Ever since The Exorcist shocked audiences worldwide during the early ’70s, movies about demonic possession have fascinated viewers everywhere. Today we are going to be counting down the greatest that the sub-genre has to offer. From killer dolls to little girls possessed by Satan himself, this is the twenty five greatest demonic possession films of all time.
25. Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight (1995)
Demon Knight (also known as Tales from the Crypt Presents: Demon Knight) is the first of a would-be Tales from the Crypt trilogy starting with Demon Knight then onto Bordello of Blood in 1996 and then onto the mostly forgotten Ritual many years later. Frank Brayker (William Sadler) is on the run from the “Collector” (played by the exceptionally zany Billy Zane), trying to retrieve an ancient key that basically holds the blood of Jesus Christ himself and keeps demons in their hellish place. After The Collector holds Frank in a hotel, a hoard of demons are released and promptly begin possessing almost all the patrons of the hotel, which includes a young Jada Pinkett Smith. A must-see for any Cryptkeeper fan.
24. The 8th Plague (2006)
This low-budget splatter flick tells the story of a woman named Launa ( Leslie Valenza) who is investigating the disappearance of her sister. What plays out is pretty much a homage to The Evil Dead, the lead character becomes possessed by a demon via a supernatural symbol scribbled on the walls of an abandoned prison. The gore, action and scares are all top notch for an indie horror such as this (even for bigger budget films as well really).
23. Burnt Offerings (1976)
Based on the 1973 novel of the same name by Robert Marasco, Burnt Offerings follows the story of a family who moves into an aged house that rejuvenates itself by means of feeding off the life force of whichever inhabitant is most in sync with the house’s power. The film also features excellent performances by a young Karen Black and Oliver Reed as Marian and Ben Rolf respectively.
22. The Convent (2000)
The Convent opens with a girl walking up to a Boarding School for Girls with a sawed-off shotgun, walks into the chapel and proceeds to dispatch the nuns there one by one. She then coolly sets the place on fire with one flick of a cigarette. Forty years later, a group of college students break into the abandoned convent and ultimately become possessed by demonic spirits. And, don’t let the fact that Coolio plays a police officer in this film detract you, it’s still a nice little horror popcorn flick.
21. Session 9 (2001)
Session 9 stars David Caruso, Peter Mullan, Paul Guilfoyle, Stephen Gevedon, Brendan Sexton III, and Josh Lucas as an asbestos abatement team who start to experience mounting tensions while working in a vacant mental asylum, which is paralleled by the slow but sure revelation of a past patient’s distressed past through recorded audio tapes of the patient’s hypnotherapy sessions. The film itself is open to interpretation, it’s not quite clear if there is a demon or a ghost responsible for the characters actions. The conversations it encourages are all part of the movie’s brilliance.
20. Curse Of Chucky (2013)
In 2013 we saw the triumphant return of our favorite killer possessed doll Chucky. Curse of Chucky (or simply Child’s Play 6) is the sixth installment in the Child’s Play franchise. With writer/director Don Mancini at the helm and in full control we saw Chucky return to his horror roots, as opposed to the comedy that was Seed Of Chucky. This time around, Chucky (voiced once again by the great Brad Dourif), arrives without explanation in the mail to the family home of paraplegic Nica (Fiona Dourif) and her mother. What follows is a back to basics straightforward horror flick. We are also treated to the return of two veterans of the series, the murderous Tiffany Ray (Jennifer Tilly) and the all grown-up Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent).
19. The Exorcist III (1990)
After the absolutely awful Exorcist II: The Heretic, original Exorcist author William Peter Blatty returned to both write and direct the third entry of the franchise, setting the series back on course with stunning visual panache, even if the film wasn’t a box-office hit. Set fifteen years after the original film (thankfully ignoring the events of Exorcist II), the film centers on a dead serial killer nicknamed the “Gemini Killer” (played brilliantly by Brad Dourif) who is now possessing people in order to continue his murderous spree. If the arresting visuals aren’t surreal enough, mull over the list of cameos who appear in the film, including Larry King, Fabio and the most unusual of all, NBA superstar Patrick Ewing.
18. Evil Dead (2013)
The fourth chapter of the Evil Dead franchise, served as both a remake, a reboot and as a loose continuation of the series; the first neither to have Bruce Campbell as the main star or to be directed by Sam Raimi. Many horror fans were skeptical all the way up to the minute of the release of the film. Fans were then given everything that a great horror movie should; demonic possession, gore, terrifying moments and plenty of blood. Groovy!
