Witches, witches everywhere.
This fall, magic has taken over TV in the best way. There are witches everywhere, from American Horror Story to Charmed to Legacies to Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and they join a long line of TV witches. Sometimes, the witches have it easy. Most of the time, they’re literally about to die at all times.
Despite that, it’s hard not to wish we too could be witches, casting spells and riding brooms (or vacuum cleaners) and saving lives or causing mayhem, but not all witch worlds were created equal. Below, we attempted to determine the best and worst TV worlds in which to be a witch, passing no judgment on the quality of show or even quality of witch.
Most of our pros and cons are related to two things: coolness of magic and likelihood of death.
And so, below, you’ll find our picks from best to worst.
Sabrina the Teenage Witch (1996 to 2003)
Pros: Just by pointing her finger, Sabrina (Melissa Joan Hart) could do just about anything. She could turn popular girls into pineapples, and she could even turn herself into the popular girl—a trick she could have used a lot more often, but somehow didn’t. Let’s also not forget that one time she gave her teacher, Mr. Pool (Paul Feig) the knowledge of how to turn lead into gold. When you think about it, her powers are actually terribly impressive.
Cons: Sabrina made a LOT of mistakes and the Witches’ Council did not approve of the whole messing with alchemy thing, and she had to take annoying tests and there’s that whole issue of her mortal mother not being able to see her without turning into a ball of wax, and sometimes her finger went totally haywire, but compared to some of the darker consequences on this list…we’re here for some magical finger pointing, even if all we could do was turn everything into a pineapple.
Game of Thrones (2011 to present)
Pros: There’s really just one witch we’ve gotten to know on Game of Thrones, but she’s quite the character. Melisandre, AKA the Red Witch, can do all sorts of things. She can give birth to scary murderous smoke babies! She can resurrect poor dead Jon Snow! And she can even hide the fact that she’s secretly ancient behind an enchanted necklace, which is cool.
Cons: Melisandre is also wildly unpredictable, as are her powers and her allegiances. Sometimes she murders everyone and sacrifices children, but sometimes she also brings the king in the north back to life. Having Melisandre’s abilities seems pretty great, especially considering that she’s still alive when so few others are, and she’s got a leg up in this cruel, cruel world of Westeros. Actually being or knowing Melisandre or having to face her down in any way? No thanks.
Eastwick (2009 – 2010)
Pros: Fun, sexy, and a good time. Eastwick was described as “Desperate Housewives and Sex and the City with magic,” which is occasionally exactly what we want, including powers like seeing the future and hypnotizing men.
Cons: The ladies had to wait for a mysterious guy to awaken their powers, and there was an awful lot of focus on men and romance in their magic. Just feels like it could get a little boring after a while, but the lack of apocalypses is very appealing.
The Secret Circle (2011 to 2012)
Pros: A tight-knit coven that will help and support you as you discover your family’s dark secrets is the kind of coven we’d like to join.
Cons: Witch Hunters = Bad. Why are there so many people hunting witches?! Unfortunately this show didn’t last more than a season but we’ll always remember it fondly.
Pros: Legacies is about a school filled with magical creatures of all kinds, so vampires, werewolves, and witches all chill together. And for the most part, even the supernatural teens are allowed to be just teens, having parties and doing tricks and losing their temper in the kitchen and whatnot. Doesn’t look too bad!
Cons: We haven’t seen much of this show so far, but we can guess from its predecessors (and that one scene where Lizzie almost stabbed her father in the head) that there’s magical danger to be found around most corners. And being an already hormonal teenager who also has magical powers surrounded by other hormonal teens with magical powers sounds absolutely terrifying. However, the 2018 update to the Vampire Diaries universe is already showing signs that times have changed, so we shall have to see.
Charmed (1998 to 2006)
Pros: The easy magic and the feminism and the taking down demons was extremely cool, but let’s just talk about the fact that they got to do it all in the wildest of outfits. We wish we had an excuse or at least the confidence to rock some of those crop barely-tops in life or death situations.
Cons: Sometimes they die, and their mother was dead, and there was just a lot of potential death in the world of Charmed. There was also a lot of pressure on those Charmed ones, and a lot of prophecies to deal with, and just demons and apocalypses all over the dang place. Seems exhausting!
Pros: The outfits are way more practical this time, but the magic and the feminism are still extremely fun. We too would like to take down sexual harassers and also levitate eggs.
Cons: Just a few episodes in and there’s already an apocalypse looming, on top of everybody struggling to balance regular life and witch life, plus the dead mother. And pledging a sorority ain’t no picnic either!
Once Upon a Time (2011 to 2018)
Pros: Witches are queens, or at least the queen, and also the mayor. They also occasionally get incredible character development, from the evil queen to her sister, the wicked witch.
Cons: Everybody’s cursed like all the time. What good is being a witch if half the time you’ve forgotten you are one?
American Horror Story (2011 to 2018)
Pros: Witches are SO powerful in this world, and there’s a ton of variety. Voodoo, resurrection powers, gluten identification, death by vagina… Plus, Stevie Nick can appear in an instant if you really need her to, and as long as you’ve got a Supreme like Sarah Paulson to protect you, you’re not doing too bad.
Cons: Being Supreme is cool, but the test to get there is grueling and occasionally very deadly. Everyone tends to die a lot, and sometimes they can only be saved by the actual antichrist, and that’s kind of a bummer. Plus, it’s cool how many powers there are, but not so fun if you get stuck with a crappy one.
