Carrie (1976 film)

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Original theatrical release poster
Directed byBrian De Palma
Produced byPaul Monash
Screenplay byLawrence D. Cohen
Based onCarrie
by Stephen King
Music byPino Donaggio
CinematographyMario Tosi
Edited byPaul Hirsch
Red Bank Films
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • November 3, 1976 (1976-11-03)
Running time
98 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$1.8 million
Box office$33.8 million[2]

Carrie is a 1976 American supernatural horror film directed by Brian De Palma from a screenplay written by Lawrence D. Cohen adapted from Stephen King's 1974 epistolary novel of the same name. The film stars Sissy Spacek as Carrie White, a seventeen-year-old diffident teenager who is the butt of practical jokes at high school. One day she discovers her possession of telekinetic powers and puts her powers to use when she is humiliated with pranks. The film also featured Piper Laurie, Amy Irving, Nancy Allen, William Katt, Betty Buckley, and John Travolta in supporting roles.

The film was based on King's first novel by the same name. De Palma was intrigued by the story and pushed for the studio to direct it while Spacek was encouraged by her husband to audition. It is the first of more than 100 film and television productions adapted from, or based on, the published works of King.

Carrie was theatrically released on November 3, 1976 by United Artists. The film became a critical and commercial success, grossing over $33.8 million against its $1.8 million budget. It received two nominations at the 49th Academy Awards: Best Actress (for Spacek) and Best Supporting Actress (for Laurie).

It is widely cited by critics and audience members alike as the best adaption of the novel amongst the numerous films and television shows based on the character, as well as one of the best films based on King's publications. The film has had a significant influence on popular culture.[3] Several publications have regarded it as one of the greatest horror films of all time. In 2008, Carrie was ranked 86th on Empire's list of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time.[4] It was ranked 15th on Entertainment Weekly's list of the 50 Best High School Movies, 46th on the American Film Institute list AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills. The film's prom scene has had a major influence on popular culture and has been discussed, analysed and parodied numerous times and was ranked 8th on Bravo 's The 100 Scariest Moments in Cinematic History (2004).[5]


Shy, unpopular, and bullied 16-year-old high school student Carrie White experiences her first period as she showers with her fellow female classmates after gym class. Unaware of what is happening to her, she panics and desperately pleads for help, believing she is bleeding to death. The other girls, led by the arrogant, popular and beautiful student Christine "Chris" Hargensen (the daughter of a local and prominent lawyer) who frequently bullies Carrie, gleefully respond to this by pelting her with tampons, laughing and chanting "Plug it up! Plug it up!" Gym teacher Miss Collins breaks up the commotion and slaps Carrie in the face in an attempt to calm her down. A light bulb mysteriously breaks as Carrie reaches the height of her panic. Miss Collins manages to console Carrie and tell her about menstruation.

Later, the school principal seems uncomfortable as Miss Collins expresses bewilderment that Carrie is so uninformed about menstruation. As he dismisses Carrie from school for the afternoon, she becomes frustrated at both cigarette smoke emanating from an ashtray, and the principal repeatedly referring to her by the name "Cassie", causing the ashtray to flip from his desk and shatter. On her way home, a young boy teases Carrie, and she makes him fall off his bicycle simply by glaring at him. At home, Carrie is abused by her fanatically religious mother, Margaret, who rants about menstruation being the result of sinful thoughts. Carrie is dragged and locked in a small specially decorated "prayer closet" and forced to pray for forgiveness. When she is finally allowed to return to her room, she gazes into her reflection, causing the mirror to shatter.

Carrie's classmate, Sue Snell, feels guilty for participating in the locker-room antics, so she asks her handsome and popular boyfriend, Tommy, to invite Carrie to the upcoming prom in her place to atone for her cruelty. Carrie is reluctant, but Miss Collins convinces her to accept Tommy's invitation. During Collins' after-school detention, Chris furiously throws a tantrum and defiantly skips her detention for tormenting Carrie. Miss Collins responds by violently shaking Chris and slapping her in the face, then informing her she is suspended from school and banned from the prom. Swearing vengeance, Chris recruits her delinquent boyfriend Billy to play a prank on Carrie: they slaughter pigs from a nearby farm and place a bucket of their blood above the stage at the school's gymnasium, where Chris plans to dump it on Carrie at the prom.

