Magnum Opus

"Plaything? I should say not. It is my egg sac, my ''magnum opus."
"I don't know what a magnum opus is," said Wilbur.
"That's Latin," explained Charlotte. "It means 'great work.' This egg sac is my great work — the finest thing I have ever made."

Welcome to the top of the mountain, and to the pearly gates beyond which only the best are permitted. This trope represents the pinnacle to which anyone who produces a work of art dreams of reaching. The term "Magnum Opus" is bestowed on any work generally accepted to be a masterpiece, as well as the greatest work of its creator, forever cementing them as someone of exceptional talent.

Any given writer, artist, musician, etc. may produce many works in their life time, and many of these works may be great; but the greatest, and most important, well known, and influential of these works is their Magnum Opus. For the purposes of this trope page, it is probably best to consult The Other Wiki's definition of "Masterpiece": "a creation that has been given much critical praise, especially one that is considered the greatest work of a person's career or to a work of outstanding creativity, skill or workmanship." This trope is meant to recognize both the work and its creator, so any work of enough quality and critical acclaim is welcome. If you've ever heard a work referred to as a "classic" or especially a "masterpiece," chances are it belongs here.

Of course, defining what is or isn't someone's true masterpiece is far from easy in some cases. For some creators, there is little controversy, because they've only ever created or are only known for one particular work, or have one work that is far more famous than the rest, which happens to be a masterpiece. Others have such a large body of work that there is bound to be more than one candidate for the title. There may be heavy debate regarding multiple works as to which is their true Magnum Opus. As usual there may be Critical Dissonance at play. The general public likes one work, while critics or fellow creative artists in the field prefer another. Even the creator himself may not always be the best judge of his own work. They may prefer their later work, because they grew the beard as an artist, perfected their skills and had more independence, away from Executive Meddling, while his fans may feel that their earlier work is way better (First Installment Wins). A common problem that happens to every artist is that, in their eyes, their best work is the one they spent the most time and effort on. As history has proven time and time again, this isn't always the case. For more examples on that subject we refer to the Magnum Opus Dissonance page.

A few simple reminders to avoid endless personal and subjective debates or other problems:

  1. Please note that although there may be some overlap, this is not to be confused with One-Hit Wonder, which is when a creator is only known for one work, and that page mostly has music examples. This isn't One-Book Author, either. Most of these also aren't Tough Acts To Follow, which is when any other work of a creator's is compared disfavorably to their opus; but again, they can be.
  2. Also note that there may or may not be overlap with the creator's Breakthrough Hit. While a few creators' breakthroughs are often cited to be their greatest work, most creators will create their breakthrough first, then eventually go on to produce their Magnum Opus.
  3. While a magnum opus is usually a creator's most widely known work, it doesn't always have to be. For example, while Alfred Hitchcock's best known film is most likely Psycho, most critics hold Vertigo in greater esteem. Inversely, Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction is considered both his most critically acclaimed and most famous work.
  4. The "acting" subpage is perhaps the most controversial of them all: Some actors are so associated with a single role (i.e. Leonard Nimoy, Daniel Radcliffe, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Bryan Cranston) that it's silly to argue against that role as their magnum opus. For more successful actors, it's easier to pin down the ones who have only ever won or have only ever been nominated for a single Oscar (i.e. Samuel L. Jackson, Mickey Rourke, Charlize Theron, Javier Bardem) than someone like Robin Williams, Tom Hanks or Leonardo DiCaprio with a huge resume of critical and commercial smashes and Oscar wins. For the latter category, it's best to leave a list of top contenders rather than trying to single one out.
  5. Some of the works considered a Magnum Opus are often epic and ambitious in scale, length, stature or in content. Though this isn't always the case.
  6. Merely listing a work as a magnum opus, because you happen to like it, despite everyone else disliking it or not rating it that high is a totally different discussion and should not be held here. Even if your own personal circle of friends or a group of Internet forum contributors like it: This still doesn't prove its status as a magnum opus. Consult encyclopedias, art critics, professional reviews, documentaries or check the popularity of a certain work among the general public, despite it already being decades or even centuries old.
  7. Before commenting on works that are already cited on this page as a creator's Magnum Opus that you don't agree with, please remember that the main page should be kept as objective as possible, with a minimal number of Justifying Edits. If there is a work cited here that you don't agree with or a work you feel has been neglected, please mention it first on the Discussion Page. Finally, The best way to decide whether or not a work is a Magnum Opus is by asking the question: "Is this work generally defined as a masterpiece, and as the greatest achievement of its creator's career?"

