“Double, double, toil and trouble/Fire burn and cauldron bubble,” goes the famous couplet in “Macbeth.” At the time this Shakespeare tragedy was written, continental Europe’s fear of witchcraft bubbled as well. Witches have been a source of terror to many for millenia, dating as far back as 931 B.C., and according to britannica.com, they’ve been defined in many ways: as worshiping evil in Christian belief, shapeshifting according to the Navajo, or stealing the souls of their victims in some African cultures. Eventually, these myths would develop into the iconic pointy-hatted, potion-stirring figures engraved in popular culture today (though an inaccurate representation of actual practicing witches). In celebration of Samhain, the Celtic neopagan, and Wiccan New Year, or Halloween day for non-followers, I’ve compiled a list of witchy movies perfect for the fall season. Some are classics, others terrifying, but all of them perfect for viewing with your coven.
Based on the 1977 cult classic of the same title, Luca Guadagnino’s dreary re-imagining of “Suspiria” is satisfyingly bizarre. While it lacks the iconic visual vibrancy of its predecessor, it far surpasses the original film’s horror. Set in the midst of The German Autumn, “Suspiria” follows expatriate Suzy Bannion (Dakota Johnson), who fulfills her lifelong dream to join the Markos Dance Company in Berlin. But as her peers begin mysteriously disappearing with suspicious explanations, she and another dancer, Sarah (Mia Goth), begin to question their instructors and unravel the secrets lurking within the walls. I’ll give you a hint, it involves witchcraft. Absolutely eerie and at times grotesque (I would skip this film if you’re at all squeamish), “Suspiria” is sure to make any avid horror fans’ skin crawl. Also starring Tilda Swinton and Chloë Grace Moretz, this film is available to stream on Amazon Prime.
“The Craft,” 1996
When Sarah Bailey (Robin Tunney) transfers to her new school, she doesn’t instantly befriend the most popular girls or start dating a star athlete like in every other tired teen movie. Instead, she falls in with a coven of three wannabe-witches: Nancy (Fairuza Balk), Bonnie (Neve Campbell), and Rochell (Rachel True). Shunned by society because of their looks, their income, or their race, these teens have taken to hexes and rituals for revenge. But when wannabe witches meet the real thing (i.e. Sarah), their dreams of getting even become a realized, and deadly, retribution. “The Craft” is a dark spin on the classic new-girl-in-school story, and a great film for fans of both horror and “Mean Girls.” Funny, twisted, and very 90’s, “The Craft” is quintessentially witchy. Available for rent on Amazon Prime.
“The Witches of Eastwick,” 1987
This classic comedy tells the story of three friends, Sukie (Michele Pfeiffer), Alexandra (Cher), and Jane (Susan Sarandon) left single by one of the three ‘Ds:’ death, desertion, and divorce. Tired of the sleaze-bag men in Eastwick, they long for a charming, intelligent stranger to show up and sweep them off their feet. But when their wish purchases the historic Lenox House in town, they soon discover that he isn’t what they’d hoped for. Essentially the embodiment of toxic male behavior, Darrell Van Horten (Jack Nicholson), is crass, offensive, and according to Alexandra, smells; but something about him is irresistible. The three friends must stick together to overcome Van Horten’s spell and rid themselves of his manipulations. This film is unexpectedly bizarre but great for fans of Strong Independent Women Kicking Ass™. Available to stream on Tubi.
“Eve’s Bayou,” 1997
“The summer I killed my father, I was 10 years old,” begins the compelling Southern Gothic that is “Eve’s Bayou.” After young Eve (Jurnee Smollett) witnesses her father (Samuel L. Jackson) having an affair, she’s sworn to secrecy by the family members she confides in. But as her father begins to return home just before dawn, her mother becoming paranoid, and her older sister increasingly distant, Eve decides that silence isn’t the answer. Something drastic needs to be done about the man who has broken her family apart and caused so much pain to her loved ones; whether it be by natural consequence or something supernatural. A stirring family drama with a twist of voodoo magic and psychic visions, “Eve’s Bayou” is spellbinding from the first minute. Available for rent on Amazon Prime.
