50 Greatest Movie Illusions

A Bug's Life (1998)

"Yet again it is up to me to rescue the performance."

The Movie Illusion: The Chinese Cabinet Of Metamorphosis (an old Chinese takeaway box in which a volunteer steps and is transformed in a beautiful moth).

Performed By: Manny, a great and mysterious magician of the PT Flea Circus Troupe. Also a praying mantis.

How Did They Do That? The volunteer is switched with Manny’s assistant (and wife) Gypsy. You’d think, after a while, people would start to recognise the pattern on her wings.

The Great Buck Howard (2008)

"Magician is kind of a dirty word around here."

The Movie Illusion: Putting an audience of ‘hundreds’ (read: a few dozen) to sleep.

Performed By: The Great Buck Howard, a renowned ‘mentalist’ (played by John Malkovich, also a renowned mentalist)

How Did They Do That? By using hypnotism and the powers of his mind. There really is no other explanation we can think of. He must be the real deal, like Derren Brown. And Paul Daniels.

The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005)

"What am I supposed to say? I went to magic camp?"

The Movie Illusion: Pulling a coin from the ear of your girlfriend’s unimpressed daughter.

Performed By: Steve Carell’s sexual novice Andy.

How Did They Do That? Sleight of hand, obviously. Why he thought it would be a good idea, however, is a different question entirely.

The Illusionist (2010)

"There are no magicians."

The Movie Illusion: The classic pulling a rabbit out of a hat trick.

Performed By: The disillusioned illusionist himself, Tatischeff.

How Did They Do That? Do you really need a better explanation other than simply ‘it was drawn that way’? It's the animation that makes the trick seem do wonderful though.

Willow (1988)

"Magic is the bloodstream of the universe."

The Movie Illusion: The Disappearing Pig Trick, in which a pig is covered with a sheet, held up in the air and, after saying the magic words, disappears with a flick of the sheet.

Performed By: Warwick Davies’ wannabe-sorcerer Willow.

How Did They Do That? Given the magic apparent in the rest of the film, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Willow’s magic words “Wupity bairn deru deru” have some enchanted power to them. But no – this is all sleight of hand and trap doors.

My Cousin Vinny (1992)

"His whole case is an illusion, a magic trick."

The Movie Illusion: A card is shown, turned away from the audience (in this case Ralph Macchio's Bill) and when turned back again, it is a completely different card.

Performed By: Bill's cousin Vinny (Joe Pesci)

How Did They Do That? Most likely explanation is that Pesci has two cards in his hand to begin with and ditches the first one when his hand drops just below the table for a split second. It helps that Pesci is generally a distracting a person anyway.

Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade (1989)

"I'm like a bad penny, I always turn up."

The Movie Illusion: A person takes a 'leap of faith' and steps out across an open chasm, only to somehow be held in mid-air.

Performed By: Indiana Jones (A.K.A. Junior)

How Did They Do That? A thin path already exists there, camouflaged against the opposite rock face and unseen until the camera swings to one side. It’s just a good thing that Indy stepped off where he did.

Hugo (2011)

"Come and dream with me."

The Movie Illusion: A single card floats up out of the middle of the deck, as watched by young Hugo.

Performed By: Ben Kingsley’s curious Georges Méliès.

How Did They Do That? He's obviously pushing the card up with his finger but it’s very well hidden. A simple yet impressive trick and certainly enough to enthral the young Hugo.

Illusionist (2006)

"Everything you have seen here has been an illusion."

The Movie Illusion: An orange tree grows from a bud in a pot in front of a live audience.

Performed By: Edward Norton's master magician Eisenheim.

How Did They Do That? A glimpse of a book at the end of the film reveals a design with hidden gears in the pot, but how was it really achieved for the movie? Blatant non-marvellous CGI.

Sherlock Holmes (2009)

"Magic will lead the way."

The Movie Illusion: A criminal is hanged and confirmed dead, only to be resurrected in order to continue his nefarious plans.

Performed By: Supposed master of black magic Lord Blackwood

How Did They Do That? As Holmes eventually deduces, a hidden hook was attached to the execution rope that distributed Blackwood's weight to his waist rather than his neck. He was able to reduce his pulse using a substance found in rhododendrons. Warning: If you try to eat rhododendrons to achieve the same effect, you might end up dying for real.