I love, love, LOVE stories about witches. I can’t say these are the best representations of witches ever (it’s all subjective anyway, right?) but these would be my top 13 personal favourite witches from books, film, and TV. Do you agree?
1 The Grand High Witch – Roald Dahl, The Witches
I remember reading this book as a kid and it gave me terrible nightmares. Dahl’s description of the Grand High Witch TERRIFIED me. I had many dreams about witches scratching at my window (which was even creepier as my bedroom was on the second floor). Eventually, I ended up putting the book in my brother’s room because I was so freaked out I couldn’t keep it on my bookshelf! I still remember my skin crawling as I read about the way a witch can smell small children who are nearby, and how they will try to lure them with sweets and candy. The way Dahl describes the meeting of witches from the Boy’s (our protagonist’s) point of view as he watches them discard their disguises and let out their true forms is a super creepy, totally witchy moment that will be forever burned on my memory.
2 Sabrina Spellman – The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina/Sabrina the Teenage Witch
I watched the original Sabrina the Teenage Witch back in the ninety’s, and loved watching this young teenager find her way as she uncovered her powers, with the help of her two funny and lovable witchy aunts. Then Netflix went and rebooted the series drawing from the Archie comics with The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and I was totally blown away. This darker, edgier version of our teenage heroine was, in my opinion, totally brilliant. I thought the aunts from the original series couldn’t be bested – but I was very happy to be proven wrong with this adaptation. I also loved the little tongue in cheek additions such as characters frequently muttering ‘thank Satan’ or ‘praise the dark lord’ – a really fun, dark twist on characters I already knew and loved. It gets pretty twisted at times but hey – that’s part of its magic.
3 Wicked Witch of the West – The Wizard of Oz
A classic, I couldn’t not include this perhaps most famous of all witches in my top witch line-up. The bright green skin, the crookedy nose, the flying monkeys (the flying monkeys might actually be my favourite thing about this witch). And best of all, the way she melts when coming into direct contact with H2O. I do so appreciate a villain who knows when its time to give up the ghost, and who can be fought with a clear and concise method that will always succeed. This classic wicked witch plays into every witchy stereotype going – and I am here for it.
4 Hermione Granger – Harry Potter or Bellatrix Lestrange
Hermione Granger in Warner Bros. Pictures’ “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.”
I didn’t want to include Harry Potter twice (even though I do still love all of the Harry Potter books, despite recent controversies around some of the author’s public comments) so this entry is a two-for-one. Hermione is one of the good guys, she’s super smart and she doesn’t just let any boy turn her head (though there is the brief sort-of fling she has with Viktor Krum in The Goblet of Fire – and let’s be honest, who can blame her?) I love that she’s independent, clever, and her character doesn’t just exist to be a pretty object for the boys to look at. She saves Ron and Harry’s bums on more than one occasion!
But for pure, dark, deranged, death eater, there’s no beating the seriously creepy (and clearly nutty) Bellatrix Lestrange. Even though I read all of the Harry Potter books long before they were made into movies, Bellatrix’s portrayal by the fantastic Helena Bonham Carter ensured that she would be remembered as far more than just a passing secondary character. Great baddie – 10/10 on the evil witch scale.
5 Sarah Bailey – The Craft – or Nancy Downs, her opposite
The Craft was one of my first encounters of ‘natural’ witchcraft, or the idea of witches not as cackling hags or bald evil monsters that eat little kiddies – but someone who taps into the magic of nature and uses it either for good or ill. I immediately loved how this idea of magic mirrors the way that nature can be both brutal and beautiful. I liked that this interpretation feels so much more in depth than the wicked witch kind of depiction we often first encounter as kids. Sarah, the main character, is easy to root for – she’s the protagonist so of course she’s the one you as the viewer are supposed to relate to. She also seems to have pretty good intentions, like wanting to help Bonnie with her scars so she doesn’t get bullied anymore, and then shows remorse when some of the coven’s spells backfire.
