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Carrie (1976) is the first and best-known adaptation of the Stephen King novel Carrie. It was directed by Brian De Palma and stars Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, John Travolta, Amy Irving, and Nancy Allen.

High school can be rough, especially when you are the school outcast. Carrie White (Spacek) has spent her entire life as the town pariah, rejected by her peers and regularly abused by her fanatically religious mother, Margaret (Laurie). However, Carrie has a secret: she has telekinetic powers. When heartthrob Tommy (William Katt) invites Carrie to the school prom, her whole world will change for the better... and worse.


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This movie contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Margaret White, of course.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job:
    • Carrie goes from mousy brown to strawberry blonde.
    • Chris is dark haired in the book and blonde in the film.
    • Margaret already has grey hair in the book but has red hair in the film.
    • Sue is blonde in the book, but brunette in the film.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness:
    • One of the most famous examples. In the original novel, Carrie was described as short, chunky, acne-ridden, and with short mousy brown hairnote , while in the movie she is tall and very skinny without any acne and long strawberry blonde hair.
    • Margaret as well; in the novel she is described as short and fat with short white hair and glasses while in the movie she is portrayed as tall and slim with medium-length russet-brown hair, and her glasses are not seen.
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  • Adaptational Backstory Change: In the book, Margaret turned into an insane religious fanatic after the violent death of her father before she even met Ralph White, but the film implies she turned to religious mania after her husband left her for another woman (in the novel, Ralph died in a construction accident shortly after Carrie was conceived.)
  • Adaptation Distillation: The entire framing device is cut and so is the final part of Carrie's rampage, where she goes after the whole town. Crossing over with Pragmatic Adaptation because this had been intended to be included but was simply too expensive.
  • Adaptation Explanation Extrication:
    • Minor example. Carrie says she sewed her prom dress. In the book, she's been taking in sewing for neighbours for years to get money for things Margaret refused to pay for - so she's an experienced seamstress. This isn't really touched on in the film.
    • Several possible reasons for Carrie's powers are removed altogether from the film along with the framing device. The book quite extensively considers the possibility that it is caused by a supernatural event (such as coming from space), but also removes the slightly more realistic implication that Carrie's powers are genetic.
    • The film cuts out most scenes that better flesh out Sue's character and motivations, making it rather vague why she wants Tommy to take Carrie to the prom. A lot of viewers thought Sue was in on the prank as a result.
  • Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole: Carrie never reads about her powers in the book, like she does in the film. The texts she is shown reading are taken from the wraparound segments of the book, which are implied to have been written after Carrie's rampage when the world now knows more about telekinesis. In the film, this just begs the question of what legitimate information on telekinesis is doing in a small town high school library.
  • Adaptation Name Change:
    • The high school goes from Ewen High to Bates High.
    • Miss Desjardin becomes Miss Collins.
    • The Thibodeau twins (Donna and Mary Lila Grace) become the Wilson twins, named Cora and Ruth.
  • Adaptation Personality Change:
    • Billy Nolan in the book is a sociopath who rapes Chris at one point and the narration says that the main reason she is with him is because she can't wrap him around her little finger. Here Billy is shown as more of a dork that Chris easily manipulates. Nancy Allen didn't even realise how much of a villain he was until she saw the final film — thinking of Billy and Chris as bumbling comic relief.
    • In the book, where it's the vice-principal who gets Carrie's name wrong, he actually admits his mistake and explains that it's not personal — he's been around so long that he often forgets names. Both he and the principal also stand up to Chris's father and do their best to help Carrie. The film cuts out most of this and combines the two characters, making the principal simply come off as an incompetent administrator.
    • Brian De Palma was so impressed with PJ Soles' performance as Norma Watson that he rewrote her as Chris's Beta Bitch with a role in the prom prank.
  • Adaptation Relationship Overhaul: The film doesn't establish that Sue and Chris are friends — in fact, Sue seems to find her aggravating, and Norma is portrayed as her best friend.
