Ahead of Halloween, two much-anticipated tales of magic and menace are coming to digital. First up on HBO Max, Roald Dahl’s The Witches is getting a savagely stylish new adaptation on October 22nd, courtesy of Robert Zemeckis. The visionary who gave us the twisted fun of Death Becomes Her brings together a star-studded ensemble that boasts Anne Hathaway, Octavia Spencer, Chris Rock and Stanley Tucci.
Hot on the heels of these wicked witches, on October 28th, comes The Craft: Legacy, a VOD sequel that sees four new teen queens walking the path of spell-casting, popularity-chasing and petty vengeance. Zoe Lister-Jones wrote and directed this new chapter, which stars Cailee Spaeny, Gideon Adlon, Lovie Simone, Zoey Luna and David Duchovny.
With such enticing offerings, you might be coveting more witchcraft. Of course, you could revisit Nicolas Roeg’s classically creepy adaptation of The Witches (now on Netflix). You might wish to rewatch the 1990s hit that inspired countless teen covens, as The Craft can be rented on Prime Video. Then there are also the old standards, like Hocus Pocus, The Wizard of Oz, Practical Magic, Suspiria and The Blair Witch Project. But for something truly spellbinding and surprising, let’s dig a bit deeper to scratch that witch itch!
Here are eight witch movies, for whatever witchy mood might strike…
If You’re in the Mood for Old School Scares: Black Sunday (1960)
Also known as The Mask of Satan and Revenge of the Vampire, this Italian tale of terror begins in 1630 Moldavia with a witch named Asa Vajda (Barbara Steele). She and her cohort are being executed for the crime of conspiring with Satan! But before death takes her, this sinister seductress casts a curse that promises she shall return to wreak havoc on the descendants of those who doomed her.
Black Sunday’s director, Mario Bava, was known as the Master of Italian Horror. In this freaky film, he combines elements of witchcraft and vampire lore to create a ghoulish narrative of vengeance from beyond the grave. The practical effects are simple, employing globby bursts of blood and prosthetics that admittedly look waxy. Still, in its time, this was so shocking that Black Sunday was censored in the U.K. and U.S. To this day, the eerie score by Roberto Nicolosi spurs spine-tingles, while Bava’s gift for brewing dread keeps the scares here classic. — Available on Tubi
If You’re in the Mood for Madcap Fun: I Married a Witch (1942)
This movie also begins with a tale of witches executed and vowing revenge! However, the curse here is that the decedents of those who accused the sultry Jennifer (Veronica Lake) will be condemned to bad marriages. A jaunty montage showcases comedic bickering across centuries with each harried husband played by Fredric March. Then, in 1942, a lightning strike unleashes the trapped spirit of the long-dead witch, and she rises smoking hot and ready to raise hell! More specifically, Jennifer decides to seduce gubernatorial candidate Wallace Wooley (March again), so he might be tormented by a love he cannot have! As the title suggests, the best-laid potions go awry.
Directed by René Clair, I Married A Witch is a wickedly charming romp, full of saucy humor and playful practical gags to create onscreen wizardry. In real life, March and Lake couldn’t stand each other: He thought her “a brainless little blonde sexpot,” while she called him a “pompous poseur” and pulled pranks to throw him off his game (for instance, Lake hid a 40-pound weight under her dress for a scene where March must carry her — apparently, after shooting several takes, this hefty accessory really weighed on his stamina). Perhaps such off-screen tension is why their scenes crackle with chaotic chemistry. Regardless, their onscreen romance is simply magical. — Available on HBO Max
If You’re in the Mood for Something Trippy: Season of the Witch (1973)
George A. Romero is best known for his zombie movies. Yet between Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, he delivered a terrifically surreal story of a suburban housewife turned seductive sorceress. Jan White stars as 39-year-old Joan Mitchell, who fears her best days may be behind her. Her husband is a brutish bore. Her teen daughter is a reckless runaway. To regain some control, Joan conjures spells that lead her down a path of sex, death and liberation.
Beginning in a dream sequence involving a dog leash, a wailing baby and flagellating tree branches, Season of the Witch pitches audiences into Joan’s agonized emotional state. Through the film, she is plagued by terrible visions to which we are her only witness. This ferociously feminist film uses elements of horror to display the suffocating constraints women felt in 1970s-style domesticity.
Hitting before the first film adaptation of The Stepford Wives, Romero’s work was groundbreaking but woefully ahead of its time. Producers wanted him to capture the attention not of frustrated housewives, but of the lusty menfolk who were packing theaters for sex-filled exploitation flicks. These producers pedaled this pic as softcore porn, chopping its runtime from 130 to 89 minutes and splashing on the title Hungry Wives. Romero’s cut has been lost to the ages, but even in the trimmed down version, his passion for social politics and crafting haunting tales of heartache and horror shines through. — Available on Shudder
If You’re in the Mood for Something Musical and Magical: Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971)
Long before the Sanderson sisters put a spell on you, Angela Lansbury took to a broom for this zippy musical adventure, which was based on the books of Mary Norton. In World War II England, Miss Price (Lansbury) is a country spinster and apprentice witch, who’s been learning the craft through a correspondence course. Then, into her home crash three orphaned refugees from London. In no time, this charming quartet teams up with a quirky con man (David Tomlinson), soaring through the air, sea and beyond on a magical bed.
