With a crash of thunder and lightning, accompanied by a witchy chant — "Now is the time, this is the hour, ours is the magic, ours is the power" – The Craft’s opening scene has continued to enchant both old and new audiences since hitting theaters in 1996. Andrew Fleming’s film follows Sarah Bailey (Robin Tunney), a San Francisco transplant in Los Angeles who’s struggling to deal with her traumatic past, as well as her ever-growing magical powers. Joining Sarah on her journey are three other outcast witches — Nancy (Fairuza Balk), Rochelle (Rachel True), and Bonnie (Neve Campbell) — who’ve been looking for a fourth member to complete their coven.
With a suitably witchy soundtrack that’s withstood the test of time, this movie was a gateway for an entire generation of ’90s chicks who were inspired to find their own inner powers thanks to this piece of teen horror fiction. This makes sense since director Fleming based the magic on actual pagan and Wiccan traditions. While many folks may be all too familiar with The Craft, there are still some aspects of the story that get little attention since we’re all so busy delighting in the dark adventures of four beautiful witches. With perfect love and perfect trust, here’s the ending of The Craft explained.
The Craft kicks off with a scary start
Sarah’s first day in her beautiful new LA home takes an immediate turn for the ugly when a strange man holding a huge snake walks right through her front door and tries to gift it to her like it’s some kind of twisted housewarming present. This scary tone set by her new home isn’t deterred in the least when Sarah elects to start her new Catholic school right away, even though she’s not been fitted for a uniform yet, only making her stand out as the new girl even more dramatically.
Elsewhere at school, Bonnie reads from an astrological almanac that predicts an arrival, which she interprets as maybe being the fourth member she and her friends need to complete their circle, a sentiment that Nancy wholeheartedly disagrees with. When Bonnie is in the same French class as Sarah and sees her performing telekinesis with a pencil, Bonnie knows she’s right. But Nancy, being characteristically unwelcoming, chases Sarah away with a wordless glare when Sarah actually approaches the trio to join their biology lab group.
Sitting alone at lunch, Sarah is joined by popular jock Chris Hooker (Skeet Ulrich) who welcomes her to the school. When she points out the three girls, Chris calls Bonnie, Nancy, and Rochelle "the B*****s of Eastwick" and warns her to stay away from them because they’re actual witches. Sarah scoffs, but she also looks intrigued by both Chris and the girls.
Sarah’s introduction to magic
After school, Nancy, Rochelle, and Bonnie find Sarah watching Chris’ football practice, and Nancy warns her, "He spreads disease. I speak from personal experience." Sarah isn’t sure what to think, but when they invite her to go shopping with them, she agrees. On their walk to Lirio’s (Assumpta Serna) occult store, Bonnie notices huge scars on Sarah’s wrists. Sarah confesses that’s why they moved, because she tried to kill herself. "You even did it the right way," Bonnie says, while Nancy is darkly impressed. A concerned Rochelle wants to know how Bonnie knows the "right way" to slit your wrists, but Bonnie refuses to answer.
Lirio’s shop is filled with all kinds of esoteric iconography, and just as Sarah is about to open the curtain to an enigmatic back room, Lirio stops her and gives her a quick reading, where she recognizes that Sarah’s ring previously belonged to her mother and that Sarah has natural bruja powers. Sarah is fully skeptical.
On their way home, the same man who’d accosted Sarah with a snake sees and chases her again. He gets hit by a car after Sarah and the other three all stare intensely at him, later admitting they all wished for the accident. Sarah realizes the three are seriously into witchcraft after Nancy explains their deity, Manon, saying, "If God and the devil were playing football … Manon would be the stadium that they played on." Sarah admits that magical things happen to her all the time, but she gets frightened off by Nancy’s intensity.
Sarah joins the circle
After her whirlwind evening with the B*****s of Eastwick, Sarah tries to put space between her and them by agreeing to go out with Chris Hooker. They have fun and kiss, but after she refuses to go back to his house, Chris spreads a vile rumor that they’d had sex and she was "the lousiest lay he ever had," which he apparently also said about Nancy. After confronting Chris and being humiliated again, Sarah is noticeably upset and later has vivid flashbacks to her suicide attempt.
In the meantime, we finally learn more about the three other witches. As one of the only Black students, Rochelle is dealing with a horrible racist bully at school, Laura Lizzie (Christine Taylor), who outright says foul racial slurs to her face while others laugh. Bonnie has huge burn scars all over her body that we never learn the source of, and she’s undergoing extremely painful experimental gene therapy to remove them. Nancy lives in a trailer park and has a horrible home life with an alcoholic mother, Grace (Helen Shaver), and sexually inappropriate stepfather, Ray (John Kapelos). Their electricity is out, and the roof leaks onto Nancy’s bed.
The next day, the three invite Sarah on a field trip, and she relents to their friendship and offer. The four girls take a bus out to the woods, and as they exit, the bus driver tells them to watch out for weirdos, to which Nancy replies, "We are the weirdos, mister."