I really liked this more nuanced depiction of magic – but for the pure creepiness factor, Nancy really knocks it out of the park. Her character is a stark reminder of the dangers of being given too much power, too quickly. Nancy starts off as a pretty relatable character, you feel sorry for her and her crappy home situation – but when she torments Chris and really goes off the rails, she shows that unlike Sarah, she doesn’t care who gets hurt, as long as she gets her way in the end. Overall this is still one of my favourite witchy films and I’ll happily watch it again to put me in a Halloween-y mood anytime!
6 The Wicked Witch/Snow White’s Stepmother – Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
Snow White was actually the first ever movie I watched in a cinema, and I remember my mum taking me to a cool little place which happily still exists, Kinema in the Woods. It’s totally kitschy (they even do an intermission still) which some people might hate but I absolutely adore. I was enchanted by my first cinema-going experience, but I still remember the pure TERROR of watching the Wicked Witch as she concocted her evil potion and drenched the innocent apple with it to tempt poor Snow White to her doom. I don’t remember much else about watching this film the first time, but I remember that moment so clearly. Here is another brilliant example of a witch you do not want to cross, and I do love it when a character really leans into their motivations – good or evil!
7 Willow Rosenberg – Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Willow was a ground-breaking witch and our hero’s best friend throughout all seven seasons of the amazing Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I haven’t really gotten into the comics that continued the story where the TV show left off (I do however love the original film, as hilarious as it is in quite a few places) but this was literally one of my all time favourite TV shows I watched growing up as a teen and I thought they ended the show pretty much perfectly. So I don’t know how much Willow featured in the continued stories, but in the TV series I loved firstly, how she grows through the seasons – starting off a quiet, shy, and pretty insecure, finding her feet as a witch and then eventually, how she comes to accept herself fully, including her sexuality as a gay woman. For me, Willow and Tara were one of the first openly lesbian relationships I saw represented in a pretty mainstream show, and seeing diversity in stories not only helps me better understand those experiences but also just makes me happy – it’s what makes us complex and beautiful as human beings, and I want to see, hear, and read these stories. Plus the episodes where Willow goes dark-side were pretty awesome, too.
8 The Halliwell Sisters – Charmed
Along with Buffy, Charmed was one of the TV shows I watched pretty much religiously as a teen, and I’m not ashamed to admit I will happily go back and rewatch episodes (I have complete DVD box sets of both series!). And yes, part of the charm (haha, that pun was not intentional but I’m leaving it here) is probably just because I watched these shows as I was growing up and becoming an adult, so they kind of hold a special place for me. But even without that, all the magic, all the different spells, the white-lighters, the different creatures and bad guys the three sisters had to face – I could not get enough of it and I still enjoy watching these episodes. Plus, seeing three strong, independent, and DIFFERENT women, who had different personalities and motivations and dreams – that was so empowering to watch for me and I really related to it. When Pru left the show and they brought in Paige, I was ready to hate it and thought they’d never make it work – and I was so wrong. The earliest episodes are still my personal favourites (I think I was more upset about Andy leaving than Pru, to be honest!) but the later seasons are still really strong and they have a tonne of magic and fun that you would expect from this witchy, wicca-based series. Plus the Book of Shadows being almost like a fourth character – well as an avid reader, of course I fell in love with that idea!
9 The Sanderson Sisters – Hocus Pocus
Hocus Pocus is THE movie I always watch to prepare for Halloween. I’ll watch spooky/scary films too (Scream is another one of my favourites that I have probably seen a million times) and try and mix up old and new. But there’s something just so funny and heart-warming about this particular film, even if it is totally cliché and predictable. But again, sometimes I just really enjoy when a story and its characters lean into the topes all the way. Child killing witches? Check. A magic spell that brings them back to life? Check. Our plucky young hero, his baby sister, and cute love interest, who only have until midnight to save the day? Check. There’s also key moments which make me want to dance/laugh every time – the sisters singing to cast a spell over all the parents at the big Halloween party, and of course, the moment Mary Sanderson realises there’s no broom for her to fly away on, and has to make do with a vacuum cleaner instead. It’s silly, it’s feel good, and the three sisters feel like a light-hearted take on the classic three evil hags. Plus you can even watch with younger family members, so everyone wins.
