So, how do you list the 100 greatest magic tricks ever AND in order? With the greatest of difficulty. I’m Alan Hudson (comedy magician and Zoom magician) and I’ve put together 100 of the world’s greatest magic tricks into an order. Is it the definitive order? That’s always up for discussion.
The top 10 was pretty straight forward. After the first 10 it was extremely difficult to give a definitive order. When I got further down the list, the order of best was much harder to qualify. Magic, like comedy and music, is subjective. So, don’t worry too much that, for example, the ‘Lottery Tickets to Money‘ is lower down in the list than ‘The Torn and Restored Newspaper‘. It’s taken a long time to put together with weeks of research. I’ve asked loads of magicians, I have done surveys with magic fans and I’ve asked ‘normal’ people what their greatest magic trick was. Hope you enjoy it and share it with others.
Spoiler alert – the famous rabbit from the hat trick didn’t make it (even though I still think it’s a pretty decent magic trick).
100 greatest magic tricks ever by some of the most famous magicians of all time and some magicians you might have never heard of until you saw this list. This is where the magic happens. Enjoy.
100 Greatest Magic Tricks Ever
100) Appearing Beer – Dom Chambers
In at 100 in the 100 Greatest Magic Tricks is Dom Chambers, the Australian magician who has the best beer production sequence I’ve ever seen. Occasionally magicians will produce a drink from somewhere, but Dom has taken this to the next level. I absolutely love this act and it always goes down a storm with the audience. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be able to just magic up a beer at will? And then another. And then another….
99) The Omni Deck – Shawn Farquhar
An absolute staple in the working repertoire of a walk around close up magician. The Omni Deck is a trick where a spectator will hold a deck of cards (usually after a build up with an Ambitious Card routine or similar). The spectator will then put their other hand on top of the deck. After a snap of the fingers, the deck changes in to a solid block of glass (actually plastic, but why spoil a good story).
98) Hydrostatic Glass – Alan Shaxon
We’ve all done that thing trick at home or at school were you pour water in to glass and then put a piece of card on it, turn it upside down and the water stays inside the glass. As Alan Shaxon would say, that’s science. But in this version, the paper is then removed too. “That’s science, that’s magic…. and that’s it. Goodnight”. Great closing line.
Alan Shaxon performs this trick beautifully. He was such a sophisticated magician he made everything look great. This Youtube clip will start at the right time, but also have a look at his Human Gasometer and Thumb Tie routine too if you wish to start it from the beginning.
After you watch it, I’ve also included a version from Paul Zenon with a pint of beer that doesn’t work out so well. I’m sure even Paul would admit, he’s not quite a sophisticated as Alan…
97) Racing Car Escapology – Paul Daniels
Escapology is not really a magic trick, so not many appear in this list. The only ones that do, also feature a magic element. Paul Daniels was the most famous magician on British television when he decided to do this escape at Silverstone in the UK. The build up was slow, but great. And it was the reactions of presenter Mike Smith that really made the illusion. I remember watching this as a kid and genuinely thought it had all gone wrong…
96) iPad Magic – Simon Pierro
Not a trick on its own, but in a series of smaller magic tricks that use an iPad. Simon was the magician that really took doing magic with iPads forward and he does some incredible things with it. Here he is showing Ellen a number of magic effects with an iPad.
95) Phone in Fish – Penn & Teller
Weirdly, I couldn’t find the official version of this trick on YouTube. So annoyingly this is filmed on someone’s phone. The title of this one says it all. Penn & Teller are so smart when it comes to routining things and avoiding anything flashy to disappear objects. I’ve sat in an audience a few times where the box starts ringing from underneath either my seat or one I was next to.
94) Fizz Master – Tom Mullica
I have always loved tricks with ordinary, ungimmicked objects. I know it shouldn’t make a difference, but it does to me. Part of the brilliance of this trick is that you can do it anywhere, anytime. And it’s no less amazing than a trick that could take hours to prepare or hundreds of hours to learn. Tom Mullica is an excellent and very skilled magician and at the start of this you’ll see a cigarette in his mouth. He also does a great act with cigarettes so I’ll include that one underneath. Obviously it’s a bit dated now, but no less amazing. And disgusting.
93) Appearing White Tiger – Siegfried and Roy
You can’t have a list of the 100 greatest magic tricks ever and only have one trick from Siegfried and Roy. One problem is, there’s actually not that many full performance clips of them on YouTube. However, I’ve managed to find this one at 3:20 seconds, at the moment they do one of their most famous illusions, the appearance of a White tiger. Roy was ‘attacked’ (there’s some debate that the tiger was trying to save him) and the show finished in 2003. Roy Horn later died of Coronavirus in 2020. Siegfried died a few months later in 2021.
92) Multiplying Bottles – Tommy Cooper
Tommy Cooper didn’t perform many magic tricks well. He wasn’t supposed to. His whole schtick was to not do. However, he was and probably will be the greatest comedy magician of all time. The timing and his routining on his version of the Multiplying Bottles is absolutely spot on. In the UK, the phrase “glass, bottle, bottle, glass” has become synonymous with comedy magic.
