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Magnum Opus

Charlotte: Plaything? I should say not. It is my egg sac, my magnum opus.
Wilbur: I don't know what a magnum opus is.
Charlotte: That's Latin. 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 his/her 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, 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. He/She may prefer his later work, because he/she grew the beard as an artist, perfected his/her skills and had more independence, away from Executive Meddling, while his fans may feel that his/her 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) 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.

4) 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 encyclopaedias, 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.

5) 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, Dethroning Moment of Suck and Fallen Creator.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Actors 

    Anime & Manga 

    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 Dali: 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 

    Composers (Classical & Jazz) 

    Fan Fic 

    Fashion 

    Film - Animated 
  • Amblimation: Balto for Steven Spielberg's short-lived animationstudio.
  • Ralph Bakshi: Though Fritz the Cat may be his most famous work overall, both Heavy Traffic and Coonskin are generally considered to be his best animated features. Bakshi himself favors Coonskin.
  • Brad Bird has never EVER made a bad film, but the biggest contenders for his Opus are The Iron Giant and The Incredibles. Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol is another strong contender.
  • Don Bluth: Fans and critics alike see The Secret of NIMH as his magnum opus. All his later work tends to be more hit-and-miss and falls into eternal cult classic debates.
  • Disney: Just like many other animation companies Disney's best work was done during The Golden Age of Animation (1930s until the end of the 1950s).
    • Silly Symphonies: Disney's best regarded animated short from his black-and-white era is The Skeleton Dance, which started of his Silly Symphonies' series. It has remained popular and iconic throughout the centuries, while most of Disney's other black-and-white shorts, apart from Steamboat Willie have been forgotten and surpassed in popularity by his color shorts. The best animated Disney short in terms of popularity and among people in the animation business is The Band Concert. In terms of technical and dramatic achievement The Old Mill is also held in high regard.
    • Of Disney animated feature films the earliest five ("Snow White", "Pinocchio", "Fantasia", "Dumbo" and "Bambi") are considered to be his finest works, never surpassed in terms of dazzling technical achievements, dramatic and emotional power and hand-crafted charm. Which one is Disney's truest masterpiece, however, is still debated heavily. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs remains the most popular with the general audience and film critics alike, also because it broke new ground in animation and showed off everything the Disney studios had learned and achieved while working on animated shorts. Pinocchio is less popular with the general public, but many film critics and animators consider it superior to Snow White in terms of character development, story, visual detail and exciting adventure. Fantasia is even less popular with the general public and was a flop on its general release. Some people find it either too pretentious or too kitschy, but it has been Vindicated by History over the years as the unquestionable highlight of the company's technical skills and admired for being the most controversial, experimental and epic of all of Disney's projects. Dumbo, though not a technically or artistically groundbreaking film, has remained a public and critics' personal favorite ever since its release. Bambi, Walt's own personal favorite, is generally considered to be a classic, but more a favorite with the general public than the critics.
  • After Disney's death it took a long time before critics and public agreed on an animated feature that seemed on par with the work released during Walt's lifetime. Beauty and the Beast was a triumphant return to the old Disney charm, matching a strong story arc, stunning artwork, catchy songs and interesting main characters throughout the entire film. Many critics give it excellent reviews and it was the first Disney picture in five decades to win several Academy Awards. It was even the first animated feature to be nominated for the title Best Film!
  • Of all the Disney and Pixar films WALL•E and Up had the strongest positive response among critics and the general public. Up was even nominated for Best Feature, as well as Best Animated Feature during the Oscars.
    • In recent times, Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph, or Frozen (the first being considered the beginning of the return to Disney's famous quality, the second being praised for its refreshing creativity and genuine heart, and the latter being favourably compared to Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King). As of 2014, however, this title is now almost unanimously given to Frozen.
  • Dreamworks Animation: How to Train Your Dragon and Kung Fu Panda are often considered to be their greatest animated films. The first two Shrek films are also candidates, though the following installments haven't fared as well in comparison. The Prince of Egypt is their opus in 2D animation.
  • Ray Harryhausen: Fans and critics agree that Jason and the Argonauts is both his best film in content, as well as the one which showcases his claymation talents the best.
  • The Lego Movie or 21 Jump Street for Phil Lord and Chris Miller.
  • Hayao Miyazaki: Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke for Hayao Miyazaki stand out from his always exemplary work. The Wind Rises is another candidate.
  • Willis O Brien: The special effects in the original King Kong (1933) are considered his masterpiece.
  • Chris Sanders has either Lilo & Stitch, or How to Train Your Dragon.
  • Henry Selick: The Nightmare Before Christmas, which is often mistaken for a Tim Burton movie (Burton only wrote it), is most likely Selick's best work.
  • Jan Švankmajer: Alice, among critics and fans of animation. His own fans also see it as his best work.
  • Acclaimed animator Richard Williams has literally referred to The Thief and the Cobbler (or at least his original vision for it, before it was butchered by Executive Meddling) as his magnum opus; others believe Who Framed Roger Rabbit was his masterpiece.

    Live-Action Filmmakers 

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

    Novelists & Poets 

    Theatre (playwrights) 

    Authors of Non-fiction 
  • Julia Child is best known for her first TV show The French Chef and her collaboration on Mastering the Art of French Cooking, but her far less famous The Way to Cook book/video combination constitutes possibly the greatest project of her life.
  • Isaac Newton: Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (Mathematical Principles of Science) is not only Issac Newton's most important book but considered one of the most important in the history of science.
  • Similarly, Albert Einstein 's General Theory of Relativity and Euclid's Elements.
  • The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli.
  • The Art of War by Sun Tzu. Not just a book on tactics, but a way of life for some and a poetic writing as well. A true great in every way.
  • ''About the War" by Carl von Clausewitz.
  • The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx.
  • Also Sprach Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche

    Live Action TV 

    Pop Musicians (crooners, pop, soul, hiphop, reggae and rock) 

    Music Videos 
  • After all those years the only music video to have risen to become an audience and critics' favorite is Thriller by Michael Jackson, directed by John Landis. It revolutionized the art form and surprised every viewer in a way that will probably never occur again with the same universal impact. Even Jackson tried to surpass it with more and more epic music videos, like Bad, Smooth Criminal and Black or White, but none ever got the same global acclaim from all audiences, both public as well as critics.

    Pinball 

    Sports 
  • 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.
  • Le Bron 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!

    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.
  • Cedar Point: Millennium Force, still the park's most iconic coaster. Gatekeeper may yet surpass it, but it's still too early to tell. In a park generally known as a roller-coaster Mecca, that's quite an achievement.

    Video Games 

Games

Game Soundtracks

Game Consoles

    Visual Novels 
  • Fans of Ryukishi 07 can't really decide which one of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni 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 

YouTube Poops

    Western Animation 

In Vino VeritasTrope Names from Other LanguagesMiles Gloriosus
The TroublesAwesomeMusic/Status QuoMoment of Awesome
Magic Franchise WordCreator SpeakMagnum Opus Dissonance
Magnificent BastardYMMVMarty Stu
Magnificent BastardYMMV/Home PageMarty Stu
Magical Seventh SonWe Are Not Alone IndexMammy

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