  • Adaptational Alternate Ending: Famously so. The book's ending mostly detailed the aftermath of the incident, finishing with a letter from a mother in Tennessee mentioning that her daughter may have powers too. The film's ending shows Sue laying flowers at Carrie's grave, a bloodied hand rising up to grab her, and revealing it as a nightmare - ending with a hysterical Sue being comforted by her mother.
  • Adaptational Heroism:
    • In the book, the P.E. teacher finds Carrie's awkwardness annoying, enjoyed slapping her in the showers, and even laughs with everyone else when the prank is pulled (though she suffers a Heel Realization and is the only person to try to help Carrie at that point). Here, she gets a lot more sympathetic moments and is horrified at the prank (with Carrie only thinking she's laughing at her). She also gets a scene where she tells Carrie she's beautiful.
    • It's implied that most of the promgoers aren't actually laughing at the prank here, with Carrie only thinking that they're all laughing. Also, several of them are a lot more concerned for Tommy and try to help him, while in the book, he's left to die on the stage.
    • Carrie herself sort of. In the novel she's fully aware of what she's doing when getting her revenge, and goes home to intentionally kill her mother and later Billy and Chris. The film has her go into a trance where it's implied she's lost control of her powers. She also only kills the above three in self-defense.
  • Adaptational Modesty:
    • In the book, Sue has her Heel Realization in the back of Tommy's car, but the scene never made it into the movie.
    • The sex scenes between Billy and Chris are removed or toned down, with just the beginning of Chris implying she's about to give oral sex to him.
  • Adaptational Nationality: The book takes place in Maine. In the film, Carrie, Margaret, and several of the teens have memorably thick Southern accents, which would imply this takes place in a more rural Southern town instead of New England.
  • Adaptational Sexuality: An extremely downplayed example. Betty Buckley says she played Miss Collins as a lesbian.
  • Adaptational Ugliness: Helen Shyres is a prom queen candidate in the book and is implied to be pretty. Here she's presented as the chubby Butt-Monkey of the group, who doesn't seem to have a date for the prom.
  • Adaptational Villainy:
    • Norma was a geeky Student Council President sort in the book, but becomes Chris's right hand gal pal. She leads the laughing when Carrie gets pranked.
    • Ralph White is dead in the book, but walked out on Margaret and Carrie in this movie.
    • Any qualities in Margaret White that could be considered humanizing or sympathetic are not present in this film. A large part of this is due to Piper Laurie's cartoonishly villainous performance.
    • Billy's friends were a lot less evil in the book. They didn't know about the prank and one of them was horrified when he learned what happened. In the film, they're fully on board with the prank and help rig the voting.
  • Adapted Out: This is the only film version where Chris's father doesn't appear.
  • Adults Are Useless: The principal seems indifferent to Carrie's plight and doesn't even get her name right.
  • all lowercase letters: All of the opening and closing credits.
  • Ambiguously Bi: This rather suspect line from one of Billy's gang:
    Ernest: Take it easy, man.
    Freddy: I'll take it any way I can get it.
  • Ambiguous Innocence: Crossing over with the below. It's left very ambiguous how many people (if any, except Norma) are laughing at Carrie, and Miss Collins seems to be genuinely upset on her behalf, while the book makes it clear that most people laughed.
  • Ambiguous Situation: It's unclear how much of the laughter is real and how much is Carrie hallucinating. A lot of it is clearly imaginary, but the split-screen shots (which are not from Carrie's POV) clearly show many people laughing as she closes the doors. Even the people who made the movie don't agree on this, as the screenwriter's intent was that the laughter was mostly in her head, while the editor believed that a lot of people joined in once Norma got the ball rolling.
  • And Starring: Piper Laurie as Margaret got this treatment. The credits also had "Introducing" for John Travolta.
  • The Artifact: The final sequence shows boulders crashing through the ceiling of the White house as a remnant of the planned climax where Carrie would have the house crushed in a shower of stones.
