16 Witch movies not to be missed. Centuries of history behind the movies

Table of Contents

We are used from an early age to perceive movies about witches and witchcraft as scary tales of terror, created by directors and writers to stimulate our imagination and our desire to confront fear. But by studying these themes more deeply, we discover the most absurd and incredible aspects of human history. One of the main themes of witch movies is the phenomenon of witchcraft. A practice that has a very ancient history that is lost over the centuries. 

The character of the witch

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The witch is a woman dedicated to the magical arts, usually endowed with occult powers and interested in exercising power with black magic. However, the term witch does not always have a negative meaning: in the pagan world it simply indicated people capable of using filters, herbs, crystals and esoteric knowledge

One of the most widespread main ideas about the witch is that it works in accord with the devil to spread evil in humanity. This information and beliefs have been exploited to find scapegoats, such as mentally unstable, marginalized, sick elderly, ugly looking people. 

This is what the church has done for centuries with the witch hunt, accusing people who are fragile or not aligned with their religious ideology, of working in accordance with Satan. This is what Islamic fundamentalists continue to do today with their terrorist attacks on “Western sinners”. 

The witches’ Sabbath

witch-movies

In ancient communities, especially in the Middle Ages, the witch represented a danger, a threat to people and to the crops of agricultural land. The witch sabbath was usually a pagan festival held in the woods, in honor of the evil one. Through the sabbaths, witches could acquire a power that was dangerous to anyone. 

The traces of these ceremonies can be found from the times of Ancient Egypt and span millennia. Even today, even if no one talks about it, it seems that black magic are a common practice all over the world. Classical Greek and Roman literature is very rich in tales of witches described as monstrous beings half human and half animal. This type of figure is also present in Mesopotamia, Judaism and the Bible. 

In Italy, tales of witchcraft are widespread in the Aeolian Islands, the volcanic islands off the coast of Sicily. Starting from 1200 the father, after more than a century of studies by alleged theologians on demonology, officially opens the witch hunt with an official decree. In 1275 the first execution on a stake of a witch accused of practicing black magic takes place in Toulouse. 

The persecution of witches 

witch-movies

Over the centuries several hundreds of thousands of women are burned at pyres across Europe. The peak of the extermination of women accused of being witches takes place in 1400 thanks to the text Malleus Maleficarum, written by a German friar commissioned by the Catholic Church. The text was a perfect propaganda tool to spread these beliefs even in the population who had always denied the existence of witches. 

In the Malleus Maleficarum there are extremely practical instructions for recognizing and catching witches that inquisitors have been observing for centuries. Torture was used as a tool to extract confessions about the practice of black magic from women. Witches were perceived by the population that was under the influence of propaganda as a real sect. 

One of the headquarters of European witchcraft was in Italy, in Benevento, under a walnut tree where satanic sabbaths took place three times a week. However, it is not just about rituals in a wood in Benevento: the sect of witches was organized with rules and a real hierarchy: a structure that proposed the ecclesiastical models of Rome with opposite purposes and motivations. The last execution of a witch at the stake took place in Italy in 1828. 

To give witches the power to fly is a special ointment that we also find in Bulgakov’s literary masterpiece, The Master and Margarita. They fly to the place where the Sabbath will take place and where they will have the honor of kissing the anus of Satan himself, a ritual gesture followed by sexual orgies, dances and human sacrifices of children. 

Rational explanations of witchcraft 

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The essay by a Dutch doctor De praestigiis daemonum of 1563, has the merit of hypothesizing for the first time a link between witchcraft and mental illnesses with a hallucinatory character. Women with severe mental illness or frustration are usually the ones accused of witchcraft. But several priests and theologians wrote new essays in the following centuries, continuing to affirm the dominant idea of ​​witchcraft. 

Many of the salient features of witchcraft resemble elements of new spiritual movements such as Wicca. They lack the nomenclature that we find in the great religions and are addressed to universal spiritual entities, with characteristics common to pagan cults. The New Age movements have spread all over the world and are now followed by millions of people. 

