50 Greatest Movie Illusions

Chronicle (2012)

"Seriously, how are they doing this?"

The Movie Illusion: A boy with recently developed superpowers performs a talent show act in which he performs all sorts of tricks, from making a spilled pack of cards float into his hand, to stopping balls in the air mid-juggle. Of course, the real illusion is making all of this seem like it could just be a magician’s trick.

Performed By: The increasingly unstable Andrew Detmer (Dane Dehaan)

How Did They Do That? Well, obviously it is all achieved with Andrew’s growing telekinetic skills, but the illusion – that it’s all fake – is sold thanks to him deliberately starting off slow and clumsy. And by not doing anything too unrealistic on stage like, oh we don’t know, crushing a car without touching it.

Fright Night (2011)

"Peter Vincent: A magical tour de force."

The Movie Illusion: A magician appears in a puff of smoke to thwart a levitating vampire with fire shooting from his hands.

Performed By: Russell Br… oh, we mean David Tennant’s stage magician Peter Vincent.

How Did They Do That? It’s all smoke and mirrors. And pyrotechnics. And harnesses. And tight leather trousers.

Click (2006)

"A good magician never reveals his secrets."

The Movie Illusion: A person takes an actual bite out of a US quarter.

Performed By: Adam Sandler

How Did They Do That? In what is the least-exciting explanation ever, it’s a trick coin. That’s it. A trick coin.

Magicians (2007)

"Don’t you mind that I chopped my last assistant’s head off?"

The Movie Illusion: In a climactic guillotine trick, a magician appears to decapitate his partner… only for it to just be part of the show as he appears alive and well.

Performed By: Harry & Karl (A.K.A. Mitchell & Webb)

How Did They Do That? Usually, with guillotine tricks, there are two blades. A real one for the pre-trick demonstration, and a fake one. In this case, a fake Robert Webb head and some concealed compartments were also added to the illusion.

Red Lights (2012)

"Are you questioning my power?"

The Movie Illusion: A person demonstrates telepathy by being able to tell the symbol on each double blind card held away from them.

Performed By: Well, it is reported by Toby Jones’ paranormal researcher Paul.

How Did They Do That? As Sigourney Weaver’s Matheson gladly debunks, for all of the controls put in place in the room, Paul neglected to think about the reflection in his glasses…

Presto (2008)

The Movie Illusion: Pulling a reluctant and hungry rabbit out of a hat.

Performed By: Presto DiGiatagione and fluffy friend Alex Azam.

How Did They Do That? Remarkably, the hat on stage seems to contain a magic portal to a hat backstage, from which the magician can grab whatever is nearby. So the answer is... real magic?

Scoop (2006)

"I'll show you a little trick now."

The Movie Illusion: After a volunteer chooses a card from the pack and puts it in her bag, she tells the audience that it was a six of hearts. The magician then pulls the ‘same’ six of hearts from his jacket pocket.

Performed By: Woody Allen’s terrible magician Sydney Waterman.

How Did They Do That? Well, the volunteer proceeds to pull out her original card and exclaims “it’s amazing” while Sydney is still holding his, so the real illusion is convincing his audience that this is any kind of trick at all.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (2013)

"We need some sort of grand illusion."

The Movie Illusion: The Disappearing Audience. Sending the audience to sleep, only to have them wake up outside.

Performed By: Burt Wonderstone and Anton Marvelton

How Did They Do That? Sadly, sleeping gas. And then by carrying each member outside and seating them in the same position.

Bright Young Things (2003)

"Reader be glad that you have nothing to do with this world. Its glamour is a delusion."

The Movie Illusion: While running hands over four coins on a table, they seem to swap and switch places.

Performed By: Adam Fenwick-Symes, a posho if ever we've heard one.

How Did They Do That? A secret fifth coin is kept in one hand, which replaces the coin palmed by the other hand. You just need to be very quick...

The Mad Magician (1954)

"Only a man who dreams up illusions would think of such a thing."

The Movie Illusion: An elaborate crematorium trick, which sees the magician in a box on a conveyor belt, travelling toward a 3500-degree heat.

Performed By: Vincent Price's magician-gone-mad Gallico.

How Did They Do That? We never fully find out, although it is dangerous enough to cause Gallico's own death at the end of the film. Maybe next time, stick to rabbits and hats, eh?