The Best Witch Movies of all Time, Ranked
Now is the time, this is the hour.
In the mood for a good witchy movie? Whether you’re looking for horror, comedy, romance, or something that crosses genre, here are the top 10 witch movies of all time, ranked!
What makes movies about witches so compelling? Maybe it’s the mysticore aesthetic, with characters gathering around candles, tarot cards, and handmade amulets while incense smoke wafts around them. Maybe it’s the feminist rebellion inherent to witchcraft, which allows marginalized people to rise up against the patriarchy to forge their own lives and identities. Or maybe it’s wish fulfillment for viewers who secretly wish they could psychically shove the guy who sexually assaulted them out of a third story window.
Whatever the draw is, witchcraft itself has enjoyed a revival in recent years. Pagan traditions like Wicca, Traditional Witchcraft, and devotional polytheism are flourishing, with in-person and online communities exploring new ways to venerate nature, bring myths to life, and make magic together. Celebrity witches like Pam Grossman and Amanda Yates Garcia have revitalized the arts of astrology, tarot, and ritual, ushering in a new generation of witches. It’s a good time to be a witch, and there’s plenty of cinema to help us celebrate being witchy.
A quick note on the ranking. Although witches in real life are a diverse bunch, most Hollywood witches—with a few notable exceptions—have tended to be white. Partly this is just because the word “witch” comes from Britain, and different magic practitioners around the world have their own terms for what a white English speaker might call a witch. Mostly, though, it’s because Hollywood itself is still way too white. Hopefully, as more witchy movies come out, this list and others like it will become more diverse.
With that said, onto the movies!
10. Hocus Pocus (1993)
It’s hard to find a witch who doesn’t put on Hocus Pocus around Halloween. In 17th century Salem, a coven of witches called the Sanderson sisters is put to death for sucking the life out of the town’s children, but the oldest sister Winifred (Bette Midler) issues a curse, saying that the sisters will be resurrected if someone lights the black flame candle in their home on Halloween night. That’s precisely what happens 300 years later, when a bunch of kids unwittingly unleash the sisters. Although the movie revolves around the kids trying to banish Winifred and her sisters, it’s hard not to root for the witches, since they’re by far the most interesting characters. Watch this movie (and its upcoming sequel!) if you like your witchcraft extra cheesy.
9. The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Sometimes, you want a witch movie that features a witch as a charismatic protagonist. Other times, you want a movie that has a witch as a faceless, unspeakable evil! If that’s the case, then The Blair Witch Project is the witch movie for you. Three documentary filmmakers enter the forests of New England to search for the infamous Blair Witch, a spirit that is allegedly lurking around. The small independent movie became a smash hit and sparked a new era of “found footage” horror.
8. The Wicker Man (1973)
Okay, I know this one isn’t usually considered a witch movie, but hear me out! The Wicker Man, starring Christopher Lee, tells the story of a stuffy detective who travels to a private island to investigate the disappearance of a young girl. Once he’s there, he finds the residents of the island strangely indifferent to the girl’s fate and hostile to his investigation. He also discovers a thriving fertility cult led by Lord Summerisle (Lee), complete with folk magic, hobby horses, and ritual dances in the nude. Although no one in the movie calls themselves a witch, many of the rituals and spells come from real British folklore and survive to this day in some witchcraft traditions.
7. Bell, Book and Candle (1958)
Gillian Holroyd (Kim Novak) owns a shop in Greenwich Village, which serves as a front for her witchcraft. When Gillian meets mild-mannered Shep (Jimmy Stewart), she decides to cast a love spell on him, not least because he’s engaged to her old rival. However, Gillian runs into trouble when she starts to develop genuine feelings for Shep. Not only does falling in love with him complicate things emotionally—it means that she’ll lose her powers. Novak and Stewart are adorable in this 50’s comedy classic.
