Teen girls are terrifying to the patriarchy. Young women, full of potential, just hitting puberty and taking on all the cultural baggage that comes along with that, “realizing their power” and “losing their innocence” and all of that nonsense, they might as well be bloodthirsty beasts for how inherently threatening they are to the status quo. This is why teen girls are so central to the horror genre, from Stephen King’s Carrie to the entire canon of horror movie Final Girls.
Teen Witches are their own subspecies of spooky adolescent girl, spanning the cute — Archie Comics’ Sabrina the Teenage Witch or ’80s cult classic Teen Witch — to the satanic — ’90s cult classic The Craft, Robin Wasserman’s recent thriller Girls on Fire. There’s something about youthful femininity that just goes hand in hand with the supernatural.
So, since it’s the creepiest month of the year, let’s do a definitive ranking of television’s twenty best teen witches. Here ‘teen’ is defined as anyone between the ages of 13 and 19 — which tragically excludes throw-back faves from Charmed and Bewitched — and witch is defined… loosely.
#1 Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Sabrina the Teenage Witch
The title character from the ’90s WB gem Sabrina the Teenage Witch is number one primarily because she literally has “The Teenage Witch” for a last name. (I’m just playing. I know it’s Spellman. Little Me was ride or die for this show.) Based on the Archie Comics spin-off series, Sabrina follows a young half-witch, half-mortal living with her two magical aunts and a scene-stealing talking cat in the mortal realm while navigating high school, and then college, and then a bizarre stint as a music reporter at a bafflingly run magazine.
Sabrina’s magic has something that few other teenage TV witches can compete with: it’s hopelessly dorky. From having to come up with dumb little rhymes every time she wants to cast a spell to being the near-constant victim of some kind of magical pun run amok, Sabrina wins on the strength of the sympathy vote alone.
Best Magical Moment: It’s tricky because there’s an episode in which Sabrina magics Britney Spears into teaching her a dance lesson inside the Eiffel Tower, which would seem to be the natural winner, but when I was little I was way more impressed by the episode where she casts a spell on herself that enables her to speed read Great Expectation in five seconds flat. Little Me could not imagine a cooler superpower. Little Me was a nerd.
#2 Willow Rosenberg, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
No matter how I feel about Joss Whedon (Bad. I feel bad.), I will always love Buffy. Of the shows on this list, Buffy was the most invested in peeling back the layers of teen-girl-in-horror-tropes, the entire concept stemming from the question what if it was the monster running from the teen girl for once?
Willow Rosenberg was just the nerdy, mousy best friend of the kick-ass title character until halfway through season two, when she decided to get heavy into the dark arts and became an overnight fan favorite. Willow’s greatest achievement was being the sexual awakening of a generation of queer women, but, as kind of a side project, she was also an incredibly accomplished witch. One time she made a pencil float with her mind and another time she saved the world by activating the dormant superpowers of hundreds of girls around the globe.
Greatest Magical Mistake: see below.
#3 Dark Willow Rosenberg, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Love or hate season six of Buffy (Editor’s note: emphatically both), there is no getting around the fact that every single thing that happens in “Seeing Red” is a horrible narrative mistake. But it does give rise to the final three episode arc in which Willow rises as the true Big Bad of the season as she hoards power to avenge her girlfriend’s death.
Her origin story may totally suck, but Dark Willow is probably the most powerful witch on this list, and the only one whose magic is genuinely scary.
Disclaimer: It is probably cheating to count Dark!Willow separately from regular Willow. I don’t care. Bored now.
#4 Bonnie Bennett, The Vampire Diaries
The Vampire Diaries may have been pitched as a show about a teen girl caught in the middle of a love triangle between two centuries-old vampire brothers, but in execution it was actually a show about a friend group’s collective moral compass spiraling farther and farther out of whack as one by one each member committed mass murder.
Bonnie Bennett was always the character with the strongest convictions and the firmest sense of right and wrong. It took her all the way until season four to commit her first mass murder! And that was under the mind-control-y influence of a creepily attractive magic professor! But because she was so (comparatively) good, the writers had no idea what to do with her and never let her have any fun. Bonnie deserved way better than any storyline she was ever given on TVD. Every season finale, she was basically used as a deus ex machina to get Elena and her hunky vampire suitors out of trouble and then she’d be tucked away on the sidelines again, just lighting candles with her mind and making feathers float. Big, exciting stuff.
