16 best magical fantasy movies to watch at home13 min read
Can you feel that? There’s magic brimming in the air. Not a surprise, given that Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, the third installment in the Fantastic Beast film series, releases in theaters this weekend. It’s been over 20 years since Chris Columbus first brought J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World to the silver screen, and since then audiences worldwide have only become more infatuated with flights of fantasy and magic.
Besides the likes of The Boy Who Lived and Albus Dumbledore, there’s a plethora of iconic wizards, warlocks, and witches to choose from in cinema — from the sagely presence of Gandalf the Grey/White in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the MCU’s Scarlet Witch and Doctor Strange (he’s a sorcerer) to the eponymous spellcasters of 1939’s The Wizard of Oz and Nicolas Roeg’s The Witches. With that in mind, we’ve conjured a list of some of our favorite magical fantasy films and broke down just what exactly makes them so captivating, entertaining, and … well, magical!
Are you reading closely? Here are 16 great wizard, witch, and warlock movies you can stream from home this weekend.
Bedknobs and Broomsticks
What it is: 1971’s Bedknobs and Broomsticks is the movie Disney started making when it ran into difficulty obtaining the rights to Mary Poppins. It shares a director, composers, structural elements, and cast members with the more famous Disney hit, and even almost nabbed Julie Andrews in the lead role. Andrews declined, and we got Angela Lansbury as the prickly spinster Eglantine Price, who is trying to care for a trio of siblings unexpectedly left in her care.
The magical connection: Miss Price is taking lessons in witchcraft via correspondence course, and her efforts to entertain the children largely come in a series of fantastical adventures on an enchanted traveling bed frame.
Why you should watch: As could be expected from the overlooked younger sibling of a type-A character like Mary Poppins, Bedknobs and Broomsticks is way weirder. Its whimsy contrasts with its dire historical circumstances: Our child trio has been evacuated from London to escape the dangers of the Blitz, and Miss Price wants to learn magic to aid in Britain’s home defense against the Axis threat. In the movie’s comedic and dramatic climax, Miss Price brings the local museum’s stock of historical suits of armor to life and leads them into battle against a U-boat’s worth of Nazi marines as she rides sidesaddle on a broomstick decorated with the Union Jack. —Susana Polo
Where to watch: Bedknobs and Broomsticks is streaming on Disney Plus
What it is: The 2005 supernatural noir thriller is an adaptation of the DC Comics character John Constantine, starring Keanu Reeves, Rachel Weisz, and Tilda Swinton (who plays the angel Gabriel). In many ways, Constantine is a classic hardboiled detective thriller filtered through a conflict of Heaven vs. Hell.
The magical connection: Reeves’ Constantine is an exorcist who can communicate with angels and demons. That puts him squarely in the “warlock” category.
Why you should watch: Reeves is his usual handsome, brooding self as the ultra-cynical John Constantine; it’s a perfect match of character and actor. The movie has fun with its outlandish premise, with silly visual gags and impressive effects work that stands up nearly two decades later. It is what it says on the tin: Viewers intrigued by the concept of a supernatural noir detective movie are probably going to have a fun time. —Pete Volk
Where to watch: Constantine is streaming for free with ads on Tubi.
What it is: The 2005 Anne Hathaway-led adaptation of the children’s classic tells the story of Ella, who is cursed, at birth, to follow any order another has given her. She journeys to find the fairy godmother who might revert the spell.
The magical connection: This movie reimagines the fairy godmother trope into something both goofy and sinister. And the world is bursting with magic, from witches to elves to talking books.
Why you should watch: This movie has it all: Action, adventure, romance, multiple dancing numbers, evil stepsisters, and a Heidi Klum cameo. Most importantly, it’s a coming-of-age story about a young woman learning to live for herself. —Nicole Clark
Where to watch: Ella Enchanted is available to stream on HBO Max
What it is: Disney’s 1940 anthology masterpiece, made up of eight sequences from dancing hippos to a literal demon. The pieces are accompanied by classical music (conducted by the renowned Leopold Stokowski), including The Nutcracker Suite and works by Bach, Stravinsky, and Beethoven.
