Magic is often said to be the sleight of the hands. The pessimists reject it with utter disdain as they refuse to be amazed with cheap parlour tricks. That’s the deal with grown ups, they refuse to believe in. But have you ever seen a child’s eyes getting fascinated with the magic? It’s innocence shining in pure delight. Magic has that power over you. Be it a woman getting cut in half or a hidden rabbit in a hat, the glee of getting duped by a man with a bag full of tricks is matched to none. Cinema, which initially was thought of as a magical thing capable of beaming sight and sound on a screen, has often come up with stories of magic. Most of those stories have led to good magicmovies.
We, at the Cinemaholic, went through them and came up with some of the best movies about magic and magicians. Hop on the train as we go opening up the world of magic as Cinema sees it. Alohomora. Here is the list of top movies about magic and magicians of all time. You can watch some of these best magic movies on Netflix or Amazon Prime or Hulu.
15. The Incredible Burt Wonderson (2013)
It might seem like a crime to include this film on a list that has the word ”best” in it. But to be honest, I enjoyed this movie. I wouldn’t call it a guilty pleasure, but the truth is, I expected the film to be worse, but it did not turn out to be that bad. And there are a few things that the film does get right, objectively speaking. We’ll soon get to that. The movie revolves around its titular character, a renowned magician, who decides to team up with his former partner in order to take on a highly skilled, young magician and revive his career. Now with such a simple story, all that the film needed was a good, tight script, but unfortunately, script is the film’s biggest issue. The writing is downright mediocre and for the most part, the plot is annoyingly predictable. However, the performances elevate the film to a somewhat enjoyable level, and that is one of the main reasons why the film deserves a place on the list. Also, there are several memorable, hilarious moments in the movie that kind of make up for its flaws.
14. Now You See Me 2 (2016)
I know ‘Now You See Me 2’ is far from impressive. In fact, parts of it are pretty ordinary, but I’d say that it’s one of the best in the genre. What’s exciting about both this one and its predecessor is that the magic part of the film has been used very well and it makes for a highly entertaining experience. ‘Now You See Me 2’ follows the Four Horseman in Macau, China where they are forced by a tech expert to pull of a dangerous and seemingly impossible heist. The story certainly looks exciting and it has quite a lot of interesting twists and turns that keep you engaged throughout. However, once the film is over, and when you start analyzing the plot-points, you realize that it is extremely convoluted and implausible for the most part. It’s a shame that Ed Solomon, the screenwriter, barely put any thought to the script. With more efforts, we could have had a much more solid, well-constructed plot that would have made for an amazingly entertaining cinematic experience.
However, the film has several positives. The performances are quite good, and they keep us hooked to the film. It also has a distinctive tone that pulls us right into the film’s world. Like I said, it’s still a very entertaining film if you’re willing to leave the logic at the doorstep and are ready to go on a fun ride with several exciting twists. It is highly recommended for fans of caper thrillers/heist movies.
13. Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)
One of the better films on the list, ‘Oz the Great and Powerful’ centers around a circus magician named Oscar Diggs, who is transported to the magical Land of Oz, where he needs to encounter three lethal witches and conquer them in order to protect the beauty and purity of the land. James Franco stars in the lead role of Oscar Diggs, and he delivers a wildly entertaining, delectable performance that stays within the film’s overall tone. The performance is pretty over-the-top, but it serves the purpose, in my opinion. The other standout performance in the film for me is that of Mila Kunis, who, as Theodora, dominates the screen with her irresistible charm.
Director Sam Raimi’s vision here is commendable and whilst he would have liked the film to have been more tonally consistent, it still makes for an entertaining watch. Overall, the film received mixed-to-positive reviews from critics, with many of them praising the vision and approach while some of them criticized the writing and characterization. Nevertheless, it is one of the best movies on the subject and does complete justice as a spiritual prequel to the iconic 1939 musical/fantasy film, ‘The Wizard of Oz’.
12. Sleight (2016)
One of the finest movies about magic and magicians, ‘Sleight’ is a criminally underrated flick that certainly deserves more love from the cinephile circles. The film tells the story of a young street magician who, in order to support his sister after their parents’ death, gets involved in the drug trade. Things soon get complicated after he gets entangled in the dangers of the crime world as his sister is kidnapped and he needs to his impeccable magic skills to save her. The story is quite simple, unique and exciting. The writing here is brilliant; the plot is crisp, and it doesn’t derail from the major thematic aspects of the story. The writers refrain from indulging in making the plot more convoluted, which is one of the best things about the film. Movies like ‘Now You See Me’ tend to disrespect the viewers’ intelligence at various points, but ‘Sleight’ is a film that makes sure that the film comes off as believable to the viewers.
One of the most striking aspects of the film is how it manages to subvert our expectations. It abstains from using cliche plot-twists that we are so accustomed to seeing in most sci-fi, mystery flicks. Another highlight of the film is actor Jacob Latimore’s performance in the lead role. He carries the film on his own and it his subtle charm, and endearing screen presence that play a crucial role in driving the film forward. It’s a truly amazing performance that defines the tone of the film.
11. Practical Magic (1998)
A family of witches suffers from a curse which does not allow them to fall in love, for it will kill their beloveds. Two sisters, who grow up to be Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman, fight with all their might and magic against a supernatural force to destroy the curse. While the movie didn’t do very well due to various reasons such as poor direction and lazy writing, it still manages to entertain on the account of the performers, especially the insane aunts who bring the house down with their wry humour.
