Vampires and werewolves are great and all, but who doesn’t love a good witch? It seems that popular culture is finally picking back up on the popularity of these fierce creatures who are more often than not female. (That must be one reason we like them so much!)
In the next few weeks, we’ll have witches in American Horror Story: Coven on FX and Lifetime’s Witches of East End, and it’s the ultimate time of year to celebrate them: Halloween. (Or, if you’re like me, from now until November 1.)
So crew, let’s talk the wicked ones! Who is the ultimate witch?
Dana Piccoli: The Witch from Into The Woods. Bernadette Peters originated the role, which has a really spectacular arc. She also has the best songs in the show, including a rap about vegetables. It was my final collegiate role, so I have a soft spot for it. Meryl Streep will be playing the part in the upcoming film.
Bridget McManus: I’m choosing the mother of all witches, Wizard of Oz‘s Wicked Witch of the West. (Not the hot but whiny Mila Kunis version. I’m talking the original flying diva Margaret Hamilton.)
Heather Hogan: For me, it’s a toss-up between Samantha from Bewitched and Elphaba from Wicked. Both women had an uncommonly powerful command of magic. Both women refused to be defined in relation to the men in their lives. Both women–LOL, JK. The correct answer to this question is Hermione Jean Granger, proud Mudblood, savior of house elves, of Ron and Harry, of the wizarding world, and of all us Muggles too. Long live S.P.E.W.! All hail the brightest witch of every age!
Lucy Hallowell: OK so Heather took Hermione (which is, obviously, the most correct answer) so I choose Lily Potter, who was, in many ways the prior generation’s Hermione. She was muggle born, the best witch of her year, head girl, and all around badass. She befriended Snape the weirdo, she was loyal, and she didn’t take shit from anyone, not even James Potter. But she also had the grace to recognize when a person truly changed, as James did for her. More than all of that, something I didn’t fully appreciate until I had kids, she was the kind of mom we dream of being. She saved her kid’s life by giving her own. The scene where she appears in the forest when Harry is about to die is so powerful that I can’t even look for a quote to use here without weeping. So Lily Potter, always.
Dorothy Snarker: Willow Rosenberg. Smart. Geeky. Powerful. Lover of extra flamey candles. More than kinda gay. She flayed the dude who killed her girlfriend and almost destroyed the world. But she came back and then basically saved the world. Again. So, you know, you’re welcome, universe.
Dara Nai: Why are we even discussing this? The one and only witch anyone ever needs is Willow Rosenberg from Buffy. Sunnydale’s smartest nerd went from a pencil-floating novice who accidentally turned Amy the cheerleader into a rat, to a power-mad, veiny mess who flayed her girlfriend’s killer with a flip of her hand and a droll, “Bored now.”
Yeah, OK, she also tried to kick every square inch of her best friend’s ass but that fight was epic and in the end, Willow came to her senses, helped close the Hellmouth once and for all, and brought forth every potential Slayer from Bangor to Bangkok. As a bonus, Willow was also momentarily a vampire and tried to seduce herself. C’mon! It doesn’t get any better than that. The end.
Jill Guccini: I just recently saw Wicked for the first time (I know, behind the times), and I talked a lot with my wife and friend afterwards about how everyone loves Elphaba for all the obvious reasons, but that Glinda is actually the real tragic heroine of it, because [WICKED SPOILERS!] she’s the one who loses both her best friend and the man she loved, who never really loved her back in the first place, in order to do what she was supposed to do for the good of the people. She sacrificed the most. She’s one of those characters I love who acts over-confident and brash and mean and a little dumb but actually hurts in different places inside, and who never gets to really have the triumphant arc of the smart-outcast-who-rises-above storyline, because she knows her role and that it’s her duty to fulfill it, which is its own kind of tragedy. Also, Kristin Chenoweth, hello.
Elaine Atwell: OK, if we take Hogwarts and its embarrassment of witches off the table, I think I’ve got to go with Fin Raziel, from the wildly under appreciated classic, Willow. Despite being trapped in the bodies of various animals throughout the movie, Raziel is a respected, powerful, and deeply sarcastic leader. And even as a kid I respected the fact that an old woman could protect an army and do battle with the Evil Queen Bavmorda. (The Evil Queen Bavmorda, I tell you. AND Joanne Whalley looking foxy as hell with a sword. Please stop your life and watch this movie.)
Punky Starshine: YOU CAN’T MAKE ME CHOOSE. Witches are my favorite. I used to point at things like radios and lights every day, just hoping and waiting for my powers to kick in. (Still waiting.) So I pick every single witch already mentioned, plus I’m going to add Sandra Bullock. Well, her character in Practical Magic at least. I love love loved Sally Owens (and her sister Gillian) and I’ve watched that movie dozens of times since I was little. I also used to spend many an evening trying my darnedest to blow a candle ON.
And, on a lighter note, I’m a huge fan of the movie Teen Witch and if it weren’t for Louise Miller, we wouldn’t have the epically hip song and dance scene “Top That.”
Karman Kregloe: Until Stevie Nicks publicly acknowledges that she is a straight up witch, I don’t really want to claim her as my favorite. For now, she’ll just have to settle for being my FAVORITE EVERYTHING ELSE. So I choose Jessica Lange, who plays HWIC Fiona in the upcoming American Horror Story: Coven. No, I haven’t even seen any of the episodes yet, but I don’t care because she is Jessica Effing Lange!
Eboni Rafus: OK, I’m going way way back. Before Buffy and Willow, before Harry Potter, there was Mildred Hubble from The Worst Witch. It was originally a book series, then a made for TV movie that Disney played every year well onto the ’90s and then a television series in England.I grew up in a strict Baptist home and my patents never allowed us to watch horror movies or television shows about the “occult.” We didn’t celebrate Halloween. Yet, for some reason, every October my mother would allow us to watch the 1986 version of The Worst Witch starring Tim Curry as the Grand Wizard and Faizura Balk, as Mildred Hubble the worst witch at Miss Cackle’s academy for Witches. She is clumsy and impetuous but well-meaning and creative. She doesn’t come from a magical family (aka she’s a muggle), she is given a tabby cat instead of a black on at the beginning of the term, and yet she is able to save the academy from being destroyed by Miss Cackle’s evil sister Agatha before The Grand Wizard comes to visit for a very special Halloween celebration!
Mildred was my first witch crush and without her I never would have discovered my love for Willow, Sally Owens or even Elphaba.
Trish Bendix: I was scared shitless by Return to Oz when I was a kid. The much creepier sequel to the light-hearted musical starring Judy Garland had Fairuza Balk as Dorothy, battling wheelers and the Nome King. But the scariest thing in the whole damn movie was Princess Mombi, a witch who had a hall of heads. Like, instead of changing up her hairstyle she would put on a new HEAD. Of course she covets Dorothy’s head and wants to add it to her collection. When Dorothy finds Mombi’s “true head” and awakens it with the Powder of Life, it awakens and screams her name in the most terrifying roar I’ve ever heard.
Emily Hartl: If I had been sexually aware when I first saw The Craft at age 13 I think I could’ve listed Fairuza Balk as my root. She was a totally fearless “skank” who pushed frat minded boys under love spells out of windows and conjured the corners. I mean, she had Menah coursing through her veins. Also, my friend and neighbor Christina used to call me and tell me she was coming over and to watch down the block and she would dress up and walk over just like Fairuza. I mean, really.
So many movies to re-watch. Add to our list please!