It’s spooky season, witches! Autumn is finally upon us with chilly weather calling for sweaters and ripe pumpkins begging to be carved. One of my favorite fall traditions is watching my treasured witchy-themed Halloween movies. Halloween is by far my favorite holiday and the seasonal films never fail to spark joy, particularly those about witchcraft. Below are my top five favorite witchy movies and why I think you should watch them. I do my best to avoid revealing the plots of these movies, but some light spoilers will follow.
1. Hocus Pocus (1993)
“Hocus Pocus” is the quintessential Halloween film. The Sanderson Sisters populate many Halloween memes, memorabilia and décor. This movie also shows on the network FreeForm throughout the 31 Nights of Halloween, which allowed it to gain even more popularity post-release.
“Hocus Pocus” focuses on the aforementioned Sanderson Sisters, witches from the Salem Witch Trials, who return to life in 1993 after a 300-year hiatus after a hapless teenage boy accidentally resurrects them. The Sanderson Sisters participate in all sorts of witchy Halloween hijinks in a film engaging and appropriate enough for children and adults alike.
This movie is undoubtedly a comedy, with the best performance by Bette Midler as Winifred Sanderson. Her comedic timing and dialogue delivery are unparalleled and bring life to the world on screen. This is a feel-good, funny Halloween movie for the whole family and can get you in the spooky spirit without any serious scares.
2. The Witch (2015)
This is my favorite film on the list, but I refuse to give it first place over “Hocus Pocus.” “The Witch” is the debut horror film from Robert Eggers, director of “The Lighthouse.” It follows the doomed fate of a New England family banished from their village due to a religious disagreement within the community.
The family lives in isolation on a farm and a witch begins to torment them, escalating from stealing the newest baby, Samuel. Eggers manages to evoke fear in you from the very start of the film with eerie shots of New England accompanied by haunting music that puts you on edge. You don’t know what evil will come, but you can feel it lurking in the shadows.
Anya Taylor-Joy shines as teenage daughter Thomasin, arguably the protagonist of the film. Her personal and moral crises ground the film, especially when her own father turns on her and accuses her of witchcraft. The ending of her character arc will shock you, bringing the film full circle while managing to scare and inspire you.
You can rent “The Witch” on Amazon Prime.
3. The Craft (1996)
Though “The Craft” initially faced mixed reviews upon release, it has developed a cult following over the last 24 years. The film follows four students at a Los Angeles high school with an affinity for witchcraft. All four use their gifts in different ways, but all face disastrous consequences from meddling with magic.
“The Craft” is the perfect blend of campy horror and high school dramedy. It includes spooky elements of witchcraft and some frightening scenes of dark magic that bring a Halloween feel to the movie.
While it may seem kitschy or rife with overused tropes, “The Craft” still manages to enthrall audiences with its magic and relatable high school drama.
A sequel to “The Craft” is set to come out on Oct. 28 on Amazon Prime. The trailer does not have me feeling hopeful, especially because it is a sequel made 24 years later. I suppose we’ll have to wait and see if it’s worthy to call itself a successor to the original film.
You can rent “The Craft” on Amazon Prime.
4. The Witches (1990)
I lived off Roald Dahl books as a child. “The Witches” was one of my favorites, so the 1990 film adaptation has a special place in my heart. Anjelica Huston as the Grand High Witch manages to terrify but still enthrall you. She’s awful to look at in her true form, but you can’t look away. It’s mesmerizing.
The film also ends on a happy note, making it appropriate for some children. The witches are scary, don’t get me wrong, but the movie still captures the magic of Dahl’s work and the nostalgia for my childhood that has long since passed me by.
It’s not intrinsically a Halloween movie like “Hocus Pocus,” but it contains enough witchy material and spooky vibes to make it definitely worth an October viewing.
A remake of this film starring Anne Hathaway as the Grand High Witch is set to premiere on streaming services for 48 hours on Oct. 26. It will later move to HBO Max due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Given the all-star cast that includes Octavia Spencer, I am hopeful for this film, but doubt still lurks in the back of my mind as remakes are often hit-or-miss.
You can stream “The Witches” on Netflix.
5. The Love Witch (2016)
The aesthetic of “The Love Witch” is my favorite of any witchy film. It’s shot like a 1960-1970s film with technicolor visuals and old-fashioned music and costuming.
Samantha Robinson possesses an effortless retro-sophistication that sells the character of Elaine, the titular love witch, with unbridled authenticity. She manages to craft a femme fatale so captivating yet sociopathic that the audience almost feels drawn to her even as she commits numerous murders.
This movie is perfect for anyone seeking a spooky, neo-horror movie with a nostalgic mid-century flair.
You can stream “The Love Witch” on Amazon Prime.