From an evil queen pondering “Mirror, mirror on the wall: Who’s the fairest of all of them?” to Three Bizarre Sisters chanting “Double, double toil and bother! Hearth burn, and cauldron bubble,” witchcraft has been one thing of a skeleton key throughout centuries of storytelling on display and in print. As previous as ghost tales themselves, witches are fabled beings — sometimes extra human than creature, however typically vice versa — recognized for utilizing magic to abuse and manipulate us mere mortals.
Some witches feed on kids; see Roald Dahl‘s “The Witches” and its two movie variations starring Anjelica Huston and Anne Hathaway respectively. Some witches simply wish to be beloved; contemplate the appropriately-named “The Love Witch” or the center chunk of “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.” Others crave magnificence, youth, energy, or one thing altogether extra sinister; suppose the endless greed examined in Luca Guadagnino’s astounding re-imagining of Dario Argento’s “Suspiria.”
What makes these characters compelling isn’t their sentient spell books, flying broomsticks, or toxic apples. No, witches endure as a result of they channel an unceasing urge for food for cruelty: a willingness to destroy no matter stands in the way in which of their want and an eagerness to sacrifice whomever it takes to show timeless devotion to their very own wickedness.
Contemplating the epic ethical quandaries witches and witchcraft so typically characterize, it’s no marvel these characters have appeared in all types of tales supposed for all types of audiences. For youngsters, you would possibly attempt “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” or “The Wizard of Oz.” For barely older kids, you may cue up “Hocus Pocus” or the not too long ago launched “Hocus Pocus 2.” In fact, one of the best of one of the best witch tales — these solid within the fearsome horror style, the place no devilish element of witchy legend want be darkened — belong to solely essentially the most daring (learn: age applicable) viewers.
Up to date for the 2023 spooky season, the next assortment of one of the best witch motion pictures displays essentially the most iconic witches and witchcraft tales of the large display, from ’90s fantasy comedies to chilling ’60s historic horrors. Movies about generic pagan ritual or wizardry have been excluded from consideration.
[Editor’s note: This list was originally published in October 2022 and has since been updated.] With editorial contributions by Christian Blauvelt, Wilson Chapman, Mark Peikert, and Michael Nordine.
27. “Halloweentown” (Duwayne Dunham, 1998)
Mainly “Harry Potter” for homeschoolers, “Halloweentown” is a Disney Channel Authentic Film that chronicles the coming-of-age journey of Marnie (Kimberly J. Brown): a 13-year-old studying learn how to be a witch from her unpredictable grandmother (Debbie Reynolds) when an evil power threatens their spooky, holiday-themed house. —AF
26. “Into the Woods” (Rob Marshall, 2014)
Meryl Streep’s flip as The Witch in Rob Marshall’s adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s Broadway musical “Into the Woods” is nothing wanting enchanting. Although no residing individual might greatest Bernadette Peters’ pitch-perfect supply on “Final Midnight,” Streep’s tackle “Stick with Me” combines one of the best of her “Mamma Mia!” vocal chops along with her exceptional depths as an Academy Award-winning dramatic actor. —AF
25. “Hocus Pocus” (Kenny Ortega, 1993)
Kathy Najimy, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Bette Midler inject charismatic chaos into the unassuming plot of “Hocus Pocus”: an unpopular-at-the-time August-timed Disney launch that’s since develop into considered one of its most beloved Halloween properties. What the Sanderson sisters lack in real menace, they make up for in flying vacuum cleaners, fortunate rat tails, and undead ex-boyfriends. —AF
24. “I Married a Witch” (René Clair , 1942)
Stars Veronica Lake and Frederic March didn’t get alongside (to place it mildly) on the set of this René Clair-directed comedy, however audiences would by no means realize it. An apparent inspiration for “Bewitched,” this not-quite-screwball comedy finds a witch’s curse coming again to hang-out her when she encounters the descendant of the accusers who condemned her to be burned on the stake. The movie is loads airer and brisker than the outline, providing Lake considered one of her few comedic roles and March considered one of his greatest romantic main man turns. —MP
