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The ten best movie witches

Hollywood’s most notable hocus pocus hags

Vampires are dead: 2013 is officially the season of the witch. As ‘Beautiful Creatures’ (aka ‘the new “Twilight”’) opens, Cath Clarke and Tom Huddleston pick the best screen sorceresses.

RECOMMENDED: The 100 best horror films

1
1/10

Queen Grimhilde (voice of Lucille La Verne)

Film
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ (1937)

Appearance 
The fairest of them all. And she’s going to keep it that way, come hell or high water.

Evil deeds 
This being pre-botox, her drastic measures to stay youthful and more beautiful than Snow White involve a huntsman, an axe and a shiny red apple.

Scare factor 
8/10. The scene where she transmogrifies into a scabby crone – with the aid of a magic potion and some wild proto-psychedelic animated effects – is one of the most wonderfully witchy scenes in cinema.

Wyrd words
‘One bite, and all your dreams will come true.’

2
2/10

The Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton)

Film
The Wizard of Oz’ (1939)

Appearance
Traditional. She is your classic old hag. So, pointy black hat, livid green complexion, warts and all.

Evil deeds
Attempted arson on the Scarecrow is perhaps her most heinous. Plenty are willing to forgive her cruel intentions towards Dorothy – after all, the girl did carelessly dump a house on her sister.

Scare factor
5/10. It’s those marauding winged monkeys you’ve really got to worry about.

Wyrd words
‘What a world. What a world. Who would have thought a good little girl like you could destroy my wickedness.’

3
3/10

Jennifer (Veronica Lake)

Film
I Married a Witch’ (1942) 

Appearance
Knockout. She may have spent 300 years buried under a tree, but time has not withered her beauty.

Evil deeds
Crimes against menfolk is her bag. She’s out for revenge against an up-and-coming politician whose Puritan ancestor burned her at the stake back in the bad old days. A bolt of lightning has just brought her back to life.

Scare factor
1/10. With that come-hither purr, you’ve got to be kidding. Jennifer is more malicious minx than malevolent. Incidentally, she was the inspiration for the TV show ‘Bewitched’.

Wyrd words
‘Why do you look at me that way? Oh, my dress. Do you like it?’

4
4/10

Asa Vajda (Barbara Steele)

Film
'Black Sunday' (1960)

Appearance
Classy. The imperious anti-heroine of Mario Bava’s spectral masterpiece first appears at her own trial, dressed to kill in a slinky silk number. Unfortunately, the spiked-mask accessory which the revenge-crazed locals insist on adding does spoil the ensemble somewhat.

Evil deeds
Blood-drinking, corpse-reanimation, demonic possession, worshipping Satan, impersonating the aristocracy – the whole gamut, really.

Scare factor
9/10 – if only for the mind-blowing scene where her rotted visage recomposes itself with the assistance of a droplet of spilled blood.

Wyrd words
‘You, too, can feel the joy and happiness of hating!’

5
5/10

Mater Suspiriorum, The Mother of Sighs (actress uncredited)

Film
'Suspiria' (1977)

Appearance
Wrinkly. By the time she turns up in Dario Argento’s high-tension horror masterpiece, The Mother of Sighs is a couple of centuries old, and looks it. According to star Jessica Harper, she was played by ‘a 90-year-old ex-hooker Dario found on the streets of Rome’.

Evil deeds
Killing innocent young ballet dancers in the most gruesomely inventive ways possible: her methods include stained glass, reanimated corpses and barbed wire.

Scare factor
9/10. Thanks to her telekinetic powers, you never know when or where this bad Mother is going to strike (though the eerie chimes on the soundtrack do kind of give it away).

Wyrd words
‘You wanted to kill me! Now death is coming for you!’

6
6/10

Morgana (Helen Mirren)

Film
Excalibur’ (1981)

Appearance
Scantily clad. This was back in Helen Mirren's sex-kitten days, and given writer-director John Boorman’s fixation with medieval rumpo it’s hardly surprising that the national treasure spends much of her time in see-through silks.

Evil deeds
Inveigling her liege lord and estranged brother Arthur into a spot of uninvited incest (to be fair, he doesn’t put up much of a struggle), thereby birthing his son and nemesis, Mordred. Oh, and sealing Merlin in magic ice.

Scare factor
2/10. Unless you’re a medieval king or have an irrational fear of Helen Mirren’s nipples, you’re on safe ground.

Wyrd words
‘I have conceived a son, my king… my brother!’

7
7/10

Mombi (Jean Marsh)

Film
Return to Oz’ (1985)

Appearance
Changeable. Mombi’s USP is her vast mirrored storeroom lined with human heads, which she removes from innocent passers-by and wears on special occasions.

Evil deeds
Well, as if decapitating little girls wasn’t serious enough, she also buddies up with the sadistic Nome King to control the kingdom of Oz.

Scare factor
10/10. Jean Marsh is one of the most professionally unsettling actresses in screen history (she also played Queen Bavmorda in ‘Willow’), and Mombi is her most terrifying creation.

Wyrd words
‘I believe I’ll lock you in the tower for a few years until your head is ready. And then I’ll take it!’

8
8/10

Jane Spofford, Alexandra Medford and Sukie Ridgemont<br>(Michelle Pfeiffer, Susan Sarandon and Cher)

Film
'The Witches of Eastwick' (1987)

Appearance
Small-town chic. These three middle-class, middle-American ladies-who-lunch may dabble in the dark arts, but they don’t go in for the whole black-hat-and-broomstick aesthetic.

Evil deeds
Bullying poor town busybody Veronica Cartwright by making her vomit cherry stones until her husband beats her to death with a poker. Nice work, ladies.

Scare factor
3/10. The real terror in town is Jack Nicholson’s seductive, satanic homunculus. The women are just pawns in his game.

Wyrd words
‘I hope his dick is bigger than his IQ.’

9
9/10

The Grand High Witch (Anjelica Huston)

Film
The Witches’ (1990)

Appearance
Vampire glam. Devil-red lipstick, LBD, great fringe. Behind closed doors it’s a different story entirely.

Evil deeds
The elimination of all the children of England is her plan. Her means is a devilish potion that turns the under 12s into mice. The Grand High Witch’s diabolical followers disguise themselves as frumpy ladies from the shires to pose as earnest children’s charity volunteers.

Scare factor
10/10. The best kids’ stories are the scariest and this is based on Road Dahl’s most frightening novel. The thought of all those nice charitable ladies hiding hideous scaly faces is truly nightmarish – and Anjelica Huston gives the performance of a lifetime.

Wyrd words
‘Witches of England... You are a disgrace! You are good-for-nothing worms! Everywhere I look, I see the repulsive sight of hundreds, thousands of revolting little children.’

10
10/10

Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter)

Film
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix’ (2007)

Appearance
Pin-up for goth girls. Leather-clad medieval barmaid, as dressed by Vivienne Westwood.

Evil deeds
She’s got a sadistic streak, this one. Not only did she torture Hermione and murder her own cousin, Sirius Black, she bumped off poor little Dobby. But what else do you expect from a Slytherin?

Scare factor
6/10. She’s one mean Death Eater, but Helena Bonham Carter is having too much fun to be truly diabolical. Sometimes she comes over more like a rampaging toddler having a hissy fit.

Wyrd words
‘Potter, you cannot win against me! I am the Dark Lord’s most loyal servant. I learned the dark arts from him, and I know spells of such power that you, pathetic little boy, can never hope to compete!’

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