The past few years have been all about vampires and occasionally werewolves, but with All Hallow’s Eve approaching and ‘American Horror Story: Coven’ focusing on those classic “black magic women”, are witches the next big thing is supernatural pop culture? If so, Jessica Lange and company are joining a proud lineage of spell-casting femme fatales. There have been many takes on witches in every form of entertainment, but here are a few of the best loved variations.
10. The Halliwell/Matthews Sisters from ‘Charmed’
Years before ‘The Vampire Diaries’, these mystical beauties cast a spell on viewers for nine seasons on The CW (originally The WB). Piper (Holly Marie Combs), Phoebe (Alyssa Milano) and Paige (Rose McGowan) were sisters who had magic in their bloodline and each possessed a special ability– Piper could freeze time, Phoebe had visions of the past and future and Paige possessed a form of telekinesis. But I think we all know the true witchiness went on backstage, with Prue, played by the infamous Shannon Doherty, who had to be written off the show due to conflicts with the rest of the cast!
9. The Witches from ‘The Craft’
These ‘Mean Girls’ started out as rebellious Catholic school girls, but quickly veered into the dark side, practicing witchcraft and taking revenge on anyone who crossed them. Fairuza Balk, as Nancy, brings a wide-eyed intensity to her role! She gives good crazy! Backing her up were Neve Campbell (Bonnie), Robin Tunney (Sarah) and Rachel True (Rochelle). This film came out in 1996, amid a flurry of teen movies, but this one was the dark step-sister of all those other flicks!
8. Sabrina the Teenage Witch
‘Sabrina the Teenage Witch’ debuted in an ‘Archie Comics’ series in 1962 and even starred in her own cartoon series, but the character really leaped into pop culture awareness in 1996 in a live action TV series starring Melissa Joan Hart, coming off her other hit kids show ‘Clarissa Explains It All’. Sabrina lived with her two aunts Hilda (Caroline Rhea) and Zelda (Beth Broderick), who were also witches and her talking cat Salem (voiced by Nick Bakay), who was a former witch who was transformed into a cat as punishment for evil deeds. The show was a surprise hit, outperforming its lead-in the TV version of ‘Clueless’ which the network had really been pushing. The show ran for eight seasons, eventually wrapping up in 2003.
7. Samantha and Endora from ‘Bewitched’
There are two kinds of people in this world– ‘I Dream of Jeannie’ people and ‘Bewitched’ people. But this isn’t a list of genies. Samantha brought a down-to-Earth spin to witchcraft, often suppressing her magical nature until she absolutely had to wiggle her nose to make things happen. But it was her glamor-puss mother, Endora that stole every scene she was in, with her regal haughtiness and “out and proud” embracing of her mystic abilities.
6. Regina from ‘Once Upon A Time’
Speaking of scene stealers, Lana Parrilla as Regina, the Evil Queen from the fairy tale Snow White, is the classic “love to hate her” villain on ABC’s fable-based series ‘Once Upon A Time.’ Not since Joan Collins on ‘Dynasty’ has there been such an elegantly deplorable soap opera bi… uh, I mean witch on TV. She’s absolutely magnetic!
5. The White Witch from ‘The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe’
C.S. Lewis’ famed children’s novel ‘The Lion, The Witch and the wardrobe’ was first published in 1950 and has remained a perennial hit ever since. In it, the White Witch rules over the land of Narnia a magical kingdom populated by talking animals and other mythological creatures. Under her rule, the land is plunged into eternal winter “but never Christmas.” She is terrified by the arrival of the four Pevensie children, due to an ancient prophesy that they will destroy her grasp on this magical land. As a result, she attempts to corrupt Edmund, the younger of the two Pevensie boys. She was played with icy cool by Tilda Swinton in the 2005 live action adaptation.
4. The Sanderson Sisters from ‘Hocus Pocus’
In olden times, the Sanderson sisters had to absorb the life force of children in order to maintain their youth. The parents of their latest victim, along with an angry mob attempt to hang them, but due to a spell, the sisters are later resurrected in the present (actually 1993). The witches once again terrorized young people in order to absorb their essence to remain young, until they ran afoul of a teenager named Max. ‘Hocus Pocus’ was not a huge hit when it was first released and was actually panned by most critics, but over the years, it’s become a Halloween tradition, thanks to campy performances by Bette Midler (Winifred), Kathy Najimy (Mary) and Sarah Jessica Parker (Sarah).
3. Bellatrix LeStrange from ‘Harry Potter’
Now, I’m not really sure that she counts as a “witch” per se. A witch isn’t a female version of a wizard, which is technically where she falls, but she’s close enough and I just had to include her. Bellatrix, as embodied in the movies by the always off-kilter Helena Bonham-Carter is a wide-eyed, demented menace, slavishly devoted to Lord Voldemort who actually kills her own cousin, Sirius Black and in the books, tortured Neville Longbottom’s parents to the point that they went insane. Bonham-Carter herself described her character as “She’s just like this mad child, and she’s very high-octane, just utterly anarchic. Now she’s so unhinged she’s just lost.”
2. The Disney Witches
I had to lump them together, otherwise they’d have taken up half this list. But few wicked ladies have haunted as many children’s nightmares as Snow White’s Evil Queen, Maleficent from ‘Sleeping Beauty’ or Ursula the octopus-like sea witch from ‘The Little Mermaid’. The Evil Queen ordered a hit on her own step-daughter, demanding her heart be cut out in order to prove the deed had been done. When that didn’t work, she poisoned her with a lethal apple. This was all out of vanity, by the way, as she couldn’t stand the idea that she wasn’t the “fairest of them all.” Maleficent turned into a huge fire-breathing dragon and enslaved an entire kingdom, all because she wasn’t invited to a party! Ursula may seem tame in comparison, merely stealing Ariel’s voice, but she skulked around with such menace, you simply can’t exclude her.
Also, if you ever rode the Snow White ride at Disney World/Disneyland… you will never forget that, no matter how much therapy you receive.
1. Elphaba/The Wicked Witch of the West
But the one witch who has scared more kids than even the Disney villains, is Margaret Hamilton’s Wicked Witch of the West, from the 1939 big screen adaptation of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ with her unforgettable cackle and creepy army of flying monkeys. Different actresses have tackled this iconic role, most recently Mila Kunis in ‘Oz the Great and Powerful’, but no one can ever duplicate Hamilton’s depiction which Time magazine ranked as the #3 best movie villain of all time. To add to that, the character, her real name revealed to be Elphaba was the focus of the 1995 book ‘Wicked’ by Gregory Maguire which was then adapted into, basically, the best Broadway musical ever.
So do you agree or disagree? Yes, I know I left Willow Rosenberg off. But she’s really more famous for being Buffy’s sidekick than for being a witch. There were plenty of other possible choices, but I think these characters are the most iconic witches from pop culture. But sound off below in the comments section with your picks!