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Film / Doctor Strange (2016)

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The Ancient One: Arrogance and fear still keep you from learning the simplest and most significant lesson of all.
Doctor Strange: Which is?
The Ancient One: It's not about you.

Doctor Strange is a 2016 American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name, and both the fourteenth film entry of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the second installment of Phase 3. The film is directed by Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Sinister) and written by Jon Spaihts and C. Robert Cargill, with some additional material by Dan Harmon added during reshoots.

Its story revolves around Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), a brilliant neurosurgeon whose career is ruined after a car accident causes irreparable nerve damage in his hands. Searching for a means to cure himself, Strange travels to Kamar-Taj where he encounters the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), who offers to help Strange in exchange for him becoming their latest disciple in a Secret War against the supernatural evils of the universe.

Previews: Trailer 1, Trailer 2

Following the character's introduction in this movie, Doctor Strange would go on to become a major player in Phase 3 of the MCU, starting with a small but significant cameo in Thor: Ragnarok, a major role in Avengers: Infinity War, and a supporting role in Avengers: Endgame. In Phase 4, he also plays a big part in Spider-Man: No Way Home, while an episode of What If...? showcases a universe where the events of Doctor Strange play out somewhat differently; the Season 1 finale of said series features the aforementioned alternate version of Strange in a major role. A sequel to Strange's debut film, titled Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, was released in 2022.

Not to be confused with Doctor Strangelove.

Doctor Strange provides examples of:

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    Tropes A to D 
  • Aborted Arc: The second stinger gives us Mordo stealing Pangborn's magic, crippling him, as the first step on Mordo's path to rid the world of sorcery, setting him up to be the villain in a later film. That never happens; instead it happens off screen with Strange indicating that Mordo tried to kill him some time before the events of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
  • Above Good and Evil: Kaecilius's personal concept of morality eschews the viewpoint, though he is aware of the idea.
    Kaecilius: People think in terms of good and evil, when in reality, time is the true enemy of us all.
  • Acid-Trip Dimension: As the Ancient One demonstrates to Strange first-hand, a LOT of alternate dimensions would not look out of place in an LSD trip. The Dark Dimension in particular appears in all its classic psychedelic glory. This is lampshaded by Strange asking the Ancient One what was in the tea he drank just before his astral form is momentarily separated from his body:
    Strange: What was in that tea? Psilocybin? LSD?
    Ancient One: It's just tea... with a little honey.
  • The Ace: Strange rapidly proves himself an amazing adept of the mystic arts, mastering magic as rapidly as he mastered medicine (he earned a Ph.D. and an M.D. at the same time) because he's a voracious reader and devoted student. However, this causes him difficulty, because knowledge comes before wisdom. Even so, he manages to master the Mystic Arts to such a degree that, even as a student of just a few months, he's able to fight off Kaecilius and his disciples, if not without difficulty.
  • Action Prologue: The Ancient One demonstrating her Reality Warper powers when fighting Kaecilius and his mooks in the streets of London.
  • Actor Allusion:
    • Some traits of Benedict Cumberbatch's portrayal of Sherlock are on display here.
      • When Strange meets with Pangborn about the Ancient One, he wears a more disheveled version of Sherlock's scarf and jacket outfit.
      • Cumberbatch keeps the collar of his cape flipped up. This doubles as a Mythology Gag to Strange's portrayal in the comics, where sometimes his collar is higher than his head.
      • Strange answers a question Mordo asks with an exaggerated "Yup!" similar to how Sherlock sometimes does.
    • Mads Mikkelsen is shown trapped in a metal straitjacket, complete with mouth covering.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: Wong consistently fails to find humor in Strange's jokes. But the Bond One-Liner after defeating Kaecilius in the climax causes him to burst out laughing, earning him surprised looks from Strange and Mordo.
  • Actually, That's My Assistant: Strange meeting the Ancient One initially mistakes one of the other masters as the Ancient One. He seems to have been placed there to intentionally force this, since the real Ancient One then thanks him and he walks out.
  • Adaptational Badass:
  • Adaptational Heroism:
    • Baron Mordo is traditionally portrayed as Strange's rival and enemy. Here, he seems to be his friend, mentor and ally instead. The end of the film and the second post-credits scene, however, show pretty clearly that his disillusionment with the Ancient One and Strange's willingness to bend the rules and use forbidden magics will lead him down darker paths in future. Just look at what he does to Pangborn...
    • In ''Doctor Strange: The Oath", Nicodemus West is the big bad, but here is just another well-meaning doctor.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: Dr. Strange in the beginning seems much more approachable than his comics counterpart, even letting a patient's relative hug him. In the comics, he made it clear that he didn't care about his patients once they were cured. He doesn't properly start acting like Doctor Strange until after his accident.
  • Added Alliterative Appeal: Lampshaded by Strange in-universe.
    Karl Mordo: There are many relics. The Wand of Watoomb. The Vaulting Boots of Valtorr.
    Doctor Strange: Really just roll off the tongue, don't they?
  • An Aesop:
    • Fittingly for a character steeped in Eastern mysticism, the film ends with a notable Buddhist message about not clinging to the past and letting time progress naturally, even if it means you have to go forward with a crippling injury or accept the end of your life.
    • It is also repeatedly emphasized to Strange that it is not about him and that he needs to let go of the illusion of control.
    • The movie discourages reckless driving — there's even a quick message urging viewers to drive responsibly at the end of the credits.
    • As the Ancient One explains to Strange, life is precious and meaningful precisely because it doesn't last forever. Instead of trying to conquer death, one should make the most of the life one has.
  • Alien Geometries: In the Mirror Dimension, sorcerers can bend certain laws of physics, enabling them to run up walls and jump large distances. However, those who tap into energies of the Dark Dimension can weaponize the environment in the Mirror Dimension, twisting it into impossible shapes, capturing and crushing people within the shifting kaleidoscopic motion, or creating hallways with expanding depth to prevent escape. One of the most alarming things to the Ancient One is that Kaecilius can do it in the real world too, since he has begun to use his Dark Dimension powers far more actively than she has.
  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: Kaecilius's plan to call forth the Dark Dimension is to systematically destroy the three Sanctums of Agamotto, in London, New York and Hong Kong, to bring down the protective spell surrounding Earth. The London and Hong Kong Sanctums quickly fall to his assault, the New York Sanctum is heavily damaged in his duels with Strange, but still standing, and the Hong Kong Sanctum is rebuilt by Strange's intervention with the Eye of Agamotto.
  • Ancient Artifact: Many Relics in Kamar-Taj are old, but the most ancient is the Eye of Agamotto, which was created by the first sorcerer, Agamotto, using the Infinity Stone of Time which has the ability to manipulate the time stream.
  • And I Must Scream:
    • Strange, by the end, is willing to endure an eternity of torture at Dormammu's hands, betting that Dormammu will tire of the entrapment before Strange. He's proven right and they agree to end the loop.
    • One of the conditions of Strange's bargain is that Dormammu leaves Earth for good, and takes Kaecilius and his Zealots with him to the Dark Dimension. Strange tells them they're getting eternal life as they wanted, and they're not gonna like it — from what we see, the flesh gets flayed from their bodies as they eternally and helplessly spin through the Dark Dimension as the Mindless Ones.
  • Another Dimension: This film introduces the concept of the infinite Multiverse to the MCU, with an infinite number of universes and worlds filled with infinite horrors, threats, powers and mind-bending physics galore. The Ancient One quite literally sends Strange flying head-first into the weirdness of the Multiverse in their first meeting to rather thoroughly cure him of his skepticism.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism:
    • Doctor Strange doesn't believe in "fairy tales, chakras, or energy, or the power of belief." This is despite him living in New York City — which The Avengers depicted being invaded by aliens and Norse gods just four years prior. One would think that, at this point, people would start believing in anything.
    • After Strange explains to Christine what happened to him after they meet again — with him in his full sorcerer regalia — she's skeptical and convinced he's joined a cult, despite his astral form advising her on a medical procedure to save his life not five minutes earlier. Justified in that she is not saying magic is not real, she just claims Stephen's new friends are a cult.
  • Arc Symbol:
    • The Seal of Vishanti, which appears on the Eye of Agamotto Strange wears around his neck and on the large circular window in the Sanctum Sanctorum.
    • The red symbol from The Book of Cagliostro, which marks spells and people drawing upon the Dark Dimension.
  • Arc Welding:
  • Artistic License – Medicine:
    • Stephen Strange is first introduced while scrubbing for surgery. He meticulously washes his hands, dries them with a sterile towel and dons a sterile gown — all very accurate. He then reaches up with his cleaned hands and ties on his non-sterile face mask, contaminating his hands. In real life the face mask is either put on before starting to scrub, or is tied on by another person. Then he, Christine, and the doctor who made the mistake open their patient's brain without wearing surgical masks.
    • Billy would not be bringing his iPhone into the operating room, touching the screen to flip through songs while wearing sterile gloves, then go back to handling his supposed-to-be-sterile equipment after touching the iPhone. Studies have shown that phones have more bacteria than the average toilet seat. There are surgeons who like to have music playing while they operate, but there are procedures for allowing that without contaminating the operating room. You can clean an iPhone, but you can't sterilize it to operating room standards and expect it to keep functioning.
    • In real life, Strange's Career-Ending Injury would be a career-altering one. He may no longer be able to perform surgery but — even if he didn't insure his hands — he would land easily as a consultant or at a medical school. Kind of justified by his personality; he can't imagine doing or being anything but the best surgeon.
    • After being stabbed in the chest, Dr. Strange opens a portal to the hospital where Christine works to have her tend to his wound. This scene is rife with numerous exceptions to proper emergency medical procedure including (but not limited to): Christine did not scrub up before beginning treatment; Christine provides medical care despite procedures stipulating against working on a personal friend, relative or romantic interest; Christine bypasses proper ER procedure by allowing only a single physician (herself) to work on him in private without supervision; and although she treats the pericardial tamponade and stitches the wound, followup surgery would be required to fully repair the damage yet she allows Strange to wave off further treatment. Ultimately, much of these has to be accepted as dealing with a time-critical, life or death situation as well as Willing Suspension of Disbelief or else the scene would grind to a halt.
    • When Strange goes into cardiac arrest after being stabbed, he flatlines. Christine revives him by shocking him with a defibrillator, which only works on very irregular heartbeats. Possibly justified, as magic was involved.
    • Christine, a surgeon, is shown to wear nail polish and ear rings. Rules for surgical personnel are very strict in that you can't wear any jewelry, especially rings, and no nail polish. Her ear rings could be a grey area, but the nail polish disqualifies her as a surgeon in real life. The only plausible explanation is that she hadn't planned to be performing surgery that day, though in that case she probably wouldn't have been wearing scrubs.
    • When Strange hears about Pangborn's miraculous recovery from the physical therapist, he calls bullshit and demands to see the file. The therapist says it will take some time to find it. In reality, if Pangborn actually had such a recovery, doctors and hospitals would be beating a path to his door begging to study him, and his file would be kept carefully locked away, not routinely filed with all the rest. Not to mention the HIPAA issues with casually handing over a patient's file to someone — even another doctor — who doesn't actually have any reason related to that patient's health to be looking at their file.
  • Artistic License – Physics: As is typical of a sci-fi story, this film frequently misuses the terms of "dimensions" and "realities" interchangeably. Dimensions are generally thought of as just the directions an object exists as within space and time, while a universe is a set space encompassing those dimensions. It would seem that the worlds Strange is exposed to are more applicable to Max Tagmark's IV classification of the multiverse (or Inflation theory) — universes with different laws of physics.
