Regan Transformed Into Father Karras' Dead Mother

With Father Merrin Dead on the Floor, Father Karras Pummels the Demon in Regan

Karras Hurled to His Death Down the Steep Staircase to the Street Below


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