Margaret discovers Carrie's prom plans and attempts to abuse her again. Having researched her telekinesis, Carrie asserts her power and defies her mother, flinging her away simply by yelling at her. Margaret responds by accusing Carrie of being a satanic witch.

At the prom, Carrie finds acceptance among her peers and shares a kiss with Tommy. Chris's friend Norma rigs the election and Carrie is crowned prom queen. Carrie's joy is cut short when Chris pulls a rope to dump the pigs' blood on her. Chris and Billy escape through a back door, while the bucket falls on Tommy's head, knocking him unconscious. The blood-soaked Carrie hallucinates that everyone in the gymnasium, including Miss Collins, is laughing at her and soon unleashes telekinetic fury upon the crowd, guilty and innocent alike. The doors slam shut, a high-pressure water hose assaults faculty members and students (including Norma, who is knocked unconscious), the principal is electrocuted, and Miss Collins is crushed to death. As the gym catches fire, Carrie calmly walks out and locks the remaining students inside with her powers. Chris and Billy attempt to run over Carrie as she walks home, but Carrie causes their car to flip and explode, killing them both.

At home, Carrie is comforted by her mother, who strokes her daughter's hair as she tenderly comforts her in her arms. She reveals her guilt about having conceived Carrie through her only act of sexual intercourse with Carrie's drunken father, a marital rape that she had both loathed and enjoyed. As they pray together, Margaret stabs her daughter in the back and pursues her through the house with a delirious smile on her face. Defending herself, Carrie telekinetically causes kitchen utensils to fly through the air and crucify Margaret. Distraught over her mother's death, Carrie loses control of her powers and causes the house to crumble and burn down with Carrie and her mother still inside, leaving them both dead.

Sometime after Carrie's death, Sue, the only survivor of the prom massacre, is seen laying flowers on the charred remains of Carrie's home next to a "for sale" sign vandalized to read "Carrie White burns in Hell!". A bloody arm reaches from the rubble and grabs Sue, causing her to awaken from this nightmare, screaming.




Carrie was the first Stephen King novel to be published and the first to be adapted into a feature film.[6] In an interview in Port Charlotte, Florida at a public appearance near his home on the Gulf coast on March 20, 2010, King said he was 26 years old at the time and was paid just $2,500 for the film rights, but added "I was fortunate to have that happen to my first book."[7] De Palma told Cinefantastique magazine in an interview in 1977:

I read the book. It was suggested to me by a writer friend of mine. A writer friend of his, Stephen King, had written it. I guess this was almost two years ago [circa 1975]. I liked it a lot and proceeded to call my agent to find out who owned it. I found out that nobody had bought it yet. A lot of studios were considering it, so I called around to some of the people I knew and said it was a terrific book and I'm very interested in doing it. Then nothing happened for, I guess, six months.[8]

Lawrence D. Cohen was hired as the screenwriter, and produced the first draft, which had closely followed the novel's intentions.[9] United Artists accepted the second draft but only allocated De Palma a budget of $1.6 million, a small amount considering the popularity of horror films at the time. The budget eventually rose to $1.8 million.[10] Certain scripted scenes were omitted from the final version, mainly due to financial limitations.[11][12]


Many young actresses auditioned for the lead role, including Melanie Griffith. Sissy Spacek was persuaded by husband Jack Fisk to audition for the title role. Fisk then convinced De Palma to let her audition, and she read for all of the parts. De Palma's first choice for the role of Carrie was Betsy Slade, who received good notices for her role in the film Our Time (1974). Determined to land the leading role, Spacek backed out of a television commercial she was scheduled to film,[13] rubbed Vaseline into her hair, didn't bother to wash her face, and arrived for her screen test clad in a sailor dress which her mother had made her in the seventh grade, with the hem cut off,[8] and was given the part.

Nancy Allen was the last to audition, and her audition came just as she was on the verge of leaving Hollywood.[9] She and De Palma later married.[14]


De Palma began with director of photography Isidore Mankofsky, who was eventually replaced by Mario Tosi after conflict between Mankofsky and De Palma ensued.[15] Gregory M. Auer, assisted by Ken Pepiot,[16] served as the special effects supervisor for Carrie, with Jack Fisk, Spacek's husband, as art director.

