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Gandalf Vs Dumbledore: Who’s The Better Wizard?

Not since Merlin himself have names defined wizardry like Gandalf and Dumbledore. Both are exactly what fans picture when they talk about wizards, wise old mentors with a gift for leadership, and the arcane arts. People might consider it blasphemy to compare the two, but here at Screen Rant, debate is always a friendly, constructive thing. In that spirit, this list puts the two iconic magicians up against each other to determine just who is truly the better wizard.

RELATED: 10 Quotes That Prove Dumbledore Is The Best Wizard In The Harry Potter Movies

How? Well, it’s likely most efficient to break down the merits of wizards into categories, and then determine which character was best in each. That way, it can be decided on kind of a point system, the easiest way to judge a debate. So prepare those forbidden books and steadily growing beards, magic fans, as Screen Rant asks who is the best?

Updated on April 6th, 2022 by George Chrysostomou: The debate continues as to who the best of the best really is. With Dumbledore continuing to get more play on-screen than Gandalf, does this give him the edge? Or is the Gray and the White just too powerful to ever compete against? 

Why Gandalf Is The Better Wizard

His Experience

Gandalf talks to Pippen about death and the afterlife during the battle of Minas Tirith in The Return of the king

Viewers know quite a lot about Gandalf including his age and the wisdom that comes along with this. Those details will be touched upon further later. However, the general experience of Gandalf is also unmatched. Within that lifetime, he has seen and done a lot of things.

While Dumbledore is also pretty old, a lot of his time was spent teaching at Hogwarts and therefore not gaining a great deal of experience from the wider world, at least not in the same way Gandalf has. Simply more happens within Lord Of The Rings which contributes to Gandalf getting those experience points.

His Whimsicality

Sometimes a wizard needs to let his hair down and give in to some of the whimsy of the moment. Dumbledore has a certain charm in the earlier Harry Potter films but as events continue to get more serious he loses a lot of that fun. Gandalf seemingly flicks between the two.

RELATED: 10 Things That Gandalf Would Have Been Arrested For In The Human World

He is of course especially serious when a battle intensifies, but Gandalf continues to give in to his childlike wonder at any given chance. The points, therefore, go to the wise wizard of Middle Earth, who tries to insert a little bit of happiness into the world, even with something as simple as his fireworks.

His Age

Ian McKellan as Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings

Usually, wizards are pretty old. Yes, the Harry Potter franchise made wizards young, but the idea of a wizard in pop culture is still one of an old man. It’s a familiar image, the long beard, the gray hair, etc. And though both wizards rock that particular look, it has to be handed to Gandalf for actually living the part.

In fact, Gandalf is pretty much an ageless being in Middle Earth, having entered that world as already an old man. So while Dumbledore’s been around for a while especially as Headmaster, he can’t compare to a guy who started his physical life in his sixties, then stuck around for a few centuries. Gandalf’s senior citizen discounts are basically just free things at this point.

His Enemies

sauron eye dark lord of the rings amazon season 1

Every hero should have a great set of villains. And the antagonists for both Dumbledore and Gandalf’s storylines are incredible. So don’t believe that just because the win is going to Gandalf’s baddies means there is less respect for Dumbledore’s. Voldemort and even Grindelwald are complex, menacing figures of evil. Just look at the Harry Potter fanbase to see how many kind of love those two villains.

RELATED: 10 Unpopular Opinions About Dumbledore In Harry Potter (According To Reddit)

But evil beings like Sauron and Saruman are just a little bit better in our opinion. They’re more powerful, more visually interesting, and have much larger histories. And let’s be honest, one of them is Christopher Freaking Lee. It could’ve just started with that and been done with this point.

His Skill In Combat

Gandalf in the Mines of Moria in The Lord of the Rings The Fellowship of the Ring

Both Gandalf and Dumbledore set themselves apart from the passive, on-the-sidelines image of a wizard by actually joining in with most of the fighting. Dumbledore kicks some serious ass, especially when it comes to wizarding duels, but in a contest of all-out brawls, the points have to go to Gandalf.

Gandalf will frequently throw himself into the heat of battle, dispatching orc after orc with his sword and staff combo. And that’s without mentioning Gandalf’s greatest battle, indeed, one of the best cinematic battles of the past twenty years. Of course, that’s Gandalf’s fight with the Balrog. Dumbledore’s matches are cool, yes, but when comparing them against the fight scene in the depths of Moria, well… they shall not pass.

His Ancient Wisdom

Again, it cannot be emphasized just how old, Gandalf, the best wizard in Middle Earth is. And that age is what gives him the advantage in this section of the wizard contest. Wizards are known for their knowledge of ancient lore. They often serve as exposition machines, explaining to the hero the mystical history of their quest.

And when it comes to mystical history, the guy who knows more is most likely the one who’s lived more of it. Of course, neither Gandalf or Dumbledore have any ancient wisdom close to the “Darth Plagueis the Wise” monologue from Emperor Palpatine. But honestly, who does?

