September 2017 is SYFY's 25th anniversary, so we’re using it as an excuse to look back and celebrate the last 25 years of ALL science fiction, fantasy, and horror, a time that has seen the genres we love conquer the world of pop culture. For us, that means lists! ALL THE LISTS! We’ll be doing two “25 greatest” lists per day all throughout September, looking back at the moments, people, and characters that shaped the last quarter century. So keep checking back.
Please note: Our lists are not ranked; all items have equal standing in our brains.
When you look through 25 years of fantasy and other genre fare, there are a lot of "magical" moments to choose from -- moments that made us feel, exclaim in wonder, or feel like kids again. But, in this case, we're specifically looking at moments since 1992 where magic -- the non-science art of altering reality -- is front and center.
Double Ash - Army of Darkness
Usually, one Ash Williams is quite enough for anyone, but watching Good Ash and Bad Ash battle it out is one of those moments you never forget. A little Three Stooges, a dash of sarcasm and a soupçon of Harryhausen horror mixed with the inevitable style of Bruce Campbell stirs up camp horror deliciousness.
Once More With Feeling - Buffy the Vampire Slayer
While there was a temptation to compose this blurb entirely of song lyrics, we'd really just be going through the motions (sorry) and trying to find something to sing about (whoops). But, in all seriousness, this episode, in which a demon magics everyone in Sunnydale into singing until they burn, stands as one of the best episodes of Buffy ever and has a special place in every Scooby’s heart. Even if we have to walk through fire to watch it (We had to).
Calling the Corners - The Craft
There’s no way we could make a list of 25 magical moments and not include this seminal scene from The Craft. No matter how many times we watch Nancy, Sarah, Bonnie, and Rochelle invoke Manon, it’s still scary because we know what’s going to happen. A quick search on Google shows how many people are still dissecting this scene all these years later.
Aslan Resurrected - The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe
Fans of both C.S. Lewis’ book and the movie adaptations all over the world have found themselves heartbroken at the loss of Narnia’s majestic lion, king Aslan (and one or two of us may have thrown the book across the room at that point), but the heartbreak gives way to relief and joy as Aslan is resurrected and we learn how he tricked the White Witch. Aslan’s sacrifice and his love for Narnia restore him to his former glory, complete with that magnificent mane.
Reversing Time - Doctor Strange
Whether you’ve seen the scene one time or twenty, watching Dr. Stephen Strange magically reverse time to fight Kaecilius and save Hong Kong from utter destruction is mind-blowing. There are so many different things happening at once that it’s easy to miss something, but the more you watch, the more you realize how intricate the sequence truly is. Can you imagine choreographing this? We’re tired just thinking about it!
Bargaining with Dormmamu - Doctor Strange
How can we not include a scene in which Dr. Stephen Strange basically annoys a powerful entity into complete submission with the cosmic equivalent of a Rick Roll? Add the fact that this is probably the most unselfish thing Strange has done in his entire life, and it becomes something altogether magical. OK, OK, watching him die over and over is kind of fun, too. It reminds us a little of Supernatural’s Mystery Spot and, of course, Groundhog Day.
Dark Willow - Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Ah, Dark Willow. She was an immediate choice for this list, but there are so many fantastic moments in the Dark Willow arc. So, while we picked this scene, there are more, from Willow killing Warrenbot to Xander saving Willow. Willow’s magic and Willow herself are a top magical moment as far as we’re concerned.
Elsa building her ice castle ("Let It Go") - Frozen
Yes, we just gave you an earworm. Sorry, not sorry. Why? Because Elsa building an amazing ice castle while singing is a show of magic far beyond what we see elsewhere in the movie. Sweeping vocals and soaring towers come together in a girl power ballad that’s both artistic and architectural, with stunningly evocative animation bringing Elsa’s creation to vibrant life.
Melisandre resurrecting Jon Snow - Game of Thrones
Talk about a cliffhanger! We watched Jon Snow die, and then we had to wait (and wait, and wait) to see what would happen next. Next thing we know, the woman who killed Renly Baratheon and talked Stannis Baratheon into killing his own daughter is restoring life. The really interesting part of all of this is the doubt Melisandre, herself, feels about her own god and magic. Oh, and Ghost just being there by Jon’s side the whole time. Can we say “warg”?
The Night King at Hardhome - Game of Thrones
You’re Jon Snow. You’ve just survived an all-out battle at Hardhome, watched many of your compatriots die, and escaped an attack by the Others by the very skin of your teeth. Whew, what a relief … except, oops, you now get to watch the Night King resurrect every dead person on the battlefield by just lifting his arms (and, of course, staring you down with his best, “Come at me, bro” expression). We’d seen the power of the army of the dead before but never expressed this boldly.
Harry casts his Patronus - Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
So many emotions come up when we watch this! While we know what’s happening as the scene unfolds, watching Harry cast his first Patronus (even if it’s the second time we see it) is a magical moment, indeed. Harry sees himself kneeling over Sirius and he keeps waiting for his father to come and “save” him, but we realize Harry saved himself, and it’s so powerful to watch.