23. “Sensible Magic” (Griffin Dunne, 1998)
“Any man who wins the center of an Owens lady is certain to finish up six toes below,” explains Stockard Channing’s bluntly hilarious aunt in “Sensible Magic.” On this 1998 cult traditional adaptation of Alice Hoffman’s novel, Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman star as sisters descended from a protracted line of witches who’re troubled with a curse turned actually well timed rom-com premise. —AF
22. “The Witches of Eastwick” (George Miller, 1987)
George Miller’s cheeky adaptation of John Updike’s 1984 novel stars Cher, Susan Sarandon, and Michelle Pfeiffer as three unlucky-in-love mates who unknowingly invite the satan — Jack Nicholson at his profession funniest — to their small suburban city. The end result is a reasonably commonplace “lady energy” arc with simply sufficient spooky allure to maintain it shelf secure. —AF
21. “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (1937)
From the lyrical wickedness of “Mirror, mirror, on the wall…” to the haunting picture of a stupendous maiden in a glass coffin, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” is quintessential fairytale magic with an antagonist simply as traditional. A mixture of a haggard previous witch and a useless ruler, The Evil Queen might solely be beat by Maleficent (who we’re classifying as a darkish fairy) for greatest Disney enchantress. —AF
20. “The Crucible” (Nicholas Hytner, 1996)
We’re together with this regardless of the very clear lack of witchcraft in it—except you depend the mass hysteria that consumes Seventeenth-century Salemites, as a gaggle of imply women convinces the city that their mates and neighbors are all secretly dancing with Devil within the woods each evening. Known as an “nearly excellent display adaptation” by Empire, Arthur Miller’s traditional play involves thrilling life through Daniel Day-Lewis, Winona Ryder, and Joan Allen, all of whom are at loggerheads however solely considered one of whom will emerge coolly triumphant. —MP
19. “The Witches” (Nicolas Roeg, 1990)
Primarily based on Roald Dahl’s fantasy e-book of the identical identify, director Nicolas Roeg’s “The Witches” imagines a secret society of children-hating sorceresses helmed by a characteristically good Anjelica Huston. With bald heads, clawed fingers, and hoof-like toes — hidden with wigs, gloves, and smart footwear, after all — these titular terrors keep on a centuries-old legend with a method all their very own. —AF
18. “The Lords of Salem” (Rob Zombie, 2013)
Rob Zombie’s tackle witch movies is usually sui generis, with a radio DJ (Sherie Moon Zombie) by chance unleashing a demonic track on the feminine denizens of Salem. Seems, the track dates from the Seventeenth century and led to a reverend executing a coven of witches. And as everyone knows, these previous Puritans left a protracted path of destruction for his or her descendants. A bloody, rock ‘n’ roll film ensues, stuffed with loads of horror references (“Rosemary’s Child” abounds) and the worst-case state of affairs unfolding at a live performance. —MP
17. “Halloween III: Season of the Witch” (Tommy Lee Wallace, 1982)
Enjoyable truth: Michael Myers’ notorious “Halloween” franchise was initially supposed to kick off with the slasher villain, earlier than branching into themes completely unrelated to masked killers and screaming babysitters. “Halloween III: Season of the Witch” was the one installment to do this efficiently and (although it’s nearly disqualified by our prior “generic Pagan rituals have been excluded” rule) tells a witchcraft adjoining story about an evil Irish toymaker too ridiculous to omit. —AF
16. “The Tragedy of Macbeth” (Joel Coen, 2021)
Kathryn Hunter makes essentially the most of her abilities as a classical theater actor and contortionist because the unabashed scene-stealer in Joel Coen’s “The Tragedy of Macbeth.” Bringing purposeful strangeness to every of the infamous bizarre sisters, Hunter champions one of the best huge display tackle Shakespeare’s soothsayers so far. —AF
