Carrie (1976 film)


Original theatrical release poster
Directed by Brian De Palma
Produced by Paul Monash
Screenplay by Lawrence D. Cohen
Based on Carrie
by Stephen King
Music by Pino Donaggio
Cinematography Mario Tosi
Edited by Paul Hirsch
Distributed by United Artists
Release dates
  • November 3, 1976 (1976-11-03)
Running time
98 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $1.8 million
Box office $33.8 million[2]

Carrie is a 1976 American supernatural horror film[3] based on Stephen King's 1974 epistolary novel of the same name. The film was directed by Brian De Palma and produced by Paul Monash, with a screenplay by Lawrence D. Cohen.

The film received two Academy Award nominations, one for Sissy Spacek in the title role and one for Piper Laurie as her abusive mother. The film featured numerous young actors including Nancy Allen, William Katt, Amy Irving, and John Travolta whose careers were launched, or escalated, by the film. It also relaunched the screen and television career of Laurie, who had not been active in show business since 1961.

Carrie was the first of more than 100 film and television productions adapted from, or based on, the published works of Stephen King.


Shy, bullied high school student Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) experiences her first period as she showers with other girls after gym class. Unaware of what is happening to her, she panics and pleads for help. The other girls respond by pelting her with hygiene products, laughing and chanting "plug it up!" Gym teacher Miss Collins (Betty Buckley) breaks up the commotion and attempts to console Carrie. A light bulb mysteriously breaking as Carrie reaches the height of her panic.

Later, the school principal seems uncomfortable as Miss Collins expresses bewilderment that Carrie is so uninformed. As he dismisses Carrie from school, she becomes frustrated that he repeatedly calls her by another name, causing an ashtray to fall from his desk and shatter. On her way home, a young boy teases Carrie, and she makes him fall off his bicycle with just a look. At home, Carrie is abused by her fanatically religious mother, Margaret (Piper Laurie), who rants about menstruation being the result of sinful thoughts. Carrie is locked in a small 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 (Amy Irving) feels guilty, so she arranges for her boyfriend, handsome and popular Tommy (William Katt), to ask Carrie to the prom. Reluctant at first, Carrie accepts after encouragement from Miss Collins. Another classmate, Chris (Nancy Allen), throws a tantrum and skips her detention for bullying Carrie, so she is banned from the prom. Swearing vengeance, she recruits her delinquent boyfriend Billy (John Travolta) 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.

Margaret discovers Carrie's prom plans and attempts to abuse her again. Having researched her telekinesis, Carrie asserts her power and stands up to her mother. 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' bubbly best friend Norma (P.J. Soles) 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 is laughing at her and soon unleashes telekinetic fury upon the crowd, guilty and innocent alike. The doors slam shut (crushing a pair of students), a high-pressure water hose assaults many people (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. Chris and Billy attempt to run over Carrie as she walks home, but Carrie causes their car to flip and explode.

At home, Carrie is comforted by her mother, who reveals her guilt about giving birth to Carrie, a product of marital rape. As they pray together, Margaret stabs her daughter in the back and pursues her through the house. Defending herself, Carrie causes kitchen utensils to fly through the air and crucify Margaret. Distraught over her mother's death, Carrie loses control of her powers as the house crumbles and burns down around her.

Sometime after Carrie’s death, Sue, the sole survivor of the prom massacre, dreams of laying flowers on the charred remains of Carrie's home. As a bloody arm reaches from the rubble and grabs her, Sue wakes up screaming.




Carrie was the first Stephen King novel to be published and the first to be adapted into a feature film. 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."[4] 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."[5]

Lawrence D. Cohen was hired as the screenwriter, and produced the first draft, which had closely followed the novel's intentions.[6] 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.[7] Certain scripted scenes were omitted from the final version, mainly due to financial limitations.


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,[8] 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,[5] and was given the part.

Amy Irving was cast alongside her mother, Priscilla Pointer, who would play the mother of Irving's character.

Nancy Allen was the last to audition, and her audition came just as she was on the verge of leaving Hollywood.[6] She and De Palma later married.


De Palma began with director of photography Isidore Mankofsky, who was eventually replaced by Mario Tosi after conflict between Mankofsky and De Palma ensued.[9] Gregory M. Auer 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 and to give the home a Gothic theme, director and producers went to religious shops looking for artifacts to place in the home.