91) The Frog – David Blaine
Another entry for David Blaine. I don’t want to say anything else about this as I love surprises in magic. However, to make it into the list, I had to give it a name. I hope it doesn’t spoil it too much. Let’s just say, this isn’t a magic trick that I will be trying anytime soon.
90) Second Sight – Thommy and Amelie – The Clairvoyants
This is an incredibly difficult act to do. The idea is that one person is blindfolded and then the other person asks for items from the audience. the person on stage can see through the eyes of the second person (thus having a Second Sight). Not only is it difficult to pull off, it’s even harder to make it entertaining. Tommy and Amelie are 2 of the best at this.
89) Vanishing Car – Ben Hanlin
Ben Hanlin performed a show on ITV2 called Tricked. The premise was that he would play different characters and ‘trick’ celebrities and unsuspecting members of the public. What’s interesting is that, if people don’t know you are a magician, they don’t necessarily look for how the magic tricks are done most of the time. One particular trick that stood out is this vanishing car. It looks like a camera trick, but it isn’t. Audience reaction often plays a big part in tricks. In this one, Joey Essex is pretty much convinced that time travel now exists.
88) Laser Deal – Lennart Green
When this came out, I lost count of the number of times that my non-magician friends would send me clips of Lennart Green performing this and asking if I could do it. I know how to do it, but to pull it off successfully is another thing altogether. All you need to know is that it’s pure sleight of hand. No special cards, tables, lighting etc. Just pure skill.
87) Paper Ball Over The Head – Pat Hazell
Another fairly unique trick in that in this one, the audience can actually see how the trick is done and only the person on stage is being fooled. It’s a really nice presentation that Pat Hazell does as the audience member doesn’t feel stupid in anyway. As the title suggests, this is usually done with paper balls that end up all over the floor, in Pat’s version he uses lots of different objects that get seemingly harder and harder to vanish.
86) Camera Trick – Paul Daniels
Although called Camera Trick, this is not actually a camera trick but really a trick with a camera. And a cameraman. As with most of Paul Daniel’s tricks, they are usually quite slow, especially compared to the fast nature of most of the magic acts and illusionists today. I really like that Daniel’s talks you through the trick slowly and explains why it’s so impossible. When the magic moment comes, you’re much more invested in the outcome.
85) Slicer – Franz Harary
I always like it when a magician performs an illusion that he invents. Like Robert Harbin with the Zig Zag, Franz Harary invented the Slicer (or Into Ninths Illusion as it’s sometimes referred to). Magicians do love putting women in to boxes and and putting blades through them. However, one of the most amazing things about this trick is the way the box opens up. As Young and Strange might say “Look at the engineering on that!”
84) Signed Card Magic – Shin Lim
Not a trick on its own, but rather a series of greatest magic tricks. The idea is that a card is selected and signed (to prove it is unique) and the magician (in this case, the incredible Shin Lim) performs miracles with it. Many magicians have used the signed card plot and it will often end up in a wallet. Shin has taken this to the extreme and currently has one of the best routines with a signed playing card I’ve ever seen.
83) Disembodied Princess – Russ Stevens
It’s difficult to get an illusion that isn’t just a vanish, an appearance or a penetration of a person. This is actually all 3. Similar to the Zig Zag illusion but the methodology is completely different. Russ Stevens used to be a popular illusionist working at the Mystique show in Blackpool and cruise ships. Nowadays, probably best known for his work on Britain’s Got Talent and being the organiser of The Blackpool Magician’s Convention. I love the 80’s feel to this one.
82) Watch Steal and Pickpocketing – Apollo Robbins
When you tell someone you’re a magician, one thing they often do is to hold on to their watch. It’s a well known trick amongst the public that the magician will steal your watch. However, the skill of the magician is to misdirect away from that thought and then do it anyway. Apollo Robbins does one of the best routines with a watch steal I’ve ever seen. It’s so wonderfully done and you tell by the reactions that the people don’t feel cheated – they loved being fooled and charmed.
81) Spirit Cabinet – Glenn Falkenstein and Frances Willard
This one is a little bit different to the other tricks in this ‘best of’ list. Although it’s a magic trick, it’s almost sold as something else in its presentation. The premise is that Frances is possessed by some sort of spirit. Who knows, she could be….
80) Scissors Through Jacket – Mike Caveney
Scissors Through Jacket (or Knife Through Jacket) is a magic trick that uses the spectators jacket. If a magician takes an object and passes it through another object, the audience immediately suspect the objects may be gimmicked. But when the jacket belongs to an audience member, we know it’s genuine so it makes the trick more believable. As you can tell with a lot of other tricks in this list of 100 greatest magic tricks, I’m a big fan of magic tricks with a surprise ending. This one delivers…
79) Interactive Magic – Max Maven
As a child, I always used to enjoy watching Max Maven on TV as his magic was often interactive. With most magic tricks you watch and enjoy (or try and work out how they are done). With Max Maven’s tricks, you could actually take part and he would try to read your mind. In 2020, when virtual magic shows (Zoom Magic) were born, many magicians looked back at these magic tricks to see if they could be used over a video call.
