The best exorcist films (that aren’t The Exorcist)

What an excellent day for an exorcism.

It’s typical - you wait ages for a Russell Crowe-starring exorcism movie, and two come along at practically the same time.

The Exorcism, Crowe’s second film about demonic possession in as many years (the first being 2023’s The Pope’s Exorcist), is out now, and it’s got us thinking about all the other head-spinning horror movies that have spider-walked their way into cinemas over the years.

Of course, no discussion of demon-wrangling priests would be complete without mentioning the grandaddy of them all - William Friedkin’s 1973 classic The Exorcist. Widely regarded as one of the greatest horror films of all time, and rightfully so, it’s hard to find a movie that manages to do something new and interesting and emerge from The Exorcist’s mighty shadow. But there are a few that rise above the pack. 

So grab your holy water and your best crucifix and delve into our list of the best non-Exorcist exorcist films. The power of Christ compels you… to read on.

The Conjuring (2013)

Credit: The Conjuring - Official Main Trailer (Warner Bros. Pictures, YouTube)

Regarded by many as something of a modern horror classic, this haunted house thriller birthed a whole cinematic universe, including two sequels and various spin-offs featuring demonic dolls and nefarious nuns. It also helped popularise the ‘ghost train’ style of horror filmmaking, emphasising atmosphere and jump scares.

Based on the case files of real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), The Conjuring follows the haunting of the Perron family at the hands of a ghostly witch. The action-packed finale culminates in an improvised exorcism, as Ed and Lorraine attempt to banish the evil spirit back to hell.

While it might not quite reach the terrifying heights of its own sequel, The Conjuring remains a scarily fun thrill ride, and the fact that it’s based on ‘real’ events adds an extra level of creepiness.

The Conjuring is available to watch on Sky Cinema and NOW.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)

Credit: The Exorcism Of Emily Rose (2005) Official Trailer (Rotten Tomatoes Classic Trailers, YouTube)

Another film loosely based on real events: this time the tragic story of 23-year-old Anneliese Michel, who died of severe malnutrition after multiple attempted exorcisms. Given the subject matter it’s a much more sombre affair than a lot of similar films, but still manages to pack in a lot of classic early-2000s jump scares.

The majority of the runtime is devoted to the trial of Father Richard Moore (Tom Wilkinson), the Catholic priest who performed the ill-fated exorcism and is now being charged with negligent homicide. As the prosecution and defence present their arguments, the case becomes a question of theology - was Emily (Jennifer Carpenter) really possessed by a demon, or was she suffering from mental health issues?

The film manages to keep things brilliantly ambiguous throughout, so you’re never really sure what happened. A great horror-inflected courtroom drama with some stellar performances, particularly Laura Linney as agnostic defence attorney Erin Bruner.

Also, shout-out to director Scott Derrickson’s other loosely-based-on-real-events exorcism thriller Deliver Us From Evil, which is much sillier than Emily Rose but still pretty fun.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose is available to rent on Amazon Prime Video.

The Last Exorcism (2010)

Credit: The Last Exorcism Trailer (eOnefilms, YouTube)

Not just a great exorcist film, but a classic of the found footage subgenre. The Last Exorcism follows cynical reverend Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian) as he attempts to debunk and delegitimize the act of exorcism.

With a documentary crew in tow, Marcus travels to an isolated farm where the owner’s daughter is allegedly possessed by the devil. Of course, things don’t turn out to be quite as simple as Marcus first assumed.

For the most part, this is a mature, restrained exploration of faith and rationality, and the damage that blind belief can cause, especially to vulnerable people. At least until the final ten minutes, which abandon ambiguity altogether and devolve into a bonkers climax complete with axe-wielding maniacs, sinister cults and a bloody, demonic birth.

Still, it’s an underseen gem of a movie. Just don’t bother with the boring sequel.

The Last Exorcism is available to rent on Amazon Prime Video.

The Wailing (2016)

Credit: THE WAILING Official Trailer (Well Go USA Entertainment, YouTube)

A Korean supernatural mystery thriller that manages to pack a lot into its epic two-and-a-half hour runtime: everything from zombies, to ghosts, to, you guessed it, demonic possession.

Bumbling cop Jong-goo (Kwak Do-won) investigates a mysterious sickness spreading through a small mountain village - a sickness that causes people to fly into murderous rages before their bodies rot away. The locals are looking for someone to blame, and settle on a strange Japanese man (Jun Kunimura), newly arrived in town, convinced that he is some kind of demonic entity.

The exorcism scenes here mark a significant change of pace from the largely Catholic style of demon wrangling seen in most films in this genre. There are no bible passages, no holy water being splashed around; instead we get intense rituals full of chanting, drums, fire and blood.

The Wailing shares a lot of thematic DNA with The Exorcist, exploring questions of faith and the corruption of the innocent. A modern horror masterpiece.

The Wailing is available to stream on Netflix.

Constantine (2005)

Credit: Constantine (Trailer) (DC, YouTube)

A sort of mashup of Philip Marlowe and Father Karras, the titular John Constantine (Keanu Reeves) is a hardboiled, chain-smoking exorcist with an attitude. Damned to hell for attempting to take his own life, he is on a mission to save his soul by fighting evil in all its forms - until a terminal cancer diagnosis changes everything.

Based on the classic Hellblazer comics from DC, this is a superhero movie with a difference. While Reeves might not technically be the most accurate casting for the canonically blonde-haired, Scouse demon fighter, he perfectly embodies Constantine’s world-weary attitude.

The film also has some brilliantly inventive production design, gnarly monsters and a fantastic cast including Rachel Weisz, Tilda Swinton and Peter Stomare - the latter stealing the entire movie as Lucifer himself. Not to mention several memorable exorcisms, including a tense confrontation in a sweaty apartment building involving an elaborate system of ropes, pulleys and mirrors.

Constantine got somewhat lost in the glut of comic book adaptations that came after it, but it remains a brilliant, underrated horror movie. Break out the holy knuckledusters and give it a watch.

Constantine is available to rent on Amazon Prime Video.

The Exorcist III (1990)

Credit: The Exorcist III (1990) - Official Trailer (ScreamFactoryTV, YouTube)

Finally, the only sequel to The Exorcist worth watching (not counting the truly excellent TV show of the same name) - William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist III.

George C. Scott gives a pitch-perfect performance as grizzled homicide detective William Kinderman, a returning character from the original movie. Kinderman is investigating a string of gruesome murders that appear to have ties to the Gemini Killer, a murderer who died years before.

Based on Blatty’s own follow-up novel Legion, the movie steers well clear of the events of The Exorcist, instead telling a completely new story with demonic overtones. The film didn’t even contain an exorcism until the studio demanded a complete reshoot of the ending, inserting a mad, effects-heavy sequence that doubles down on the supernatural elements of the story (a director’s cut restoring the original ending was released in 2016 under the title Legion).

The film can be a little slow and ponderous, but it’s genuinely creepy in places and contains one of the greatest jump scares in cinema history. Bonus points for genre legend Brad Dourif’s few short scenes as the Gemini Killer - an absolute masterclass in scenery chewing.

The Exorcist III is available to rent on Amazon Prime Video.

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