Roald Dahl said that those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.
It seems that people have been looking far and wide for pieces of magic. From legends to witches and wizards and mystics, the concept of magic grew and appealed to more and more audiences.
Magic has now been ingrained in popular culture, and countless movies are centered around this mystical concept. Here are some of the best magical films you should not miss—and for cinema’s sake, we’re eliminating the obvious ones like Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings, although you have to admit, they were awesome. Check these out:
To start off, let’s start with the most famous magician who ever lived—Harry Houdini. Tony Curtis stars as the iconic man in this classic Hollywood epic, where they tackle his origins as a circus performer, where he met his wife, Bess (played by Janet Leigh).
Soon after they got married, however, Houdini left his life at the circus to work at a steady job in a factory, where his obsession with escape grew.
Soon, the couple took their show on the road and around London, where he broke out of Scotland Yard and escaped to Detroit, where he started performing more and more stunts—eventually leading to his death.
In the golden age of Hollywood, biopics put more emphasis on the dramatization than portrayals of actual facts. The number of changes the movie made to Houdini’s story was nearly appalling; however, it did do an admirable job in portraying his humanity.
Neil Gaiman is a master storyteller, and the film, based on his book of the same name, is among the most underrated fantasy stories from the past decade.
The story centers around a young man named Tristan Thorn (played by Charlie Cox) who ventured outside their village into the magical world beyond the border to fetch a fallen star for a girl he liked, but who was obviously only toying with his emotions.
When he arrived at the crater where the star landed, however, it was personified by a beautiful young woman (played by Claire Danes) and his journey back was more treacherous than he thought, with witches and pirates and flying ships and evil princes.
Fantastical and comical at the same time, the thrilling adventure was filled with heartwarming whimsy, with a stellar cast that contributed to its success, including Michelle Pheiffer and Robert De Niro, among others.
Howl’s Moving Castle, 2004
This lovely story by Studio Ghibli is an adaptation of Diana Wynne Jones’s novel of the same name. A young girl’s life was changed forever when she met a charming young wizard named Howl, who was being pursued by countless creatures including dangerous witches. When Sophie upset one of the witches, she was turned into an old lady who had to go on an adventure to restore her youth.
What makes the film so special, however, is its combination of British folklore and Japanese-style animation, making it an interesting clash of cultures. Unlike most films, its concept of witchcraft is a multi-faceted interpretation, not a single concept.
The Witches, 1990
Another adaptation from a novel, The Witches was an original work by Roald Dahl and is a comical, twisted story that follows a young boy named Luke, who lived with his grandmother after he was orphaned. She then told him stories of the witches of England, who masqueraded as old ladies to hide their features as they kidnapped unwitting children.
The tale is dark as far as children’s stories go, but it has amazing performances that showed the magic of witches that could be quite horrifying. Still, despite the heavy tone, it is still an adventurous story that some children may find scary—but is a steal for most adults.
The Prestige, 2006
Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale are nineteenth-century rival magicians who keep on trying to one-up each other on their tricks—but also by sabotaging each other’s shows.
When Bale’s character, a working-class magician Alfred Borden, came with an incredible teleportation trick, Jackman’s aristocratic Robert Angier became obsessed with finding out how he did it.
To one-up his rival, Angrier visited scientist Nikola Tesla to invent a machine that will help him with his teleport trick.
The film is an interesting mix of realistic historical content with bits of fantastical elements, making this period drama something of a wonder. Also starring Michael Caine, David Bowie, and Scarlett Johansson, this mysterious thriller is one of those that will keep viewers guessing.
The Illusionist, 2006
Premiering around the same time as Christopher Nolan‘s The Prestige, this film from Neil Burger stars Edward Norton, who stars as the main character Eisenheim, an illusionist whose act was highly successful in Vienna—until he got banned for insulting the Crown Prince (Rufus Sewell). Incidentally, the prince is betrothed to Eisenheim’s lover, Sophie (Jessica Biel). When she planned to leave the prince, he killed her rage, which led to Eisenheim wanting to get revenge.
The focus on this film is on necromancy, making the film one of the darker ones on this list, but it only made the film more mysterious, leaving you wanting more.
The Illusionist, 2010
Not to be confused with the live-action period drama from Neil Burger, this charming film follows the story of an old magician in 1950s Paris who had fallen from grace due to the change of the times. Instead, he followed a rock band’s gig, traveling across Europe. During this time, he met a young girl who believed with her heart that he was magic, so she followed him around in various shows, where they created a strong father-daughter relationship.
The film is a tribute to French comedy legend Jacques Tati, who wrote the script as a tribute to his daughter, whom he felt he neglected during filmmaking. Outside the story is more controversy, however, as Tati’s daughter to whom he dedicated the story to was subject to controversy. Other claimed it was for his eldest, while others, including his grandson, assumed that it was, in fact, for his illegitimate daughter.