  • Art Shift: Most of the film was shot digitally, but the scenes shot on location in Nepal were shot on 35mm film, giving them a different feel than the rest of the movie.
  • Astral Projection: As with the comics, it is present here. This is one of the Sorcerers' main skills: being able to project their astral forms out of their bodies. Strange, The Ancient One and even Kaecilius's mook Lucian use it. In fact, most of the fight between Strange and Lucian is between their astral forms.
  • Audience Surrogate: Christine Palmer has been described as a viewpoint character for the audience, as she is a normal surgeon that knows Strange both before and after his transformation.
  • Back from the Dead: At the end of the film, Strange has to turn back time to help rescue the citizens killed in the Hong Kong Sanctum's destruction, including Wong.
  • "Back to Camera" Pose: One of the teaser posters has the titular character stand with his back to the viewer as he gazes up against the brightly lit window of the Sanctum. Doctor Strange is the film's Audience Surrogate as he discovers the universe's magical side along with the audience.
  • Badass Boast: Strange finally breaks Dormammu.
    Dormammu: You will never win.
    Strange: No, but I can lose again, and again, and again. Forever. And that makes you my prisoner.
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    • Upon arriving at the dojo, Strange sees an old, bearded Asian man and assumes that he's the Ancient One. Seconds later, he's greeted by the real one, who reveals that the man is just another Master.
    • The Ancient One offers to teach "broken people" magic that they can use to heal themselves, but withholds the true purpose of sorcerers until later when she tries to get them to join the fight against extra-dimensional threats. This worked on Mordo, but not Pangborn; her offer to make Strange "master" of the NY Sanctum was a presumptuous and clumsy attempt, but was smoothed over in their final conversation.
  • Beard of Sorrow: The clean-shaven Strange grows a messy beard after his hands are ruined and he loses his career, and trims it back to a well-kept goatee after finding new purpose as a sorcerer. Justified insofar as his ruined hands prevent him from shaving, at least with a traditional razor.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: The Zealots get their eternal life, but it's implied to be far from the paradise they thought it to be. Strange even lampshades this, as their flesh disintegrates and they're dragged into the Dark Dimension.
  • "Begone" Bribe: Played with in The Stinger. Strange, rather understandably, does not like the thought of magical threats in New York City. So when Thor assures him that he and Loki will leave promptly once they find Odin, he agrees to help.
  • Berserk Button: A bit subtle, but you'll notice that The Ancient One really doesn't like being talked back to. When she and Strange first meet, he takes his time to tell her that he thinks that she and everything she stands for is bullshit, which results in her forcibly showing him the way, then refusing to teach him when he finally does believe. Later, when Strange realizes that she's drawing her immortality from the Dark Dimension, he calls her out on it, at which point she tells him to choose his words carefully.
  • Big Applesauce: NYC is the location of one of the Sanctums, and is warped into a kaleidoscopic sauce of Alien Geometries and Escher-esque Bizarrchitecture.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Played with. Kaecilius is a former student of the Ancient One who seeks to end death by allowing Dormammu to take over the Earth, thinking the Eldritch Abomination's Dark Dimension will be a timeless paradise. Dormammu himself is vastly more powerful and malevolent, but despite being the Final Boss is prevented from claiming the Big Bad title on his own due to the fact that he serves more as a Greater-Scope Villain.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Mordo, having overheard Stephen asking about Kamar-Taj, shows up in time to beat up his attackers and retrieve his watch.
  • The Big Damn Kiss: Subverted. Strange sincerely apologizing to Christine about the Jerkass he was seems to set up one of those. Instead, she just gives a Last Kiss on his cheek and leaves.
  • Big "NO!": Kaecilius when Strange uses the Eye of Agamotto to trap him into a building while reversing time.
  • Billionaire Wristband: As part of his glamorous lifestyle as a genius neurosurgeon, Stephen Strange is shown to own an entire drawer of luxury watches, all kept on rotating self-winders. It's suggested that as part of his desperate attempt to regain the function of his hands, he sells all but one... A $30,000 Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Perpetual, which was broken in the crash and is kept unrepaired as a Tragic Keepsake.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Strange manages to repel Dormammu and Kaecilius away from the earth dimension and receives a new career as a protector of dimensions, but the Ancient One is killed in battle, and Mordo, having been disillusioned by the Ancient One's breaking of the same rules she laid down for her acolytes, is now showing signs of becoming a Knight Templar as he strives to kill other sorcerers and/or steal their power.
  • Bloodless Carnage: When the librarian is decapitated in the opening scene, there is no blood. In real life, blood tends to spray a bit when someone's head is quickly removed.
  • Blunt "No": Doctor Strange is highly skeptical when he meets the Ancient One for the first time and believes her talks about the spirit being able to heal the body to be nonsense. She then sends him on a roller coaster ride through multiple dimensions to show him that there is more than the material universe.
    Doctor Strange: [after the Ancient One brings him back] Teach me!
    Ancient One: No.
  • Body Motifs: Hands, specifically Strange's. His introductory scene is heavily focused on them, his trip to Kamar-Taj is to cure them, the Ancient One sends him to a flesh-like dimension of grasping hands, and he often ponders them when in thought or troubled.
  • Bond One-Liner: "You should have stolen the whole book because the warnings... the warnings come after the spells." (Cue Wong laughing at this).
  • Both Sides Have a Point: The Ancient One points out that Stephen has lived a charmed life which led to his unstoppable arrogance. He points out that she broke the laws of Kamar-Taj by using the power of the Dark Dimension to give herself immortality.
  • Break the Haughty: The basic premise. Stephen is put through the wringer in the first third of the film, curing him of his arrogance enough (though not completely) to beg the Ancient One to teach him, after having previously vehemently denied their powers. He eventually retains his arrogance, but learns compassion.
  • Brick Joke:
    • After Strange has his accident and starts therapy, he learns from his therapist about Pangborn being able to walk again. He doesn't believe it and demands to see Pangborn's file; the therapist says he needs time to dig it out but adds, "If it proves your arrogant ass wrong? Worth it." A few scenes later, Strange receives the file and finds a note from the therapist reading "Told you so!"
    • Strange wonders if Wong will ever laugh. He does by the end of the film.
    • Tying into it, Strange makes a comment about Di Cagliostro needing warnings before its spells. At the end of the movie, he turns this into a Bond One-Liner after Kaecilius learns that the book features the warnings after the spells.
    • Strange, while trying to get a reaction from Wong, references several other figures who, like him, have Only One Name; one of these figures is Beyoncé. In the very next scene, Wong is seen listening to her music while Strange is busy taking books from Kamar-Taj's library.
  • Broken Pedestal: Strange and Mordo are severely disillusioned when they learn the Ancient One was channeling power from the Dark Dimension to sustain herself. Strange comes to realize that she was doing what he'd always argued in favor of, bending or breaking rules when necessary. Mordo can't accept that.
  • Brown Note Being: Seeing the being Dormammu charred the flesh from around the eyes of Kaecilius and his followers.
  • Brought Down to Normal: In the second stinger, Mordo confronts Pangborn and steals his mystical energy, causing him to lose the ability to walk. His comments indicate he won't stop there.
  • Call-Back: When Stephen tells Christine that he learned ancient wisdom in Kathmandu, she asks, "Like the Bob Seger song?", and he replies "1975, Beautiful Loser, side A. Yeah.", recalling his love of music and asking for challenges on random songs from all eras from the beginning of the movie.
  • The Cameo:
    • Besides the inevitable "Staneo", Strange has a conversation with Thor in The Stinger, setting up his involvement in Thor: Ragnarok.
    • There's also the unnamed cameo of Tina Minoru from Runaways.
  • Cape Snag: Played for Laughs, since the Cloak of Levitation is sentient: Strange wants to go one direction, his Cloak insists they should go another. Cue Cloak yanking on Strange's neck as if it were caught on something in midair.
  • Career-Ending Injury: Strange's hands are crushed in a car accident and rescue comes so late that the golden hour for repairing nerve damage passes before he can be taken to a hospital. The irreparable nerve damage, coupled with the crushed bones and metal splints needed to repair those, leave him with a severe tremor and loss of dexterity that costs him his career as a surgeon.
  • Cassandra Truth: Christine asks Strange where he's going and why. He explains. She rolls her eyes. He opens the door to the mop closet.
    Christine: This is insane. Where are you going? Can you tell me the truth?
    Strange: Well, a powerful sorceror who gave himself over to an ancient entity can bend the very laws of physics tried very hard to kill me, but I left him chained up in Greenwich Village, and the quickest way back there is through a dimensional gateway I opened up in the mop closet.
    Christine: Okay. Don't tell me. Fine.
    Strange: [opens door to mop closet, revealing glow of mystical gateway, hops through] Really do have to go.
  • Central Theme: The film heavily focuses on themes based around time. Strange has a large collection of watches, and he keeps one with him (the one that broke in the car crash) during his time at Kamar-Taj. Then there's the Eye of Agamotto, which can bend time itself through the power of the Time Stone. The Ancient One speaks of foretelling the future (many futures) and is unaging. At the end, Strange uses the Eye's time-tampering abilities to undo the destruction of Hong Kong, as well as capture Dormammu within a Time Loop Trap.
  • Chain Pain: Mordo's main weapon, the Staff of the Living Tribunal, is able to separate into a whip-like chain of magical energy.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Mordo's Vaulting Boots of Voltarr. They're the reason he's able to survive all of the falls in the main fights, since he lacks the Cloak of Levitation.
    • The fact that the Book of Cagliostro puts the warnings after the spells means that the pages Kaecilius stole didn't include the warning. This comes back to bite him tremendously.
    • Strange is warned that fiddling around with the Eye of Agamotto can cause him to get stuck in time loops. He remembers this, because he put himself into a time loop in order to also trap Dormammu in one.
    • Subverted when Strange sends Kaecilius and his followers to the Mirror Dimension so he can be dealt with without causing collateral damage in the real world. While it's true the Ancient One told Strange that the Mirror Dimension can be used to contain threats, Kaecilius has grown strong enough in his use of the Dark Dimension's power that the Mirror Dimension allows him to cause Strange and Mordo far more trouble in it than out of it, meaning they're trapped with him and not the other way around.
  • Circling Monologue: Kaecilius and The Ancient One circle around another on a platform during their final confrontation.
  • Clingy MacGuffin: The Cloak of Levitation chooses Strange, wrapping itself around him and never abandoning him, even aiding him, protecting him. Stephen doesn't complain.
  • Combat Pragmatist:
    • Kaecilius seems to recognize that even with his heightened powers (courtesy of Dormammu) he still may not be a match for the Ancient One. Since he and his followers share a fanatical devotion to their cause, he utilizes that mindset and willingly sacrifices one of his few remaining followers for an opportunity to skewer the Ancient One rather than fight her one-on-one.
    • Kaecilius and his followers have had years to develop their physical skills as well as their magical ones, in addition to the power they're drawing from Dormammu. Strange... has not. Thus, while his enemies are jumping about all over the place, Strange has to think on his feet and adapt what magic he's learned in order to fight them off. Strange also has no actual combat experience, so he relies on trickery: he teleports one away, has the other tangled up in the Cloak of Levitation and locks Kaecilius up in a magical trap. The one zealot he does take on toe-to-toe he fights in the astral plane, where physical prowess is unimportant.
