Horror fans know the witch genre is a rich archetype in filmmaking. Witch movies have taken many shapes and forms throughout cinematic history. Witch films can be scary stories filled with jump scares and the occult, or they can be laugh-out-loud comedies (think Sabrina, the Teenage Witch or Hocus Pocus), powerful feminist manifestos, erotic thrillers, or even escapist films of magical lands such as the Harry Potter series.
So let’s jump into this pop-culture phenomenon of the witch and scope out all the movies in this fascinating genre.
This screwball witch comedy from France is a classic. The movie is based on the book the The Passionate Witch by Thorne Smith, and the plot is about a witch trying to take revenge against the descendant of a Salem Puritan bloodline that once wrecked her witch heritage. Instead of taking revenge, though, she starts to fall in love, and hilarity ensures. In many ways this movie inspired many witch films as well as the Bewitched TV series from the 60s.
A schoolteacher named Gwen (legendary actress Joan Fontaine in her last film role) loses her mind in Africa after witch doctors mentally harass her. After a stint in a mental hospital, she moves to a small rural English town but to her horror realizes that witchcraft reigns supreme there, too. A British production, the film was released in America under the title The Devil’s Own.
Written and directed by notorious long-time American expat Roman Polanski, Rosemary’s Baby is based on a 1967 novel of the same name by Ira Levin. Rosemary (Mia Farrow) is a young married woman who moves with her husband into a large Gothic apartment building shortly after an elderly woman died in the apartment. When a friend warns them that the apartment building has been linked to black magic in the past, they dismiss him as crazy. While pregnant, Mary starts losing weight and experiencing painful stomach cramps. When she starts piecing the clues together, she begins to fear that a Satanic coven in the building has sinister plans for her baby. She also suspects that Satan is the baby’s father. Rosemary’s Baby can rightly be called Hollywood’s first big movie about the Devil, and it inspired a wave of Satanic blockbusters in the 1970s such as The Exorcist and The Omen.
Director Ray Austin made one of the main exploitation films of British cinema in the 1970s with Virgin Witch. The storyline involves two young girls (played by real-life sisters Ann and Vicki Michelle) that head to a castle in the country thinking they’re going to a model casting. Needless to say, it’s not a model casting; the castle is run by a lesbian witch, or more specifically, a Wiccan/Thelemic high priestess. The movie is pretty terrible and is only included in this list as one of those movies that is so bad, it’s almost good. The movie was also released under the title Lesbian Twins.
A strange movie with a strange history. Originally titled Hungry Wives, this film — like so many horror films in the 70s — edges on a certain kind of misogyny. Yet, in essence, it’s also a quite feminist film about, as one reviewer put it, “the plight of women who had sacrificed their lives, careers, and youth for brute husbands, who had found themselves powerless and without value once the kids were grown and who are losing youthful beauty in middle age.” These women find a solution through witchcraft and other dark spells.
This trilogy from Italian film director Dario Argento tells the story of a lineage of witches starting in the 11th century. The trilogy consists of three movies: Suspiria (1977), Inferno (1980), and The Mother of Tears (2007). The explanation and origin is explained thusly:
The idea of “Three Mothers” comes from “Levana and Our Ladies of Sorrow”, a section of Thomas de Quincey’s Suspiria de Profundis. The piece asserts that just as there are three Fates and Graces, there are also three Sorrows. They include Mater Lachrymarum (Our Lady of Tears), Mater Suspiriorum (Our Lady of Sighs), and Mater Tenebrarum (Our Lady of Darkness). The attribute of each woman (tears, sighs, shadows/darkness) is a direct translation of her name from Latin (“mater” being the Latin word for “mother”).
Critically, as mentioned many times on this website, Suspiria is a cult classic and the follow-up Inferno is considered quite good, while The Mothers of Tears was not reviewed too favorably and is much more obscure. In 2020 and beyond, there was talk of a prequel being made.
