16 Magician Themed Movies
Over the years there have been more and more magic themed movies popping up in mainstream cinema. Movies like "Now you see me" or "The Prestige" have helped spread the reputation of magician themed movies as something worth watching.
But magician themed movies have been around for more than 120 years, with well known film makers such as Ingmar Bergman having a go at the plot.
If you love magic tricks, card magic or are interested in finding out more about the artform, here is a list of 16 movies that you might be interested in watching. Many of these can be watched for free on the internet, so make sure to give them a search if interested!
The Magician (1898)
In this action-packed, minute-long feature by pioneering French filmmaker and special-effects maestro Georges Méliès, the director himself appears as a magician who conjures a wooden box on a table out of thin air. He jumps into the box, and then out jumps a skinny clown. The clown makes the box disappear and replaces it with a dinner table. When the clown sits down to eat, it disappears and is replace by a sinister devil character. The devil changes into a sculptor, who begins to chisel at a sculpture of a woman, which suddenly transforms into a real-life woman. At the very end, a man in Elizabethan garb appears to kick the sculptor in the butt. As with most early films about magic, the special effects were achieved via jump cuts.
Hooligan Assists the Magician (1900)
Clocking in at 96 seconds, this is the longest of our three super-short magician films from the very early Silent Era. It was also produced by Thomas Edison. According to a description by Edison films, “On a stage a professor of magic is performing some wonderful experiments, and when he requests some assistance Happy Hooligan immediately volunteers his services and climbs upon the platform.” Suddenly the magician disappears, replaced by a pair of wooden barrels. Every time the hooligan knocks them down, they manage to sit upright again. Various characters—clowns, ghosts, a goblin, and a demon—appear, all of them assaulting the hapless hooligan. According to Edison films, it all formed “a series of most startling and laughable effects entirely new to animated photography.”
This fictionalized account of world-renowned escape artist Harry Houdini (1874-1926) stars Tony Curtis in the title role and his wife Janet Leigh as a woman who at first rejected his advances but then fell in love with him and became his assistant. It traces his humble beginnings portraying a “wild man” in carnivals and then meeting his wife Bess (Janet Leigh), who convinces him to leave the carnival act and take a job at a lock factory. But when Harry wins the annual magicians’ dinner award by escaping from a straitjacket, he earns a ticket to Europe and finds his first major successes as a magician, famously escaping from a jail cell in London that was said to be escape-proof. Houdini also focuses on Houdini’s most famous feat, which was escaping from a locked trunk beneath the ice in the Detroit River.
The Magician (1958)
Released in Sweden as Ansiktet, this black-and-white film by legendary director Ingmar Bergman stars Max Von Sydow (who played Jesus in The Greatest Story Every Told) as Dr. Albert Emanual Vogler, who travels through Europe as the primary performer in “Vogler’s Magnetic Health Theater.” Since the touring troupe’s presentations involve the supernatural, local authorities in Sweden want to investigate and possibly ban them for being unscientific. The film focuses on the interactions between Vogler and authorities in one small Swedish town, who find that they may not quite be prepared to understand exactly what Vogler is doing.
The Wizard of Gore (1970)
Starting with Blood Feast in 1963 and extending well into the 1970s, director Herschell Gordon Lewis invented and popularized the slasher genre with films that are almost unimaginably bloody even by today’s standards. The Wizard of Gore features unsettling footage of women being stabbed in the mouth, drilled through the head, cut in two with a buzzsaw, and being disemboweled by a pile-driver as their bloody viscera hang out. The plot involves a magician who calls himself “Montag the Magnificent” who taunts his audiences about the very nature of reality. The women involved in his performances all seem to survive the goring he gives them onstage, yet they all soon die later of the exact same injuries. A reporter and her boyfriend, suspicious that Montag is a murderer, begin to investigate. Without spoiling the plot, at the end the viewer is left wondering whether anything they just witnessed was real.
The Escape Artist (1982)
After the death of heralded escape artist Harry Masters, his grieving son Danny moves in with distant relatives. A talented magician in his own right, Danny aspires to break out from his father's legacy but finds trouble in the form of the delinquent son of the town's unscrupulous mayor. The intrigue builds to a peak when Danny dares the local police force to incarcerate him, swearing he'll manage an escape that will rival those of his father.
The Young Magician (1987)
In this Canadian/Polish collaborative children’s drama that was released in Quebec as Le jeune magicien and in Poland as Cudowne dziecko, a 12-year-old boy named Peter Meller (Rusty Jedwab) feels ostracized by kids at school because he didn’t receive any time on the ice during a local hockey game. But when his parents take him to a magic show, he suddenly comes alive when the magician selects him to be his assistant for a trick. Peter dives into the world of magic and also accidentally realizes he possesses powers of telekinesis. But this further distances him from the kids at school and alienates his parents. But when a national emergency erupts, he is able to use his powers to save the country and becomes a national hero, finally gaining the acceptance he craved.
