If you think that this post is about where to find REAL witches, well, I totally get you, I’ve been waiting for my Hogwarts letter a while now, but no. Following my previous post “Witches! Part 1 – An introduction”, this post will give you a brief overview of the different types of witches there are, from old to new ones, by means of a careful personal selection of a few of my favourite movie and TV-show characters. Starting with:
1. The Good Witch of the North vs. the Wicked Witch of the West
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Good old-fashioned children fairy tales cannot go unnoticed here. Where there’s fairy tales there’s magic and where there’s magic there’s not only good but also bad magic. In Dorothy’s dream the distinction between the good and the bad is pretty straightforward: on the one hand, we have the Good Witch of the North, who looks more like a fairy with her blond shiny hair, her rosy cheeks and a white sparkling dress that reminds you of a bonbonnière; on the other hand, we have the Wicked Witch of the West with a ridiculously long nose and chin, a hump, a broomstick and, most of all, a fluorescent green skin that clearly outshines the Good Witch’s pale one.
Indeed, MGM has made a pretty good job here and it’s no surprise that the Wicked Witch became one of the most iconic witches in the history of cinema. And although her character doesn’t have much depth, she sure can awaken our inner child and comfort us with the idea that because she is evil and ugly, we are definitely allowed to dislike her. What a relief!
2. Alexandra, Jane and Sukie
The Witches of Eastwick (1987)
Nothing like fairy tales here. The witches of Eastwick are sexy, independent but well-intentioned ladies, not aware of their powers until they unintentionally summon the devil and start causing misfortunes.
Cher, Susan Sarandon and Michelle Pfeiffer, ladies and gentlemen, are the three beautiful young women living in a small, claustrophobic town who have had quite enough of their monotonous, unfulfilling lives and desperately wish for a chance. Suddenly a mysterious stranger comes along and rescues them from boredom and depression, filling their lives with luxury and lust. He is everything they wished for but only until they realise that something is not quite right and that they have invoked not only the devil, but Jack Nicholson himself.
This movie is clever in so many ways, not to mention the devil’s true antagonist, the devotedly religious Felicia (magnificently performed by Veronica Cartwright), who will make you feel uneasy throughout the entire movie.
So, if you want to see a modern tale in ‘80s style where three beautiful witches seek their revenge against a misogynistic devil, then this is the movie for you. And if not, it’s still worth watching just to see Nicholson trying to seduce Cher while laying on a bed in a silk nightgown.
The Crucible (1996)
Definitely not a Christmas movie to enjoy with the family. This is, I think, one of the most uncomfortable and hateful movies I have ever seen. Of course, some kind of drama is expected if you know that the story evolves around the Salem witch trails. I surely did not imagine, however, that at some point during the movie I had to refrain myself from smashing my laptop and get a hold of my own hateful feelings towards the female protagonist (this is, of course, the diplomatic version, in reality I was yelling at Winona Rayder “die, bitch, dieeee!!!).
Emotions aside, if you are looking for a more historical and definitely more realistic movie, this one truly captures the horrors and the drama of that period with a twisting plot and an extraordinary performance from the whole cast (even Winona Rayder).
4. The Great High Witch
The Witches (1990)
If you think that the Wicked Witch looks a bit scary with her green face and scornful laugh, well, think again. Roald Dahl’s witches are bold, have claws instead of fingernails, purple wicked eyes and no toes. Ah, and they hate children, so much so that their only ambition in life is to exterminate them all.
So, not one of the most acclaimed movies and definitely not one of the most beloved ones among children. The 1990’s film adaptation of this classic tale is quite horrifying, especially considering the visual effects. However, it does make a good job in portraying Dahl’s twisted imagination (and morality) and is a good movie for everyone who has a darker sense of humour. Also, Anjelica Huston as the Great High Witch is simply divine.
Fun fact: many women playing the witches in this movie are actually men.
5. The coven
The craft (1996)
Basically Mean Girls but with a gothic and magical twist. These witches are everything you’d expect from mentally disturbed teenage-girls, only creepier because able to invoke ‘the spirit’.
Although pretty predictable, this movie is still a hit today and invests a little bit more in the portrayal of witchcraft in comparison to other movies of the same period. For example, it makes a clear distinction between Sarah, the main character, and the other girls of the coven by describing heras a natural, thus, more powerful witch, meaning that she doesn’t necessarily need spells or books to do magic. Also, according to Wiki, the film’s production hired a real-life Wiccan to writethe incantations for the movie and to advise the actors on set for more accurate performances. This information is, I think, very interesting in terms of authenticity, especially if you consider the long on-going discussion about the differences between wiccas and witches.
6. Isabel Bigelow
I know, I know. You are probably asking yourself if I’m seriously including this movie in my list. This romantic comedy fantasy film was a true flop (Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell even received an award for Worst Screen Couple) and one that you will not remember (even I had forgotten about its existence).
The script has definitely one too many flaws and characters just bump into you without being properly developed. However, I genuinely enjoyed watching Nicole Kidman playing silly and charming Isabel Bigelow falling for sweaty Will Ferrell and I do appreciate the fact that the author didn’t try to film a remake of the old television series. Also, Isabel, like Samantha, represents a very particular type of witch which we didn’t come across so far and which is probably the most socially integrated among all: the goodhearted and funny witch who chooses a simple and mortal life over a magical one.
7. Gillian Holroyd
Bell, Book and Candle (1958)
If Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell didn’t convince you as a couple then Kim Novak and James Stewart will. Setting in New York City around Christmas time, this classic romantic comedy tells the story of witch Gillian Holroyd, who, bored by her monotonous and lonely life (already heard this one before), decides to cast a love spell on his new handsome neighbour (how convenient). Eventually, she becomes very fond of him and is torn between her feelings and the fear of losing her independence and, to a greater extent, her magical powers (because once they fall in love witches lose their powers). Meanwhile, Jack Lemmon, Gillian’s brother, causes trouble and helps writing a book about witches, revealing all the secrets of his magical world in exchange for money.
Personally, I think that this movie is very special because it manages to combine different genres and it succeeds in what Bewitched didn’t: a good story, a good screenplay and well constructed characters. Also, to my great surprise, the magic scenes are quite elegantly portrayed and not so fake as one might think being an old movie with little special effects. So, if you’re looking for a cosy winter afternoon, then this is the movie for you!
Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)
Even if you’re not a fan of animated films you cannot help but to fall in love with Miyazaki’s movies and Kiki’s Delivery Service is no exception. Based on a children’s fantasy novel, the movie narrates the story of a thirteen-year old trainee witch finding her way into self-sufficiency and independence. In contrast with what we have analysed so far, this movie is not so much about witchcraft but more about growing up: we see Kiki leaving home, flying off to Koriko, a lovely city by the sea, where she starts a new life working at a bakery shop, delivering goods on her broomstick and encountering many challenges along the way.
So, what makes the story of this particular witch so appealing and charming is that Miyazaki focuses more on the human side of our heroin rather than the magical one. This way, we are able to sympathise or identify more with her struggles as a young adult and at the same time also fantasize about her magical powers. Also, her cat is super cute, how can you beat that?
Now, you may have noticed that so far I’ve only listed movies and you may have guessed that a third post will come with a second list of only TV-shows. Brilliant! Well done! So, if you enjoyed reading this one, don’t miss “WITCHES! Part 3 – Where to find them (still)”!