Perhaps the latest, incredible case of witch hunts is that of the persecution of the Indian spiritual leader Osho, persecuted in the 1980s for the New Age commune he had created in the Oregon desert, in the United States. Christian fundamentalists accused him of being the head of a satanic sect. Arrested without any concrete charge, Osho has had to travel as an exile all over the world, meeting dozens of countries that have refused to host him. 

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Does the witch hunt still exist today? Perhaps it has changed its name, perhaps the new witches and new shamans have nothing to do with the satanic sabbaths. But the scapegoat technique seems to be one of the main techniques implemented by all the strong powers, both political and spiritual. They always point their accusing index finger with mass media towards the categories that must be demonized and burned at the stake. 

Witch Movies

Selected from the most important and fundamental movies to watch for every film lover, a series of films about witches or that revolve around the theme of witchcraft not to be missed!

Haxan

Filmed in 1922 by director Benjamin Christiansen. Desecration of graves, torture, demon-possessed nuns and witches’ sabbath: Haxan, Witchcraft Through the Ages is an incredibly original and unconventional film that has become legendary over time. Between documentary and dramatic fiction, the film guides us through the scientific hypothesis that the witches of the Middle Ages suffered from the same ills as the mentally ill of the modern era.

Swedish masterpiece of history of cinema that begins as an essay film to become a fiction that anticipates cinema gothic horror, to the point of turning into a dramatic documentary on the reality of the facts. Immense figurative skills, exceptional casting, topics related to witchcraft treated with great sensitivity and with the intent of social denunciation. Honestly, as much as you like the packaging of modern cinema, it is rare today to come across something like Haxan. 

Watch Haxan

Halloween

Independent film made on a ridiculous budget that grosses over $ 200 million. Phenomenon of 1979 that definitively launches the slasher genre and consecrates the genius of director John Carpenter. A film from which several producers will try to squeeze every last dollar with countless sequels. However, none of these movies will be directed by John Carpenter anymore, with his fascinating ability to create fear without any special effects, without blood spatter, without any star in the cast. One of the rare movie cases “truly” independents who have become world famous. As will happen years later to the horror The Blair Witch Project

Watch Halloween

Suspiria

During the period of terrorist attacks in Germany called the German Autumn, the American dancer Susie Bannion moves to Berlin to join a prestigious dance school. One of the students, Patricia Hingle, disappeared joining the terrorist group Baader-Meinhof. She actually disappeared after telling her psychotherapist, Dr. Josef Klemperer, that she discovered that the school is hiding a coven of witches whose supreme is a certain Helena Markos. According to the girl’s version, she would proclaim herself as the personification of one of the three infernal deities known as the Three Mothers, or Mater Suspiriorum, the Mother of Sighs. 

witch-movies

Experimental film produced by a large production company and directed by Luca Guadagnino, it is an extraordinary work that goes beyond the standard cinematographic language we are used to today. Really scary movie from the very first sequences. The plot progressively leads us to discover the secrets and the sect of witches that hides behind the dance school.

The ending, which to some may seem excessive, is a textbook of the history of cinema: a skilful aesthetic choice that surprises and completely changes the style of the story to show the horror without any filter. A film that is still recent but which over the years will surely end up being accepted in the lists of must-see movies and masterpieces.

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The Terror

Maiden Lieutenant Duvalier (Jack Nicholson), a French soldier, loses contact with his unit and is forced to wander alone near the Baltic Sea. While searching for her regiment, she spots Helene (Sandra Knight), a mysterious beauty, walking alone. Enchanted, Duvalier begins to follow her, but she vanishes. He later joins her and follows her to a castle, where she meets the bizarre Baron Von Leppe (Boris Karloff), finds signs of witchcraft, and uncovers the shocking truth about Helene.

Horror movie by Roger Corman ‘s first leading role Jack Nicholson. Behind the surface of a genre film is an interesting development on occult themes related to witchcraft, such as the ability to take control of people’s physical bodies through the etheric body and other invisible bodies. The phenomenon of mesmerism is also mentioned, a term born from the name of its inventor, the German doctor Franz Anton Mesmer, who lived in the eighteenth century.