Also not to be confused with a certain penguin. Contrast Parvum Opus and Creator Killer.


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    Artists (Painters, sculptors, graphic artists) 
  • Also more contemporary, prepare for some Squick in reading about Vito Acconci's performance masterpiece Seedbed.
  • Francis Bacon: Screaming Popes
  • Matthew Barney's Cremaster Cycle series of films.
  • Hieronymus Bosch. The Garden of Earthly Delights.
  • Sandro Botticelli: La Primavera (best known for The Birth of Venus centerpiece).
  • Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Peasant Wedding is generally considered his masterpiece, because of its iconic stature. Other often cited works are Peasant Dance, The Blind Leading the Blind.
  • Michelangelo Buonarroti. His David statue and the Sistine Chapel ceiling painting are generally considered his magnum opus and a high point in human art. Another candidate is his Pietà statue.
  • John Constable: The Hay Wain.
  • Salvador Dalí: The Persistence of Memory.
  • Jacques-Louis David: The Death of Marat.
  • Marcel Duchamp: His magnum opus was a piece simply known as "Fountain," a porcelain urinal he put on a pedestal in a gallery and signed with a marker as "R. Mutt". The piece was concept heavy, meant to challenge the value of art and the importance of the gallery system. The big idea behind the piece being, "If something is in an art gallery, does that make it art?"
  • Leonardo da Vinci: Mona Lisa and The Last Supper.
  • The Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia of Barcelona is often considered the masterpiece of the renowned Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi. The intricacy and scale of the cathedral was so immense that not only was it incomplete at the time of Gaudi's death (despite being started some forty years before he died, and devoting the last fifteen years of his life to it entirely), but remains incomplete to this day. By the time it is expected to be finished, it will have been built over the course of about 140 years.
  • Francisco De Goya: The Third of May, 1808.
  • Theodore Géricault: The Raft of the "Medusa''.
  • El Greco: The Burial of the Count of Orgaz.
  • Edward Hopper: Nighthawks.
  • Hokusai: The Great Wave off Kanagawa.
  • Roy Lichtenstein: Whaam.
  • Edouard Manet: Le Déjeuner Sur L' Herbe.
  • Masaccio's frescoes for the Barancacci Chapel, his greatest works and considered by some the principal classroom of the Florentine School.
  • Claude Monet: Impression, soleil levant and his Water Lelies series.
  • Edvard Munch: The Scream.
  • Pablo Picasso: Guernica
  • Raphael's "School of Athens".
  • Pierre-August Renoir: Bal au Moulin de la Galette.
  • Auguste Rodin: The Thinker and The Kiss.
  • Peter Paul Rubens: The Elevation of the Cross and The Descent From The Cross.
  • Georges Seurat: He died unfortunately young, but he (the inventor of pointillism) shook up the art world with his stylistically inventive and politically controversial Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.
  • Johannes Vermeer: Girl With A Pearl Earring and The Milk Maid.
  • Vincent van Gogh: His artistic impact only occured after death. In terms of sales and fame The Sun Flowers is often cited as his masterpiece. Another strong contender is Starry Night, which remains one of the most influential and recognizable paintings in the world.
  • Rembrandt Van Rijn: The Nightwatch. Among the general public and art fans The Jewish Bride and The Oath Of Julius Civilis have also gained in reputation.
  • Diego Velazquez: Las Meninas.
  • The Venus of Milo is seen as one of the greatest statues in the world and one of the most famous idealizations of beauty.
  • Andy Warhol: His Campbell Soup painting.
  • James Mcneill Whistler: Portrait of the Artists' Mother.

