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The best movies about witches ever made

Words by Maeve Kerr-Crowley

Let us spell it out for you.

The fact that Halloween is over doesn’t mean we should stop talking about things that spook, creep and go bump in the night.

Whether it’s October, Easter or New Year’s Eve, one thing remains an indisputable fact all year long: witches are cool as hell.

Vampires are great, and ghosts are scary, but there really is nothing quite like a witch story. Good witches, wicked witches, endearingly hopeless witches – they all deserve our respect and praise.

Witches are one of the few popular supernatural creatures that are predominantly female, they’re shrouded in fascinating albeit very grim historical lore, and they’ve got a spooky, sexy aesthetic that just won’t quit.

Which is probably why people keep making movies about them. Really, really good movies.

So, whether your familiarity with witchcraft stretches no further than Sabrina or Glinda, or you consider yourself a fictional Wiccan aficionado, here are our picks of the best witch-centric films of all time.

Practical Magic, 1998

I won’t pretend to be unbiased when it comes to Sandra Bullocks’ oeuvre, but I do feel secure in saying that Practical Magic is an incredibly enduring watch. Sandy and Nicole Kidman play sister witches shadowed by a curse that promises to strike down any man who falls in love with them. It’s a good movie, end of sentence. But what makes it a good witch movie is the delightful tightrope it walks between being totally ridiculous and actually having stakes. You can have your midnight margaritas and get possessed by your ex-boyfriend, too.

The Love Witch, 2016

If your cup of potion-spiked tea leans towards beautiful women using magic to seduce and kill men, first of all, you’re incredibly valid. Second of all, watch The Love Witch immediately. Previously raved about on FJ for its killer set and costume design, the faux-retro flick is also a refreshing take on the Wiccan genre. Protagonist Elaine is equally intriguing as an exploration of historical gender politics as she is morbidly relatable in her romantic insanity, placing it squarely in a genre of films that leaves you thinking, “Well, sometimes being a woman is just like that.”

Hocus Pocus, 1993

I’ve caught wind of some discourse lately suggesting Hocus Pocus is overrated, and I want to diplomatically say that’s the most outrageous thing I’ve ever heard. The Sanderson sisters are an institution, Thackery Binx is a hero, and this film is an absolute treasure. It’s hard to believe anyone can hear ‘I Put a Spell on You’ and not think of Bette Midler, but everyone’s entitled to a wrong opinion here and there.

Elvira: Mistress of the Dark, 1988

Elvira AKA Cassandra Peterson was a genius human branding endeavour before the character’s debut feature film, but Mistress of the Dark cemented her position as the chestiest, campiest witch in the horror game. The actual witchcraft shown in the movie is hilariously bad, but Elvira’s wardrobe is life-changing, her performance is enchanting, and her love interest is hunky. Algonquin the reluctantly punk poodle is definitely up there as far as cinematic familiars go, and this is coincidentally the second best usage of ‘I Put a Spell On You’ in the history of films about witches.

The Witches, 1990

Any movie adapted from a Roald Dahl novel is a good movie in my books. The Witches, however, was always the most terrifying. Anjelica Houston was born to play the leader of a coven, and is scarily believable as a gleeful and prolific child killer. Honestly, anybody who watched poor Bruno and Luke get turned into mice at a tender age and didn’t spend the next few years dwelling on it with horror is made of very, very strong stuff. 

Stardust, 2007

Stardust is one of the most enjoyable films ever made, not just in this genre. Few films have ever been so successful in capitalising off the mishmashed interests of an era, and even fewer have made sense of what we were all inexplicably into in the 2000s. But Stardust has it all – romance, adventure, that strange steampunk-esque combo of a medieval world with the innovation of lightning catchers on a pirate blimp. But setting aside noble ghosts and fallen stars that look like Claire Danes, the show is well and truly stolen by another wildly engaging trio of witches led by Michelle Pfeiffer’s conniving Lamia.

Howl’s Moving Castle, 2004

There are, of course, multiple brilliant Studio Ghibli films involving witches, and I could just as easily have included Spirited Away or Kiki’s Delivery Service in this list. The studio’s entire approach to witches is unique, particularly in terms of its visuals. But the Witch of the Waste from Howl’s Moving Castle is the most iconic of the bunch, and there’s also the added benefit of dear Howl being a wizard. More magical bang for your silly but poignant buck.

The Woods, 2006

This tale of a mysterious boarding school that’s – spoiler alert – run by witches feels kind of like a Suspiria remake that happened to come out over a decade before the actual Suspiria remake. There’s no dancing, but there are strange disappearances, poisoned milk and killer trees. It’s similarly ridiculous and surreal to many other mid ’00s horror efforts, but pushes the envelope just far enough to read more disturbing than straight up campy.

The Craft, 1996

Honestly, this feels kind of like a given, but imagine how the public would have rioted if it wasn’t on this list. The Craft has a cult following for a reason, introducing teen girls everywhere to witchcraft as an outlet for the inherent frustration that comes with just being a teen girl. Just as intriguing, however, is the exploration of magic’s dangerously seductive powers and equally dangerous consequences.

Witches of Eastwick, 1987

Maybe Michelle Pfeifer is typecast when it comes to witch flicks, but Witches of Eastwick is still a darkly hilarious tale of sisterhood and mayhem. Watching Pfeiffer, Cher and Susan Sarandon attempt to share the affections of an enigmatic but volatile man they may or may not have magically summoned is more engrossing than it should be, and it doesn’t hurt that all three women have the most amazing hair I’ve ever seen. 

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