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10. Leap of Faith (1992)
A faith healer who’s actually a con artist, gets stuck in the middle of a small town as his bus breaks down. Upon discovering that the people of the town are gullible enough to be duped, he, along with his team creates a grand charade to con people. However, things do take a different turn when actual miracles start occurring. Steve Martin and Liam Neeson starrer ‘Leap Of Faith’ tries to explore the grey area between faith and getting conned. It’s a feel good movie, which looks to establish the fact that every sinner, comes around to be a saint.
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9. Now You See Me (2013)
“Look closely, because the closer you think you are, the less you will actually see !!!” Oh, it’s so much of fun when an act bamboozles the viewer. That’s ‘Now You See Me’ for you. When four magicians calling themselves the Horsemen, loot a bank in Paris, while performing live at a Las Vegas show, the FBI gets the wind of it. Along with them, a former magician who specializes in exposing magic acts, also starts investigating them. The rest of story forms as a game of cat and mouse occurs between the magicians and the investigators. Despite the obvious flaws in the script and inconclusive storyline, the movie is rich on entertainment which led it to be the summer blockbuster in 2013.
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8. Houdini (1953)
Named after the famous escapologist of all time, the term or expression used in order to explain a vanishing act from an inescapable situation is known as a ‘Houdini’ act. It has been named such because Harry Houdini was famous for his escapes from any confinement that he was put in. Based on his life, a highly fictionalized movie came out in 1953 which primarily aimed at his exploits. Starring Tony Curtis as the protagonist, ‘Houdini’ is a showreel of the man’s spectacular acts and only touches the surface of his troubled relationship.
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7. Doctor Strange (2016)
Behold, the sorcerer supreme arrives in the world full of superheroes! MCU‘s ‘Doctor Strange’ is the story of an egoist but acclaimed Doctor who loses his ability to use hands in an accident. Looking for a cure, he roams around the world before he reaches the mystic Kamar-Taj. There he learns the art of various realms and discovers the hidden world of magic. Unlike the comics, this served as the origin story and future movies such as ‘Thor – Ragnarok’ and ‘Infinity Wars’ shall explore more about his powers. The wonderful Benedict Cumberbatch played the titular role and was much appreciated for his portrayal of the sorcerer supreme. The movie stands out for its spectacular and mind tripping visual effects.
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6. The Magician (1958)
A traveling magician and his group are challenged when a small European town’s leaders including the police superintendent and the minister of health question the veracity of their acts. To put the rumours to rest, they demand a private show to verify the same. What unfurls next is perhaps beyond the grasp of fragile human mind. Directed by the great Ingmar Bergman, ‘The Magician’ encroaches into the sacrosanct territory and dares to ask the question: Does science have an explanation for everything that happens or is there really a God?
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5. The Illusionist (2010)
Directed by Sylvain Chomet, based on an unproduced script written by the legendary director Jacques Tati, ‘The Illusionist’ tells the story of a struggling French illusionist who travels to Scotland, where his life changes after he meets a beautiful young woman named Alice, who believes he genuinely possesses magical powers. I happened to watch this film recently and I was pleasantly surprised by it. The plot here isn’t particularly original or striking in any way but it’s Chomet’s treatment of the story that stands out for me. It is, in my opinion, one of the most underrated animated movies of recent times.
4. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
The whole magical world of Harry Potter and his adventures as he fights his arch nemesis Lord Voldemort, shall go down in the history of cinema as a genre of its own. However, if one has to pick one best movie out of the lot, it will be the ‘Prisoner Of Azkaban’. Continuing Harry’s search for the answers that he seeks, the third movie in the series explores more about his parents and the betrayal that led them to their untimely death. More darker and complex than its predecessors, ‘Prisoner of Azkaban’ is visually striking and is helmed by then-new-now-renowned Alfonso Cuaron.
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3. Spirited Away (2001)
When a family of three takes a wrong turn to enter the spirit world, things go astray. The father and mother turn into pigs while the daughter remains to fend for herself in a magical world, ruled by a witch. Akin to ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and ‘Wizard of Oz’, in terms of motifs and themes to describe human greed, ‘Spirited Away’ is an animation masterpiece, woven in love. Directed by Hayao Miyazaki and produced by Disney, it received widespread acclaim and won many accolades around the world, including the Academy award for best animated feature film.
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2. The Illusionist (2006)
It’s an entertaining story, using politics and magic as the underlying themes. Eisenheim The Illusionist, is a mysterious character with an agenda buried deep down in his heart. He dares to oppose the tyrant crown prince, using the only weapon in his armoury – Magic. Ed Norton poured his heart out while playing this role and you could feel the same, when you see a broken man seeing his dead beloved. Wait, did I say she was dead? Well, before we spoil the surprise, go and watch it, if you haven’t.
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1. The Prestige (2006)
In the game of one-upmanship between two magicians, who channel the deep-rooted hatred for each other, to a lifelong feud which elevates to something sinister and goes beyond imagination and we the viewers, remain as the mute spectators, watching with our incredulous eyes. Directed by the visionary Christopher Nolan, ‘The Prestige’ is a dark tale of bruised ego of men obsessed with secrets. Starring Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman along with Sir Michael Caine and Scarlett Johansson, it has achieved a cult status over years and the credit goes to Mr. Nolan, because just like a magician, he takes the ordinary and makes it do something extraordinary.
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