    Comic Strip Artists 

    Fan Fic 


Usually the first installment in most cases, though there have been exceptions.


    Professional Wrestling 
  • The two shows most often cited as Magnum Opus as far as WWE goes are WrestleMania 17 and Money in the Bank 2011.
  • "Stone Cold" Steve Austin: His WrestleMania 13 submission match against Bret Hart.
  • Sasha Banks and Bayley: Their matches at NXT Takeover Brooklyn and Respect— additionally seen as the Magnum Opus of WWE NXT and women's wrestling as a whole.
  • Daniel Bryan: His SummerSlam 2013 match against John Cena.
  • John Cena: His Money in the Bank 2011 match against CM Punk.
  • CM Punk: The 6/27/11 pipe bomb, the Money in the Bank match against John Cena, and the 434-day title reign vie for Punk's greatest moment.
  • Edge: The inaugural Money in the Bank ladder match.
  • Ric Flair: His "retirement" match against Shawn Michaels.
  • Mick Foley: His 1998 Hell in a Cell vs. the Undertaker.
  • Bret Hart: The aforementioned submission match with Steve Austin.
  • Mark Henry: His 2011 World Heavyweight Title run and/or 2013 "fake retirement" promo.
  • Chris Jericho: His match with Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 19.
  • Brock Lesnar: Ending the Undertaker's two-decade long WrestleMania winning streak.
  • Shawn Michaels: Either of his WrestleMania matches against the Undertaker.
  • Rey Mysterio Jr.: The 2006 Royal Rumble.
  • The Nexus: Despite the group's questionable reputation, nobody can deny that their debut was their high point and one of WWE's most memorable moment.
  • The Rock: His WrestleMania 17 match against Steve Austin.
  • Randy Savage: The WrestleMania 3 match against Ricky Steamboat for the Intercontinental title. Many consider this to be the magnum opus for WWE itself, if not all of professional wrestling.
  • The Shield: Their match against the Wyatt Family at Elimination Chamber.
  • Davey Boy Smith: SummerSlam 1992 vs. Bret Hart.
  • Ricky Steamboat: "The Dragon" is best remembered for four great matches: the 1988-89 trilogy with Ric Flair and the aforementioned match with Savage.
  • The Undertaker: Although it is over, "The Streak" is still revered as one of the greatest accomplishments in wrestling history. The most highly regarded match of the Streak are the two Shawn Michaels matches — with the first one usually being seen as the superior of the two.

