worstwitchby Alicia Glass, contributing writer

Mildred Hubble (a very young Fairuza Balk) is what could be considered the worst witch at the Cackle Academy for witches, and she (and everyone else) knows it. Her potions class is abysmal, she has classmates who are down on her every chance they get, and Miss Hardbroom (Diana Rigg) picks on her, purportedly for her own good (gee this sounds kind of familiar, I wonder why). Mildred gets stuck with the one single not-black kitten of the bunch, is miserable at flying, and is chronically late for everything. And yet, she doggedly continues school and her witchcrafts, despite the incredible odds against her. Even, and perhaps especially, when she discovers a plot headed by the sister of Headmistress Cackle, Agatha (both played by Charlotte Rae), to take over the school and turn all the students to the dark side!

Yes, it’s an adorably silly show from 1986, adapted from a series of children’s books that led to a TV show all its own. The special effects are almost laughable, the plot isn’t very deep, and there is no real end-of-the-world scare: just the darkening of the Academy, which no one wants. Yet the television movie was made by HBO for pete’s sake, features a rather young Tim Curry as the Grand Wizard (he even gets a musical number, which is fantastic), and has great underlying lessons, we should all get behind. Mildred Hubble is hardly the worst witch at her school, she just needs a bunch more practice and a lot more encouragement. Most of us have felt like outcasts at some point in our lives, and if Mildred Hubble can find her way to the head of the class with just a little help, there’s hope for all of us yet!

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