The fantasy and horror genres are wildly popular, namely for their inventive world-building. Each category offers a unique look into the make-believe, especially when it comes to magic and curses. Sometimes these spells enhance a film’s already complex universe, while others are the main focus of their fictional settings.
Hit franchises such as the Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings series present a multitude of harrowing curses that suck fans further into their fantastical world. Other movies, such as The Haunted Mansion and Freaky Friday focus on one particular curse in an otherwise realistic universe. In each case, such volatile magic drives the main conflict of the story. Regardless of whether these magical elements are more mystical or horrific, these films present some of the most well-known curses in cinematic history.
10 Freaky Friday
In 1776, Freaky Friday became a hit for its inventive switcheroo premise. The film centers on a mother and a daughter who don’t understand each other’s lives until a magical curse forces them to switch bodies.
Since itsburst in popularity, this curse has been repeated countless times in various movies, TV shows, and books. Similarly to Freaky Friday, most of the characters in these situations must work together to undo the inconvenient magic thrust upon them. For the most part, this curse is used for comedic scenarios, as well as to forge a life lesson about different perspectives. This magical spell isn’t one most people will forget any time soon.
It is customary for fairytales to have magical spells and curses, but Dreamworks’ Shrek takes that narrative and gives it a clever spin. Audiences are used to seeing creatures transform into beautiful people by the end of a flick, but this story reveals a valuable lesson using its mystical curse.
Princess Fiona is cursed to become an ogre every night of her life until she receives true love’s kiss. Presumably, after that moment, she would return to her attractive human form. When she kisses Shrek at the end of the film, however, she remains an ogre. This decision in Shrek highlights the importance of genuine connection and belonging over superficial appearances. At the time, a twist like this was very refreshing. It’s one of the reasons why this curse became one of the most remembered in movie history.
8 The Ring
Some of the most iconic horror movie sequences of all time have been featured in The Ring, so it makes sense the film also contains one of the most famous curses. In this terrifyingly supernatural flick, a cursed videotape will cause whoever watches it to die in seven days.
The execution of The Ring’s curse is brilliant. After watching the videotape, the viewer receives a mysterious phone call where someone on the other line whispers “Seven days.” Other chilling imagery includes a television with unsettling static as well as the dingy well in which Samara was dumped. While The Ring was made in 2002, many horror fanatics agree this film’s curse creates nightmares that can last generations.
7 Groundhog Day
Getting trapped in a time loop seems like an absolute nightmare, and Groundhog Day makes sure to capitalize on this now iconic curse. The film centers on an egotistical meteorologist, played by Bill Murray, who must relive Groundhog’s Day over and over again.
Groundhog Day’s magical elements are used to enhance its story’s comedy and fantasy while driving an important lesson for its protagonist. The film cleverly combines cynicism with heart-warming moments, especially as it revolves around a troubled Phil Connors. The premise of a time loop has since become highly recognized and is now used in countless TV series to evoke comedy and life lessons for the main characters.
6 Harry Potter
The Harry Potter series has a plethora of memorable spells and potions, but perhaps its most disturbing incantations are the three Unforgivable curses. These illegal spells are first introduced in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. They are composed of the Imperius Curse, the Cruciatus Curse, and the Killing Curse.
Each curse creates vast and chilling complications in the Harry Potter universe, but the curses have also become quite famous in the real world. There aren’t many Harry Potter fans who can’t recall Lord Voldemort’s memorable casting of “Avada Kedavra.” Despite only appearing halfway through the franchise, these Unforgivable Curses have cemented themselves forever in the fantasy genre.
5 The Exorcist
As one of the most well-known and highly regarded horror stories of all time, The Exorcist naturally has plenty of dark supernatural elements to torture its characters. The movie’s main plot revolves around a horrific possession, with even more disturbing imagery.
The demon curse gives way to The Exorcist’s most famous scene, which involves a possessed Regan turning her head completely backward. The supernatural possession is so strong that the only way to save Regan’s life is to expel the hellish demon from her body. Since this film’s release, many others have tried to replicate its frightening themes. But with such a memorable curse, The Exorcist will always remain on top.
4 Sleeping Beauty
As one of the most well-known European fairytales, Disney’s Sleeping Beauty continues to serve as a fan favorite due to its unparalleled magic. While it’s easy to get swept up in the fairies’ magical duels, it is Maleficent’s wicked curse that steals the show.
Maleficent curses Aurora to die from a spindle prick on her sixteenth birthday. To save the young princess, Merryweather modifies the curse, allowing Aurora to fall into a deep slumber instead. Sleeping Beauty’s one-of-a-kind imagery stems from this very same curse, as Aurora waits for true love’s kiss to wake her. This scene between Prince Phillip and his love has become one of the most famous moments, not just in Disney history, but in cinematic history.
3 The Lord of the Rings
Even audiences who have never seen any of The Lord of the Rings movies are still well aware of the franchise’s most infamous curse. The evil power of the One Ring is the center of most conflicts in this series and for good reason.
It’s revealed in The Lord of the Rings that The One Ring was created by the Dark Lord Sauron to dominate the people of Middle-earth. The ring’s power is overwhelmingly seductive, even for the noblest of characters. Frodo, Bilbo, and of course, Smeagol all fall victim to the ring’s all-encompassing power at one point or another. While the true nature of the ring’s curse is entrenched in mystery, in reality, it is one of the most popular movie curses.
2 The Haunted Mansion
Based on the popular Disney World ride, The Haunted Mansion provides an origin story of the Victorian fortress where ghosts and ghouls reside. The comedy-adventure film, starring Eddie Murphy, features non-stop scares and intriguing costume designs for all of its creatures.
The Haunted Mansion capitalizes on the monster-in-the-house premise that many horror movies embody. The concept of being trapped in a residence that houses the undead draws just as much intrigue as it does terrors. The Haunted Mansion is such a hit that it is usually replicated during annual fall festivals and Halloween attractions around the world. Although this movie may have some laughs, its bone-chilling curse is what gives it the ultimate spooky appeal.
1 Beauty and the Beast
Beauty and the Beast is a tale as old as time, and it’s so iconic that it’s guaranteed to be retold for generations. Disney’s version is widely considered to be the best-known retelling of this unique enchantment.
The plot centers on a spoiled young prince who is punished with an enchantress’s curse. He must live out his days as a terrifying beast, while his companions and castle are also transformed. Only true love can break the curse, which seems unlikely for an individual who is so entrenched in hate. This set-up is the epitome of a grandiose fairytale, and Disney’s Beauty and the Beast delivers every step of the way. The film was also the first animated feature to ever be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars, which is a true testament to the power of its magic.
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