Most Iconic Witches In Pop Culture: Top 5 Mystical Women, According To Fans

Fictional witches have been a part of pop culture since as early as the silent-film era, with most of the subject matter being retellings of the notorious Salem Witch Trials. Of course, the 1930s would bring the more iconic fictional witches to light with films such as “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” featuring an evil queen who turns herself into a witch hag. This also includes “The Wizard of Oz,” which featured not one, not two, but three witches (if you include the legs of the Wicked Witch of the East). Witches have become an integral part of our psyche, captivating audiences with their mystical powers and enchanting tales. These magical characters make up some of the most iconic witches in pop culture. From classic fairy tales to modern-day blockbusters, witches have continued to cast their spell on us, leaving us mesmerized. Whether they are portrayed as wicked villains or misunderstood heroines, these magical beings have woven their magic into our imaginations and remind us that there is always more to the world than meets the eye.

But why the sudden interest in witches? Well, ’tis the season to churn cauldrons, my friends, as Halloween is upon us sooner than one may think. While indulging in some good light-hearted witch movies like “Hocus Pocus” may be more your speed, there’s a whole bunch of films waiting for you to dive into this spooky season. A new survey finds that despite the many heart-pounding fright flicks that have spooked moviegoers in recent years, you’ll have to turn back the clock for the scariest films ever.

Americans agree that the most terrifying movie ever created was “The Exorcist,” followed by the first iterations of “Halloween,” “Friday the 13th”, and “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” Rounding out the top five, perhaps unexpectedly for some, was the 2013 haunted house nightmare “The Conjuring” — the only horror film made in the past 30 years to make the top five. All that being said, you should be set and ready to dive into your Halloween movie marathon, don’t you think? 

So, if you are into all things spooky, we are talking about some of the most iconic witches of all time. The good, the bad, the ugly, and everything in between. As always, we have researched across multiple expert sources to bring you today’s ranking of the top five legendary witches in pop culture history. Don’t agree with our list? No worries, we would love to hear from you in the comments down below! 

Ruby red slippers beneath a witch hat
The Wicked Witch of the East in “The Wizard of Oz” (Photo by David Andrew Larsen on Shutterstock)

The List: Most Iconic Witches in Pop Culture, Per Experts

1. The Wicked Witch of the West

Who else could number one be besides The Wicked Witch of the West? Debuting on screen in the 1939 classic “The Wizard of Oz,” no one else could covet the spot. “For many viewers, their conception of the traditional witch was solidified with Margaret Hamilton’s physicality and performance: hooked nose, pointed hat, broomstick, and a wicked cackle. She is a classic bad guy who revels in being evil, having no justifiable motive for her actions in the film. Her popularity led to the book and Broadway classic Wicked,” comments CBR.

“If you picture a witch, the image in your head may be largely influenced by The Wicked Witch of the West from ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ Margaret Hamilton set a lot of the notions of what a witch is, from her black hat and broom to his green skin and prominent nose. And yet, there was a good witch there as well, but we never think of her as all that witchy. How negative of us,” writes YardBarker.

“Sure, she might have been cursed with that terrible green face — but anyone with the power to command an army of flying monkeys is pretty freaking cool. L. Frank Baum’s villain has appeared in many forms, in his books, multiple film adaptations, cartoons, and more recently, Gregory Maguire’s ‘Wicked,’ which seeks to introduce some moral ambiguity into her story. Us? We prefer our wicked witches to be truly evil, so we’re going to stick with Margaret Hamilton’s portrayal as the ultimate Wicked Witch of the West in any form of media,” reports FlavorWire.

2. The Sanderson Sisters

What can we say? They put a spell on us, and now, we are theirs! Whether it be Sarah Sanderson serenading us with “Come Little Children” or the sister’s most recent musical endeavor, “One Way, Or Another,” these wicked witches captured our hearts with their campy, wicked ways. “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, Sarah, and Mary—are perfect examples of the campy witch aesthetic,” raves HalloweenCostumes.

