Who are the most famous magicians of all time? Here’s the list of the most exciting, amazing magicians that have changed the face of modern magic.
There have been a lot of famous magicians in history. Not as many as actors, singers or comedians maybe but there are hundreds of famous magicians who have all changed the face of magic. Most magicians, when they become famous, usually spawn hundreds of younger magicians who all want to be like them. You can usually watch a top magician and guess which famous magician they were influenced by. And of course, even the best magicians were also influenced by the ones that came before them.
Famous Magicians USA
David Copperfield. David Copperfield is the most famous magician in the world. From performing huge scale illusions on stage to even bigger illusions outside (making the Statue of Liberty disappear, vanishing an airplane surrounded by people or walking through the Great Wall of China), he influenced most of the people you see now performing big style illusions on stage.
David’s show in Las Vegas is still incredible with amazing magic. I doubt we will ever see another magician in our lifetime as famous and successful as David Copperfield. He is definitely the world’s most famous magician.
When I was 18, I travelled to USA to see the Copperfield show. I’d read an amazing review in a UK based weekly magic magazine called ‘Abracadabra’ by Alan Alan. He told of the amazing things that Copperfield was doing in the show and said you MUST see the show. So, I did. I travelled across America taking in other shows by Lance Burton, Siegfried and Roy amongst others first.
The last show on my tour was to see David Copperfield in Chicago. Not only was it the first time I saw the Snowing illusion (he made it snow in the theatre) he also flew, live on stage. And not only flew, but through hoops, in a glass box etc. He even took a member of the audience up in the air too. Still, the most magical experience of my life and will no doubt go down in history as the most successful and one of the most famous magicians of all time.
It’s still incredible. Watch this…
The key bits here are, it was done in front of a live audience that would have been fooled by the magic. It was not simply a camera trick. I think the staging of it, with the radar, the live audience, the helicopter going over and the music is outstanding. Obviously it looks a bit dated now, but at the time it all looked very modern. I’m pretty sure if David Copperfield did this trick today, he would probably use a similar method too. This has gone down in history as one of the most famous illusions of all time. I certainly think it’s one of the best.
Doug Henning. Like David Copperfield, Doug Henning usually did stage illusions but the style was completely different. Doug had more of a hippy vibe going on with bright, colourful clothing. This certainly made him unique and undeniably one of the top magicians in the world. Instead of dancing with a woman to some moody music, Doug would be jumping around the stage like someone from San Francisco in the Summer of 69. I absolutely loved Doug Henning. He never went in for the huge iconic illusions like David Copperfield. All of his material was stuff he would perform on stage. Henning had a show, The Magic Man that ran on Broadway. Unique and something I’ve not really seen since. He also had the best ‘Things That Go Bump in the Night’ illusion routine that I’ve ever seen. Fun, magical and absolutely amazing.
Penn & Teller
Penn & Teller. These guys came along a little later and, like all the best famous magicians, broke the mould again. They brought something completely new to the party. They branded themselves as the ‘bad boys of magic’. Their gimmick was that they were revealing how the tricks were done and brought an anarchic style. Tricks such as getting run over by a huge lorry and then showing how the tyres were made of sponge and one side of the lorry was weighted. Even when you knew how the tricks were done didn’t make it any less enjoyable or amazing to watch.
Magicians were outraged at first thinking they were breaking the magicians code (this was before the Masked Magician came along).
When Penn & Teller started their show Fool Us (you had to go on to try and fool Penn & Teller, 2 of the most famous and best magicians in the world), I was first in line. You can see my attempt on my video page. This was from the first series in the UK, broadcast on ITV in 2021.
David Blaine. In a twist to all the TV stage magicians, Blaine brought magic to the streets. No big boxes or flashy assistants, David performed card tricks, coin magic and other small illusions to normal people on the streets rather than in a studio. Also, his shows focused more on the reaction of the person he was doing the trick with rather than the trick itself. No funny lines or comedy asides, it was all about showing a piece of magic and waiting for the person to respond. Sounds simple and straight forward, but back in 1997, this was revolutionary and changed the face of magic on TV.