15. “Suspiria” (Luca Guadagnino, 2018)
Luca Guadagnino fantastically dissects the brilliance of Dario Argento’s 1977 giallo on this not-quite-a-remake starring Dakota Johnson, Mia Goth, doubling Tilda Swintons, and extra. A mesmeric collision of confrontational violence and heady concerns of humanity’s disregard for itself, this “Suspiria” stands as a singular rehashing of trauma. —AF
14. “The Wizard of Oz” (Victor Fleming, 1939)
“Are you an excellent witch or a foul witch?” Billie Burke’s Glinda asks Dorothy within the technicolor second act of Victor Fleming’s “Wizard of Oz.” Memorable for its black-versus-white magic dichotomy, the 1939 musical noticed Margaret Hamilton bewitch audiences because the Depraved Witch of the West: a notoriously bitter flying monkey proprietor who will cease at nothing to avenge her late sister. —AF
13. “Pumpkinhead” (Stan Winston, 1989)
There’s no world by which a horror flick with the title “Pumpkinhead” didn’t develop into a slasher franchise. However simply because Stan Winston’s directorial debut has three sequels (to which the filmmaker didn’t contribute) that doesn’t imply this terrifying and triumphant revenge epic has been given its due. Half “Pet Sematary,” half “Witches,” half “I Know What You Did Final Summer time,” this fiendishly enjoyable 1988 monster film stars Lance Henriksen as a grieving father who makes use of darkish magic to hunt revenge when his son is killed in a mud biking accident. Come for the promise of the “Aliens” actor in considered one of his most criminally underrated performances; keep for the campy sensible results that may freaking blow your gourd. —AF
12. “Witchfinder Normal” (Michael Reeves, 1968)
As any halfway-decent historian will let you know, the nightmarish actuality of the witch trials was rooted within the social and political motivations of the accusers, not the so-called supernatural. Controversial for its brutality on the time, “Witchfinder Normal” chases an opportunistic witch hunter, performed by none apart from Vincent Worth, as he terrorizes European cities: driving one household to the brink of madness within the course of. —AF
11. “The Love Witch” (Anna Biller, 2016)
Samantha Robinson channels ’60s fashion and timeless allure as Elaine Parks, aka “The Love Witch”: a romance-obsessed enchantress whose ex-lovers generally tend to die inexplicable, sudden deaths. Revenge meets girlhood fantasy on this campy celebration of the ultra-feminine, harkening to the traditional suspense work of Alfred Hitchcock and his legendary main girls. —AF
10. “The Craft” (Andrew Fleming, 1996)
Fairuza Balk places Sabrina Spellman to disgrace along with her efficiency because the spell-binding teen witch Nancy Downs: the menacing fundamental attraction of Andrew Fleming’s “The Craft.” Robin Tunney’s new lady character falls in with a highschool witch coven — rounded out by the glowing skills of Neve Campbell and Rachel True — on this surprisingly sharp supernatural thriller from 1996. —AF
9. “Spirited Away” (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001)
Hayao Miyazaki’s first Finest Animated Characteristic winner gives an “Alice in Wonderland”-like collision of oddities, from the cryptic intrigue of No-Face to the peculiarity of a curse that turns folks into pigs. At its heart is the grasping witch Yubaba: an immediately notorious antagonist whose ethereal energy feels as religious because it does spooky. —AF
8. “Haxan” (Benjamin Christensen, 1922)
This four-part essay movie was the costliest Scandinavian silent movie ever made, and it reveals. Effectively, a minimum of in elements. Among the reenactments of medieval occasions and historic accusations of witchcraft are lavish of their scope and texture… different segments, together with a lot of the start, really feel like a Twenties model of a Ken Burns doc, with the digicam skilled on drawings and lithographs to characterize a historical past of witchcraft and the way these supernatural occurrences will be defined via fashionable medication and psychology. Typically a wood pointer, presumably connected to director Benjamin Christensen’s hand, protrudes into the body to attract your eye to a selected element of the drawing in query.