78) The Egg Bag – Jeff Hobson and Tommy Cooper
Jeff Hobson gives another excellent example here of taking a simple trick and turning it into a big routine that is always a huge hit with the audience. I’m also going to include Tommy Cooper’s version as they are both great and I couldn’t decide which one to use.
The idea in both versions is as easy as this – an egg disappears from the bag and reappears. It doesn’t sound like it’s going to be a zinger and one of the greatest magic tricks ever, but check these out…
77) The Gypsy thread – Eugene Burger
One of the great things about magic is that there are so many ways to perform the same trick. You can do it with comedy, or make it seem like a trick of the mind or heap a story on it and really give it some weight. Eugene Burger takes what many magicians trivialise and turns it in to a bona fide miracle worthy of being in this list of greatest magic tricks ever. What a voice!
76) Regeneration – Neil Patrick Harris
Forever known as Dougie Howser MD, Neil Patrick Harris is actually a magician too. This trick that he performs with Kristen Bell (The Good Place), is an invention of Blake Vogt. To many, this would be seen a bit like a torn and restored newspaper, but it has tiny differences. The fact that the magic takes place in the mouth (eliminating sleight of hand) makes this trick really stand out.
75) The Carrot Goldfish – Mac King
Not only a great magic trick, but Mac King presents this with great humour too. Some tricks are big and spectacular and some are small and can rely on the spectators reaction to really sell the trick. Or, they have a surprise ending. This one is nice as it has both. It just starts off as a bit of nonsense. A gag. And then comes the surprise…
74) Bottle Through Table – Fay Presto
In the UK, Fay Presto made this trick famous. It’s actually an old trick and a variation of a glass through table type magic trick, but what makes this version better is the visual aspect. During this trick, you actually see the bottle seem to melt through the table. Most magicians perform this really fast, which in my opinion, loses a lot of the magic. Fay performs this, in what I believe, is the correct way. Really slowly and letting the miracle sink in to the minds of the spectators.
73) Marshmallow – Justin Willman
It’s not always the size of the magic trick, or even the magic trick itself that can make a trick great. What makes this valid to be in the 100 greatest magic tricks is the premise, execution and reaction. When Magic For Humans started to get advertised (magic show on Netflix), out of all the tricks they performed, this is the one they used. There’s something so simple yet so brilliant about a tiny trick with a marshmallow and a cup.
72) Lottery Tickets to Money – Magic Bones
Imagine being able to take those lottery slips you get from the newsagent and instead of playing the lottery, you could just turn them in to cash – by magic! Well, it’s one of the most performed tricks by close up magicians around the world, mainly because it involves money. And everyone loves the idea that you could make money just appear from thin air. Out of all the greatest magic tricks in this list, I think this is one that I’ve personally performed the most.
71) Walking Through A Window – Dynamo
I absolutely love tricks that really seem to be off the cuff and just happen in the moment. This is an excellent example of that type of magic. Imagine being able to just walk through solid objects. British TV magician Dynamo does exactly that with footballer Rio Ferdinand on hand to watch. The staging of this is perfect. He does some other stuff first and and then seems to do this final illusion as an after thought.
70) Crazy Man’s Handcuffs – David Copperfield
Not really known for his close up magic, David Copperfield often performs small pieces with a lead in to a bigger piece. I was going to include Michael Ammar here who made Arthur Setterington’s Crazy Man’s Handcuff elastic band trick famous (especially amongst magicians), but I couldn’t actually find a video of him doing it. So, Copperfield will have to do 🙂
69) Sands of The Dessert – Luis De Matos
Portuguese magician Luis De Matos really makes this magic trick something of a miracle. I’ve seen some magicians do this and not be that impressed. Luis gives it the focus it deserves. It’s an odd illusion but that doesn’t mean it isn’t brilliant. 3 different coloured sands are mixed together clearly in a bowl of water. Then, one at a time, he manages to reach in and take out one colour at a time.
68) Coins Through Table – Lu Chen
Many magicians have performed Coins Through Table (or silk, or hand or through a number of other objects). Usually if it’s a table, the table is wooden so you can’t see the magic how you’d like to. However, in Lu Chen’s version you get the feeling you are seeing everything. Certainly in coin magic, this one of the greatest magic tricks ever.
67) The Salt Pour – Young-Min Kim
I perform this trick myself and love it. Personally, I think this is one of the greatest magic tricks that I perform. However, this version by Young-Min Kim is rather incredible. In fact, if you ask most magicians, they are fooled by his too. I know I am.
