15 Movies & Shows Inspired By The Salem Witch Trials, Ranked (According To IMDb)

Witchcraft is a popular topic in the realms of horror and fantasy, but the subject is made all the more impactful when it’s based on real occurrences. Many have heard the stories about the historical events which took place in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692, and there have been many films that use the infamous Salem Witch Trials as either a backdrop or plot point.

RELATED: 10 Most Powerful Witches In Horror Movies, Ranked

The Salem Witch Trials were a period from 1692 until 1693 in which Massachusetts townspeople were put on trial after being accused of witchcraft. There have been many documentaries made over the years about women who were killed. This period of time has inspired many on-screen works when it comes to magic, witchcraft, and the supernatural.

Updated on October 2nd, 2021 by Tanner Fox: Though often highly exaggerated for dramatic effect or to play up the unnerving undertones, the Salem Witch Trials have been a constant pop culture fixation. From Rob Zombie-directed horror films to serialized tales of teen romance, the centuries-old events which transpired in Salem, Massachusettes continue to be a macabre cultural touchstone.

While there’s a ton of media that focuses on them primarily, other shows and movies have used the Salem Witch Trials as a basis from which to tell frightening stories of both witchcraft and religious hysteria. From primetime TV to PBS documentaries, the influence of the Salem Witch Trials on media can be seen in many unexpected places.

15 The Lords Of Salem (2012) – 5.2

Sheri Moon Zombie in The Lords Of Salem

● Available on Tubi

In 2012, the American musician and director Rob Zombie created a film that focuses on a modernized take on the centuries-old myths and legends surrounding Salem. The Lords of Salem is a supernatural horror film that takes place where the trials originated, in Salem, Massachusetts.

A DJ at a hard rock station discovers an album by a band called The Lords. When listening to the record, she starts having bizarre nightmares. The next day, she interviews a writer who just wrote a book about the Salem Witch Trials and plays the record. The record has hypnotic powers that cause the woman of Salem to fall into a trance. As the visions progress, she uncovers a secret cult of Satan worshippers and a curse put on the women of Salem.

14 The Covenant (2006) – 5.3

Tyler Kitsch, Steven Strait, Chace Crawford in The Covenant

● Available on Pluto TV

The Covenant was a guilty pleasure film for many teens in the late 2000s when the supernatural was at its peak in pop culture. It starred Sebastian Stan, Tyler Kitsch, Steven Strait, Chace Crawford, among others. The film centers around a group of male friends who grew up together and are knows as the Sons of Ipswitch. They come from the founding families and wield magical abilities.

The tie to the Salem Witch Trials is seen in the town where they reside and the boys’ lineage. In 1878, there was a second wave of witch accusations that occurred in Salem which came to be known as the Ipswich Witchcraft Trials. In the film, the boys are direct descendants of the founding families who formed a coven to keep their magic a secret. There is also a small backstory that uses some of the family names of the original accusers during the trials.

13 The Blair Witch Project (1999) – 6.5

Still from the found footage horror movie The Blair Witch Project.

● Available on Fubo TV

Notable for its viral marketing campaign, 1999’s The Blair Witch Project popularized the found footage horror subgenre and made over $200 million on a budget of around $5000,000, making it one of the most profitable movies ever made. Focusing on a group of amateur documentarians exploring a wooded area around Burkittsville, Maryland, the film contains no explicit references to the Salem Witch Trials.

RELATED: 10 Movies To Watch If You Love The Blair Witch Project

However, many local legends touched upon by the characters parallel the events which transpired in Seventeenth-century Salem. From the supposed discovery of a ritualistic slaughter in the woods to the mention of a mysterious woman whose “feet never touched the ground,” the fictional events in the film may well have been based on generations-old real-world rumors.

12 The Crucible (1996) – 6.8

Winona Ryder with a group of women in The Crucible

● Available for purchase on Prime Video

The Crucible is a classic from 1996 that details the events that occurred during the Salem Witch Trials. It starred Winona Ryder in one of her more notable roles as Abigail Williams and Daniel Day-Lewis as John Proctor. The historical drama is an adaptation of the 1953 play of the same name.

