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(Pocket-lint) - Universal Pictures is developing an all-new trilogy of films to expand The Exorcist Universe.

The first film in the new trilogy will see the Oscar-nominated Hamilton actor Leslie Odom Jr star as the father of a possessed child. Desperate for help, he apparently turns to Chris MacNeil, Ellen Burstyn’s character from the original film, The Exorcist. This next entry in The Exorcist Universe isn’t slated to release until late 2023, but Universal Pictures has already agreed to spend $400 million on it as well as two more films to complete a new trilogy. 

So, it’s time to revisit the classic franchise before the debut of the new movies. We'll admit, most of the films struggle to live up to the original, but there are a couple gems. Here is the order to watch them. It's by release date since some of the installments ignore the sequel and try to be direct sequels themselves. For example, The Exorcist III ignores The Exorcist II. And the TV show ignores everything in the franchise except the original film, The Exorcist.

Technically, you could fashion a chronological viewing order out of the franchise, given there are two prequel films - Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist and Exorcist: The Beginning - but they're technically the same movie (same cast, similar scripts, it's weird). They aren't very good either, so it felt wrong to have you start your Exorcist re-watch with perhaps the two worst films in the universe.

The best order to watch The Exorcist Universe

Here are all The Exorcist movies and the TV show in order of release date. For those of you who want to watch a chronological order, no matter how forced it may seem, we have a bulleted version of one at the bottom, along with a spoiler-free version of the release date order. (We prefer the release date order.) We've included a spoiler-free version of William Peter Blatty’s "Trilogy of Faith" order, as well. It's also listed at the bottom of this watch guide.

NOTE: THERE MAY BE SPOILERS BELOW.

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The Exorcist (1973 - movie)

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The Exorcist kicks off Pocket-lint's viewing order, as it's the film that started it all and is perhaps the best one to date. It follows Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn), an actress who is working on a film in Washington, and her daughter, Regan (Linda Blair). After a bit of a prelude, Regan begins to show signs of being possessed by a demon. Her mom exhausts every medical option until a local priest sends for the Exorcist, Father Merrin (Max Von Sydow).

The film is based on a novel by William Peter Blatty, who also wrote the movie's screenplay. It was directed by William Friedkin. 

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The Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977 - movie)

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The Exorcist II focuses on Philip Lamont. He’s a priest struggling with his faith following a failed exorcism that saw a possessed girl die.

Following that exorcism, Lamont is tasked by the Vatican to investigate the death of Father Merrin, from the first film, four years earlier. This means Lamont gets to visit a seemingly normal Regan in New York City. It's worth noting this film was a tremendous critical disappointment, possibly because it didn’t feature much of the creative team behind the first movie. For example, it was directed by John Boorman and written by William Goodhart.

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The Ninth Configuration (1980 - movie)

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The Ninth Configuration marks the directorial debut of William Peter Blatty, who wrote the screenplay for the original film as well as the origin-story novel that inspired the entire The Exorcist Universe. The Ninth Configuration itself doesn’t have a direct connection to the first Exorcist film, but it's part of what is now known as "Blatty’s Trilogy of Faith" - with The Exorcist and The Exorcist III serving as the other two films in Blatty's trilogy.

The film sees Colonel Hudson Kane (Stacy Keach) arrive at a mental hospital for traumatised military personnel. Kane immediately becomes fascinated with a patient named Captain Billy Cutshaw (Scott Wilson), who was set to go to the moon but had a mental breakdown on the launchpad. 

Blatty originally pitched the film to studios as a sequel to The Exorcist and has said in interviews that Cutshaw, the astronaut who suffered a mental breakdown in this film, is meant to be the same astronaut who Regan says “you’re going to die up there” to in the first Exorcist film.

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The Exorcist III (1990 - movie)

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The Exorcist III was written and directed by William Peter Blatty - again, who wrote the screenplay for the original film as well as the origin-story novel. It's the third installment in "Blatty’s Trilogy of Faith". This film was originally conceived in 1983 by Blatty with the help of the director of The Exorcist, William Friedkin. When Friedkin left the project, Blatty turned it into a best-selling novel, called Legion, before agreeing to direct the Hollywood adaptation. 