Alas, the Ken Burns zoom was nonetheless not technically attainable. (To counsel the movie that follows is, a minimum of to a point, a piece of scholarship, Christensen seems in close-up within the opening credit, an impact which comes throughout extra like Tommy Wiseau’s poster for “The Room” than something professorial.) There’s lots right here to fulfill the ghoulish, nonetheless, and for cinephiles the movie is especially hanging for the way in which it makes horror iconography from centuries previous hook up with the frights we’ve obtained from the films: a couple of tweaks to the demon within the picture above and you’ve got the creature in “Sputnik.” —CB
7. “Eve’s Bayou” (Kasi Lemmons, 1997)
A scrumptious and luscious Southern Gothic story, Kasi Lemmons “Eve’s Bayou” tells the story of the younger Eve (Jurnee Smollett), whose relationship along with her rich Louisiana household crumbles when she discovers proof of her father’s infidelity. Their household will get caught in a battle between Eve’s Hoodo practicioner aunt Mozelle (Debbi Morgan) and fortune teller and attainable witch Elzora (the legendary Diahann Carroll), who Eve ultimately turns to for vengeance. The movie leaves it ambigious if Elzora’s powers are actual, however the movie’s personal magic contact isn’t doubtful. —WC
6. “Rosemary’s Child” (Roman Polanski, 1968)
Unsettling from the second Mia Farrow begins singing over these haunting opening credit, Roman Polanski’s masterpiece digs its claws into you and leaves as ghastly a mark because it does on Rosemary herself. Evil isn’t an unknowable entity on this still-timely story of a girl being gaslit by her husband and neighbors; it’s the Satanist subsequent door. Being pregnant is anxious sufficient when there isn’t a coven of witches chanting within the evening, and it’s made doubly distressing by poor Rosemary’s suspicions that they’ve made a pact with Lucifer involving her unborn baby. So cerebral in its strategy to psychological horror that it deserves a PhD, “Rosemary’s Child” has solely grown extra uncomfortable with time — and never simply because we all know extra about Polanski now than we did 55 years in the past. —MN
5. “You Gained’t Be Alone” (Goran Stolevski, 2022)
You received’t be alone. It’s a hell of a sentence — and an excellent higher title — fully depending on the kind of the isolation proposed. Mentioned of a darkish basement à la “Barbarian,” it’s a terrifying factor to listen to. Mentioned of your dying day, it may appear essential, even spiritually important.
Author/director Goran Stolevski spins that intriguing duality into a shocking supernatural imaginative and prescient for his directorial debut, following a younger witch named Navena on a sensual and sorrowful odyssey via Nineteenth-century Macedonia. When “Wolf-Eateress” Maria (a slick however nonetheless crushing Anamaria Marinca) comes to gather on an previous curse, she turns the 16-year-old Navena right into a witch, intending to maintain her as a companion. Enthralled by the great thing about life, nonetheless, the hyper-sheltered Navena (performed so as by Leontina Bainović, Noomi Rapace, Carloto Cotta, and Alice Englert) quickly units out on her personal, basking and wilting below the intense gentle of humanity’s heat. As Nevena pursues acceptance and Maria pursues Nevena, the movie whispers with menace and mercy, “You received’t be alone.” —AF
Learn IndieWire’s information to The Finest Horror Motion pictures of 2022.
4. “The Blair Witch Undertaking” (Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez, 1999)
Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez’s indie darling popularized the discovered footage style with its suspenseful, bare-bones investigation into native legend. The 1999 flick follows three documentary filmmakers as they enterprise additional into the darkish woods of a Maryland city in pursuit of a witch linked to the deaths of native kids. —AF
3. “Suspiria” (Dario Argento, 1977)
No filmmaker has captured the darkish, gentle, menace, and thriller of witchcraft in a single body like Dario Argento. whose vastly celebrated “Suspiria” reigned supreme as one of many definitive greatest motion pictures about witches for almost 40 years. The technicolor shadows of a German dance faculty hang-out a younger American ballerina, performed by a transfixing Jessica Harper, on this mood-first meditation on occult terror. —AF
2. “Kiki’s Supply Service” (Hayao Miyazaki, 1989)
There are two primary varieties of witch motion pictures. In a single nook, you may have the scary witches, the witches of fairytales and nightmares and folklore. On the other finish, there are the lovable witches; the witches who use their powers for good and whose magical talents are the trigger for hijinks and comedy. The perfect cute witch movie, by far, is Hayao Miyazaki’s “Kiki’s Supply Service,” a pleasant consolation watch and one of many legendary director’s most beloved motion pictures.
Centering itself across the titular trainee witch as she leaves house for the large metropolis, the movie takes the type of a number of vignettes as she establishes a supply enterprise, makes mates, and struggles to regulate to her new environment. A candy story about rising up and changing into a extra full individual, “Kiki’s Supply Service” is without doubt one of the most grounded and life like witch movies round, though seeing Kiki soar over the ocean along with her broomstick will make you wish to try to fly your self. —WC
1. “The Witch” (Robert Eggers, 2015)
Set in early Seventeenth century New England, Robert Eggers’ characteristic directorial debut pits paranoia in opposition to the supernatural through an unforgiving household drama anchored within the harsh stakes of Puritan religion. When a child is snatched from the arms of his older sister Thomasin — a stunning early-career Anya-Taylor Pleasure — the youngsters’s grieving mother and father search retribution. —AF