10 The Three Weird Sisters – Macbeth
Throwing it way back now to a Shakespeare classic, Macbeth wouldn’t be my choice for the Bard’s number one play, but you can’t argue against how this representation of witches has really affected so many other iterations that have come since. Not only did they provide one of the classic examples of how powerful – and dangerous – prophecies can be, but the spells! Can we talk about the spells for a minute. “Double, double, Toil and trouble; Fire burn and cauldron bubble” – most of us recognise these lines, even if we’ve never seen or read the original source material. That just shows us the impact that these three weird sisters have had over our collective ideas of what it means to be a witch. I also have a strong suspicion that they are a big part of the reason why witches are so commonly associated with newts;
“Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog…
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.”
I mean – you wouldn’t argue with that, would you?
11 Circe – Homer’s Odyssey
Circe is a really interesting character. She appears in quite a few Greek legends, often using magic to turn people who annoyed her (and men who turned down her advances) into beasts. The way the Greeks would tell stories about her, I think would largely be to try and remind people of the dangers of drunkenness. Also Circe herself was either a morally grey or just outright dark character, a temptress, a sexually free woman – which clearly terrified the ancient Greeks. I however, am all in favour of women’s sexual liberation (I mean, I am a woman so that’s probably not very surprising). Circe lived alone on an island so really, if men insisted on going there and asking/demanding favours from her, I’m not sure how much she can be blamed for getting annoyed and turning them into animals. Well, okay, maybe it is a tad extreme. And she did apparently turn her love rival Scylla into a terrible monster to get rid of the competition, so she definitely had a dark side to her. But I actually see quite a few comparisons with Sirens and other female figures from mythology who were frequently blamed for ‘tempting men to their doom.’ I can’t help but sympathise a bit with these characters – and Circe is definitely one of them. (If you’re interested in learning more about Sirens, by the way, you should check out my blog Are Sirens Evil here).
12 Mildred Hubble – the Worst Witch
The Worst Witch was a series of books that was later turned into a TV series for kids, and I’m just realising as I write this list how many witch themed books, movies, and shows I devoured as a kid! Clearly, I knew what I liked from a young age 🙂 Anyway, I wanted to include Mildred Hubble on this list not just because she was a sweet and relatable young girl, trying to find her way and figure out her magic (and constantly failing!) but also because even from a young age, I loved how these stories showed that as amazing and fun as magic is – and let’s face it, magic is pretty damn cool – it’s not just a fix-all for every little problem. In fact, a lot of the time, when it’s used in the wrong way or for the wrong reason, magic makes everything worse, not better. If magic can be used to solve every challenge, it takes all the fun and tension out of the story. Mildred was well-meaning, good-hearted, clumsy, and she struggled to channel her magical abilities. It takes her a long time to master her magic, and along the way her adventures showed that traits like ingenuity and creativity were just as important to helping her save the day as magic.
13 Maya – Call of the Siren
Is it a bit cheeky to include one of my own characters on this list? Almost definitely, but when you spend years getting to know a character and writing their story, it’s really hard not to love them pretty intensely. So I’m doing it! Like a few other witches on this list, when we first meet Maya she doesn’t know she’s a witch and she hasn’t really tapped into her true power – yet. She’s the best friend to our main character, Thalia, and as they are thrown into a mystical, strange, and scary journey, Maya is able to tap into her true gifts and step into her full power as a witch. Writing Maya’s story was so much fun and ‘watching’ her grow from an unsure young woman to a bad-ass witch was really satisfying – I hope that if you decide to read my book, you’ll feel the same!
Call of the Siren is out now – and it’s even FREE on Kindle Unlimited, so make sure you check it out and you can read all about Maya’s magical transformation right now!
Do you agree with my witchy top picks? Did I miss your all-time favourite witch? Leave me a comment and let me know!
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