The horror genre is well known for its use of monsters, whether they have physical forms such as the monsters in A Quiet Place or have a corporeal and at times invisible form like in The Amityville Horror. Other times, the monsters are humans like in ’80s slasher films such as Halloween.
A lesser-used monster, but still just as terrifying, are witches. Witches are now more often associated with the fantasy genre due to popular culture giants such as the Harry Potter series. However, witches still have their place in horror, often contributing to or causing hauntings or possessions of humans and at other times just wreaking havoc with their magic. Here is a look at the ten strongest witches in the horror genre, ranked.
10 The Grand High Witch – The Witches
The Grand High Witch in the film The Witches, who uses the pseudonym Eve Ernst, oversees all of the witches in the world and concocts a plan to rid the world of children by turning them into mice. This backfires at the hands of Luke and his grandmother Helga, who use the Grand High Witch’s own potion to turn her and the other witches into mice and subsequently be killed.
While The Witches is not usually classified as a horror movie, it is terrifying enough to be one, giving even adults the creeps due to the overall aesthetic of the film, Anjelica Huston’s portrayal of the Grand High Witch, and the premise of the story.
9 Haggis – Pumpkinhead
Haggis is the witch from the film Pumpkinhead. She calls on the monster Pumpkinhead after Ed Harley comes to her, seeking revenge on a group of teenagers for the death of his son since she could not resurrect him. Somehow, she was able to resurrect the body that became Pumpkinhead and once he was created, he could not be stopped until he and Ed were killed.
It is unclear if Haggis truly does not have the power to stop Pumpkinhead or if Ed’s life for Pumpkinhead’s life was an intentional price put in place by the witch. Either way, her magic is clearly limited since she could not even make Ed’s son undead, if not fully living.
8 Asa Vajda – Black Sunday
Asa Vajda is the antagonist of the 1960 Italian film Black Sunday. In the year 1630, she and her lover Jatuvich were killed due to their ties to sorcery and witchcraft. Two hundred years later, Asa was inadvertently brought back to life by Dr. Choma Kruvajan, who accidentally cut himself on her grave and got some of his blood on it.
Asa Vajda upon returning from the grave resurrects Jatuvich and attempts to drain the life and youth from the princess, Katia Vajda, who happens to be a reincarnation of Asa as well. Asa eventually is burned to death by a priest and local villagers after being apprehended by Andrej Gorobec, Dr. Kruvajan’s assistant, who has fallen in love with Katia.
7 The Sanderson Sisters – Hocus Pocus
The Sanderson Sisters, Winnie, Sarah, and Mary, are the main antagonists of the not very scary, but still technically horror film Hocus Pocus. In the film, the sisters feed off children’s youth to remain young themselves and live forever, yet they were able to be hung and thusly killed, at least for the next three hundred years.
Later, they were brought back to life inadvertently by local teenager Max Dennison, who lit their black flame candle. Even though they were able to be killed twice in the film, the sisters still exhibited power such as being able to entrance an entire adult party with a song, enchant household cleaning supplies to fly, and raise the dead to do their bidding.
6 Helena Markos – Suspiria
Suspiria is a 1977 Italian horror film that was remade into an American film in 2018. In the 1977 version, Helena Markos is a Greek immigrant and alleged witch. She leads a coven of witches who are also teachers at the Freiburg Dance Academy (renamed the Markos Dance Academy for the 2018 film). She and her coven are able to psychologically torment the students and cause events such as maggots falling from the ceiling and dogs turning on and killing their owners.
In the 2018 version, Helena is a witch chosen to rule the coven over another witch, Madame Blanc. Again the witches are able to psychologically torture students into injuring or killing themselves. In both versions, Helena is able to be killed by the main character, Suzy (spelled “Susie” in the 2018 version).
5 Bathsheba Sherman – The Conjuring
Bathsheba Sherman was a witch during the time of the Salem Witch Trials who sacrificed her child to the Devil and later killed herself. During the time period in which The Conjuring takes place, Bathsheba is a demon that haunts the land which she used to inhabit. She haunts the Perron family with the intention of possessing the matriarch, Carolyn, and is ultimately successful until Demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren perform an exorcism on Carolyn and the land.
Bathsheba cursed the land and those who inhabited it after her death. She was able to successfully curse the land and rid it of its inhabitants from her death until the Warrens intervened, making her a pretty powerful witch.
4 Sarah Bailey – The Craft
The Craft tells the story of a group of girls, Sarah Bailey, Bonnie Harper, Rochelle Zimmerman, and Nancy Downs, all of whom attend the same school and form a coven worshiping a deity known as Manon. Using witchcraft, the girls are able to seek revenge on those who have wronged them, but the power begins to go to their heads.
Sarah, the main character and seemingly the most level-headed one, realizes what is going on and is able to draw power from Manon himself to put a stop to Nancy, who has gone crazy with power. Sarah takes away Nancy’s powers and subsequently threatens to do the same to Bonnie and Rochelle if they also abuse their powers.
3 Ellen Taper Leigh – Hereditary
Ellen Taper Leigh is Annie Graham’s mother in the film Hereditary. She had already passed away by the film’s start but was able to manipulate its events from beyond the grave. She was a worshipper of the demon Paimon, who sought a male human host. Ellen used her influence to tear her own daughter’s family apart and give way for her granddaughter Charlie to possess her grandson Peter’s spirit and thusly become a host for Paimon.
The fact that Ellen was able to manipulate said events even in death is telling about her and Paimon’s powers.
2 The Blair Witch – The Blair Witch Franchise
The Blair Witch is a mostly unseen entity in The Blair Witch franchise. She resides in a forest north of Burkittsville, Maryland where she is able to manipulate people into doing her bidding, whether it is to kill themselves or kill others. She does so through psychological torment; she causes people to get lost in the forest and create imagery such as stick bundles and piles of rocks to scare them. She even imitates group members’ voices after they have disappeared.
As mentioned above, the Blair Witch is mostly unseen, with the exception of the ending of the third movie. Her unseen presence while maintaining such a strong psychological hold over her victims is what makes her such a powerful witch.
1 The Witch – The Witch
In The Witch, also spelled The VVitch, is about Thomasin, the main character, and her family being exiled from their town and building a farm on which to live near a forest. The witch who lives in the forest steals the family’s newborn baby and uses him to create a hallucinogenic ointment. She, along with Satan incarnated as a male black goat, torment the family, ultimately killing them all except Thomasin, who is convinced to sign Satan’s book and become a witch herself.
The witch was able to successfully destroy the family and influence Thomasin into becoming a witch with very little physical interference on her part. She instead used the family’s own weaknesses against them. She did have help from the Devil, but the other witches on this list also had help from some kind of supernatural entity.
Next: 10 Best Horror Movies Based On Books, Ranked
10 Shows to Watch If You Like Avatar: The Last Airbender
About The AuthorCarly Olsen is a writer based out of Salt Lake City, Utah. She attended Southern Utah University, where she studied literature and film studies, and is now using her film studies knowledge to write for Screen Rant. She has acted as a tutor, beta reader, and editor in students’ and colleagues’ writing projects. When she is not writing she enjoys reading, playing the trombone, and performing comedy at various venues in the Salt Lake area.
More About Carly Olsen