It’s nearly Thanksgiving weekend in Canada, and aside from spending time with family, visiting a pumpkin patch, and stirring pots of bubbling goodness on the stove, I’ll probably end the holiday by curling up on the couch with pillow, popcorn and cozy blanket to watch a few movies. Since it’s also Witchy Wednesday, I thought I’d list my top movie picks featuring, you guessed it, witches.
In no particular order…
This classic film was shown on national TV in the US every year throughout my childhood. Strangely enough they aired it right around Easter which also coincided with tornado season in the Midwest, leaving this Hoosier girl quaking with fear from the get go. Still, despite the fierce storm, the menacing green-faced wicked witch, the grumbling apple trees and flying monkeys, I fell in love with the movie. To this day, I watch it any time I get the chance. It’s a true cinematic masterpiece, especially when you consider it premiered in 1939.
2. Hocus Pocus.
The story of the wild, wacky Sanderson sisters of Salem (played by Kathy Najimy, Bette Midler and Sarah Jessica Parker) brings its own special brand of magic to the silver screen. Panned by critics when it was released in 1993, it quickly became a cult classic and has had a special place in my witchy heart ever since. There’s something wonderfully entertaining about their over-the-top, irreverent antics that begs for repeated viewings of this film. You’ll laugh, you’ll cringe, you’ll sing along with the Divine Miss M’s rousing rendition of “I put a spell on you.”
3. Bell, Book and Candle.
Based on the original Broadway play by John Van Druten, this 1958 romantic comedy is a sexy, well-dressed tale of a love spell gone wrong. Kim Novak is brilliant as the slinky, scheming Gillian, and Jimmy Stewart is (as always) perfect in his portrayal of the unsuspecting Shep. The supporting cast is equally delightful with spot-on performances by Jack Lemon, Elsa Lanchester and Pyewacket the cat. (It’s a fun film to pair with Vertigo…also starring Novak and Stewart, albeit in a totally different light.)
4. Kiki’s Delivery Service.
If you’ve never seen a Hayao Miyazaki film, shame on you! As someone who was raised on Disney animated films, I have to admit that the first Studio Ghibli film I saw completely rocked my world. Kiki’s Delivery Service is an enchanting tale about a young thirteen-year-old witch in training (Kiki) who hopes to find a sense of belonging and place in the world as she learns to master her powers. Miyazaki’s enduring obsession with flight shines through in this film, making the scenes where Kiki flies on her broom especially breathtaking.
5. The Craft.
And now for something completely different. As with Kiki’s Delivery Service, The Craft features a teenage girl (Sarah Bailey, played by Robin Tunney) who’s trying to fit in, but that’s where the comparison ends. This film’s plot centres on a group of high school outcasts at St. Benedict’s Academy who take up witchcraft as a way to gain power and control over their messed up lives. Filled with invocations, spell casting and glamour magic, The Craft was a hit among the teen goth crowd of the mid 1990’s. What makes this film for me isn’t so much the plot, but the music that serves as the soundtrack to this angsty coven’s activities. With songs by Juliana Hatfield, Letters to Cleo, Tripping Daisy, Elastica, Mathew Sweet, Our Lady Peace and Jewel, you’ll be transported back a few years when you watch it, (and maybe even swear you smell the scent of clove cigarettes in the air.)
6. Practical Magic.
Based on the Alice Hoffman novel of the same name, this 1998 film has a bit of everything when it comes to it witchery. A family curse, herbalism, witchy bloodlore, potions, poisons, small town gossip, and a whole heap of sisterly tensions/love. Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock are a lovely bad-girl good-girl pairing, but there’s far more to this movie than that. Stockard Channing and Dianne Wiest are kick-ass witchy aunties who make midnight margaritas while helping to set things right.
7. The Witches.
A wonderful blend of fantasy and comedy, The Witches (based on the Roald Dahl book) does a lovely job of capturing the essence of Dahl’s original tale. (Dahl himself wasn’t a fan because the ending of the film strayed from the book’s.) Anjelica Houston is delightfully wicked in her role as The Grand High Witch, and the creations contributed by Jim Henson’s creature shop bring the fantastical elements of the story to life. It was the final film that Henson personally worked on before his death. Although it struggled at the box office, critics gave it raves, calling it “ambitious and inventive.”
8. The Witches of Eastwick.
Another adaptation, The Witches of Eastwick is based on the first of John Updike’s novels about a trio of witchy female friends, Jane Spofford, Alexandra Medford and Sukie Ridgemont. (His sequel, The Widows of Eastwick was published in 2008.) In the 1987 film the women, (played by Susan Sarandon, Cher and Michelle Pfeiffer) dissatisfied with their lives, soon discover that their latent witchy powers have been sparked by their weekly get togethers and their mutual longing for “the perfect man.” Jack Nicholson appears in the form of a mysterious stranger and mayhem ensues.
9. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Pt. 1)
Technically all the HP movies have witches in them (and thus are on my long-list of witchy watches,) but when it comes to the portrayal of an all-out evil sorceress with an axe to grind, Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange in Deathly Hallows Pt. 1 takes the cake. “I’m going to have a conversation with this one, girl to girl…” she says before she gets poor Hermione alone. What happens next always makes me squirm.
10. Into the Woods
I know it’s not out yet, but Into the Woods is one of my favourite musicals, so the film version is automatically on my must-see list. I pray the powers that be haven’t messed this one up!
Which witchy films are on your list?