Movies about magic can enchant viewers of all ages. Whether they’re stories set in a distant fantastical realm or a more familiar reality, they strike our sense of wonder and amusement.
Below are some of the best movies about magic that have hit the big screen. Not all were favorites upon their release, but they’ve all come to be considered standouts of the genre. They’re funny, smart, heartfelt, and exhilarating.
Magic should only be used when absolutely necessary—practically speaking. At least that's how Sally Owens (Sandra Bullock) sees it. She rarely uses the gifts bestowed upon her, and avoids men due to her family’s curse: any man an Owens woman falls in love with is doomed to an early death. However, when Sally meets the man of her dreams, she can’t help but fall for him. They get married, have children, and build a happy life together. But eventually the curse comes true, and Sally must rely on her eccentric aunts to help raise her children.
Sally's sister, Gillian “Gilly” Owens (Nicole Kidman), urges her sister to forgive herself and move on. But Gilly has problems of her own—namely, her abusive murderer boyfriend, Jimmy. After Sally accidentally kills Jimmy, the sisters try to bring him back to life so he can be punished for his crimes. However, they find themselves in deep trouble when their plan doesn’t go accordingly. Viewers will laugh at the sisters' triumphs, and ultimately come to love the relationship between these two witches.
A vengeful husband is pitted against the man who used to be his best friend in this illusion-filled movie. Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) are two magician’s assistants, and dear friends. That is, until Robert’s wife tragically dies during a performance, and Robert blames Alfred.
Fast forward a few years, and the two have risen to become the most renowned magicians in late 19th century England. Now rivals, the ex-friends attempt to sabotage each other’s performances. However, their attempts to outwit and destroy the other threaten to take control of their careers, and result in terrible consequences.
Nancy Downs (Fairuza Balk), Bonnie (Neve Campbell), and Rochelle (Rachel True) are three high school girls with an interest in magic and a desire for revenge against racist bullies and jerk boys. When they meet Sarah (Robin Tunney), a new girl in school with a mysterious past and a talent for the supernatural, the friends realize their coven will become more powerful than ever. Together, the four learn to summon the power of Manon, a dark deity. But the girls quickly realize there is more to magic than they were prepared for, and that there's a backlash for every spell they cast.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azakaban
If you grew up as a Harry Potter junkie, like most of us did, you’ll remember that the third book in the series, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, took the story for a dark turn. Harry, Hermione, and Ron are faced with a new set of challenges in this tale of Dementors and murderers.
Directed by Alfonso Cuarón, Prisoner of Azkaban introduces huge conflicts that Harry and his friends continue to face throughout the series. It stands out, even among the other eight movies. Although when it comes to movies about magic, you'll never really go wrong with something from the Harry Potter franchise.
Pan's Labyrinth is one of several films on this list in which the real world and the fantastical blend. The apparent effortlessness of this collision makes it all the more unsettling in this unique movie. Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) is the stepdaughter of a brutal military officer in 1944 Spain during the Spanish Civil War. One night she meets a fairy who escorts her to the center of a nearby labyrinth where she encounters an old faun. He informs her she must perform three gruesome tasks, and if she fails, she will not receive a second chance to meet her real father, the king.
The film is another brilliant movie from del Toro, intended to complement one of his earlier films, The Devil’s Backbone. If you can imagine it, the original plot was even darker. It featured a young pregnant woman who falls in love with the faun, and allows him to sacrifice her baby under the guise that she, the baby, and the faun would live happily ever after in the afterlife. Sounds heartwarming, right?
Now You See Me
Now You See Me takes a bit of a different approach to magic than the others on this list. Rooted in the real world, this magic system resembles one you’d see at a fair or carnival. The film follows a team of four struggling magicians who are mysteriously summoned to a rundown apartment, and invited to join the Four Horsemen, a secret historic society of skilled magicians who use their abilities to make social statements. A series of tricky performances lead them to their biggest act yet: a live bank heist. Afterwards they vanish, leaving fans and authorities baffled.
The magicians are hunted by an FBI agent and an interpol detective. However, the Four Horsemen have countless tricks up their sleeves, and lead their pursuers on a teasing game of cat and mouse. We’d be surprised if this movie doesn’t become your next guilty pleasure.
Chances are you’ve heard of this Halloween cult classic. Upon its release in 1993, the film did not hit the ground running, but it has since become a fan favorite. Viewers love these three twisted sisters and their sinister plan for revenge. On Halloween night, Winifred (Bette Midler), Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker), and Mary Sanderson (Kathy Najimy) are resurrected, and allowed one night to seek their revenge and achieve everlasting youth. Three hundred years ago, these women were executed for practicing dark witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts. This Halloween night is their chance to become immortal.
It’s up to two kids, Max and Dani, to stop the witches from succeeding, and end their reign of terror once and for all. Hocus Pocus is a Halloween classic you can watch and love any time of year.
A star falls from the sky, and sets in motion a chain of events young Tristan Thorn (Charlie Cox) never saw coming. In a last-ditch effort to impress a woman of a higher social class than he, Tristan ventures into the fantastical world of Stormhold, which is separated from his tiny English village by a brick wall. But when he finally reaches the star, what he finds is a beautiful, wise, and stubborn woman named Yvaine (Claire Danes).
Tristan soon realizes the return trip home isn’t going to be as simple as he thought. He and Yvaine must elude the witch who wants to steal the star's youth, and two princes who want the ruby she possess in order to steal their dead father’s throne. Whimsical and fantastic, Stardust is a fairytale for children and adults.
Eisenheim (Edward Norton) and Sophie (Jessica Biel) fell in love when they were teenagers, but their romance was doomed from the beginning. Class differences in late 19th century Vienna made a life together impossible, and so, they were forced to part ways.
Now, Eisenheim has become a well-regarded magician, and Sophie is engaged to the Crown Prince Leopold. One evening, she wanders into Eisenheim’s show. Despite not having seen each other for 15 years, they each recognize the other immediately. The stakes are raised when the feelings from their teenage years resurface. Sophie can’t leave the crown price without risking her life, and Eisenheim questions if he can use his magic to change their circumstances. The Illusionist is a blend of romance, mystery, and suspense that will keep viewers engaged until the credits roll.
The Witches of Eastwick
In the quiet, idyllic New England town of Eastwick, three best friends, all previously married, are now single. Little do the three know that they are in fact witches, and together they form a powerful coven. As a joke, they try conjuring the picturesque man of their dreams. But soon that joke accidentally morphs into something much more sinister. Enter Daryl Van Horne (Jack Nicholson). Dark and mysterious, brash and rude, Daryl manages to make each friend fall head over heels for him. But after a prominent town citizen is injured, and it appears Daryl is involved, the women begin to experiment with magic. Soon enough, they’ll learn just who Daryl is, and how he was able to seduce each one of them.
This film is perfect for any viewer who wants a story that’s dark and comedic. It follows three headstrong women as they navigate their way through being single in a small town where rumors run rampant and secrets are impossible to keep. Cher, Susan Sarandon, and Michelle Pfeiffer star as the three lovable friends.
Featured still from "Hocus Pocus" via Walt Disney Pictures