VIDEO: The Witch Most Likely To ... Celebrating Pop Culture's Superlative Spellcasters

We're handing our superlatives to Sabrina, Willow, Samantha and the rest of pop culture's most powerful witches

Photo: Everett Collection(3)

Who’s the best witch in all pop culture-dom?

That’s a tough question to answer, since movies and TV have offered us all manner of witchy women. Some are good. Some are bad. Some are beautiful (but aren’t so nice inside) and some look scary (but are still a lot of fun). In lieu of power ranking the various pop culture spellcasters, we’ve heralded their individual achievements with yearbook-style superlatives.

1. Most Improved: Mildred Hubble in The Worst Witch

Mildred (Fairuza Balk) is a witchy underdog. No one at Miss Cackle’s Academy for Witches thinks much of Mildred’s potential as master of the supernatural elements, but it’s Mildred who foils a plan by Miss Cackle’s evil twin sister (Charlotte Rae) and becomes the hero. Thanks in part to Mildred (and, you know, this song), this 1986 TV movie became a Halloween favorite.

2. Most in Need of Improvement: Nancy Downs in The Craft

Fairuza Balk again! Apparently her character in The Craft could learn a thing or two from her character in The Worst Witch. In one of the many plot lines that use witchcraft as a metaphor for real-life addiction, Nancy gets hooked on the power and control that comes with casting spells and turns into an unhinged, superpowered bully.

3. Best Dressed: Glinda in The Wizard of Oz

It’s hard to beat Glinda’s get-up in the 1939 adaptation of Wizard of Oz, and we say she should edge out other well-dressed witches such as Myrtle Snow (Frances Conroy) on American Horror Story: Coven, Maleficent (any version) and Charlize Theron’s witchy evil queen in Snow White and the Hunstman. Glittering like the world’s fanciest tooth fairy, Glinda (Billie Burke) easily beats the Wicked Witch of the West and her stereotypical witch garb, but Elphaba still has her virtues

4. Best Cackle: The Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz

Sure, she looks like a Halloween decoration, but the Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton) has an evil laugh that the wickedest of subsequent witches can only hope to imitate.

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5. Best Sidekick Witch: Willow Rosenberg in Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Willow (Alyson Hannigan) may have always played second banana to Sarah Michelle Gellar’s vampire-hunting protagonist, but wow – what a friend to have. Over the course of the show, Willow slowly developed her witchy powers to become an evil-fighting asset almost on par with Buffy herself. Just ignore that season where she’s the big bad, but come on – we all have our bad days.

6. Most Studious: Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter movies

Set aside all the witchcraft and wizardry and just consider Hermione (Emma Watson) as a hardworking student. What a great role model for the little girls reading or watching Harry Potter: A young woman who is enthusiastically, unapologetically smart. We could all do well to work half as hard as Hermione does.

7. Best Personality: Sabrina Spellman on Sabrina the Teenage Witch

Sabrina had been a character in the extended Archie comics universe since 1962. But it’s interesting to note that the TV series version of her debuted in the same TGIF block as the TV series version of Clueless, because Sabrina is kind of a Cher Horowitz: perky, well-dressed, clever and able to come out on top of any given situation, either using her powers or not. It doesn’t hurt that Melissa Joan Hart brought her Clarissa Explains It All cred to the role.

8. Most Likely to Rule the World: Samantha Stephens on Bewitched

Glinda may be known as “the good witch,” but perhaps the best witch of all is Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery), who proved herself to be clever, capable and always impeccably attired throughout whatever situation arose. She weathered meddling by her witchy mother, Endora (Agnes Moorehead), and always seemed no worse for any of it. If anyone deserves to be the No. 1 witch, it’s Samantha. And she’d be such a benevolent ruler too.