In Salem, 1692, Proctor decides to end his affair with the young Abigail. She later goes off to the woods with other girls to have a conjuring ceremony. Angered, Abigail calls for revenge against her lover’s wife, and things escalate out of control when the girls are accused of witchcraft after the reverend witnesses their ceremony. Creating false accusations to save herself, Abigail becomes consumed with new power as the town is overturned with fear.

11 The Autopsy Of Jane Doe (2016) – 6.8

● Available on AMC+

This 2016 supernatural horror film centers around an unidentified female cadaver. Father-and-son coroners start experiencing supernatural occurrences while trying to examine the body.

The coroners suffer tragic events but come to the realization that Jane Doe is to blame. After re-examination, they discover that the body has markers referring to Leviticus 20:27, which was used to condemn witches during the year 1693. During that time, the Salem authorities accused an innocent woman of being a witch, who now wants revenge.

10 The Witch (2015) – 6.9

● Available on Showtime

The Witch—sometimes stylized as “The VVitch”—is a 2015 semi-biographical horror film directed by Robert Eggers. Set in 1630s New England, it takes place decades before the Salem Witch Trials took place. However, the influence of those events certainly played a factor in the film’s development.

Based on local legends and surviving documents from the era, The Witch tells the tale of a family who must survive in the wilderness after being exiled from their community. Despite their strong faith, they are accosted by seemingly supernatural events, all of which lead up to a shocking conclusion.

9 Hocus Pocus (1993) – 6.9

Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker in Hocus Pocus

● Available on Disney+

Hocus Pocus is undeniably one of the most famous witch films to have been made in the ’90s. Many kids had nightmares about the Sanderson sisters, and it’s a cult classic that fans love. The film takes place in the crux of witchcraft: Salem, Massachusetts. The beginning of the film gives a bit of backstory to the sisters.

RELATED: 10 Hidden Details Fans Never Noticed In Hocus Pocus

It all starts in 1693 when the witch trials occurred in Salem. The three sisters are accused of witchcraft after a local town girl goes missing. They are hanged, but not before casting a spell on a candle that will bring them back to life if it is lit by a virgin. The film then fasts forwards to 1993 Salem, where a virgin does just this and brings the Sanderson sisters back.

8 ParaNorman (2012) – 7

Stop Motion film ParaNorman

● Available on Netflix

When looking for a fun and comedic film for the spooky season, ParaNorman is a good fit, and the film’s storyline also ties back to the witch trials. Though the story does take place in Massachusetts, it’s in a town called Blithe Hollow. The storyline closely resembles the idea of a woman being falsely accused during this time period.

Norman is a young boy who is isolated and ridiculed for his ability to speak to the dead. One day, he has a vision of townspeople chasing witches through the forest. He’s soon tasked with recovering an old book of fairytales to perform a protection ritual. The arrival of a witch spirit leads to the rise of the undead. He soon discovers that the witch who caused the uproar was a young girl who was a medium but was accused of witchcraft by her town.

7 Witches Of Salem (2019) – 7

Travel Channel mini-series Witches of Salem

● Available on Discovery+

Witches of Salem is a mini-series that aired in 2019. It was created by the Travel Channel and is a historical dramatization of what occurred in Salem in 1692. The docu-drama details the town’s rapid spiral into hysteria when the daughter of the local reverend starts to act erratically. This soon progresses to other young women suffering from the same affliction, which leads to the accusation of a family slave being a witch.

The small town is riddled with fear and turmoil, causing the deaths of many townspeople who are falsely accused of witchcraft. The mini-series uses original transcripts from the time period to recreate accusations of possession and witchcraft.

6 Salem (2014) – 7.2

Janet Montgomery as Mary in Salem

● Available on Hulu

Salem is tagged as being loosely inspired by the 17th-century witch trials. The supernatural horror series took the trials to a new and more dramatized level that hasn’t been seen before. It all starts with a powerful witch who is the puppeteer behind the Witch Trials. She uses the trials as a way to create mass hysteria among the Puritans. In reality, she’s using it as a cover to fulfill her plan to summon the Devil.

