Deathly Hallows Part II brings ten years of magic on screen to a close this weekend, but we all know that wizardy isn't solely in the domain of Hogwarts Academy. From Gandalf to Mumm-Ra, there are enough mages and warlocks in the collective cinematic consciousness to fill out the arcana of a whole deck of Tarot cards. Some practice black magic, others the white variety, but no two take the same approach to prestidigitation, so I figure it's worthwhile to fix our all-seeing third eye on a few of the most notable ones.
6. Prof. Marvel from the Wizard of Oz
We know that a wizard’s power comes from him knowing many things that the average human can’t fathom; but you’ve also got to figure that some of his esteem comes from him spouting off a bunch of nonsense said normals only accept because they don’t know any better. Take away Gandalf’s staff or Dumbledore’s wand and they’ll be just as big charlatans as this famous fraud. Indeed, he may not have any supernatural power, but there certainly is a magic in being able to convince a bunch of characters that you’re giving them special prizes (a heart, a diploma, etc.) that are actually useless trinkets.
Perhaps we’ve been bemused by however many years of groaning, shuffling cartoons wrapped in clean, white toilet paper, but I’d argue that the Mummy might actually be the most intriguing out of all the classic Universal monsters. Dracula goes where his thirst takes him and Frankenstein stumbles around without much direction, but Imhotep has the patience to make death a resting place to see an unholy plan through over the course of centuries. However you feel about that remake with Brendan Fraser, you can’t deny that Karloff gave this unholy priest an absolutely petrifying gaze.
4. Willy Wonka
Yeah yeah, I know what you’re thinking. I refuse to believe that this candy man can do all the wonderful things he does without the aid of some supernatural hoodoo. You see a chocolate factory, I see the confectionery equivalent of Dr. Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum.
3. Shang Tsung from Mortal Kombat
There are a lot of indignities a sorcerer can inflict upon his foes. He could trap you in a painting or turn you into living stone, but those fates seem positively pleasant in comparison to him eating you soul and taking your identity, don’t they? Differentiating between this guy and his video game equivalent with all the deadly alliances, I'll say that movie Tsung has such a serpentine quality about him, even at the times he isn't casting spells. Of course, for all his wickedness, you’ve got to respect Mr. Tsung for having such a charitable social conscience. What other wizard on this list - - evil or otherwise - - has such a vocal commitment to positive messages about violence and to “kombating” MS?
2. Skeletor from Masters of the Universe
YES! THE POWER! I have already crowed about how awe-inspiring a sight it is to see a totally unleashed Frank Langella is in my write-up of action figure movies of the 80s, but it all warrants repeating. I want to stress that it’s only the movie Skeletor who’s making this list, not the jacked-up, squeaky-voiced clown from the original cartoons. A friend of mine put it quite well that this is how Dr. Doom should be portrayed on screen and I have to agree that this big-voiced conqueror makes most other super villains seem about as frightening as your mean old office manager by comparison.
1. Akiro from Conan the Barbarian
All said, King Conan’s chronicler is probably the most realistic vision of a wizard on this list. If there is, indeed, a factual basis for all these magic men of fiction, it likely lies in the frazzled shamans who once lived on village outskirts because they were two damn twitchy to live with normal people. Mako gave this hermit a kind of grumbling that conveyed a depth of arcane knowledge while also making that knowledge seem like some mumbo jumbo you’d quickly tire of actually hearing out. It’s realer because it’s less sexy.
Who's your favorite cinematic wizard?