“Practical Magic,” 1998
Gillian (Nicole Kidman) and Sally Owens (Sandra Bullock), the descendants of powerful witches, have known since childhood that the women in their family are cursed; that if they should ever fall in love, their lover would eventually die. However, after years of separation, both sisters have found themselves giving in to desire and ignoring their family’s widowed track record. When the inevitable comes true of Sally’s husband, she accepts her own faults. But when things don’t go quite as expected with Gillian’s abusive significant other, and the sisters become the cause of his demise, they reunite to clean up their mess; and in the process, accept the magical heritage they had so long revoked. “Practical Magic” is an endearing romantic comedy, with a brilliant cast and a margarita-mixing scene that puts all past and future margarita parties to shame. Also starring Stockard Channing and Dianne Weist as Aunt Francis and Aunt Bridget, “Practical Magic” is available to stream on HBO Max.
“The Blair Witch Project,” 1999
This eerie, at times infuriating found-footage cult classic follows a crew of amateur filmmakers, Heather, Mike, and Josh, as they investigate the local myth of the Blair Witch. Camped out in the dense forest, the crew gradually transcends into hysteria; their fears having little to do with the supernatural being they set out to discover. Viewers of “The Blair Witch Project” may find themselves transcending into the same madness, as the group (or rather, Mike and Josh) gaslight and repeatedly sabotage one another. Both chilling, and with an edge-of-your-seat final scene, “The Blair Witch Project” is a must-watch for those who enjoy feeling angry. Available to stream on HBO Max.
Starring the famous twins of “Sister, Sister” (Tia and Tamera Mowry), “Twitches” is the story of two magical twins separated at birth, whose mysterious reunion on their 21st birthday quickly becomes a matter of life or death. Tasked with defending their home-dimension, “Coventry,” against the looming darkness threatening to destroy it, the sisters must overcome their differences to protect all that they’ve held dear for the better part of a week. With cliché class culture shocks, tragic parental-loss backstories, and characters that are essentially walking negative female stereotypes, I would advise you remove any heavy objects from your direct surroundings (lest you feel the need to throw them at your television). However, what “Twitches” lacks in bearable acting and a coherent plot, it somehow makes up for with its spellbinding ability to make you see the film through to the end; similar to a car accident, or an Adam Sandler movie. It’s a phenomenon captured in this comment from Maybe Golden, a senior at Franklin High School: “I hate this movie so much, I can’t wait to see what happens.” Available to stream on Disney+.
“Hocus Pocus,” 1993
If you haven’t seen this early 90’s classic, the film follows new-kid Max (Omri Katz), who while trying hard to impress his crush, accidentally awakens three witch sisters who’ve been dead for 300 years. Max, accompanied by his younger sister and Binx, an immortal cat cursed by the Sanderson Sisters, has until sunrise to stop the witches from getting hold of their spellbook and achieving eternal youth from the souls of children. Oddly morbid and with lines that are surprising to hear in a Disney movie (for example, when the Sanderson Sisters tell a bus driver that they “desire children,” he replies with “it might take me a couple times, but that won’t be a problem!”), “Hocus Pocus” is a must-watch and re-watch for those risqué references that push it over the line. Starring Bette Middler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy as the iconic Sanderson Sisters. Available to stream on Disney +.
Set in 17th century New England, this chilling tale follows a puritan family who, after being banished from their village, attempts to rebuild their lives away from society. When their youngest child suddenly vanishes, the family becomes enveloped in fear and paranoia, blaming their daughter Thomasin (Anna Taylor-Joy) for the disappearance. With their distrust of one another mounting, the evil seeping from the dense forest beyond their farm makes the family’s new life a sprawling nightmare. With an unexpectedly satisfying ending, “Witch” is unsettling through and through, and definitely worth viewing. Franklin High School junior Amelia Cummings can attest to this: “Traumatized children, goats killing people, really hot witches…I love this movie!” Available to stream on HBO Max.
“Teen Witch,” 1989
Louise Miller (Robyn Lively) describes her life as “a walking, talking tragedy.” Practically invisible to the popular clique and her football captain crush (I’d like to mention his name is Brad), she longs for what she lacks. When she conveniently stumbles into the home of an eccentric psychic, played by “Poltergeist” star Zelda Rubinstein, Louise learns that she’s the descendant of a powerful witch; and that her yearning for popularity and Brad’s attention might not be so out of reach. But Louise soon discovers that getting everything you want isn’t all roses. With nauseating fashion, permed hair with sporadic, one might even say malicious, pony-tail placement, and a white rapping trio that just shows up out of nowhere, “Teen Witch” is so 80’s it feels like satire. Regardless, this romantic comedy is great for fans of John Hughes-esque teen movies, and very fun to make fun of. Available to stream on Youtube.
Whatever you’re celebrating this fall season, I hope some of the films on this list pique your interest, either to watch something new or revisit an old favorite. Happy viewing!