  • Comic-Book Movies Don't Use Codenames: Mordo uses the title of Baron Mordo in the comics, as he was Transylvanian nobility, but that doesn't seem to be the case in the movie, where he just goes by his name, Karl Mordo. He's addressed as Mordo by the rest of characters.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Kaecilius doesn't understand that Strange is a doctor and "Strange" is his name. It takes a bit of time for Strange to explain the situation.
    Kaecilius: How long have you been at Kamar-Taj, Mister...
    Doctor Strange: Doctor!
    Kaecilius: ...Mister Doctor?
    Doctor Strange: It's "Strange!"
    Kaecilius: ...Maybe, who am I to judge?
  • Composite Character:
    • Christine Palmer is used here as a supporting character, incorporating hints of her fellow Night Nurse, Linda Carter, who is the one with ties to Doctor Strange in the comics.
    • Kaecilius is an amalgamation of many Doctor Strange villains from the comics. His desire for eternal life matches that of Alaric, and he resembles the comic book iteration of Mordo in that he is a former student of the Ancient One and Dormammu's follower. His appearance after being absorbed by the Dark Dimension closely mimics that of a Mindless One.
    • Dormammu is called a "devourer of worlds" (which he was never called in the comics) and his color scheme is purple (rather than his usual red and orange), just like Galactus.
  • Conlang: The linguist David J. Peterson developed Nelvayu, the language spoken by Kaecilius and the Zealots in the movie.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • An aerial shot of New York City shows Avengers Tower.
    • Doctor Strange is offered a patient who suffered intense spinal damage while testing a suit of power armor. It is likely the test pilot from Justin Hammer's attempt at copying the tech which was shown in Iron Man 2 as Kevin Feige confirmed that it is not Colonel Rhodes, who was last seen with a spinal injury in Captain America: Civil War because this film takes place before the events of Civil War.
    • In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Jasper Sitwell names Stephen Strange as a superhuman threat like Captain America and the Hulk.
    • The file about Pangborn's injury is from Metro-General Hospital; the hospital is featured in Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Iron Fist.
  • Conveniently Interrupted Document: The film begins with Kaecilius and his disciples tearing out pages of the Book of Cagliostro for an unknown spell for an equally unknown purpose. Halfway through the movie, Strange uses the Eye of Agamotto to restore the book to its past self, restoring the pages and revealing that they were finding a means to summon Dormammu.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Doctor Strange visits the same physical therapy clinic that was attended by Pangborn and it is his story of miraculous recovery from a therapist who knows about his case and personally witnessed his recovery that Strange learns about Kamar-Taj. If these coincidences bother you, then imagine that the therapist researched the subject just to prove Strange's "arrogant ass wrong".
  • Cool Car: Strange's Lamborghini, which of course gets wrecked as part of his origin story.
  • Cool Sword: The Zealots are able to conjure up ghostly, wraith-like swords as their main weapons in close combat.
  • Cosmic Entity: Dormammu can fundamentally alter people and worlds, and move worlds from our dimensions to his.
  • Create Your Own Villain: When Strange assumes a certain aspect of the Ancient One to be true, based on what he learned while testing the Eye of Agamotto and educated conjecture, and then voices that theory to her in Mordo's presence, it plants the seeds of doubt in Mordo's mind. The assumed aspect is that the Ancient One draws on the Dark Dimension to power her longevity. When Mordo sees the same symbol on her forehead as Kaecilius's, it destroys his faith in her as The Paragon. Further, his usage of a forbidden ritual is completely unacceptable to Mordo, and he comes to see sorcerers as arrogant mavericks flaunting the laws that were written to protect everyone from, say, getting horribly maimed by breaks in time and space.
  • Creative Closing Credits: A montage of mandalas and kaleidoscopes fitting of all the magic and Eastern philosophy.
  • Cue the Falling Object: After Strange shocks Christine with his astral form, the hospital around her is plagued by what looks like a poltergeistnote , and magic being proven true by a portal, she is scared witless by a broom falling to the floor.note 
  • Culturally Sensitive Adaptation: Wong is revised from being the Chinese houseservant that he was initially depicted as in the comics to a more competent and efficient warrior and Master of the Mystic Arts.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle:
    • The Ancient One vs. Kaecilius' acolytes. Even attacking en masse, the most they're able to do is distract her, and she kills several of them effortlessly.
    • Defied. Doctor Strange vs. Dormammu. The latter destroys the former with little effort so many times it becomes akin to The Many Deaths of You, However, thanks to a Time Loop Trap, the loop resets everytime Strange is killed robbing Dormammu of any ultimate victory and keeping him trapped until he agrees to bargain with Strange.
  • Curse Cut Short: Right before Strange is crushed by a rock, he tries to curse. As well as when he faces Dormammu's rapidly approaching (landmass-sized) palm.
    Dormammu: You... DARE?!
    Doctor Strange: Ohhh, f—...
  • Dangerous Forbidden Technique:
    • The Eye of Agamotto's control over time is very useful but stated by Wong and Mordo to cause fracturing of the timelines if misused, or potentially trapping the user in a Time Loop Trap.
    • Drawing power from the Dark Dimension is forbidden due to its corruptive influence.
  • Darkest Hour:
    • Strange's happens when the Ancient One refuses to teach him and kicks him out of Kamar-Taj, as he has no other hope and no money to leave Nepal. After Mordo notes that the man has been sitting by the door and waiting (well, begging) to be let in for over five hours, the Ancient One eventually relents.
    • Earth as a whole undertakes one when Kaecilius and the zealots launch their assault on the Hong Kong Sanctum. Between their powers being amplified by the Dark Dimension, and Strange and Mordo arriving too late, the path is opened for Dormammu to invade; only by using the Eye of Agamotto to reverse time are things able to turn around.
  • The Dark Side: The Dark Dimension, ruled by Dormammu. Dormammu is very much The Corrupter, offering eternal life to his followers who drink on this dimension's power (what they often forget is that it's an eternal life of suffering). The Ancient One managed to use said dimension's power to stay young and live hundreds of years without succumbing to Dormammu's will, while Kaecilius and his followers became servants of Dormammu, as shown by the cracked skin around their eyes.
  • David Versus Goliath: All the way throughout the movie, Kaecilius and his Zealots are far above Strange as far as training and magic skill goes, and he has to use his wits (or the Cloak of Levitation) to barely stand a chance. At the end, Dormammu is so beyond Strangenote  that even with the power of the Eye of Agamotto, Strange is only a nuisance.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Strange's attempts at levity with Wong fall flat for this reason.
    Doctor Strange: You know, people used to think that I was funny.
    Wong: Did they work for you?
  • Deal with the Devil:
    • Subverted. After the revelation that sorcerers make deals with Dormammu for power, Strange goes to the Dark Dimension and offers to "bargain" — but it's not for something he wants from Dormammu, but rather something he's going to make Dormammu want from him.
    • In a more straightforward example, Kaecilius's forces as well as the Ancient One tap into Dormammu's power in exchange for power and immortality, violating the natural law of the universe by doing so. Kaecilius's forces get some serious eye scarring as part of the deal, while the Ancient One is more careful in her use of it and doesn't show any outward signs beyond longevity.
  • Desk Sweep of Rage: Strange wipes a desk clean at his apartment out of frustration about his injured hands not healing after the car accident.
  • Destination Defenestration: With a deadly and creative use of a sling ring portal, a window to other dimensions, Kaecilius kicks a stunned Ancient One through one, materializing hundreds of feet above a New York street, falling through a glass awning to mortal injury.
  • Destroy the Product Placement:
    • Strange drives a Lamborghini Huracán Coupé, then wrecks it while driving recklessly in a career-ending accident. Amusingly, the Lamborghini website includes an entire page of breathless praise for the car's appearance in the film and as a turning point in the plot, without once mentioning what that role is.
    • The movie features a Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Perpetual wristwatch Strange wears as a keepsake from Christine — it's smashed when he gets beaten up in Nepal.
  • Destructive Saviour: Inverted in comparison to all other MCU films to-date. Kaecilius believes he is ultimately saving the world by handing it over to Dormammu, killing as many people and destroying as many buildings as necessary to do it. Doctor Strange, thanks to the Eye of Agammoto, saves the world by reversing time to undo the destruction of Hong Kong. This film has one of the lowest civilian collateral damage bills as a result.
  • Determinator: Strange spends himself into poverty seeking a cure for his hands, then flies to a mystical temple on the off chance that magic is real, then spends hours camped out on their doorstep, banging on the door in the hopes that they'll teach him.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: In an unusual twist for Marvel movies, Christine turns down Strange after the Ancient One dies. The damage Strange did previously is too much, and even after he sincerely apologizes and becomes a better person, it's clear that it's too late for their relationship to recover. She gives a Last Kiss to Strange before leaving.
  • Didn't See That Coming: The Dark Dimension is literally timeless. So, when Strange brings along the Time Stone to seal them in a Time Loop Trap, Dormammu is unable to defend against something he can't even comprehend.
  • Didn't Think This Through: The Mirror Dimension is a realm where sorcerers can shape the very fabric around them to their liking, so when Strange tries trapping Kaecilius and his zealots there, their magic amplifications courtesy of Dormammu mean they can warp the Mirror Dimension even further. Lampshaded by Mordo, who considers Strange's ploy as suicide.
  • Did You Just Scam Cthulhu?: Strange is able to force a bargain with Dormammu — the eldritch ruler of the Dark Dimension — by using the Eye of Agammoto to trap him in a time loop until the abomination begs for release and agrees to a very one-sided bargain in Strange's favor.
  • Die or Fly: The Ancient One strands Strange on Mount Everest to force him to figure out how to open a portal to get back. He nearly freezes to death before he manages it. Mordo's reaction shows this isn't the first time she's done this.
    Mordo: How is our latest student doing?
    The Ancient One: We shall see... any second now.
    Mordo: Oh, No... Not Again!
  • Dimension Lord: Dormammu, the ruler of the Dark Dimension, who is essentially omnipotent. This trope works against him, as Strange manages to trap him by bringing the concept of time with the Time Infinity Stone, something that doesn't exist in his domain and thus Dormammu has no idea on how to counter or even break free from it.
  • Dirty Business: Mordo says that yes, absolutely, he's willing to kill Kaecilius and his Zealots if it means saving the universe, without hesitation. This is supposed to serve as foreshadowing for his later conflict with Strange, an Aborted Arc that never materialized because they couldn't fit it in with the Infinity War saga.
  • Disability-Negating Superpower: Pangborn managed to throw off his full-body paralysis by channeling mystical energies through his body.
  • Don't Try This at Home: Strange notes though the Book of Cagliostro has one of these warnings, it would be more sensible if it was written before the Dangerous Forbidden Technique as opposed to after. He invokes it in his Bond One-Liner.
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Strange tells Christine this when she tries to comfort him after the accident. He doesn't want to be one of her "sob stories".
  • Doppelgänger Spin: In the first round of the Final Battle, Dormammu blasts through Strange's shields destroying him. However, when another Strange appears, Dormammu suspects the first version of Strange he destroyed is an illusion, and upon hearing the new Strange say "this is real," he says "Good" and immediately attacks him. In fact, none of them are illusions and it's real every time.
  • Do Wrong, Right: Reflected in this exchange while Strange is using the Eye of Agomotto to reverse time which resurrects Wong and restores Hong Kong:
    Doctor Strange: Breaking the laws of nature, I know.
    Wong: Well, don't stop now!
  • Dragged Off to Hell: The ultimate fate of Kaecilius and his followers; Strange forces Dormammu into making a deal with him, and part of that deal is dragging them off to the Dark Dimension.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Strange. Between checking his phone while at the wheel, overtaking on blind corners, and speeding in terrible weather conditions, the plot-triggering car crash is more or less entirely his own fault. The end credits even include a disclaimer to the effect of "Driving while distracted is extremely dangerous".
