It is always subjective to do a list of famous magicians. As there are famous old magicians, famous magicians tv shows, famous magicians for other magicians and so on. Nevermind narrowing it down to the top 20 most famous magicians.
Lists of this type are generally aimed at public perception.
This does not mean that these are the most influential magicians for other magicians necessarily (although most are), or that they have made the most impact on the magical arts.
If we were to do a list of the top 100 magicians, it would probably include best magicians (most skilled at craft) and most famous magicians, in other words the greatest magicians of all time. This would also then include the most famous dead magicians in history.
Also note that Competitions for magicians use slightly different skill sets to magicians performing to lay audiences. So FISM winners for instance are not taken into account drafting this list.
Who is the No 1 magician in the world?
In terms of metrics of money earned, it would be David Copperfield.
(Forbes list link: David Copperfield – Highest paid magicians).
(Note that David Copperfields net worth is also way above the next in line- Penn and Teller. See Carnival of Illusion article.)
In terms of overall name recognition, it would also be David Copperfield.
(This can be attributed to a good couple of websites that publish these types of lists and by the simple fact that almost anyone you talk to knows David Copperfield’s name.)
This is based on famous magicians of today (current).
Who is the most famous magician of all time?
This has to be Harry Houdini.
His name is still very well known, even though he is long gone.
He methods of marketing are still used by others (e.g. escapes/ daredevil feats- example David Blaine)
His items are the gold collecting standard by many other magicians who collect memorabilia (e.g. David Copperfield).
Almost all magicians i know would call Harry Houdini the most famous magician overall.
Who were the greatest magicians of the 20th century?
(If they died in the 20th century, i have listed them here as well.)
Penn and Teller.
Siegfried and Roy.
Chung Ling Soo.
Harry Blackstone, Snr and Jnr.
John Nevil Maskelyne.
Jeff Mc Bride.
Many will also be greatest magicians of the 21st century as well.
Who is the most famous magician in America?
Currently, this would also be David Copperfield.
Penn and Teller are doing extremely well in this category, due to exposure from their famous show: Fool Us.
Interesting famous magician videos
and without further ado;
My list of the Top 20 most famous magicians of all time.
The names are in date order/ influence, as opposed to placings.
- John Nevil Maskelyne (1839- 1917), became interested in magic after watching another big English name “the Davenport brothers”. He was an English stage magician and an inventor. He had the longest running magic show in British history.
- Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin (1805-1871). He is known as the Father of Modern Magic. A showman, that had the public paying to see him perform at his theatre in Paris. He took magic out of the fairs into its own stage show. He has interesting history from his time with the Arabs when Napoleon 111 sent him to help quell unrest in Algeria.
- Chung Ling Soo (1861- 1918), most famous for his bullet catching routine which went wrong and killed him on stage in London. He was an American, but performed in the Chinese persona.
- Harry Kellar (1849-1922). An American magician presenting a large stage show in the late 1800’s and early1900’s. Often referred to as the Dean of American Magicians, he performed extensively on 5 continents.
- Harry Houdini (1874-1926). The most famous escape artist/ magician that has ever lived. his wife Bess was his stage assistant. His magic act didn’t create the fame, his unique escapes from many varied situations and ties/binds did that. He was a fantastic showman that new how to use media and publicity and create a buzz with the crowd.
- Max Malini (1875-1942). A master of impromptu magic. Born on border of Poland Austria. He had very small hands, so he devised his own methods in sleight of hand. He was an expert publicist and had a motto, “You’ve got to go with people who have money if you want to make money”. This motto led to him performing with many presidents and many extremely wealthy people.
- Harry Blackstone Sr. (1885-1965). American, billed as The Great Blackstone. Popular through World War 2 as an entertainer. He performed with a big stage show and cast. Very popular through the American midwest for many years. His son Harry Blackstone Jr. was also a renowned magician.
- Uri Gellar (1946- ) i have listed Uri (Israeli/British) here, as he created enormous interest in magic with his spoon bending on television. He referred to himself as pyschic, however i have included him, as the effects he did can be replicated via magical means.
- Mark Wilson (1929-2021). Creator of the very well known magic course book. Magical tv series from 1960 to 1965, the “Magic Land of Alakazam” and “Time for Magic” 1955. Also “The Magic of Mark Wilson”, 1981. He brought big illusions to television.
- David Copperfield (1956- ). Youngest person ever admitted to Society of American Magicians. Teaching course in magic at age 16 in University. Television specials that had the World amazed (nominated for 38 Emmys, winning 21). With spectacular illusions. A lot of magicians have been influenced by David, from his storytelling magic to the magic of his hand movements.
- Paul Daniels (1938- 2016). A British magician, very well known for his television special ” The Paul Daniels Magic Show”, 1979 to 1994. Very funny, with a innate sense of connection with his audience, loved by many and respected by many magicians. He and his assistant, later wife, Debbie Mc Gee had television audiences around the World (the show was syndicated) laughing every week for many years.
- Siegfried and Roy (Siegfried 1939 to 2021/ Roy 1944 to 2020). German/ American stage show entertainers. Known for the use of white tigers and white lions in their act, staples in Las Vegas (the most visited show in Las Vegas “Siegfried and Roy at the Mirage Resort and Casino”).
- Doug Henning (1947- 2000). A Canadian magician. Tony award nomination for his show Spellbound- Toronto/ The Magic Show-Broadway. “Doug Hennings World of Magic” television special, 1975. 7 Emmy award nominations and many other stage spectaculars.
- Lance Burton (1960- ). American magician, he performed over 15 000 shows in Las Vegas for over 5 million people until retiring in 2010 and moving to his ranch. However, the story does not end here…. he has been working with magicians and producing shows again recently.
- Penn and Teller (Penn Jillette 1955- , Teller 1948- ). Peforming together since the 1970’s. Long running show in Las Vegas and many television appearances. Probably most well known for Penn and Teller: Fool Us television special. They have had a run of fanastic magicians on this show, all trying to Fool Penn and Teller.
- Dynamo (1985- ). An English magician, most well known for his television series: “Dynamo: Magician Impossible” Authored books and many live tours. Doing impossible things, like walking across the River Thames in London.
- Derren Brown (1971- ). English mentalist. Known for his television appearances, most notably “Derren Brown: Mind Control”-2000. He has written books and produced shows and television. Very well respected by magicians.
- David Blaine (1973- ). An American magician, known for his extreme challenges (like being buried alive). He gained a huge following with his television special “David Blaine/ Street Magic”- 1997. Since then he has created other television and many challenges.
- Criss Angel (1967- ). Known for starring in the television and stage show “Criss Angel Mindfreak” and his previous live performance illusion show “Criss Angel Believe” in collaboration with Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas. Currently he is helping others with stage shows in Vegas. He has also been working with Lance Burton (above).
- Shin Lim (1991- ). Canadian, Shin Lim is known for his sleight of hand and performing silently to music. He has written educational products (video) and is mainly known for his FISM close up magic win (2015), his appearance on Penn and Teller and two wins on America’s Got Talent.
I know this list will get some up in arms… how can i include this magician and not include this one, etc.
However, what you will notice is that the most famous magicians are a product of their exposure through various mediums (they are obviously all talented, fantastic magicians/entertainers), from television to currently Youtube/ social media.
Read up on magicians
You can read up biographies of magicians on my home site or on Magicpedia
Here are some of Shin Lims training materials.
I left comments on for all those views, comment away- will be interesting reading.