The witches establish their coven
Deep in the woods, Sarah, Rochelle, Nancy, and Bonnie begin a ceremony that officially establishes their circle. One by one, the women at knifepoint ask, "It is better that you should rush upon this blade than enter this circle with fear in your heart. How do you enter?" The response? "With perfect love and perfect trust."
The four witches then pierce their index fingers and mix their blood with wine, performing their first group spell. They drink of their sisters and ask for something that they need help achieving. Rochelle wants strength to deal with racism. Sarah wants Chris. Bonnie wants to be beautiful on the outside. Nancy wants all the power of Manon. A cloud of monarch butterflies floats down as if someone was listening.
Within a matter of hours, Sarah’s love spell on Chris begins working, and she manipulates his new obsession to humiliate him in retaliation. (However, Nancy’s jealousy of Sarah’s natural power begins to grow stronger.) During a sleepover at Bonnie’s, while playing the game "light as a feather, stiff as a board," they lift Rochelle into the air with only magic. Another night, Sarah casts a spell on racist Laura Lizzie, and a sorrowful Bonnie pleads, "Manon take my scars," as we see the extent of damage over her body.
The next day, Laura bullies Rochelle, and Laura’s signature blonde coif immediately starts falling out. Then, at her next doctor’s appointment, Bonnie’s scars melt off her body. The doctor is stunned since, medically, the gene therapy shouldn’t have worked that fast.
The Invocation of the Spirit
While Sarah’s magic is working like a charm, a frustrated Nancy thinks her spells aren’t working, until a violent encounter between her mom and stepfather ends in Ray dying from a heart attack, leaving them a life insurance policy worth $175,000 and letting Nancy move into fancier digs. At Nancy’s new downtown apartment, the witches practice "glamouring," a spell that can change outward appearances with just a bit of concentration. Sarah nails the spell on the first try, turning her brown hair blonde.
But all is not well in the witches’ world. Chris Hooker’s obsession is turning into dangerous stalking. Sarah asks Lirio how to undo a love spell, only to find out that a spell must run it’s course. She also learns some basic tenets of magic, like what you send out, you receive back times three. Nancy also makes an important discovery, as she finds a book about invoking Manon, but Lirio is concerned when she realizes Nancy’s plan.
At the beach, during the gloaming hour, the coven arrives with their familiars — Rochelle has a fish, Bonnie has a monarch butterfly, Sarah has a blue parakeet, and Nancy has a green garden snake — as they prepare to invoke the spirit of Manon. It’s here that Sarah reveals before she attempted suicide, she would hallucinate snakes and bugs, and this pushed her over the edge. Undeterred, Nancy leads the incredibly intense ceremony that provokes lightning and wind as the women chant. The next morning, they awaken on the beach to find Nancy walking on water and a horde of dead sharks washed on shore. "These are my gifts!" Nancy shouts, claiming Manon lives inside her now.
The coven’s downward spiral
Sarah is justifiably freaked out by the invocation ceremony and tries to talk sense into the other three witches, all of whom are drunk on Nancy’s power. Nancy even asks if Sarah wants to leave the circle. However, Rochelle does have a small reckoning when she sees Laura having a panic attack about her balding scalp. When Rochelle looks in the mirror, her reflection looks away from her.
But still, it’s three against one, so Sarah turns to Chris Hooker for support, even though he’s still dangerously obsessed with her. She agrees to go out with him for dinner, but instead, an increasingly demented Chris takes her to a remote spot where he sexually assaults her before she escapes to Rochelle’s house and tells the witches what happens. A furious Nancy glamours herself into Sarah until the real Sarah shows up and reveals the spell. When Chris is once again dismissive of Nancy, she loses it, calling him out on all his bad behavior toward women until she ultimately throws him out a window with her mind, even after he seems to sincerely apologize. He’s killed instantly.
Sarah attempts some damage control
In the wake of Chris’ death, which everyone thinks was an accident, Sarah breaks with the coven entirely. She cuts Nancy out of a group photo and attempts to do a binding spell that would prevent Nancy from hurting anyone else or herself. But unfortunately, with Manon’s power, Nancy can now read Sarah’s mind and begins tormenting her with terrible dreams and hallucinations that have Sarah completely spinning out.
At school, Nancy, Bonnie, and Rochelle accost Sarah in the bathroom, where we find out police came to everyone’s house about Chris’ death. They also ask why she wants to leave the circle. Sarah lies that she doesn’t, but Nancy knows the truth. While still claiming the deaths were accidents, Nancy argues that Ray and Chris deserved to die because she said so. The witches also say if Sarah wants to leave the circle, she should leave the city, country, or even the planet. A quietly menacing Nancy tells Sarah stop trying to enchant her and warns, "In the old days, if a witch betrayed her coven, they would kill her."
Desperate, Sarah goes to Lirio at the occult shop for help, explaining that Nancy had invoked the spirit of Manon, and now, they’re trying to destroy her. Lirio invites Sarah into the secret back room, revealed to be a pagan temple with a shimmering pentagram mosaic that Lirio says "was built on a place of power." Lirio lights all candles with one match, telling Sarah she’s from a long line of witches and needs to invoke Manon herself. But Nancy disrupts the ceremony astrally, and Sarah runs home.
