It’s been a magical November. Obviously, it hasn’t really—unless you’re someone who didn’t think that the election was especially toxic, leading to a stress-free aftermath, in which case, I want to live in your world—but when it comes to movies, November is all about the magicians: the month started with Marvel’s Doctor Strange and continues with Harry Potter prequel Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them. Magic is, as Badly Drawn Boy once so feebly warbled, in the air.
With that in mind, perhaps it’s time to stop fighting it and jump on the magic carpet ride of a bandwagon. Here are 10 movies—well, 9 and a miniseries, but trust me, the miniseries is worth it—to get you in a suitably magical mood before you return to J.K. Rowling’s wizarding wonderland.
BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA (1986)
Sure, everyone remembers this movie because of Kurt Russell’s none-more-dumb hero Jack Burton, but they shouldn’t forget that the threat behind the whole thing is the evil sorcerer Lo Pan, who requires one special woman to save him from a curse. Sadly, this is unlikely to be much of an inspiration for Fantastic Beasts.
PRACTICAL MAGIC (1998)
From today’s point of view, the idea of a romantic comedy where Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman play sisters who just happen to be witches—with Evan Rachel Wood as Bullock’s daughter—seems almost unthinkable, but magic is all about making the unlikely happen. Even when the reality is something that all involved would rather forget.
Clearly, Nicole Kidman is really, deeply, into magic. How else to explain her involvement in this doomed remake of the 1960s TV show, which is both far better than people remember it, and nowhere near as charming as the original? Come for the Kidman and the wizardry, stay for Steve Carell.
Woody Allen and magic seems like an unexpected combination, but his love of whimsy serves him well in the murder mystery plot that (of course) involves a younger American woman falling for an older man.
Quite how the moviemakers got from the Philip K Dick story this movie is based on to the Nic Cage classic that shows up onscreen will forever be a mystery. It’s genuinely one of those movies that makes you think that Cage could be a modern Andy Kaufman dedicated to making terrible, yet amazingly watchable, movies.
MAKE BELIEVE (2010)
What does it take to be the best young magician in the world? Sadly, more than a ticket to Hogwarts, as this documentary—which follows six wannabe magicians training for an international contest to prove their worth—demonstrates.
DAVID BLAINE: REAL OR MAGIC? (2013)
Let’s be honest: David Blaine can be almost insufferable to watch for a sustained period, because it feels the more you pay attention as if his true power is prevention. Yet, there’s no denying that what he can do is pretty special, as this one-off TV show shows. As long as it’s not all television trickery, of course.
AN HONEST LIAR (2014)
And talking of trickery, this fascinating documentary about former stage magician James Randi is full of tricks, and not just the kind you’d expect: it turns out that Randi’s long-time partner wasn’t who anyone (including Randi) thought he was, bringing into question how easy it is to believe what you want to… like, you know, the way that stage magicians trick their marks.
MAGIC OF HOUDINI (2014)
The life and work of one of the greatest magicians is explored in this meandering, enjoyable documentary hosted by QI’s Alan Davies. What made him want to risk his death so eagerly? How dangerous were his stunts? As you might expect, the answer to that last one is very.
JONATHAN STRANGE & MR. NORRELL (2015)
The hidden history of magic in the United Kingdom is uncovered in this epic miniseries that makes the Harry Potter books look low-key by comparison, and will make you at once wish you could live in this fantasy world and very glad—for the sake of your fingers and sanity, if nothing else—that you don’t.