17. The Possession (2012)
Directed by Ole Bornedal and produced by Sam Raimi, The Possession is based on an allegedly haunted dybbuk box. After a young girl (Natasha Calis) buys this wooden box at a yard sale, she naively unlocks an evil spirit living inside and embarks on a series of terrifying occurrences. Although the scares are sporadic, the story does manage to be intriguing and suspenseful enough for any fan of the genre.
16. This Is The End (2013)
In Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s directorial debut, Rogen, Jonah Hill, James Franco, Craig Robison, Jay Baruchel, and Danny McBride all play fictional versions of themselves in the aftermath of a large-scale apocalypse. The standout of the film, without question, is Jonah Hill (aside from Michael Cera‘s brief coke-fueled shenanigans). In the middle of the apocalypse Hill remains eerily upbeat, that is until a demon basically rapes him in the middle of the night. We are then greeted by a demonized version of Hill, who isn’t that compelled, especially by Christ. For the happy conclusion we get to see the Backstreet Boys perform “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” in a heavenly party, quite random.
15. Constantine (2005)
Constantine opens with a nice tribute to the granddaddy of possession films, The Exorcist. The film is based on Vertigo Comics’ Hellblazer comic book. The story follows John Constantine (Keanu Reeves) as a cynic with the ability to observe and communicate with half-angels and half-demons in their true form. He seeks salvation from eternal damnation in Hell for a suicide attempt when he was young. How does he seek salvation, exactly? By exorcising demons back to hell, how else? Rachel Weisz, Tilda Swinton, Shia LaBeouf, and Djimon Hounsou also star.
14. Child’s Play 2 (1990)
As memorable as the original Child’s Play was its subsequent sequel was much better in almost every way. Two years after the events of the original film Andy (Alex Vincent) is forced to live with a foster family. Though it doesn’t take long for possessed “Good Guy” doll Chucky to once again become resurrected and on the search for his young victim. Child’s Play 2 manages to strip away all pretense and still manage to be an effective slasher film. It knows it’s dealing with a brazen killer doll, and it completely embraces it. It doesn’t have to hide Chucky’s true nature from us like its predecessor did in its first few acts. The kills are more inventive, the dark sense of humor is effectively subtle and the finale that takes place at the “Good Guy” factory is the greatest of the franchise.
13. The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)
The Exorcism of Emily Rose follows a lawyer (Laura Linney), who takes on a negligent homicide case involving a priest (Tom Wilkinson) who performed an exorcism on a young girl. The film is loosely based on the story of Anneliese Michel. If you’re looking for mindless gore and clear scares, look elsewhere. The horror in Emily Rose is something that requires a bit of thought, it doesn’t literally jump out at you, which is something to be applauded.
12. Fallen (1998)
It’s a shame that Denzel Washington hasn’t done more supernatural films such as this because he’s actually quite good at it…well, admittedly Denzel is good in everything. Fallen opens with Detective John Hobbes (Washington) capturing a serial killer named Edgar Reese (Elias Koteas). Reese is eventually executed, but he now has the power to posses anybody’s body that he chooses. The film is worth it just for the riveting conclusion, when Hobbes finally comes face to face with the killer…so to speak.
11. Paranormal Activity (2009)
Over the half a decade since its release the original Paranormal Activity has spawned several sub par sequels and seemingly endless parody videos on the internet. This shouldn’t take away from the fact that the original entry of the series is still a creepy and taut little horror film. The film follows a young, middle class couple who move into what seems like a typical suburban house, only to become increasingly disturbed by a presence that may or may not be demonic. Yeah, it helped reinvigorate and subsequently kill the shaky cam as a horror gimmick (similarly to The Blair Witch Project) but it still deserves our respect.
10. The Rite (2011)
Loosely based on Matt Baglio’s book The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist, The Rite stars Anthony Hopkins, Colin O’Donoghue, Alice Braga and Rutger Hauer. Father Lucas Trevant (Hopkins) is a veteran exorcist who shows a novice the tricks of the trade. The Rite, is a particularly sober supernatural thriller about demonic possession that stands in desolate contrast to the over-the-top pyrotechnics of some of the other exorcism films of the time.