The Craft’s big showdown
Sarah arrives to an empty house and finds out that her parents flew to San Francisco, thinking Sarah had run away. Worse still, their plane crashed, killing everyone on board. Things get even worse when the house starts filling with snakes, lizards, and insects. The creatures chase Sarah, until Nancy pops up to reveal it’s a glamour. Worse, Nancy plans to stage Sarah’s suicide, cutting her wrists over her old scars.
Desperate to fight back, Sarah is forced to invoke the spirit of Manon, and in the process, she gives Bonnie and Rochelle a taste of their own medicine, showing Bonnie with all her scars again and Rochelle with her hair falling out. "Not again," Bonnie screams, as they both run away.
Sarah finishes invoking the spirit and uses the opportunity to torment Nancy the same way Nancy tormented her, using glamours and tricky spells like emerging from a mirror. Nancy tries to kill Sarah, but with her invoked powers, Sarah is able to successfully bind Nancy and end their showdown.
Later, Bonnie and Rochelle visit Sarah to apologize for attempted murder and the wicked glamour of her parent’s death. They reveal they’ve lost their powers, and that’s about when Sarah uses lightning to drop a branch on them. "Be careful," Sarah warns. "You don’t want to turn out like Nancy." The Craft ends with an injured Nancy in a mental institute getting sedated. "I’m flying," Nancy says in a deranged voice over and over to close the movie.
Is Sarah the actual villain of The Craft?
While The Craft is framed as a movie about four young witches with new girl Sarah Bailey at the center, over the years, the film’s discourse has deepened considerably to propose the notion that Sarah might in fact be the bad guy here. For one, she abandons her sisters on several occasions to run back to Chris Hooker, the guy who spread a nasty rumor about her right at the start. After Chris tries to sexually assault Sarah and Nancy kills him in retaliation, Sarah even goes so far as to defend her would-be rapist, saying, "I think he was a good guy underneath it all." Um, she thinks what now?
By the end of The Craft, Sarah has invoked the spirit of Manon, and instead of trying to help Nancy with her newfound powers, she taunts her with the same manipulations that Nancy used on her, effectively driving Nancy mad by the movie’s finish. She also openly uses her magic for darkness, physically assaulting Bonnie and Rochelle by dropping a huge tree limb near them. When she warns, "You don’t want to end up like Nancy," there’s also the implied threat that Sarah is the one who got Nancy locked away, and she could do it to Bonnie and Rochelle if she wanted to. Sarah has taken her powers to as dark a place as Nancy’s, but for some reason, she gets away with it, complicating her position as the "good" witch.
The tragedy of Nancy Downs
If Sarah is the actual villain of The Craft, then we need to reassess her foil, Nancy Downs. Nancy lives in a trailer park where her stepdad regularly abuses her alcoholic mother, and their electricity is often out for lack of paying bills. There’s a hole in the roof over Nancy’s bed, dripping water on her face as she lies down. It’s also clear that Nancy is a scholarship student at their fancy private Catholic school, and she spends her spell time trying to get out of poverty.
On top of all that, Nancy was sexually abused, infected with an STI, and abandoned by Chris Hooker, and her stepfather is regularly sexually inappropriate with her. The link between poverty, a lack of healthcare, and possibly underlying mental illness, coupled with dabbling in the occult, was a devastating cocktail for Nancy. She wanted the power to change her life and circumstances, but she didn’t know how to take it anywhere but a dark place. Even when she and her mom come into money, Nancy doesn’t address her root traumas.
But that said, The Craft has a far more ambiguous ending than people think. Thanks to Sarah’s spell, Nancy is only bound against hurting others and herself. If she could chill for a second and regroup internally, she should still have access to Manon’s power and that would help her once again change her situation. Further, a spell only lasts as long as the witch who cast it lives. If Sarah dies before Nancy, Nancy would be walking on water again in no time.
The Craft isn’t as girl power as you think
On the surface The Craft is a story about young women coming into personal and collective power through magic. However, this camaraderie only lasts briefly, and it’s not long before the women all turn on each other.
First, Nancy’s ongoing jealousy of Sarah’s natural powers turns into a disaster as Sarah tries to guide the group’s growing magic down what she considers healthier paths. As the divide between Nancy and Sarah grows, Bonnie and Rochelle choose the side of most power and stick with Nancy, even as she becomes increasingly erratic and violent.
When Sarah has had enough, the other three merciless bully her just as they’ve been tormented by others, and their plan to stage Sarah’s suicide is beyond grotesque. Nancy uses vulnerable information about Sarah’s suicide attempt to create a horrific glamour to further torture her. Even after Sarah helps wake up Bonnie and Rochelle to their bad behavior, they still only apologize because they’ve lost their powers and want them back.
At the end of the movie, Sarah threatens Rochelle and Bonnie, effectively ending their friendship. And poor Nancy is locked up in an institution thanks to how badly Sarah scrambled her brain. The Craft is more about fraught and toxic relationships between women, rather than female friends who actually empower each other.
If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).