  • Droste Image: Happens to Strange during his trip through the Multiverse, as he nears Dormammu.
  • Due to the Dead: Strange checks Lucian for a pulse, regretting the man's death, and shortly after learns that Master Drumm, killed by Kaecilius, has been taken to Kamar-Taj.
  • Dwindling Party: Kaecilius starts the film with about a dozen followers, but all but four of them are slaughtered by the Ancient One in the film's opening, and by the end of the film he is only left with two.
  • The Dying Walk: An astral form version. As the Ancient One lays dying on the hospital table, she and Strange project their astral forms and float to a nearby balcony so she can admire the thunderstorm, and give some final advice and encouragement to Strange.

    Tropes E to L 
  • Early-Bird Cameo:
    • When the Ancient One sends Strange's astral body on a trip through dimensions to prove to him that magic is real, he comes face to face with Dormammu for a short second before being pulled back.
    • The Cloak of Levitation flies up as if in interest when Strange passes it by while exploring the New York sanctuary.
    • One of the weapons seen resembles The Staff of One, which is normally wielded by Nico Minoru from Runaways. The wielder seen, while uncredited, is Tina Minoru (Nico's mother). Runaways was later adapted as a TV show.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Wong is shown to be rather stoic and unfriendly towards Stephen Strange, and is shown to be very nonplussed with modern-day pop culture in this film. Later installments in the MCU show Wong knowing much more about the outside world such as ice cream flavors and television shows, and is also much more lighthearted in personality.
  • Earth Is the Center of the Universe: Dormammu is a cosmic conqueror, and he hungers for Earth most of all, hinting at the future Multiverse arc that Earth is a Nexus to all the other universes.
  • Eastward Endeavor: Where does Strange go to find a cure for his hands? East, of course. His jerkass tendencies are washed away by his training with the Ancient One, and he eventually realizes he doesn't need perfect hands to practice magic.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Ancient One explains that the multiverse is filled with many wonderful and benevolent things, but also plenty of darker beings filled with malice just lying in wait out there. Dormammu is one such being, being described as older than time and full of ravenous hunger. When finally seen, his body is constantly rippling and shifting, and the way he's rendered gives the appearance he's part of the Dark Dimension itself. According to Word of God, the form we see is him mimicking Strange, as he has no actual form of his own. The protagonist's actor even voices him!
  • Eldritch Location:
    • Strange's trip through the Multiverse reveals many worlds with unique laws of nature and visual aspects that are completely alien to our human minds.
    • The Mirror Dimension is a parallel dimension that allows the user to practice their magical abilities and fight their enemies without the public's knowledge. The dimension is layered over the Earthly Plane, people and their actions in the Mirror Dimension are unable to affect the real world, but sorcerers (even more so those empowered by the Dark Dimension) are able to bend matter and gravity to their will akin to the dream-realm in Inception.
    • The Dark Dimension is a hostile universe under the complete control of its ruler Dormammu, assimilating other realities into it in an endless hunger. Sorcerers are able to draw power from it, gaining abilities regular sorcerers do not possess, including immortality and the power to bend matter in the Earth Dimension.
  • Empathic Weapon: The Cloak of Levitation definitely has a personality of its own, and assists Strange of its own volition. It is implied that many, or maybe all, magical artifacts work this way; Mordo, while demonstrating the Staff of the Living Tribunal and the Vaulting Boots of Voltarr, mentions that a relic decides when its wielder is ready to use it. At one point, the Cloak attempts to comfort Strange by whiping away his tears.
  • Enlightenment Superpowers: Magic in this film has four main uses: Astral projection, healing your own injuries, opening portals to teleport to other places and conjuring weapons. The first two of those are derived from the user learning his own potential and require focusing all the user's magic. The other two are some sort of magic that allows the user to manipulate the Mirror Dimension.
  • Environmental Symbolism: Mordo's crisis of faith in the Ancient One and her teachings begins in the broken ruins of Kamar-Taj.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • Kaecilius and his acolytes ambush, string up, and decapitate a Kamar-Taj librarian for no particular reason.
    • Then the Ancient One demonstrates how hopelessly outmatched they are against her... and that she has strange powers in a the Mirror Dimension.
      Kaecilius: Hypocrite!
    • Then we're introduced to Stephen Strange, an incredibly skilled but incredibly arrogant surgeon who humiliates a fellow doctor for making a mistake.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: Kaecilius marvels at how the Dark Dimension is a place "beyond time". Since Strange currently possesses the time-controlling Eye of Agamotto, this gives him the idea that he can use time as weapon against Dormammu and force him to bargain.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: A prelude comic reveals that Kaecilius joined the Ancient One's disciples in an effort to reunite with his deceased wife and son, and turned on her when she refused to grant him sufficient knowledge of how to do so.
  • Evil Is Petty: The three thieves in Nepal rob a desperate, crippled man for his last possession: a watch. A very expensive watch, but still, a watch.
  • Evil Plan: Kaecilius intends to destroy all of the sanctums of Agamotto, in order to allow Dormammu to consume the Earth, as he believes it will make all of humanity immortal.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Kaecilius, a Sorcerer who seeks to open our universe to the Dark Dimension, and invite the ruling Eldritch Abomination to enter.
  • Extradimensional Emergency Exit: Masters of the Mystic Arts can access almost any possible location with their sling rings. As such, when Doctor Strange makes the mistake of dragging Kaecilius and his Zealots into the Mirror Dimension — where they're even more powerful — he's forced to hastily conjure up a portal back to the real world before they can kill him. Unfortunately, Kaecilius just uses his powers to fling Strange off the road before he can reach the portal and keep him too off-balance to conjure another. For good measure, Strange is only able to escape the Mirror Dimension when Kaecilius fatally stabs the Ancient One and flings her through a portal to her death, unwittingly giving Strange a chance to follow.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: Strange cuts his shaggy hair and trims his beard when becoming a disciple of The Ancient One.
  • Eye Scream: Downplayed, in that nothing happens to their actual eyes, but all the skin around the eyes of Kaecilius and his followers dies, dries up and flakes away, leaving shiny, purple, very sore-looking flesh underneath.
  • Face Death with Dignity: A downplayed example. While the Ancient One calmly accepts the inevitability of her death, she enters the Astral dimension to offer her last bit of advice and encouragement to Dr. Strange but also slows down the passage of time to watch an approaching thunderstorm and squeeze out a few more seconds of life.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Mordo's inability to reconcile his unwaveringly lawful tendencies with Strange and the Ancient One's willingness to bend the rules when required and violate the laws of nature — which is meant to be a big no-no — as well as his Broken Pedestal when Strange reveals that the Ancient One's immortality comes from the forbidden magics of the Dark Dimension set him on darker paths.
  • Facial Horror: The skin around the eyes of Kaecilius and his followers are all crumbling off, revealing burnt purple-black flesh underneath that give the impression, on first glance, that their eyes may have been magically burnt out. This foreshadows their ultimate transformation into Dormammu's minions, the Mindless Ones. Kaecilius also has a brand burned into his forehead. The Ancient One has the same brand thanks to the fact that she draws her immortality from the Dark Dimension.
  • Face Death with Dignity: The Ancient One enters the Astral Dimension so that she can stretch one moment into a thousand, teach Strange one last lesson, and die.
  • Failed Attempt at Drama: There is a dramatic moment when Strange stops struggling with his dual identity and accepts his heroic side. He puts his cape on in front of a mirror, all with a Kubrick Stare and power music playing. But then the cape starts trying to wipe away his tears and ruins the dramatic moment.
  • Fear Is the Appropriate Response: Of course Christine screams and falls backward when Stephen shows up as an astral projection.
  • Field Promotion: Having successfully defended the New York Sanctum from Kaecilius and his Zealots, the Ancient One promotes him to Master and gives him the Sanctum to defend. Mordo registers his surprise.
  • Fingore: Strange's hands are crushed in his car accident, which costs him his medical career. He has rather prominent scars on the backs of his fingers and hands from where orthopedic surgeons had to operate and then drill in splints to immobilize the bones so they could heal and let him regain some function.
  • Flat Scare: Christine gets a face full of the supernatural as she attempts to keep Strange alive while he battles a villain in the Astral Plane. After ghosts, poltergeist-like disruptions, and a magical portal in front of her very eyes, she's scared witless by a broom falling to the floor.
  • Flight: Dr Strange obtains this power thanks to his Cloak of Levitation.
  • Foregone Conclusion: This film is an origin story for the titular Doctor for the MCU, so it was inevitable that Mordo would pull a Face–Heel Turn.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • In the prologue, the Ancient One manipulates the environment in the Mirror Dimension to attack Kaecilius and his followers, causing Kaecilius to declare her a "hypocrite". Later, during a conflict with Kaecilius, Strange takes the fight into the Mirror Dimension, where Mordo warns that Kaecilius and his followers can weaponize the environment. Revealing that the Ancient One was using magic she had trained Mordo and the others to fight against.
    • When Mordo says he has defeated his demons, the Ancient One says "We never lose our demons, Mordo. We only learn to live above them". Hinting towards Mordo's eventual Face–Heel Turn.
    • Mordo, upon finding Strange toying around with the Eye of Agomotto, asks, "You wanna get stuck reliving the same moment over and over forever... or never having existed at all?"
    • Strange's last memento of his old life is a watch, and he's willing to risk bodily harm to protect it. It ends up broken anyway. Christine gave to him when they were dating. It shows that he can care about someone other than himself, and foreshadows that he'll end up breaking time over it and the fact that they don't get back together.
    • When The Ancient One meets Strange, she touches the chakra/chi point in his forehead, and tells him "Open your eye", referencing the "Third Eye" spiritual concept. Of course, he ends up using the Eye of Agamotto, which opens when it's in use.
    • When Kaecilius meets Strange, he acts like he doesn't understand his name, in a bit of "Who's on First?"-style banter. The Ancient One also keeps calling Strange "Mr" instead of "Dr", and it turns out they're not so different.
    • Strange wakes up after surgery to see the results of the operation on his hands, and says "I could have done better". He later uses astral projection, which lets him assist Christine in the medical procedure that will save his life.
    • After Christine tracks Strange down in the opening for help with a seemingly brain-dead patient, Strange saves the man's life by, with no time to spare, pulling a bullet out of his brain without the machine assistance or extensive preparation normally required. He saves the world from Dormammu by likewise going in with no preparation and ad-libbing his efforts.
  • Funny Background Event:
    • While Wong is busy studying in the library, Strange is shown taking books from the shelves behind him using portals and disappearing when Wong turns around to look.
    • As Strange, bleeding to death, struggles to open a portal to the Hospital, the Cloak of Levitation ceaselessly bashes Lucian's head against everything.
  • Fun with Homophones: When Kaecilius misunderstands Strange's attempt to make him call Strange by his proper appellation, only resulting in him legitimately believing Strange is named Mr Doctor.
    Kaecilius: How long have you been at Kamar-Taj, Mister...
    Doctor Strange: Doctor!
    Kaecilius: ...Mister Doctor?
    Doctor Strange: It's "Strange."
    Kaecilius: ...Maybe, who am I to judge?
  • Gender Flip: The Ancient One is male in the comics, but played by actress Tilda Swinton in the film.
