presto

5. Presto

Doug Sweetland’s five-minute film Presto made its debut before WALL-E. The story follows Presto DiGiotagione, a turn-of-the-century magician, who is famous for an astounding hat trick. Presto’s apprentice rabbit, Alec, however, is dissatisfied as he shares none of Presto’s wild success. While Presto is out eating lavish dinner, Alec is left behind, locked in a birdcage with a carrot torturously out of reach. The film feels like a great callback to the old Looney Toons animated shorts of yesteryear. It might not be Pixar’s best short film, but it’s a lot of fun. If you haven’t seen it, you can watch a clip of it on YouTube.

Houdini 1953

4. Houdini (1953)

Here is where we get to the portion of this list where I include the magic movies that I was obsessed with as a young child. There have been a bunch of filmmakers who have attempted to adapt the story of Houdini for the big and small screens, and the best one of the bunch is George Marshall‘s 1953 film starring Tony Curtis as Harry Houdini and Janet Leigh as his wife Bess. The biopic is far from accurate, more fictionalized than not, but it’s a lot of fun. As Roger Ebert once said, “the only responsibility of the script is to produce the best possible film. Those who think it must be ‘faithful’ seem to treat adaptation like marriage.” I’m sure we will eventually get a better Houdini movie, as a few have been in development in recent years. But this 1953 film is great for what it is, that being a charming, colorful yet standard biopic.

The Ten Commandments

3. The Ten Commandments

The Ten Commandments is a film I’ve watched hundreds of times since childhood. While I was brought up Catholic, I’m no longer of any religious denomination. So for years I’ve wondered why this biblical adaptation has still appealed to me. Honestly, its something I’ve thought long and hard about, it really bugged me. And earlier this year it finally hit me: I love The Ten Commandments because at its core it’s a film about a magician who uses magic to change the world. Thats a very powerful idea to me.

Now I know saying that might piss off some religious folks, and I’m not saying that Moses was doing magic tricks instead of miracles (honestly, I’m not sure Moses even existed, but let’s move on). What I’m saying is that the reason this Bible story in particular connects with me is through the idea that Moses was a magician of his time. And yes, in this intro I said that I would not include films with wizards doing real magic, but that this list would be limited to movies about magicians and illusionists. This is the one exception.

Make Believe

2. Make Believe

I’ve written about this documentary many times in the past. Make Believe is produced by the same people who made King of Kong, and if that isn’t enough to get you interested, we can’t be friends. The documentary follows six of the world’s best young magicians as they travel to Las Vegas to battle for the title of Teen World Champion. Yes, its the same formula as Spellbound and a hundred other different documentaries — this movie doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel in any way. Make Believe is a great film because of the characters it follows. Whoever did the casting for this documentary completely nailed it. This isn’t just a great magic movie, or a good documentary, but a great film that I recommend everyone watch.

the prestige

1. The Prestige

I think a lot of you knew this film would be #1 when you started reading this list, and I’m not sure I even need to explain this choice. Christopher Nolan’s adaptation of The Prestige is great for many reasons: the performances, the obsessive close-to-real portrayal of magic and magicians, the compelling twisty mind-bending story which in itself functions as a magic trick of sorts. The film gets better the more I watch it. If I have one problem with this film it is with the love story, something that Nolan has continuously had trouble with in his filmography. The Prestige is a film that will stand the test of time, and will be watched 100 years from now by audiences that appreciate the movie even more so than those who got to see it on the big screen during its initial theatrical release. It’s a magical movie, thrilling, dazzling, cinematically told in a way that no other filmmaker could.

Pages: Previous page 1 2 3

Cool Posts From Around the Web: