The Exorcist is a 1973 American supernatural horror film adapted by William Peter Blatty from his 1971 novel of the same name, directed by William Friedkin, and starring Ellen Burstyn, Linda Blair, Max von Sydow, and Jason Miller. The film is part of The Exorcist franchise. The book, inspired by the 1949 exorcism of Roland Doe, follows the demonic possession of a 12-year-old girl and her mother’s attempts to win her back through an exorcism conducted by two priests. The adaptation is relatively faithful to the book, which itself has been commercially successful (earning a place on The New York Times Best Seller list).
Lankester Merrin, a veteran Catholic priest who performed an exorcism in the 1950s, is on an archaeological dig in the ancient city of Hatra in Iraq. There he finds an amulet that resembles a statue of Pazuzu, a demon of ancient origins with whose history Merrin is familiar.
In Georgetown, actress Chris MacNeil is living on location with her 12-year-old daughter Regan; she is starring in a film about student activism directed by her friend and associate Burke Dennings. After playing with a Ouija board and contacting a supposedly imaginary friend whom she calls Captain Howdy, Regan begins acting strangely, including making mysterious noises, stealing, constantly using obscene language and exhibiting abnormal strength. Chris hosts a party, during which Regan comes downstairs unannounced, tells one of the guests—an astronaut—that he will die in space and then urinates on the floor. Later, Regan’s bed begins to shake violently, adding further to her mother’s horror. Chris consults a number of physicians, but Dr. Klein and his associates find nothing physiologically wrong with her daughter, despite Regan undergoing a battery of diagnostic tests.
One night when Chris is out, Burke Dennings is babysitting a heavily sedated Regan. Chris returns to hear he has died falling out the window. Although this is assumed to have been an accident given Burke’s history of heavy drinking, his death is investigated by Lieutenant William Kinderman. Kinderman interviews Chris. He also consults psychiatrist Father Damien Karras, recently shaken after the death of his frail mother.
The doctors, thinking that Regan’s aberrations are mostly psychiatric in origin, recommend an exorcism be performed. Chris arranges a meeting with Karras. After Regan speaks backwards in different voices and exhibits scars in the form of the words “Help Me” on her stomach, Karras is convinced that Regan is possessed. Believing her soul is in danger, he decides to perform an exorcism. The experienced Merrin is selected for performing the actual exorcism with Karras assisting.