  • Geometric Magic: The Instant Runes take the form of patterns of geometric shapes, especially squares and circles. This initially makes magic difficult for Strange, who can't draw out the runes with his crippled hands. This is subverted, however, when Strange complains to the Ancient One that his hands make it too hard for him, and she responds by requesting a flawless demonstration from a master who is missing his entire left hand.
  • God Test: When Strange believes the Ancient One is talking hocus pocus, she gives him a taste of her ability to go through dimensions which sweeps him off his feet.
  • Godzilla Threshold: Discussed in the movie, where some fundamental rules are more bendable than others, and tampering with time, for example, could result in very bad things. Strange ends up resorting to time magic when he and Mordo arrive too late to stop dread Dormammu from being let into their universe — when Wong, the man who originally delivered those warnings, sees the spot where he died a few minutes ago and Strange admits he's breaking the rules, he finally answers, "Well, don't stop now!" — and then creates a Time Loop Trap to force Dormammu to leave Earth. As the dust settles, Mordo quits over these actions, believing that the sorcerers are doing the wrong thing... but, ironically, after the credits, is shown crossing other lines with disturbing ease.
  • Gone Horribly Right: At the end, Kaecilius and his disciples do get their desire for immortality as "part of the one". As Strange points out, they really won't enjoy it.
  • Gravity Screw: Kaecilius and his mooks can defy gravity, which they demonstrate during their Hallway Fight with Strange at the New York sanctum. They can also manipulate it to their whim, which leaves Strange at a disadvantage since he can't defy it like they can.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Dorammu is the one who Kaecilius is working for but due to the sanctum barriers preventing him from coming to Earth, Kaecilius is the one leading the story. He does appear at the very end as the Final Boss when Doctor Strange meets him but was otherwise uninvolved with the Evil Plan.
  • Hallway Fight: Strange fights Kaecilius's mooks in a hallway at the New York sanctum.
  • Handicapped Badass:
    • One of the masters in Kamar-Taj is outright missing a hand, yet is still able to perform the magic the others can. This is used by the Ancient One to motivate Strange when he says he can't use magic because of his hands.
    • Strange himself zig-zags the trope. His hands are certainly useless for a great many tasks (if his attempts to shave and write his own name are any indication), and he at first has great difficulty with magic because he can't replicate the hand gestures precisely, but the Ancient One shows him that the gestures are not as important as the spirit, and Strange becomes better as he gains confidence. Even so, his lack of manual dexterity becomes more and more of an Informed Flaw as the film goes on, as he's shown making more precise movements without much hesitation. The Ancient One does mention that magic can be used to "reprogram" the body's cells to heal, and Pangborn has overcome his own crippling injuries by constantly channeling his magic through his body, which may partially explain the increase in Strange's ability to use his hands, though he notably never loses the tremor in them.
  • Heads I Win, Tails You Lose: Strange's final bargain with Dormammu is this. Either he traps Dormammu with him in a timeloop forever, or Dormammu relents and gives Strange what he wants.
  • Heel Realization: Strange realizes what an absolute douchenozzle he was at the start of the film when he challenges Kaecilius on the people the latter has killed, only for him to respond, "Tiny, meaningless specks", just like Strange had said of patients in the ER.
  • Heroes Love Dogs: In a deleted scene Strange fixes a dog's hurt leg.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: In the final battle, Strange seals himself and Dormammu in a Time Loop Trap in which Dormammu brutally kills him over and over again, because so long as the loop continues, Dormammu is unable to harm anyone other than Strange. He ends up making the ultimate sacrifice at least a dozen times before Dormammu gives in and agrees to bargain with Strange.
  • Hospital Gurney Scene: Stephen Strange is brought into his own hospital this way after his car accident.
  • Hopeless Boss Fight: Dormammu outclasses Strange by many orders of magnitude, and they both know it. Strange resorts to provoking him into Rage Quit through Save Scumming.
  • Human Shield: A weaponized type. Kaecilius (off-frame) opens a portal. Using one of his three remaining mooks as a shielding distraction, Kaecilius stabs through his own mook to stab the Ancient One, then kicks her through the portal, many stories above a New York street, letting her fall to mortal injury.
  • Hunter of His Own Kind: In the stinger, we learn that Mordo has taken it upon himself to eliminate sorcerers from the world after being disillusioned by the Ancient One and Strange bending the rules.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: A recurring theme through the movie is the ends justifying the means. The Ancient One is called a "hypocrite" at the start by her fallen disciple because she accesses the power of the Dark Dimension as he does and is thus no better for her preaching of the converse. Meanwhile in the climax Strange taps into the Eye of Agamotto and informs Wong that he realizes what he's doing is illegal (Wong doesn't care at the moment, since he just wants results), as well as channeling the Eye's power to screw with Dormammu's lack of time within the Dark Dimension. All of this cavalier "doing what must be done" gets Mordo fed up enough to chart his own path away from the Kamar-taj teachings, believing sorcerers are just doing whatever they feel at the moment instead of weighing the consequences that he was supposedly taught.
  • I Gave My Word: While it makes sense that Dormammu would retreat from his initial encounter with Dr. Strange until he had a chance to understand how time works, there's nothing but his own honor stopping Dorammu from proceeding with his plan to conquer Earth once he develops a way to counter the effects of time. However, given that Dr. Strange "blipped" out of existence in Infinity War, there's now a significant grey area as to how much Dormammu is still bound to the promise he made to Dr. Strange.
  • I'm a Doctor, Not a Placeholder:
    • Strange all but screams this once he realizes that his mystical training has essentially drafted him into a war against supernatural evil. Deep beneath his arrogance, he truly believes life is sacred, healing the sick is holy and that taking life is an unforgivable sin. Realizing he's killed one of Kaecilius's goons gives him a Heroic BSoD.
    • Strange invokes this directly in the "Civil War Cure" ad, where he says he can't do anything about Bucky's arm because "I'm a doctor, not a mechanic."
  • Immortality Field: The Dark Dimension is a Place Beyond Time. Therefore, Dormammu can promise eternal life, as time does not affect the residents. The quality of said life, now, is very arguable, as the Zealots painfully discover at the end of the movie.
  • Immortality Immorality: Living forever is treated as something very morally ambiguous. In the only example shown to be effective upon humans (as opposed to gods, aliens or godlike aliens/alien gods), one needs to interact with the Dark Dimension, an evil sapient universe which intends to assimilate Earth and eventually all dimensions into it. The Ancient One does this on a small-scale, which seems harmless until Kaecilius catches wind of it and begins a murder spree in an attempt to have all of Earth consumed by the Dark Dimension.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice:
    • Daniel Drumm gets stabbed by Kaecilius's magical spear after the latter enters the New York Sanctum.
    • Strange is stabbed in the same way, in the heart, and has to teleport to Christine for emergency surgery.
    • The Ancient One gets nailed in the same way as those two when Kaecilius stabs her by stabbing one of his Zealots, then falls roughly thirty stories. Even Christine leading a full team of surgeons can't deal with that.
    • One of the many, many ways Dormammu likes to kill is by throwing a volley of spears through his victim's body.
    • Wong suffers this on a piece of debris before Strange's rewind of time outside the Hong Kong sanctum restores him to life.
  • Incompletely Trained: Strange has to save the world after only having a couple months of training at most, while his partners and the main villain had years of experience over him. After doing so, he immediately takes it upon himself to serve as the guardian of one of the two Sanctum Sanctorums left in the world while still undergoing self-taught training himself.
  • Insistent Terminology: As he will constantly remind you, Stephen Strange is a doctor thank you very much. Not Mister, not Master... Doctor Strange.
  • Instant Runes: Sorcerers create glowing symbols in geometric patterns when they use magic, as a focusing mechanism for their spells. By default, they take on an amber hue, but channeling power from alternative sources can alter the color; spells involving the Dark Dimension turn red, while the Eye of Agamotto's energy imbues them with its characteristic shade of green.
  • Interesting Situation Duel: The movie takes inspiration from Inception and turns it up to eleven. Subjective gravity in an Escheresque cityscape that is constantly branching and folding in on itself, a fight between astral forms that loosely interact with the physical world around the unconscious body of one of the participants, and a battle on a city block that is in the process of exploding... backwards in time.
  • In the Hood:
    • During the opening battle, when the Ancient One pursues Kaecilius and his zealots, she is shown wearing a yellow robe with a very prominent hood that is always partially or even completely obscuring her face. Despite seeming to always having her eyes covered, she is able to fight and dispatch a majority of the zealots with little effort.
    • When Strange has reached Kathmandu searching for Kamar-Taj, Mordu is shown following his progress through the city wearing a brown robe with hood that keeps his face in shadow until he reveals himself to Strange.
  • Insistent Terminology: It is Doctor Strange. For all his arrogance and ignorance throughout the film, Strange became a physician because he's here to save lives, not take them. He earned the title and he will not allow anyone, not even the Ancient One, to mistake him for a killer or a a power-hungry madman like Kaecilius. He enjoyed his wealth, and ejnoyed his fame, but his focus was on finding cures that could save thousands rather than just save one person at a time in the ER. Doctor.
    Strange: No. It is Doctor Strange. Not Master Strange, not Mister Strange. Doctor Strange. When I became a doctor, I swore an oath to do no harm, and I just killed a man! I'm not doing that again. I became a doctor to save lives, not take them.
  • Invisible to Normals: While the Ancient One seems able to see Strange's astral body when it's out of his physical one, Christine is incapable of that unless he explicitly pokes his head out into the real world to speak to her.
  • Invulnerable Knuckles: A rare aversion, and here entirely justified as Strange's hands are still basically destroyed when he tries a punch. During the final fight, he lands a punch or two and it doesn't hurt him, so maybe his hands are healing, although the end scene shows the trembling continues.
  • Ironic Echo:
    • When Strange tries the forbidden timewarp spell, he gets berated by Mordo and defends himself by saying that they should have put the warnings before the spells. At the end when Kaecilius gets his wish for eternal life granted and gets dragged into the Dark Dimension, Strange comments:
      Doctor Strange: Yeah, you know, you really should have stolen the whole book because the warnings... [beat] the warnings come after the spells.
    • "Tiny, momentary specks within an indifferent universe".
  • It's a Long Story: In the stinger, Thor says this when Strange asks him why he brought Loki with him to New York.
  • It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time: Strange, remembering that the Ancient One had originally told him the Mirror Dimension is both a space where sorcerers can train their magic without influencing the real world as well as a place to contain threats, thrusts Kaecilius and his followers into the Mirror Dimension during their second incursion on the New York Sanctum to prevent Kaecilius from causing damage or affecting reality. However Kaecilius's advanced connection to the powers of the Dark Dimension give him the ability to create even more havoc within the Mirror Dimension. Mordo says while he may have been prevented from doing any harm to the real world, he's now far more capable of killing Strange and Mordo within the confines of the pocket reality, which Strange comes to accept after spending some time running away from Kaecilius as he warps the Mirror Dimension around them.
  • Just a Flesh Wound: Strange gets stabbed through the chest and is on the verge of death before receiving surgery from Christine. Immediately after being defibrillated, he carries on a casual conversation with her. He then immediately gets up and walks out of the hospital with only mild discomfort. The rest of the film takes place over the next few hours, but he never acknowledges his injury again.
  • Keeping the Handicap: Initially, Strange intends to learn magic to heal his permanently damaged hands and work as a surgeon again, just like Jonathan Pangborn who used his magic to walk again despite a complete spinal cord injury. However, in the end, Strange decides against it and leaves his hands as they are.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • At the start of the film, Strange is asked to help a man with a broken back, but he arrogantly refuses the case. He also refuses a case involving an elderly woman, because the odds of success are low enough it'll "ruin his record."
