50 Greatest Movie Illusions

Leap Of Faith (1992)

"It's a lot of smoke and noise and it's strictly for the suckers."

The Movie Illusion: A preacher reads the minds of members of his audience and reveals personal and intimate details about them.

Performed By: Steve Martin’s fake faith healer Jonas Nightingale

How Did They Do That? He is ably assisted by Jane, who picks up these details from the crowd and transmits them to Jonas via an in-ear radio. Apparently, this trick was based on real-life televangelist Peter Popoff. The big cheat.

The Magician (1958)

"You represent what I detest most of all: the unexplainable."

The Movie Illusion: Following a hypnotism-gone-wrong, the magician is killed and placed in a coffin, but he rises again to torment the cynical doctor that questioned his abilities.

Performed By: Max Von Sydow's practically mute magician Vogler.

How Did They Do That? Plain and simple acting. Or was it? (It probably was)

The Vanishing Lady (1896)

The Movie Illusion: A woman sits in a chair, is covered with a sheet and, when it is lifted again, she disappears. When trying to bring her back, only a skeleton reappears but then, on the next attempt, the woman returns in full.

Performed By: Cinematic magician Georges Méliès

How Did They Do That? It's Méliès experimenting playfully with camera edits, almost for the first time ever. And, even though this footage is over 100 years old, it's still pretty difficult to see the joins.

Star Wars: Episode II - Attack Of The Clones (2002)

"You wanna buy some death sticks?"

The Movie Illusion: An illegal trader in a bar on Coruscant tries to sell Obi-Wan Kenobi some death sticks by magically twirling one into existence in his hand.

Performed By: The Star Wars Wiki lists this character as Elan Sel’Sabagno, who is “also known as Elan Sleazebaggano”. Those Coruscant playgrounds can be cruel.

How Did They Do That? The twirling can be achieved with simple practice, and then it's just a case of secretly sleeving the object. But, knowing Lucas, it was probably easier just to CGI the trick rather than train the guy who played Mouse in The Matrix to do it.

Oz The Great And Powerful (2013)

"You’re capable of more than you know."

The Movie Illusion: A female volunteer from the audience is put into a trance, covered in a sheet and levitated in the air. When the audience spots the wires holding her up, these are dramatically cut with a sword and then the sheet is whisked away to reveal nothing but air.

Performed By: Oz the good and fairly talented.

How Did They Do That? Well, it helps that the volunteer is planted in the audience and is working with the magician. Then it's a case of quickly swapping her out for something shaped like her (usually transparent mesh). And the cut wires? Um... we're guessing that there are more wires?

The Last Exorcism (2010)

"What I want to do is expose exorcism for the scam that it really is."

The Movie Illusion: A supposed real-life exorcism.

Performed By: Reverend Cotton Marcus, finally coming clean after a career spent faking exorcisms.

How Did They Do That? A variety of props - a smoking cross, shaky bed, bubbling water and some eerie noises to boot.

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009)

"This world that we live in is full of enchantment for those with eyes to see it."

The Movie Illusion: When Heath Ledger's Tony tries to reclaim his small tube (for use in another trick) from friend Anton, it vanishes from his hands.

Performed By: A mischievous Andrew Garfield

How Did They Do That? Lots of sleight-of-hand coaching from magician Simon Drake, who called Garfield the best student he has ever had on all the films he's worked on.

Lord Of Illusions (1995)

"Death itself is an illusion."

The Movie Illusion: An escape artist is killed by falling swords but is found to have risen again.

Performed By: Suspicious magician Philip Swann.

How Did They Do That? It seems like it could have all been an unexplained conjurer's trick - which you realise is the real illusion once Swann starts displaying genuine supernatural abilities.

Shade (2003)

"I was mucking cards since before you were born."

The Movie Illusion: Five fanned out cards in the hand magically turn into a royal flush after just running a finger over the corners.

Performed By: A pair of anonymous hands as part of the film's title credits.

How Did They Do That? Fake edges, so unfortunately it's not a trick you can easily employ in a high stakes poker game.

Terror Train (1980)

"I never knew you liked magic."

The Movie Illusion: A rose appears from behind Jamie Lee Curtis' back and is then levitated in mid-air.

Performed By: A young and creepy David Copperfield

How Did They Do That? Let’s be honest, it’s all just sleight-of-hand and invisible thread, but David Copperfield’s steely gaze here will have you convinced that dark forces are at work.