  • Ascended Extra: Mrs Snell quite literally. She only appeared briefly as she was leaving the house before the prom in the book. Here she gets a little more screen time and features as a supporting character. This is due to Brian DePalma discovering that Amy Irving's mother, Priscilla Pointer, was also an actress and writing it specifically for her (he had previously cast a real life mother and daughter in Sisters).
  • Beta Bitch: The '76 film upgrades Norma to this, and the '02 and '13 films do the same with Tina, giving Chris a female partner in crime. Neither was actually evil in the book, though Tina was friends with Chris.
  • Big Damn Kiss: In a horror movie about what jerks people can be, the story briefly pauses so we can have a nice little breather moment when Carrie gets her first (and only) kiss, from Tommy out on the dance floor.
  • Book-Ends: Carrie's first and final scenes involve blood mixing into water. The first time, it's her getting her period in the school shower, the second, it's her bathing at home covered in blood.
  • Bystander Syndrome: Norma's reaction to Tommy getting hit by the bucket is to laugh even harder at it. The guy next to her looks completely indifferent, and it doesn't seem to register much with the others either (though they soon had bigger things to worry about).
  • Catapult Nightmare: Experienced by Sue at the end.
  • Character Development: One of the bullies appears to have undergone this, as when Carrie wins prom queen, she gives her a congratulatory kiss on the cheek, looks very upset at the prank, and is one of the first to try to help Tommy off the stage. This is largely due to her actress's performance, as she has almost no spoken dialogue.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Anyone wearing a red cap is in on the prank (though Norma's date ditches his for the prom).
  • Composite Character:
    • Mr Morton is the vice principal in the book and Mr. Grayle is the principal. For convenience, Mr Morton is the principal here too.
    • Norma gets combined with Tina, who was Chris's friend in the book. Ironically, in the book, Tina doesn't like Norma at all.
  • Corpsing: The actresses playing Carrie and her mother have very hard times keeping a straight face. Special mention to Piper Laurie, who was so over the top De Palma had to take her aside and remind her she wasn't in a comedy. (In her interview on the DVD, Nancy Allen, who played Chris in the 1976 version, states that she thought they were making a comedy.)
  • Crucified Hero Shot: A villainous example. Carrie's mother, in her final shot, impaled and crucified with steak knives in the style of the Saint Sebastian figurine in the confessional. And like Saint Sebastian, she experiences religious ecstasy during her death. Saint Sebastian, who according to legend was a very handsome young man, is something of an unofficial sex symbol in the Catholic Church (especially among closeted gay men). The movie uses this to show how Carrie's mother has literally channeled her sex drive into religious devotion — or in this case, Saint Sebastian.
  • Curse Cut Short: Chris telling Miss Collins to stick her exercises up her —. The funny part is due to bad editing, the curse is supposed to be cut short by Miss Collins slapping her, but the actresses are standing too far apart for this, so there's a weird pause where no one's doing anything and it seems like Chris has self-censored the word "ass."
  • Death by Adaptation:
    • Norma survives the prom in the book and even writes a book about it. Here she's killed with a fire hose.
    • The principal is electrocuted in the film, but survives in the book.
    • The gym teacher survives too and resigns after the incident, but here is killed when the basketball backboard falls on her.
  • Died Happily Ever After: One of the most disturbing uses of this trope. Margaret's death is played in a way that makes it sound like she's getting off on it, and is happy that she's going to finally meet Jesus.
  • Disappeared Dad: The book version of Carrie's father died in an accident before she was born. In the film, though, it is made clear that Ralph White left Margaret for another woman, acting as a Sequel Hook for The Rage: Carrie 2.
  • Dissonant Serenity: As the prom collapses into flames and destruction, Carrie watches the proceedings with a placid expression and a faint smile.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Chris really seems to be enjoying pulling that rope...
  • The End... Or Is It?: The final scene, where Sue is grabbed by Carrie's arm coming out of the ground while laying flowers at the ashes of her house. Thankfully, it turns out to be All Just a Dream. This shock ending wound up having a major influence on many pioneering Slasher Movies, particularly Friday the 13th (1980).