    • Strange is very contemptuous and insulting to the physical therapist who's doing his best to help him. After Strange calls him "Bachelor's Degree", the therapist gives Strange a blistering Death Glare.
    • Strange goes off on Christine pretty viciously after yet another rejection for an experimental medical technique.
    • At the end of the film, Mordo takes away Pangborn's power and with it his ability to walk, since he's become disillusioned with sorcery.
  • Kick the Morality Pet: After the car accident when Strange is frustrated about his injuries, he evicts Christine from his home while she had done nothing but cared for him. She refuses to answer his emails after this, and though she does accept his face-to-face apology, doesn't get back with him.
  • Killed Offscreen: In the finale of the film, Strange and Mordo discover that Wong and countless other civilians are dead due to Kaecilius's actions. Thanks to Strange using the Eye of Agamotto, it doesn't last.
  • Kirk Summation: When Kaecilius tries to convince Strange of the rightness of his cause, Strange admits he has a compelling argument — except a) he just saw him kill a guy, and b) working for Dormammu can't be all that beneficial if facial disfigurement is part of the package.
  • Laser-Guided Karma:
    • When driving a car right before his incident, Strange decides not to take on a particular patient because she's likely to be a failure and he doesn't want to damage his reputation. Later, his colleague refuses to take on his case for the very same reasons.
    • Subverted with Pangborn. When Strange hears about his seemingly miraculous healing and goes to ask him about it, the man mentions sourly that he was Strange's prospective patient, but was turned away for the same reason as above. However, seeing that Strange is seeking the same healing, he directs him to Kamar-Taj.
  • Last Kiss: At the end, Christine gives Strange a final kiss on the cheek before leaving him.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall:
    • Mordo saying "Forget everything you think you know" can easily be directed as much to longtime readers of Dr. Strange comics as it is to Stephen himself. Up to this point, the movie has been a largely faithful adaptation of the origin story from the 1960s. However, the moment Strange and Mordo step through the door after having said this marks the beginning of the more notable departures from the source material.
    • It could also be addressed to fans of the MCU as prior films (Thor in particular) tried to skate around mysticism and magic by explaining the supernatural as an advanced form of physics or science. One of the very first things the Ancient One says is how not everything is a science or a formula that man can just make sense of. And it only dives further into true magic from there.
  • Legacy Character: Kevin Feige has stated that, within the MCU, there have been several bearers of the Ancient One moniker, the current one being the latest to hold the title.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: After Strange has a tearful goodbye with Christine where he acknowledges that "there are other ways to save lives", Strange turns to face a mirror as the Cloak of Levitation settles on his shoulders. He stares into the mirror and flips his collar high with a look of conviction and determination. The audience now knows he has committed to becoming a superhero. Then the cloak hilariously ruins the moment by trying to wipe the tear-stains from Strange's face.
  • Little "No":
    • The Ancient One's initial response to Strange's request to teach him.
    • Kaecilius also lets one out when Strange starts using the Eye of Agamotto to rewind time and fix the Sanctum that he and his followers had just destroyed.
    • Strange gives one when the Ancient One tries to promote him to Master and give him the New York Sanctum. He insists he is Doctor Strange and he has sworn to defend life, not take it.
  • Lock-and-Load Montage: After the Ancient One dies, there's a scene of Strange putting his (sentient) cloak on and setting the collar upright. The moment is then completely ruined when the cloak (who noticed Strange's face was still wet from crying) starts wiping his tears off.
    Doctor Strange: [irritated] Stop.
  • Logical Weakness: Time doesn't naturally exist in the Dark Dimension. As such, when Strange captures Dormammu in a Time Loop Trap, he finds the entire concept of time incomprehensible (mistaking it for illusion) and maddening; and since he has no idea how time even works, he's powerless to escape the loop despite his immense power, and is forced to bargain with Strange so he can free himself from it.
  • Lovecraft Lite: A splinter group of magic-users are helping an extra-dimensional Eldritch Abomination to swallow up Earth.

    Tropes M to R 
  • Mage in Manhattan: The defense of the New York sanctum spills out onto the streets and buildings of Greenwich Village.
  • Magic A Is Magic A: Sorcerers channel power from other planes of existence, and some planes are more vulnerable to the energy of other dimensions (i.e someone who draws power from the Dark Dimension can bend the Mirror Dimension easily and can manipulate planes beyond it). Sorcerers can imbue power into mystic objects, like Mordo's Staff of the Living Tribunal, but can also utilize non-mystic but powerful objects like an Infinity Stone.
  • Magical Defibrillator: When Stephen must undergo defib, he asks Christine to amp up the potency, which ends up transferring energy to his astral form and gives him an edge against Lucian.
  • Magical Gesture: Played with. Sorcerers generally make particular gestures when wielding magic, but it's not really necessary — Strange can't duplicate the fine maneuvers because of the damage to his hands, but the Ancient One shows him that one of the masters is channeling the power just fine with only the stump of a wrist.
  • Magic Staff: A lot of Kamar-Taj's Relic weapons come in the form of staffs imbued with magic energy, like Mordo's Staff of the Living Tribunal.
  • Magic Versus Science: Surprisingly Defied. The Ancient One makes a point of explaining magic in scientific terms to Strange, such as comparing spells to programs and explaining how Pangborn healed his injuries in medical terms that Strange is familiar with. Likewise, at no point does she belittle Strange's scientific knowledge, instead calling it a "piece" of the greater whole. Of course, there's the fact that sorcerers have no issues with using modern technology; the password for Kamar-Taj's Wifi is "Shamballa". Strange even takes full advantage of this when a Zealot attacks him while Christine is treating him for a chest wound; upon realizing that the defibrillator hurts an enemy he's dueling even more than him, he has Christine up the voltage and shock him again in order to secure victory.
  • Manly Tears:
    • While explaining his motivations to Doctor Strange, Kaecilius eventually breaks into tears as he describes the possibilities of merging Earth's realm with the Dark Dimension. It's the first clue we get that he seems to genuinely want to improve the lot of all humans... though he's still willing to kill a few dozen on the way.
    • Strange cries after the Ancient One dies and he says goodbye to Christine.
    • Mordo is seen holding back tears as Strange flies away to the Dark Dimension, which Mordo interprets as a betrayal.
  • The Many Deaths of You: In the film's climax, while Strange seals himself and Dormammu on a Time Loop Trap, he is killed repeatedly and in various ways before the Dark Dimension ruler caves in.
  • Masquerade: Strange discovers that there is an entire secret world of supernatural evils and mystic arts hiding right under our noses even to this day. This is justified as the real purpose of the mirror dimension, and even the collateral damage in the final fight gets reversed through time along with Muggle memories, though there's the question of how they cover up The Ancient One being seen falling to her death in New York in daytime.
  • Meaningful Echo:
    • During their first meeting, an extremely bitter and skeptical Stephen Strange dismisses the Ancient One's attempts to introduce him to magic by referring to her as "another tiny, momentary speck within an indifferent universe." Much later, while interrogating Kaecilius over his plans to bring Earth to Dormammu and bestow eternal life on humanity, Strange asks about the people who've had to die just to make this plan a reality, only for Kaecilius to dismiss them as "tiny, momentary specks within an indifferent universe." Strange is deeply shaken by the similarity — and Kaecilius notices.
    • After being caught practicing highly-dangerous time magic with the aid of the Book of Cagliostro — and being given a very angry warning of all the things that could have happened as a result — Strange sheepishly mutters "they really should put the warnings before the spells." Later, thanks to the pages he stole from the same book, Kaecilius is able to unleash Dormammu upon Earth... only to discover that the eternal life he wanted involves being transformed into a Mindless One and trapped forever in the Darkness Dimension.
      Doctor Strange: Yeah, you know, you really should have stolen the whole book, because the warnings... the warnings come after the spells.
  • Mentor Occupational Hazard: The Ancient One is mortally wounded by Kaecilius, and dies despite the efforts Strange and Christine make to save her life. The lack of a Sorcerer Supreme means that Strange has to get creative for the final battle.
  • Merlin and Nimue: Gender inverted with the Ancient One and Karl Mordo.*
  • Midair Bobbing: When the Ancient One is dying and her spirit leaves her body, Strange follows her in astral form. As they have a heart-to-heart final conversation while the world around them is slowed down, they are still waving a little on the spot to remind the audience that they are disembodied spirits.
  • Mind Screw: Though sorcerers need to follow specific rules of casting mystic arts, no other laws of reality or the mind need apply to them. This is lampshaded by the Ancient One.
    Doctor Strange: This doesn't make any sense.
    The Ancient One: Not everything does. Not everything has to.
  • Mirror Match: An interesting in-universe and meta case. Cumberbatch playing Dormammu in motion-capture pretty much spelled this when he was finally given credit. In-universe, Dormammu takes on a rough form of Strange's face since he doesn't have a form of his own in his realm, making him a Threshold Guardian since his defeat at Strange's hands led directly to Strange finishing his Character Arc.
  • Mistaken for Servant: When entering Kamar-Taj, Strange immediately pegs an Old Master with a Wizard Beard for the Ancient One, and completely fails to pay attention to the bald woman serving him tea. Also serves as Dramatic Irony as the prologue already highlighted the presence of a bald character being an elite magic-user and accused of being a hypocrite by Kaecilius.
  • Mood Whiplash: When Strange willingly puts on the Cloak of Levitation (every other instance, the Cloak simply attaches itself to Strange), ready to do what must be done to protect Earth, he has a serious look on his face even though the remnants of the Manly Tears he cried for the Ancient One are still on his face. Cue the Cloak wiping his tears off his face, much to his annoyance.
  • Motivated by Fear: Strange claims that his extreme fear of failure is the reason for his success, but The Ancient One counters that it has held him back from even greater success because it keeps him focused on himself instead of others.
  • Mundane Solution: For a given value of "mundane", but the problem of the Di Cagliostro's missing pages is solved not by a grand quest, but by Strange realizing that the Eye of Agamotto can take objects back in time, and casting its spell on the book.
  • Mundane Utility:
    • Once Strange learns the Astral Projection technique, he uses it to continue studying while his body is sleeping. This helps him to advance in his magical studies at a much faster pace.
    • Once Strange finally learns to use the Sling Ring properly, he's quick to learn how to abuse it — opening portals to nab books from the Library underneath Wong's nose (including at one point quite literally under his nose).
    • In The Stinger, magic can transform a tea cup into a beer stein and keep it from going empty.
  • Mushroom Samba:
    • To prove that she did not drug him when she pushed Stephen's spirit out of his body, the Ancient One "opens [his] eye". What follows is Stephen (or his mind anyway) being flung across various dimensions in a manner that defies proper description. One could be forgiven if they thought she actually did spike his drink.
    • Any scene in the Mirror Dimension is trippy as hell in the "dream-based real-world parody Inception-style" kind of way.
  • Mysterious Protector: How Mordo is introduced to Strange; noticing him from a distance, following him with his hood down and he takes on the three thugs attacking him and dispatches them in a few seconds.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • Strange's predecessor as the master of the New York Sanctum Sanctorum is named Daniel Drumm. In the comics, he is the brother of Jericho Drumm, alias Brother Voodoo, who also held the title of Sorcerer Supreme for some time.
    • During Kaecilius's assault on Sanctum Sanctorum, Strange almost has his hand on a battle axe, a possible nod toward the weapon the character brandishes in the All-New, All-Different Marvel relaunch.
