Shooting lightning from your fingertips, whispering a magic word to secretly enchant a monster, signing runes in the air. These are just a few of the methods the strongest wizards use to wipe out other wizards in the great magical melees that spring up from time to time in the vast range of media depicting spellcasters.
It raises the question: Who is the most powerful wizard in the collective realm of fiction? Could Albus Dumbledore use his wand to disarm Gandalf and his wizard's staff? Could Harry Potter's lessons at Hogwarts help him defeat Jareth the Goblin King's enchanting crystal orbs? Could Doctor Strange defend himself against both the sword and sorcery of Geralt of Rivia?
For this particular mystical showdown, we're looking exclusively at male magicians, wizards, and warlocks (although that's not to insinuate anything when it comes to female wizards and witches). We're weighing the merits of these wizards in a free-for-all scenario, so it's not just about them being talented magicians but skilled combatants as well. So, who will be the last man standing when these powerful wizards duel?
Reputation: Considered to be one of the greatest and wisest beings in Middle-earth, Gandalf has existed for more than 2,000 years and has helped countless creatures fight the forces of darkness.
Beard Length: About 2 to 2½ feet long and grey, until it turns white.
Strengths: As one of the Maiar, Gandalf is immensely powerful and wise. He has incredible magical strength, and can also swing a sword and ride fast and true on the back of Shadowfax, his horse.
Weaknesses: Gandalf's main weakness - both as Gandalf the Grey and the more powerful Gandalf the White - is his fallible human body. When entering the chaotic fray of battle, his mortal flesh can be marred by an arrow or blade as easily as any other man.
Greatest Proclamation of Wisdom: "A wizard is never late, nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to." - The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
Reputation: Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts, is one of the most skilled and respected wizards in the Harry Potter universe. He's revered by practitioners of magic across the globe and feared by the forces of evil - to the point that his very presence is enough to protect the students who attend his wizarding school.
Beard Length: More than 3 feet long, often tied decoratively into bunched, fluffy grey segments.
Strengths: At 115 years old, Dumbledore has filled his brain with every inch of magical knowledge possible, and is experienced both in the study of theoretical magic and its practical application in conflict.
Weaknesses: He's selflessly dedicated to the protection of his students, which could be used to manipulate him. Also, while more than a skilled magical opponent, he's still 115 years old and not quite as spry as he once was.
Greatest Proclamation of Wisdom: "Have you any idea how much tyrants fear the people they oppress? All of them realize that, one day, amongst their many victims, there is sure to be one that rises against them and strikes back!" - Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, J.K. Rowling
Reputation: Once one of the world's greatest surgeons, Dr. Stephen Strange is now one of its most powerful sorcerers. He's brash, cocky, arrogant, and talented enough to back up all of his bravado. He's helped save the world on more than one occasion, and is dedicated to defending Earth against evil magical forces.
Beard Length: Short-cropped, well-manicured beard-goatee combo.
Strengths: He is an amazingly fast learner, a naturally adept sorcerer, and a brilliant human being who formerly possessed the time stone (AKA the Eye of Agamotto), which allowed him to look into the future. He's also a companion to a magical flying cape that has saved his life more than once.
Weaknesses: He's unabashedly arrogant and vain, and believes he knows more than everyone else. His cockiness can lead him into situations against surprisingly powerful opponents, and his vain entitlement can easily be prodded and provoked.
Greatest Proclamation of Wisdom: "If I tell you what happens, it won't happen." - Avengers: Endgame
Reputation: In Arthurian legend, and even in the real world, Merlin is easily the most famous wizard. He uses magic to orchestrate the birth of King Arthur, then serves as a mentor and guide. He's a wise and brilliant enchanter, and remains one of the indelible fixtures of Arthur's long and complex story.
Beard Length: Often very long, Merlin's beard seems to vary in length based on depiction, from a few feet to all the way down to the floor.
Strengths: He's wise, he's stoic, and he's naturally imbued with magical power. Born of a mortal mother and a demonic incubus, his supernatural parentage is responsible for his extraordinary powers.
Weaknesses: His mortal form is generally depicted as older and frail. All the magic in the world can't save him from a well-placed blow from a sword or sling. Also, he admits that he's never studied magic, as it came naturally, but this means his powers are confined to what he can do by instinct, for the most part.
Greatest Proclamation of Wisdom: "The best thing for being sad... is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake in the middle of the night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world around you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honor trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then - to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be [distressed] by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting." - The Once and Future King, T.H. White