Watch The Terror

The Conqueror Worm

In 1645, England was going through a civil war and there were social and political upheavals. This is causing conflict in local towns as men take advantage of it and are able to gain power by exploiting the superstitions of witchcraft.

One of these men is the witch hunter Matthew Hopkins (Vincent Price), who roams the small towns of the countries abusing the admission of the alleged witches. Likewise, he abuses his powers for sexual acts and financial gain. When a pastor is mistreated and hanged by Hopkins, his niece’s boyfriend promises to track him down and kill him.

The film is a realistic and grim take on what happened during that time, with numerous scenes of violence, torment, murder and rape. The film is noteworthy for numerous factors. It features a nice interpretation of Price as the evil Hopkins acting as if he recognizes that his weird witchcraft exams are fraud, but does the job for the gains rather than a conviction of moral justice.

Price said that all the actors on the set had a difficult time with the director, Michael Reeves, unable to communicate with the actors. The film’s name was changed for American circulation to The Conqueror Worm, to coincide with Price’s Edgar Allen Poe films. He grossed about $ 1,500,000 in America. 

It has retained a cult following due to the director’s unfortunate death, followers of horror, followers of witchcraft and even Vincent Price fans. If you like any of these then you should check it out, it’s considered a British horror classic.

The Witches

Gwen Mayfield (Joan Fontaine) is on a missionary trip to Africa when she encounters a voodoo event and suffers from a nervous breakdown. He returns to England and takes a teaching position in a small town, hoping to recover from his traumatic experiences.

Begins to find unusual events happening in the city; a woman with a mangled hand, a domestic cat following her around, a child in a coma, a voodoo doll with pins, the boy and his mom died after a conversation with one of the elderly women, the baby’s dad drowns , is trampled by a group of sheep, regresses after seeing the voodoo mask that was in Africa. All these events lead her to discover that there is a coven of witches who intend to have a virgin among their rituals.

Black Sunday

In 1630 in Moldavia, the witches Asa Vajda (Barbara Steele) and Javuto are sentenced to death by Asa’s brother and the Inquisition. They are tortured, branded with Satan’s letter “S” and an iron mask nailed to my face is placed.

200 years later, they return from the realm dead, when a group of medical professionals discover the burial site and accidentally damage the cross and glass panel. One of the medical professionals cuts himself on the glass and his blood brings the witch back to life. Summon Javuto with the strategy of draining the blood of his relative, Princess Katia (also played by Steele), in order to gain eternal life.

This is a gothic horror created in Italy which is considered to be one of the outstanding works of art of the horror cinema. It uses a mix of atmosphere, sound, blood and its gothic surroundings to create a scary movie. It is reminiscent of the excellent black and white horror films of the 1930s like Dracula, and it would also have place to influence the scary Hammer movies that it sure is inspired by.

It is notable for being the directing launch of Mario Bava and actress Barbara Steele, both mostly associated with the horror style. Bava would later direct notable films Black Sabbath, The Body and the Whip, Blood and Black Lace, Kill Baby, Kill, A Bay of Blood, Lisa and the Devil.

Steele ended up being recognized for her striking charm, big eyes and dark hair and has appeared in numerous horror films, from Pit and the Pendulum, The Horrible Dr. Hichcock, The Ghost, Castle of Blood, An Angel of Satana. and the curse of the red altar. Steele succeeds in his portrayal of conflicting personalities, changing faces from the innocent princess to the evil witch.

There are many notable scenes, consisting of the opening where the witch is tortured and killed. There are great close-ups of the iron mask and the nails inside it, as you return to shots of the witch as the mask approaches her. Then there is a scene as they hammer the mask on her face and the blood comes out.

There are also a number of impressive scenes where her mask is removed and scorpions appear from her empty eyes, then a series of scenes that reveal her regeneration. There is also a large scene where Javuto comes out of the grave where he is hiding, with the mask still nailed to his head.

The film was loosely based on a Russian short story called The Viy, which would later receive a Russian adaptation titled Viy (1967) that was faithful to its reference material. The external scenes and some internal scenes were shot by the Scalera Film studios, while the internal scenes were shot in a castle in the municipality of Arsoli, in Italy. The film had some success in Italy and also in the United States, but it got very positive reviews and also has a strong cult among horror fans. 

