“The Force can have a strong influence on the weak-minded.”
– Obi-Wan Kenobi, “Star Wars” (1977)
In honor of Harry Potter’s final movie installment, The Massie Twins bring you an exclusive list of the 10 greatest wizards and sorcerers in film. As a side note, this feature is for male spellcasters only – sorry witches and sorceresses and enchantresses. There will be a separate list for the ladies!
10. Shang Tsung from Mortal Kombat (1995)
Though hindered by a less-than-stellar film translation, the video game inspired sorcerer is nevertheless a powerful warrior with the added benefit of shapeshifting and soul-stealing techniques. With an arsenal of muscled fiends and popular, taunting catch phrases at his disposal, the evil tournament overseer came quite close to ruling Earth Realm. Though a third film may be in the works, chances are Tsung will have to live on in the virtual world only.
9. Jareth the Goblin King from Labyrinth (1986)
While his powers only manifested themselves as crystal orbs, illusions, and transmogrification into a barn owl, Jareth is the cause of quite an adventure for Sarah Williams (and a fantastic, Muppet-filled film) as she sets about on a quest to navigate the treacherous Labyrinth in search of his M.C. Escher-esque castle. And how many other wizards get to sing songs in their movies?
8. Howl from Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)
The mysterious wizard Howl, commander of a walking castle propelled by a talking flame, must stop a war while simultaneously battling his steadily weakening condition and a secret contract confining his heart. Brilliantly realized by Hayao Miyazaki, the entire world of “Howl’s Moving Castle” reflects wonderfully creative magic and sorcery, and reveals a gripping story of good versus evil filled with love, humor, and adventure. Though the true savior of the day is the cursed Sophie, it’s Howl, with his ability to transform into a gigantic raven, that is still a chaotic force to be reckoned with.
7. Willow Ufgood from Willow (1988)
While the sorcerer-in-training may not be as powerful in the ways of magic as some of the others on this list, his determination, intelligence, and courage in the face of adversity more than make up for his uh … shortcomings, and allowed him to stand up to the evil Queen Bavmorda to save Elora Danan.
6. The Wizard from The Wizard of Oz (1939)
By far one of the most famous of movie wizards, the menacing voice of the Wizard of Oz struck fear into the hearts of the determined foursome who traversed the yellow brick road to find him. However, appearances can be deceiving, and as it turned out, the Wizard of Oz was not a real wizard at all – but as he successfully managed to grant the wishes of each adventurer (or at least convince them they had such abilities all along), he deserves a place on this list. The top spots, however, belong to wizards with more concrete powers.
5. Merlin from The Sword in the Stone (1963)
While Merlin has entertained multiple movie forms, from 1981’s “Excalibur” to 2004’s “King Arthur,” none have been nearly as fun as Disney’s old and cantankerous incarnation, whose magical escapades led to fending off carnivorous birds and enamored squirrels. Plus, Merlin’s vigorous duel against Mad Madam Mim is a marvel in masterful animation and inventive transformations. None of the other Merlins can boast changing into a germ to defeat a dragon.
4. Grand Vizier Jafar from Aladdin (1992)
As craftily cunning and heinously evil as any Disney villain created, the Vizier to the Sultan rapidly became a better sorcerer with each ambitious wish granted from the stolen Genie. His powers were constrained only by his limited imagination and the rules of genie-wishes. Unfortunately for Jafar, his ego and temper were easily exploited by protagonists Aladdin and Jasmine, which resulted in a rather short-lived reign.
3. Severus Snape from the Harry Potter movies (2001-2011)
The powerful and mysterious Severus Snape’s true intentions provide much debate for avid fans of the Harry Potter series, and the stern head of House Slytherin takes a fiendish interest in bullying Harry and studying the Dark Arts. He’s also highly skilled in occlumency and legilimency, and though I have no idea what those are, it should count for something. While Dumbledore and Potter may be the more widely appreciated wizards, rarely is an antagonist as calmly cool and calculating as Snape – plus he always sports sharp black attire.
2. Gandalf the Grey/White from the Lord of the Rings movies (2001-2003)
Perhaps the most famous wizard from literature, Gandalf is given a worthy film translation with Sir Ian McKellen’s Oscar-nominated performance in Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. It’s hard to contest the power of the 2,000-year-old wizard as he single-handedly took on the Balrog, returned from death, and played an integral part in the defeat of Sauron. But the white robes and staff is what really won us over.
1. Darth Vader, Dark Lord of the Sith from the Star Wars movies (1977-1983)
“Don’t try to frighten us with your sorcerer’s ways, Lord Vader.” Realistically, Jedi were the wizards of a galaxy far, far away and none were as memorable or influential as Darth Vader, with his shiny black armor and mechanically breathy voice. Though the Emperor may have held a higher rank and slightly more power, Vader was the true force to be reckoned with and, ultimately, all six movies were based around him. And if it weren’t for those pesky twin Jedi protagonists and their army of rebels and a little green mentor, Vader would still be ruling the galaxy today.