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Top 20 Demonic Possession and Exorcism Horror Movies


Ever since The Exorcist stunned viewers in the early '70s, movies about demonic possession have fascinated viewers worldwide. Here are my picks for the best of the bunch. For the sake of this list, I'm sticking to possession by demons and not by human spirits (e.g., Child's Play or Shocker) -- as much as one can be discerned from the other.

20. Constantine (2005)

Keanu Reeves attends a photocall to promote 'Constantine.'
Franco Origlia/Stringer/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

This visually striking comic book adaptation stars Keanu Reeves as a man with otherworldly abilities who exorcises demons in an effort to win admission into Heaven.

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19. The Rite (2011)

'The Rite' movie poster.
© New Line

A serious-minded, more reality-based exorcism movie than most, this tale of a young priest who's lost his faith being introduced to the world of demonic possession by a veteran exorcist (the always great Anthony Hopkins) is refreshingly restrained and cerebral in its approach.

18. The 8th Plague (2006)

The 8th Plague
© Celebrity Video Distribution

This low-budget splatter flick plays like an homage to The Evil Dead, as a group of people searching for a missing woman become possessed by a locust demon via a mystical symbol scrawled on the walls of an abandoned prison. And like Evil Dead, The 8th Plague overcomes a lack of resources with kinetic direction, a dark edge and buckets of blood.

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17. Exorcist: The Beginning (2004) / Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist (2005)

Exorcist: The Beginning
© Warner Bros.

These are alternate versions of the same story, the third sequel(s) to The Exorcist in which Father Merrin first encounters the demon Pazuzu in post-World War II Africa. Dominion, directed by Paul Schrader (Cat People), is the more cerebral of the two but wasn't considered commercial enough, so the studio handed the reins over to Renny Harlin (Deep Blue Sea), who returned with The Beginning. Despite negative reviews, each has its own appeal and probably would've received more credit had they been standalone films rather than being made in the shadow of The Exorcist.

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16. The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)

The Exorcism of Emily Rose
© Screen Gems

Based on the true story of Anneliese Michel, a German girl who died during the course of an exorcism, this film smartly combines the seemingly incongruous genres of demonic possession horror and courtroom drama, as a priest goes on trial for causing a possessed girl's death.

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15. Burnt Offerings (1976)

Burnt Offerings

When a family agrees to house sit for a summer, they don't realize that the house has a life of its own: a dark force takes over the mother (Karen Black) and torments the father (Oliver Reed). Whether it's a demon or a ghost is never quite clear, but it certainly is evil with a capital "EEEEEE!!!!"

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14. Prince of Darkness (1987)

Prince of Darkness DVD
© Universal

One of John Carpenter's more overlooked efforts, this tale of academic researchers investigating (and subsequently becoming possessed by) a "liquid evil" oozes creepy atmosphere...amongst other things.

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13. Fallen (1998)

© Warner Bros.

An enjoyable cat-and-mouse game -- with a killer twist ending -- plays out between a homicide detective (Denzel Washington) and a demon named Azazel who commits a series of murders while jumping from body to body.

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12. The Convent (2000)

The Convent
© Trimark

One of the more undeservedly underrated horror movies of the 21st century, The Convent is essentially a rip-off of Night of the Demons -- with teens becoming possessed by demons in a haunted convent instead of a haunted mortuary -- but it brings the sort of wit, energy and gory effects that made Demons such a cult hit. Plus, demonic nuns just look cool.

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11. The Exorcist III (1990)

Exorcist III
© Warner Bros.

After the disastrous Exorcist II, original Exorcist author William Peter Blatty came on board to both write AND direct this entry, setting the series back on course with dazzling visual panache, even if the film wasn't a commercial hit. However, it's earned a following over the years, and it can be argued that it's even scarier than the original Exorcist (at least, Blatty has said so). Although the plot involves a dead serial killer possessing people to continue his violent spree, he gets a helping hand from the demon Pazuzu, so I'll go ahead and add it to this list. Note: If the striking visuals aren’t surreal enough, consider the list of cameos who appear in the film, including Larry King, Patrick Ewing, Fabio and C. Everett Coop.

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