Before there were the Sanderson Sisters of Hocus Pocus, there was another gang of three New England women causing terror, and it featured an all-star cast. Cher, Susan Sarandon, and Michelle Pfeiffer play three widows who haphazardly form a coven without realizing they are witches. Then a mysterious man shows up, played by Jack Nicholson. One reviewer on Rotten Tomatoes describes the film well: “The satirical elements are half-baked but the movie does succeed at being extremely weird which sort of negates the failed commentary. Nicholson obviously was born to play the devil and all three women are perfectly cast.”
An Italian horror film in which a mother and her newborn child move into a creepy old mansion owned by her mother-in-law. But one room in the mansion has a mirror. The young woman is able to see people from the colonial era moving around inside the mirror—specifically images of a man and a woman being burned at the stake. She’s also able to see the future in the mirror. As of 2016, the film spawned a staggering 16 sequels.
While this high-school fantasy drama bombed in the box office in the late 80s, it became a staple for young people in the 90s when it aired on HBO and Cinemax. Then in 2007 it became even more of a staple because ABC Family started airing it during their beloved 13 Nights of Halloween series. Like Teen Wolf (1985), Teen Witch gives adolescence a magical spin, where a young woman discovers a new power in sorcery and makes all her dreams come true.
Jim Henson of Sesame Street fame and author Roald Dahl of Willy Wonka fame helped make this magical family fun witch film possible. The grandmother of an eight-year-old boy named Luke warns him about witches during his vacation in Norway—she says you can tell them by the fact that they have claws instead of fingernails, are bald underneath the wigs, have no toes, and have blue saliva that can be used as ink. Back home in America, Luke finds himself at a witch convention, where a magic spell turns him into a mouse. Roger Ebert called The Witches “an intriguing movie, ambitious and inventive, and almost worth seeing just for Anjelica Huston’s obvious delight in playing a completely uncompromised villainess.”
Well, what is there to say about Hocus Pocus that hasn’t already been said about this cult classic that has defined fun witchcraft and Halloween seasons for so many millennials? This is one of the more fun, family-friendly, and quotable witch movies out there. Taking place in Salem, Massachusetts, a young group of school kids accidentally awakens three 17th-century witches, the infamous Sanderson Sisters. Slapstick humor, teenage romance, pranks, singing, sorcery, chaos, and resolution ensue.
While Hocus Pocus flopped when it first came out in theaters, the movie has an evergreen run, not just because it’s entertaining but also as with so many witch movies, there’s an undertone of feminist commentary throughout the film. Writer Amanda FitzSimons in her retrospective about the Hocus Pocus 25th Anniversary explains:
Hocus Pocus is, at its most basic, the story of three women, forced onto the fringes of society—eventually put to death, even—who return three centuries later, only to find their lot hasn’t improved much. In fact, that could be the subtext for eighty percent of its punchlines: that modern society is so dismissive of women—as sex objects, as spinster cat ladies—that people wouldn’t even take the time to notice if said women had literally, you know, time-traveled from another era.
A southern gothic drama directed by Kasi Lemmons that takes place in Louisiana and adds a witchy spin to a family rift between a daughter and her unfaithful father. The way the daughter aims to handle the issue? Through voodoo witchcraft, the occult, mysticism, and a surreal dive into psychological evolution. As Seongyong Cho notes, the opening lines of this movie are haunting and beautiful all at once, just like the film: “Memory is the selection of images, some elusive, others printed indelibly on the brain. The summer I killed my father, I was 10 years old.”
Misfits unite! This film has been described as “a coming of age story about abuse of power and teenage isolation” and that watching it is a “rite of passage” for young women. Sarah (Robbin Tunney) is the new girl at a Catholic prep school. She has the psychic ability to move pencils with her mind. She befriends three other girls who eventually adopt her as a member of their coven. And in a witches’ version of Heathers, they get revenge against all the mean girls at school.