The White house was filmed in Santa Paula, California. To give the house a Gothic theme, the director and producers visited religious souvenir shops to find artifacts to decorate the set location.[17]

A wraparound segment at the beginning and end of the film was scripted and filmed, which featured the Whites' home being pummeled by stones that hailed from the sky. The opening scene was filmed as planned, though on celluloid, the tiny pebbles looked like rain water.[9] A mechanical malfunction botched filming the night when the model of the Whites' home was set to be destroyed by stones, so the filmmakers burned it down instead and deleted the scenes with the stones altogether. The original opening scene is presumed lost.[9]

The final scene, in which Sue reaches toward Carrie's grave, was shot backwards to give it a dreamlike quality. This scene was inspired by the final scene in Deliverance (1972).[9] Rather than let a stunt double perform the scene underground, Spacek insisted on using her own hand in the scene, so she was positioned under the rocks and gravel. De Palma explains that crew members "had to bury her. Bury her! We had to put her in a box and stick her underneath the ground. Well, I had her husband [Fisk] bury her because I certainly didn't want to bury her".[9]


The score for Carrie was composed by Pino Donaggio. In addition, Donaggio scored two pop songs ("Born to Have It All" and "I Never Dreamed Someone Like You Could Love Someone Like Me") with lyrics by Merrit Malloy for the early portion of the prom sequence. These songs were performed by Katie Irving (no relation to star Amy Irving and her mother, Priscilla Pointer). Donaggio would work again with De Palma on Home Movies, Dressed to Kill, Blow Out, Body Double, Raising Cain, and Passion.

The soundtrack album was originally released on vinyl in 1976 from United Artists Records.[18] A deluxe CD edition containing a few tracks of dialogue from the film was released by Rykodisc in 1997, and a 2005 CD re-release of the original soundtrack (minus dialogue) was available from Varèse Sarabande.[19] In 2010, Kritzerland Records released all 35 cues of Donaggio's score for the film on a two-disc CD set which was presented as the complete score. Also included in this edition were the versions of "Born to Have It All" and "I Never Dreamed ..." which were heard in the film, as well as instrumentals of both songs, and hidden at the end of the final track, a version of the "Calisthenics" cue with Betty Buckley's studio-recorded voice-over from the detention scene. The second disc was a remastered copy of the original 13-track album. The Kritzerland release was a limited edition of 1,200 copies. Kritzerland re-released the first disc as "The Encore Edition" in February 2013; this release was limited to 1,000 copies.[20]

Reception and Legacy[edit]

Carrie received widespread critical acclaim and was cited as one of the best films of the year.[21][22][23] The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an approval rating of 93% based on 60 reviews, with an average rating of 8.7/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Carrie is a horrifying look at supernatural powers, high school cruelty, and teen angst – and it brings us one of the most memorable and disturbing prom scenes in history."[24] On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating based on reviews, the film has a weighted average score of 85 out of 100, based on 14 critics.[25]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times stated the film was an "absolutely spellbinding horror movie", as well as an "observant human portrait", giving three and a half stars out of four.[26] Pauline Kael of The New Yorker stated that Carrie was "the best scary-funny movie since Jaws – a teasing, terrifying, lyrical shocker". Take One Magazine critic Susan Schenker said she was "angry at the way Carrie manipulated me to the point where my heart was thudding, and embarrassed because the film really works."[27] A 1998 edition of The Movie Guide stated Carrie was a "landmark horror film", while Stephen Farber prophetically stated in a 1978 issue of New West Magazine, "it's a horror classic, and years from now it will still be written and argued about, and it will still be scaring the daylights out of new generations of moviegoers."[28] Quentin Tarantino placed Carrie at number 8 in a list of his favorite films ever.[29]

Nevertheless, the film was not without its detractors. Andrew Sarris of The Village Voice commented, "There are so few incidents that two extended sequences are rendered in slow-motion as if to pad out the running time ..."[28]

In addition to being a box office success – earning $14.5 million in theater rentals by January 1978[30]Carrie is notable for being one of the few horror films to be nominated for multiple Academy Awards. Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie received nominations for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress awards, respectively. The film also won the grand prize at the Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival, while Sissy Spacek was given the Best Actress award by the National Society of Film Critics. In 2008, Carrie was ranked number 86 on Empire Magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time.[4] This movie also ranked number 15 on Entertainment Weekly's list of the 50 Best High School Movies, and No. 46 on the American Film Institute's list of 100 Greatest Cinema Thrills, and was also ranked eighth for its famous ending sequence on Bravo's The 100 Scariest Movie Moments (2004).[5]