Even as a child, you might have appreciated how Bedknobs and Broomsticks took a cue from Mary Poppins. Not only does it center on an eccentric woman and her spunky moppets, but also it blends live-action and animation to create astonishing new worlds. While some of the effects here feel a bit dusty (particularly the psychedelic color washes employed in the flight scenes), the wit within is timeless. Plus, Lansbury does it all, performing slapstick with a broom, dancing in the streets of London, singing about the joys of “The Beautiful Briny Sea,” and soaring high as the commander of a phantom army that beats the Nazis. In short, she is utterly bewitching. — Available on Disney+
If You’re in the Mood for Something Unsettling: Eve’s Bayou (1997)
Written and directed by Kasi Lemmons, this tale of witchcraft is set in 1960s Louisiana, within a Black community of Creole culture that believes in premonitions, curses and voodoo. Young Jurnee Smollett stars as Eve, a 10-year-old tomboy whose summer of childish mischief turns dangerously dark once she trips over the skeletons in the family closet. To set things right, she calls on a local spell caster, putting her on a track of violence, grief and revelation she cannot derail.
With a place slow and rich as molasses, Lemmons paints a world full of wonder, warmth and wrath. Unfurled as a memory of the little girl now grown, the adults around Eve glow with glamorous garbs, radiant smiles and exhilarating verve. But this idealizing of them makes their flaws seem all the sharper, like the bite of a deceptive serpent. Bringing these charismatic but complex folks alive is an enchanting cast that includes Lynn Whitfield, Debbi Morgan, Lisa Nicole Carson, Meagan Good and Samuel L. Jackson. Yet most impressive is Smollett. Long before she was dazzling in Birds of Prey or Lovecraft Country, this sensational child actress boldly shouldered a mature tale of memory, murder and magic. — Available for rent or purchase on Amazon
If You’re in the Mood for Something Whimsical: Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)
Loosely based on Diana Wynne Jones’ novel of the same name, this heralded anime follows a young milliner named Sophie (Emily Mortimer), whose life goes from ordinary to extraordinary when she crosses paths with the dashing but notorious wizard known as Howl (Christian Bale). It’s said he eats the hearts of pretty girls, but when a jealous witch turns Sophie into an old crone, such gossip is the least of her worries. On her quest to break the spell, she befriends an enchanted scarecrow, a lazy pup, an excitable apprentice and a fire demon voiced by Billy Crystal.
Legendary animator Hayao Miyazaki has offered several sensational stories that involve witches, from Spirited Away and Ponyo to Kiki’s Delivery Service. Here, his talent for capturing the delicate details of a person’s physicality is wonderfully juxtaposed in a steampunk setting, where a clattering metal castle scrambles across landscapes and a witch’s vanity can be his undoing. Miyazaki provides a feast for the eyes, ushering audiences through bustling streets, across scenic rooftops, into a glittering green house, over blackened battlegrounds and inside the most captivating castle cinema may ever see. Through each door lies a new bit of mayhem, mischief or magic. — Available on HBO Max
If You’re in the Mood for Something Action-Packed: The Witch: Part 1 — The Subversion (2018)
Imagine The Bourne Identity meets The Craft and you’ve got a sense of this genre-bending gem. Written and directed by Park Hoon-jung, this South Korean thriller stars Kim Da-mi as a high schooler whose beautiful singing voice and gift for “magic” earn her the nickname Ms. Witch and a spot on a popular reality-TV competition. Her life is one of friends, family and quiet nights at home. That is until a coven of smirking killers turn up on her doorstep, violently unlocking the secrets of her past.
When her family is threatened, something wild awakens in Ms. Witch, and she leaps into lighting fast battle mode! What begins as a sweet tale of a girl finding her voice spins into a fight-stuffed journey through dizzying backstories, riveting reversals and a band of curious characters who seem ripe for their own action figure line. Kim is spectacular as her heroine switches from delightful to deadly, but fans of Parasite and Train to Busan will thrill over Choi Woo-shik, who pops up as an assassin with the style and swagger of a K-pop star. The fight scenes are eye-popping, offering unique kills and unapologetic sprays of blood. Yet what makes this film stand out is the intoxicating blend of fantasy setup, tender coming-of-age drama, and a sci-fi twist that takes things into Matrix-level intensity. — Available on Netflix
If You’re in the Mood for Something Spine-Tingling: The Conjuring (2013)
Inspired by real events, The Conjuring weaves witchcraft into a deeply chilling haunted house story. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga star as Ed and Lorraine Warren, a married pair of paranormal investigators who use their fortitude and Christian faith to combat sinister spirits. In 1971 Rhode Island, their mission brings them to the farmhouse of the Perron family, where a dedicated mother (Lili Taylor) and her young daughters are tormented by the curse of a long-dead witch.
Having previously helmed Saw, Dead Silence and Insidious, director James Wan has honed a skill for crafting supremely scary sequences. Here, he employs practical effects to make the supernatural threats feel real, dragging children across rooms by invisible forces and plunging pale dead palms out of the darkness for creepy clapping! His use of shadows, lingering cinematography and slow-burn pacing brews suspense. To this, an incredible ensemble cast brings life as well as screams and snarls so horrible they’ll make your blood run cold. — Available on AMC+