  • Hakeem Olajuwon's 1993–94 season, winning the MVP, Finals MVP and Defensive Player of the Year awards.
  • Tim Duncan's 2002–03 season, especially the finals series against the New Jersey Nets.
  • Shaquille O'Neal's 1999–2000 season, in which he captured the MVP, All-star Game MVP and Finals MVP.
  • Georges St. Pierre's TKO victory against Matt Hughes.
    • How can you mention Matt Hughes without citing his victory over Frank Trigg at UFC 52? Matt survived an accidental low blow, a pummeling, a near submission, then got up, PICKED UP TRIGG AND RAN ACROSS THE OCTAGON WITH HIM, threw him down, returned the pummeling, and got a submission of his own.
      • Because his comeback victory over BJ Penn (a man who beat Hughes once before) is more impressive. Hughes was behind on the scorecards, getting pummeled standing up and Penn's brazilian jiu-jitsu was giving Hughes problems on the ground. And yet, Hughes finished Penn late in the fight through sheer determination.
  • Chuck Liddell's first victory over Randy Couture.
  • The Los Angeles Lakers 1971–1972 season, winning 33 in a row and grabbing the title.
  • Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in the 1995–96 season, becoming the first team in NBA history to win 70 regular season games (they won 72 and only lost 10) and cruising to Jordan's 4th title.
  • LeBron James' 2011–12 season, winning the MVP and finals MVP.
  • World champion chess player (and world-champion-caliber Jerkass) Bobby Fischer produced the win dubbed by commentators "The Game of The Century" when he was 13 years old.
  • Michael Phelps at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, setting the record for most golds in one Olympics (8), taking gold in every event he was in.
  • In Association Football, many players, coaches and managers are considered to have been so influential on their teams that they are deemed the equivalent of cinema's "auteurs". The crowning achievements of their teams can be considered to be their magnum opus:
    • For Sir Alex Ferguson, a well-remembered British manager in history, it is the 1999 league/cup/European Cup treble with Manchester United.
    • For Pep Guardiola and Lionel Messi's Barcelona, it is the 5–0 ("la manita") demolition of Real Madrid in 2010. This mirrored the achievement of Johan Cruyff, Barcelona's most influential player and manager, whose 5–0 defeat of Madrid in 1974 set the seeds for Barcelona's future success.
    • The 1967–68 season is seen as this for George Best of Northern Ireland. Widely regarded as the greatest player to never play at a world cup and one of the greatest period, he rose to the forefront at Manchester United during that season, leading the team to the European Cup, becoming the fist English team to do so, and winning the equivalent of the European player of the year. Sadly he would waste his talent on booze and gambling in the years after.
    • The Brazilian team that won the 1970 World Cup is often considered the best squad ever assembled.
  • In 2007, Peyton Manning finally shook off the cobwebs and led his Indianapolis Colts to a Super Bowl victory after years of playoff mishaps.
  • Super Bowl XLII. On one side, the undefeated Patriots, who'd soundly thrashed every team before them. On the other, the New York Giants, who came out of nowhere with an unexpected postseason run. The Giants proceeded to win the game in what's generally considered one of the defining moments of American Football.
  • Muhammad Ali's brilliant tactic to beat seemly invincible "Big" George Foreman in Zaire (Congo), 1974.
  • Sugar Ray Leonard making the feared Roberto Duran quit in the middle of their rematch, after losing to him in their first boxing match.
  • The first lap of the 1993 European Grand Prix for Ayrton Senna.
  • Eddy Merckx' entire cycling career is a magnum opus, never surpassed in the dazzling amount of victories by any other cyclist!

    Theatre (playwrights) 

    Theme Parks 
  • Universal Studios
    • For park fans, to date nothing has been able to top Kongfrontation in terms of originality, production value and realism. Especially when it first opened.
    • Spider-Man and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (both in the Islands of Adventure park at Universal Flordia) are alternatively considered this by many other fans due to, like Kongfrontation before them, both rides pioneering new, unproven ideas an technologies.
  • For the Disney Theme Parks, the original Pirates of the Caribbean ride is considered Imagineering's finest achievement in ride design.
  • Six Flags's crowning achievement would be X (now X2), not only for being the first multidimensional coaster ever made, but also one of the very few of its kind — or Kingda Ka, the tallest roller coaster in the world.
  • Cedar Point: Millennium Force, still the park's most iconic coaster. It's also regarded to be one of the greatest coasters in the world.
  • In the same vein as its sister coaster Millennium Force above, Fury 325 may just be this for Carowinds.
  • Kings Dominion's top coaster is usually a tie between Intimidator 305 or Volcano the Blast Coaster.

    Visual Novels 
  • Fans of Ryukishi 07 can't really decide which one of Higurashi: When They Cry and Umineko no Naku Koro ni is his masterpiece (though a slight majority seams to be leaning towards Umineko). Even Ryukishi 07 himself can't decide on which one he prefers.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original