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: Billy's Chevelle explodes soon after rolling over. Justified, though, in that it's made clear that Carrie caused the car to blow up with her mind.
  • Fakeout Makeout: Norma and her date do this to hide the fact that they're dropping the prom ballots to the floor and replacing them with fake ones.
  • Fanservice: Played straight and then subverted in the opening credits sequence. It starts out with a lingering, slow-motion pan shot of teenage girls (most of them nude or underwear-clad) in the locker room, culminating in a minute-long scene of Carrie taking a shower... and then Carrie has her period, and things turn real ugly real fast.
  • Feedback Rule: During the climactic scene, principal Morton and instructor Fromm tussle over the microphone about what to say during the crisis at the prom. The resulting microphone squeal brings them to Carrie's attention; she disposes of these goofballs by electrocuting them with the mic wiring.
  • Final Girl: Sue fits this pretty fairly well, save for the fact that she never directly confronts the killer... except in her nightmares. And she finally bites it in the sequel.
  • Good Adultery, Bad Adultery: Tommy is technically cheating on Sue when he kisses Carrie at the prom (though, due to the compressed nature of the film, the fact that Sue is his girlfriend gets little focus). The kiss is presented as a sweet moment because it's probably Carrie's first kiss and the film implies that Tommy may have fallen for her after all.
  • Hotter and Sexier: Carrie showering after gym class warrants basically a paragraph before the blood starts. In this film it becomes a Fanservicey slow-motion pan as we see the girls in various states of undress.
  • In the Back: Margaret does this to Carrie after the prom disaster.
  • Ironic Echo: Carrie crucifies Margaret and stabs her stomach with sharp kitchen tools, and she is positioned to look exactly like the figure of Saint Sebastian in the confessional.
  • Jump Scare: One of the most famous examples ever: Carrie's hand grabbing Sue's ankle in a nightmare sequence at the end.
  • Kick the Dog: The English teacher making fun of Carrie for saying Tommy's poem is "beautiful". It shows that even the teachers are assholes to Carrie.
  • Kill 'Em All: Sue is the only major character who survives to the end, while in the book, at least a handful of students manage to escape the gym.
  • Large Ham:
    • Chris (Nancy Allen) thought she was in a comedy.
    • So did Piper Laurie and it showed. Both are on very, very hammy form.
  • Lighter and Softer: Carrie destroys the entire town and many more are killed as a result of the incident in the book. She just burns down the school gym here.
  • Male Gaze: Rather blatantly when Carrie is showering after gym class. Lindsay Ellis used clips from that scene in her video on Male Gaze as an example.
  • Meaningful Background Event: Near the start of Carrie's rampage, Ms. Collins and one of the students are seen checking on Tommy's body. The student's horrified reaction suggests that Tommy's already dead at this point.
  • Misplaced Retribution: Chris has only herself to blame for getting kicked out of the prom, yet she lashes out at Carrie.
  • Mutual Kill: Margaret stabs Carrie, Carrie uses Margaret's knives to crucify her, and then Carrie's My God, What Have I Done? reaction leads her to burn down her house with both of them inside.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: After Miss Collins gives her a good thrashing, Sue looks down at the sobbing Carrie cowering in the shower stall and realizes what she and the other girls have done.
  • New England Puritan: Margaret White is this trope to the extreme, resulting in her and her daughter being ostracized by the rest of the town.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: The gym teacher, Miss Collins, is one of the few characters to defend Carrie by punishing her tormentors. Unfortunately, this leads to them plotting far more horrific revenge, leading to the iconic scene at the end.
  • Nightmare Sequence: At the end of the film, Sue dreams of placing flowers on Carrie's grave. A bloody hand suddenly reaches out and grabs her.
  • Not So Different: Immediately after Sue convinces Tommy to take Carrie to the prom (by ignoring him until he agrees), we cut to Chris giving Billy a blowjob to manipulate him into helping her get back at Carrie.
  • Panty Shot: Carrie gives a frontal, white undies view as her mother drags her into the closet.
