Now You See Me 2 has hit the big screen this week and marks the return of the Four Horsemen. Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, and Dave Franco are back while Lizzy Caplan and Daniel Radcliffe are the big new additions to the cast list.
Now You See Me 2 comes three years after the release of the first film and sees Jon M. Chu in the director's chair. You can't beat a magic movie and there have been some great ones over the years.
To celebrate the release of Now You See Me 2, we take a look at some of the best films that have explored the theme of magic.
- The Prestige (2006)
One of my favourite magic movies was released a decade ago and was from filmmaker Christopher Nolan. The Prestige was the fifth film of Nolan's directing career and came after the success of Batman Begins.
The film saw the director reunite with Christian Bale as he and Hugh Jackman took on the central roles of warring magicians Alfred Borden and Robert Angier.
Michael Caine - another regular in Nolan movies - Piper Perabo, Rebecca Hall, Scarlett Johansson, David Bowie, and Andy Serkis were also on the cast list.
The Prestige follows two stage magicians engage in competitive one-upmanship in an attempt to create the ultimate stage illusion.
The Prestige is a wonderful film that is packed with twists, turns, interesting relationships and asks questions of the audience from the opening scene to the closing credits. Did you see the twist coming?
Nolan weaves a wonderful story about the darkness of obsession that is both taut and engaging. If you are a Nolan fan and haven't seen The Prestige, then it is a movie that you really should check out.
- Hocus Pocus (1993)
When it comes to magic movies, Hocus Pocus is up there as one of the most popular and loved. It's hard to believe that this film is now over twenty years old and it was back in 1993 when it hit the big screen for the first time.
Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy take on the central roles of witch sisters Winifred, Sarah, and Mary while Kenny Ortega was in the director's chair.
After three centuries, three witch sisters are resurrected in Salem, Massachusetts on Halloween night, and it is up to two teenagers, a young girl and an immortal cat to put an end to the witches' reign of terror once and for all.
I love that fact the Hocus Pocus is a female-driven film and there's wonderful chemistry between Midler, Parker, and Najimy. This really is a movie for all ages; you can be swept along with the silly story as a kid, while there's also some fantastic adult humour.
This is a movie that doesn't take itself too silly and that is part of its charm. You can tell that the cast had a ball making this movie and that comes across in every scene.
The movie may not have been a big critical hit upon release, Hocus Pocus has become somewhat of a cult hit over the last twenty years and is a terrific addition to the magic film genre.
- Practical Magic (1999)
Sandra Bullock teamed up with Nicole Kidman back in 1999 to star as the Owens sisters in Practical Magic, which was an adaptation of the Alice Hoffman novel.
Robin Swicord, Akiva Goldsman, and Adam Brooks teamed up to adapt the book into a screenplay while Griffin Dunne was in the director's chair for the second feature film of his career.
Practical Magic follows the Owens sisters, Sally, and Gillian, as they struggle to use their hereditary gift for practical magic to overcome the obstacles in discovering true love.
Practical Magic is unlike many of the other films in this genre in the fact that it is a sweet and charming story about finding love.
Bullock and Kidman - who would both go on to scoop Best Actress Oscars - are terrific together and it is their relationship that is the true heart and soul of this film.
The duo is joined on the cast list by Stockard Channing, Diane Wiest, Aidan Quinn, Goran Visnjic, and Evan Rachel Wood.
While Practical Magic perhaps doesn't quite achieve the lofty heights of some of the other films in this genre, it is a good watch that is driven by two great central performances from Bullock and Kidman.
- The Illusionist (2007)
Sadly for The Illusionist, it was a movie that was slightly overshadowed by The Prestige - which was released first - but that didn't stop it from being a terrific movie that was packed with mystery and intrigue at every turn.
The movie was loosely based on the short story Eisenheim the Illusionist by Steven Millhauser and saw Neil Burger back in the director's chair as well as on writing duties.
Set in early 20th-century Vienna, a stage magician uses his magic to win back the great love of his life from a brutal enemy, her fiancé, who is also the powerful crowned prince of Austria.
Edward Norton took on the central role of magician Eisenheim while Paul Giamatti, Jessica Biel, Rufus Sewell, and Eddie Marsan were also on board.
I have always liked Norton as an actor and he gives another very commanding performance in The Illusionist. Couple that with mystery that keeps you guessing until the very end, and you have a movie that is a terrific watch.
