Garnering a great deal of attention in this, its 40th-anniversary year, The Exorcist remains the most terrifying film ever made. Re-released in a Blu-ray edition with new commentary tracks and features showing screenwriter (and author of the original novel) William Peter Blatty and director William Friedkin revisiting the Georgetown locations of the film, The Exorcist holds up remarkably well nearly half a century later.
Now a touchstone of horror-fests and a common allusion in popular culture, neither the book nor the film version of the The Exorcist was expected to have much market value. The 1971 book, unsold copies of which were being returned to the publisher at an alarming rate, got a huge boost from Blatty’s last-second substitute guest appearance on The Dick Cavett Show. That catapulted the book to the New York Times best-seller list, where it remained for 57 weeks. The film, initially scheduled for limited release in art-house theaters, collected long lines at the box office and was quickly slated for wide release. So successful was it that, adjusted for inflation, it ranks as the No. 9 film all time for domestic gross and is the highest-grossing R-rated film in history.