How do you watch all The Exorcist movies in order? The latest entry in the series nailed down an October 2023 release date, for obvious reasons: it’s that time of year when we celebrate mist, possessions, and the love of mothers (which can solve just about anything in this genre).
But whether you’re planning a mission to the multiplex for the new The Exorcist or are waiting for the digital release, completionists will be curious about what the most promising viewing order is for the films. 2023 has been on fire with spine-tingling new movies, and The Exorcist: Believer release date marks the start of competition with the likes of Talk to Me to become one of the best horror movies of the year. But you can’t look to the future without an appreciation of the past, starting in 1973.
Considered one of the most terrifying on-screen stories ever committed to celluloid, the original spawned multiple sequels. We won’t go into spoilers, but we have flicked through holy texts to relay the best way to watch The Exorcist movies in order. By release year, the chronological timeline, and whether there are any you can/should skip.
How to watch The Exorcist movies in chronological order
If you’re looking for a simplified timeline, chronological is the way to go. This viewing order uses canon timeframes from each film to create an A to B viewing experience.
The Exorcist movies in chronological order:
- Exorcist: The Beginning
- Dominion: Prequel to The Exorcist
- The Exorcist
- Exorcist II: The Heretic
- The Exorcist III
- The Exorcist: Believer (2023)
1. Exorcist: The Beginning (2004)
If you couldn’t tell from the title, 2004’s Exorcist entry is the beginning of the universe’s story. Following a much younger staple character, Father Merrin, after World War II, this prequel takes place in Kenya and involves a search for a hidden relic at an excavation site. When men hired to dig refuse to enter the church’s grounds, Merrin must face a crisis of faith and confront evil.
The Beginning is, unfortunately, a prime example of studio interference; the film is technically a retooled version of Paul Schrader’s Dominion, which we’ll get to soon enough. (Yes, one of the best directors made a shoddy Exorcist flick). This is totally skippable if you’re short on time. And while Schrader’s version isn’t exactly a masterpiece, The Beginning performed woefully, leading to…
2. Dominion: Prequel to The Exorcist (2005)
Releasing less than a year later after the studio realized nothing could be worse than The Beginning, Schrader’s slow and underwhelming Dominion was released. Now, this is basically the exact same core narrative as The Beginning, so you can pick and choose which one you’d like to watch. Of course, you could sit through both, but you’ll have to be braver than a horror movie final girl.
Schrader’s version does have more substance than the former, unsurprisingly. It looks at religion and the devil in a much more heady way, and it earned some decent reviews instead of being totally panned, so that’s something.
3. The Exorcist (1973)
Released first but taking place decades after Dominion in the fictional timeline, the original The Exorcist is one of the best movies of all time. Tense, daring, and enough to make you turn your lights back on, it has stood the test of time.
As most horror buffs are probably familiar with, its story sees 12-year-old Regan and her mother terrorized after a demonic possession begins to take hold of the once sweet young girl. That’s when priests are called in to perform an exorcism on her, battling the will of an evil presence.
This film brought the concept of exorcisms to the mainstream, and decades later we’re still telling stories about them. It goes without saying, but this is one of the best horror movies ever made and you simply cannot skip it if you’re new to The Exorcist!
4. Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977)
William Friedkin, who directed the original, was not quiet about how much he disliked new movies that followed, and we can’t blame him. Heretic takes place after the events of the first film, as Regan discovers her trials are not over. Meanwhile, a priest is tasked with investigating Father Merrin’s death.
This sequel has some of the original cast, most notably Linda Blair, but Ellen Burstyn chose not to return, perhaps due to problems that arose while shooting The Exorcist. Despite the familiar face, and we’re fans of Blair, the poor execution and tonal mismatch do the movie no favors and it’s not looked on favorably. But if you want to grasp the main throughline of the movies it might be worth watching due to Regan’s involvement.
5. The Exorcist III (1990)
A ‘requel’ that created the blueprint for other horror reboots, III has its fans. This writer is not one of them. It was written and directed by William Peter Blatty, who wrote the novel the original was based on and penned the screenplay for the screen adaptation.
Set over a decade after the first film, Lieutenant William F. Kinderman investigates a series of deaths that resemble the handy work of a serial killer who has since been executed. His insights lead him to a psychiatric patient who has lost his memory: Father Damien Karras, who was presumed to have passed on at the end of The Exorcist. Big twist! Again, there are references to the original, so if you’re someone who likes to tick boxes then this is one to cross off your list.
6. The Exorcist: Believer (2023)
Where to watch: Theatrically
Taking place in modern-day and bringing Burstyn back as
Chris MacNeil, David Gordon Green breathes new life into the series just as he did for Halloween (although, there was not much life in Halloween Ends if you ask us). Green’s tactical exploration of themes and his slick visual style lent themselves to a compelling marketing ramp-up, complete with striking posters, a creepy trailer, and screenings taking place in churches.
This is another one we certainly don’t want to miss out on, and honestly, if you’re wondering if you can jump straight from the original to this reboot, we say go for it. We don’t imagine it’ll be too concerned with the numerous badly received films behind it. Find out how to watch The Exorcist: Believer here.
How to watch The Exorcist movies in order of release
We think this is the ideal way to watch, as you can see the series evolve over time and look at the peaks and valleys more objectively.
The Exorcist movies in order of release:
- The Exorcist (1973
- Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977)
- The Exorcist III (1990)
- Exorcist: The Beginning (2004)
- Dominion: Prequel to The Exorcist (2005)
- The Exorcist: Believer (2023)
For more demons and crosses, check out the hidden scare in The Exorcist, the best halloween movies of all time, and The Nun 3 release date. And in the land of TV, we’ve listed the best horror series and best horror anime. You can also check out The Insidious movies in order or The Conjuring movies in order.