Most Useless and Overused Spell: Bonnie Bennett was doing locator spells to find her friends on pretty much an episode-to-episode basis because the idiots she hung out with kept getting pulled into life-threatening situations. But it was like… a locator spell that requires someone to cut their hand open and bleed on a physical paper map (who has a map anymore). At the end of the day that’s just GPS.
#5 Tara Maclay, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Tara Maclay is the original embodiment of the cinnamon roll meme: too good for this world, too pure. Here she is above with sparkles coming out of her hand and dressed up for a renaissance fair even though she’s just out for a casual stroll through the park with her girlfriend.
Best Magical Moment: All of Tara’s best magical moments are just metaphors for sex with her Willow, so that’s what I’m going with. Sex.
#6 Faye Chamberlain, The Secret Circle
The Secret Circle was a one-season-wonder that ran on The CW, home of all (s)crappy, low-budget teen soaps. No one watched it because they probably thought it was a show about geometry, and also it was on The CW. I watched it because it was really a show about teenage witches, specifically a teenage witch named Cassie, who is not included on this list because she spends most of the show’s run wishing she didn’t have magic powers at all which is A. kind of a bummer, and B. entirely unrelatable.
Her frenemy Faye is 10x as cool as her anyway. Here she is standing in a thunderstorm she conjured for fun. I’m pretty sure this scene is soundtracked by The Kills. Badass.
Lamest Magic: This show gets really bogged down in a boring plotline about magic crystals. No one has ever cared about magic crystals. I am dead sure that Faye doesn’t care about magic crystals. But for a while the writers forced her to care about magic crystals.
#7 Those two girls from The X-Files episode “Syzygy”
Do you know which girls I mean? These girls:
These girls are so great, just look at them. It’s like no one told them they weren’t extras on Twin Peaks.
Most Boring Technicality: Before anyone reading this gets pedantic, I know these two aren’t technically witches. They’re just temporarily imbued with witchiness because of the way the planets have aligned or something. But the entire episode revolves around them killing a bunch of jocks with magic and teasing their hair out really big, so there was no way they weren’t making the top ten.
#8 Rayanne Graff, My So-Called Life
My So-Called Life changed the game for teen soap operas, and the cultural impact of Angela Chase and Rayanne Graff’s good girl/bad girl friendship is still felt today.
If you want to get really technical about it, there isn’t exactly canonical evidence that Rayanne Graff is a witch. But her mother is heavy into tarot cards in a way that seems more than casual and these things are inherited right? There’s also her million hairclips and the way she slouches and just, like, hear me out, man: she’s totally a witch. (Editor’s note: also totally queer, for the same reasons.)
That’s it. That’s the whole argument.
#9 Liv Parker, The Vampire Diaries
When The Vampire Diaries made the fatal jump from high school to college in Season 5, Liv was introduced as the cool new blood — the Audrey from Dawson’s Creek or the Hillary Duff Character from Gossip Girl if you will. She’s one of the few new characters the self-involved main cast met in the changed setting and for a while she felt fresh and exciting, but she became a total boring bummer in just a few short episodes.
Still, in certain (good) corners of the fandom, the decline never happened and she and Bonnie are happily dating. So that’s the Liv that’s featured here. Fandom!Liv.
Best Witchy Fashion Tip: Like fifty rings on every finger and a supernatural fan to add dramatic flair to your hairstyle.
#10 Hilary Duff
I know what you’re thinking: how can she be a witch when she’s this awkward with a magic wand? But what you need to understand is that her awkwardness is just a part of an elaborate cover. It wasn’t too long ago that witches were burnt at the stake, after all. You gotta be smart.
Best Magic Trick: Somehow her career is still going strong??????? That’s power.
#11 Dreama, Sabrina the Teenage Witch
Okay, so Dreama was a season four edition to Sabrina whose storyline was abandoned soon after it was introduced as the show’s focus shifted onto (what else?) a central love triangle. The most important thing to know about Dreama is that she casts spells by tugging on her earlobe.
Now, I’m only an armchair expert, but I’m pretty sure that is not part of any other witchlore ever. There aren’t even any other Sabrina characters that cast spells this way. It’s a really inconsistent universe.
Most Impressive Spell: At some point she seems to have cast a spell to make everyone, including the writers and the majority of the audience, forget about her existence. That’s big power.
#12 Meghan Routundi, Felicity
You know that bizarre/annoying trope where a character will find out they have supernatural abilities and act like it’s this huge inconvenience? “I don’t want to be a witch!” They’ll whine. “I just wanna be normal and go to prom and take math tests and pop my pimples and have a bake sale.” It’s the worst.