The Illusionist mixes magic and mystery as well is a movie that is visually stunning. The movie played well on the festival circuit that year and went on to open to both critical and commercial success.
- The Craft (1996)
Magic movies were a popular film genre in the nineties and The Craft was one of the most famous to be released - yes, the movie is twenty years old this year.
The supernatural horror was directed by Andrew Fleming and saw Robin Tunney, Fairuza Balk, Neve Campbell, and Rachel True take on the central roles of Sarah Bailey, Nancy Downs, Bonnie Hyper, and Rochelle Zimmerman.
Sarah Bailey (Tunney) is the new kid in town, but even under the best of circumstances, she has never been accepted by the popular crowd. At her new school, she falls in with a trio of other female misfits (Balk, Campbell, and True) who, it so happens, are trying to learn witchcraft and form their own little coven. When Sarah joins them to make it a quartet, they slowly develop multifold preternatural powers and learn how to focus and use them.
With such abilities literally at their fingertips, it's not too long until the little coven, initially formed for self-protection and companionship, becomes an instrument for personal gain and revenge. Sarah soon realizes that one of her friends is evil to the core, and fearful of what THAT one may do with the group's newfound powers, she decides it's best to resign from the coven and thereby weaken the magic abilities of the others. But the coven has different plans, particularly regarding Sarah....
These teen movie was a great mix of violence and fun and was a great mix of magic, fantasy and horror elements. It was a movie that was loved by a generation upon release and has gone on to gain a cult status.
Despite mixed reviews upon release, The Craft went on to open at #1 at the U.S. box office and grossed over $55 million - easily making back its $15 million budget. It would end the year as one of the biggest sleeper hits.
- Howl's Moving Castle (2005)
Many Studio Ghibli movies explore themes of magic and Spirited Away or Kiki's Delivery Service could have made this list... instead, we are going to take a closer look at Howl's Moving Castle.
Howl's Moving Castle was released back in 2005 and remains my favourite Studio Ghibli film. The movie was based on the book of the same name and saw Hayao Miyazaki back in the director's chair for his first feature since the success of Spirited Away.
Howl's Movie Castle follows Sophie, an unconfident young woman, who is turned into an old woman by a witch after being befriended by wizard Howl. Taking shelter in Howl's travelling home, Sophie sets out to find a way to break the spell... making friends and falling in love along the way.
Howl's Moving Castle is a movie about magic, adventure, love, family, and war and Miyazaki balances all of these themes and ideas wonderfully.
The animation - especially the moving castle itself - is truly captivating as Miyazaki takes the audience on a real adventure and to many different places and landscapes. There's something incredibly magical about the worlds that he creates that you cannot help but get swept up in it all.
However, it is not all about the animation as the characters are just as engaging as the look of the film. Studio Ghibli is famed for creating strong female characters and Sophie continues that fine tradition. Sophie is a character who is determined to stand on her own two feet and find a way to break the spell.
And when everything around her starts to fall apart, she is the one who fights to keep her new - and slightly unconventional - family together. It is her strength and bravery that really sees them through. It is great to see Sophie as more than just a damsel in distress. Of course, she needs Howl's help to break the spell but he needs her as much as she needs him.
Howl's Moving Castle remains one of the most successful Japanese movies at the box office of all time. The movie went on to be nominated for four Oscars, including Best Animated Feature. However, it would lose out to Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.
- The Harry Potter Film Series (2001 - 2011)
Of course, you cannot talk about magic movies without looking at Harry Potter, which first hit the big screen back in 2001. A generation has grown up with the books and with the movies and Potter is one of literary and film's biggest and most-loved heroes.
This franchise turned Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint into stars while Chris Columbus, Alfonso Cuarón, Mike Newell, and David Yates were the four directors who worked on the eight movies.
With each release, the films got bigger and bigger until the franchise reached its climax in 2011 with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2.
Deathly Hallows - Part 2 was the perfect end to an action packed series and was the ultimate battle between good and evil. Thrown in some wonderful CGI and set pieces, and you have a triumphant conclusion that kept just about everyone happy.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2 went on to be the highest-grossing film in the series - taking the crown from Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. Deathly Hallows - Part 2 would be the only film in the series to gross over $1 billion at the global box office.
The Harry Potter franchise is one of the most successful of all time; the eight movies have grossed $7.7 billion at the global box office.
Other great movies about magic include Labyrinth, Magic, Spirited Away, and Stardust.
Now You See Me 2 is out now.
Tagged in The Illusionist