People have been telling stories about witches for, well, as long as they've been telling stories. The hags and crones in those early tales were evil, ugly monsters. Witches in modern media, however, are more three-dimensional. Many are good at heart, and even the evil ones leave us loving them! So with Halloween approaching, we thought it was time to look at some of our faves. Hop on your broom and join us as we explore the most iconic witches from pop culture!
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Iconic Witches Transcript
Stories about witches have been told for millennia. For much of this time, they were portrayed as hags, hideous and malevolent. But the witches in modern tales are often good characters—and the evil ones are at least charming and graceful. Join us as we look at the iconic witches of literature, movies, and television!
The Sanderson Sisters
Hocus Pocus was released in 1993 to poor box office sales and mixed reviews, but has since become a cult classic of witch cinema. Its antagonists, the Sanderson sisters—Winifred ("Winnie"), Sarah, and Mary—are perfect examples of the campy witch aesthetic.
The Wicked Witch of the West
The 1900 novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and its many film adaptations, particularly The Wizard of Oz in 1939, influenced the portrayal of witches for decades. From green skin to sparkling wands, you can see reflections of the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good Witch in media even today.
The Witches of the Wizarding World
The Harry Potter novels (1997-2007) and film adaptations (2001-2011) were wildly successful, which helped make witches much less scary in pop culture. There were still villains like Bellatrix Lestrange, but also positive characters like Hermione Granger and Minerva McGonagall.
The "teenage witch" Sabrina Spellman debuted in Archie's Mad House #22 (October 1962), got her own animated television series in 1970, and a live-action series in 1996. The character was rebooted in the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina comic books (2014-present) and television adaptation (2018-2020).
Another teenage witch, Willow Rosenberg appeared in the 1997-2003 television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer and later comic books. She developed into a confident, empowered LGBTQ+ icon, which continues to inspire fans today.
The 1959 animated film Sleeping Beauty took cues from Charles Perrault's fairy tale and portrayed Maleficent as an evil fairy godmother rather than a stereotypical witch. Maleficent's elegant bearing and features would find their way into many subsequent portrayals of witches.
In Giant-Size X-Men #1 (May 1975), Storm is introduced as a superhero who can summon lightning and typhoons. Her real name is Ororo Munroe, a descendent of Kenyan priestesses and practitioners of witchcraft and sorcery.
The Scarlet Witch
Wanda Maximoff first appeared in The X-Men #4 (March 1964), yet was relatively unknown in pop culture until her appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, particularly the series WandaVision. In the comics, she learned much of her witchcraft from Agatha Harkness.
Grandmama is the eldest witch of the Addams Family, first appearing in Charles Addams' cartoons in The New Yorker and later in several television series, movies, and musicals. Her role in the family is inconsistent, sometimes the mother of Gomez, sometimes Morticia, and perhaps neither.
The 1996 film The Craft received mixed reviews upon release but is now considered a cult classic for adding supernatural horror to the 90s high school drama genre. The main characters—Sarah Bailey, Nancy Downs, Bonnie Harper, and Rochelle Zimmerman—are also seen as iconic 90s teen witches.
American Horror Story: Coven (2013-2014), the third season of the anthology series, focuses on a coven of witches from the Salem Witch Trials to present-day New Orleans. The season was popular with fans and critics, and several characters returned for the eighth season, Apocalypse.
Samantha and Endora
Samantha Stephens and her mother Endora were the standout witches of the television series Bewitched (1964-1972). The two not only challenged stereotypes about witches, but also social roles and the inability for people to express their true selves.
The Charmed Ones
Charmed (1998-2006) successfully combined the 20-something family drama genre with supernatural fantasy. It focused on the Halliwell sisters—Prue, Piper, Phoebe, and (later) Paige—who become powerful witches known as the Charmed Ones.
The sea witch from Hans Christian Andersen's 1837 fairy tale was greatly expanded into the role of Ursula in Disney's The Little Mermaid (1989). Ursula is an exceptional villain, complex and charismatic, more three-dimensional than even the protagonist.
The Grand High Witch
Roald Dahl's 1983 novel The Witches and its adaptations brought us a fresh take, a classy femme fatale known as The Grand High Witch of All the World. The 1990 film in particular has stylish and campy elements that are still referenced in modern media.
The Evil Queen
The Evil Queen of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) was based on the 1812 Brothers Grimm fairy tale but her appearance was inspired by the films She (1935) and Die Nibelungen (1924). As with other Disney films, the queen was so enthralling that she overshadowed the protagonist.
The evil witch in Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi or Spirited Away (2001) was inspired by Japanese and Slavic folklore, the Yama-uba and Baba Yaga, along with fantasy and animated films. Yubaba's magic was also a blend of Japanese and Western witchcraft.
The young witch Kiki is the main character of Eiko Kadono's 1985 novel Majo no Takkyūbin (Kiki's Delivery Service) and the 1989 animated adaptation. The film was a commercial and critical success, leading to an enduring presence in Japanese and Western fan culture.
- The Blair Witch
- Eglantine Price (Bedknobs and Broomsticks)
- Enchantress (Suicide Squad)
- Evil-Lyn and the Sorceress (Masters of the Universe)
- The Fates
- Hecate and the Three Witches (Macbeth)
- Lamia (Stardust)
- Mad Madam Mim (The Sword in the Stone)
- Mama Odie (The Princess and the Frog)
- Mary Poppins
- Melisandre (Game of Thrones)
- Minnie Castevet (Rosemary's Baby)
- Morgana le Fey
- Practical Magic
- Rita Repulsa (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers)
- The Three Mothers (Dario Argento's Suspiria, Inferno and Mother of Tears)
- True Blood
- The Vampire Diaries
- The White Witch (The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe)
- The Witch
- Witch Hazel (Looney Tunes)
- The Witches of Eastwick
- The Worst Witch
- Yennefer (The Witcher)
What did you think? Which witch was your favorite witch? Let us know in the comments! Also tell us if we missed any! If you're a fan, be sure to check out all of our witch costumes. We've got plenty of styles, both modern and classic—so many that we wrote a guide to witch costumes! Have a wicked or happy Halloween, whichever you prefer!