Men sometimes have strange motives for the things they do.
~ Matthew Hopkins

Matthew Hopkins is the titular main antagonist of the 1968 film Witchfinder General. He is, as his title suggests, a witch-hunter who takes advantage of the breakdown of social order to impose a reign of terror over East Anglia. He is based on the real-life witch-hunter Matthew Hopkins.

He is portrayed by the late Vincent Price.


In 1664, in the midst of the English Civil War, Matthew Hopkins and his close assistant John Stearne impose their harsh rule over East Anglia. Taking advantage of his authority, Hopkins terrorizes the villages of East Anglia, accusing townsfolk of witchcraft and torturing them to force confessions. They charge the town magistrates for their work.

After being directed to Brandeston by Roundhead Richard Marshall, Hopkins and Stearne immediately begin accusing suspects of witchcraft and have them tortured. The local priest, John Lowes, is accused in his own home and Hopkins has needles stuck into his back in an attempt to locate the "Devil's Mark", but before Lowes can be killed, his niece Sara arrives and pleads to have him spared, offering herself to Hopkins in exchange for her uncle's safety. Hopkins agrees to this, but is called to another village before the deal can be sealed. In Hopkin's absence, Stearne rapes Sara.

Upon returning, Hopkins is enraged at Sara for having been raped, and calls off the deal. He then has Lowes and two other woman killed out of spite before departing from Brandeston. Upon their departure, Marshall returns to Brandeston and discovers what has happened to Sara. He vows vengeance against Hopkins and Stearne. However, Hopkins learns of Marshall's plan to kill him when Stearne, who had gotten into a confrontation with Marshall while separated from Hopkins, informs him of Marshall's quest for vengeance. After arriving in the village of Lavenham, Hopkins has Marshall and Sara accused of witchcraft and has them captured.

Hopkins subjects Marshall and Sara to brutal torture in the castle, offering to show mercy if Marshall confesses to witchcraft; Marshall refuses and instead reiterates his vow to kill Hopkins. As Hopkins has needles jabbed into Sara's back, Marshall frees himself of his bonds and quickly subdues Stearne before grabbing an axe and attacking Hopkins. In spite of Hopkin's attempts to defend himself, he is quickly overpowered and struck repeatedly with the axe. Marshall's soldier friends arrive in the castle, and one of them puts the heavily-injured Hopkins out of his misery by shooting him dead. 

In spite of Hopkin's death, the experience is shown to have driven both Marshall and Sara to insanity, with Marshall screaming that the soldiers took Hopkins away from him, and Sara sobbing uncontrollably.


I will find out the truth for you, have no fear
~ Matthew Hopkins
They swim...the mark of Satan is upon them. They must hang.
~ Matthew Hopkins
She was innocent.
~ Matthew Hopkins



  • There are some notable differences between the fictional Hopkins and the real one; for instance, the real Hopkins was in his twenties by the time of his death, while Vincent Price was in his fifties when he portrayed the character.
  • Vincent Price noted that he was disturbed by the sadism of the character he was playing, though he did admit the end result was good.