Doctor Strange, the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s favorite newcomer, has already proven himself to be one of the most formidable superheroes out there. Between creating portals, summoning mystical energy shields, wielding a living cloak, and even reversing the flow of time itself, the former surgeon turned master of the extradimensional arts has demonstrated abilities far beyond the scope of his contemporaries. Sure, Iron Man‘s armor is cool, but it doesn’t get half as wacky as some of the spells that Doctor Strange conjures up.
But how do Doctor Strange’s abilities compare to the other magic users out there? How would the mystical neurosurgeon fare in a battle against Dumbledore, Maleficent, or any of the other famous magic users out there?
Some ground rules, to get us started: while the comic book Doctor Strange, who long ago inherited the role of Sorcerer Supreme, is now infinitely more powerful than his cinematic counterpart, for the sake of this list, we’re going to see how Benedict Cumberbatch’s freshly minted sorcerer — a guy still learning the ropes — stacks up against some of the bigger wizards and witches out there. Here are 15 Magic Users More Powerful Than Doctor Strange.
Of course, we have to start with the granddaddy of wizardry. There have been more depictions of Merlyn than perhaps any other magic user in history, and as one would expect from such a storied and magical figure, all of these stories vary quite a bit. Merlyn has been depicted as the son of an incubus, a druid, a prophet, a potential antichrist, a quirky shopkeeper — or in Marvel Comics, an extradimensional being that bestows Captain Britain with his powers.
Today, perhaps the most popular version of Merlyn is the likeable, friendly old wizard written by T.H. White in his epic The Once and Future King, the first part of which was adapted into the classic animated Disney flick, The Sword in the Stone. Here, Merlyn is presented as a kindly mentor to the young King Arthur, at this point identifying as “Wart.”
As a result of all these different interpretations, Merlyn’s power levels have fluctuated depending on which story he’s being depicted in. However, some Merlyn depictions have been insanely powerful, with the ancient wizard capable of rearranging the molecular structure of any object to transform both organic and inorganic matter, shapeshifting his own appearance, and — in a unique sense — time travel. While Doctor Strange may have used the time stone to bargain with Dormammu, Merlyn’s relationship with time is a bit stranger. The wizard lives backward in time, rather than forward, meaning that he has been slowly “aging” further and further into the past, thereby allowing him to “predict” the future.
One of the qualities that makes Star Wars unique among its science fiction brethren is that it really isn’t a sci-fi story at all: it’s actually a classic fantasy tale, cloaked in sci-fi trappings. It’s an epic saga of knights, swords, and royalty, taking place in a world where the “magic” we know from fantasy tales is repurposed as a mystical, surreal energy referred to as “the Force.”
And just like those ancient Arthurian tales, Star Wars has its own wizard: a little green guy named Yoda.
What Merlin is to the young King Arthur, Yoda is to the young Luke Skywalker. Yoda is the perfect example of why we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Though he at first seems like a diminutive, cranky, and elderly little joke, Yoda soon proves to be Luke’s most enduring mentor, possessing both a mastery of the Force and a deep knowledge of the universe’s inner trappings.
13. Randall Flagg
When it comes to more traditional magic users, one of the most notorious — and most terrifyingly powerful — mages out there is the fan-favorite villain Randall Flagg, who will be making his big screen debut next year in The Dark Tower, where he will be played by Matthew McConaughey.
Newcomers to the Dark Tower mythos should take note, however, that this character probably won’t go by the name “Randall Flagg” in the movie. This mystical sorcerer has woven his way through many, many different realities, always altering his identity to better suit the world he finds himself in. He’s made frequent appearances throughout King’s work, from The Stand to Hearts in Atlantis. Roland, the protagonist of the Dark Tower series, generally knows him as the Man in Black, Walter O’Dim, or Marten Broadcloak. He’s also been called The Walking Dude, the Ageless Stranger, the Covenant Man, Richard Fannin, and Richard Fry. He’s been a terrorist, a marine, a Klansman, a Viet Cong member, and the ruthless dictator of a post-apocalyptic world.