The Vampire Diaries (2009 to 2017)
Pros: Witchcraft on The Vampire Diaries is even more ancient than vampirism, and witches are all about nature and balance as opposed to darkness. They don’t do any devil worship, they can do some incredibly impressive spells, and sometimes witches like Bonnie Bennett can call on their ancestors to do some extremely cool stuff.
Cons: Witches have a lot of weaknesses and can easily overexhert themselves, and sometimes, even when Bonnie saved the day yet again, she still had the worst luck in the world. Being anything in the Vampire Diaries world is typically dangerous.
Wizards of Waverly Place (2007 to 2012)
Pros: Technically, the Russos are wizards, but whatever. They can do pretty much anything, and they get to use magic wands, and hardly anyone ever dies.
Cons: Technically, they’re not actually witches. Plus there are a lot of dumb rules, like how only one member of the family can be a full wizard (unless they get a job as the headmaster of wizard school). That just seems unfair, and it actually knocked this show down a whole bunch of this list.
The Originals (2013 to 2018)
Pros: While it’s technically the same witch world as TVD, The Originals dove deep into the Mikaelson family, in which matriarch and witch Esther used dark magic to render her family immortal, creating vampires in the process. That’s pretty badass, and her oldest daughter Freya, an immortal and powerful witch, quickly proved she also had some serious magical chops.
Cons: But let’s not forget that because of her mother’s use of magic, Freya was taken as a child in exchange for the dark magic used to help Esther have children, and that’s the kind of stuff that goes down among the witches in this universe. You’re pretty much only safe if you’re a Mikaelson, and even then…not really.
Even the baby witches aren’t safe, since the entire final season of the show dealt with 7 year-old Hope, a tribrid vampire/werewolf/witch, getting possessed by an ancient witch called the Hollow that threatened to destroy everyone. If you’re gonna be a witch in this world, stay far away from New Orleans.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018)
Pros: Sabrina lives in a spooky house in a spooky town and with the help of some serious spells, she can torment asshole boys and mean principals and even resurrect the dead, in a way. She also has a magic goblin cat and appears to live in a magical time warp.
Cons: Being a witch in this world means signing your name over to the Devil, and he can call on you any time to do his bidding. You also have to say “Hail satan!” and there are a lot of weird rituals related to virginity and purity that are pretty sketchy. You also have to work pretty hard to do any magic at all. No more finger pointing fashion shows up in here. HOWEVER, we will say that the Weird Sisters are iconic and we wouldn’t immediately say no to joining that crew.
ABC Photo Archives/Getty Images
Bewitched (1964 to 1972)
Pros: A powerful woman in a time when women weren’t so powerful? Sounds good to us.
Cons: What’s the point of being a witch if you still also have to pretend to be a good little housewife?
Supernatural (2005 to present)
Pros: There’s a ton of variety in the witches of Supernatural, and some of them are wildly powerful, like Rowena.
Cons: Many witches still have to get all cozy with Lucifer (like Rowena), and many many many of them end up dead…just like most Supernatural villains and side characters.
John P. Johnson/HBO
True Blood (2008 to 2014)
Pros: Some witches are even more powerful than even the oldest vampires, which is fun, and the voodoo aspects are especially cool.
Cons: Witches tend to be the bad guys on True Blood, which means they tend not to last long. They’re not all bad, but being a witch in this universe is never going to be the best or safest choice.
Witches of East End (2013 to 2014)
Pros: Soapy, sexy, and theatrical, the magic on Witches of East End was very fun and very classically witchy.
Cons: Everybody was always in constant danger! Everything went badly all the time! One of the witches was cursed to give birth to two daughters, watch them learn magic, then die, and then she became pregnant again immediately! Being a witch on this show seems exhausting.
20th Century Fox
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1996 to 2003)
Pros: Unlike many of the others on this list, who had other witches and councils to guide them through their discovery of the rules of witchcraft, Willow did a lot of it on her own or alongside girlfriend Tara (Amber Benson) and became crazy powerful in the process. She was able to do some serious magic, even bringing Buffy back from the dead.
Cons: Magic in the Buffy world can be fun but so, so dangerous. Willow’s lack of supervision meant her consequences were a lot less “you’re in trouble” and a lot more “someone might die.” Magic hurt her relationship with Tara, turned her into a straight up addict, and made her a terrifying grief-driven villain later in the series. She almost destroyed the world, and from what we saw of other witches, they didn’t fare much better.
The Magicians (2015 to present)
Pros: Sure, they’re magicians and not witches, but it’s basically the same thing, and at first glance being magical in this world looks pretty awesome. Magicians are particularly good at partying, and sometimes they can even have sex while levitating. Plus, people who die don’t usually stay dead. Fun!
Cons: When you look a little closer, the world of The Magicians is super dark, filled with abuse and traumatic origin stories and magic used as a coping mechanism. People get trapped in other dimensions or timelines or worlds a lot, and magic also tends to run out occasionally, with terrible consequences. There’s fun to be had here, but it might not be worth the other side of it.
Cook Allender/WGN America
Salem (2014 to 2016)
Pros: It’s a show about a witch who controls the Salem Witch Trials, so at least the witches are in control.
Cons: It’s a show about the Salem Witch Trials, so no thank you.