The Witches (2020 film)

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The Witches
The Witches (Official 2020 Film Poster).png
Official release poster
Directed byRobert Zemeckis
Produced by
Screenplay by
Based onThe Witches
by Roald Dahl
Narrated byChris Rock
Music byAlan Silvestri
CinematographyDon Burgess
Edited by
  • Jeremiah O'Driscoll
  • Ryan Chan
Distributed byHBO Max (United States)
Warner Bros. Pictures (International)
Release date
  • October 22, 2020 (2020-10-22) (United States)
  • November 20, 2020 (2020-11-20) (Canada)
Running time
105 minutes
  • United States
  • Mexico[1]

Roald Dahl's The Witches is a 2020 Mexican-American dark fantasy comedy film directed by Robert Zemeckis, written by Zemeckis, Kenya Barris, and Guillermo del Toro, narrated by Chris Rock, and starring Anne Hathaway, Octavia Spencer, and Stanley Tucci. It is based on the 1983 novel of the same name by Roald Dahl and is the second feature-length adaptation of the novel, following the 1990 film of the same name.

The Witches was originally scheduled for a theatrical release by Warner Bros. Pictures, but was later pulled from the release calendar due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The film was later announced that it would be available to stream on HBO Max in the United States on October 22, 2020, with a theatrical release in select international markets beginning on October 28, 2020.


Set in 1968 Alabama, an orphaned young boy named Charlie Hansen stumbles across a conference of witches while staying with his grandmother, Agatha, at a hotel, and gets transformed into a mouse by the Grand High Witch when he discovers her plan to turn all children into vermin. He and Agatha, with the help of two other children turned into mice named Bruno and Mary, must foil the witches' scheme and kill the Grand High Witch.


  • Anne Hathaway as Grand High Witch, a powerful witch and sorceress who is the leader of all witches in the world.
  • Octavia Spencer as Grandma, a retired witch hunter and Charlie's grandmother who is the long time old rival of the Grand High Witch.
  • Stanley Tucci as Mr. Stringer, a hotel manager.
  • Jahzir Kadeem Bruno as Hero Boy (Charlie Hansen), a young boy who is turned into a mouse by the Grand High Witch. Bruno also voices his mouse form.
    • Chris Rock as the voice of Older Hero, the narrator and as an elder mouse who tells the firsthand account of his experience as a child.
  • Codie-Lei Eastick as Bruno Jenkins, an English boy who is turned into a mouse. Eastick also voices his mouse form.
  • Kristin Chenoweth as the voice of Daisy, Charlie's pet mouse. It's revealed that she was once a human girl named Mary who was turned into a mouse by the witches four months prior to the events of the film.[2][3][4]
  • Brian Bovell as Reginald
  • Charles Edwards as Mr. Jenkins, the father of Bruno.
  • Morgana Robinson as Mrs. Jenkins, the mother of Bruno.
  • Josette Simon as Zelda, a witch.[2]
  • Eugenia Caruso as Consuella, a witch.[2]
  • Ana-Maria Maskell as Esmerelda, a witch.[2]
  • Orla O'Rourke as Saoirse, a witch.[2]
  • Penny Lisle as Lana, a witch.[2]
  • Simon Manyonda as Sous-Chef



Talks of a new adaptation of Dahl's novel began in December 2008, when Guillermo del Toro expressed interest in making a stop motion film.[5] No further developments on the potential project emerged until ten years later in June 2018, when Robert Zemeckis was hired to direct and write the script. Del Toro would produce, alongside Zemeckis and Alfonso Cuarón, in addition to having a screenplay credit.

The film takes place in Alabama during the 1960s, instead of the novel's 1980s England and Norway, and the boy protagonist is African American, instead of Norwegian-British like the boy in the original novel and previous adaptations.[6] Nevertheless the adaptation was described by Zemeckis as being closer to the original novel than 1990 adaptation, directed by Nicolas Roeg.[7] Kenya Barris co-wrote the film.