  • Pink Means Feminine: Carrie's prom dress is a light shade of pink, marking the first time she's ever really paid attention to her appearance. Also new to the film, as the book dress was red.
  • Poor Communication Kills: In this case, nearly everyone in the gym. If only Miss Collins had listened to Sue when she was trying to explain about the bucket of blood.
  • Precision F-Strike: Miss Collins refers to the prank orchestrated by Chris as "a very shitty thing" twice in succession. This elicits a few giggles from the gym students.
  • Prom Wrecker: Chris and her friends plan to do this to Carrie, by dumping pigs blood on her when she is crowned Prom Queen. What they don't realize is that she has psychic powers.
  • "Psycho" Strings: Heard whenever Carrie uses her powers.
  • Psychotic Smirk: We get a close-up of Chris giving one when she dumps the blood on Carrie.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: The famous prom scene.
  • Roundabout Shot: A variation happens as the camera circles around Carrie and Tommy as they dance romantically.
  • Rule of Symbolism: After spending the whole film filled to the brim with religious speeches and symbols, the White's house is last seen sinking into the Earth, on fire.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: This one is given some justification compared to the book, where Miss Collins gives Carrie some suggestions as to what she could do to clean up for the prom.
  • Shell-Shock Silence: In the moments right after the prank, most of the sound cuts out, with the sound of the bucket the only thing we hear.
  • '70s Hair: Most of the cast, with the biggest example (in more ways than one) being William Katt's massive blond 'fro.
  • Shout-Out: The film, being directed by noted Alfred Hitchcock fan Brian De Palma, has tons of shout-outs to Hitchcock's movies. The two biggest ones are probably the use of the "shower" music from Psycho, and the fact that the school is renamed Bates High School. You can also make a case for the characterization of Margaret White as a hammed-up Expy of Bernice Edgar, the prostitute-turned-religious fanatic mother of the title character in Marnie.
  • Signature Style: Brian De Palma gets a lot of mileage out of two of his favorite filmmaking devices — the Orbital Shot (used when Carrie and Tommy dance) and a Split Screen (when Carrie starts her rampage).
  • Slasher Smile: Margaret, while she's coming after Carrie with a huge kitchen knife and making the sign of the Holy Cross with it. Right into the camera.
  • So Happy Together: Although this is technically their first date, the prom scene with Tommy and Carrie before it all goes to hell is arguably one of the most iconic examples in cinema history.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Pino Donaggio is a master of this, scoring some very disturbing scenes in either a very inappropriately sexy or sweet fashion.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Ralph White has been dead for some years in the book. In the film he ran off and had an affair with another woman. This allowed for the sequel to make Rachel Carrie's half-sister.
  • Tragic Mistake: Sue is about to stop the prank when Miss Collins sees her and ejects her from the prom, thinking she's up to no good.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The trailer showed off the entire climax, including the deaths of nearly every major character, which makes one wonder why anyone bothered to go see the film. It's particularly hilarious when they dramatically mention "John Travolta in his first motion picture role" and promptly have his car explode.
  • Uncertain Doom: Almost everyone trapped inside the gym at the end, save the two teachers who are killed from electrocution. The sequel reveals that a few students somehow escaped, but it’s not revealed in either film who the survivors are.
  • Unflinching Walk: Carrie walks out of the bloody gym as the fire starts. A notable example because, in the book, it's actually subverted, as Carrie runs out crying and is then ''tripped'' by one of the laughing students.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Miss Collins notices Sue has gatecrashed the prom and, still suspecting her of setting Carrie up, throws her out before she can tell Miss Collins what she's just seen above and below the stage.
  • Visual Innuendo: The close-up of the spraying shower head in the locker room scene emphasizes its phallic resemblance.
  • Workout Fanservice: The detention scene, which seems to exist mainly to feature a gaggle of high school girls wearing tiny gym shorts doing stretches and squats, all while Betty Buckley (wearing similarly tiny shorts) serves as a Drill Sergeant Nasty.

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