If you are anything like me you are always keen for witchcraft on screen. Whether it is the story of a persecuted witch coming back through the centuries to wreak revenge, or a contemporary witch taking control of her powers, there is something very satisfying about a witch flick. So if you feel like you’ve watched all witchy movies there are from Häxan through to The Craft, and every listicle for wiccan movies has you sobbing “seen it!”, then hopefully on this list you’ll find something new to you!
The Witches (1966)
First up it’s Hammer time! From the legendary studio of Hammer Horror comes this little folk horror classic (released as The Devil’s Own in the U.S.). Joan Fontaine stars as a straight laced teacher who has come over all trembly after facing off with a witch doctor somewhere in Africa where she was attempting some do-gooder what-not. Back in England she’s just looking for a nice quiet time amongst Christian folk but instead she gets– The Witches! Story-wise it is a fairly standard “they’ll never believe you” thriller plot, but this film gets extra marks for the cool choreography in the black mass/sabbat celebrations and because it is a Nigel Kneale adaptation.
Shout Factory released a Blu-Ray version in 2017 and it is also available on dvd
Season of the Witch aka Hungry Wives (1973)
If you only know George Romero‘s zombie films (and you enjoy slow satirical looks at bourgeois mores with supernatural overtones) then you are in for a treat with Season of the Witch! Jan White plays a discontented housewife who tries adding meaning to her life by exploring the occult and having an affair with an annoying student teacher. Watch it for the heightened– almost psychedelic– cinematography and and its straight forward approach to suburban witchcraft.
Arrow released a restored version on Blu-Ray in 2017 and it is also available fo free on Tubi.
Witches Brew (1980)
If you’re looking for something a little light hearted Witches Brew is for you! It follows a very similar storyline to Weird Woman (1944) and Night of the Eagle (1967); both of which were based on the Fritz Leiber Jr’s novel Conjure Wife– but this time with a decidedly comedic take. Teri Garr stars as the wife of an academic who uses witchcraft to further her husband’s rise up the faculty ladder, while Lana Turner is an older witch with darker motivations. It is a little bit silly but I keep coming back to it because Garr is just so charming and Lana Turner is one glamorous witch!
Witches Brew (aka Which Witch is Which?) is available on YouTube but if anyone knows where a more HD version could be found I’d love to know about it!
Burned at the Stake aka The Coming (1982)
A bit of a weird one, this is the kind of film you might have watched on tv after school as a kid in the eighties and it freaked you out enough that you were quite pleased when your parents finally got home from work! School girl Loreen has to battle with being possessed by ancestor Ann Putnam and dealing with the confused spirits of an evil minister and a desperate father from 1692. One of the many films made that tap into the collective guilt surrounding the Salem witch trials it’s low on historical accuracy but high on atmosphere and creepy fun.
Burned at the Stake can be found on YouTube.
Cast a Deadly Spell (1991)
Cast a Deadly Spell (1991) mixes Lovecraftian and Noir tropes to make a fun little movie where magic is an everyday reality in late 40’s L.A. Fred Ward plays the world weary detective Harry Phillip Lovecraft who is given the job of retrieving a grimoire purloined from his wealthy client. As with most hard-boiled stories of detection the job on the books is more of an excuse to explore the underbelly of society– in this case one with literal monsters. An even weirder sequel was made in 1994– Witch Hunt stars Dennis Hopper as Lovecraft in 50’s L.A. where it’s users of magic rather than communists that are being hauled in front of committees.
Both can be seen on YouTube for free.
Eve’s Bayou (1997)
Eve’s Bayou (1997) features a young Jurnee Smollett, who, outraged by the behaviour of her philandering doctor father seeks out the assistance of a local fortune teller to place a curse on him. Featuring a rare look at the lives of middle-class black folk in 60’s Louisiana it is a haunting film even without the literal magic– one that stays with you a long time.
Eve’s Bayou is available on DVD or to rent on appleTV.
Gretel and Hansel (2020)
In Gretel and Hansel (2020) crazy-head director Oz Perkins takes the familiar German folktale and spins it out into a very Grimm story of power, magic and autonomy. Sophia Lillis plays the older sister who strives to save her brother and herself from a witch’s machinations while being more than a little tempted by the powers on display. If extreme Bauhaus Goth is your aesthetic dream you will love this film.
Gretel and Hansel is available to rent on YouTube.
Dark August (1976)
In Dark August (1976) a painter from the big city must seek help from a local occultist (Kim Hunter) when he is cursed by the grandfather of the girl he has killed in a road accident. Set in a queasy Vermont summer the film spends a solid amount of time showing some pretty realistic ritual work, as well as the consequences of running away from your responsibilities.
Dark August was released on Blu-Ray by Arrow in 2019 and is also available to view for free on Tubi.
The last and most recent flick on the list shows just what you can do with some original ideas, good acting and beautiful locations. Made by and starring the Adams family the film is a trippy folk horror where coming of age = coming into your inheritance as a wielder of ancient powers. While that in itself might not be new news the film manages to believably invent a whole new kind of witch/being, and tell a story that is both fun and a little bit gross!
Hellbender can be seen on Shudder.
So tell me what your favourite witchy flick is? I am always looking to add to my list!