The Sanderson Sisters artwork
The Sanderson Sisters artwork (Photo by HabibaDesign-92 on Shutterstock)

“The Sanderson Sisters establish their wickedness early on in ‘Hocus Pocus.’ In their efforts to stay young forever, the sisters cast a spell to steal the life force of young Emily Binx and turn her brother Thackery into an immortal cat. They are hanged for their crimes but make their return when Max Dennison lights the Black Flame Candle. Despite their hilarious antics and penchant for performance, the sisters are downright terrifying in their pursuit of eternal youth,” says Sideshow.

“We’ve been watching ‘Hocus Pocus’ on repeat every Halloween since 1993 when the film debuted. Kathy Najimy, Bette Midler, and Sarah Jessica Parker star as witches on an evil mission to restore their youthful beauty by stealing the life force of the children of Salem, Massachusetts. Never has a coven of witches been so spooky and kooky,” adds Wonderwall.

3. Hermione Granger

She really is the brightest witch of her age and thus deserves the second spot on our list. Blossoming from an 11-year-old know-it-all to a truly gifted sorcerer, Hermione Granger is nothing short of an icon among muggles and wizards alike. “She’s the most gifted witch of her generation, but more importantly, she manages to keep Harry and Ron alive for seven years,” jokes EW.

“Perhaps one of the most iconic witches of pop culture, Hermione Granger of the Harry Potter series is a socially awkward, academic kind of young witch and one with formidable powers. Loyal and kind-hearted, Hermione is a far cry from the macabre imagery often associated with witches, although Harry Potter does embrace objects such as broomsticks, witch hats, and cauldrons,” writes Cultivating Culture.

“Her opinionated attitude sometimes masks her insecurities, something hard to spot when she’s correcting Ron Weasley about the pronunciation of a levitation spell (‘It’s Levi-OH-sa, not Levio-SAH’) or chiding Harry Potter for wanting to face danger on his own: ‘I’ve always admired your courage, Harry, but sometimes, you can be really thick.’ Yet over the course of seven books and eight films, she proves to be a reliable and loyal friend who does what’s right, full of logic, intelligence, and fire,” notes Looper.

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4. Samantha Stephens

A far cry from anything wicked, this nose-wiggling witch captured our hearts in 1964 and has been entertaining us ever since. “‘Bewitched’ is a classic high-concept sitcom from the 1960s. A guy marries a lady, finds out she’s a witch, then asks her not to use her witchy powers. Samantha is the primary witch on the show, but don’t forget about her family members, such as her mother, Endora,” says YardBarker.

“Samantha is the exact opposite of the Wicked Witch. She’s a cookie-cutter housewife who just happens to be a witch. Instead of mixing potions in a cauldron or casting spells from an ancient book, she twitches her nose to use her magic. ‘Bewitched’ is oddly reminiscent of Sabrina in the sense that Samantha wants to be part of the mortal world; however, she still wants to be in touch with her witch heritage,” comments CBR.

“Elizabeth Montgomery’s Samantha Stephens was the perfect housewife: smart, beautiful, sympathetic — and blessed with supernatural abilities that made cleaning the house the smallest of chores! Samantha’s attempts to juggle her suburban life and mortal husband while thwarting her meddling supernatural clan as they brewed up trouble made ‘Bewitched’ one of the most popular sitcoms of the ’60s — and it still runs in syndication internationally today,” raves Wonderwall.

5. Sabrina Spellman

The last spot on our list belongs to Sabrina Spellman. With so many iterations over the years in pop culture, this teen witch has become a female icon for almost every generation. “‘Sabrina, the Teenage Witch,’ comes from Archie comics, but she has gotten a couple of TV shows as well. There is the Netflix one that is spookier and more serious, but to us, Melissa Joan Hart’s sitcom is the go-to portrayal of Sabrina on record,” says YardBarker.

“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),” explains HalloweenCostumes.

“We’ve seen Sabrina Spellman take on many forms, regardless of which Sabrina you know, one thing remains the same for all of them, and that is Sabrina is hands down an iconic feminist figure in pop culture. She stands up for herself and never lets the patriarchy get her down. The latest adaptation, ‘Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,’ gives a good look at the fight women have to go through to regain control of themselves,” concludes Bookstr.

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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.

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About the Author

Jilly Hite

New York raised and Florida-based Jilly Hite studied screenwriting and theatre at The Lee Strasberg Institute before becoming a full time content creator and podcaster. She loves old movies, musical theatre, and her pup Ted.

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