Why Dumbledore Is The Better Wizard

His Allies

Dumbledore in the Great Hall in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Both Dumbledore and Gandalf have a wide range of impressive allies to back them up. The nations of Gondor and Rohan have become useful partners for the Middle Earth wizard, while warriors like Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli have all served alongside Gandalf in battle.

However, the point has to go to Dumbledore considering the fact that all of his allies are powerful wizards. In the context of Middle Earth, few others wield magic. For the Wizarding World, there are countless witches and wizards who boast interesting abilities that can help out Dumbledore where needed.

His Resources


Gandalf travels through Middle Earth without much to his name. His resources are really limited to the allies that he makes. He doesn’t have some great force to back him up and is really just a wizard making his way alone in the world. Dumbledore is the exact opposite when looking at Dumbledore vs Gandalf.

He has political pull within the Ministry of Magic and the entirety of the resources at Hogwarts. That’s a kind of power that can only be gained through years of hard work, with Dumbledore making himself extra valuable to these institutions. He has the best resources overall, therefore gaining the point.

The Respect He Commands

Jude Law as Albus Dumbledore in Fantastic Beasts 3

Gandalf is seen as quite an oddity within Middle Earth. While some view him with great respect, for the most part, a lot of people tend to steer clear, considering how unpredictable he and his magic can be. That doesn’t apply to Dumbledore though who is sought out by some of the greatest magic wielders.

As the Headmaster of Hogwarts Dumbledore holds a position of power. Despite the secrets and controversies within his life, everyone around him holds him in high regard. Even when the Ministry of Magic was trying to take him down there was still an acknowledgment of his own skill. The points have to go to Dumbledore here.

His Style

Jude Law as young Albus Dumbledore

Speaking of looking the part, just because someone is an old and sage magician doesn’t mean they have to look shabby. Gandalf might disagree, judging by his drab grey cloak and hat. Of course, Gandalf gets an upgrade after he returns from the dead, but overall, the win has to be given Dumbledore for style.

Not only does he wear the hell out of some old-timey scholar robes, but as a young guy, Dumbledore’s outfit could put Don Draper to shame. In fact, Dumbledore even has a better after-death look, adapting his Hogwarts garb to an all-white, heavenly set of robes. There’s something to be said about looking better than someone at both young and old stages of their lives, but looking better after the grave? That’s a major win for Albus.

His Weapons

Wizards are known for their magical weapons. Sometimes, they just serve the purpose of giving that magical weapon to the hero, but occasionally, they get to keep them themselves. Gandalf has two pretty impressive weapons at his disposal. First is the sword Glamdring, a powerful blade, and a scourge to malicious creatures.

Then there’s his staff, which fans have seen scare off Nazgûl and break the spell holding King Théoden. But neither of those weapons’ feats compare to the Elder Wand. Not only was it crafted by Death himself, but the Elder Wand is also a more compact, versatile tool for a wizard in combat. It’s one of the three most powerful objects in all of Harry Potter, and though it might not be as powerful as the One Ring, it definitely tops anything Gandalf has ever used.

His Leadership

All wizards are wise, of course, and capable of dolling out some very useful advice. Neither Dumbledore nor Gandalf is an exception to this. However, when it comes to actually stepping up as a leader, Albus Dumbledore is ahead above his Lord of the Rings match. It’s not that Gandalf hasn’t led groups before, it’s that he’s known to break off from them to pursue his own adventures.

RELATED: 10 Quotes That Prove Gandalf Is The Best Wizard In The Lord Of The Rings Movies

Dumbledore, though, sticks with his people. He’s a team player, and reliable as a contact in times of need. Yes, everyone knows that Gandalf is always off doing some important thing on his own, but that’s small comfort to Bilbo and the gang when they’re in trouble.

His Number Of Appearances

young dumbledore

Advice for being a wizard is something like advice for being a parent. Fans know that old saying, “You don’t have to be perfect, you just have to be there?” Probably applies to magic-wielders as much as dads, right? If that’s the case, then Dumbledore is a better wizard in this regard in the debate of Dumbledore vs Gandalf.

Dumbledore has been with us for a total of seven books, ten movies, and one play, all officially recognized as canon. Gandalf, meanwhile, appears in four completed books (technically two, if Lord of the Rings is counted as one book as J.R.R. Tolkien did) and six movies. Yes, there are some canon Tolkien writings in which Gandalf appears, but since many of them were left unfinished by the man himself, this one is being given to Dumbledore. Sorry, Silmarillion fans.

Who’s The Winner Of Gandalf Vs Dumbledore?

It’s A Draw

Dumbledore and Gandalf

With a score of seven to seven, this is really a draw. Though it was a close match, it’s clear that neither ultimately takes the edge over the other. It’s fair to say that both wizards are absolutely tremendous fictional characters with a long legacy and lasting impact on the world.

Within the context of their universes, they will be held up as heroic symbols and in the real world, they are really the way that all other wizarding characters are defined. Ultimately though it’s the fans that will have to decide based on all of this information on who wins in Gandalf vs Dumbledore!

NEXT: 10 Ways Dumbledore Was The Real Villain Of The Harry Potter Franchise

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