Never underestimate the Man in Black, his charismatic nature, or his potential for ruthlessness. There’s a good chance you’ve seen him before, in one world or another — and you’d better hope not to cross paths with him again.
12. Mr. Mxyzptlk
The ultimate comic book prankster, this cigar smoking imp has tormented Superman, and occasionally the whole Justice League, for decades. Hailing from the 5th Dimension, Mr. Mxyzptlk possesses the ability to do pretty much anything he can think of, completely reshaping matter, energy, and reality to his whims, including the power to break the fourth wall a la Deadpool.
His only weakness is that if he’s tricked into saying his name backwards, he’ll be whisked back to the 5th dimension for 90 days, and all of the effects of his magic will disappear instantly. This might seem silly, but consider: you try saying a name like “Mxyzptlk” backwards, much less trying to get someone else to say it.
Luckily for the DC Universe, Mr. Mxyzptlk is a jokester who prefers to simply mess around with Superman, play postmodern cosmic jokes with reality, and generally discomfit people for his own amusement. However, there have been a few stories in which Mxyzptlk was presented in a more villainous role, such as Alan Moore’s classic Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?, and it’s a scary sight to behold.
Professor Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, headmaster of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and founder of the Order of the Phoenix, is one of the most powerful wizards to ever walk the Earth.
Considering that Hogwarts plays such a major role in the wizarding world depicted in both Harry Potter, we can pretty safely say that Dumbledore has mentored a fairly enormous percentage of the world’s magic using population. Dumbledore is seen performing dozens of unique and powerful spells, from fire conjuring to flight, and it says a lot that his Patronus is the image of a phoenix. But to get a real sense of his power and wisdom — two traits that, in the world of magic, are often one and the same — one need only look at his resume. It is Dumbledore who studied and uncovered the twelve uses of dragon’s blood. He’s the Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation of Wizards, holds the Order of Merlin First Class for Grand Sorcery, and is the Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot.
The snakelike Dark Lord, the horrific being referred to in whispers as “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named,” Voldemort is the biggest threat that the wizarding community has ever faced. Voldemort’s obsession with blood purity drives him to attempt genocide upon the entire Muggle society. He wants to conquer both worlds, establishing himself as ruler.
Voldemort’s ambition, zealousness, lack of empathy, and unwillingness to fail have all served him well in his quest for domination, despite numerous setbacks. He even survives death through the use of Horcruxes — objects used to store bits of a person’s fractured soul — thus allowing him a form of immortality.
There’s a lot of debate over whether Lord Voldemort or Dumbledore is more powerful, and it’s hard to answer. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is the only time we see the two engage in a duel, and they seem fairly evenly matched, though as soon as Voldemort gets a sense that Dumbledore has a chance of winning, he flees. Still, Voldemort probably gets the nod, overall; his cunning and immoral willingness to push the boundaries of magic “further, perhaps, than they have ever been pushed” might not be good for the wellbeing of the world, but it creates a truly formidable villain.
Now, we’ll bounce back to Marvel Comics for a bit. Remember that weird, time-altering rune that Doctor Strange wears around his neck, the so-called Eye of Agamotto?
Well, Agamotto the All-Seeing is one of the Vishanti, a triumvirate of powerful beings that may appear in the Doctor Strange sequel, including Oshtur and Hoggoth. In the Marvel Universe, magic is the act of drawing energy from other dimensions and giving it shape in ours, and these three beings are often conjured by Earth’s sorcerers.
Agamotto was Earth’s first Sorcerer Supreme, but he is not a mortal being himself. He hails from another dimension, and his reputation as the “All-Seeing” is due to the many centuries in which he has carefully watched events unfold across the multiverse. He often projects a sense of apathy about the destruction of universes, claiming that one universe is no better than another, but this seems to be an act. Why else would he donate so many artifacts to the Earth dimension’s Sorcerer Supreme? Not just his “Eye,” but also the Orb of Agamotto, the Oracle of Agamotto, and the Book of the Vishanti.