The magical connection: It’s right there, in the picture. Mickey is wearing a wizard hat. What more do you need?
Why you should watch: More than 80 years later, Fantasia still stands as a high mark in the history of Disney’s productions, and has come to influence countless movies (both animated and live action) in the decades since its release. Simply put, it is a delight for the senses and a reminder of the possibilities available in cinema when freed from the constraints of conventional plotting. —PV
Where to watch: Fantasia is streaming on Disney Plus
What it is: A young girl and her siblings learn they are descended from a long line of witches and are transported to Halloweentown, an alternate dimension where supernatural creatures from across all planes of existence coexist together in harmony.
The magical connection: What isn’t magical about Halloweentown? There’s ghosts and ghouls, witches and warlocks, goblins and werewolves all running around and getting up to all sorts of mischief. There’s a wisecracking skeleton that drives a taxi cab, a giant jack-o’-lantern in the town’s square, flying broomsticks, a Willy Wonka-looking Mayor pulling a lollipop out of his ear — need I go on?
Why you should watch: The first movie is honestly the high point of the Halloweentown franchise, as everything after the sequel just goes downhill. Sure, one wouldn’t necessarily expect that a 1998 Disney Channel Original Movie ages well, but Halloweentown manages to stand the test of time. Debbie Reynolds is wonderful as the kids’ estranged grandmother Aggie, as is Kimberly J. Brown as the precocious apprentice witch Marnie. If you’re looking for a fun holiday-themed children’s movie with eccentric characters, colorful sets, and some spooky-but-not-too-spooky thrills, Halloweentown is a sure bet for an entertaining time. —TE
Where to watch: Halloweentown is streaming on Disney Plus
Howl’s Moving Castle
What it is: Howl’s Moving Castle comes from Studio Ghibli and is a (very) loose adaptation of Diane Wynne Jones’ novel of the same name.
The magical connection: The titular character is a wizard, who commands his very own moving castle! He casts spells and trains an apprentice who is also studying the arcane arts.
Why you should watch: There’s a hot wizard. Enough said. OK — to elaborate, Howl’s Moving Castle is a story about two people growing and learning from one another, about a young woman who gains confidence and a flighty wizard who finally takes a stand for something. It’s full of gorgeous landscapes, whirring steampunk contraptions, and a wistful feeling of yearning for something you’re not quite sure you want. Also, Calcifer the fire demon is an adorable wisecracker worth mentioning. —Petrana Radulovic
Where to watch: Howl’s Moving Castle is streaming on HBO Max
What it is: A teenage boy accidentally summons three child-eating witches on Halloween night and must race to stop them from achieving immortality.
The magical connection: Did I mention there are child-eating witches in this movie? If that’s not enough, there’s a 17th century boy imprisoned in the body of a cat and spell books that conjure all sorts of nonsense into existence.
Why you should watch: Hocus Pocus is a kid-friendly horror-lite classic on par with Gremlins; endlessly quotable and packed with performances and imagery that still impress nearly three decades later. Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker form an iconic comedy trio as the Sanderson sisters, as crudely hilarious as they are menacing. If for no other reason, you should absolutely watch Hocus Pocus before the long awaited sequel comes out later this year. —TE
Where to watch: Hocus Pocus is available to stream on Disney Plus
What it is: A magical romantic mystery about a magician that is as much about the magic of film as it is about the magic of illusions.
The magical connection: The question of whether this film fits on a list about magic-doers is literally the question at the heart of the film! Every character in the movie is trying to figure out how Eisenheim the Illusionist (portrayed by a soft-spoken but commanding Edward Norton) performs such incredible feats of so-called magic. His performances even threaten to destabilize the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, so they’ve got to be real… right?