The show even uses familiar characters from the original transcripts like a slave named Tituba. Her plans are complicated when new enemies and old love get in the way of her journey to power.

5 Motherland: Fort Salem (2020) – 7.3

Jessica Sutton in Motherland Fort Salem

● Available on Hulu

Motherland: Fort Salem was a 2020 show created by Freefrom. The show takes a unique spin on witches, leading back to the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. In the modern-day, witches are at the forefront of the US military after a powerful witch helps end the persecution of witches.

RELATED: 10 Things You Need To Know Before Watching Motherland: Fort Salem

The Salem Witch Trials did occur and led to the deaths of many witches, but a deal struck with the current commanding general 300 years ago, The Salem Accords, stopped the persecution of witches and instead used them as a weapon to help defend the U.S. from foreign and domestic enemies.

4 Bewitched (1964–1972) – 7.6

Samantha in a witch hat in Bewitched

● Available on Tubi

Winning three primetime Emmys and inspiring many spinoffs and remakes, Bewitched was a 1960s sitcom that saw Elizabeth Montgomery’s Samantha Stephens use witchcraft to help her non-magical family in their day-to-day lives. Though it touched on a wide variety of topics, a portion of the show’s seventh season was dedicated to the Salem Witch Trials.

Samantha travels back in time to 1692 and visits many important landmarks that would come to be emblematic of the infamous events in the Massachusetts town. Though perhaps not as nuanced as later depictions, this Bewitched saga stands as one of the first adaptations of Salem history in modern popular culture.

3 The Vampire Diaries (2009–2017) – 7.7

Cast of characters from the CW drama series The Vampire Diaries.

● Available on Netflix

A supernatural drama series that first aired on The CW in 2009, The Vampire Diaries is primarily concerned with preternatural love triangles and vampiric conspiracies. It bears almost no connection to the history of Salem, Massachusettes upon first examination, but avid viewers will be able to point out a few connections.

The series primarily takes place in the town of Mystic Falls, Virginia, a town known for its transcendental legacy. Additionally, one of the show’s protagonists is explained to be a descendant of witches who fled Salem in the late 1600s to escape persecution.

2 Three Sovereigns For Sarah (1985) – 7.9

Promotional image for the 1985 PBS drama Three Sovereigns For Sarah

● Available on PBS Masterpiece

Three Sovereigns For Sarah was a three-part home video miniseries produced by PBS in 1985. Intended as a realistic depiction of the events which took place in 1692 and 1693, it’s an impactful drama that focuses on the real-life suffering of the individuals accused of witchcraft.

While it does aggrandize some aspects of its historical basis and comes across as beyond dated due to its VHS origins, it remains an interesting, grounded approach to an event that’s typically used as a footing for horror movies.

1 American Horror Story: Coven (2011) – 8

Taissa Farmiga in American Horror Story Coven

● Available on Prime Video

American Horror Story created a season entirely based on witchcraft, titled “Coven.” The season is based in New Orleans and uses real voodoo legends, but the main characters are descendants of witch families from Salem.

Like many other on-screen works that use the trials as a premise, the main characters are descendants of witches who managed to escape prosecution in 1692 and 1693. The main character learns of her new lineage and is sent to a private school that teaches young witches how to survive in the modern world.

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About The Author

Gabriela Silva
(478 Articles Published)

Gabriela Silva is a List writer for Screen Rant with experience in all things television, film and pop culture. A graduate of Fordham University with previous years experience interning for Cliché Magazine.

With her passion for movies, television and entertainment, she’s interviewed some great actors from Cress Williams of ‘Black Lightning’ to Tati Gabrielle from ‘Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.’

Her love for entertainment reaches a broad range of interests from 90s thriller movies, guilty pleasure teen dramas, action-packed MCU movies to popular K-dramas. You’ll most likely find her binge-watching a new television show or movies on Netflix into the early morning.

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