With Now You See Me 2, yet another 2016 sequel audiences never asked for, hitting theaters this weekend, we at AE thought it would be an appropriate time to bring you five movie magicians that are much more worth two hours of deceit and illusion.
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
He might be the most poorly skilled magician to ever grace the silver screen, but the Wonderful Wizard of Oz still stands the test of time as the most memorable of all. A fraud no doubt, but the man who dropped the house on the Wicked Witch of the East succeeded in using illusions and sleight of hand distractions to convince loyal followers of his power and frighten any doubters from challenging his reign. That is, until Dorothy and her friends pull back the curtain and reveal that his magical powers are nothing more than a few hat tricks and light shows. The magic The Wizard does succeed in performing, however, is providing our favorite band of misfits with the confidence and knowledge that what they’re searching for already exists inside them if they just believe in themselves, and that’s the most important reveal of all.
The Prestige (2006)
Two London magicians compete for the reputation of performing the best illusion at the risk of deadly consequences that await when they let their egos get the best of them. Like most Nolan films, The Prestige reveals its fully story by unfolding complex layers, the reveal of which continues until the final scene. Although both Angier and Borden are illusionists, the story delves into the realm of science fiction, enhancing both the grandeur of their tricks and the dangerous risks they face as they wage their war against one another. Both men will stop at nothing to defeat the other, and watching the magic fueled fallout is a journey viewers can take an infinite number of times and still discover something new.
The Illusionist (2006)
2006 was a popular year for dark films about combative, existentially disturbed illusionists. Edward Norton and Jessica Biel portray star-crossed lovers in The Illusionist who use magic to escape their doomed future together and fool those that are keeping them apart. Although often discussed within the same vein as The Prestige because films about actual magicians rather than the broad realm of magic are few and far between and these two films happened to be released the same year, both stand tall on their own merit. The Illusionist serves as an epic love story more than anything, a tale of one elaborate illusion with a singular end goal, and Norton’s Eisenheim keeps the audiences both on and off the screen distracted enough to pull it of with finesse.
This fictionalized biopic tells the story of both the career and personal life of the most famous magician and escape artist, Harry Houdini. Whether it’s escaping from a safe or a straight jacket, chances are Houdini did it first. This film features Tony Curtis as Houdini, with is then wife Janet Leigh as Houdini’s wife Bess, and this tall tale follows the couple around that world as the groundbreaking magician goes to absurd lengths to make his name known. Needless to say, he left a legacy behind that has no chance of disappearing anytime soon, as magicians today still strive to mimic his most spectacular escapes.
Oz, the Great and Powerful (2013)
In 2013 Sam Raimi brought us back to Oz to tell the story of what happened before Dorothy and her little dog blew in from Kansas. James Franco plays Oscar Diggs, a circus magician who escapes the circus in his hot hair balloon only to be caught up in a tornado and blown to Oz. Oscar relies on deception, illusion, and lies to trick the inhabitants of Oz into believing he is the all powerful Wizard who has come to save them, but he manages to redeem himself by performing the ultimate magic trick to rid Oz of the oppressive wicked witches. The only way to end this magical journey through the movie masters of trickery is the same we began, in Oz.