The Season of the Witch is upon us and with it comes Halloween, horror movie marathons, pumpkin spice everything and, best of all, mosquitoes going back to Hell where they belong. Owing to this wonderful time of year, I thought that it would be appropriate to do a tribute to one of the most widely recognized staples of the season: the witch. Love them or hate them, there is no denying that witches are everywhere at this time of year; ranging from dime store decorations to children’s (and adult’s) costumes. And even though mankind has a long history of fear and persecution of witches, they have persisted in the form of folktales, stories and, of course, movies. So, without further ado, here is a list of the top 10 movies about witches. Please keep in mind that I am ranking these films based on the witchy elements of the film, not how good the film itself is; in other words a really bad film may be ranked higher on the list than a really good film based solely on the witch factor. I am aware that I will be leaving some much-loved films off of the list; so if you have your own list, please leave it in the comments.
10. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
While this is a great movie in it’s own right, the witch elements are kind of downplayed in favor of focusing more on the horror of what Rosemary Woodhouse is going through in her pregnancy. For the majority of the film the audience is left to wonder if Rosemary’s afflictions are truly supernatural or if they are some sort of pregnancy complication. It isn’t until well into the third act that the supernatural elements of the film are fully confirmed when Rosemary comes face to face with a coven of witches and her newborn son who *SPOILER* is the child of Satan himself. Sure we see the Castevets doing plenty of witchy things during the movie such as doling out potions and charms, but you don’t realize until a second viewing of the film that these were all part of a spell and not meant to help Rosemary, but the unholy creation growing inside of her.
9. The Witches (1990)
I’ll just come right out and say that this is not, in my opinion, a great movie when it comes to films about witches. You may ask “How can you say that? Look at the title of the movie!” True the film is, as the title implies, all about witches and, yes their appearance in the movie is truly horrifying especially when they shed their illusory human facades and become the beastly hags that they truly are. But here is the premise: a convention of witches meet in a hotel with plans of drugging candy stores in order to turn all children into mice so a group of intrepid youngsters must do all that they can to foil their plans. The story is just so odd and farfetched when compared to other witch stories; it almost comes across as a modern-day fairy tale. This all makes sense, though, when you realize that the film is based off of a story written by Roald Dahl of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory fame. This is a memorable film about witches, but a weird one at the same time.
8. The Craft (1996)
The same year that brought us the Macarena and the Nintendo 64 also brought us the freaking Craft. Nothing reeks of ’90s nostalgia more than this movie. A cautionary tale of “be careful what you wish for”, The Craft is a film about four outcast girls who form a coven at their high school and use witchcraft for their own personal gains. Whether those gains are getting a date, getting even with a bully or making themselves more beautiful depends on the girl that’s casting the spell. In the end, as all selfish things do, the spells backfire on them and the girls have to face the consequences of their actions. A great movie that, surprisingly, does not end with everybody having learned their lesson and living happily ever after; however, I don’t feel that it’s aged well since the signs of the times are really distracting throughout the whole movie. If you grew up during the ’90s and watch it today you may be distracted the whole time with memories of how you used to wear JNCO jeans and carry a Tamagotchi around in your pocket. Nobody else? Just me? Okay.
7. Season of the Witch (2011)
While this film didn’t do very well with either critics or audiences, I thought that it was a very enjoyable movie in it’s simplicity. The plot is very easy to understand and doesn’t require much thinking on the part of the audience: two crusaders are tasked with transporting a witch from point A to point B and are, of course, met with many supernatural roadblocks along the way. Is it a great movie? No. Is it an enjoyable movie? Yes. The only element that I didn’t like about this film is the fact that in the end the witch *SPOILER* isn’t a witch after all. Instead, she is a demon that must be fought and exorcised out of it’s innocent victim. The fact that the writers ruined what could have been a simple story about a witch is what lands this movie at a mediocre spot on this list.
6. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
If someone asks you to describe a witch to them, what are you going to tell them? You might mention a pointy black hat, maybe a long crooked nose or green skin. You will also, undoubtedly, mention a flying broomstick. You have The Wizard of Oz to thank for this classic image of a witch that has become the defining image of witches in our society. While The Wizard of Oz isn’t a scary movie, it’s Margaret Hamilton’s performance as the Wicked Witch of the West that lands this movie on this list. She is unbeatable in a role that has been mimicked and reproduced in many different mediums ranging from books to Broadway plays. The Wizard of Oz is a masterpiece with an iconic witch character that has set a standard which persists to this very day.
