Movies Like The Pope's Exorcist (2023) On SHOWTIME

Staff & contributors

Chasing the feel of watching The Pope's Exorcist ? Here are the movies we recommend you watch right after.

As a supernatural horror, The Pope’s Exorcist doesn’t bring anything new to the table. It employs more or less the usual elements you’d expect from the genre, and to be fair, it does occasionally fright you with its bloody jumpscares and demonic screeches. But as a drama, the film is surprisingly watchable thanks to a committed and compelling performance from Crowe. The movie works best when it removes itself from its horror trappings and follows Crowe’s Gabriele as he moves through the ins and outs of the Vatican. When he challenges the church’s authority, when he defends his practice, when he inserts jokes in serious conversations because “the devil hates jokes,” these are when The Pope’s Exorcist shines and entertains. They’re also proof the film shouldn’t take itself too seriously when its star is having this much fun. 

The agonizing tug of war between dogma and desire is sharply illustrated in writer-director Laurel Parmet’s feature debut, set inside the claustrophobic confines of a conservative Christian community in Kentucky. Seventeen-year-old Jem (Eliza Scanlen) is at the age her elders believe is the right time to start thinking about a lifelong partner — a choice they’ve pretty much already made for her by setting her up with the pastor’s youngest son. But it's his brooding older brother, married youth leader Owen (Lewis Pullman), who catches Jem’s eye.

The attraction is returned — but, while The Starling Girl does subtly indicate the toxicity of their relationship, it never lets this point eclipse either the more interesting coming-of-age story at its heart or its keen exploration of the wholesale damage that the cult-like church has done to all of its congregants (including Owen). While some of those threads threaten to distract the film’s focus away from its greatest strengths at times, the anguish of that central tussle between Jem's burgeoning sexuality and her otherwise rigidly controlled existence is brought to aching life by sensitive writing and direction and a brilliantly complex lead performance — qualities that ultimately win out to let The Starling Girl fly.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Austin Abrams, Claire Elizabeth Green, Eliza Scanlen, Jessamine Burgum, Jimmi Simpson, K.J. Baker, Kieran Sitawi, Kyle Secor, Lewis Pullman, Wrenn Schmidt

Director: Laurel Parmet