(1973)5Lucia BozzolaNumerous viewers allegedly vomited, fainted, or just walked out, but that only helped William Friedkin's film version of William Peter Blatty's best-seller become an early-'70s blockbuster and horror milestone. Flush from his Oscar for The French Connection (1971), wunderkind Friedkin decided on a "realistic," no-holds barred approach to Blatty's reportedly fact-based novel, pushing horror special effects into new dimensions of gruesomeness (and the film way over budget in a bizarrely trouble-plagued shoot). The Exorcist went on to break The Godfather's box-office record, as Watergate-weary audiences piled in to watch the furniture fly and Linda Blair's head spin. Critics were split over whether Friedkin had taken the Rosemary's Baby (1968) mode of subtly suggestive supernatural horror into the realm of gross reactionary exploitation or whether The Exorcist disturbingly tapped into repressed fears of the unknown (including female sexuality). Regardless, bolstered by ten Oscar nominations, The Exorcist helped set the standard for R-rated horror grisliness and raise the bar for blockbuster profits.