This weekend, The Exorcist: Believer is attempting to breathe new life into the 50-year-old franchise. That’s a tall order because The Exorcist is one of the top horror films of all time, and there have been countless imitators. So if you’ve seen one movie like The Exorcist, you’ve kind of seen them all.
That’s why this list is staying away from movies that recycled the premise of The Exorcist over and over. After all, how many times can you watch priests attempting to expel an evil spirit from a girl or a young woman? Instead, our picks for the five horror movies like The Exorcist: Believer are more focused on films that share thematic similarities. Although there are some tales of possession in here as well.
The Witch (2017)
The Witch is not a tale of possession, but it is the story of how evil targets an isolated Puritan family in the early 17th century. Young Thomasin (The Northman‘s Anya Taylor-Joy in her breakout role) takes the brunt of the blame from her parents, William (Ralph Ineson) and Katherine (Kate Dickie), when misfortune falls upon them and two of Thomasin’s younger brothers are killed.
As the title implies, there is a Witch (Bathsheba Garnett) in the woods who is behind the reign of terror that has befallen the family. And by pushing Thomasin away from them, William and Katherine may have set in motion their own destruction as well.
Watch The Witch on Max.
Evil Dead Rise (2023)
You’ll find that evil tends to target young girls in The Exorcist, The Exorcist: Believer, and many of the other films in this genre. Evil Dead Rise bucks the trend slightly by making a mother named Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland) the victim of a possession. But it’s not Ellie’s fault. After an earthquake, Ellie’s son, Danny (Morgan Davies), discovers a hidden chamber in their apartment complex that has a recording of a demonic event that happened nearly a century before. When the record is played, the evil Deadites awaken and transform Ellie into their puppet.
Ellie’s younger sister, Beth (Lily Sullivan), is forced to step up to defend her nephew and nieces from the unspeakable thing that used to be their mother. And the possessed Ellie knows just how to hurt the ones she loves, even when she’s only using words.
Watch Evil Dead Rise on Max.
The Changeling is the outlier on this list because it has no tale of possession or young women in jeopardy. Instead, it’s a creeping horror story about a grieving man, John Russell (George C. Scott), who moves into a mansion and slowly learns that it is haunted by a vengeful spirit. Compared to modern haunted house movies, The Changeling is more reserved with its scares. But Scott’s performance grounds the story in reality in a way we don’t normally see in a horror film.
As John attempts to discover why the spirit in the house won’t move on, he holds a séance and discovers a murder conspiracy that goes back decades with an unexpected link to a sitting United States Senator, Joseph Carmichael (Melvyn Douglas).
Watch The Changeling on Peacock.
If you watched the original Exorcist, you may recall that Regan had an imaginary friend she called Captain Howdy, which turned out to be a manifestation of the demon who possessed her. An imaginary friend is also at the heart of Lights Out, and as in The Exorcist, this “friend” isn’t imaginary. A boy named Martin (Gabriel Bateman) hears his disturbed mother, Sophie (Maria Bello), speaking to someone named Diana (Alicia Vela-Bailey). But what really upsets Martin is that he sees Diana’s monstrous form in the shadows.
Martin turns to his adult half-sister, Rebecca (Teresa Palmer), for help. While Rebecca initially disbelieves Martin’s story, she soon becomes aware that Diana is real. Rebecca also learns that this malevolent ghost can physically kill anyone she targets in the dark. But not even hiding in the light can keep Diana’s victims safe.
Watch Lights Out on Netflix.
The Spanish horror movie, Verónica, is very loosely based on a true story. Although there are definitely exaggerated elements in this story of possession, it’s more compelling than many similar horror flicks because Verónica (Sandra Escacena) brought on her ordeal herself and she doesn’t have anyone she can trust to help her get rid of the demon inhabiting her body.
Verónica’s troubles start when she and her friends, Rosa (Ángela Fabián) and Diana (Carla Campra) use an Ouija board to conduct a séance to speak to the spirits of people whom they have loved and lost. Something goes horribly wrong, and the spirit never leaves. In the aftermath, Verónica’s friends are terrified of her, and she is forced to look for a solution herself.
Watch Verónica on Netflix.