The Undead

A woman is put into a psychic trance and sent back in time directly into the body of one of her medieval ancestors, who is doomed to die as a witch. He escapes and a real witch named Livia (Allison Hayes), who works with the devil. There is also another witch, a rogue who helps Livia, and one of the psychics who takes a trip back in time with her.

Produced and directed by Roger Corman, this is a B-movie that is a mix of scary: violence, reincarnation, time travel, comedy and cheesy fun. There are funny scenes with the witch and the elf transforming into numerous animals, most notably a pair of very fake looking bats.

The gravedigger is also funny with his rhymes and witty discussions, as when he calls the cemetery his “meat farm”. The evil one is fantastic, with his constant laughter and even a huge pitchfork. On Saturdays, he summons a trio of dead girls to climb from the grave and dance.

The film is particularly noteworthy for the appearance of the actress Hayes, her very tight dress. Hayes was likely a 1950s B-movie starlet, most notably for her appearance in Attack of the 50-foot Woman. The film was shot in six days on a $ 70,000 budget plan, in an old supermarket.

It has a cult following among fans of scary movies, drive-ins, low-budget independent films. If you like any of those, you have to check them out afterwards. If you appreciate this movie, you may also like The Mole People, Attack of the Crab Monsters, The Leach Woman, The Deadly Mantis and Premature Burial.

The film is a British horror film produced by Hammer Films, which became famous for its scary films from the 1950s to the 1970s. It is based on Norah Lofts’ exclusive The Devil’s Own. The film is much more plot-based and is slow-burning, as strange things slowly happen to the teacher in her new environment and she begins to piece the puzzle together.

The last twenty minutes of the film are unforgettable: let’s find out what is happening in this community. Fontaine provides a solid performance in her latest appearance in a starring role. She is known for appearances on Rebecca, Suspicion, This Above All and The Constant Nymph.

There are images that stand out in the film. The great voodoo mask Mayfield initially sees when he’s in Africa, when Africans break into the city. He then re-emerges in a scene where he is in England and also forces her to return to a health facility.

There is also the scene where she is trampled by sheep and falls into the mud, which is unusual to see a celebrity doing such a feat for a film. It is also significant for the presence of a female antagonist and a female lead, with the main male role playing a weak and vulnerable role.

This is a rather forgotten treasure from the Hammer archives, often overlooked for the Dracula collection and other films. You should watch this if you are a fan of Hammer Films, horror or witchcraft. If you like it, you may also like The Devil Rides Out, Dracula: Prince of Darkness, To The Devil a Daughter and The Wicker Man.

I Married a Witch

A curious, noir comedy that was largely forgotten in the dark despite the presence of stars Fredric March and Veronica Lake. Amusingly, the synopsis in no way sounds like a comedy: the film revolves around a witch and her father being educated to wield black magic, only to be revived in the 1940s, where they harass the man’s descendant. in charge of their death.

As in the later Bell, Book & Candle, the farcical use of magic is used to laugh but at the same time it is strangely threatening: it is used first to push a guy into extramarital affairs and then to motivate the scams of citizens in an election. It doesn’t matter, you’re looking at it today to see 1940s bombshell Veronica Lake at the peak of her powers, which is very attractive in her signature hairstyle. Regardless of the downright ridiculous storyline, it’s hard to resist the Lake’s extraordinary charm.

Bell, Book & Candle

It is strange to believe that mere months after starring at odds with each other in Vertigo, masterfully suspenseful of Hitchcock, Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak reunite for a fun romantic film about metropolitan witches. Widely regarded as the last time Stewart played a true romantic lead in her profession (she was 50 at the time), the film is instead controlled by the freezing and sexy Novak, who plays a Bohemian witch who makes the decision to get l Stewart’s love for a revenge.

Obviously she falls in love with the much older man, causing a dilemma between keeping her witch powers or giving in to pleasure. The whole story is interpreted as an “attractive” farce, however it is at the same time the kind of story you wouldn’t really be able to interpret as a light comedy today. However, the film sets the stage for a genre that would later be seen in Bewitched and I Dream of Genie.