66) Pegasus Page – Dan White
It’s difficult to give descriptions of tricks sometimes without giving away the surprise ending. And it’s often the surprise of the trick that makes it great. It’s a bit like a punchline in a joke. So, let me just say that this is one of greatest magic tricks ever with a book…
65) Origami Illusion – Doug Henning
Another one of those were I could have chosen Copperfield, The Pendragons etc. But I do love Doug Henning! This is an illusion that looks a bit like a puzzle. There are lots of tiny bits that go in to this to make it really fooling. Even when you know the secret, it’s still looks absolutely impossible.
64) Ring, Watch and Wallet – Tommy Wonder
Tommy Wonder performs this magical effect so beautifully. In essence, it’s a vanish of some objects and a reappearance. But the routine is no nice because it’s almost like a ‘going back in time’ piece. I think it captivates the audiences imagination as we’ve all had things happen to us and then wish we’d been able to just snap our fingers and wish things were like the way they were before.
63) Orange Tree Illusion – Scott Penrose
Scott Penrose performs a really nice version of this really old trick. It’s more beautiful than incredible, but but it’s still a pretty good trick. Originally by the French magician, Robert-Houdin, what makes this trick fairly unique is that it’s usually presented by telling the audience the history of the trick and that it’s mechanical. When you know when it was built it actually adds to the effect.
62) Chicken and Duck – Ali Cook
I won’t spoil the surprise of this particular trick but, it’s pretty incredible. Ali Cook was on the first episode of Penn & Teller: Fool Us in the UK. It didn’t fool them, but I’m sure they would agree it’s one of the best magic tricks ever on the show. Also, unless you’ve seen Ali perform this, the chances are you’ve never seen it. Enjoy.
61) Cut and Restored Rope – Mac King
The Cut and Restored Rope is a classic of magic and can be performed in many different ways (believe it or not). It’s not just cutting the rope and restoring it again. You can take the ends off the rope, you can make the rope change in length at the same time, you can perform it with multiple pieces of rope at the same time or you can cut the rope in to lots of little pieces. One of my favourites is by comedy magician, Mac King.
60) Razor Blade Swallow – The Amazing Jonathan
The Amazing Jonathan was a real trailblazer when it came to ‘alternative magic’. Before AJ, there weren’t really many/any magicians who were taking taking magic tricks and pushing them in a different direction. I remember seeing Amazing Jonathan a lot when I was in my late teens and early twenties on TV and been completely transfixed by his anarchic take on magic. Like other pioneers, many have followed him, but hardly any have touched his brilliance.
59) Card on Ceiling – Michael Ammar
Obviously there are thousands of card tricks. Some might say, too many. But there are only a few that people really remember and be in the list for 100 Greatest Magic Tricks. People often don’t remember the bits that came before the big finish. You can do as much incredible sleight of hand as you like, but if you then make that signed card appear on a ceiling, that will be the only thing they remember.
58) Dog Racing Hypnosis – Derren Brown
I’m not including many hypnosis tricks in this list, but Derren is such a powerhouse of a performer, he deserves more than one entry. What makes the Dog Racing particularly stand out is the presentation. No one is ever really that bothered when you hypnotise someone to act like a chicken, but what if you could use your Jedi like skills to make someone actually give you money in a real life situation. Also, money from a bookmaker. The best type of money.
57) Rubik’s Cube – Steven Brundage
Like card tricks and coin tricks, there are dozens of Rubik’s Cube effects possible. They really only became popular in the last 10 years or so, even though the Rubik’s Cube was really an 80’s thing. Steven Brundage was one of the modern magicians who popularised the Rubik’s Cube magic, so feels fitting that he should get the credit here.
56) Three Fly – Simon Coronel
Simon Coronel is an Australian magician who first went on the Penn & Teller Fool Us with his version of a famous close up magic trick called 3 Fly. The premise is that 3 coins, held at the finger tips, fly one at a time invisibly from one had to another. It’s a beautiful close up illusion. With Simon’s version, he does it with different coloured poker chips. Originally, Penn & Teller thought they weren’t fooled, but after speaking with crew afterwards, admitted they were so got him back to award him the trophy.
55) Bill Switch – Simon Coronel
A double entry for Simon Coronel. Here he fools Penn & Teller for a second time this time with his version of another classic close up magic trick, the Bill Switch. As you might get from the title, the bill (money) is switched magically for another one. Simon has nothing else in his hands and his sleeves are rolled up. He also performs this multiple times. This is pretty much the cleanest version of this trick I’ve ever seen and Simon’s handing is A1+.
54) Floating Table – Losander
Based on the Zombie Ball (floating ball illusion) this found its way into many magicians acts. The illusion itself is self explanatory – the table floats. What makes this above and beyond are the small touches along the way. The fact that a spectator can hold the cloth and the table still floats makes this really magical and a step above the classic Zombie Ball.
53) Coin In Can – Wayne Houchin
Criss Angel made this trick famous, but the trick was actually created by Wayne Houchin. Based on the Coin in Bottle trick, this version is particularly good as it doesn’t require anything special. Genuinely the magician can get any coin signed and any can of soda and create the illusion that he has pushed the coin in the can. As a magician, there is some incredible thinking here and the fact that it’s all down to the magician’s sleight of hand makes it even more amazing.
