14 of the World’s Most Famous Magicians (With Videos!)

composite picture featuring 13 of the most famous magicians in the world

When I’m performing magic at events, people often ask me who my favourite magicians are.

The truth is, many of the magicians I like best are not famous to the general public. I started to post about some of my favourite magicians a few years ago – I’ll update this soon with some more!

In this post, we’ll take a look at some of the most famous magicians in the world. Some are famous magicians from the past and some are still performing today. Many of them have influenced me in my own career as a professional event magician.

I’ve included a video of each one performing where possible too. I hope you enjoy them!

If you’re arranging an event and want to hire a magician but don’t quite have the budget for David Copperfield or Derren Brown, get in touch to find out how I can help. I’d love to hear from you.

Jean-Eugène Robert-Houdin 

Jean-Eugène Robert-Houdin (1805-1871) is not widely known today outside the world of magic. Amongst magicians though, he is celebated as the “father of modern conjuring.”

The last part of his surname “Houdin” might sound familiar – Harry Houdini chose his stage name in homage to this French magician. He was one of the most famous magicians of the 19th century and his legacy continues to this day.

Born in Blois in 1805, Robert-Houdin was originally a watch-maker. He became a magician by accident when he ordered some books on clockmaking and was sent a set of magic books instead.

Before he started performing, magic was mainly associated with the lower classes – roaming magicians would entertain crowds at fairs . Robert-Houdin changed this, performing his magic shows in large theatres to wealthy audiences. The tradition of magicians wearing in a top hat and tails can be traced back to him.

He also invented several magic tricks which have become classics and are still performed by magicians today. In his former hometown of Bois, there is a museum commemorating his work.

Robert-Houdin died in 1871, so YouTube clips of him are a little hard to come by! Here’s a video of Scott Penrose, former president of The Magic Circle, performing one of the tricks that he invented.

Interesting fact about Robert-Houdin: He is thought to have invented the mystery watch, a timepiece that apparently has no mechanics to make it work.

Harry Houdini

Harry Houdini (1874-1926) was most famous as an escape artist, but he was also an accomplished magician and illusionist.

Born Erik Weisz in Budapest in 1874, his family emigrated to the United States when he was 4 years old. As we’ve seen, his stage name was adapted from the famous French Magician, Jean-Eugène Robert-Houdin. After reading Robert-Houdin’s autobiography, he incorrectly thought that adding an “i” to the end of the French name meant “like Houdin”.

Houdini may still be famous today, but many people don’t know he wasn’t generally considered to be a very good magician. He started to focus more on escapology for this reason. Before long, he was touring Europe with his show – a mix of escapes, magic and daredevil stunts. 

What really set Houdini apart was his relentless drive to push boundaries. His show featured a bunch of original, daring and dangerous escapes, many of which are still recreated today. He would escape from a straightjacket while hanging upside down from a crane, from a packing crate that was nailed shut and thrown overboard into the river, and was “buried alive” on several occasions. 

Here’s a short video about his most famous stunt, The “Chinese Water Torture Cell”. This feat has been recreated by many magicians since, and is still performed today.

Interesting fact about Houdini: Houdini piloted the first ever flight in Australia in 1910! 

Dai Vernon

Canadian magician Dai Vernon (1894-1992) is not widely known outside of the world of magic. However, he is widely respected amongst magicians as an expert in sleight of hand magic, particularly with cards.

For many years he was billed as “The Man Who Fooled Houdini”. Houdini used to claim he could figure out any card trick if he saw it three times in a row. Vernon apparently showed Houdini his version of the classic “Ambitious Card Trick” five times (or seven times, depending on which version of the story you believe), and Houdini was still completely fooled.

For the last 30 years of his life, he lived and performed as the magician in residence at The Magic Castle, an exclusive members’ club and nightclub in Los Angeles

Interesting Fact about Dai Vernon: Until his 40s, Vernon didn’t make a living from magic. He earned most of his income as a silhouette portrait cutter.

Paul Daniels

Paul Daniels (1938-2016) is a legend here in the UK and internationally. Like many UK magicians, I probably wouldn’t be doing magic if it wasn’t for him.

From the late 1970s to the early 1990s, “The Paul Daniels Magic Show” was one of the most popular TV shows. The show was so successful, it ran for 15 seasons, was sold to 43 countries and regularly attracted an audience of over 15 million people!

In the show, Paul performed a vast range of magic from close-up tricks to large-scale illusions, alongside his assistant and later wife Debbie McGee. There were also a bunch of brilliant magicians as guest performers on the show.

Like many kids of that era, my parents bought me a Paul Daniels Magic Set which set me on the path to become the fully-fledged wizard that I am today.

Paul sadly died from a brain tumour in 2016, but his legacy will remain for many years to come.

Here’s a clip of Daniels performing one of the tricks he was most famous for, with a cup and a ball.

Interesting Fact about Paul Daniels: Early in his career, Paul famously wore a wig. In 2022, the wig was sold for £2,730 at an auction.

