The Best Movies About Witches (Part 1)

The following films will not be included on the list:

The Harry Potter films (simply because there are far too many)

The Devils (Some often consider the film’s plot similar to a witch hunt, but it’s really the cruel depiction of religion in general that drives the film.)

Rosemary’s Baby (this film revolves around a cult and the devil, not a witch)

The Evil Dead (Yes, Ash refers to the lady in the cellar as a witch, but she is really a demon summoned by reading the book of the dead)

#13- The Witches of Eastwick (1987)

Director: George Miller

Tagline: “Something wicked this way comes.”

Screenwriter Michael Cristofer adapted the script (loosely) from the best-selling novel by John Updike about a trio of divorced or widowed ladies living in a small New England town who subconsciously conjure up the Devil himself. The comparison to Practical Magic (a movie that won’t make this list) is common, but The Witches of Eastwick is a lot of fun, if only for its scandalous plot, in which Jack Nicholson (playing the Devil) turns three women in the small town of Eastwick into his whores. Nicholson, Cher, Susan Sarandon, Michelle Pfeiffer, Veronica Cartwright and Richard Jenkins chew up scenery left and right, while Mad Max director George Miller pulls out all the stops here. The no-holds-barred performance by Jack as the sex crazed Satan is enough to keep the momentum rolling, even if the movie’s latter half loses its magic.

#12- I Married A Witch (1942)

Director: René Clair

Tagline: “She’s a witch (and we do mean witch) who gets what she wants with hex appeal!”

Based on the unfinished story The Passionate Witch by Thorne Smith, the 1942 comedy was the inspiration for TV’s Bewitched. French director René Clair delivers a magical film with spectacular effects (quite effective for the time) and an incredible score. Veronica Lake stars just after her brief run of film noirs, demonstrating a quirky sense of comedy.

#11 The Craft (1996)

Director: Andrew Fleming

Tagline: “It’s “Carrie” meets “Clueless””

The tagline is pretty accurate, but I would also describe The Craft as a kind of supernatural Heathers. Directed by Andrew Fleming from a screenplay by Peter Filardi and Fleming, The Craft is, if anything, an entertainingly cheesy thriller about a coven of teenage witches. Dark, brooding, dangerous (much like high school), The Craft deserves credit for its female-centric story and a fabulous cast which includes Fairuza Balk, Neve Campbell, Rachel True and Robin Tunney. It’s always refreshing to see women in power, and the four actresses, each in her first major role, all do well. A perfect movie for maxim subscribers.

#10- Black Sunday (1977)

Director: Mario Bava

Tagline: “STARE INTO THESE EYES… discover deep within them the unspeakable terrifying secret of BLACK SUNDAY… it will paralyze you with fright!”

A densely atmospheric black-and-white fright film that clearly took its inspiration from the classic Universal horrors, Mario Bava’s directorial debut still stands as one of the most influential and important genre films ever made, and he would never again match the success of this venture. Although taken from the 1835 classic Russian ghost story The Vij by Nikolai Gogol, Bava tweaked the story to deliver a fine mixture of folklore, traditional superstition, and genre convention. Technically speaking, the film is a work of art, with superb sound design and striking  camerawork. Already an established cinematographer who was renowned for making a film look much better than its low budget would anticipate, co-cinematographers Bava and Ubaldo shot the entire film with a dolly, achieving a dream-like look. Sunday is one of the best looking Italian horror films of the 70’s, with its crumbling landscapes, shadowy black-and-white imagery, fog, castles, crypts, long passageways, and crawling insects. The film also introduced the world to Barbara Steele, who has dual roles in the film as both the evil witch and princess whose blood the witch wants to drain. Her gothic black hair and saucer-like dark eyes made her famous, but sadly it was a role she would forever be typecast in. The film was ignored by the critics when released, but soon gained a cult following and opened the door for the Italian Gothic horror films to come. It was also a box office hit, and presaged Bava’s career-long central theme of “uncertainty.” An absolutely essential cornerstone of any worthwhile horror DVD collection.

#9 -The Witches (1990)

Director: Nicolas Roeg

Tagline: “Saving the world from witches is a tall order for a boy they’ve turned into a mouse!”

The Witches, an adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic children’s story, is at once gruesome, funny and grotesque. While other directors (such as Wes Anderson) have reveled in Dahl’s unique brand of humour, Roeg brings a slightly darker sensibility to the table. Coupled with the wizardry of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop and a superbly energetic and over-the-top performance by Angelica Huston as the evil chief witch,  The Witches is certainly worth the watch. The film is also notorious for taking note of several ways to out a witch, among them: baldness, deformed hands and square, stubbed feet.

#8- The Conqueror Worm (Witchfinder General) (1968)

Director: Michael Reeves

Tagline: “The Year’s Most Violent Film!”

In director Michael Reeves’ short life, he produced three terrific horror films. Among them is Castle of the Living Dead and Revenge of the Blood Beast, a.k.a. The She-Beast, a.k.a. The Sorcerers. The 1968 British horror movie Witchfinder General (also known as The Conqueror Worm) was his third and final film, and has long been a cult item— in part because its talented 25-year-old director died of a drug overdose before the film’s release. While this harrowing horror film has no supernatural elements to speak of, its depiction of a superstitious people burning witches is a frightening one- that can easily relate to modern-day social machinations. An extraordinarily bleak story of political evil, Witchfinder General is as much an historical drama as a horror film, and provides an eye-opening picture of those chaotic times from long ago. The American title is derived from the opening scene, in which Vincent Price reads Edgar Allan Poe’s poem The Conqueror Worm.

Next (see the rest of the list)

2010: A Year in Review Part 1

2010 Box Office: Signs, Portents and Omens