In a 2010 interview, King replied that he thought, although dated now, Carrie was a "good movie."[7]


Award Category Recipient Result
49th Academy Awards Best Actress Sissy Spacek Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Piper Laurie Nominated
Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival Grand Prize Brian De Palma Won
Special Mention Sissy Spacek Won
Edgar Allan Poe Awards Best Motion Picture Paul Monash Nominated
34th Golden Globe Awards Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture Piper Laurie Nominated
Hugo Awards Best Dramatic Presentation Brian De Palma, Lawrence D. Cohen and Stephen King Nominated
New York Film Critics Circle Best Actress Sissy Spacek Nominated
National Society of Film Critics Best Actress Won
4th Saturn Awards Best Horror Film Paul Monash Nominated

Related productions[edit]

Carrie, along with the novel, has been reproduced and adapted several times.


The Rage: Carrie 2 was released in 1999. It featured another teenager with telekinetic powers who is revealed to have shared a father with Carrie White. The film received universally negative reviews and was a box office failure. Amy Irving reprises her role of Sue Snell from the previous film.

2002 television film[edit]

In 2002, a television film based on King's novel and starring Angela Bettis in the titular role was released. The film updated the events of the story to modern-day settings and technology while simultaneously attempting to be more faithful to the book's original structure, storyline, and specific events. However, the ending was drastically changed: instead of killing her mother and then herself, the film has Carrie killing her mother, being revived via CPR by Sue Snell and being driven to Florida to hide. This new ending marked a complete divergence from the novel and was a signal that the film served as a pilot for a Carrie television series, which never materialized. In the new ending, the rescued Carrie vows to help others with similar gifts to her own. Although Bettis' portrayal of Carrie was highly praised, the film was cited by most critics as inferior to the original.[33]

2013 film[edit]

In May 2011, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Screen Gems announced that Carrie would be adapted to film once more.[34] Playwright Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa wrote the script as "a more faithful adaptation" of King's novel but shared a screenplay credit with the 1976 film's writer Lawrence D. Cohen. Aguirre-Sacasa had previously adapted King's epic novel The Stand into comic-book form in 2008.

The role of Carrie was played by 16-year-old actress Chloë Grace Moretz.[35] Julianne Moore starred as Carrie's mother Margaret White, and Gabriella Wilde as Sue Snell.[36] Alex Russell and Broadway actor Ansel Elgort played Billy Nolan and Tommy Ross respectively.[37] Portia Doubleday was given the role of Chris Hargensen and Judy Greer was cast as Miss Desjardin.[38]

Kimberly Peirce, known for her work on Boys Don't Cry, directed the new adaptation.[39] It was released on October 18, 2013 and received mixed reviews.

Stage productions[edit]

A 1988 Broadway musical of the same name, based on King's novel and starring Betty Buckley, Linzi Hateley and Darlene Love, closed after only 16 previews and five performances. An English pop opera filtered through Greek tragedy, the show was so notorious that it provided the title to Ken Mandelbaum's survey of theatrical disasters, Not Since Carrie: Forty Years of Broadway Musical Flops.[40]

Early in the 21st century, playwright Erik Jackson attempted to secure the rights to stage another production of Carrie the musical, but his request was rejected. Jackson eventually earned the consent of King[41] to mount a new, officially sanctioned, non-musical production of Carrie, which debuted Off-Broadway in 2006 with female impersonator Sherry Vine in the lead role.[42] Similarly, many other unofficial spoofs have been staged over the years, usually with a gym teacher named "Miss Collins" (as opposed to the novel's "Miss Desjardin" and the musical's "Miss Gardner"), most notably the "parodage" Scarrie the Musical,[43] which hit the Illinois stage in 1998 and was revived in 2005; Dad's Garage Theatre's 2002 production of Carrie White the Musical;[44] and the 2007 New Orleans production of Carrie's Facts of Life,[45] which was a hybrid of Carrie and the classic American sitcom The Facts of Life.

Home media[edit]

Carrie was originally released on VHS and LaserDisc formats, for which it received numerous editions throughout the world.

