The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina has become one of the most popular shows on Netflix in a short amount of time. Everyone is obsessed with the young witch and her dark tale, full of Satan worshipping, downright creepy demons and the occasional cannibalistic witch. However, witches have been present in pop culture for much longer than CAOS actress Kiernan Shipka has even been alive, and their stories range from dark to comical, with everything in between. Some witches want to do good for the world, some are evil, and some just want to use their magic to help make their own lives a little better.
Regardless of their intentions, witches tend to embody everything we strive to be. They are strong, powerful, and capable of taking care of themselves while also achieving all of their desires. In some cultures, witch means wise woman, and witches were who people would go to for help in any situation. Witches are a beacon of hope for feminists, so it’s no wonder that they’ve continued to thrive in pop culture while many tropes have started to feel played out. There’s also the simple fact that magic is cool, and we’ll never get tired of it. Here are 40 of the greatest witches we’ve seen in pop culture and still love today.
The original Sabrina Spellman was a complete 180 from the Sabrina we know and love today. The ‘90s sitcom Sabrina the Teenage Witch, starring Melissa Joan Heart, was a lighthearted, goofy comedy about a young witch getting into mishaps while learning to control her magic. High school is hard enough without having to worry about accidentally creating an indoor blizzard, turning life into a soap opera, or explaining the magical troll stalking you to your boyfriend. Oh yeah, and her cat Salem talks, and he is sassy af.
We can’t have a list of fabulous witches without the queen of the wizarding world, Hermione Granger. (If Weasley is our King, Hermione has definitely earned the title of Queen.) She’s both brilliant (and actually enjoys learning) and fearless, and she never backs down from fighting for what she believes in. Whether that means punching jerks like Draco Malfoy in the face, protesting for the rights of indentured house elves, or literally standing against the Dark Lord and his army, Hermione has never shied away from a worthy battle. Not to mention she’s an extremely talented witch who likely mastered every wizarding subject imaginable before she could buy a beer.
Marnie was 13-years-old when her Grandma Aggie Cromwell visited from her home in Halloweentown to tell her that she’s a witch and it’s time to begin her training. Marnie might not have been quite as natural at magic as her younger sister Sophie — who somehow memorized a complicated spell with almost no effort at only seven years old? — but she threw herself into her new life as a witch with full force and helped to save Halloweentown from an evil warlock, and then she did it again a second time.
The CW/Warner Bros.
Rowena is a centuries-old witch from Scotland still killing the game and looking fabulous doing it, thanks to an immortality spell, natch. Like a couple of witches on this list, Rowena is the definition of looking-out-for-herself. She’s sometimes the villain and sometimes an ally because protecting herself always comes first. However, unlike many witches in the Supernatural universe, she was born with her powers and didn’t have to learn magic or harness it from demons. Therefore she’s incredibly powerful, and in her own words, “flawed, petty, [and] evil.”
Speaking of centuries-old witches, how old even is Melisandre? We don’t know a lot about the Game of Thrones witch’s background, but we do know that she’s a lot older than she looks. Melisandre can predict the future to a certain extent — she knew Arya’s importance in the fight against the White Walkers but was wrong in initially choosing to follow Stannis Baratheon, resurrecting the dead, and birthing murderous shadow demons. Win some, lose some?
You shouldn't speak ill of the dead, but Prue had some major stuff to figure out for herself and unfortunately couldn't before a demon sadly murdered her. The sisters she left behind were then blessed with Paige. The Charmed Ones are good witches given the responsibility of protecting the mortal world from demons and other evil creatures. Piper can freeze people in time, Phoebe has premonitions, and when we meet Paige on season four, she has telekinesis and the ability to teleport, or “orb,” objects through space. They can use their powers to alleviate some stress from their daily lives, but for the most part, it’s battling demons for the three sisters.
Bonnie Bennett is the best friend of once-human protagonist of The Vampire Diaries, Elena Gilbert, but more importantly, she is Mystic Falls’ resident witch. Bonnie always believed she was psychic until she realized her powers go beyond just that, and she can perform powerful magic. While Bonnie is already one of the most powerful beings in her small town, what makes her incredible is her love for her friends, which seems to be her downfall again and again. She’s selfless to a fault and literally sacrifices herself over and over in order to save the people she loves. That’s some real magic.
Another witch in a world of vampires, Willow Rosenberg is the best friend of teenage vampire slayer Buffy Summers. Over the course of Buffy, we see Willow go from being shy and self-conscious to more confident and sure of herself after studying witchcraft and embracing her natural gifts. Of course, she falls victim to the allure of magic almost like an addict, which causes a lot of issues for her and the people she loves, but that doesn’t prevent Buffy from entrusting her to help save the world.
The Sanderson sisters from Disney’s 1993 classic Hocus Pocus are the first truly evil witches worth mentioning. The film takes place in Salem, Massachusetts, best known for being where witches were hanged or burned at the stake hundreds of years ago. Winnie, Mary, and Sarah Sanderson devoured the soul of a young girl to regain their own youth in the 1600s, and before being hanged for their crimes, their spellbook bound them to their house until a teenage boy summons them in the present day. These witches don’t just eat children’s souls. They also sing.
There are a few different sides to this green witch’s story. In the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, we see her as the Wicked Witch of the West, plotting to kill Dorothy in order to remove the ruby slippers she took from the Wicked Witch of the East, who was killed when Dorothy’s house fell on her. However, we see another side to her character as Elphaba in Gregory Maguire’s Wicked. Elphaba is misunderstood. Maybe she’s not truly a wicked witch, but a rightfully angry revolutionary.
Maleficent was also misunderstood. In the 2014 Disney film, we see the Sleeping Beauty antagonist’s side of the story. Yes, she did use her magic to curse the princess in order to get revenge on the girl’s father, but she was also the one who ultimately saved her. Aurora’s father is the real villain of this story. Just because a witch is a powerful woman doesn’t mean she’s evil.
