Witches are figures of fascination, especially among fans of scary movies. They wield mysterious powers and are sometimes portrayed as villains, but not all witches are the same. Some fight against evil and some succumb to it, but they all have witchy glamour and magnetic personalities. The genre does have room for witches who do the right thing, but many cinematic witches use their powers for evil. Which witch will you get? It depends on the movie and the magic spell that the film casts.
This incredibly entertaining live-streaming horror comedy, co-directed by Vanessa and Joseph Winter, stars Joseph Winter as the hapless yet charming Shawn Ruddy and the hilarious Melanie Stone as Chrissy/Mildred. Shawn is a disgraced influencer trying to get his reputation back by staying in a haunted house where he meets his match with the poet/witch Mildred who is just as desperate to have a fanbase as he is. The film goes more in-depth with actual rituals and Shawn's attempts to beat Mildred at her own witchy game. It's one of the best-found-footage horror comedies out there.
The Witch (2015)
Robert Eggers' feature debut is a mesmerizing tale of witchcraft and horror in the 17th Century. It stars Anya Taylor-Joy, also in her feature debut, Ralph Dineson, and Kate Dickie. Still, the film belongs to Taylor-Joy, Black Philip, and Egger's painstakingly rendered and historically accurate vision of a Puritan America and witchcraft. It's gorgeous and frightening. The sorcery is the film's hold on the audience as they watch Taylor-Joy's character turn from her parent's Puritan ways to the enthralling pull of Black Philip.
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
This film is a found footage classic starring Heather Donohue, Joshua Leonard, and Michael C. Williams, directed by Eduardo Sánchez and Daniel Myrick. The Blair Witch is never seen in the film, and one of the film's most spellbinding feats is creating the horror of the witch while never showing the character at all. It's all sound, a few symbolic gifts, and the fears in the filmmaker's characters' minds that cast the spell.. The terror exists in the minds of the characters and then in the audience's minds.
The Autopsy Of Jane Doe (2016)
This mysterious tale of an ethereally beautiful corpse, Jane Doe, played by Olwyn Kelly, has a genuinely frightening aura that grows the longer you watch it. The film also stars Brian Cox and Emilie Hirsh as the coroner and his son and assistant, who try to solve the mystery of Jane Doe. While Jane Doe never speaks, she is a complete character that hypnotizes the viewer, as she does the other characters. Is she a woman transformed into an immortal witch by mistake by the people of Salem? You will have to watch to find out. The film is another example of an extraordinary film with a menacing payoff.
Dario Argento's supernatural masterpiece is often mistakenly referred to as a Giallo, but it is anything but. While it does have bloody and inventive murders in common with Giallos, the film is about a coven of witches led by Helena Markos, who seek sacrifices among the students of the ballet school they run. Jessica Harper stars as Suzy Bannion, and Joan Bennett as Madame Blanc, the school's headmistress. The film is eerie, but Suzy's final confrontation with the Mother of Sighs, or immortal witch Helena Markos is a fearsome spectacle of terror.
Luca Guadagnino's reconstruction of Dario Argento's witchcraft classic earns a spot here too. It stars Tilda Swinton in a triple role, one of which is a male psychotherapist, Dakota Johnson as Susie Bannion, and an early role for Mia Goth as Sara Simms. The film is less overtly colorful than Argento's but is just as heavy on atmosphere and hardcore scares. The film is so intense that even the dance sequences are frightening. In the end, many of the witches get a rude awakening during the witches' sabbath. It's the audacity of the film's invocation that sets it apart from being just a remake.
"Hellbender" is a family film. Seriously! Just maybe not the kind of family film made for the family to watch. It is made by the filmmaking collective Adams Family Films, which you must admit is an excellent name for a horror filmmaking family. Hellbender is the story of a mother and daughter isolated in the woods who stay away from everyone. They are witches, revealed after Izzy meets another teenager in the woods. The film is written, directed, and stars Toby Poser, Zelda Adams, and John Adams. The witchcraft within the film is based on nature and passed down through the genes of the women in the family. It shows the two sides of witchcraft, a more positive side and the side that is more wild and destructive.
The Craft (1996)
Witches in high school! In this iconic 90s film starring Robin Tunney, Fairuza Balk, Rachel True, and Neve Campbell, before she became Sidney Prescott, the arrival of a new student who has occult talent is a signal to the other witches in school that the time for their coven to be complete is at hand. Directed and co-written by Andrew Fleming, you can watch how power corrupts through the lens of high school rivalry. Scenes like "light as a feather, stiff as a board" and the calling of the corners on a thundery beach are hard to forget, as are the performances of the actresses playing the young witches. This one is always a bewitching choice for a rewatch.
Black Sunday (1960)
"Black Sunday" was directed by classy stylist Mario Bava, who wrote, directed, and was responsible for the cinematography of the film. Bava's influence on cinema is monumental. His work inspired Dario Argento, Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, John Carpenter, Nicolas Winding Refn, and Quentin Tarantino. Horror queen Barbara Steele plays the dual role of the innocent Katia Vajda and the evil witch Asa Vadja. The film has excellent scares and is magnificently lensed, especially the attention Bava lavishes on Steele's otherworldly beauty with close-ups of her face. Almost every frame could be a painting. That's how wonderful this film looks, which is the film's magic.
The Old Ways (2020)
"The Old Ways" is different than most of the films on this list because it is set and was filmed in breathtaking Veracruz, Mexico, and is also a film about demonic possession. The film, directed by Christopher Alender and starring Brigitte Kali Canales, Andrea Cortés, and Julia Vera, is about a woman who goes back to her birthplace to investigate a story about witchcraft and ends up trapped in a town because she is believed to be possessed. The witch or bruja in Spanish is trying to help her, but the film keeps the audience guessing whether this is true. The emphasis is on the folk magic of Mexico, another part of the film that differs from most and makes it even more entrancing.