In The Sorcerer's Apprentice, Nicolas Cage gives a crash course in magic to a young protégé. We've got nothing against training kids in wizardry. What concerns us is the teacher: Anyone who's followed Cage's career knows he can be a loose cannon under the most sedate of circumstances. Can we be sure his lessons are all for the cause of good?
But that's a concern with most magic makers — even when that wizardry is merely palmed coins and marked playing cards. The soul may be noble, yet there's always the danger that the best of intentions will warp into something truly horrible. Don't believe us? Check out this wizards list, ranging from honorable to downright despicable.
THE WIZARD YOU CAN BRING HOME TO MOTHER
Gandalf the Grey, Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
Kindly enough to be a treasured friend to hobbits, powerful enough to stand down the most fearsome beasts of the netherworld (and probably gentle enough for your most delicate of underthings), that's Gandalf (Ian McKellan
). There may be no greater representative for the beneficial application of magic, a wizard so self-effacing that, with his humble horse-cart and whimsical fireworks displays, you might mistake him for a beloved, albeit wondrous, uncle. Threaten his friends or his world, though, and he'll kick ass with the best of them.
YOUR MAGICAL, SOMEWHAT SCARY, DAD
Yen Sid, Fantasia (1940)
Swap his subterranean chamber for a garage workshop, substitute the bubbling potions for a half-finished bird-feeder, and you get what the wizard Yen Sid (spell it backwards — cute, huh?) is about. Yeah, the guy strikes a stern pose and assumes a zero-tolerance attitude but, really, he isn't so bad. That conjured bat morphs into an innocuous butterfly, after all, and any impetuous toyings with the dark forces (by a shockingly oversized mouse) will prompt some well-deserved corner time, but also a wry grin that betrays some empathy and maybe even a bit of pride. Don't try to milk the moment, though — just get back to fetching the water ... and watch your butt.
YOUR MAGICAL, SOMEWHAT SCARY, DISTANT RELATIVE—LONG BEACH EDITION
Miracle Max, The Princess Bride (1987)
Jewish or not, we've all endured the semi-annual visit to those vaguely weird, seemingly millennial-old family members: There's a lot of kvetching; a few too many prying questions; and then, of course, it's off to the kitchen to whip up something that'll raise your friend from the dead. Well, that last part doesn't generally apply, but we're talking about the legendary Miracle Max (Billy Crystal
) here, and if our blood relations were this powerful, we'd be happy to visit. Or at least call more often.
A FORCE FOR GOOD ... WE THINK
Howl, Howl's Moving Castle (2004)
Hard to tell with the wizard Howl (voiced by Christian Bale
in the English dub). He's handsome enough, and apparently benign, but then there's that dark, peculiar castle that totters across the landscape on its spindly, metal legs; the rumors of him ripping out people's hearts; and suggestions of deals with demons, and stuff like that. Still, his temporary housekeeper Grandma Sophie (Jean Simmons
) — a woman who's trying to break a spell that's turned her into an old crone — likes him, so that's one point in his favor. And could anyone so vain really be all that dangerous? We'll just assume he's one of the good guys. (Not that we won’t also keep an eye on him.)
STEERED BY LOVE
Eisenheim, The Illusionist (2006)
Quite a magician, that Eisenheim (Edward Norton
). He's travelled the world, studied at the feet of the craft's most illustrious practitioners, and set up shop in Vienna just in time to rescue his old love, Sophie (Jessica Biel
) from the brutalizing clutches of an ambitious prince (Rufus Sewell
). Problem is, there's no actual magic to his magic, so it's an issue as to whether the man has power enough to save his dearest from a genuine threat to her life — there's only so far that misdirection can go, after all. (Isn't there?)
STEERED BY JEALOUSY AND GRIEF
The Great Danton, The Prestige (2006)
Look, just stay out of the way of Robert Angier, aka The Great Danton (Hugh Jackman
). The guy's got a blood feud going on with a rival magician, Alfred Borden (Christian Bale
), who back when they were both mere audience plants, killed Angier's wife during a botched escape stunt. Worse, Borden's now cropped up as the Professor, complete with a miraculous new illusion that Angier will go to any lengths to top. And exactly how far is that? Let's just say that contemporary technology, standard stagecraft, and conventional morality are no longer barriers.
FINDS EVIL MORE SATISFYING THAN ANOTHER WEEKEND AT THE MALL
Nancy Downs, The Craft (1996)
Now here's a bad idea: Letting teenage girls loose with a book of incantations. Best you could expect from such escapades is to find Robert Pattinson
as your unexpected, overnight houseguest; worst is, in one word, Nancy (Fairuza Balk
), a kid who gets so drunk with power that that no whim goes unfulfilled and no grudge goes unavenged. Maybe some maturity would have helped her shoulder her responsibilities (then again, judging by the candidates below, maybe not). As it is, docking her allowance just isn't going to help. (Note: We're using "wizard" as a gender-neutral term, so don't bother harping on it in the comments!)
GREAT AT BEING BAD
The Warlock, Warlock (1989)
Yup, that's all he's called: Warlock (Julian Sands
). And why not? He's the ultimate evocation of a fully actualized, dark magician: totally evil, and completely comfortable with it. Whether gratuitously cursing a young woman (Lori Singer
) to wither and die in a span of days; stealing the eyeballs of an unfortunate psychic (Mary Woronov
); or boiling down the fat of a young boy to make a flying potion (got that on your menu, Guy Fieri?), there's nothing this guy can't do that won't make the day worse for someone else. At the very least, you gotta admire his dedication.
MALICIOUS, MANIPULATIVE, AND RAPACIOUS
Daryl Van Horne, The Witches of Eastwick (1987)
But what good is being the wielder of black sorcery if you can't spread the fun around? Daryl Van Horne (Jack Nicholson
) knows the little town of Eastwick has a coven forming — comprised of Susan Sarandon
, Michelle Pfeiffer
, and Cher
— and just can't help letting his own magic warp the women to his twisted tastes. At least at the start, they seem just fine with that. But you know what they say: It's all fun 'n' games until someone starts barfing up cherry pits.
WARNING: EVIL INCARNATE! DON'T EVEN SAY HIS NAME!
Lord Voldemort, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)
"He Who Must Not Be Named " … unless, or course, you happen to be "The Boy Who Lived." With a complete command of the dark arts, an insatiable thirst for power, and a total corruption of the soul (times 7
), it's understandable why the greater wizarding community was unwilling to concede his existence for so long, much less utter his name. Eerily played by Hero Fiennes-Tiffin
as a boy, he channels (his uncle) Ralph Fiennes
' full, infernal glory. Voldemort's a moral black hole, from which no goodness can escape. Plus, he's got no nose. That's just creepy.