Death Defying Acts (2007)
Guy Pearce stars as Harry Houdini on a tour of Britain in 1926, the year that the real Houdini died. Catherine Zeta-Jones stars as an Endinburgh-based con artist named Mary McGarvie, who along with her teen daughter Benji (Saoirse Ronan), attempts to swindle Houdini out of his money. As in real life, Houdini switched his attention away from being an escape artist and attempting to prove that psychics and mentalists were frauds. He wrote down his mother’s dying words to him, sealed them in an envelope, and offered a $10,000 prize to anyone who could correctly guess what his mother said. But when Houdini and Mary finally meet, the dynamic changes when they fall in love.
The Illusionist (2010)
Magic tricks can't compete with rock 'n' roll in the 1950s, so a French illusionist finds himself touring Scotland's shabby pubs and run-down restaurants. But things brighten for him when he meets Alice, a girl who believes his powers are real. Together they travel to Edinburgh for a performance, but he doesn't have the heart to reveal that his feats are merely tricks, and risks financial ruin by giving her gifts supplied by his "magic."
Deceptive Practice (2013)
This documentary is a biography of Ricky Jay, a world-famous magician, author, historian, and actor who has appeared in films by Paul Thomas Anderson and David Mamet. Jay narrates the film, which uses archival footage from an appearance in the 1970s on The Dinah Shore Show where he plays Three-Card Monte with comedian Steve Martin. The film goes all the way back to his early childhood, where at age four he was an apprentice of his magician grandfather, segueing into nostalgic reminiscences about magician legends such as Slydini, Al Flosso, Cardini, and Dai Vernon. More broadly, the film serves as an inside peek into the world of magicians and the oddballs who are obsessed with them.
Desperate Acts of Magic (2013)
Joe Tyler Gold wrote, directed, and stars in this low-budget film as Kant, an amateur magician who attempts to go pro after losing his day job. He enters an international magicians’ competition but winds up falling in love with a female street magician (Valerie Hillman) against whom he’s competing. He now must face an inner conflict where he wants to win the competition but also the girl—and he can’t win both. Desperate Acts of Magic is filled with performances by actual magicians.
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (2013)
Steve Carell stars in the title role and Steve Buscemi stars as Anton Marvelton, Burt’s partner in magic. Together the two have ruled the Las Vegas magic scene for years. Their show is called “The Incredible Burt & Anton: A Magical Friendship!” starring the “Incredible Burt Wonderstone & Anton Marvelton,” and they perform at a theater in Bally’s that is named after them. Burt and Anton have been friends since they were two bullied teenagers named Anthony Mertz and Albert Wenzlestein, but now their thirty-year friendship is forming cracks because Burt is starting to believe that he’s the star of the show and Anton is merely unnecessary baggage. Complicating matters is the fact that they are suddenly seeing competition from a wild street musician named Steve Gray (Jim Carrey), whose following grows with every mind-bending stunt.
Magic in the Moonlight (2014) (Biz's favourite)
It’s 1928 in Berlin, and an obscure magician named Howard Burkan (Simon McBurney) seeks to find his childhood friend Stanley Crawford (Colin Firth), who has become a famous magician who calls himself Wei Ling Soo and wears heavy makeup and affects an accent to delude people into thinking he’s Chinese. Burkan wants his old friend to travel to southern France with him and expose the American clairvoyant Sophie Baker (Emma Stone) as a fraud. But when Stanley meets Sophie, not only does he fall in love with her, he can find no way to explain her psychic powers and ability to make things levitate.
Our Magic (2015) - Full Movie
I remember watching this as a kid and feeling wonder spread throughout my whole body. This documentary made by Paul Wilson sheds light on what magic is and how it should be presented so audiences have a magical experience. Many world-known magicians such as Richard Kaufman, Eric Mead or Juan Tamariz have been interviewed for this movie. I highly recommend watching this one.
Jacob Latimore stars as Bo, a young LA street magician who takes care of his little sister after their parents died. He doesn’t make too much money from his magic, so he also deals drugs on the side. In order to perfect one illusion where sharp objects appear to pass through his arm, he has set up an electromagnetic device on his arm that makes metal items levitate, but the device has led to a severe arm infection. But when he falls deep into debt to his drug supplier, he must rely on his magical abilities to save both his and his little sister’s lives.
This documentary tells the fascinating story of Richard Turner, widely considered one of the greatest card magicians in the world—a reputation that is made even greater by the fact that Richard is blind. Now in his sixties, both Richard and his sister went blind when they were children. He learned his card abilities when a teacher for the blind supplied him with books on tape about card games. Although his blindness is a natural fascination for viewers, Richard also seems to regret that people focus on his disability rather than his natural abilities at magic. The film quotes him: “I’m Richard Turner. I represent why you should never play cards with strangers.”
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