52) The Artists Dream – Dani Lary
Not many magicians perform The Artists Dream and it comes in many different variations. The main crux of it is that a painting of a person, comes to life (with the person coming out of the painting) and then at the end, they go back to being painting. Dani performs a great version with the added bonus of a with a vertical Asrah Illusion (No 25).
51) Matrix – Danny Cole
Not quite a levitation and not quite a suspension, this is more of an impossible balance. It’s an illusion that is somehow ‘could be real’ but you know it’s not. I mean, we’ve all seen mime artists do similar things, but not quite the same. This is just a bit too far to be strength. It has to be magic. Dynamo also performed a great version of this illusion in the street to a track by Massive Attack (absolute banger), so will include that too.
50) Tax Disc – Paul Zenon
Paul Zenon was arguably the first magician to perform street magic. The Tax Disc trick has been copied by others since and has certainly inspired lots of other similar tricks. I’m always a big fan of tricks that seem completely impromptu. In this one, Paul approaches a car and removes the tax disc. Through the window. Not just by opening the door – even I could do that one.
49) Wall of Mugs – Paul Daniels
This was very much the British version of Walking Through The Wall of China (see 48 below). If you can’t get The Great Wall Of China in a studio, what do you do? Get a great wall of China mugs!
Some of Paul Daniel’s tricks now seem very slow. But that was often the style at the time. Watching some of his tricks now, just shows how TV has changed over the years.
48) Walking Through The Great Wall of China – David Copperfield
As you will see from now on, Copperfield appears a lot in this list. But that’s because he has created more memorable magic tricks than anyone else on the planet. This one is no exception. Before this, magicians had walked though a brick wall on stage. Obviously Copperfield went for the ultimate that couldn’t be beaten.
47) Snow – David Copperfield
Originally performed by Kevin James, Snow is one of those tricks that is less about ‘how it was done’ and more about the emotional reaction it gets from the audience. Like most things he does, Copperfield takes this one step further by really bringing his story to life with not only the snow from the hands, but with making the whole theatre snow and adding in the perfect soundtrack and an extra bit of magic to give it all the feels. First class.
46) The Floating Ball – Teller
One of the reasons Penn & Teller are so good, is they understand what the audience are thinking. They don’t go in for big costumes or dance numbers or lots of assistants. They keep it real. The Floating Ball has been called the Zombie Ball (slightly different trick) but what makes this version so unique is Penn’s opening line. He tells you how it’s done. “This trick is done with a piece of thread”. But then you watch and you come to the conclusion that he must be lying. Or is he?
Annoyingly, this clip has been removed from YouTube, so far now, here are some people talking about the trick with a few clips included.
45) Bending Spoon – Uri Geller
Uri Geller is probably the only magician in this list who would rather not be. He’s never actually fully come out as a magician, even though he has appeared on TV shows with other magicians, talked at magic conventions etc. Uri claims his skills are for real, even though magicians can also bend cutlery with magical techniques. However, there is no denying that he made this trick famous and anytime you bend a spoon (or a fork), someone will mention the name Uri Geller.
44) The Invisible Man – Justin Willman
This routine, from Netflix’s Magic For Humans, has so much going for it. Firstly, the magic itself is amazing. But Justin is such a brilliant presenter he really makes this something special. After this was broadcast, it created hundreds of copycat videos of people pretending someone was made invisible. However, in this video not only is it funny, but the magic trick itself is incredibly fooling too.
43) Any Drink Regurgitated – Barry and Stuart
I think this trick went under the radar of most and is very underrated. However, I think it fully deserves its place in the 100 greatest magic tricks list. It’s based on The Magic Kettle (No 27), where you can name any drink and it will come of a kettle. In this version, you name any drink and Barry (I remember them saying Big Barry, Stuart Little) regurgitates that particular drink. As far as I know, no one else has ever attempted this. I know that I wouldn’t even think about it. But it is brilliant.
42) Walking on Water – Dynamo
Any trick that recreates magic from the bible is going to get a reaction. However, I don’t think even Dynamo could predict that this would make headline news all around the world. In essence, pretty simple, the magician walks on water. In reality, I’m sure the planning took weeks/months but was worth it. This was pretty much the trick that made him famous, and along with the Phone in Bottle, will be the one he is remembered for.
41) Coin Magic – Eric Jones
I realise it’s quite simplistic to put all coin magic in to one. We could have The Appearing Coin, The Disappearing Coin, The Transposition Coin etc etc. However, most magicians perform all of these tricks close together in one routine so I’ve lumped them together too if that’s OK with you? It is? Good. Eric Jones performed this brilliant coin routine on ITV’s The Next Great Magician which I thought was excellent and the reactions were fantastic.
