TV & Movies

The 7 Best Witch Transformations In TV & Movie History

From Angelina Jolie to Dakota Johnson, they’re all sorts of magical.

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Some of Hollywood’s most beloved actors, from Angelina Jolie to Meryl Streep, have taken a romp as powerful occultists. Whether as manic wand-aided wizards, vindictive spellcasters, or good-natured sorcerers, here are seven actors whose witchy transformations are truly iconic.

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A master of transformation, Helena Bonham Carter has played many iconic roles including royalty in The Crown, a flailing designer in Ocean’s 8, and the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland. But it was her take on dark witch Bellatrix Lestrange in the Harry Potter films that was most haunting.

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Carter told EW she made the already terrifying Bellatrix even “more insane and unhinged,” adding, “I wanted her to be quite savage.” That involved making her “sexy and revolting at the same time,” as she put it. The rotten teeth, messy hair, and tight corset? All her ideas.

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For all of Meryl Streep’s many award-winning roles, she didn’t take on the role of witch until she was 65. In fact, she had a rule against it. “The idea of witches, I think it’s terror of older women that has lived in many different cultures and I don’t like it,” she told ET in 2014.

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Luckily, she changed her mind for that year’s adaption of Stephen Sondheim’s musical Into the Woods. In the Rob Marshall film version, Streep plays the vindictive crone “the Witch” and lends her voice to the song “Stay With Me.” Streep starred alongside Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, and Emily Blunt.

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After playing the naive Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey, Dakota Johnson took on the role of dancing witch in Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria, a terrifying 2018 remake of the 1977 Italian film. As Susie, Johnson unwittingly joined a coven moonlighting as a dance academy.

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The actor’s witchy transformation extended well beyond costumes and makeup to her severe dance moves. Of her yearlong training, she told Variety, “I started training with different trainers and coaches to shape my body and teach my muscles how to move in the way of a dancer.”

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Though Angela Bassett’s physical transformation in American Horror Story: Coven didn’t really involve special effects, she told Collider she “dipped” her toe in voodoo culture for her role as Marie Laveau, New Orleans’ famed voodoo queen, a historical figure she’s a “fan” of.

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“Her magic, as they say, was gris-gris. It wasn’t black magic. It was gray. It was just what was necessary,” Bassett told the outlet. She highlighted how the show tried to be authentic, adding, “All of those individuals in the scene with me were actual voodouns. ... We just wanted to get it right. It’s not just a costume.”

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Anya Taylor-Joy may now be a bona fide style star, but she donned a different kind of garb for her first starring role in the 2015 horror film The Witch. As Thomasin, Taylor-Joy played a devout Puritan whose hardships made her strike a deal with Satan and practice witchcraft.

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In the Robert Eggers film, the actor’s linen costume and braids formed her character. “The second you would put on the clothes, you were in there,” she told Harper’s Bazaar. “That was the way that you spoke, that was the way that you shucked corn — it was indisputable.”

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Angelina Jolie gave the evil Maleficent a major rebrand in 2014 when she flipped the script on the most notorious villain in Disney history. In the live-action remake, the horned sorceress has a backstory and is surprisingly sympathetic and motherly to Elle Fanning’s Aurora.

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Nonetheless, her severe cheekbones and ram-like horns were so frightening that she even spooked her own child. In 2014, Jolie told EW, “When Pax saw me for the first time, he ran away and got upset — and I thought he was kidding, so I was pretending to chase him until I actually found him crying.”

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Before Alyson Hannigan became one-half of How I Met Your Mother’s most beloved couple, she first played witch Willow Rosenberg in the WB’s supernatural drama Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Her physical appearance didn’t change much throughout the show's seven seasons but something else did.

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By Season 4, Willow came out as a lesbian and openly dated a woman in a groundbreaking moment in ’90s TV history. Hannigan clearly still has thoughts on who her character should’ve dated; she tweeted in November 2020 that Willow should’ve dated Sarah Michelle Gellar’s Buffy.