Witches can take many forms in the world of horror. Some are beautiful, alluring women who use their sexuality to their advantage, such as in Anna Biller’s The Love Witch and even the recent The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. But, the original image of the witch is burned into our minds: an old woman covered in warts with long nails, a black pointy hat, a broomstick, and a maniacal laugh.
Audiences are supposed to be disgusted by their ugliness, a physical representation of their evil within and their allegiance to Satan, but you can’t keep a good witch down. And today, the shortest day of the year, when all the world is plunged into darkness’s cold embrace, we gather around the cauldron to celebrate 10 of horror’s most witchy witches. Warts and all.
10. Spirited Away (2001)
Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away may not be a horror movie, but it has one of the best movie witches: Yubaba, owner and operator of the bath house of the spirits. Dripping in jewels and cutting remarks, she fits the profile of a witch, plus she’s dripping in the finest jewels. She can even transform herself into a bird to watch over her domain. Her cunning tricks and domineering attitude instill fear from her employees and customers alike, earning a place on this wicked list.
9. November (2018)
This dreamy Estonian horror film is based on folklore and fairytales. It depicts the life of a poor Estonian village in the 19th-century. Part of their everyday lives is a witch, who they go to for curses, potions, anything a witch can do. She appears to be a grandmother-like figure, old and gray, but she holds a power over the villagers with her abilities to summon creatures and cast spells.
8. Blair Witch (2016)
This may be a surprising entry since we barely seen the Blair Witch. But, in the 2016 sequel, we do see a strange creature lurking through the woods that appears to have once been a witch. But even without the established visual, the presence of the witch can be felt both in the 2016 film and the original. Despite never revealing the witch’s form, these films let you construct your own terrifying image of her in your head.
7. Witching and Bitching (2013)
Sometimes you steal jewels and flee the police, until to end up in a coven of witches who want to sacrifice you. This is exactly what happens in the Spanish horror-comedy, Witching and Bitching. Compared to others on this list, it has perhaps the most WPM (witches per minute).
6. Suspiria (2018)
Regardless of what you think of Luca Guadagnino’s adaptation of Dario Argento’s classic giallo film, you cannot deny how repulsive the witch, Mother Markos (Tilda Swinton covered in latex), is. While the film is full of beautiful dancers and clandestine witches, at the film’s end we see a body full of decay that is thought to be the head of the coven. Argento’s original Suspiria showed the decrepit mother for only a moment, while Guadagnino relishes in the grotesque.
5. Drag Me to Hell (2009)
The customer is always right, especially if she’s a witch who will curse your eternal soul if you cross her. In Sam Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell, an old woman (and witch) puts a curse on Christine Brown (Alison Lohman, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind) for refusing to extend a home loan. Unfortunately, this film falls into gypsy stereotypes with its presentation of the witch.
4. Hocus Pocus (1993)
Beware of the Sanderson Sisters, three witchy siblings who are on the hunt for unsuspecting children. The three sisters, leader Winifred (played by the phenomenal Bette Midler), Mary (Kathy Najimy, Wall-E), and Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker, Sex and the City) arise after 400 years of being trapped, unknowingly released by a horny teenager. They awaken in the world of 1993, unaware of its changes but still hungry for children. While not as terrifying as some of the witches on this list, their sinister intentions, but sometimes-innocent-appearing demeanors make them a trio that is not to be trifled with.
3. The Witches (1990)
Want to scare your children? Show them the 1990 adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The Witches. These witches are monstrous and almost inhuman, but they hide with gorgeous skin suits. The Grand High Witch, played by Angelica Huston, wants nothing more than to capture children and eat them. But to do that, she and her coven must disguise their hideous forms. When they free themselves, they are bald, lanky, and wart-covered creatures ready to snatch up any child they can find.
2. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
There isn’t a more iconic witch than the Wicked Witch of the West, played by Margaret Hamilton, in the 1939 adaptation of The Wizard of Oz. The Wicked Witch’s green face, hooked nose, black pointy hat, and broomstick make her the quintessential cinematic witch. Paired with her flying monkeys, she instilled fear into the hearts of children (and little dogs, too).
1. The VVitch (2015)
Roger Eggers’ directorial debut shook the horror world in 2015 with its dedication to a 1600s Puritan aesthetic, from clothes to dialect. But at the core of The VVitch is, unsurprisingly, its own witch that drips with the stereotypical look of a New England enchantress. The film’s titular witch is naked, decrepit, and on the hunt for the blood of a baby. In a rather harrowing scene, the gnarled old woman murders a baby, squashes with a macabre mortar and pestle, and bathes in the mixture as it will grant her youth and beauty. Her actions represent the evil that everyone fears in a witch: a baby-killing monster that preys on the blood of the innocent in the name of vanity.