9. Most Likely to Want to Rule the World: Winnie Sanderson in Hocus Pocus

And then there are witches who would want to have everything that Samantha Stephens has but just can’t manage it. Bette Midler’s Winnie seems to have big ambitions beyond retrieving her “pet” spellbook, but in the end she’s foiled by three mortal, non-magical children. Perhaps she should have invested in better assistance than her two bumbling sisters, Mary (Kathy Najimy) and Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker). In fact, her sisters don’t seem as hellbent on wreaking havoc as Winnie does

10. Most Likely to Throw a Party: Sarah Sanderson in Hocus Pocus

“Amok! Amok! Amok!” In the 1993 Disney classic Hocus Pocus, the Sanderson sisters are the villains, but Sarah Sanderson seems like the least villainous of the group. She almost seems like she’d be happier just having a good time. Can’t you imagine her as the party girl? Just don’t let her sing.

11. Most Likely to Make a Grand Entrance: Jadis in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

She’s evil, but she’s evil in a stylish way. Let Tilda Swinton’s White Witch remind us that the word “glamour” used to refer to magic spells and enchantment before we downgraded it to just looking good.

12. Best Dancer: Ursula in The Little Mermaid

The Sea Witch is a full-figured gal who gives it her all in her big number, “Poor Unfortunate Souls.” She’s the kind of girl who seems destined for Broadway – and, indeed, Ursula did end up on Broadway – but the way the original has her punctuating the word “body language” with that shimmy? It’s perfect.

13. Most Intimidating: Marie Laveau in American Horror Story: Coven

You wouldn’t want to cross any of the witches on this list, but Laveau (Angela Bassett) doesn’t even need spells to prove she’s fierce. She can intimidate with something as simple as a raised eyebrow. Everything about her suggests that she’s unflappably confident – and completely unfazed by anything anyone else does to threaten her power.

14. Most ’80s: Louise Miller in Teen Witch

Teen Witch might have squeaked in at the end of the decade, but the film’s "Top That!" sequence remains one of the most ’80s things ever committed to film. And every one of Robyn Lively’s outfits in the film achieve ’80s perfection.

15. Most ’90s: Elspeth in Four Rooms

The “Missing Ingredient” segment of the 1995 film Four Rooms has Madonna playing the gloriously ’90s witch Elspeth, and if Madge’s styling weren’t spot-on enough, she’s flanked by a coven that includes Ione Skye, Lili Taylor, Valeria Golino, and Alicia Witt – and that is a group that could only have been assembled in the mid-’90s.

16. Best Friends: The Witches of Eastwick

Witchcraft as bonding agent: Sukie (Michelle Pfeiffer), Jane (Susan Sarandon) and Alex (Cher) combine forces to rid themselves of a problematic man (Jack Nicholson) and are all the better for it. Runner up in this category: the sisters from Charmed.

17. Most Mysterious: the Blair Witch

She has a name: Elly Kedward. She was done in for alleged witchery in the 18th century and she isn’t seen in the 1999 horror phenom The Blair Witch Project, but she’s still one of the more famous witches in movies ever. In this extended yearbook conceit, she’s the weird girl who was off doing her own thing on the edge of campus. Everyone else is all, “Wait, she went to our school? I don’t think I remember her.”

18. Best Makeover: the Grand High Witch in The Witches

All done up, the film’s main villain (Anjelica Huston) looks like a million bucks. When she takes off her wig, her face and everything else, though, she’s a testament to the power of the right haircut and a good makeup job.

19. Most Likely to Give Children Nightmares: Witchiepoo on H.R. Pufnstuf

H.R. Pufnstuf was allegedly a children’s show. You have to wonder if the show’s creators, Sid and Marty Krofft, even imagined that the show’s central villain, Witchiepoo (Billie Hayes), would have repeatedly figured into the nightmares of a certain child who’d grow up to write for PEOPLE and compile a list of pop culture witches. So yeah, thanks for those memories, Witchiepoo! (BTW, did you know that Hayes once played a Witchiepoo-like character on Bewitched?)

20. Most Likely to Ruin a Bake Sale: Minnie Castevet in Rosemary’s Baby

Sure, Ruth Gordon’s granny-next-door character seems lovely – ready to help, at the very least. But as Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow) can attest, you shouldn’t let her in, you shouldn’t tell her anything about yourself and you most certainly shouldn’t eat anything she makes, chocolate mousse included.

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