Our 6 Favorite Movie Curses

Eddie Murphy in A Thousand Words
(Image credit: Paramount)

In this weekend's A Thousand Words, Eddie Murphy is suffering the kind of fate that happens so often to movie characters: he's been cursed. It's one of the handiest and most common plot devices in movies that absolutely never happens in real life, and yet for some reason it never gets old watching a movie character cope with circumstances that seem absolutely insane. Sure it happens most often in fairy tales, but there are plenty of other characters who, like Eddie Murphy, find themselves coping with an old-fashioned curse in the modern day. Below are six of our favorite movie curses, from eternal sleep to eternal damnation to hell. See, you've gotta be careful about getting in the way of a curse-- you never know what kind of punishment you'll get.

Shallow Hal

Beauty’s only skin deep for Hal (Jack Black), a superficial jerk who’s hypnotized by infamous life coach Tony Robbins to only see then “inner beauty” of some hideous Betties. With these psychological “beer goggles” in place, Hal falls for Rosemary, a robust girl who our hero thinks looks like Gwyneth Paltrow … while, to us, she looks Paltrow in a latex fat suit. Shallow Hal might have had the deepest message of any Farrelly Brothers comedy. While Black and co-star Jason Alexander provided the requisite number of toilet-humor punchlines that Farrelly fans demand, Paltrow’s vulnerable performance as the emotionally hesitant Rosemary lent real heart to this better-than-average romantic comedy. The Farrellys also get bonus points for writing both Jack and Paltrow perhaps the sharpest, funniest parts of their entire careers. Few comedies can entertain while also delivering a relevant message about appreciating a fellow human’s worth. Shallow Hal manages that, and then some.

Beauty and the Beast

When it comes to curses, there are few more classic than the tale of Beauty and the Beast. As the story goes, an arrogant young prince refuses to help an old woman begging for shelter against the cold, and when she reveals herself to be an enchantress she turns him into a hideous monster who must find love before his 21st birthday or never be able to change back. As far as the evilness of this hex goes, this is a pretty bad one. While the punishment certainly fits the crime, it’s kind of like telling somebody that they have ten minutes to lead a horse to water and then chopping all of their limbs off with a machete. They may desperately want the horse to go to the river, but they also kind of need the horse to go along with idea (it gets even worse when you think about the innocent servants who were transformed into furniture). That said, the reason the story is so timeless is because of the way it and expresses the importance of looking beyond the physical and the significance of inner beauty. As far as curses go, there are fewer more intense, but also fewer more valuable.

Katharine Isabelle in Ginger Snaps

(Image credit: Lionsgate)

Ginger Snaps

Curse takes on a double meaning in this deeply creepy, lycanthropic tale of sisterly love and devotion. Brigitte and Ginger are late-bloomers who share a deep bond. But their relationship shifts dramatically after a fateful moonlit night. While sneaking out to commit a grisly prank, Ginger's first period attracts the brutal Beast of Bailey Downs, which sinks its glistening fangs into her flesh. Brigitte manages to pry her sister away from the beast, but the damage is done, and things soon turn strange. Ginger's sprouts thick body hair. She menstruates heavily, and her attitude toward her sister becomes cruel, while her interest in boys and sex ramps up. While Brigitte, whose sworn to secrecy about the attack, knows her sister is becoming a werewolf, all authority figures see is Ginger becoming a typical teen girl. It's a ghastly play on body horror that makes Ginger Snaps as frightening as An American Werewolf in London and sharp as Mean Girls.


DreamWorks's Shrek put a cheeky new spin on many classic fairy tale conventions, but its most rewarding change-up was Fiona's curse. It's the first thing we're told about this spunky princess, "She had an enchantment upon her of a fearful sort that could only be broken by love's first kiss." When we meet the fiery Fiona, she's a picture perfect princess. But before long, Donkey discovers she transforms into an ogre every night. "By night one way by day another. This shall be the norm, until you find true love's first kiss and take on love's true form, " extols the rhyme. Of course Shrek's kiss broke the curse in a way no one expected, making Fiona a full-time ogre. This shrewd change-up not only led to a uniquely happy ending but also inspired more spirited spin-off spells in Shrek's sequels. What if Shrek and Fiona were both beautiful people? What if Shrek had never showed up to break the spell? Simply put, it was the curse that kept on giving.

Drag Me to Hell

The scariest thing about the curse put upon Christine Brown is that she doesn't really deserve it. She won't extend the loan for the old gypsy woman because her bosses are pressuring her, because a bank isn't a charity, and because she really doesn't have another choice. Christine is just as ambitious and generally well-meaning as any of us, so when she starts to be haunted by the Lamia, causing everything from terrible dreams to enormous spontaneous nosebleeds to the sacrifice of her own cat, it feels awfully possible for that to happen to us too. It's hard to imagine a curse much worse than one that tortures you for three days before literally dragging you into the depths of hell, but the clincher on the Lamia curse in Drag Me To Hell is that, well, you might be next.

Sleeping Beauty

Fairy tales thrive on cursed characters. There’s always some evil step-relative eager to cast some nasty spell on a poor, innocent hero or heroine. And while I know we have Beauty and the Beast on this list (as well it should be), my favorite fantasy curse has to be the one that strikes Princess Aurora in Sleeping Beauty. Oh, I can hear everyone bitching already. “What’s wrong with being able to sleep for as long as you’d like?” I get it. I’m a parent. It sounds dreamy … literally. But the never-waking-up part solidifies the cruelty of this curse. For while Beast lost his good looks, he still lived in a castle, was able to move around, eat, drink, dance – his curse (and the curses of other fairy tale characters) isn’t nearly as debilitating, as life-altering as Aurora’s forever nap. No sooner does she turn 16 than she drops into a deep slumber, thanks to the evil Maleficent. One other reason why I appreciate Aurora’s curse? It’s unsealed with a kiss. Can you think of anything better?