6. Practical Magic (1998)
Sally and Gillian Owens (Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman) are part of the Owens clan, a long line of witches who live under a terrible curse: anyone they fall in love with will die. After Sally witnesses the power of the curse firsthand, she decides that she’ll never fall in love again, and it takes the teamwork of Gillian, their witchy old aunts, and Sally’s two daughters to break the curse for good. Based on the novel by Alice Hoffman, Practical Magic is warm, funny, and full of heart.
5. Eve’s Bayou (1997)
Eve Batiste (Jurnee Smollett) is a 19-year-old girl living with her family in 1960’s Louisiana. When Eve catches her father having sex with a family friend, the family starts to unravel, until a shocking revelation about her father’s continuing infidelity leads Eve to seek the help of a Hoodoo practitioner named Mozelle. This southern gothic film, starring Samuel L. Jackson and directed by Kasi Lemmons, is as much a psychological study as it is an exploration of Hoodoo magic and divination.
4. The Love Witch (2016)
Watching this hallucinogenic movie, you’ll swear up and down that it was made in the 60s. The young and beautiful Elaine Parks (Samantha Robinson) is, by her own admission, “addicted to love,” and when normal flirting fails her, she turns to witchcraft to get men to fall in love with her. She moves to a picturesque village (the movie was filmed in rural Arcata, California) and goes to town on all the men there, enticing them into what turn into fatal encounters. Elaine and her fellow witches also treat the viewer to some real Gardnerian and Alexandrian rituals, since director Anna Biller did her research beforehand.
3. Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)
Kiki is a 13-year-old witch in training, and when witches turn 13, they get on their brooms and fly off for a year of solo training in the magical arts. Leaving at midnight on a full moon, Kiki and her sardonic black cat Gigi fly to a picturesque city by the sea, where she starts an airborne delivery service and makes some lifelong friends along the way.
One of Hiyao Miyazaki’s most beloved movies, Kiki’s Delivery Service has something for everyone: adults, kids, witches, and non-witches. Kiki and Gigi are an absolutely adorable duo, the plot is heartwarming without being treacly, and Kiki’s mom’s kitchen is the apothecary every witch wishes they had.
2. The Witch (2015)
A puritan family in 17th century New England decides to leave their plantation and strike out on their own, living a pious Christian lifestyle on a homestead in the middle of the forest. After the family’s baby vanishes, though, they grow more and more paranoid that witches are lurking in the woods, and gradually turn on their teenage daughter, Thomasin.
Based on real New England folktales, The Witch will scratch that itch for spooky rustic folklore and good ol’ fashioned Devil worship (which, contrary to what someone will tell you after they’ve been Wiccan for ten seconds, has historically been part of some streams of witchcraft). Plus, the film has a weird kind of happy ending, which is gorgeously shot and surprisingly feminist.
1. The Craft (1996)
Are you even really a witchy media lover if you haven’t seen The Craft? This 1996 cult classic tells the story of a group of teenage girls attending a Catholic school in Los Angeles. When newcomer Sarah joins their clique, she finds out that they’re witches attempting to form a coven so that they can activate their latent magical powers. At first, the girls use their magic to get back on the various racists and misogynists making their lives miserable, but the coven starts to turn on each other when their powers get out of control.
I’ve been to a fair number of occult shops in my day, but none of them have ever been as exquisite as Lirio’s candle-filled store in The Craft. Really, every detail in this movie is lovingly rendered: Sarah’s crumbling mansion, the dappled woodland where the girls work their first spell as a coven, the beachside ritual where Nancy invokes the spirit, and more. The filmmakers hired a Pagan consultant to help them with the girls’ spells and liturgy, which is why their rituals sound beautiful enough to actually perform in person. Also, the cast and crew had some paranormal experiences while on set, including all the lights going out during the climax of Nancy’s invocation on the beach, so clearly some spirit out there lent a little magic to this film.
What’s your favorite witchy film? What movie do you put on to satisfy your craving for magic, spirits, and candlelit rituals? Let us know in the comments!
(image: Columbia Pictures)
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