There are few things more closely associated with Halloween than witches. These wicked women have bewitched us for centuries – through folk tales and, now, in movies and TV shows. The way we tell these stories has progressed a lot – and so, too, has the concept of the witch. Are these sinister sorceresses simply trying to ruin the lives of innocent people, or are they misunderstood Dark Arts dabblers? Are the broomstick fliers or bus riders?
As a result, the best witch movies encompass all different kinds of witches. There are those depictions more indebted to the classic look we all know and love, and then those that are a bit different. Seeing as there's arguably nothing more intriguing than a woman who ignores cultural boundaries, wears eccentric clothes, and has magical powers, witches have been a mainstay of cinema ever since the first images were put in motion. As a result, the below list of the best witch movies features flicks from across the decades. And what better time to revisit them this Halloween. So, get your black cat and cosy up with the best witch movies.
15. Teen Witch (1989)
Dripping with aerosol cheese and peppered with the occasional hip-hop interlude, this ‘80s cult classic may not be regarded as a cinematic masterpiece, but its unique take on the trials and tribulations of a teenage witch’s life has won over an army of fans. Campy, cute and occasionally like an episode of Degrassi, Teen Witch is charming in its earnestness.
Robyn Lively's Louise (the eponymous teen witch) is relatably geeky and unpopular – that is, until she figures out that she's a witch. Watching her discover that using magic to climb the social ladder isn't cool is a great take on the '80s moral code, wrapping it in a neon occult robe.
14. Practical Magic (1998)
While there’s a lot wrong with this witchy romcom starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman, there’s still so much that’s so right. The movie follows sisters Sally and Gillian Owens, whose family carries a curse: any man they fall in love with dies an untimely death. Arguably a little cheesy, containing a fair few cliches, and with some pacing issues, Practical Magic sizzles thanks to the chemistry between Bullock and Kidman. They work so well together, it's almost like… magic.
13. Kiki's Delivery Service (1989)
Considering Kiki's Delivery Service comes from Studio Ghibli, it’s no surprise that this coming-of-age flick, about a witch in training who leaves home on her 13th birthday as part of her occult studies, is fantastic. With her black cat Jiji in tow, Kiki’s journey to become a young witch begins with her initially delivering packages via broomstick. However, she soon loses her ability to fly and convene with Jiji, in what turns out to be a nasty case of artist's block (or adolescence, depending on how you look at it).
Kiki's Delivery Service is a beautiful, emotional tale about growing up and growing into yourself. Quite possibly the most endearing aspect of the film is the way in which Kiki's abilities are handled – being a witch is not odd, eerie or sinister: it's merely a part of life.
12. Halloweentown (1998)
If Debbie Reynolds as a grand witch isn't enough to pique your interest then check your pulse. Halloweentown – or, as those with taste call it, “The Best Disney Channel Original Movie Ever Made” – tells the story of 13-year-old Marnie Piper and her grandmother Aggie, who's secretly a witch. Aggie visits every year during All Hallow's Eve, and when she heads home to her mysterious town, Marnie and her siblings secretly hitch a ride. They end up in – you guessed it – Halloweentown, a magical place full of skeletal taxi drivers and goblin boys. Something evil is afoot, and it's up to Marnie, her siblings, and their reluctant mother to tap i save the day.
Very few witchy movies successfully mix palatable scariness and 'aw shucks' moments the way Halloweentown does. Watch this after you've had one too many pumpkin beers and you’ll be swooning over Debbie Reynolds' extensive velvet wardrobe.
11. City of the Dead (1960)
City of the Dead (also known as Horror Hotel) centers on a plucky young student who heads to New England to research her senior paper, under the tutelage of her professor (horror icon Christopher friggin' Lee). Her paper, of course, is on witchcraft in colonial New England, and she quickly finds herself out of her depth.
City of the Dead was actually filmed in the UK, and hearing the actors slip into their native accents makes for fun watching (plus, hearing Lee say anything spin tingling). The movie’s genuinely creepy at times and contains a fantastic plot twist steeped in gorgeous imagery. City of the Dead is the perfect film to curl up with on a brisk October night.
10. Burn, Witch, Burn (1962)
A cautionary tale about marrying an unsupportive partner, Burn, Witch, Burn introduces us to psychology professor Norman Taylor and his wife, Tansy, who is secretly practicing a type of magic she learned in Jamaica. When Norman discovers his wife's witchcraft, he grows furious and demands she destroys all of her talismans, which she insists are the reason why he's been so successful and healthy. After he burns all her belongings, things take a nasty turn.
Trust the witch, Norman, especially if she's trying to prevent you from getting acid reflux after you've had one too many sodas! The script is virtually flawless, the atmosphere is entrancing, and the film pulls you in from the opening scene, daring you to look away.
9. The Witches (1990)
For some reason, The Witches is rated PG, despite featuring some utterly nasty, scary witches who murder children. The '90s were a wild time. Based on the Roald Dahl novel of the same name, The Witches is all about Luke, a young boy who stumbles upon a gaggle of witches disguised as ordinary women. Their leader is none other than the deliciously evil and criminally chic Grand High Witch Eva Ernst, played by Angelica Houston.
The Witches is the last film Jim Henson personally worked on before passing away, so it's a must-see for any Henson Heads. It's also a fantastic, over-the-top performance by Houston, so it's a must-see for any Houston Heads. A film that's probably more enjoyable for adults than children, it's still a gleefully nasty classic that leans into some great witch tropes.