Juan Tamariz

Juan Tamariz (1942-present) may not be well-known outside of Spain, but amongst magicians he is revered as a brilliant magician and magical thinker. David Blaine once called him “the greatest and most influential card magician alive”

He was also a household name in his native Spain, and was a regular on Spanish TV for over 20 years.

I first heard of Tamariz when he appeared on the UK TV series “The Best of Magic” in the late 80s. I had no idea who the slightly crazy Spanish man was, but I knew I loved what he did with a pack of cards.

Over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to meet him and see him perform on numerous occasions. It’s always an absolute delight.

Here’s one of the original clips I saw of Tamariz on British television.

Interesting Fact about Juan Tamariz: He founded Escuela Mágica de Madrid, a magic “school” which continues to produce some of the world’s finest magicians.

Penn and Teller

Penn and Teller (1955 & 1948 – present) are two of the most recognisable magicians of our generation.

A duo comprising of Penn Jillette and Teller (real name Raymond Joseph Teller), they’re well-known for their sometimes outrageous performances and occasionally tipping how the magic tricks are done. Because of their propensity for revealing secrets, they’ve been billed as “the bad boys of magic”, and were even famously refused membership of The Magic Circle.

As performers, Penn does all of the talking and Teller remains silent – although he has been known to speak for interviews.

They currently have a long-running show at The Penn & Teller Theatre in Las Vegas, as well as a TV series “Fool Us” which involves P&T trying to figure out how other magicians do their tricks.

Here’s a clip of Penn and Teller’s version of the classic cups and balls trick, where they reveal some of the secrets in a very entertaining way.

Interesting fact about Penn & Teller: They’re both skilled musicians. Penn plays bass and Teller can play the drums.

David Copperfield

David Copperfield (1956 – present) is not only one of the most famous magicians in the world, he’s also the most financially successful. Over a 40 year career, he’s become a billionaire and even owns a chain of private islands in the Bahamas!

Born David Seth Kotkin, he took his stage name from the famous Dickens’ novel. Copperfield’s career really took off following a series of magic specials in the late 70s and early 80s. 

He is known for using storytelling to complement his magic and performing large-scale illusions like making the Statue of Liberty disappear and walking through The Great Wall of China.

David is also arguably one of the hardest working performers – he still performs 15 shows every week at the David Copperfield Theatre in the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. That’s two shows every day, three on Saturdays, with no days off!

As well as his private islands, David also owns a museum which holds the largest collection of historic magic memorabilia

Here’s a video of one of my favourite Copperfield Illusions, where he apparently flies like a superhero.

Interesting fact about David Copperfield: He appears on some US postage stamps. The stamps were released in 2018, recognising him as an influential figure in the world of magic.

Lance Burton

Lance Burton (1960 – present) burst on to the magic scene in 1982 when he won the “Grand Prix” at FISM, the world championships of magic.

Since then, he’s had several TV specials in the US, and his own popular theatre show in Las Vegas. Lance Burton performed more than 15,000 shows in Vegas, which were watched by over 5 million people!

He officially retired in 2010, but it seems he couldn’t keep away from the stage. At the time of writing he’s touring the US with his “Lance Burton & Friends” show.

I first saw Lance perform his award-winning dove act on The Best Of Magic TV Show in the UK back in 1988.  Here’s a clip of him performing the same act at The Royal Variety Performance the following year.

Interesting Fact about Lance Burton: He once appeared in an episode of the TV show Knight Rider, playing a magician!

Criss Angel

Criss Angel (1967 – present) has always been a divisive figure in the magic world.

While many magicians have mocked him over the years, he’s certainly on of the most famous magicians performing right now. His show Mindfreak pulls in big crowds at The Planet Hollywood in Vegas, and he even has a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame!

If I’m honest, I think some of his old TV special are questionable at best. Here’s a clip, I’ll let you decide what you think!

Interesting Fact about Criss Angel: Perhaps unsurprisingly, he was once lead singer for an industrial metal band called Angeldust.

Derren Brown

Derren Brown (1971 – present) is one of the most famous and best magical performers in the UK.

Known as a mind reader, mentalist or “psychological illusionist”, he claims to use a mix of magic techniques, psychological presentation and hypnosis to achieve incredible effects.

He was introduced to the public in the TV series “Mind Control” in 2000. Since then, he’s had several hit TV series and specials, multiple live theatre shows in the UK and on Broadway and published several books for the general public and professional magicians.

He’s also won a BAFTA and two Olivier awards!

In this video, Derren performs a card trick for Stephen Fry. Derren once claimed in an interview that this was the very trick that convinced the producers of Mind Control to cast him in the series.

Interesting fact about Derren Brown: Derren once created a Theme Park ride for Thorpe Park in the UK. It opened in 2016, but closed and was redesigned and rebranded in 2022.

David Blaine

David Blaine (1973 – present) permanently changed the world of magic when first appeared on TV back in 1997.

In his first TV special “Street Magic”, he took magic to the streets, literally. A cameraman followed Blaine around city streets where he amazed bystanders with card tricks, magic with money, and famously by levitating in the middle of the sidewalk.

Before then, TV Magic shows were usually presented by men in tuxedos in flashy studio surroundings. For the first time, we were watching a young “cool” guy in jeans and t-shirts doing magic for ordinary people in everyday environments. It was ground-breaking at the time.