Meghan Routundi is the exact opposite of that. On a show that is otherwise staunchly non-supernatural, Meghan actively strives to be a witch. The other characters of the 90s teen soap are assholes and treat her like a joke, but literally all of her spells throughout the show’s run are effective. In fact, her sorcery is responsible for the first of many switcheroos of which 90s beefcake came first in Felicity Porter’s heart. So thanks for that, Meghan. It’s not what I would choose to use my magic powers for, but you do you, Meghan.
Best witchy accessory: You might think it’s the stylish bone necklace she’s pictured in above, but it’s actually a mysterious box no one is allowed to open. Get yours today!
#13 Davina Claire, The Originals
Most of the witches on The Originals, a spinoff of The Vampire Diaries, are fully grown adults, which makes it extra impressive that Davina is maybe 16 when she stages a coup and takes over as the head witch (I think there’s a technical term I’m forgetting) of every coven in New Orleans.
When I was 16 I was just going to prom and taking math tests and popping pimples and having bake sales and really spending very little time staring seriously at candles or talking about my ancestors. Davina is on an accelerated track.
Worst Witch Rules: On The Originals, witchcraft involves a lot of child sacrifice. It’s… not great.
#14 Sally Draper, Mad Men
Sally Draper is a powerful witch and you do NOT want to mess with her and we are not going to defend this any further.
Most Powerful Incantation:
#15 Emma Alonso, Every Witch Way
Apparently, this was a show that aired on Nickelodeon from 2014-2015, which is confusing to me because, per Wikipedia, it also supposedly ran for four complete seasons? So I don’t know what that’s about. But Emma Alonso is the main character, and look at her! She’s got a big ol’ magic book and a bunch of goopy special effects. She came prepared.
Craziest Quote from this Show’s Wikipedia Page: “Not only does Emma have to stop Daniel from killing her, she also has to choose who she wants to be with: Daniel or Jax.” Is… Is the Daniel from the beginning of the sentence the same Daniel at the end? Because that doesn’t seem like such a difficult decision, Emma. Worried about you, girl.
#16 Every Character from Skins UK
Witches, the lot of ‘em.
Witch with the most power: Effy Stonem.
Witch with the least power: Alo Whatever His Last Name Is.
#17 Lane Kim, Gilmore Girls
I will forever be bitter that we didn’t get the Lane-Kim-discovers-she’s-a-witch spinoff we deserved. Plot points we were deprived of include: Lane learns to fly. Lane dyes her hair bright purple again but now she’s able to enchant it so that to her mom it always appears black. Lane breaks the curse on Stars Hollow that’s made all the townsfolk worship Rory Gilmore for the past 16 years and they’re so grateful they replace the gazebo with a giant golden drum set in Lane’s honor.
#17 Marissa Cooper and Summer Roberts, The OC
Southern California’s favorite coven of two were a shoo-in for this list. Their powers are fueled by caffeine and money and judgement.
Best Magical Moment: who can forget that classic scene from the Season 3 finale in which Summer saved Marissa’s from dying in that car crash using the power of their witchy sisterly love? And then they ditched the boys and Marissa reunited with Alex Kelly and Summer found a nice someone of her own who was decidedly not Seth Cohen (sorry) and they all rode off into the sunset.
#19 Andrea Zuckerman, Beverly Hills 90210
TB perfectly H, only the darkest of magicks could have convinced her fellow students at West Beverly High that Andrea Zuckerman was a sixteen year old girl and not a thirty-something year old woman.
#20 Jenny Humphrey, Gossip Girl
We get to see Gossip Girl’s scrappy underdog, kid-sister-turned-pop-punk-queen Jenny Humphrey realize her magical powers bit by bit, but the writers made the bizarre choice of having most of the actual witchcraft happen offscreen and never even mentioning it textually. The viewer is left to track Jenny’s progress in her study of the occult through the evolution of her outfits alone. By the time she comes back on the scene with those hair extensions and thigh high boots it’s clear she’s gone full witch. So it just seems like a poor narrative choice that we didn’t get to see the late nights toiling over bubbling cauldrons that got her there.
Who are your favorite teen witches of the small screen? Let us know in the comments!
Phoebe Cramer is a writer and performer living in Brooklyn, New York. She likes bad tv and good pizza. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in NonBinary Review, Slink Chunk Press, and Bard Papers. She can (occasionally) be found on twitter @PhoebeLCramer