You might call this romantic comedy/fantasy film “the Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock witch movie.” In this romantic witch movie, these bewitched sisters use their magic to help them discover love. One Amazon reviewer describes the film this way: “To me this is a classic. Great acting, music and all-around fun movie. Finally witches are portrayed in a good/honest light instead of the propaganda that is prevalent in our society. After all, witches are just everyday people with a little spice added.”
It would be hard to call this a masterpiece of witch cinema, but it’s a darn amusing and nostalgic movie for millennials. The direct-to-DVD family comedy stars Hillary Duff in her first movie role. She plays a witch named Wendy who teams up with famous ghost Casper in an attempt to fight off an evil warlock. But since ghosts and witches have trouble getting along, things quickly get complicated.
This is more of a warlock movie than a witch movie; however, a warlock is simply a male witch, so as our warlock pick in this list we’re selecting The Covenant. It’s also a seriously terrible movie but in a way that we think it will become a cult classic after the 2020s are over. One Amazon reviewer who absolutely despised the movie described it as “like watching Twilight on massive doses of anti-depressants, and I don’t mean that as a compliment.” They noted: “All the boy band butts and Bucky Barnes in the world couldn’t save this movie. I felt like the movie didn’t know what time period it wanted to be in: the clothing, hair and tattoos looked like the 90’s but it was clearly set in 2006.” But as another reviewer notes:
Yes, it’s a cheesy teen horror flick. If you’re looking for Oscar worthy storytelling, this isn’t the movie for you. If you’re looking for some cool CGI, a load of hot guys, a little teen romance with a passable plot, you’ve come to the right place. This movie is my guilty pleasure.
Sounds like a classic to us!
Musician Rob Zombie directed and produced this supernatural film that tells the story of what happens when the women from the Salem witch trials come back to haunt the modern world. Heidi (Sherri Moon Zombie) is a radio DJ who receives a box containing a record that is titled Gift from the Lords. When she plays the record over the radio, several women go into a trance. Heidi herself begins experiencing headaches and flashbacks to the 1600s. Dead Awake Films said that The Lords of Salem “catches the essence the 70’s vibe the film was aiming for, its rather sheer genius if you’re a fan of the ‘B MOVIE’ genre.”
In a sleepy Southern town, a young couple discovers dark secrets not only about their families’ past, but about the town itself. Soon a woman enters town claiming to be from an ancient line of witches known as “Casters.” Upon reaching their 16th birthday, all Casters are assigned a role—they will either depict lightness or darkness, good or evil, for the rest of their lives. Film critic Richard Roeper says: “With Beautiful Creatures, we continue the seemingly inevitable march toward a cinematic America with a population 50 percent human, 50 percent ‘other,’ including but not limited to superheroes, mutants, vampires, zombies, werewolves, mummies, fairies, angels, witches, ghosts, demons and the undefined undead.”
This cult classic from A24 tells the story of a cursed family. A family in New England during the year 1630 is shunned by villagers and must battle an evil witch in the forest all by themselves. A member of the Satanic Temple named Jex Blackmore praised the film, calling it “an impressive presentation of Satanic insight that will inform contemporary discussion of religious experience.”
A cheating husband named Mark is thrown out of his house by his wife, so he reconnects with a friend from his youth named Ian who owns a place called Dumpling Farm, where they all used to party as teens. Unbeknownst to Mark, all the beautiful and sex-crazed women at the farm are witches who are hell-bent on eating their souls. Spoiler Free Movies called Wicked Witches “a terrific mix of good effects and great nightmares you might want to explore.”
A Note on the Harry Potter Movies
J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series of novels and films focus around witchcraft, but we have not included them in this list. That said, Harry himself is a wizard (male form of a witch) at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where his friends, both female and male, also attend.
Other Witch Movies
- Häxan (1922) is one of the first witch movies ever made, perhaps the first ever.
- The Wizard of Oz (1939) is not a witch movie, but it does feature some of the most famous witches to ever grace the silver screen: the Wicked Witch of the West, her sister the Wicked Witch of the East, and Glinda, the Good Witch of the South; hence we’ve included this movie on this list.