The site of one of the locations where Carrie was filmed, Palisades Charter High School ("Pali High"), was owned by Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher - parents of Carrie Fisher - years before the school was built. Some years after the couple had purchased the lot, the State acquired the land by eminent domain (compulsory purchase) to build the school.

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.[6] A mechanical malfunction botched production the night when the model of the Whites' home was set to be destroyed, so they burned it down instead and dropped the scenes with the stones altogether. The original opening scene is presumed lost.[6]

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).[6] Spacek had insisted on using her own hand in the given scene, so she was positioned under the rocks and gravel. De Palma stated, "Sissy, come on, I'll get a stunt person. What do you want? To be buried in the ground?!" However, Spacek declared, "Brian, I have to do this." De Palma explains that they "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 bury her because I certainly didn't want to bury her. I used to walk around and set up the shot and every once in a while we'd hear Sissy: 'Are we ready yet?' 'Yeah, Sissy, we're going to be ready real soon.'"


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 other songs were uncredited in the film and omitted from all album releases due to different ownership. These songs are "(Love Is Like a) Heat Wave" by Martha and the Vandellas, "Education Blues" by Vance or Towers, and a third song called "Lady Lay", which is also presumed to be by Vance or Towers (it was co-written by the band's Michael Towers[10]). Additionally, two brief musical interludes during the prom ("Pre-Prom Disco" and "Ernest's Announcement") were also written by the same songwriting team who wrote "Lady Lay"[10] and have never been issued.

The soundtrack album was originally released on vinyl in 1976 under the United Artists label. It was also released on cassette tape at some time during the 1970s or 1980s. A deluxe CD edition containing a few tracks of dialogue from the film was released by MGM/Rykodisc in 1997, and a 2005 CD re-release of the original soundtrack (minus dialogue) was available from Varèse Sarabande. Huge portions of the film's score were omitted from all of these releases. A bootleg version of the isolated score ripped from the Criterion laserdisc has also been in circulation on the internet.

In 2010, Kritzerland Records released all 35 cues of Donaggio's score for the film on a two-disc CD set which was boasted 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 voiceover 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 1200 copies. Kritzerland re-released the first disc as "The Encore Edition" in February 2013; this release was limited to 1,000 copies.[11]

Release and reception

Carrie received largely positive reviews and is widely regarded as one of the best films of 1976.[12][13][14] The film currently holds a 93% "Certified Fresh" rating on the review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes; the consensus states: "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."[15]

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.[16] 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."[17] 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."[18] Quentin Tarantino placed Carrie at number 8 in a list of his favorite films ever.[19]

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..."[18]

In addition to being a box office success - earning $14.5 million in theater rentals by January 1978[20] - 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.[21] 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).[22]

In a 2010 interview, King replied that he thought, although dated now, Carrie was a "good movie."[4]


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


Main article: The Rage: Carrie 2

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

Main article: Carrie (2002 film)

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.[27]

2013 film

Main article: Carrie (2013 film)

In May 2011, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Screen Gems announced that Carrie would be adapted to film once more.[28] Playwright Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa wrote the script as "a more faithful adaptation" of King's novel. 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.[29] Julianne Moore starred as Carrie's mother Margaret White, and Gabriella Wilde as Sue Snell.[30] Alex Russell and Broadway actor Ansel Elgort played Billy Nolan and Tommy Ross respectively.[31] Portia Doubleday was given the role of Chris Hargensen and Judy Greer was cast as Miss Desjardin.[32]

Kimberly Peirce, known for her work on Boys Don't Cry, directed the new adaptation.[33] It was released October 18, 2013 and received mixed reviews.

Stage productions

Main article: Carrie (musical)

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[34] 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.[35] 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,[36] which hit the Illinois stage in 1998 and was revived in 2005; Dad's Garage Theatre's 2002 production of Carrie White the Musical;[37] and the 2007 New Orleans production of Carrie's Facts of Life,[38] which was a hybrid of Carrie and the classic American sitcom The Facts of Life.


