In cinema, witches make for one of the best subjects in horror, especially given the dark history of witch folklore across civilizations.
Horror movies about witches and the occult can take all kinds of different approaches, but they often share in the same themes: evil spirits, devilish pacts, vengeance, religious corruption, and fanaticism.
Sometimes, the witch in question may be tortured and killed, inspired by real-life events like the infamous Salem Witch Trials. Or maybe it's the witch who's doing the torturing and killing.
Here are the best horror movies about witches and the occult, from stories about secret rituals to vengeful spirits who won't rest.
8. Sleepy Hollow (1999)
Directed by Tim Burton
Starring Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Miranda Richardson
Fantasy, Horror, Mystery (1h 45m)
Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow stars Johnny Depp as Ichabod Crane, an officer of the law who's sent to a small settlement called Sleepy Hollow to investigate a series of mysterious murders.
This supernatural horror film features the iconic Headless Horseman (who kills and beheads his victims) as well as Lady Mary Van Tassel, who sold her soul to the devil.
However, the film also gives us the good witch Katrina Van Tassel, who's initially suspected to be the one controlling the Headless Horseman but was actually the one protecting those inside the church.
7. Don't Listen (2020)
Directed by Ángel Gómez Hernández
Starring Rodolfo Sancho, Ana Fernández, Ramón Barea
Adventure, Drama, Horror (1h 37m)
The Spanish film Don't Listen starts as a typical haunted house story, with the soul of the dead disturbing a family (especially the young boy). It's pretty engaging with perfectly executed jump scares.
The film brings out a witch character in the second half, filling the narrative with inexplicable, unsettling, nightmare-inducing scenes that are fitting for a truly occult experience.
In Don't Listen, the witch tricks people by talking through voices, which results in either death or murder, which is why the house haunted by that witch's spirit is called the "House of Voices" by locals.
6. Incantation (2022)
Directed by Kevin Ko
Starring Hsuan-Yen Tsai, Sin-Ting Huang, Ying-Hsuan Kao
Horror, Mystery (1h 50m)
The Taiwanese film Incantation features a practice similar to witchcraft and occultism. Right from the start of the film, you see and feel the disturbing atmosphere of the story.
It follows the story of Li Ronan and her daughter, whose lives were ruined by a certain family ritual and the sinister secret behind it.
From weird hand gestures to symbols flashed on screen, the thrills and horrors of Incantation are surprisingly captivating.
5. The Wretched (2019)
Directed by Brett Pierce and Drew T. Pierce
Starring John-Paul Howard, Piper Curda, Jamison Jones
Horror, Mystery (1h 35m)
The Wretched has a pretty unique take on witches, making the concept even creepier than it already is. In this one, the witch can shapeshift and take someone's identity—by literally wearing the victim's corpse.
The movie follows the story of Ben Shaw, a teenage boy who senses something strange about his neighbors. And as he looks into, things gets creepier... not only for him, but for everyone around him.
In The Wretched, the idea of wearing a victim's skin adds a good amount of blood and gore to the already horrifying premise.
4. The Witch (2015)
Directed by Robert Eggers
Starring Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie
Drama, Fantasy, Horror (1h 32m)
The Witch centers on a family who's banished from a settlement and must live alone in their new home. However, something unhuman threatens their lives, starting with their youngest child.
What makes this film so disturbing is that Thomasin (played by Anya Taylor-Joy) and her family are deeply religious and whatever they're experiencing puts their faith to the test in cruel ways.
There's a lot of creepy symbolism in The Witch, which starts right from the very beginning of the film when we see their pet black goat (a symbol of the occult and evil in some cultures and beliefs).
3. The Unholy (2021)
Directed by Evan Spiliotopoulos
Starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Cricket Brown, William Sadler
Drama, Horror, Mystery (1h 39m)
There are several cultures out there that associate witches with demons and Satan, thus earning witches the epithet of "devil's bride." This premise is what the film The Unholy focuses on.
It follows the story of Gerry Fenn, a journalist who's caught fabricating stories, resulting in the downfall of his career. In an attempt to create an unusual story, he breaks a weird doll and unknowingly releases an entity.
That entity starts to perform miracles using the young Alice as its medium, who believes it's the Virgin Mary using her to help people.
She's partly correct in that a "Mary" is indeed behind it—but it's not the Virgin Mary but rather Mary Elnor, a condemned witch who performs miracles using the powers of the devil.
2. The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Directed by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez
Starring Heather Donahue, Michael C. Williams, Joshua Leonard
Horror, Mystery (1h 21m)
The Blair Witch Project is a found footage film with a slow start that builds up to a disturbing climax packed with lots of twists and surprises, mainly thanks to its exploration of its premise early in the film.
In The Blair Witch Project, three students set out to make a documentary film about the legend of the Blair Witch.
The idea of "fearing something you don't know" is the real crux of horror in this film, giving us scenes where the characters can't figure out what's happening or what's hunting them.
It could be a monster, a serial killer, an animal, or a demon—no one knows. Then again, the stick figures hanging in the trees and the creepy symbology are enough to conclude it's witchcraft.
1. The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)
Directed by André Øvredal
Starring Brian Cox, Emile Hirsch, Ophelia Lovibond
Horror, Mystery, Thriller (1h 26m)
The Autopsy of Jane Doe starts as a murder mystery film, with the father-son duo of coroners receiving the dead body of an unidentified female (a "Jane Doe") to examine and figure out the cause of death.
But there's a lot of darkness to uncover behind the corpse as they experience inexplicable occurrences with every test they run and every clue they discover toward the identity of their subject.
From the markings and weird symbols found on the underside of her skin, they conclude that Jane Doe was a victim of the Salem Witch Trials—but instead of dying, she was turned her into an immortal being.
The Autopsy of Jane Doe puts a unique twist on the witch character, and it really ramps up the creepiness factor with its body horror.