- Bell, Book and Candle (1958) a romantic comedy witch movie where a witch falls in love with a normal human man.
- Black Sunday (1960) stars Barbara Steele as Asa Vajda, a woman suffers and is tortured for being a witch. This movie is by Mario Bava.
- Burn, Witch, Burn (1962) was also released as Night of the Eagle and involves a man who realizes his success is due to his wife’s witchcraft, so he throws out her voodoo kit.
- The Witch’s Mirror (1962) is a Mexican movie where a man murders his wife, only to have her ghost emerge from a mirror years later to antagonize him.
- Mark of the Witch (1970) a witch from the 1600s returns to a small town to terrorize the descendant of a man who had her put to death.
- Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971) a 70s fantasy-musical released by Walt Disney Productions.
- Witchhammer (1970) this witch film is a political fable about the series 17th Century Czech witch trials justified by the Malleus Maleficarum.
- Daughters of Satan (1972) a man buys a piece of art that shows witches being burned at the stake…but one of the witches in the painting looks like his wife…
- Black Magic Rites (1973) is a horror/erotic film in Italian about a guy who watches his lover burned at the stake for her witchery.
- The Wicker Man (1973) a pagan/Wiccan curse haunts a town.
- The Worst Witch (1986) a TV movie about a young witch at witch school who just can’t seem to do anything right.
- Suspiria (1977) a famous cult classic, covered on almost all Creepy Catalog lists, about a ballet group run by a witch coven.
- Return to Oz (1985) Dorothy returns to the fantasy land of Oz, only to find a headless witch who decapitates people and wears their heads.
- Spellbinder (1988) a lawyer falls in love with a beautiful and mysterious woman, only to realize she belongs to a coven.
- Wicked Stepmother (1989) a campy film about witches being mischievous.
- Elvira: Mistress of the Dark (1988) the famous horror-film hostess inherits a mansion in a small town where everyone’s trying to burn her at the stake because they think she’s a witch.
- Sorceress (1995) considered by some a cult classic, this sex horror film is about a lawyer with a witch of wife that tries to help her husband advance in her career with her witchcraft and murder.
- Halloweentown (1998) this movie is famous for being aired during Halloween season on the Disney Channel.
- The Blair Witch Project (1999) in this found-footage blockbuster, a group of teens seeks to discover the truth behind a local urban legend but never return.
- Witchouse (1999) the classic you-thought-you-were-going-to-a-party-but-it-was-actually-an-excuse-for-witches-to-feed movie.
- Stardust (2007) is a magical fantasy that includes portrayals of witches and other occult creatures.
- American Horror Story: Coven (2013) created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, this FX TV show portrayed a coven of witches in New Orleans.
- Into the Woods (2014) a childless couple seek a witch’s help in reversing the curse put on their family.
- The Last Witch Hunter (2015) action hero Vin Diesel is out there hunting witches.
- Ruby Strangelove Young Witch (2015) a teen witch summons all her powers to rescue her mother from evil forces.
- The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016) this scary thriller deals with an autopsy of a dead body, and with biblical references (Leviticus 20:27); the characters gradually realize that this dead body might not be dead and she is, in fact, a witch.
- The Love Witch (2016) a beautiful witch makes men fall in love with her and then kills them.
- The Last Witch (2017) a group of friends make a documentary about a woman convicted of witchcraft, and things go wrong in this found-footage witch horror movie.
- The Witch in the Window (2018) a new take on the witch movie and a Shutter original.
- Wicked Witches (2018) a group of beautiful cannibal witches lures men to a farm to exploit them.
- We Summon the Darkness (2019) is not explicitly a witch movie, but it tells the story of three devil-worshiping girls who terrorize men.
- Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018 – 2020) while this is a Netflix TV show and not a movie, the remake of Sabrina for Netflix adds an awesome feminist twist geared at young women.
- Witches in the Woods (2020) not so much a witch movie, but a creepy witch-hunt movie that is new and somewhat good.