Why you should watch it: It’s easy to recommend The Illusionist merely for the satisfying mystery story at its heart. Paul Giamatti’s Detective Inspector Uhl does an excellent job guiding the audience through the story, and the love triangle between Eisenheim, Crown Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell), and Sophie (Jessia Biel) provides ample drama. However, the real magic of The Illusionist is how it weaves its enchanting story with the concept of cinema itself. The film’s grainy, sepia-tinted colors and blurry edges hint at the early days of motion pictures, when the technology was so new that unaccustomed viewers ran frightened at the image of an oncoming train. Beyond these aesthetic allusions, the film probes even deeper cinematic questions about how a craft can become art and what it means to suspend belief. The end result is true movie magic. —Clayton Ashley
Where to watch: Streaming on Peacock, Tubi, Vudu, Pluto, Crackle, and Hoopla.
Kiki’s Delivery Service
What it is: Studio Ghibli’s fourth feature film follows the plucky protagonist, Kiki, on a rite-of-passage trip for young witches. When she arrives in town, she finds a home by starting a flying service for a bakery.
The magical connection: The film weaves witchcraft into the fabric of metropolitan life, taking fantastical themes and making them feel slice-of-life.
Why you should watch: The film’s lovable cast of characters and wholesome story make it a great watch for any age. But it also beautifully captures that lonely middle ground between childhood and growing into independence. —NC
Where to watch: Kiki’s Delivery Service is streaming on HBO Max
What it is: It’s Mary Poppins! The classic musical fantasy movie stars Julie Andrews (in her feature film debut!) as the magical nanny charged with caring for a rich London family.
The magical connection: She’s Mary Poppins! While never identified exactly as a witch, wizard, or warlock, she certainly fits the bill. Poppins can teleport, communicate with animals, and fly. Case closed.
Why you should watch: She’s practically perfect in every way! The legacy of Mary Poppins lives on, and not just in misguided sequels. With charming performances by Andrews and Dick Van Dyke and an air of wonder that pervades the whole movie, it’s a spoonful of sugar and the medicine for whatever the world throws at you. —PV
Where to watch: Mary Poppins is streaming on Disney Plus
What it is: This bewitching fantasy rom-com stars Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock as two sisters trying to undo a family curse with some help from Stockard Channing and Dianne Wiest. American Werewolf In London alum Griffin Dunne directs.
The magical connection: Sally (Bullock) and Gillian Owens (Kidman) are part of a family of witches, which includes their aunts (played by Channing and Wiest), who raised them after the death of their mother. That sounds like a dream (minus the dead mother), really, but Sally and Gillian struggle to come to terms with their abilities, and the ye olde family curse: any man loved by an Owens woman dies an untimely death. (If that’s not enough, a witch actually put a curse on the production.)
Why you should watch: Practical Magic is kind of like a thirtysomething The Craft, what with its love spells, budding covens, and dark humor and twists. But there’s also a compelling family drama at its core: Bullock and Kidman are a real fire-and-water combination, yet are still believable as sisters. And Wiest and Channing are the fairy—er, witchy—godmothers of our dreams. —Danette Chavez
Where to watch: Practical Magic is streaming on Hulu
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
What it is: Jay Baruchel and Nicolas Cage battle the forces of evil and awkward adolescence in this fizzy action-fantasy concoction, which was directed by Jon Turteltaub of the National Treasure franchise.
The magical connection: It’s kind of laid out in the title — there’s a sorcerer named Balthazar (Cage) and his reluctant apprentice Dave (Baruchel), who’d rather be playing with his Tesla coils and romancing his childhood crush Becky (Teresa Palmer) than waging war against a bunch of other occult beings. But when things get grim (this is a pun you’ll appreciate more if you take our recommendation), Dave steps up and into the “old man shoes” that are part of his new magical uniform.