8. Doctor Fate
Doctor Fate is basically the DC equivalent to Marvel’s Doctor Strange. Wielding the Helmet of Fate, the Amulet of Anubis, and the Cloak of Destiny, Doctor Fate is a legacy identity for agents of the Lords of Order in their eternal battle against the forces of chaos. Kent Nelson, Inza Cramer, and Khalid Ben-Hassin have all worn the helmet at different times in the last century. Doctor Fate is empowered by the divine entity known as Nabu the Wise, who acts as his spiritual guide. By invoking the true name of the Egyptian God Ra, Nabu is able to achieve even greater power.
Okay, now here’s where it gets tricky. When it comes to power levels, the comic book Doctor Strange — Sorcerer Supreme, one of the most unstoppable heroes out there — would probably overpower Doctor Fate if the two ever came to blows. But the cinematic Doctor Strange, still little more than a recently graduated pupil of the Ancient One, has a long way to go before he becomes the cosmic force that his comic book counterpart is — though he more than makes up for it with his wits, impulsiveness, and drive to succeed.
The antagonist of the classic Disney film Sleeping Beauty, and later the antiheroic protagonist of a live-action remake starring Angelina Jolie, this powerful horned witch has often been called one of Disney’s scariest villains, and for good reason.
Though both versions of the story portray Maleficent’s background and motives in extremely different ways, the sheer breadth of her power levels are consistent. Capable of summoning “all the powers of Hell,” Maleficent’s spells impact living beings, weather patterns, and more. She can completely change entire landscapes according to her whims, as well as place enchantments upon any object she chooses. She’s even able to place curses upon objects in the future, such as decreeing that the infant Aurora will prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel sometime before her sixteenth birthday. That’s not just seeing into the future — it’s molding the future, in a very active way, without any need for foresight or time travel.
6. Doctor Doom
Yes, we’re talking about that Doctor Doom. Victor Von Doom, who has so far been horribly misrepresented by every Fantastic Four movie to date, is not only a genius inventor, a polymath, the ruler of the nation of Latveria, and the greatest villain of the entire Marvel Universe — he’s also an insanely powerful sorcerer.
Most Doom stories tend to put more focus on his mastery of science and technology, so his considerable magical ability sometimes falls by the wayside. Once a more minor magic user who only dabbled in the dark arts after being taught by a clan of Tibetan monks, he later trained under Morgan Le Fay, and at one point, Doctor Strange himself said that Doom potentially possessed enough power to be named the Sorcerer Supreme. In the storyline Unthinkable, Doom peels off the skin of his first love, Valeria, turning her flesh into a mystical armor, and thus empowering himself through the black magic of a trio of demons. During the Secret Wars event, Doom takes on the power of the Beyonders, recreating the entire universe in his image, and becoming a God.
What makes Doom so powerful is his mastery of so many fields: science, sorcery, robotics, and more. We can only hope that someday, maybe not so far away, Doom’s rights go back to Marvel Studios, and we can finally get a worthwhile cinematic depiction of Stan Lee’s favorite villain.
DC’s angel of death, the Spectre is the reincarnation of Jim Corrigan, a 1930s detective who is murdered by thugs on the way to his engagement party. Upon dying, Corrigan’s soul can’t break through the barriers of Heaven, and he is instead reincarnated by an entity known as “The Voice.” Corrigan reawakens on Earth as a walking, supernatural spirit of vengeance.
It is later found that the entity that is bonded to Corrigan is actually the fallen angel Aztar, serving as the Angel of Death in order to repent for past misdeeds as one of the angels who followed Lucifer during the Rebellion. Due to his enormous power level, the most interesting Spectre stories tend to be those that challenge Corrigan with more complex and morally ambiguous ethical puzzles.