  1. "CARRIE (X)". United Artists. British Board of Film Classification. November 4, 1976. Retrieved June 20, 2014.
  2. "Carrie, Box Office Information". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 23, 2012.
  3. "Carrie Movie Review - Stephen King's Teen Horror Classic Carrie - the Movie". April 10, 2012. Retrieved October 2, 2012.
  4. 1 2 Stetson, Nancy (March 25–31, 2010). "King rules The Big read for a day in Port Charlotte". Florida Weekly: B8. Newspaper column review of a live interview by Christy Arnold of King onstage at the Cultural Center of Charlotte County, Florida, March 20, 2010: "Although the film "Carrie" is dated now, he said he thought it was a good movie. 'I was fortunate to have that happen to my first book.' (He was 26 years old and was paid $2,500, he said.)"
  5. 1 2 Brian De Palma interview (July 1977). Retrieved 30 June 2010.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 Carrie DVD featurette ("visualising Carrie"). United Artists. 2002.
  7. Neil Mitchell (5 August 2014). Carrie. Auteur Publishing. p. 31. ISBN 978-1-906733-92-6.
  8. Carrie DVD featurette ("Acting Carrie"). United Artists. 2002.
  9. Brian De Retrieved May 27, 2007. Archived April 29, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  10. 1 2 "BMI Repertoire". Retrieved November 17, 2010.
  11. "Special 2-CD soundtrack "Carrie" full score composed by Pino Donaggio". Retrieved August 3, 2013.
  12. "Greatest Films of 1976". Retrieved October 2, 2012.
  13. "The Best Movies of 1976 by Rank". Retrieved October 2, 2012.
  14. "IMDb: Year: 1976". Internet Movie Database.
  15. "Carrie". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved October 2, 2012.
  16. Ebert, Roger. Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun Times) Review of Carrie (1976). Retrieved May 27, 2007.
  17. Take One Magazine, January 1977 at Carrie... A Fan's Site
  18. 1 2 "Pundits Page". Take One Magazine, p.57. March 1997.
  19. "Quentin Tarantino's Handwritten List of the 11 Greatest Movies". Empire. 2008. Retrieved October 2, 2013.
  20. Richard Nowell, Blood Money: A History of the First Teen Slasher Film Cycle Continuum, 2011 p 256
  21. "Empire's 500 Greatest Movies of All Time". Empire. December 5, 2006. Retrieved October 2, 2012.
  22. "The 100 Scariest Movie Moments". Archived from the original on July 19, 2006. Retrieved August 6, 2006.
  23. "AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies: Official Ballot" (PDF). American Film Institute. Archived from the original (PDF) on August 7, 2011. Retrieved March 7, 2012.
  24. "AFI's 100 Years... 100 Thrills" (PDF). American Film Institute. Retrieved March 7, 2012.
  25. "AFI's 100 Years... 100 Heroes and Villains: The 400 Nominated Characters" (PDF). American Film Institute. Retrieved March 7, 2012.
  26. "AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition): Official Ballot" (PDF). American Film Institute. Retrieved March 7, 2012.
  27. "TV Reviews: "Carrie"". Internet Movie Database. November 4, 2002.
  28. Kit, Borys (May 19, 2011). "MGM, Screen Gems Team for 'Carrie' Remake". The Hollywood Reporter.
  29. Fleming, Mike (March 27, 2012). "MGM Formally Offers Lead Remake of Stephen King's 'Carrie' To Chloe Moretz". Retrieved March 29, 2012.
  30. "Julianne Moore And Gabriella Wilde Board Carrie Remake". May 14, 2012. Retrieved October 2, 2012.
  31. ""Chronicle" star Alex Russell and Broadway actor Ansel Elgort join "Carrie" remake opposite Chloe Moretz". Up and Comers. Retrieved October 2, 2012.
  32. "UPDATE: Judy Greer HAS NOT Signed On To The Carrie Remake As The Gym Teacher". May 25, 2012. Retrieved October 2, 2012.
  33. Fleming, Mike (January 4, 2012). "MGM/Screen Gems Eye Kimberly Peirce To Direct Remake of Stephen King's 'Carrie'". Retrieved March 29, 2012.
  34. "Eric Jackson Interview". Retrieved February 27, 2008.
  35. "New York Times Theater Review". The New York Times. November 26, 2006. Retrieved February 27, 2008.
  36. "Hell in a Handbag's Scarrie site". Retrieved February 27, 2008.
  37. "Sci-Fi Dimensions Review". scifidimensions. Archived from the original on March 6, 2008. Retrieved February 27, 2008.
  38. "Carrie's Facts of Life - Official Site". Retrieved February 27, 2008.
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