In January 2019, Anne Hathaway was cast in the role of Grand High Witch.[8] Octavia Spencer was cast in February, with newcomers Jahzir Bruno and Codie-Lei Eastick also joining.[9] In May, Stanley Tucci and Chris Rock were added.[10] In September 2020 it was revealed that Kristin Chenoweth was cast in the film.[11]


Principal photography began on May 8, 2019, with filming locations including Alabama, Georgia and at Warner Bros. Studios, Leavesden in Hertfordshire, England and Virginia Water Lake in Surrey, England. It was expected to wrap on June 25.[12][10][13] On June 19, a crew member was stabbed in the neck on the Warner Bros. Studios set in Leavesden.[14]


The film collaborated with a Roblox game named "Islands" for a limited time Halloween event. It features a boss battle with the Grand High Witch, one of the main antagonists of the film.[15]


In July 2019, it was announced that Zemeckis's frequent collaborator, Alan Silvestri, would compose the film's score.[16]


The film was released on October 22, 2020, on HBO Max in the United States.[17] It was previously scheduled to be released on October 9 then pushed to October 16, 2020,[18][19] before being pulled entirely from the schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[20]


Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes collected 81 reviews and identified 51% of them as positive, with an average rating of 5.62/10. The website's critics consensus reads: "The Witches misses a few spells, but Anne Hathaway's game performance might be enough to bewitch fans of this Roald Dahl tale."[21] According to Metacritic, which sampled 26 critics and calculated a weighted average score of 46 out of 100, the film received "mixed or average reviews".[22]

In his two out of four star review, Richard Roeper from Chicago Sun-Times praised the special effects and the performances, but found the film to be "far too disturbing for young children and not edgy enough to captivate adults."[23] David Ehrlich of IndieWire gave the film a D+ calling the film "dreadful" and stating, "Zemeckis has made some unsuccessful films over the last 20 years, but 'The Witches' is the most frustrating of them all because it feels like it could’ve been made by somebody else. Anybody else. Roeg's version may have scarred a generation of kids for life, but at least they remembered it."[24]


  1. ^ "'The Witches': Guillermo del Toro Producing Robert Zemeckis-Directed Remake!". Bloodydisgusting. Retrieved June 19, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e f
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ Woerner, Meredith. "Guillermo Del Toro Dances With Roald Dahl's Witches". Retrieved April 10, 2018.
  6. ^ "EXCLUSIVE: Robert Zemeckis' 'The Witches' Remake Is Set In Alabama and Casting African-American Male Lead". Variety. November 7, 2018.
  7. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (June 20, 2018). "Robert Zemeckis Taking On Roald Dahl's 'The Witches'".
  8. ^ Kroll, Justin (January 16, 2019). "Anne Hathaway to Star in Robert Zemeckis' 'The Witches' (EXCLUSIVE)".
  9. ^ Kroll, Justin (February 12, 2019). "Octavia Spencer Joins Anne Hathaway in 'Witches' Adaptation (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety.
  10. ^ a b Desk, TV News. "Principal Photography Begins on Robert Zemeckis' THE WITCHES".
  11. ^ "Kristin Chenoweth Joins New 'The Witches' Adaptation Starring Anne Hathaway". Movies.
  12. ^ "Robert Zemeckis' 'The Witches' Adds Octavia Spencer to Cast". February 13, 2019.
  13. ^ Marc, Christopher (March 17, 2019). "WB's 'The Witches' Remake Starring Anne Hathaway and Octavia Spencer Expected To Wrap Filming On June 25th".
  14. ^ Mcnary, David (June 19, 2019). "Crew Member Stabbed on Set of Anne Hathaway's 'The Witches' in England". Variety. Retrieved June 20, 2012.
  15. ^ "Witches Halloween update in Roblox Islands - How to defeat the witch and get all the items".
  16. ^ "Alan Silvestri to Reteam with Robert Zemeckis on 'The Witches' | Film Music Reporter". Retrieved 2020-07-20.
  17. ^ D’Alessandro, Anthony (October 2, 2020). "Anne Hathaway-Robert Zemeckis Movie 'Roald Dahl's The Witches' Heads To HBO Max This Month". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved October 2, 2020.
  18. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (January 31, 2019). "Warner Bros Release Dates Galore: 'Doctor Sleep' Checks In This November, 'The Witches' In Fall 2020; 'The Suicide Squad' Returns In 2021".
  19. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (October 25, 2019). "'Tom & Jerry' Jumps To Christmas 2020, 'The Witches' Inches Up A Week Next Fall".
  20. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (June 12, 2020). "'Matrix 4' Moves To 2022, 'Godzilla Vs. Kong' Stomps To 2021 & More: Warner Bros. Release Date Change Friday". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved June 12, 2020.
  21. ^ "Roald Dahl's The Witches (2020)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved October 23, 2020.
  22. ^ "The Witches (2020) Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved October 23, 2020.
  23. ^ Roeper, Richard (October 21, 2020). "The Witches' review: Too scary for children, too bland for adults". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved October 21, 2020.
  24. ^ Ehrlich, David (October 23, 2020). "'The Witches' Review: There's No Magic to Robert Zemeckis' Dreadful Roald Dahl Adaptation". IndieWire. Retrieved October 23, 2020.

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