5. The Conjuring (2013)
Unpopular opinion here, but I did not think The Conjuring was scary. When it came out, the hype train for this movie painted it as the scariest movie ever made and opinions from friends who saw this before me echoed those sentiments. When I finally sat down to watch this movie, I was fully prepared to embarrass myself in the theater. What I got was a movie with a great story about a witch and lots of groundwork for sequels. What I did not experience was the edge-of-your-seat, nightmare-inducing scares that were promised; the scares were predictable and if you watched the trailer then you knew when the jumps were coming. The witch, who goes by the name Bathsheba, is truly terrifying to look at and provides for some great jump scares; I only wish that she had gotten more screen time. However, what I really like about this witch is the real life events that inspired her story. Any horror story that supposedly draws from true events is a good one in my book.
4. Hocus Pocus (1993)
I didn’t actually sit down and watch this movie until I was well into my twenties and was disappointed in myself that I didn’t start making this a Halloween tradition earlier in life. Up until this point, witches in movies pretty much took a backseat to the main characters; however, in this movie they are the main characters. Hocus Pocus changed the formula for witch movies by casting it’s most famous actresses as the antagonists and giving them a lot more screen time than these types of roles had been given in the past. The Sanderson sisters are funny and each of their respective actresses are well-suited for the role they have been given. However, what makes the movie memorable is also where the negative aspects come from. The sisters are so memorable that they are the only thing I remember about this movie; I actually have a hard time recalling what this movie is actually about. Something about a curse and the Sanderson sisters being brought back to life with a talking cat being in the picture somewhere. Hocus Pocus remains, for me, a memorable film with a forgettable story.
3. Häxan (1922)
Häxan, or Witchcraft Through the Ages as it’s known to English speaking audiences, is a gem from the silent film era and is also one of the most unique and interesting movies that I have ever seen. The film presents itself as a documentary about how the misdiagnosis of mental illness led to the persecution of witches throughout history; however, it isn’t until the 4th act that this message is finally delivered. Throughout the first three acts we are treated to the medieval view of witches and their relationship with the Devil as well as how they were prosecuted by the authorities. From the description I just gave this may sound like a painfully boring movie, but it’s actually filled with some amazing and disturbing visuals that linger with you long after the film is over. If you are a fan of silent films, you should definitely give this one a watch.
2. The Blair Witch Project (1999)
This film, one of the original of the found footage genre, is one of my favorite movies to watch around Halloween. Perhaps my favorite thing about this movie is the fact that the lore around the story is so thick that a little research is needed to fully understand what is actually going on in the film. I recall, when this movie first came out, firing up my dial-up modem, going to the original Blair Witch website and reading about the fictional history behind the Blair Witch, Rustin Parr and the ill-fated expedition of Heather, Josh and Mike. At least now I know it’s fictional, as the impressionable youth that I was back then I was convinced that all of this was real and that I would never be going camping again. I do realize that it may seem odd that on a list of movies about witches, I pick one where the witch never actually appears. To that I say this; sometimes what you don’t see is scarier than what you do see. Without ever showing the antagonist, the film allows the viewer to draw their own conclusions. Was there ever actually a witch? Did Josh go crazy and kill everyone else in the group? Did Josh and Mike plot to kill Heather in what turned out to be a snuff film? I realize that some viewers like to have a definite answer by the end of the movie, but I think it’s scarier not knowing.
1. The Witch (2015)
The Witch has been, and continues to be, praised by critics for both it’s fantastic story and amazing filming techniques. I enjoyed this film for the way in which it accurately depicts how Colonial America feared witches and sheds some light onto how contagious fear is in an unfamiliar situation. Watching this film makes it easy to understand how things like witch hunts and the Salem Witch Trials used to be allowed and enforced by the community. If you haven’t seen this film, the premise is pretty simple: in 1600’s Colonial America, a Puritan family is exiled out of a New England community and forced to live in the wilderness where they are subjected to the forces of witchcraft. As fanciful as this premise is, if you watch the movie a couple of times, you start to notice realistic elements which suggest that the family may be going mad and hallucinating or imagining everything that is happening to them. The Witch may be a difficult watch for some, given the fact that all the dialogue is spoken in a manner that is accurate to the time period. I actually had to watch the film with the captions on to understand what the actors were saying at times. You do get used to this after a while and it’s not as distracting as it sounds. The Witch is full of amazing visuals and the true nature of the film is left to the viewer’s interpretation.