The film was supposedly based off of a real life exorcism that took place in 1949. This exorcism involved a thirteen-year-old boy from Maryland. The boy, referred to as Robbie Mannheim, showed signs that he might be possessed, and doctors could not diagnose his symptoms, so the family turned to the Catholic Church. The Church sent two exorcists to visit Robbie, and they performed the exorcism. The symptoms of possession went away once the exorcism was completed, leaving many to speculate that the boy was actually possessed.
After the film's release, it received widespread recognition, becoming one of the most financially successful horror movies of all time. The film also won two Oscar awards, one for Best Sound and the other for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material From Another Medium. It also received Oscar nominations for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Best Actress in a Leading Role, Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Director, Best Film Editing, and Best Picture.