Since that first TV special, David Blaine has become one of the most recognised magicians in the world. His more recent specials have seen him perform to celebrities in their homes, and he’s started to mix genuine daring stunts with his magic.

Interesting Fact about David Blaine: his 2002 autobiographical book “Mysterious Stranger” included a treasure hunt to find $100,000 USD. It was solved 16 months later by Sherri Skanes, who claimed the cash prize.

Justin Willman

Justin Willman (1980 – present) is a relatively new arrival in the world of famous magicians. 

His Netflix magic show “Magic for Humans” has run for 3 seasons since it launched in 2018 and he’s been busy touring the US with his live version of the show since.

He even did several Zoom magic show versions of Magic for Humans during the Covid pandemic!

Here’s a clip from one of Justin’s Netflix specials, where he recreates the famous “Stanford Marshmallow Experiment” with a magical twist.

Interesting Fact about Justin Willman: He got into magic by breaking his arms (really!) While recovering in hospital, the surgeon suggested learning magic might be a good form of physio.

Dynamo

Dynamo (1982 – present) is sometimes considered to be the UK’s equivalent of David Blaine. He become famous following his four part TV series “Dynamo: Magician Impossible”. The series was launched by the magician apparently walking on water across the River Thames.

Dynamo is the stage name of Steven Frayne – apparently the stage name came from someone shouting out “this kid’s a f&%*ing dynamo!” during one of his early performances. 

In his latest TV special “Dynamo is Dead”, he killed off his stage persona, and started using his real name again. The show culminated in him being buried alive and escaping. As we’ve seen, this was also a stunt performed by Houdini over 100 years ago!

Dynamo’s TV specials featured him performing magic with everyday objects to people out on the street. Here’s a clip of him putting someone’s mobile phone in a bottle. After this aired, every event magician in the country got tired of being asked “Your card tricks are great, but can you put my phone in a bottle?” 

Interesting Fact about Dynamo: Dynamo suffers from Crohn’s disease and has spoken publicly about how the affects his life.

Why are all the famous magicians men?

Looking back over the list of famous magicians above, there’s one thing that stands out – where are all the women?

The truth is, like many other areas of life, magic has historically been quite a sexist pastime or career option. Things are changing a lot now, but there’s still quite a lot of progress to make – according to a recent article in the New York Times, only 8% of stage magicians are currently women.

The Magic Circle elected its first female president in 2021, 30 years after they starting admitting women as members.

There have been some famous female magicians in the past though. Here are some of them.

Adelaide Herrman

Famous female magician Adelaide Herrmann
“The Queen of Magic” Adelaide Herrmann

Billed as “The Queen of Magic”, Adelaide Herrmann (1853 – 1932) started her performing career as a magician’s assistant to Alexander Herrmann, who she later married.

When Alexander died in 1896, she continued his show and toured internationally for 25 years.

In an interview for Broadway Magazine in 1899, she was called “The World’s Only Woman Magician.” She was quoted as saying “I shall not be content until I am recognized by the public as a leader in my profession, and entirely irrespective of the question of sex.”

Not only was she unique at the time as a famous female magician, she also performed “The bullet catch trick”. Very few magicians have performed this trick, and she is possibly the only woman to have done so.

At the time she performed, she was reportedly more famous than Houdini. Sadly, many people have now no longer heard of her, so I hope this mention put that right for some of you!

Talma “The Queen of Coins”

Talma The Queen of Coins - famous female magician
Talma “The Queen of Coins”

Talma’s (1861 – 1944) career as a magician also started as an assistant. She performed alongside her husband, Belgian magician Servais Le Roy.

Talma was a skilled sleight-of-hand performer herself though – she had an manipulation act using coins, hence the moniker “Queen of Coins”.

While performing alongside Le Roy, they are credited with inventing the “Asrah Illusion”.

In this classic magic trick, the assistant is covered with a cloth, levitates high above the audience before the magician pulls away the cloth and she vanishes into thin air!

Gloria Dea

Magician Gloria Dea
A young Gloria Dea

Glora Dea (1922-2023) has a very special claim to fame – she was the first magician to perform on the Las Vegas Strip!

Technically, there was no Las Vegas Strip back then – it was just a couple of hotels and work had begun on some others.

Gloria moved on from the word of magic to pursue a film acting career, but was rediscovered many years later while in retirement.

After learning about Gloria, David Copperfield said “If it wasn’t for the people who went out there and really made magic important, I wouldn’t be here. And I think what Gloria did was, when she did her, act in the show, and got the best review, the door was open for magicians to keep performing here. So maybe I owe my career to her.”

As a result, she was presented with the key to the Las Vegas Strip for her 100th birthday in 2022.


I hope you enjoyed my brief look at some of the famous magicians from the past and the present. If you’ve made it this far you’ve probably got a strong interest in magic – my recent post on how to learn magic might interest you!

You can also hire me as a magician for corporate events, as a party magician for adults and even as a virtual magician. I may not be quite as famous as the magicians mentioned above, but I promise to make your event unforgettable.

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