In the United States and Canada, Carrie has been made available several times on DVD format from MGM Home Entertainment, debuting on September 29, 1998,[46] while a 'Special Edition' set was released on August 28, 2001.[47] On December 4, 2007, the film was released a part of MGM's 'Decades Collection', which included a soundtrack CD.[48] The film was additionally released within multiple sets via MGM; first with Carrie, The Rage: Carrie 2, and Carrie (the 2002 television film) on January 18, 2011,[49] and the second, as part of MGM's 90th anniversary, featured with Misery and The Silence of the Lambs.[49]

The film was released for the first time on Blu-ray in the U.S. and Canada from MGM on October 7, 2008, which contained an MPEG-2 codec, with new DTS-HD 5.1 Master Lossless Audio, while retaining the original English Mono, and included Spanish Audio and French 5.1 Dolby Surround. The only special feature on the set is a theatrical trailer.[50] The film was again released on Blu-ray on July 18, 2013, when it was available exclusively through Comic-Con in San Diego from MGM and FoxConnect, containing a slipcover with exclusive artwork.[51] Two further editions were made available from MGM in 2014; a "Carrie 2-Pack" set containing the original film and the 2013 adaptation, released September 9, 2014,[52] and finally, a re-issue Blu-ray with a collectible Halloween faceplate, on October 21, 2014.[53] Home distribution rights are currently held by Shout Factory, and the film was released via their subsidiary label, Scream Factory on October 11, 2016, in a 2-disc 'Collector's Edition', now available with MPEG-4 coding, and a new 4K scan. Special features on the set include the theatrical trailer, Carrie franchise trailer gallery, new interviews with writer Lawrence D. Cohen, editor Paul Hirsch, actors Piper Laurie, P.J. Soles, Nancy Allen, Betty Buckley, William Katt, and Edie McClurg, casting director Harriet B. Helberg, director of photography Mario Tosi, and composer Pino Donaggio, "Horror's Hallowed Grounds" – Revisiting the Film's Original Locations, "Acting Carrie" featurette, "Visualizing Carrie" featurette, a look at "Carrie the Musical", TV spots, radio spots, still gallery, "Stephen King and the Evolution of Carrie" text gallery. The set also includes reversible sleeve containing original artwork and newly commissioned artwork from Shout Factory, and a slipcover containing the new artwork.[54] On October 11, 2016, Shout Factory additionally released a "Deluxe Limited Edition" of 2000 copies, which includes the slipcover contained in the "Collector's Edition", with an additional poster matching the slipcover, and an alternative slipcover and poster consisting of different artwork.[55]

In the United Kingdom, the film received its initial DVD release on February 1, 2000 via MGM. A re-issue 'Special Edition' DVD was made available from MGM on October 22, 2001,[56] while a two-disc standard set was released on September 7, 2006.[57] A DVD set, "The Carrie Collection", consisting of both the original film, and The Rage: Carrie 2, was released from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment on October 7, 2013,[58] while on the same day, a re-issue DVD containing newly commissioned artwork,[59] as well as the first-ever Blu-ray release in the UK was made available from 20th Century Fox.[60] A second Blu-ray edition became available in the form of a steelbook, released on September 29, 2014; a set which reverted to the previous-style artwork.[61]

On September 22, 2017, it was announced that Carrie would receive a 'Limited Collector's Edition' Blu-ray of 5000 copies from Arrow Films, providing the definitive release of the film. The set will contain a new 4K restoration, with special features, including commentary by authors Lee Gambin and Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, recorded exclusively for the release, brand-new visual essay comparing the various versions and adaptations of Carrie, "Acting Carrie" featurette, "More Acting Carrie" featurette, "Writing Carrie" – an interview with writer Lawrence D. Cohen/"Shooting Carrie" – an interview with cinematographer Mario Tosi, "Cutting Carrie" – an interview with editor Paul Hirsch/"Casting Carrie" – an interview with casting director Harriet B. Helberg, "Bucket of Blood" – an interview with composer Pino Donaggio, "Horror's Hallowed Grounds" – a look back at the film's locations, gallery, trailer, TV spots, radio spots, Carrie trailer reel, and 60-page limited edition booklet featuring new writing on the film by author Neil Mitchell, alongside reversible artwork, poster and art cards. The set was released on December 11, 2017.[62][63]

On most of the later VHS releases and DVD sets, John Travolta's name was included on the artwork alongside Sissy Spacek. Although Travolta only appeared in a minor supporting role in the film, his name was featured only due to his high-profile career in his many films following Carrie, therefore possibly increasing sales.


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External links[edit]