8. Black Sunday (1960)
Also billed as The Mask of Satan and Revenge of the Vampire, Black Sunday is the pinnacle of '60s Italian gothic horror. The movie opens with Asa Vajda being executed by her own brother – a scene that involves a mask covered in spikes being hammered into her face. The movie was banned in the UK and was heavily censored in the US as a result.
Asa (British actor Barbara Steele's breakout role) returns hundreds of years later to haunt her distant relatives, one of whom is also played by Steele. Her old Hollywood beauty contorts into evil with ease, with her wide-set eyes piercing through the screen and into your very soul. The film is a horror masterclass in world-building and mood-setting – a guaranteed creepy movie sesh.
7. The Witches of Eastwick (1987)
The cast of The Witches of Eastwick is a veritable Hollywood Dream Team. Michelle Pfeiffer, Susan Sarandon, and Cher play three best friends who are unaware they've formed a witch coven – that is until the literal devil, played by Jack Nicholson in another genius casting feat, turns up. As the Devil's influence on the trio grows more obvious, the women realize the power they hold.
The Witches of Eastwick feels oddly modern, akin to a gaggle of 2018 girls made an art film about polyamory and the power of the coven. No wonder, then, that the movie remains one of the best witch movies you can watch today.
6. The Love Witch (2016)
An homage to '60s Technicolor, The Love Witch is a sexy, stylish experience, with the dreamy, woozy visuals and general unease creating a feeling of being drugged. The Love Witch introduces us to Elaine, a young witch who uses witchcraft to find (and keep) a man after her husband is suspiciously murdered. Elaine is played with unhinged mania by Samantha Robinson, whose face the camera lingers on for uncomfortable amounts of time, daring you to decide whether you love or fear her.
Elaine is the unnatural progression of a woman at odds with the patriarchy – beautiful and whip-smart, she feels she must reduce her worth in order to maintain a relationship. When that fails, she brews love potions out of fingernails and menstrual blood. She's a monster of society's making, and one of the best witches to ever grace the screen.
5. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
An icon of cinema, the Wicked Witch of the West was something of a horror role for actor Margaret Hamilton, who faced serious ordeals playing the character. Not only did she receive serious burns due to a fireworks incident on set, but the green face and body makeup was full of toxic chemicals. With that in mind, Hamilton’s performance is all the more mesmerising. She's positively dripping with hatred for Dorothy who did, in all fairness, kill her sister, the Wicked Witch of the East, with a house.
Add in Glinda the Good Witch as a glittering (and borderline condescending) juxtaposition to the Wicked Witch, and you've got a beautiful tale of light and dark magic struggling to gain influence – one that remains one of the most influential movies of all time.
4. Suspiria (1977)
Suspiria introduces us to Suzy, an American dancer who studies ballet at a prestigious German academy. The gruesome deaths of the academy’s dancers hints at the institution's more sinister end game, and Suzy slowly uncovers the witch coven at its center. The arresting plot is further enhanced by blinding visuals and enveloping music that were obsessed over by Italian filmmaker Dario Argento.
Argento went to great lengths to imbue every scene with vibrant color that mimicked animated fairy tales like Snow White. He also blasted the film's soundtrack (performed by Italian prog-rock band Goblin) through loudspeakers on set to induce a specific mood. The filmmaker's dedication to aesthetics translates exceptionally well, making Suspiria a witch movie unlike any other: intensely colorful and deliciously gory, an assault on your senses and your soul.
3. Hocus Pocus (1993)
To live forever, witches must harvest young people – a gruesome concept that Hocus Pocus plays with. Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy play the conniving, bickering Sanderson sisters, 300-year-old witches looking to capture some youths to remain young and, erm, beautiful. They've spent hundreds of years trapped in the afterlife before being inadvertently unleashed by the new-in-town virgin on All Hallow's Eve, and they're looking to return to the glory of their younger years.
The Sanderson sisters are the beating black heart of the film – Midler’s overconfidence and buck teeth, Parker’s aloof sex appeal on two left feet, Najimy’s over-the-top goofiness. Hocus Pocus is campy and sickly sweet. There's even a magical musical number which you won’t be able to get out of your head.
2. The Craft (1996)
Imagine if the punk chick who puts safety pins through her piercings at the lunch table is harnessing the power of the creator of the universe…. Enter Nancy Downs, The Craft's antagonist, and your worst nightmare. Fairuza Balk was born for the role, her face molded for it: freaky blue eyes that bulge and dart around wildly, an untameable mop of black hair that never looks the same way twice, full, blood-red lips hiding a mouth full of gleaming white teeth she frequently reveals while cackling maniacally.
The Craft is the perfect pastiche of John Hughes coming-of-age flicks and black comedies. It's a rite of passage for every young woman, and somehow feels fresher than today's teen films. Every good witch watches The Craft. Every bad witch wants to be Nancy Downs.
1. The VVitch (2015)
Ah, witch cinema's supreme. The VVitch is set in a time that is inherently frightening: the woods of a 17th century New England in the throes of religious fanaticism. A father is banished from a Puritan colony thanks to his pride, and takes his family to live on the outskirts of a secluded forest. They are quickly targeted by a witch who lives deep within – she picks apart the sinful family (the father is a thief, the mother is greedy, the brother lusts after his own sister, the younger twins are just awful human beings).
Imagine if witches do exist, and they kill and eat unbaptized newborns to supplement their powers and convene with the Devil to tempt innocent women into their coven. It's a truly terrifying and deeply disturbing film that gives us the witch in her most powerful form – the kind of film that haunts you long after the credits roll.