Maybe you had a teen witch phase, or maybe you had a teen witch at your high school. It’s not uncommon: especially with teenaged girls, the occult can be a rare source of empowerment as they transition from childhood into womanhood, a status that society tells them is lesser. Teen witchcraft in the movies often features a good mix of high schoolers dabbling with rituals that they don’t understand and witches born into supernatural powers (actual Wiccan practices notwithstanding — sometimes fictional witches try to reference Wicca, but often they take more than a few liberties).
But at the end of the day, teen witches are still teens. Not every teen witch has the Hermione Granger experience of getting to attend a school that’s built to suit all of her witchy needs. The witches on this list are learning to handle their burgeoning powers along with their adolescent woes, from bullying to crushes to homework, in a non-magical high school setting.
10. Sarah Bailey (and Nancy, Bonnie and Rochelle) – The Craft (1996)
We couldn’t kick off this list with anything but The Craft. It defines the teen witch genre. Sarah Bailey (Robin Tunney) is the new girl in school who winds up forming a coven with three outcasts (Fairuza Balk, Neve Campbell, Rachel True). Sarah proves to be the infusion of power the other three teens have been craving. They wield their new powers for status and gain and to punish classmates who have previously caused them pain. It’s a sweet deal until the Wiccan Rule of Three kicks in (a tenet which says that the actions that you put out into the world will be amplified and returned to you threefold).
A remake is currently in the works, most recently set to be co-written by Zoe Lister-Jones and Daniel Casey and directed by Lister-Jones. Hopefully it will be a cultural touchstone for a new generation of teens.
9. Caleb Danvers – The Covenant (2006)
Here’s one for the boys:
Caleb (Steven Strait) and his three buddies are all high school students who are also descendants of witch families. They came into their powers when they were 13-years old, but they won’t have been fully confirmed in their powers until their 18th Birthdays. But their powers come with a catch: their powers draw on life source to work, and so every time they use them, their bodies age. The solution seems simple, right? Just don’t use the powers. But teenagers aren’t exactly known for self-restraint, and what’s worse: use of magic is extremely addictive.
As Caleb’s 18th Birthday draws near, two new students transfer to his high school. One, Sarah (Laura Ramsey) becomes a love interest; the other, Chase (Sebastian Stan) becomes an enemy.
8. Leah Reyes – Pyewacket (2017)
Leah Reyes (Nicole Muñoz) is easily one of the most relatable people on this list. She’s a Typical Moody Teen, turning to occult magic as a way to grieve her father’s death and to deal with her tense relationship with her mother after they move out into an isolated home in the woods. Magic is the only thing that gives a shred of power in her situation.
After a huge fight with her mother. Leah goes out into the woods and performs a ritual from one of her books. It’s designed to summon a demon that will kill her mother. The act was meant to help her vent her frustrations. She doesn’t expect that she might actually have the power to summon something into her home.
7. Leena – All Cheerleaders Die (2013)
Leena (Sianoa Smit-McPhee) exists on the sidelines. When her ex-girlfriend Maddy (Caitlin Stasey) joins the cheerleading team, she takes it upon herself to keep an eye on things, in part out of loneliness and in part to step in with magical intervention if Maddy needs her. It’s a good thing, too, because Leena is the only witness to the car crash that kills Maddy and three other cheerleaders who sticks around. She’s able to resurrect the girls, but transforming them into monstrous and hungry beings. The resurrection also binds her to the cheerleaders, granting her not only relevance in Maddy’s life but partial responsibility for everything that happens.
6. Willow Rosenberg – Buffy the Vampire Slayer
We meet more than one witch in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but none can top awkward nerd-turned dark magic addict Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan). Willow first taps into her aptitude for magic after conducting a Ritual of Restoration (charmingly stored on a floppy disk) to restore Angel’s soul. She quickly realizes that practicing witchcraft could prove to be a huge asset to the Scooby Gang. She starts with simple fare like levitating pencils and using glamours to hide pimples, but soon escalates and demonstrates a huge capacity for power.
In later seasons, Willow becomes addicted to using magic and finds herself unable to stop herself from using magic to solve any and all of her problems. Grief pushes her even further into dark magic. But despite everything, Willow is the witchy BFF that everyone wishes they had.
5. Abigail Williams – The Crucible (1996)
In a contemporary high school setting, Abigail Williams (Winona Ryder) would surely be the cool-girl bully with a huge influence over the student body. But The Crucible, adapted from Arthur Miller’s play of the same name, is set in 1692. Abigail finds power in accusing other people of witchcraft and convincing other village girls to back up her claims—power that she otherwise could not access as a teenaged girl in a patriarchy—despite the fact that she was all too happy to drink chicken’s blood and participate in rituals wishing death upon John Proctor’s wife.
I like to think that if she hadn’t gotten caught, Abigail would have certainly dug deeper into witchcraft with Tituba and given herself to occult practices for personal gain.
4. Thomasin – The Witch (2015)
Since we’re already visiting the past with Abigail Williams and The Crucible, it’s worth rewinding even further to the 1630s to acknowledge Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy). Thomasin and her family are excommunicated from their settlement over a religious dispute. They re-establish themselves on an isolated farm by the woods where terrible incidents immediately begin to plague the family. Thomasin shoulders much of the blame and is accused of being a witch. In a way, it’s lucky that witches do lurk in the woods, and they are eager to accept the teenager into their fold.
Thomasin just wants to live deliciously, after all, and the coven presents a way out of her current life.
3. Zoe, Madison, Nan, and Queenie – American Horror Story: Coven
The teen witches of American Horror Story: Coven are privileged as heck: they get to live at Miss Robichaux’s Academy, a swank estate in New Orleans. Each of the students has her own personal flavour of power. Madison (Emma Roberts) has telekinetic powers and Nan (Jamie Brewer) is clairvoyant, while Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe) can transfer injuries made to her body onto someone else and any guy who sleeps with Zoe (Taissa Farmiga) will experience a brain hemorrhage.
At The Academy, students hone skills known as the Seven Wonders of Witchcraft, which range from divination and transmutation to resurrection. Of course, all of this privilege comes with the catch. The girls aren’t here to make friends, they’re competing to become the next Supreme, a title that comes with an inheritance of great power.
2. Susie Bannion –Suspiria (2018)
Despite a lack of formal dance training, Susie Bannion (Dakota Johnson) is accepted into the prestigious Tanz Dance Academy in Germany and quickly gains attention for her talent. Meanwhile, other dancers at the academy are turning up dead.
In a departure from Argento’s original tale, Susie Bannion is no longer a wide-eyed girl uncovering and defeating a coven of witches running her elite ballet school. Rather, she reveals herself to be a powerful witch, Mater Suspiriorum AKA the mother of sighs, there to dismantle the corrupt coven and claim the ballet school as her own.
1. Sabrina Spellman – The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
Rounding out this list of teen witches is Sabrina Spellman (Kiernan Shipka). In season one, we followed Sabrina as she tried to maintain a balance between her loyalties to her mortal friends at Baxter High and to the Church of Night. Between Madam Satan (Michelle Gomez)’s influence and students at The Academy of the Unseen Arts acting out their personal grudges, it’s pretty much impossible for Sabrina to maintain any semblance of a normal life.
In the upcoming second season, we can expect that Sabrina will be exploring the darker elements of her magical half, while continuing to struggle with maintaining her mortal friendships (a struggle further complicated by the fact that some of these friends now know that she is a witch).
The second season of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina drops on Netflix, April 5th.