    • Upon arriving at Kamar-Taj, Strange immediately assumes the old Asian man he sees as the Ancient One, before Tilda Swinton reveals herself. This is a nudge toward the character's traditional depiction, which change to a white actress has sparked controversy since the day it was first announced.
    • Strange turns up the collar of The Cloak of Levitation, hearkening back to its comic design, where the collar sometimes is higher than his head.
    • Christine Palmer operating on a wounded Strange while being accompanied by his astral projection is reminiscent to a scene in the Doctor Strange: The Oath miniseries, albeit with a different Night Nurse. Bonus points for their similar freak-out reaction and that the wound is in the exact same place.
    • The scene where Strange trains his hands post-accident by writing his name over and over is lifted almost directly from J. Michael Straczynski's Strange limited series.
    • Pangborn leading Strange to Kamar-Taj comes from Doctor Strange: The Oath, where Pangborn being turned away by Strange is the last thing the Doctor does before his accident.
    • The weapon Wong uses at the climax of the film looks similar to the Wand of Watoomb, a classic Doctor Strange artifact, albeit a bit larger than usual. Given that Mordo mentions the wand earlier, it very well could be the genuine article.
    • In a cameo, Tina Minoru is seen wielding The Staff of One. This also foreshadows the upcoming Runaways series.
    • Mordo uses the "Staff of the Living Tribunal". The Living Tribunal is essentially one of the most powerful cosmic beings in the Marvel Universe.
    • In the first stinger, Strange is wearing orange leather gloves, a traditional part of his costume.
    • At the climax of their battle in the New York sanctum, Strange throws Kaecilius into a mechanical suit that binds and gags him, with the metal gag being removable. This is a nod to Strange's origin story, where Mordo temporarily made him unable to move and made him hallucinate a metal gag around his mouth. According to the Art Book, the suit is the MCU version of the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak.
    • The Dark Dimension is very much similar to Steve Dikto's original drawings of it.
    • Dormammu's head prominently features lines dividing his face, similar to his classic form.
    • Mordo hands Dr. Strange a slip of paper with the word "Shamballa", saying it's their wi-fi password. Also a reference to the graphic novel Doctor Strange: Into Shamballa.
    • Taking things into actual myths, Dr. Strange recreates the bottomless drinking horn of Utgarda-Loki for Thor with a mug of beer. In the Prose Edda, Thor was challenged to empty the horn in one draught. After Thor fails to do so, Utgarda-Loki tells him that the horn was actually connected to the ocean and Thor has managed to lower the sea level with his drinking.
    • Before Kaecilius and the zealots are fully consumed by the Dark Dimension, their appearance becomes gray and stone-like with a single glowing eye, much like Dormammu's regular minions of the Mindless Ones.
    • One for just the MCU: Several prior Marvel movies (Avengers, Thor, Thor 2) have involved the heroes fighting the villains, trying to close some portal while there is massive damage. The director said that in this movie they went the other way. The climax is the heroes trying to reverse time, to fix the damage and keep the portal from opening in the first place. They do fight with The Dragon and his minions, but it turns out that the fighting is basically pointless, and Strange has to go through the portal and save the day by... talking to the Big Bad, instead of fighting him.
    • In his cameo, Stan Lee is reading The Doors of Perception about author Aldous Huxley's experience taking Mescaline. This is a nod to Doctor Strange's appeal to the drug-taking hippy crowd in The '60s, as is Strange's assumption that his tea has been spiked with Psilocybin or LSD.
  • Near-Villain Victory: Kaecilius and his followers have already succeeded in destroying the Hong Kong sanctum by the time Strange and Mordo arrive, clearing the way for Dormammu's absorption of Earth into the Dark Dimension. It's only by Strange's decision to use time magic to reverse the events wrought by Kaecilius that he and Mordo begin to tip things in their favor.
  • Never Trust a Trailer:
    • In the trailers, Mordo delivers the line "there is no other way" to Strange in a stern, yet reassuring tone. In the film, Mordo says it harshly and growling.
    • The trailers also show a figure falling from the sky towards a tesseracted version of New York City. In the movie, there are two figures falling.
    • In a TV spot for the film, Mordo screams after Stephen seemingly betrays him and Wong to join Dormammu. In the film itself, he silently stares as Strange flies away with a broken look of utter despair.
    • When Strange asks the Ancient One "Why are you doing this?" in the film, her response is "To show you just how much you don't know." In the trailer, she instead responds with Christine's line, "There are other ways to save lives."
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: When they're looking at the Dark Dimension encroaching on Earth, Kaecilius calls it "a world beyond time". This is what makes Strange gamble that the Time Stone could be a potent enough weapon to defeat Dormammu, something he likely wouldn't have thought of if Kaecilius had kept his mouth shut.
  • No Body Left Behind: Dormammu can shoot a ray of magic that atomizes the bodies of those caught in it.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: In Nepal, when Stephen refuses to hand his watch to the three thugs ambushing him by punching one of them, they respond by knocking him down and stomping on him. Good thing Mordo steps in.
  • Nothing Personal: Kaecilius has no specific quarrel with Strange and in their first encounter tries to get him to back away.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Strange and Kaecilius are noted by the Ancient One to be disturbingly similar: they were broken men that were looking to recover what was taken from them, both of them are arrogant, stubborn, and questioned the Ancient One's teachings a bit too much.
  • Not What I Signed on For: After Strange causes the death of one of the zealots, the Ancient One tries to title him "Master" of the New York sanctum. He rejects the title calling himself "Doctor" and cites the Hippocratic Oath. He realizes that the "Master" title carries the expectation of him defending the sanctum at all costs and he flat out says he's not going to do that again. Earlier Strange had even stated that he merely wanted to heal his hands, not save the world against mystic threats.
  • Not What It Looks Like: Strange has problems explaining to Christine that he didn't join a cult — even if he went to the Far East, and followed the instructions of someone named "Ancient One" to "tap into powers I never even knew existed".
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Strange and Mordo arrive at the site of the fallen Hong Kong Sanctum to see the epic aftermath of that battle. However, as the story unfolds, the off-screen destruction of the Hong Kong sanctum is subverted when Strange turns back time. Although difficult to make out amongst the reversed-time chaos, you can see that the sanctum was destroyed on-screen by having a sky-scraper knocked into it.
  • Off with His Head!: Kaecilius's first appearance has him behead the previous librarian of Kamar-Taj with magic, dropping his head into an ornate pot.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Subverted when Kaecilius spots Strange picking up a glowing chalice during the fight in the New York sanctum; he actually looks terrified briefly, but after a few seconds, says "You have no idea how to use that, do you?"
    • Strange after realizing that pulling Kaecilius and his followers into the Mirror World to prevent them destroying the Sanctum actually makes them a bigger threat.
    • Dormammu is initially confused the second time Strange arrives to bargain with him, then sounds aggravated when he arrives a third time, and shows increasing distress as Strange continues to bargain, despite Dormammu killing him.
    • And then when Dormammu swings his fist down on top of Dr. Strange's head, Strange has just enough to go "oh..f" before dying.
    • Strange freaks out early on when the Ancient One sends him through the multiverse, screaming and staring in horror at the sights for much of the trip.
  • Oh, No... Not Again!: This is Mordo's exact reaction when he realizes the Ancient One is putting Strange through a Die or Fly scenario with the sling ring. Apparently, she's done this, or something very similar, at least once before.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Stephen gets stabbed in the chest, nicking the pericardium. He should spend a few weeks being very, very gentle with himself until it's healed. Instead he runs back into battle and... he's pretty much fine.
  • Only One Name: Strange lists several people with one name after meeting Wong.
    Doctor Strange: And you are?
    Wong: Wong.
    Doctor Strange: Wong. Just Wong? Like... Adele? Or Aristotle? Drake? Bono? Eminem?
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business:
    • The Ancient One initially spends her time with Strange reminding him that he gave up his life as a surgeon and calling him "Mister", seeming to take some amusement in his frustration, but once Strange has called her out on her usage of Dark Dimension energies in her magics:
    • Played for laughs when Strange apologies to Christine for being a jerk — her response is to assume he's still in shock.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Benedict Cumberbatch moves back and forth between a generic American accent and his natural British accent as Doctor Strange. In the climax, it briefly becomes Southern American for some reason (presumably to mess with Strange's opponent).
  • Opt Out:
    • Strange's first reaction when informed that the sorcerers of Kamar-Taj are engaged in a perpetual struggle against Eldritch Abominations from other dimensions is to announce that he wants no part in it.
    • Later, once Strange has gone further into his training and has warmed up to idea of helping in the protection of Earth, the Ancient One, tells Strange that he still has this option. He COULD use magic to make his hands work again, go back to being a surgeon, and resume his luxurious, egocentric life like nothing ever happened, exactly what he first went to Kamar-Taj to accomplish. But she also tells him that, in the grand scope of things, it would be a great loss. Strange chooses to stay and fight for the greater good, something his old self at the beginning of the film wouldn't even think of considering.
    • Mordo takes Strange's use of forbidden magic and the Ancient One's drawing from the Dark Dimension as a grave insult against the natural law and leaves the order of mages.
    • Pangborn learned enough magic to give him the ability to walk again and then left.
  • Our Wormholes Are Different: Sorcerers can form circular portals surrounded by golden flames to teleport halfway across the world in an instant, through the use of an item known as a "sling ring", which fits over his fingers akin to brass knuckles.
  • Out of the Frying Pan: Strange saves the New York Sanctum from destruction when Kaecilius and his Zealots return after their first retreat. However, he does so by taking them all into the Mirror Dimension, where Kaecilius has even more power than in the real world.
  • Outside-Context Problem: How Doctor Strange defeats Dormammu. He brings time into a place where it doesn't exist, and Dormammu has no way of dealing with it.
  • Painting the Medium" When the Ancient One dies, she tells Strange this most important lesson he still hasn't learned; "It's not about you." The camera moves from TAO in the middle of the shot, with Strange in frame left, to Strange in the middle of the shot, with TAO on frame left. This is the exact moment where Strange's perspective really shifts, and she hands off her legacy to Strange, which is why the cinematography changes to make him the main character of the scene.
  • Pet the Dog: In a deleted scene, Stephen pets an actual dog, splinting the leg of a mutt he sees limping through the streets of Kathmandu. Then the muggers accost him.
  • Phantom Zone: The Mirror Dimension looks like the real world on a basic level, but nothing that happens in it can damage the real world and it can't be observed from the outside. In the intro, the Ancient One uses it to fight the Zealots without anyone being the wiser or damaging the surroundings. As an added bonus, a sufficiently skilled magic user has the ability to manipulate it Reality Warper-style.
  • Photographic Memory: Doctor Strange offhandedly claims to have a photographic memory, which allows him to learn magic so fast. It also allows him to achieve multiple degrees at once.
  • Physical Therapy Plot: Strange's hands are severely injured in a car crash, leaving him unable to continue doing surgery. He starts doing therapy to regain his dexterity while going through an emotional meltdown. His therapist encourages him with the story of Jonathan Pangborn, a paraplegic who managed to regain the use of his legs. Pangborn reveals that he fell in with the sorcerers of Kamar-Taj, but decided to use that magic to walk again rather than continue learning the mystic arts. This sets Strange on the path to becoming a sorcerer himself.
  • Place Beyond Time: The Dark Dimension, which is how Dormammu can promise eternal life, as time does not affect the residents. This bites him hard when Strange introduces a time loop into the Dark Dimension. Dormammu doesn't know how time magic works — he doesn't even know what time is — so he can't shift himself out of the loop like Kaecilius's zealots are able to do. His options are either killing Strange until he can't bear the suffering, or accepting Strange's bargain. The doctor ends up being more stubborn than the dimension lord.
