By the power of three times three! When The Craft premiered in 1996, it was an instant — and surprise — hit, kicking off a teen witch craze that hasn’t ever really abated.
The film follows Sarah Bailey (Robin Tunney) as she settles into a new school in Los Angeles after moving from San Francisco with her dad and stepmom. She befriends a trio of outsiders in her class — Nancy Downs (Fairuza Balk), Bonnie Harper (Neve Campbell) and Rochelle Zimmerman (Rachel True) — who turn out to be witches that worship a deity named Manon.
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Having grown up with her own unexplainable powers, Sarah initially fits right in with her fellow witches, who each use their abilities to solve their problems. Nancy curses her abusive stepfather, Rochelle causes a racist bully (Christine Taylor) to go bald and Bonnie heals the scars on her back. Sarah casts a love spell on fellow student Chris Hooker (Skeet Ulrich), who’d falsely told the whole school that they’d slept together.
Soon, though, their magic boons begin to backfire, and as Nancy becomes increasingly power-hungry, the rest of the coven struggles to reel her back in. Sarah tries to bind her with a spell to prevent her from causing any more damage, but when it fails, the other girls turn on her. Eventually, though, Sarah prevails, successfully binding Nancy. Manon takes away Rochelle and Bonnie’s powers as punishment for their previous behavior, and the movie ends with Nancy locked in a psychiatric hospital. Sarah, however, remains a witch.
When the movie debuted, Campbell and Tunney were already on the radar of teen movie and TV enthusiasts, with the former starring in Party of Five and the latter appearing in Empire Records, but The Craft raised them to a new level of stardom. Balk, meanwhile, became a goth beauty icon.
Just four months after the film’s release, Sabrina the Teenage Witch debuted on ABC as part of its “T.G.I.F.” lineup, and the following year, the WB premiered Buffy the Vampire Slayer. At the 1997 MTV Movie Awards, the film’s icon status was further cemented when Balk and Tunney took home the Golden Popcorn trophy for best fight, beating out fight expert Jackie Chan for his work in Police Story 4: First Strike.
In October 2013, Campbell, True and Tunney reunited for a sold-out screening of the movie held in an appropriately spooky locale — the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles, and in 2020, director Zoe Lister-Jones rebooted the property with The Craft: Legacy.
Balk was the only actor from the original to return for Legacy, which revealed that Nancy had a daughter named Lily (Cailee Spaeny) who was born with powers. “At the time when we made [The Craft], I really had no idea it would land so hugely and it would be so influential to people,” Balk told the Los Angeles Times in 2020. “It’s great to hear years later that something that you were a part of had a really positive effect on folks. That’s what we all hope art will do.”
Keep scrolling to find out what these teen witches have been up to since they first summoned the power of Manon: