With Halloween fast approaching, movies and TV shows about witches are sure to provide the right vibe for anyone getting into the spirit of the holiday, and streaming services offer a variety of options for witchy nights in without the need to wait until October 31. With their potential to channel feminism, charm, or just pure evil, witch characters are a source of endlessly intriguing and exciting stories. The success of reboots and new content about witches and magic, as well as the enduring popularity of witchy classics, demonstrates the influence that the figure of the witch still has in pop culture.
Witches have possessed a hold on the human imagination for hundreds of years and across cultures, with the popular image of pointed hats, cauldrons, and broomsticks originating in the equipment of women beer brewers in Medieval Europe. Newer stories tend to see witches existing within the confines of modern life, like in Charmed and Bewitched, or going to supernatural schools like in Harry Potter, The Worst Witch, and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. However, some horror movies and shows tap into older fears of dark magic. No matter which take on witches viewers are seeking, finding it is just a matter of choosing the right streaming service.
The best Studio Ghibli movies feature scenic settings, pack an emotional punch, and create a whimsical, fully realized, and pathos-filled worlds. Perhaps none do so better than Kiki’s Delivery Service, which follows the titular witch as she flies around a quaint town delivering bread on her broomstick. With its breathtaking animation of forests, the ocean, and crowded, poky streets, the anime is almost unbearably beautiful. Kiki herself is endearing and complex, and her story will stay with viewers long after the movie ends.
The Craft is a cheesy cult classic that follows a group of teenage witches. True to the teen genre, The Craft is full of angst, drama, and great music ― and packs in a feminist message to boot. It’s also a supernatural horror, and the movie balances its 1990s indie vibe with some very dark moments as the coven meddles in darker magic and starts to wield its powers against others. Fans can also catch 2020’s loose sequel, The Craft: Legacy, which is available on Starz and Apple TV.
Another teen franchise, this Netflix reboot of Sabrina the Teenage Witch takes a darker tone than the show it’s based on, creating a more complex Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) who wields dark magic and worships Satan. However, despite the TV series’ title, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is warm and fuzzy at its core, following Sabrina’s relationship with her aunts, her school friends, and her boyfriend ― and her journey to choosing what kind of witch she wants to be. This is interspersed, however, with fantastically macabre scenes of exorcisms and exhumations, as well as some witchy costumes worthy of fellow Netflix hit Wednesday.
The children’s show The Worst Witch is based on a series of books that beat Harry Potter to the chase in terms of getting readers daydreaming about being sent off to a magical academy and learning to mix potions and fly a broom. A reboot of an earlier British TV adaptation, The Worst Witch follows bumbling school girl Mildred Hubble (Bella Ramsey) as she gets into scrapes and has adventures with her friends at Miss Cackle’s Academy for Witches. Like the coziest parts of Harry Potter, this comfort show is perfect for any wannabe witches to escape into fantasy or nostalgia.
On the opposite end of the scale from The Worst Witch is Robert Eggers’s folk horror movie The Witch, which provided The Queen’s Gambit star Anya Taylor-Joy with her big break and spawned the enigmatic quote “Wouldst thou like to live deliciously?” This atmospheric, intriguing slow-burn follows a Puritan community gripped by a fear of witches and the Devil. The movie goes for dread, a claustrophobic tension, and a fear grounded in historical specificity rather than jump scares. This approach makes it more enigmatic and thought-provoking than other witch-themed horror movies.
The supernatural TV series Charmed follows sisters with magical powers as they go about their lives in San Francisco, California. The drama’s enduring charm comes down to its creators’ insistence that it should focus on the leads’ sisterhood over them being witches. The series also brought Wicca into the public eye, though it took some liberties with how it was depicted. Like The Craft and Sabrina, Charmed also got a modern reboot, which premiered on The CW in 2018. The reboot trend shows not only that a strong appetite for witch media still exists, but that the 1990s was the genre’s golden age.
Reinforcing the 1990s as the golden age of witch media is the Halloween staple Hocus Pocus. Disney’s Hocus Pocus follows three witches ― played by Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica-Parker, and Kathy Najimy ― who are resurrected on Halloween. The movie leans into witchcraft tropes with gusto, from being set in Salem to featuring a talking black cat. It may not be enormously original fare, but it’s as much a seasonal staple as pumpkins and candy, despite Hocus Pocus originally bombing at the box office. Plus, the actresses playing the villainous Sanderson Sisters have a fantastic screen presence and charisma, making them some of the funnest witches in movies.