Why you should watch: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is as sweet as it is strange, thanks to Cage’s surprisingly restrained performance—he was the driving force for the movie, so could easily have gone off the rails—and Baruchel’s hangdog earnestness. This allows Alfred Molina to ham it up as the main adversary in a film that balances wonder and reason much better than its initial critical reception suggests. —DC
Where to watch: The Sorceror’s Apprentice is streaming on Disney Plus
What it is: Luca Guadagnino’s “homage” to Dario Argento’s 1977 film of the same name follows Susie, an American dancer who transfers to a prestigious dance company in Cold War-era Berlin. Unbeknownst to Susie, the company is only a front for a coven of witches who are in the midst of a contentious power struggle.
The magical connection: There’s a witch election, I don’t really think I need to say more. But in case I do; there’s also dance magic and arguably the most haunting Black Sabbath (the witch-gathering kind, not the Ozzy Osborne kind) ever put to film.
Why you should watch: Suspiria is as committed to its themes as any movie out there. Witches debate how art should be used in the aftermath of tragedy; the movie explores the cultural differences in trauma response between the United States and Europe; and Tilda Swinton commits murder through modern dance. So there’s really something for everyone. —Austen Goslin
Where to watch: Suspiria is streaming on Amazon Prime Video
The Tragedy of Macbeth
What it is: The Oscar-nominated black-and-white adaptation of The Scottish Play, directed by Joel Coen and starring Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand.
The magical connection: The witches three, of course. Macbeth and Banquo are confronted by three witches, who prophesize future titles for both men.
Why you should watch: Coen, cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel, and production designer Stefan Dechant bring life to the stark black-and-white locations, while Washington and Kathryn Hunter (playing the witches) deliver unforgettable performances. —PV
Where to watch: The Tragedy of Macbeth is streaming on Apple TV Plus
What it is: A supernatural period horror drama starring Anya Taylor-Joy as a young girl whose Puritan family is torn apart by the machinations of a mysterious evil lurking in the nearby forests.
The magical connection: While the film leaves open the question of whether witchcraft or a society that vilifies witchcraft is responsible for persecuting women like its protagonist, the answer to the question of whether witchcraft exists in the film’s world is an emphatic yes. Child abductions, malevolent visions, a boy coughing up crabapples, levitation, the Devil disguised as a black goat with an attitude problem — you name it. It’s literally called The Witch!
Why you should watch: Contrary to the present opinion of its director, 2015’s The Witch has lost none of its visual potency and horror. The direction is confident, the cinematography is beautiful, the lighting is exquisite, and the performances — particularly Taylor-Joy’s — are remarkable. Oozing with supernatural menace, puritanical malice, and eerie catharsis, The Witch is a film worth watching and revisiting. —TE
Where to watch: The Witch is streaming on Showtime and Kanopy with a library card
The Witches of Eastwick
What it is: A mysterious rich man (Jack Nicholson) moves to a small Rhode Island town and seduces a trio of unhappy, single Women of a Certain Age (Michelle Pfeiffer, Susan Sarandon, and Cher) into the liberating, polyamorous, sexual freedom they’ve always wanted — with a catch. The Witches of Eastwick is the first time George Miller made a low-brow, sexy, popcorn-scarfing, special-effects-laden blockbuster where women seize their own strength to overthrow the malignant white man who has roped them into bondage.
The magical connection: Oh, Jack Nicholson’s character turns out to literally be Satan. He awakens our heroines’ natural magical powers, which they use to take revenge on the conservative townspeople who’ve wronged them and eventually take all the Devil’s money and imprison him forever.
Why you should watch: Miller makes the magic of the movie into an uncanny, often stomach-turning horror (a scene of the local harridan vomiting the pits from the cherries the titular witches are eating miles away is particularly memorable) without sacrificing character or comedy. Nicholson plays his paradoxical role to the nth — oozing sleazy shitbag energy even as undeniable chemistry erupts between him and all three heroines. It could be easy to mistake the plot summary for a story about how witchcraft is bad and women are fools for falling for the Devil’s wiles, but the true skill demonstrated here is that it becomes exactly the opposite. —SP
Where to watch: The Witches of Eastwick is streaming on HBO Max