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Movies & TV

02nd Oct 2023

The Exorcist was effectively banned in Ireland until surprisingly recently

Rory Cashin


The director of the new Exorcist sequel was shocked to find out the original version wasn’t available here for decades.

Released in cinemas on 26 December 1973 (yeah, an odd date for a horror movie), The Exorcist went on to become an immediate commercial and critical hit.

The movie cost $12 million to produce but made over $428 million worldwide at the box office. Adjusted for current ticket price inflation, it would stand at the #9 spot for the biggest box office hits of all time.

It was also nominated for 11 Academy Awards, becoming the first horror movie to be nominated for Best Picture. It won two of those awards – Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Sound – and to this day The Exorcist is regularly cited as one of, if not THE, greatest horror movie ever made.

Except in Ireland, where the movie was briefly shown on the big screen in the original version, before being retracted and edited with much of the more famously explicit scenes cut out. The movie was then banned entirely from home entertainment, completely unavailable to purchase on VHS until 1998.

William Friedkin, director of The Exorcist, had been lead to believe that the movie had been banned outright in Irish cinemas, unaware that it had been re-released in an edited form. He told the Irish Independent in 1998, upon the home banning being lifted:

“I would have opposed that. I would have preferred not to release it at all. But there is too much water under the bridge to do anything about it now. As it happens Irish audiences will be seeing it for the first time uncut when it goes out again next week.”

We mentioned this to David Gordon Green, the director and co-writer of new sequel The Exorcist: Believer, in our interview ahead of his movie’s release. You can check out that chat in full right here:

The new Exorcist sequel arrives in cinemas this week

In our interview, Green, who also directed and co-wrote the recent Halloween Trilogy, talks about his favourite scary movie of all time (which, interestingly, isn’t actually a horror movie), as well as the strange energy everyone felt while filming the climax of the new movie.

But when we revealed to Green that the original Exorcist was effectively banned in Ireland, he was shocked in his response:

“Is that true?? It is interesting, I think the world and our culture and our spirituality, it evolved so much. And our politics as well. So I’m always fascinated by movies that are received in that way, some controversial way.

“What Friedkin did in 1973 feels so authentic and, in many ways, so respectful, particularly of Catholicism. So many people I know, that movie scared them so bad that they went to church on Sunday!

“I think there is a conversation to be had there about the value of film-making and fear. And when we’re looking to our spiritual foundations, for hope and belief and faith and reason for existing.

“And the questions that we have of what comes after. I think movies are a valuable way to present these things, and I don’t know a greater value than turning towards strength and connection and protection, than to be afraid of something.”

The Exorcist: Believer arrives in Irish cinemas on Friday 6 October.

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