Maybe it’s the chill in the air, or maybe it’s all the yummy fall snacks, but there’s something about October that makes me want to curl up on the couch with a spooky (though not necessarily super scary) movie. Enter: my favourite movies featuring witchy characters.
When it comes to witches in pop culture, they can definitely be portrayed in a wide spectrum of ways — from terrifying purveyors of magic to helpful friends to “wicked” characters to symbols of power (and that doesn’t even touch on portrayals of people persecuted in 1600s Salem). Still, love it or hate it, witches are tied to the spookiest season like Santa is to Christmas (even in 2022, “witch” is the top Halloween costume, according to Google).
Not familiar with the best witches that cinema has offered us so far? If you’re planning your own witchy-fun movie night this fall, I’ve got you covered. Using my non-scientific “scariness” ranking from least to most scare-worthy, I’ve rounded up my picks for the best movies featuring witches (plus a bonus classic spooky movie that’s perfect for cold, dark nights).
7. ‘The Wizard of Oz’ (1939)
Sure, Dorothy and her friends may be the stars of this Technicolor classic, but two witches — Glinda the Good Witch (Billie Burke) and her sister, the Wicked Witch (Margaret Hamilton) — really drive this story.
While it’s not specifically screaming “Halloween,” if you’re looking for a classic starring two iconic witches (after all, we still associate the Wicked Witch’s all-black ensemble, hat, green skin tone and broomstick with the quintessential “witch costume” to this day) that isn’t too scary, this is the perfect intro pick.
6. ‘Hocus Pocus 2’ (2022)
New this Halloween season, the long-awaited sequel to 1993’s Hocus Pocus (more on that later) pits an iconic trio of witches, the Sanderson sisters (played by Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy) with a trio of teens (played by Whitney Peak, Belissa Escobedo and Lilia Buckingham) who have a love for a Halloween ritual.
While I found this film charming (and actually loved bringing some origin-story elements to cult icon characters), I did feel like it was discernibly less scary and a bit more kid-friendly than the original.
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5. ‘The Witches of Eastwick’ (1987)
What happens when a trio of newly single characters played by Cher, Susan Sarandon and Michelle Pfeiffer (in all their 1980s glory) accidentally form a coven — and invite a “horny little devil” (played by Jack Nicholson) to their town as part of their quest to find the perfect man? You get dark comedy. You get witchy adventure. You get satirical cult classic.
While it’s technically a horror-comedy, the ‘80s vibes keep it feeling more on the comedy side to me today.
4. ‘Practical Magic’ (1998)
What’s scarier than love? How about love with a touch of doom, death and a family curse?
Starring Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock as yet another team of powerful sister witches, the premise of Practical Magic is actually quite macabre: men who fall in love with them are cursed to meet their death.
3. ‘Hocus Pocus’ (1993)
Back to the Sanderson sisters and Salem: they really will put a spell on you with this quintessential nostalgic Halloween classic — but in a way that’s much more frightening, in my opinion, than the 2022 sequel. While the film is a must-watch (any ‘90s film where Bette Midler breaks into song is a must-watch though — just look at The First Wives Club), I found the actual deaths (and quest to kill trick-or-treating children), resurrections and constant virgin talk to be more than a little scary. Plus: there’s a talking cat.
2. ‘The Craft’ (1996)
Full of goth looks, witchcraft and dark rituals, The Craft takes a teen coming-of-age story and throws in death and darkness. The story starts like many other teen movies do, with a transfer student (played by Robin Tunney) befriending a group of teen outcasts (Fairuza Balk, Neve Campbell, and Rachel True). As the coven leans into their darker urges, however, things go increasingly wrong in ways that keep me up at night.
Related: Style cues we can take from ‘The Craft.‘
1. ‘The Witches’ (1990)
Yes, this is technically a children’s movie based on a Roald Dahl book and it may not be in the ranks of the scariest horror movies of all time, but this is my list, and this is the disturbing witch-related film in my life — likely because I saw this when I was a small child.
Headlined by Anjelica Huston, The Witches tells the tales of a group of witches who hide in plain sight (but are secretly grotesque) as part of their evil plans to destroy children. The plot is diabolical, the witches are terrifying and it’s the scariest witch movie in my heart.
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Bonus: ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula’ (1992)
Have you had your fill of witches this spooky season? Another scary classic, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. What better way to end your Halloween movie marathon than with the chilling horror tale of a Transylvanian prince (played by Gary Oldman)?