Speaking of movies with backlashes, here's another one, although the backlash against this movie is less about commercial hype than it is about political correctness, so let's get this out of the way: yes, The Exorcist is ultimately a movie with a regressive attitude towards gender roles (two priests must do battle against an unruly female) and towards morality (stark medieval good vs. evil).
All that said, The Exorcist still stands for me as one of the all-time great horror movies, simply on the basis of its ability to create tension and scares and on the basis of sheer storytelling. There's hardly a wasted second in William Friedkin's original cut, with a relentless build towards the final showdown between Max Von Sydow and the demon inhabiting Linda Blair; indeed, this movie is a good example of how a focussed, energetic director's work can transcend a mediocre screenplay - just look at the opening sequence, which introduces Max Von Sydow as Father Merrin, a character who will then disappear until the last half hour of the movie. It's a sequence loaded with an overpowering, foreboding mood, but with virtually zero narrative connection, either to the rest of the movie, or really, within itself. But because Friedkin knows what he's doing, the mood and editing propulsiveness carry us through this sequence and into the main body of the movie.
And the performances are almost uniformly great; We all know that Max Von Sydow and Ellen Burstyn are great actors, but where did Jason Miller come from and why wasn't he in more films? And Linda Blair's performance, natural and easy-going as a normal girl, genuinely diabolical when possessed, is easy to attribute to special effects, but has to be seen as one of the best performances by a teenager, ever.
I need to add, however, that the version I watched on Friday night wasn't Friedkin's original director's cut, but the 2000 'special edition' which is basically William Peter Blatty's preferred Producer's Cut, which adds in a bunch of redundantly superimposed demon faces and a dumb 'happy ending' scene at the very end of the movie, among other details. Now, I think William Friedkin has about as much interest in convincing his audience of the existence of demons as Sam Raimi did in Drag Me to Hell; Friedkin's career shows that he's more interested in telling stories for the sake of telling stories. I wouldn't be surprised, though, if Blatty actually believed in his own shaggy dog tale, since pretty much every choice in his cut of the movie makes it more strained and pretentious.