40) Quick Change – Lea Kyle
This was often an act perform by 2 people. The most famous is probably by David and Dania who I saw live several times. Most of the acts follow a similar pattern. The girl changes lots of dresses and outfits quickly as the man holds up cloth hoops etc. Then, the man will change his suit, just for good measure. Lea does an incredible version with just herself on stage and some of the most amazing quick changes I’ve ever seen.
39) Vanishing Handkerchief – Shahid Malik
Not only is this one of the greatest magic tricks ever, it is also one of the first magic tricks I saw that really blew my mind. Shahid Malik stood on stage and, with sleeves rolled up, pushed a hankie in to his and it just vanished. It was on a Live From The Palladium show on British TV. After that, he went on to perform other bigger scale illusions and even made a tiger appear. But to me, the best part was the red hankie at the start.
38) Needle Thru Arm – Harry Anderson
Although this looks like it was filmed on a Nokia 3310, this is the best version I could find of Harry Anderson performing his Needle Thru Arm. David Blaine also did this illusion so I’m putting both here. The main difference, as far as I can see, is that Harry Anderson’s is a trick (it’s a very good trick but it’s one that can be learnt), whereas I think David Blaine (who in this clip is showing it to Ricky Gervais) does it for real. Mad.
37) Assistant’s Revenge – Hans Klok
I actually performed this illusion myself in a show at Edinburgh Fringe in 2013. However, I think Hans Klok does the best version so will give him the honour of appearing here again. I love Hans Klok. He really embraces the cheesiness and is the classic 80’s magician of long hair, wind machines, glamorous assistants etc. He just does it the best.
36) Torn and Restored Newspaper – Geoffrey Durham
The Torn and Restored Newspaper really resonates with an audience. Like all of the greatest magic tricks, if the premise is easy to understand, the magic becomes more amazing. The idea that you could completely destroy something and then magically undo that is a super power that most people would like to have. Geoffrey Durham, performing as the Great Suprendo, really understands the timing and the rhythm of this particular illusion.
35) Chop Cup – Paul Daniels
Like the Cups and Balls, most magicians have also had a go at the Chop Cup routine. In fact, I have a version for sale to magicians, the Chop Glass. The idea is simple, one cup, one ball. Where’s the ball. Is it in the pocket or under the cup. Say “Yes Paul”. No one has ever surpassed this version by Paul Daniels. In fact, most versions you will see, are almost certainly influenced by Daniels.
34) Zig Zag Illusion – Robert Harbin
Robert Harbin not only invented this illusion, but also knows how to perform it incredibly well. A lot of magicians do this to music and forget about the finer points. Harbin makes sure you know how impossible this is by going through each detail. A real lesson in how to present magic well and let the audience really take in the magic.
33) Impaled – Simon Drake
Taken from The Secret Cabaret, a very different magic show in its day to the usual shiny floor magic show we were used to watching. Simon Drake presented a gothic style magic show with lots of blood and gore. The Impaled illusion fitted him and his character perfectly. The illusion is in 2 parts, first, a sort of suspension. The second, well, it’s called Impaled, you can probably guess the rest….
32) Ambitious Card – David Blaine
I don’t know of a single magician who hasn’t at sometime had a go with the Ambitious Card plot. It’s another simple one. A card is signed and pushed in to the deck. The card jumps to the top of the deck. So called, because it’s more ambitious than the other cards. A magician who was more ambitious than most other magicians was David Blaine, who also got to the top, pretty much with this trick. And his street levitation.
31) Learjet Plane Vanish – David Copperfield
You will have seen a few entries for David Copperfield already in this list and there are a few more to go. And rightly so. Copperfield has performed more iconic tricks over the years than anyone else. This is another one of those tricks that got in to the public consciousness. When you mention that you are a magician, one of the questions you get asked is “how did he make that airplane disappear?”. To be honest, I’m not 100% sure.
30) Cups and Balls – David Williamson
OK, so almost every magician in the world has performed the Cups and Balls at some point. So why did I choose David Williamson. Well, for one, he’s probably my favourite magician (certainly one of them) but not been featured anywhere else in this list. Also, his routine has everything. All the good bits of the Cups and Balls routine, non of the boring bits and gets to the best bit quick. Have a look.
29) Linking Finger Rings – Jonathan Pendragon
This is one of those tricks that just seems impossible and the only explanation is real magic. Or stooges. I can tell you, they definitely are NOT stooges. He borrows 3 audience members rings and links them together. No special props or boxes. Just 3 audience members rings. Completely amazing which is why this comes in at No 29 in this list of 100 greatest magic tricks!
28) Vanishing Motorcycle – Doug Henning
It does what it says on the tin. The vanishing motorcycle. But more than that, the rider disappears too. And they both reappear. I like this one especially as it’s got that guy from Chips in it.
27) Magic Kettle – Paul Daniels
Another entry for Paul Daniels. The Magic Kettle was one of the most talked about tricks at the time. The premise was that you showed an empty kettle and then anyone from the audience could name any drink. The Magic Kettle would then pour that drink. Beer, wine, orange… anything you liked.
At the climax of the routine, he pours a around 8-10 glasses of beer and then shows the kettle is empty and ordinary!
