Sometimes called the scariest movie of all time, The Exorcist provoked controversy from its 1973 release. The Motion Picture Association of America shocked Roger Ebert when it gave the film an R rating, allowing minors to view it in theaters when accompanied by an adult.
The U.K. equivalent of that body took a harder line. There, the movie—which graphically depicts the travails of a girl suffering demonic possession—got an X certificate, prohibiting viewing by anyone under 18. In 1988, the British Board of Film Classification took the further step of halting its sale on home video entirely. "At the cinema it had been relatively easy to ensure that young children would be excluded," the board explains, "but video was a different matter."
Even as it gained fans around the world, home sales of The Exorcist remained illegal in the U.K. until 1999.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "The Exorcist".