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Nicol Williamson in Excalibur (1981)
Probably the most famous wizard in all of popular culture — yes, even eclipsing Harry Potter — Merlin's greatest feat was helping Arthur Pendragon find a very nice sword (Excalibur) and an even nicer cup (the Holy Grail).
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Richard Harris/Michael Gambon in the Harry Potter saga (2001-present)
Even in his declining years, the headmaster of Hogwarts was a formidable mage — but in his youth, full of vigor and brio, Albus Dumbledore was a force to be reckoned with. If only his [SPOILER ALERT] death wasn't so sudden and easily avoidable.
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Ian McKellen in the Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-2003)
Though you can count on one hand the number of times Gandalf actually uses any magic in Peter Jackson's films, the Grey Pilgrim still commands enormous respect. And carries a very nice staff.
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GLINDA THE GOOD WITCH
Billie Burke in The Wizard of Oz (1939)
More skilled than the Wicked Witch of the West, way more powerful than the ''wizard'' of Oz and, presumably, able to take a shower, Glinda is the very model of a modern female sorcerer.
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Alyson Hannigan on Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003)
Her transformation from schoolhouse mouse, to Research Girl, to mystic dabbler, to Witchy Wiccan Willow was something to behold — as was her unbridled power when her true love was taken from her. Dark Willow was on the path to destroying the world before a blast from the past pulled her back from the brink.
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THE WHITE WITCH
Tilda Swinton in The Chronicles of Narnia (2005, 2009)
Pure evil. Also, really likes the cold. So much so that she covered most of Narnia in ice.
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The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-2003)
How robust a warlock is this, the scourge of Middle-earth? You barely even see him, and he instills everyone with a knee-knocking sense of dread. He doesn't even have hands, yet he gathers about him every fell beast imaginable, all to find the One Ring and kill whomever carries it. Granted, maybe investing so much of his power into the One Ring wasn't the best tactical maneuver....
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Ralph Fiennes in the Harry Potter saga (2001-present)
Granted, the former Tom Riddle has a devil of a time killing just one little boy — apparently, love is Voldermort's kryptonite — but he also engineered the death of Dumbledore, the dismantling of Hogwarts, and the destruction of many a Death Eater's soul. All without a nose.
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Marvel Comics (1963-present)
Strange was once a gifted, narcissistic neurosurgeon who, after losing the use of his hands, looked for a cure in the mythic Himalayas. Instead, he finds his destiny: to become a master of the mystic arts and protect the planet from magical threats as Earth's ''Sorcerer Supreme.''
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DC Comics (1964-present)
A sorceress who can trace her heritage back to alchemist Nicholas Flamel, soothsayer Nostradamus, and Leonardo Da Vinci, Zatanna is one of the most powerful characters in the DC Universe, aiding the Justice League whenever her natural magical skills can be of service. (Why she doesn't magic herself some pants remains a mystery.)
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Jonathan Freeman in Aladdin (1992)
This not-so-humble court vizier gives in to his delusions of grandeur — especially when he gets his hands on the genie's lamp he hired a street rat to swipe from the Cave of Wonders. With the genie's power at his disposal, Jafar takes his place among the most powerful wizards in pop culture. For a little while, anyway. Then he gets greedy.
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The Tempest (1600s)
William Shakespeare seemed to have a little thing for magic...and revenge. So at the center of this story about an Italian nobleman who was betrayed by his brother and exiled — with his daughter, Miranda — on a deserted island, one finds a wizard. Strangely enough, The Tempest is one of the rare major Shakespearan works to never have had a faithful motion-picture adaptation.
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Pat Carroll in The Little Mermaid (1989)
An all-singing, all-dancing, all-evil, underwater witch for the ages. Not only can she steal beautiful voices, Ursula has change form at will and — after stealing Triton's helm and trident — has mastery over the seas as well.
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DAVID LO PAN
James Hong in Big Trouble in Little China (1986)
Cursed by a Chinese emperor centuries ago, Chinatown gang lord Lo Pan leads a ghostly existence — unless he can break the curse by sacrificing a girl with green eyes. Lo Pan's plan goes awry when he kidnaps a pair of women, both of whom mean something to rogue trucker Jack Burton (Kurt Russell).
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