Harry's first visit to Diagon Alley - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
If one moment captures the real wonder of the Harry Potter universe, this is one of the best. This scene is for every kid who wanted to live in or visit a magical world. Tap a few stones and, voilà, we’re introduced to Diagon Alley right along with Harry. It’s Harry’s first foray into the full wizarding world and, for many of us, this is the moment we fell in love with all things Potter.
The first time we saw the Pensieve - Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
The Pensieve features in multiple scenes over the course of the films, but our very first introduction to this memory-holding marvel is key in setting up what it actually does. We also wish we had one. Imagine being able to keep all of your memories somewhere and being able to revisit the ones you choose at will. Of course, it does mean that certain students might stick their face in your business …
Killing the Forest God - Hellboy II: The Golden Army
A world-saving demon superhero facing off against a tree god is already magic personified, but the real magic in this scene is how Guillermo del Toro elevates what could be a standard CGI giant monster battle into something more lyrical. It’s sad seeing what, in the end, is a majestic magical creature fall … but the real draw here is how good Hellboy is with the baby. Big guns, big monsters, humor, action, and a baby? Pure magic.
"I Put a Spell On You" musical number - Hocus Pocus
Before you even add the magic, you have to appreciate a musical number with Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker. Add in the spell being cast and it’s easy to see why this scene is so beloved. The Sanderson sisters are always spellbinding and Hocus Pocus is a classic.
Arwen summoning the river - The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Liv Tyler's ethereal nature is a perfect fit for Arwen, but it’s her fierce determination that wins out in this scene. Arwen not only outruns and outrides the Nazgul, but she leads them to the river knowing they dislike crossing water. When they push through, Arwen’s magic conjures a wave of white horses that wash the wraiths away in one of the most amazing visual adaptations of Tolkien’s prose from a movie trilogy full of them.
Alice Niffins Out - The Magicians
We knew the risks, and so did Alice, but The Beast needed to be dealt with, and Alice was one of the strongest magicians at Brakebills. Watching her come so close to beating The Beast and then turning into a Niffin is one of those moments that leaves you both amazed and horrified, every time you watch it.
Moana restores Te Fiti's heart - Moana
What’s more magical than a young girl chosen by the sea restoring the heart of a goddess to return her to her former self and balance the forces of nature? Not much, based on our experience of this scene. Seeing the seething, burning volcano demon Te Ka transform into a symbol of life and fertility is mesmerizing and a truly heroic moment for the ocean’s chosen princess.
Mr. Norrell brings the Yorkshire Cathedral to life - Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.
What better way to prove you’re the only practicing magician left in all of England than bringing an entire cathedral to life? Well, not the whole cathedral, but Mr. Norrell brings the gargoyles and statues inside York Cathedral to life and, boy, do they have a few things to say after all of these years spent in silence. It’s a stunning reminder of the power of magic in a world that had pretty much forgotten it. We’d like to see David Blaine do that!
Skeletal Pirates at midnight - Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
It was a toss-up between this scene and the skeletal pirate water walk, but we went with this one because there’s a lot more action and a lot more chewy, geeky, piratey goodness. Plus, you can’t beat the skeleton monkey and a wine-drinking skeleton gag that’s pulled right out of the original Disney ride. Top that off with Barbossa going from 'living' to dead and this one wins the coin toss.
Exorcising Jimmy - Practical Magic
Sally and Gillian Owens used magic to bring Jimmy Angelov back, and now it’s going to take their magic and the combined power of their aunts and the local witches (and hopefuls) to exorcise him for good, since he's possessed Gillian. This scene has everything: suspense, drama, love, humor and, most of all, real magic. Hand us the tissues.
The encounter with the Pale Man - Pan's Labyrinth
Ofelia’s quest into the Pale Man’s lair for a dagger both fascinates and terrifies us. Temptation is everywhere, and Ofelia can’t resist, which almost costs her her life. As a creature, the Pale Man is a cut above the rest. You can’t help but be mesmerized and grossed out at the same time –– this is the beauty of Guillermo del Toro.
The final twist of The Prestige
The sheer amount of discussion and dissection about the ending of this film earns it a spot on this list. While there’s no real magic per se, the real trick is the one Christopher Nolan pulls off by giving us an ending that answers our questions but opens up many more things for us to ponder. We have so many questions even now. Nolan certainly likes playing with our minds, doesn’t he?
Phonogram by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
Music and magic have been used hand in hand throughout the years, but deities that use pop music to gain adulation and adorations get special attention around here, especially with stellar art and a well placed social commentary. Gillen and McKelvie bedazzled armies of readers and that’s no small feat.
The ending of The Witch
We don’t know quite how a moment can be quiet, terrifying, enthralling, and peaceful all at the same time, but the ending of The Witch manages to be all that and more. Writer/director Robert Eggers leaves us practically petrified the entire movie ... and then, this scene -where Black Phillip the goat (aka Satan) finally speaks just freaked us the hell out.
Those were OUR choices? What are yours? We welcome respectful debate and discussion, so please let us know in the comments your favorite magical moments that were big in the last 25 years. And check out the rest of the 25 Greatest lists here.