When we consider the concept of “witches” in film, we tend to imagine pointed hats and warty chins. Malicious old crones, twisted and deformed by a lifetime (or several lifetimes) of practicing the dark arts. Flying broomsticks and children in cages, waiting for the oven to adequately preheat. You know, standard witch stuff.
But the depiction of witches really isn’t quite so simple as all that. For one thing, they’re not always malevolent forces in cinema. Nor are they all ancient and withered. Or even women, for that matter. The modern witch, in fact, can be whatever the story requires her (or him) to be. Witches can be protagonists, or comic relief. They can start delivery services or repel the Nazis from England’s shore (provided they’re also Angela Lansbury – more on that below). Witches can do it all.
In no particular order here’s our list of classic fun witchy themed films to watch this Halloween.
1. Teen Witch, 1989
What would you do if you realised you were a witch… just a few weeks before you turned 16? Get an awesome boyfriend and turn seriously popular, says this teen witch.
2. Escape to Witch Mountain, 1975
Two orphans come to terms with their extraordinary powers in this timeless film. While they’re at it, a few important and mysterious truths about their truth begin to reveal themselves.
3. Kiki’s Delivery Service, 2003
This stunning, ultra-creative coming-of-age film will delight, inspire, and entertain both you and your kids. In order to become a true witch, Kiki has to set out on a great and intense adventure—but she’ll gain much more than just witching powers along the way.
4. Hocus Pocus, 1993
This Halloween cult classic obviously had to make the list. The Sanderson Sisters—played by Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy—and their plot to wreak havoc on the unsuspecting trick-or-treaters of Salem, Massachusetts, is still hilarious. Plus, there’s a talking cat, 11-year-old Thora Birch, a zombie, and an a catchy cover of “I Put a Spell on You.”
5. Stardust, 2007
Three witch sisters—Lillam, Mormo, and Empusa—plot to steal the heart of Yvaine, a young maiden who has traveled into their land. Yvaine is also being pursued by a man from her village who’s trying to prove his love.
6. The Witches, 1990
Based on a Roahl Dahl novel, this film follows a boy who stumbles upon a convention of witches plotting to turn all children into mice at the hotel he and his grandma are staying in. The boy attempts to stop them, but only after becoming a mouse himself.
7. The Craft, 1996
This ’90s horror flick follows Sarah, a troubled teen who forms a witch coven with three other outcasts. As a result, the four girls gain access to dark powers and use their newfound magic for teenage plots, from petty revenge to attracting the school hunk. But things get dark fast as the coven’s leader gets out of control and people start dying.
8. The Witches of Eastwick, 1987
Cher, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Susan Sarandon play three best friends who bond their dream man, and unknowingly summon him in the form of the devil, played by Jack Nicholson. While attempting to send him back to where he came from, the ladies discover the depth of their own powers in this classic dark comedy.
9. Mary & The Witches Flower, 2017
This critically-acclaimed film will delight both parents and kids alike. Thanks to a flower, Mary gains some exciting, witchy powers for one night only.
10. Sabrina the Teenage Witch, 1996
This TV movie inspired the 90’s classic sitcom of the same name (but not the scary Netflix remake). Come for the teen witch nostalgia, stay for a very young Ryan Reynolds playing Sabrina’s love interest.
11. I Married a Witch, 1942
The film revolves around a witch and her father who were executed in colonial America for practicing the dark arts, only to be resurrected in the 1940s, where they hound the descendent of the man responsible for their deaths. The farcical use of magic is played for laughs but is oddly sinister at the same time – it is first used to nudge a man into infidelity, and later to encourage voter fraud in an election. Regardless, you’re watching it today to see ’40s bombshell Veronica Lake at the height of her powers, looking effortlessly glamorous in her signature peek-a-boo hairstyle.
12. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, 1937
From the very beginning of the era of Disney animated feature films, witches have proven to be handy antagonists. Sleeping Beauty is one of the prime examples, but 22 years earlier, Snow White’s simplistic “Evil Queen” (whose actual name is apparently “Grimhilde”) laid the foundation for so many tropes to come. One gets the sense, watching this film today, that the animators wanted to depict the Queen as a classical, wart-nosed witch all along, but the film’s major plot device—that the queen is a desperate contender for “fairest of them all”—dictates that she can’t take on what might be considered her true form until she comes to Snow in disguise as a hunchbacked old crone. Her scheme to trick Snow into eating a poisoned apple seems appropriately biblical in nature, which only makes sense—given that witches were historically depicted as the consorts of Satan, the metaphor likely still resounded with those 1937 audiences. And indeed, the queen is eventually struck down by nothing short of a bolt of lightning, signifying the hand of God himself. This early in cinema history, you couldn’t exactly separate a witch from her scriptural damnation.