His greatest works are generally seen as The French Connection and The Exorcist, which established him as an up-and-coming talent in cinema, but his ambitious film Sorcerer, doomed by its release alongside Star Wars, essentially ruined his career and sent him into obscurity (though it is now being re-evaluated as a masterpiece by many critics). He continues making films, some hugely beloved and others hated, but has never regained his former fame or success.
Films by Friedkin with pages on the wiki:
- The French Connection
- The Exorcist
- To Live and Die in L.A.
- The Guardian
- Rules of Engagement
- The Hunted
- Killer Joe
Tropes common to Friedkin's works include:
- Bittersweet Ending: In his more optimistic films such as The Exorcist.
- Black-and-Gray Morality
- Crapsack World: Usually, especially in Sorcerer and To Live and Die in L.A..
- Downer Ending: Almost always. The only other option is a Bittersweet Ending.
- Grey-and-Gray Morality
- Karma Houdini: A few, most famously in The French Connection.
- What Could Have Been: Enjoying the succcess of The Exorcist in 1973, and inspired by the fantasy story printed on the back cover of Genesis Live, Friedkin asked the band's then-frontman, Peter Gabriel, among other figures outside of the film industry, to come up with ideas the director could use to create new movies. Gabriel, seeing this as a golden opportunity and a chance to branch out from his Genesis duties, took a trip to see Friedkin and brainstorm. Members of the band, which was in the middle of writing and recording The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway at the time, felt uncomfortable and resentful with the idea, disliked that Gabriel wasn't fully giving his attention or commitment to the band and the album, and saw it as a threat that their frontman might leave at any time. This attitude within the band, which later they would regret, was part of the impetus for Gabriel leaving the band (Friedkin had as well felt guilty, as he only wanted ideas and did not want the band to break up due to him).