Movies and magic go hand in hand — magicians and directors are kindred spirits. Surprisingly, there’s not many movies ABOUT magic out there that really do it justice. Sure, there’s movies about magicians, but they make many more like “Harry Potter.” For every “The Illusionist,” there’s four “Smokin’ Aces.” And it’s going to take a heck of a movie to beat out “The Prestige” as the best movie about magicians ever.
Fortunately, we found some good ones on Netflix’s streaming service.
These five movies are some of our favorites. They stretch across genres and deal with different facets of magic, from what magic actually is to the importance of listening to your mentors. And there’s some great casting in them, too. Next time you’re ready for a magic movie, look no further. Put these on your instant queue right now:
Allegedly a sendup of The Amazing Kreskin, this movie tells the story about a once great mentalist trying to revive his career. Colin Hanks and John Malkovich head a cast FILLED with prime talent, including Emily Blunt, Steve Zahn, Tom Hanks and Debra Monk. Ricky Jay plays a character and David Blaine makes a cameo, as well as a host of other entertainers from Jon Stewart to George Takei. But Malkovich steals the show (even when he’s the top-billed actor) as Howard, and reminds of how performing is sometimes all that matters.
This is an endearing movie done under the Francis Ford Coppola Presents label. This is a cult hit among Coppola fans for Griffin O’Neal’s spot on performance of a young escape artist who desires to follow in his father’s footsteps and similar performances from Raul Julia and Teri Garr. But magicians will appreciate appearances by Harry Anderson. O’Neal’s character also gives some great cameos to Erdnase’s “Expert at the Card Table.”
A private investigator is called to probe a murder by the wife of a famous illusionist, who uses real magic to fuel his stage show. Then something goes wrong, there’s a bunch of cultists and general Clive Barker psycho-mayhem. While Barker fans appreciate this movie for making it the first time P.I. Harry D’Amour appears on screen, magicians will note appearances by The Magic Castle and Billy McCombe. Ultimately, the movie questions the notion of when something is real magic or just an illusion, while making the most horrifying part a sex scene between Scott Bakula and Famke Janssen.
This isn’t a story. It’s history. Specifically, Penn and Teller go abroad and search out the origins of some legendary tricks, including what is widely believed to be the first magic trick ever: the cups and balls. P&T’s clear-cup version is beautiful to watch, but what they find out is more surprising than seeing those lemons. The duo loves magic and has a tremendous amount of respect for history, making this video a joy and celebration of magic’s endurance. And Teller actually has a lot to say. Yes, Teller.
We’ll save the best for last, because this one is tricky to find on Netflix, but so worth the effort. If you click the link above, it will take you to “The Magician,” an indie crime thriller that has nothing to do with a magician. Just start up the movie, and Netflix will play “Magicians,” one of the greatest comedies about magic we’ve seen. Funnier than anything Gob ever did, truth. (UPDATE: It looks like Netflix is in the process of fixing this goof; we’ll update the links when find working ones.)
Two former partners, separated by an affair and accidental beheading, try to revive their careers separately during a magic competition. As one struggles to make his old act work, the other struggles with a new act, and the rival magicians clash spectacularly. Featuring Robert Webb and David Mitchell playing the magicians, the movie satires the rivalry found in “The Prestige” rather brilliantly. UK magicians Ali Bongo, Aladin and Patrick Page make cameos, as well as Scott Penrose. Oh, we’re also enamored with the sweet close-up that a deck of Ghost playing cards gets.