The Exorcist III follows Lt. William F. Kinderman (George C Scott). He is the same character who investigated the deaths in the original film, The Exorcist. He's now investigating a new set of murders that all bear the markings of a serial killer, known as the Gemini Killer, who was caught and sentenced to death 15 years earlier - at the exact same time Regan was possessed in the first film. Jason Miller reprises his role as Father Ted Karras in this film. 

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Exorcist: The Beginning (2004 - movie)

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The next two films on our list are two different versions of the same film. 

This film follows a younger Father Merrin, portrayed by Stellan Skarsgard, struggling with his faith while working on an archaeological dig in Africa. The other film, Dominion, was shot first - with Paul Schrader directing. But executives at the production company Morgan Creek saw the final cut of Dominion and feared it would bomb and ordered extensive reshoots. Renny Harlin was tasked to direct the reshoots and put together a different version of the film. 

Exorcist: The Beginning ended up getting absolutely horrible reviews, however, which led to Schrader’s original version being released the next year. 

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Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist (2005)

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Like Exorcist: The Beginning, this film follows Father Merrin, again portrayed by Stellan Skarsgard. He's battling with the demon known as Pazuzu after discovering a sacrificial chamber beneath a buried church in Africa. It's worth noting this second movie differs from The Exorcist: The Beginning by changing up who’s eventually possessed at the end of the film, and it focuses more on Father Merrin’s trauma from World War II. 

William Peter Blatty greatly preferred this version. he referred to Exorcist: The Beginning as one of the most humiliating moments of his career, even though he wasn’t really involved with it. 

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The Exorcist (2016 to 2017 - TV show)

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Fox produced an Exorcist TV series that ran for two seasons. The show deals with two priests, Father Tomas Ortega (Alfonso Herrera) and Father Marcus Keane (Ben Daniels), as they investigate cases of demonic possession. The series eventually includes the demon Pazuzu - seen elsewhere in the Exorcist films - and features the characters Chris (Sharon Gless) and Regan MacNeil (Geena Davis) from the first film, although they're played by different actresses. 


Spoiler-free version: The Exorcist Universe at a glance

The Exorcist movies and show in order of release date

OK, so here is the at-a-glance version of the guide above, but free of spoilers. It's a viewing order that lists when The Exorcist movies hit theatres and when the show debuted, starting with the first entry up until the most recent.

  • The Exorcist (1973 - movie)
  • The Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977 - movie)
  • The Ninth Configuration (1980 - movie)
  • The Exorcist III (1990 - movie)
  • Exorcist: The Beginning (2004 - movie)
  • Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist (2005 - movie)
  • The Exorcist (2016 to 2017 - TV show)

The Exorcist movies and show in chronological order

We explained at the top why it's difficult to place The Exorcist Universe in chronological order, but it can be done. It still isn't the best way to watch. 

  • Exorcist: The Beginning (2004 - movie)*
  • Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist (2005 - movie)*
  • The Exorcist (1973 - movie)
  • The Ninth Configuration (1980 - movie)**
  • The Exorcist II (1977 - movie)
  • The Exorcist III (1990 - movie)
  • The Exorcist (2016 to 2017 - TV show)

Things to note:

1. *: Exorcist: The Beginning is the result of reshoots from Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist. Both films feature many of the same actors and scenes, so you might not want to watch them both. For what it's worth... Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist is better-reviewed, but neither was particularly well received.

2. **:  The Ninth Configuration is set during the end of the Vietnam War, so it comes before The Exorcist II, which is set in 1977.

William Peter Blatty’s "Trilogy of Faith" order

The first Exorcist film is based on a novel by William Peter Blatty, who also wrote the movie's screenplay. But the Ninth Configuration marks the directorial debut of Blatty. He pitched the film to studios as a sequel to The Exorcist. Blatty also wrote and directed The Exorcist III, making it the third installment in what is now known as "Blatty’s Trilogy of Faith". The third film was originally conceived in 1983 by Blatty and is based on his best-selling novel, Legion.

  • The Exorcist (1973 - movie)
  • The Ninth Configuration (1980 - movie)
  • The Exorcist III (1990 - movie)

Did you like this?

Then maybe you'll like our movie order viewing guides:

We also have these rumour round-ups on upcoming movies:

Writing by Maggie Tillman. Originally published on 28 July 2021.
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