The Blair Witch Project

The title “witch” in The Blair Witch Project is ultimately whatever you want it to be. Almost misleadingly advertised upon its release, The Blair Witch Project was just one of the biggest hits of the 90s in film advertising and marketing. Using the internet to spread rumors about the film’s beginnings and story events passed off as real, Blair Witch went about convincing ordinary people that they were in a movie theater, watching a widely distributed film. The truth that it was never at all clear who (or what) “the witch” was, in particular, only heightened the sense of voyeuristic fear. All we knew was that there was something extremely incorrect about those advertisements.

Eve’s Bayou

With a glimpse of life in the movies and comedies offered in quick succession in the late 1990s, Lemmon’s directing launch is a tour de force featuring outstanding performances by Jurnee Smollett, Debbi Morgan, Samuel L. Jackson and Lynn Whitfield. Between her father’s deep infidelity and her older brother’s expansion of femininity, the 10-year-old begins to rely on luck and even voodoo to defeat her family’s misdeeds.

Witching & Bitching

What Shaun of the Dead did for zombies and What We Do in the Shadows for vampires, Witching & Bitching did it essentially for the cinematic portrayal of witches, albeit on a scale much less visible. Of the two films, it’s Edgar Wright’s film that rings much truer than Iglesia’s Witching & Bitching, which is basically a heist film that takes a detour into the world of cannibal witches, with a side of nonsense.

Packed with great performances by its Spanish cast, and also packed with surprisingly gory scenes, it’s a fun horror that doesn’t skimp on splatter. You can’t take her witches seriously, however that won’t stop them from tying you to a spit and even roasting you alive.

Rosemary’s Baby

Rosemary’s Baby, as much as it is a horror classic, it may not be the first film to be considered in a collection of “witch movies”. But what else is Minnie Castevet? A truly depraved soul in the service of its dark master, the friendly neighbor. Few movies have done even more to destroy that over-the-top 1950s simplicity of Rosemary’s Baby “neighborhood care”, nor have they done more to make an idyllic past seem even more foolish “when you didn’t really have to close the doors. “.

This is all thanks to Gordon, whose inherent harmlessness, physical frailty, brash movements and even repetitive vocalizations conceal the cold-blooded composure we see briefly as Rosemary scrutinizes her. unperturbed face through the peephole. Gordon plays the character by displaying her weak physique, although it plays an essential function in robbing Mia Farrow of all her steadfastness and power to resist. Truly, of all the witches on this list, she is one of the most defining in her wickedness.

Suspiria

From the film’s hypnotic opening sequence, which follows Suzy Banyon (Jessica Harper) taking a taxi ride through a Brothers Grimm-style forest, the audience gets hit from the baroque music of the Goblins and from the phantasmagoric photography of Luciano Tovoli. He and Argento used Technicolor and cutting-edge lighting strategies to achieve the particular Disney-inspired effects of red, yellow, green and blue, colors that end up being the film’s “monster”, a clear indication of the supernatural. Significantly, when Suzy comes face to face with the film’s antagonist, the witch Helena Markos, Markos is not perceived.

The Witch

From its earliest moments, The Witch locks us into a hostile land. Consider, because that’s all we can do, as Puritan patriarch William (Ralph Ineson) stubbornly suggests the exile of his family members from their “New England” area. The chariot always stumbles on the desert, drawing the frontier of this New World on the literal frontier of an unexplored forest. It is 1620 and William says: “We will dominate this desert”.

“The Witch – New England Folk Tale” by Eggers is a scary film full of the charm of the unknown. To say that it resembles the Salem witch trials, which occur 70 years after the events of the film, would certainly be an understatement – the unpredictable consequences of that historic event hang heavily on The Witch. Eggers create tension within each take, almost never relying on mundane effects or gore, but putting the suspense through masterful editing. The impact, therefore, is that of a feverish structure of desire in which primitive pressures – lust, challenge, longing, greed – simmer alongside experience, hidden but never entirely dominated.

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New movies every week. Watch on any device, without any ads. Cancel at any time.