Kiki’s Delivery Service is a cartoon from Studio Ghibli about a 13-year-old witch sent off to live on her own for a year to complete her training. Like the ‘90s version of Sabrina Spellman, Kiki has her own talking black cat named Jiji. But Jiji is more helpful than mouthy, unlike Salem. Kiki’s story is a little different from most witches on this list, as her story is more about coming-of-age and overcoming what is essentially an artist’s block when she loses her ability to fly on her broom until she can find a purpose in life.
The White Witch, or Queen Jadis, from C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia, is a powerful sorceress who practices dark magic, and is known to be purely evil in her pursuits. She destroyed her homeland, killing everyone in it, rather than give up her crown, before moving on to Narnia, which she then turned into a winter wasteland. But not before making a pit stop on Earth, where she attacked and robbed innocent people in London. She’s a powerful witch, but she has no redeeming qualities, except for maybe her good looks.
Nancy Downs was painted as the villain in the 1996 cult classic The Craft, but she was actually the best. Sure, she becomes a little power hungry after gaining her magic, and maybe she was somewhat unstable when she killed those guys but is it so wrong to say that they deserved it and she deserved better? She was a rebellious teenager suffering from a terrible upbringing, so she used her newfound magical abilities to her advantage just to make her life bearable. She was strong and powerful and defended herself and the other women she loved from truly awful men. Nancy’s a good witch with some issues, but she’s not evil.
The Worst Witch is a children’s book series by Jill Murphy that was made into a very cheesy film starring Tim Curry in 1986. Yes, he obviously sings in it. More recently, the British and German television stations CBBC and ZDF (respectively) partnered with Netflix to create a tv series based on the books in 2017. Bella Ramsey, better known as Game of Thrones’ Lyanna Mormont, plays protagonist Mildred Hubble (who is not particularly great at being a witch, but has a good heart) in the new series. Mildred’s witchy boarding school may remind you of Hogwarts, but The Worst Witch came before Harry Potter, and the themes are much more kid-friendly.
What better reason could there be to learn witchcraft than to defeat the Nazis? In Disney’s 1971 film Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Miss Eglantine Price does just that. She’s just a sweet middle-aged lady who can’t fight in the war herself, but wants to aid in the war effort in any way she can. She does this by learning witchcraft through a correspondence school. She also takes care of children displaced from their home by the war, making her a truly a good witch.
Sally and Gillian are sisters who are reluctant to use their gifts, but since they come from a long line of witches, they ultimately have no choice but to accept their magical abilities, especially because the women in their family are cursed and they need to figure out a way to break it. Sally is the witchier of the two women, with powers ranging from telekinesis and pyrokinesis to telepathy, and she's also got a knack for creating witches brew.
Hermione might be Queen of the Potterverse, but she couldn’t have gotten there without great role models like Professor (and eventually Headmistress) McGonagall. McGonagall was one of the few professors at Hogwarts who loved her students and had no ulterior motives when it came to her role at the school. She planted all the knowledge she could on her students about witchcraft and wizardry, helped to mold her Gryffindors into strong and capable witches and wizards, and did her best to protect them at all costs. McGonagall deserves more credit for being everyone’s mom away from home at Hogwarts.
We all knew CAOS’s Sabrina Spellman would be somewhere on this list. The show might not be nearly as light-hearted as Sabrina the Teenage Witch, but Kiernan Shipka’s Sabrina has a good heart despite the evil and darkness that always surrounds her. As a half-mortal and half-witch (and spoiler alert: the daughter of Satan), she’s one of the most powerful entities in her universe, and she has all intentions of using her magic to change the world for good in whatever ways she can.
Bewitched was the original light-hearted witchy sitcom. Samantha Stephens is a witch, and her husband Darrin Stephens is a mortal. Darrin wants them to live a normal, mortal life, but unfortunately for him, that's not in the cards since wacky hijinks abound when Samantha or members of her family use their magic. Some witches use wands, some point their fingers, but on Bewitched, Samantha wiggled her nose while the audience gets a little “there’s magic happening” jingle. Oh, the special effects from the ‘60s were really something, weren’t they?
Lamia might’ve been a bit evil. Like the Sanderson sisters from Hocus Pocus, she was happy to murder if it meant she could stay young and beautiful. Lamia is the main villain and most powerful of the witches from the Lillim coven in Neil Gaiman’s Stardust. Her only goal is to cut out the heart of fallen star Yvaine and eat it to steal her youth and beauty. She had already eaten the heart of Yvaine’s sister Ingrid long before she fell to Earth herself, so what’s one more?
Remember when Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen were little and had a movie for every occasion? Double, Double, Toil and Trouble was their Halloween movie, and in it, they played tiny witches Lynn and Kelly Farmer on a quest to free their Great Aunt Sophia from the evil witch, her own twin sister, Great Aunt Agatha. There’s a magic mirror and a moonstone, but the real magic comes from the sisters’ love for each other. How cute.
Louise Miller gains magical powers on her 16th birthday after finding an amulet she apparently lost in a past life, if you’re inclined to believe what seer Madame Serena tells her after they randomly meet by chance. This is your typical girl-becomes-witch, girl-casts-spell-to-become-popular, girl-realizes-magic-isn’t-the-answer teenage comedy. It’s cute and fun, and it’s very ‘80s.
Cordelia Foxx, also known as Cordelia Goode, goes from being the Headmistress of a New Orleans-based witch school, Miss Robichaux’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies, to Supreme Witch of her coven of witches descended from Salem. That’s pretty badass. What was even more badass was when she was successful in resurrecting someone. I'd say she's a pretty good witch.
Walt Disney Pictures