Over the years there are have been hundreds of magicians in the movies. Here are 7 of the best and most notable ones. Obviously there are tons more that contain wizards, necromancers, witches but I’m just listing the top 7 with actual magician characters in movies. So, if you’re looking for the best magician movies to watch… you’re welcome!
This has to be top of the magic movie list. I mean, it’s called The Illusionist! Edward Norton plays the magician Eisenheim.
One of the famous scenes in the film was The Orange Tree Illusion. This is actually based on a real trick although in the film they used CGI to achieve it.
This film opened in 2016 and has been praised by critics and, even harder to please, magicians. Most magicians don’t like films about magicians, especially when they contain CGI to make the magic work.
Synopsis from IMDB – “In turn-of-the-century Vienna, a magician uses his abilities to secure the love of a woman far above his social standing.”
The Prestige and The Illusionist are the top two in my opinion. The Prestige, with Christian Bale playing The Professor and Hugh Jackman playing The Great Danton is one of the best examples Hollywood have done showing magicians in movies.
The Prestige also gave us an iconic line from John Cutter (played by Michael Caine), explaining the 3 parts in magic. “Every magic consists of 3 parts 1. The Pledge 2. The Turn 3. THE PRESTIGE.” Basically saying that most magic tricks consist of what the magician says what he is about to do, followed by a twist and finishing with the big finish.
Synopsis from IMDB – After a tragic accident, two stage magicians in 1890s London engage in a battle to create the ultimate illusion while sacrificing everything they have to outwit each other.
Now You See Me
In real life, over the last 15 years or so, it has become the trend to have teams of magicians perform in magic shows. One of the first, and certainly the biggest, was The Illusionists. They opened in Sydney with amazing publicity showing their band of magicians hand picked for their different skills. After that, lots of other shows copied. Now You See Me took this trend and made it in to a movie.
Now You See Me is heist movie centring around a team of magicians who rob banks and then give the money they steal to their audience, during the show.
Now You See Me has a great cast, including Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, Mélanie Laurent, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman.
Synopsis from IMDB – An F.B.I. Agent and an Interpol Detective track a team of illusionists who pull off bank heists during their performances, and reward their audiences with the money.
Now You See Me Two
Should have been called Now You See Me Too or Now You See Me: Now You Don’t but hey ho. Their loss.
The original came in 2013 and this sequel was released in 2016 and this time added Daniel Radcliffe to the cast. More of the same from The Four Horsemen but with some extra twists but not quite as good as the first one. Still one of the better films to contain magic though.
Synopsis from IMDB – The Four Horsemen resurface, and are forcibly recruited by a tech genius to pull off their most impossible heist yet.
Now You See Me Two, like the first movie, had a mix of genuine sleight of hand mixed in with CGI. For instance in this clip, the magicians perform some front palming and back palming which can actually be performed by magicians, but the lines are blurred when CGI is introduced to what can and can’t be done in real life.
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
Set in Las Vegas, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone takes a side swipe at the modern magic shows and magicians in Las Vegas.
Steve Carell, Jim Carrey and Steve Buschemi head up the cast playing a pastiche of magicians. A few characters are based heavily on Siegfried and Roy and one is almost identical to Criss Angel.
The movie is also notable as the last ever film to feature James Gandolfini before he died in 2013.
Synopsis from IMDB – A veteran Vegas magician tries to revive his career after his longtime partner quits, he gets fired from his casino act, and an edgy new “street magician” steals his thunder.
If you’re looking for magicians in movies, Magicians probably has more than any other film. Magicians is a British film, largely based around magic and magic conventions in the UK. The leads are from the UK sitcom, The Peep Show. David Mitchell and Robert Webb play magicians Karl and Henry who want to take part in a magic competition.
Like The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, the film is a comedy that looks at magic from a slightly different angle. Unlike The Prestige which portrays magicians as very cool characters, the magicians in The Magicians are portrayed as geeks or nerds (which is probably close to the truth in most cases). Often, to be a magician you need to enjoy sitting on your own and practising for hours on end, so stands to reason that it attracts a certain sort of person.
Many UK magicians make a cameo in this film including Ali Bongo and Patrick Page.
Synopsis from IMDB – A pair of rivaling stage magicians are forced to confront their falling out over a guillotine mishap when they compete in a magic competition.
Not as well known as the others, but Sleight probably has more genuine sleight of hand (as you would imagine) than any other movie with a magician in it. Essentially it’s a film about a Street Magician who turns to dealing drugs (rather than cards) to support his little sister. His sister gets kidnapped and our street magician uses his sleight of hand to try and get her back.
The lead character is Bo Wolfe played by Jacob Latimore. It’s actually quite a good film and maybe one that has passed you by. It certainly doesn’t have the star power of The Prestige or The Illusionist, but there’s loads of good cardistry (basically, sleight of had with cards).
Synopsis from IMDB – A young street magician (Jacob Latimore) is left to care for his little sister after their parents’ passing, and turns to illegal activities to keep a roof over their heads. When he gets in too deep, his sister is kidnapped, and he is forced to use his magic and brilliant mind to save her.