26) Water Torture Tank Escape – Penn & Teller
This version of the water torture type illusion is excellent. I won’t spoil the ending, but it’s a spin on the usual escapologist type escape. This really helped cement Penn & Teller as great thinkers of magic and illusion with their original way of presenting. A lot of people think that a magician died underwater doing this trick. What they are really thinking of is Harry Houdini who made this trick famous. He didn’t actually die underwater but he did rupture his lung after he was punched in the stomach, then performed this illusion. He died in hospital on 31st October 1926.
25) Asrah Illusion – Paul Daniels
Most major illusionists have explored the Asrah illusion at some point in their career. It’s always been one of my favourites. When deciding whose to show here as an example, I chose the Paul Daniels version as a) it was probably the first time I saw it as a child so have fond memories of it b) It’s still really great. Also, I’m not sure anyone else has done a version with people dressed up as Spacemen. So for that alone, it 100% deserves its position here.
24) Card Through Window – David Blaine
Another iconic moment in modern magic. This is the trick that inspired hundreds of others, including Dynamo’s Phone in Bottle.
David Blaine has a real knack for knowing how to choose the right tricks to perform. Any trick that is seemingly impromptu and in the street, will always seem more amazing than if it was done on stage.
23) Things That Go Bump in the Night – Doug Henning
One of my all time favourite magicians, Doug Henning performs a really fantastic version of the Things That Go Bump In The Night illusion. Whilst most magicians are either serious or go with being a comedy magician, Doug Henning was neither. He was spiritual, mystical but had a real sense of fun and wonder with all of his illusions making them light but without actually telling jokes. He was completely unique and unlike most other magicians, so original, and almost impossible to copy.
The Things That Go Bump In The Night illusion is one of the few illusions in magic that is actually fun. Most have a serious undertone, but the nature of making these figures appear and bounce around is inherently fun.
22) The Miser’s Dream – Teller
The Miser’s Dream is inherently a great premise for a magic trick. I mean, who wouldn’t like to be able to produce money from thin air. However, some versions of this trick are either a bit bombastic and frantic for my liking or lack a finish. This version by Teller is perfectly paced, elegant and has the best ending ever. Teller doesn’t talk ever. One question I get asked a lot is “can the magician Teller talk?” The answer is yes, the reason he doesn’t talk is a theatrical device. And, I have to say, it works pretty well.
21) Suspended Animation – Hans Klok
Another entry for Hans Klok. He’s one of the most famous illusionists to perform this particular trick and I love the energy he brings to it. This clip is a bit fuzzy, but hopefully that won’t affect your enjoyment and amazement. I’ve seen a dozen of more magicians perform this illusion, but Klok is the best for the sheer commitment.
20) Burger Magic – Cyril Takayama
This trick has been copied a million times, but when this was new, it was incredible. Street magic was still fairly new at this stage and Cyril Takayama took it to the next level. I think the idea of this particular magic trick really resonated with people. Imagine just seeing a picture of something and then being able to make that thing real at any time….
19) The Dancing Handkerchief – Harry Blackstone Jnr
An absolute classic of magic by an absolute master. See number 18 for a video of the performance straight after the vanishing birdcage.
18) The Vanishing Birdcage – Harry Blackstone Jnr
The titles of the tricks say it all really. Harry Blackstone Jnr was one of those magicians with so much charisma, you feel he could perform the ‘taking the thumb off’ trick and make it in to a miracle. Here he is performing the Vanishing Birdcage and The Dancing Handkerchief in one video.
17) Interlude – The Pendragons
Many people have performed this illusion, but what I love about the Pendragon’s version is their commitment to it. I think with this version, you really believe that Charlotte really is going through Jonathan’s body. His face says it all.
16) Sponge Balls – Wayne Dobson
Another example of the routine that goes with the trick is actually stronger than the trick itself. Although a brilliant and fairly easy trick for most magicians, I don’t think anyone has ever come up with a more entertaining way to present this piece of magic. This is an excellent of example on how to take a small magic trick and make it play big to a huge crowd.
15) Laser Illusion – David Copperfield
Another entry for the most famous magician of all time, David Copperfield. This one is so incredible as it’s on a well lit stage, no boxes and just looks like real magic. This is how the sawing in half illusion can look by a master.
14) Cardboard Box Illusion – Young and Strange
I’ve always loved the cardboard box illusion. It’s another very simple looking (although extremely difficult to execute and make entertaining) illusion. Someone goes in a cardboard box and and the box has 20-30 wooden spears thrust through it whilst the other person is in the box. They are definitely still in there so how is that possible? Many people say Shahid Malik’s version is the greatest (it’s certainly one of them), but personally I prefer this version by top UK illusionists, Young and Strange.
And, just for comparison, here is the Shahid Malik version of the cardboard box illusion.
13) Card Manipulation – Yu Ho Jin
This is another example of not a specific, one-off trick but a full act. Many magician over the years have performed card manipulation, but I think this is one of the very best.