The Spectre is violent but fair, bloodless yet catastrophic to those who commit evil. He possesses abilities far beyond those of almost any other superhero out there, and is capable of doing almost anything that Corrigan’s human mind can conceive of, from manipulating the limits of time and space to changing an object’s shape, density, or mass.
4. The White Witch
Jadis, more commonly known as the White Witch, is one of the major villains of C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia, and in particular The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. Jadis actually predates the existence of Narnia itself, as told in the prequel novel The Magician’s Nephew, where it is shown that she hails from another world entirely. There, Jadis was the ruler of the city of Charn — a land where, upon uttering one word, she destroyed all life except her own.
She eventually finds her way to the realm of Narnia, where she does not possess the same godly power as she did on Charn. In order to reclaim her power, she is forced to retrain herself from scratch. This would seem like a lofty goal for even a dedicated student of magic, but when we next see Jadis, she returns with a vengeance.
A thousand years later, when she is introduced in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, the so-called White Queen has usurped power over the entire world, turning anyone who opposes her into stone. Through her magical ability, she casts the realm into 100 years of cold, heartless, devastating winter. And we thought those winters in Game of Thrones seemed long…
3. The Crimson King
Returning to Stephen King’s Dark Tower multiverse, we now find ourselves face-to-face with the most powerful dark wizard he has ever created: the Crimson King, a figure synonymous with what we consider the Devil. The previously mentioned Man in Black is merely an agent for the Crimson King.
Also known as Satan, the Red King, the Lord of Discordia, and Ram Aballah, the Crimson King is a force of chaos that has reached the Dark Tower itself, and now awaits Roland (played by Idris Elba in the upcoming movie) upon one of the Tower’s many balconies, where he has been driven mad. The reason that Roland must reach the Tower is so that he can stop the King, who seeks to tear it down, and thus end existence as we know it — believing that if he does so, he will be able to remake it all according to his designs. All evil beings in every multiverse serve the desires of the Crimson King, knowingly or not.
If ol’ Merlyn is the classic archetype of a wizard, this guy is a close runner-up. Famously played by Sir Ian McLellan over the course of six Lord of the Rings/Hobbit movies, Gandalf is another immensely powerful figure who could give any magic user a run for their money.
The ancient being known originally as Olórin, later Gandalf the Grey, and eventually Gandalf the White has existed since the creation of the world, and is said to be the wisest of all the Maiar. He is actually an angelic being, not a mortal, and the figure of an elderly old man that he uses as his avatar on the mortal plane is merely a sign of his humility.
Gandalf’s powers range far and wide in scope, and it’d be challenging to attempt to pinpoint exactly what he’s capable of. For the most part, we can only look at the feats he has performed, and estimate from there: examining those alone, we’ve seen that Gandalf is an immortal being capable of seeing the future, telekineses, shapeshifting, illumination, pretty crazy fire abilities, shields, healing, and well… when it comes down to it, Gandalf is pretty hard to beat.
If Doctor Strange is unlucky enough to run into Dormammu again in future movies, he’s in for a world of hurt. He lucked out the first time, by using the Eye of Agamotto as a bargaining chip, but if Dormammu finds a way around their deal — as he did in the comics — then the results could very easily be catastrophic.
As non-comic readers have probably gathered from the Doctor Strange movie, Dormammu is basically the all-encompassing god of the Dark Dimension. He is a being of pure energy, who rules over his dimension with an iron fist, and works to merge other dimensions into his.
He’s by far the most powerful foe that Doctor Strange could ever face; an omnipresent, omnipotent being whose power is fueled by the worship of his followers. Dormammu is capable of crushing entire realities beneath his enormous cosmic foot. There are a lot of layers to Dormammu’s mythology, power, and capabilities that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has yet to explore, and Earth will be lucky to survive a second encounter with him.
What other magic users could give Doctor Strange a run for his money? Let us know in the comments!
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