Blaine went to different parts of America for his magic. Some of my favourite clips were ones like this…
Lance Burton. Lance was the classic magician. I say was, he’s still alive as I write this but he has retired. Lance was the type of magician you’d expect to see. Top hat, tails and making doves appear. He just did it better than anyone else. Unusually for this type of magician, he was also good talker. Often a ‘silent act’ magician has a 10 minute act and nothing much more than that. Lance Burton was also brilliant at talking on stage which is what led to his show in Las Vegas being once of the most successful magic shows of all time.
Lance’s illusion show ran for years at various Las Vegas hotels. But most magicians will forever remember him for his incredible dove act.
Siegfried and Roy
Siegfried and Roy. The pioneers of the Las Vegas magic show. Well known for performing with tigers and other animals. Siegfried and Roy were over the top and the epitome of the 70’s style, showbiz magician that is caricatured today in films and TV. However, this didn’t make them any less brilliant. They were the absolute masters of the grand scale illusion spectacular. I saw their show in Vegas in the early 90’s and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen any other show like it since. They will probably remain the most famous magicians in the history of Las Vegas.
Famous Magicians UK
You can often tell which magician someone used to watch most when they were younger by the style they have now adopted. For me it was Paul Daniels. Paul was the most famous magician in the UK when I was growing up and on TV every Saturday night. His shows would average around 15 million people each week. That means around 1 in 4 people would tune in each week to watch Paul and his his assistant, the lovely Debbie McGee perform. His main schtick was comedy magic, so no surprise that when I looked for inspiration as to what type of magician I would become, I followed suit.
Paul Daniels wasn’t the only famous magician on TV, but he was certainly the biggest in the UK. ITV had their own magician, Wayne Dobson who I also loved. Wayne was younger, fresher and had Linda Lusardi (a page 3 model) as his assistant. Wayne also performed comedy magic so I was no doubt hugely influenced by him too. However, Paul was the undoubted master of magic on TV. This is one of his most famous routines. A very simple looking trick with just one cup and one ball….
Dynamo made it big on TV and is probably most famous for walking on the river Thames and putting a borrowed mobile phone in a bottle. He went on to huge success and even performed a huge arena tour, performing to thousands of people each night. After the walking on water trick, he made headline news the day after he did it all across the UK.
Derren Brown is probably the greatest mind reader of all time. He is without doubt the greatest living mind reading performer. When Derren first hit our TV screens he too changed magic forever. Even magicians who wouldn’t have gone near mind reading type tricks before are now adding psychology in to their mental magic and trying to emulate what we saw him do on TV. Me included.
The Great Soprendo
The Great Soprendo. Real name Geoffrey Durham, The Great Soprendo used to be on TV all the time when I was growing up. A rather camp, Spanish character who would appear on TV shows like Crackerjack. I always liked him as he gave the illusion that he was just messing around, but would actually perform some incredible magic.
Tommy Cooper. Although most people thought he was a brilliant magician pretending to be bad, Tommy wasn’t really a great magician. By all accounts, he was as bad as he appeared to be. However, he is probably one of the funniest performers ever so deserves to be in this list of famous magicians.
David Nixon. Just before Paul Daniels appeared on the UK TV scene, the gentleman of magic, David Nixon was the most famous magician on TV. His very relaxed style was worlds apart from the fast, working man’s club style of Daniels. Nixon would often have guests on the show at his ‘bar’ and perform nice pieces of magic in a very relaxed manner without any of the volunteer put downs that became popular after Paul Daniels came along.
Famous Female Magicians
Magic is, and always has been, a male dominated art form. There are very few female magicians in comparison and even less that you would consider famous.
Possibly the most famous female magician would be Adelaide Herrmann. Adelaide was known as the “Queen of Magic.”
Things are starting to change. Slowly. For the first time, the president of The Magic Circle has recently got its first female magician, Megan Swann. Also, with talent shows such as Britain’s Got Talent highlighting female magicians such as Izzy Simpson, Josephine Lee and Kat Hudson, hopefully we will see more and more becoming famous.
Famous Virtual Magicians
- 1 Famous Magicians USA