12) The Electric Chairs – Paul Daniels
I’ve mentioned a few times that its often the most simple tricks that are the most effective. This one falls in to that category. 2 men are brought up on stage and for some unknown reason, get an electric shock from ordinary chairs. Then they actually stick to the chairs. This magic trick is one of the greatest mainly for the routine from Paul Daniels, who in the UK was the biggest and most well known magician performing his own show on primetime TV for around 15 years.
11) Vanishing Statue of Liberty – David Copperfield
You could argue that this should be in the top 10. And you could be right, but all lists are subjective. I still absolutely love the staging and ridiculousness of this illusion. It’s probably one of the most famous tricks of all time.
10) Subliminal Advertising – Derren Brown
Now for the big top 10 in the 100 greatest magic tricks. Each of these are special for different reasons. At number 10, Derren Brown. At the time this was released, Derren didn’t really advertise himself as a magician. This was one of the first and best examples of his psychological mind reading. In this trick, he ends up apparently telling everyone how it was done which ends up being more impressive than the actual trick. I believe it was this and a few other pieces that spawned a 1000 psychological illusionists. Here is the master at work.
9) Phone in Bottle – Dynamo
There was a time, when you were performing magic at events, that inevitably someone would ask “but can you put a phone a bottle?”. The idea of this trick is so simple (like all the best tricks) – take a borrowed mobile phone and push it in a bottle. Because it was so simple it was really easy to remember and for years this became the ultimate close up magic trick so deserves it spot in the 100 greatest magic tricks list. Enjoy, Dynamo’s Phone in Bottle
8) The Vanishing Elephant – Paul Daniels
What makes this trick so good, is the fact that Paul Daniels a) uses an elephant (a very slow and difficult to manoeuvre animal and b) it’s outside in a field. Had he used say a horse, somehow this wouldn’t have been as impressive. Or had he done this in the TV studio or on stage it would have lessened the illusion. I think out of all Paul Daniel’s illusions, this is probably the one he will be most remembered for.
This is the only clip I couldn’t embed – so have a look on YouTube here at it, then come back for the top 7.
7) Doves – Lance Burton
Lance Burton was once the darling of the magic community. He won an award at FISM with this act (FISM is a bit like the Olympics for magicians). He then went on to get his own show in Vegas which got bigger and bigger. This is the original act he got known for. In essence, quite simple. A man producing birds. Many have tried similar acts, but the sheer class of the Lance Burton dove act makes this worthy of being in the top 10.
6) Flying – David Copperfield
For stage, this is undeniably the best version of the levitation. Not only does Copperfield levitate, but he also flies. Yes, you heard that correctly. HE FLIES!! And he also flies with a spectator from the audience. To prove there is nothing attached he floats in glass boxes, gets hoops passed over him. I saw this live in Chicago in 1992 and it was absolutely breathtaking.
5) Levitation – David Blaine
This will be a controversial one for some magicians for reasons I won’t go into. However, the illusion itself is solid and it was an absolute phenomena at the time. The idea that someone could just go on to the street and levitate without fancy lights, staging etc was revolutionary. If you’re wondering “can magicians really levitate?”, the answer is yes, magicians can do pretty much anything – with conjuring methods.
4) Magic Bullet Catch – Penn & Teller
The Bullet Catch is notorious in magic. There’s even been a book written on it called Twelve Have Died. What Penn & Teller did was to make this trick smart, completely fooling and entertaining. Also, doing a double bullet catch made this completely unique. Well deserved in the top 10 of 100 greatest magic tricks of all time.
3) The Floating Lightbulb – Harry Blackstone Jnr
This was one of the most magical things I’ve ever seen live. I saw this at The Blackpool Magic Convention. As young magician who thought he knew a thing or 2 about magic, I was completely blown away by this. Not only was Harry Blackstone Jnr the most charismatic magician I’d ever seen live, but the fact that the lightbulb flew just above my head and I couldn’t see any sign of any method, made this one of the greatest pieces of magic ever staged.
2) Metamorphosis – The Pendragons
There have been thousands of versions of this illusion (sometimes known as the Substitution Trunk) over the years. The reason The Pendragons is the best version of this illusion is not only down to speed. Although that is a big part of it. What really makes the trick special is the energy from the performers. Having seen this live, it looks every bit as good in real life as it does on TV.
1) The Death Saw – David Copperfield
Without doubt, the greatest magic trick is Copperfield’s Death Saw – a version of the famous Sawing in Half. What makes this the best trick ever is not only the illusion itself, but also the staging. The idea of sawing himself in half (rather than an assistant), the full body being shown rather than in a box and coupled with the buzz saw and top it all off the ‘going back in time’ premise makes this the greatest magic trick of all time. Enjoy
That’s it. The Greatest 100 Magic Tricks Of All Time. Obviously I couldn’t put any of my own tricks in this list (even if I wanted to – and I didn’t). However, if you want to watch one, enjoy this one from Britain’s Got Talent. Thanks