Movies today are filled with half-assed witches that can barely muster up the energy for a nice and scary cackle, much less rank among the scariest characters in movies. Today we salute the few and proud movie witches who do stick in the brain. These terrifying movie witches are beautiful examples of evil, any relation to mothers-in-law you may have known is purely coincidental (unless you're married to the daughter of an actual witch).
Wicked Witch of the West, "The Wizard of Oz"
The definitive movie witch, Margaret Hamilton's portrayal of the Darth Vader of her day has terrified kids for more than 70 years. The character sticks in people's imaginations so much that its become a symbol for evil—try to convince anyone that a person with green skin, a pointy hat and broom is to be trusted. Hamilton, who loved children, would often express concern that her famous performance was too traumatic for kids, but we say a little bit of trauma is good for young ones. Keeps the bones dense and the breath hearty.
Forest Spirit, "Throne of Blood"
Akira Kurosawa's take on Shakespeare's "Macbeth" has loads of creepy and almost horror-movie-like imagery. Not the last of which is the Forest Spirit, which takes the place of the famous three witches in the original play. She looks like a pretty classic witch, old, decrepit, stringy hair and a massive dollop of ominous foreboding.
Helena Markos, "
Master horror director Dario Argento's most widely praised film, "Suspiria" is about a young girl who enrolls in a dancing academy only to suspect that it's being run by a coven of witches. Unlike other similar suspicions, this one turns out to be completely true, and when the headmistress of the academy Markos reveals her true form, it's a truly terrifying sight.
Evillene, "The Wiz"
In what has become known as "The Black 'Wizard of Oz,'" the role of the Witch is known as Evillene. Your first clue that she's a scary movie witch comes in the name: EVILlene, get it? Like the rest of the movie, she's basically the familiar element of "The Wizard Oz," but cooler, somehow. Played by Mabel King as the "ruler of the Winkies" she sits on top of a giant gold toilet and hatches her evil schemes.
Sylvia Ganush, "Drag Me to Hell"
One of the most sympathetic of movie witches, all Sylvia wanted to do was stop the bank from repossessing her home. Self-proclaimed "good person" and bank employee Christine Brown nixes the idea, though, in part to impress her superior so she can get a big promotion. This … this turns out to be a bad call. The witch places a curse on Christine which states that she will be devoured by demons in three days' time. She tries lots of voodoo to get out of this curse, but the end result is right there in the title. And the witch herself? Once she gets angry, it's not a pretty sight—particularly memorable is her gumming if Christine Brown after her dentures come out. You ever been gummed before? It's quite terrifying.