In the history of horror cinema, the subject of exorcism has been returned to time and time again – from William Friedkin's 1973 classic The Exorcist to several films in The Conjuring universe.


New film The Pope's Exorcist – which stars Russell Crowe and Franco Nero – is the latest addition to the genre, telling the story of the Vatican's chief exorcist Father Gabriele Amorth, who according to the film's synopsis "battles Satan and innocent-possessing demons".

Even though that might not sound like the basis for a narrative adapted from real events, you might be wondering if parts of the film are based in reality – read on for everything you need to know.

Is The Pope's Exorcist based on a true story?

Believe it or not, the film is based on real events – at least partially.

Father Gabriele Amorth was very much a real man, an ordained Roman Catholic priest who was appointed an exorcist of the Diocese of Rome in June 1986 and promoted to Chief Exorcist six years later.

More like this

His work was previously the subject of the 2017 documentary film The Devil and Father Amorth, which saw director William Friedkin travel to the Italian village of Alatri to observe Amorth performing an exorcism, and the new film is adapted from his two memoirs – An Exorcist Tells His Story and An Exorcist: More Stories.

Amorth claims to have performed as many as 160,000 exorcisms throughout his career, although this claim has been disputed by some – including Edward Peters, a professor of canon law.

He passed away aged 91 in 2016, but before his death, he agreed to give producer Michael Patrick Kaczmarek the rights to his books – after previously rejecting various other offers from film studios.

"I believe I was able to succeed where other producers failed in that I was able to convince Father Amorth about my sincere religious devotion," Kaczmarek explained in the film's production notes.

"In our exchanges, I was able to convince him that if he took the chance to work with me, that I would try to make sure the Catholicity would be preserved in the film – and that he would be respected as a person along with the Church and his religious order."

The film is inspired by Amorth's books rather than a direct adaptation, and screenwriter Michael Petroni was drafted in to write an original story, with Kaczmarek explaining: "He did a great job of incorporating real Latin prayers, from the book Catholic exorcists use in their work. He brought a great level of authenticity to the script."

In short, then, the film is a fictional tale based on the memoirs of a real man – and how likely you are to believe some of the more outlandish elements depicted will likely depend entirely on your own faith.

The Pope's Exorcist is in cinemas from Friday 7th April 2023. Visit our Film hub for more news and features, and find something to watch tonight with our TV Guide and Streaming Guide.


Try Radio Times magazine today and get 12 issues for only £1 with delivery to your home – subscribe now. For more from the biggest stars in TV, listen to The Radio Times Podcast.