9. The Last Exorcism (2010)
When The Last Exorcism was released, a promotional poster for the film showed a young girl, wearing a blood-spattered dress, bent over backwards below a crucifix. This caused quite the controversy and set the tone for the film perfectly. Directed by Daniel Stamm (and co-produced by Eli Roth) The film follows a disheartened evangelical minister, who after years of performing exorcisms decides to participate in a documentary chronicling his last exorcism while exposing the fraud of his ministry.
8. Demons (1985)
Over-the-top violence, apocalyptic subject matter and a rousing ’80s soundtrack propel this Italian cult favorite (directed by horror mastermind Dario Argento) about a supernatural mask that turns theater patrons into a demonic flock. A well made, original and entertaining horror action fantasy that every horror fan needs to experience.
7. Night Of The Demons (1988)
Night of the Demons (also known as: Halloween Party) follows the story of ten high school seniors having a Halloween party in an isolated mortuary. Demons show up and things get a little crazy; eyeball gouging, gratuitous nudity, tongue ripping, bloody dismemberment and more ensue. Our favorite Scream Queen Linnea Quigley plays Suzanne who eventually becomes possessed. In one of the most traumatizing scenes ever (at least for this writer) Suzanne takes off her shirt and rubs lipstick on her exposed breasts ultimately pushing it into her nipple before the demon in her reveals itself full force.
6. Prince Of Darkness (1987)
Though regarded by many as one of writer-director John Carpenter’s lesser efforts Prince Of Darkness is still quite an effective endeavors. The film is the second installment in what Carpenter calls his “Apocalypse Trilogy”, which began with The Thing (1982) and concludes with In the Mouth of Madness (1995). This tale of academic researchers investigating (and consequently becoming possessed by) a “liquid evil” oozes spine-chilling atmosphere…amongst other things.
5. The Amityville Horror (1979)
Based on the Jay Anson’s bestselling 1977 novel of the same name The Amityville Horror is based on the supposed real life occurrence of the Lutz family who buy a new home in Amityville, New York, a house where a mass murder had been committed the year before. After the family move into the house, they experience a series of alarming paranormal events. James Brolin and Margot Kidder play the unsuspecting new tenants. Considering the year it came out, Amityville is still an effective little horror film.
4. The Conjuring (2013)
The Conjuring is less than a year old but that doesn’t make its impact any less grand. The film tells the “true story” of Lorraine and Ed Warren (Vera Farmiga & Patrick Wilson), world renowned paranormal investigators, who are called to help a family being threatened by an evil presence in a secluded farmhouse. Ron Livingston and Lily Taylor play the parents of the household being haunted by these demons. Director James Wan did an admirable job of creating a terrifying film that doesn’t have any clichés, keeps an old-school vibe and also doesn’t take itself not too seriously. Also, that Annabelle doll is creepy as hell.
3. Evil Dead II (1982)
As we once said in a previous list of ours it seems a little redundant to include the original Evil Dead simply due to the fact that its sequel is fundamentally the same thing…only better. Ash (Bruce Campbell), the sole survivor of the first film, returns to the identical cabin in the woods and again lets loose the forces of the dead. With his girlfriend possessed by demons and his body parts running amok, Ash is forced to once again battle the herd of the damned as the most deadly – and groovy – hero in horror movie history!
2. The Shining (1980)
Stephen King may have hated it but Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of King’s novel is still a frightening classic thirty years after its release. In the film, Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson), a writer and recovering alcoholic, takes a job as an off-season caretaker at an secluded hotel called the Overlook Hotel. His young son Danny (played by Danny Lloyd), possesses psychic capabilities and is able to see things from the future and past, such as the ghosts who inhabit the hotel. Nicholson is completely over-the-top but is still quite scary as the caretaker who’s slowing losing it until he’s completely lost.
1. The Exorcist (1973)
William Friedkin’s The Exorcist is not only the greatest demonic possession movie, not only one of the greatest horror movies but simply one of the greatest movies ever made. Based on the novel of the same name the film of course deals with the demonic possession of a 12-year-old girl named Regan (Linda Blair) and her mother’s frantic attempts to win back her child through an exorcism conducted by two priests. What follows is crucifix masturbation, spider walking, pea-soup vomit, and head spinning creepiness.
Do you agree with our ranking? Let us know in the comment section below.
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