  • Popcultural Osmosis Failure: To help break the tension created by Wong's stoic demeanor, Strange makes quips comparing him to other "one name" celebrities like Adele or Eminem only to be met with stony indifference. Strange reaches the point of exasperation when Wong doesn't even react to Beyoncé. Subverted in that it seems Wong was just messing with him because the very next scene shows Wong listening to "Single Ladies" on his MP3 player.
  • Portal Door:
    • Kamar-Taj has a series of doors which link to the three Sanctums, allowing people to travel between them at will.
    • The New York Sanctum (and the others, presumably) has a set of glass doors which can lead to multiple locations all over Earth. A dial next to the door allows the location to be changed at will.
  • Powerful and Helpless: Dormammu could consume our universe with ease but Strange realizes that Dormammu has no understanding of time and uses the Eye of Agamotto to lock them both in a Time Loop Trap where all he can do is kill Strange repeatedly for all eternity. This effectively makes Dormammu a helpless prisoner in his own dimension until he accepts Strange's bargin to leave Earth alone.
  • Precision-Guided Boomerang: During their fight in the Mirror Dimension, the Ancient One creates a pair of fans with her magic and sends one bouncing against the heads of the Zealots before coming back to her hand.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner:
    • In a few of the loops, the response to "Dormammu, I've come to bargain." is "You've come to die!".
    • "Well, it's everything you've ever wanted. Eternal life as part of the One. You're not gonna like it."
  • Pride Before a Fall: As with the comics, Strange starts out as an insufferable neurosurgeon before his car accident. Said car accident was caused by him egotistically thinking of another high-profile patient, instead of paying attention to the road.
  • Product Placement:
    • Dr. Strange's Tragic Keepsake is a Jaeger-LeCoultre watch, his computer of choice is a Microsoft Surface Pro, and the car he wrecks is a Lamborghini Huracán Coupé.
    • During his out-of-body fight in the hospital, Strange passes through a vending machine that is almost entirely stocked with Kettle potato chips.
  • Promotion, Not Punishment: Stephen takes books on astral projection from Kamar-Taj's library using his sling-ring after Wong refuses to loan them to him, saying he's not ready. Wong tells the Ancient One who, rather than punishing him for this, instead introduces him to the Mirror Dimension so that he can practice more advanced magic without potentially destroying anything.
  • Properly Paranoid: Pangborn in the second stinger. When Mordo pays him a visit, he grabs a heavy crowbar just in case, even before Mordo starts to show that he's not entirely stable. Ultimately, it doesn't help him, but at least he manages to land a blow.
  • Protagonist Title: Doctor Strange.
  • A Pupil of Mine Until He Turned to Evil:
    • Kaecillius was a former pupil of the Ancient One who, like Strange, came in off the street to study under her tutelage only to find out about the Dark Dimension, contact Dormammu and was swayed by his power, rejecting the Ancient One's teachings which kicks off the plot of the film.
    • By the end of the film, Mordo rejects the Ancient One's teachings and goes rogue as he learns through out the story that she was consistently acting against the teachings of magical power she ingrained in him so heavily. As a result, he becomes utterly disillusioned and determines that sorcerers are too disruptive to the natural order and need to be eliminated, starting his road to villainy.
  • Put on a Bus: Mordo is last seen stripping Pangborn of his magic in The Stinger, and hasn't been mentioned or seen least until Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
  • Quit Your Whining: After Strange accuses The Ancient One of drawing power from the Dark Dimension and reiterates his refusal to take up the mantle of Master of the New York Sanctum if it means having to kill, Mordo makes plain his low opinion of Strange's character.
    Mordo: You're a coward.
    Strange: Because I'm not a killer?
    Mordo: These Zealots will snuff us all out, and you can't muster the will to snuff them first?
    Strange: Oh, you would have done it so easily, would you?
    Mordo: You have no idea the things I've done. And the answer is yes. Without hesitation.
    Strange: Even if there's another way?
    Mordo: There is no other way.
    Strange: You lack imagination.
    Mordo: No, Stephen, you lack a spine.
  • Race Lift:
    • Baron Mordo is white in the comics, but is portrayed by the black Chiwetel Ejiofor.
    • The Ancient One is Tibetan in the comics, but is portrayed by the Caucasian Tilda Swinton here, and is identified in the film as Celtic.
  • Rage Quit: Strange provokes Dormammu into this to save the Earth. Dormammu is so far above him in terms of power that Strange has no chance of winning in a straight fight. However, since Dormammu exists in a timeless dimension, Strange uses time magic to lock them both in a Time Loop Trap, that resets whenever Dormammu kills Strange. Since Dormammu can't escape the loop to conquer Earth and is aware of every reset in the loop, he gets so frustrated that he begs Strange to stop and agrees to leave Earth alone.
  • Read the Freaking Manual: Strange gets told off for not reading a Tome of Eldritch Lore all the way through before trying a Dangerous Forbidden Technique. Not that the villains are any smarter, given that they just ripped out the page they needed.
  • Reality Is Out to Lunch: The Mirror Dimension is a pocket universe, an exact copy of the real world (as the name implies) where, while nothing can be physically affected or interacted with, the laws of physics, space and matter are at the mercy of its inhabitants. Gravity, local architecture, and space can be warped at will to create logic-defying worlds at its inhabitants' whimsy.
  • Reality Warper: After being empowered by Dormammu, Kaecilius gains a tremendous boost to his magical abilities, which grants him phenomenal control over the Mirror Dimension, and even distort physical laws such as space and gravity in the real world. Further, thanks to his knowledge of time, Kaecilius is even able to resist and pull himself out of the Eye of Agamotto's time reversal magic, which is powered by an Infinity Stone.
  • Rebellious Spirit: Stephen Strange has the tendency to bend or flat-out break the rules as an apprentice at Kamar-Taj. He uses a sling-ring to take books without permission from the library to learn astral projection before he was supposed to (earning a Promotion, Not Punishment moment from the Ancient One) and then later uses the Eye of Agamotto in an experimental bit of sorcery. He is harshly scolded by Wong and Mordo for this, as using time-based sorcery is in direct violation of natural law which the Masters of the Mystic Arts are meant to uphold. Later on, Stephen manipulates time twice to gain an advantage. The first time to reverse the Hong Kong Sanctum's destruction and resurrect Wong who had been killed in the battle. The second time to capture Dormammu in a Time Loop Trap until he agrees to bargain.
  • Red Pill, Blue Pill: Halfway through the movie, Strange is confronted with a choice: regain function in his hands and become a surgeon again or continue down his current path and master magic to become a sorcerer protecting the world from cosmic threats.
  • Red Right Hand: Kaecilius and his followers suffer from increasing deterioration of their faces around the eyes. This is even brought up in the film itself, since Strange points out that the facial disfigurement clearly marks them out as evil.
  • Reimagining the Artifact: Wong, for decades an infamous example of Ethnic Menial Labor in the comics, is given Adaptational Badass treatment as a fellow sorcerer and one of the mentors of Strange.
  • Ret-Gone: While such a thing doesn't happen in the film, Mordo and Wong warn Strange that tampering with the Eye of Agamotto can mess with the space-time continuum in a number of ways, one such example being preventing his own birth.
  • R-Rated Opening: A man is strung up and decapitated (albeit with the latter shown only in silhouette) within the first two minutes of the film.
  • Running Gag:
    • Strange keeps on losing his Sling Ring during a fight between Kaecilius and his followers. The first time was with Kaecilius and he manages to steal one from Lucian, Kaecilius's right hand. The second time he loses his sling ring, Strange takes the Ancient One's sling ring as a Tragic Keepsake after Kaecilius kills her.
    • After their initial encounter, Kaecilius carrying on the initial misunderstanding between them by referring to Stephen as Mister Doctor.
    • The warnings for dangerous acts coming after the main material, and that it really should be the other way around. Forbidden magics, distracted driving, etc.
    • In a meta sense, this movie keeps up the running gag of characters having missing limbs or losing limbs in a reference to The Empire Strikes Back that started with Iron Man 3, with Master Hamir having a missing hand and Kaecilius's hand dissolving first as he falls into the Dark Dimension.

    Tropes S to Z 
  • Safe Driving Aesop: Stephen Strange's mangled hands (and thus, quest to learn the mystic arts) are the direct result of his driving distracted on a winding road at night during bad weather, while speeding. The end credits include a warning against distracted driving.
  • Sarcastic Confession: When Christine asks Strange what was going on with him at the hospital in his weird dress, he delivers a true while absurdly outlandish sounding summary of events which Christine takes as a joke.
    Christine: Can you tell me the truth?
    Doctor Strange: Well, a powerful sorcerer who gave himself over to an ancient entity... can bend the very laws of physics, tried very hard to kill me. But I left him chained up in Greenwich Village... and the quickest way back there is through a dimensional gateway... that I opened up in the mop closet.
    Christine: Okay. Don't tell me. Fine.
  • Save Scumming: Strange manages this in real life using the time magic of the Eye, casting a spell before his confrontation with Dormammu that resets time to that point every time he's killed.
  • Saving the World: What Strange does at the end when "bargaining" with Dormammu, as he convinces him to promise to take his zealots and abandon his attempt, and all future attempts, to assimilate the Earth into the Dark Dimension.
  • Schizo Tech: Kamar-Taj is an ancient temple of mystical power where they learn to harness the source code of the multiverse. Also their front door has a buzzer lock to let guests in, plus wi-fi.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Christine just straight up leaves after Strange lashes out at her following his accident.
    • After discovering that that being a sorcerer also brings the responsibility of saving the universe from inter-dimensional beings, Strange immediately attempts this as most people would if that had to do such a dangerous task. Luckily, he stays.
  • Sealed Evil in a Duel:
    • Trapping foes in the Mirror Dimension is mentioned by the Ancient One as a viable tactic to contain and fight threats safely without affecting reality, leaving them trapped if caught without a Sling Ring to escape. Strange tries this on Kaecilius to defend the New York Sanctum, and even gloats about it to his face. Thanks to Kaecilius's increased power in the Mirror Dimension, this quickly backfires.
    • Strange uses the Eye of Agamotto to trap both himself and Dormammu in a loop that resets every time Dormammu entity kills him to coerce his foe into bargaining for the safety of Earth. Dormammu tells Strange that he can't win, and Strange responds that he doesn't have to. He can just keep losing forever and Dormammu will remain trapped in the loop unable to harm Earth and denied the ability to kill Strange permanently.
  • Secret War: In contrast to other conflicts in the MCU, the war between Kamar-Taj and Kaecilius is kept secret from the public. This is possible because most battles are fought in either the invisible Mirror Dimension or the Sorcerers' hidden bases.
  • Seen It All: Christine is an ER doctor. They see all sorts of weird, horrible shit. It takes her a minute to accept that Strange is into something weird and outside of her experience, but within a few hours she's able to take it in stride.
  • Sequel Hook:
    • In the final scene, Wong mentions that with news of the Ancient One's death spreading across the Multiverse, certain parties are likely now setting their sights on the Time Stone, leading into Avengers: Infinity War.
    • There is a title card after the second stinger reading: Doctor Strange will return.
    • The first stinger sees Thor consulting Strange for assistance in finding Odin, helping to set up Thor: Ragnarok.
  • Serious Work, Comedic Scene: This is a rather dramatic entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, focused on the title character Dr. Stephen Strange having to retire from being an experienced neurosurgeon due to getting his hands severely damaged in a car crash, and hitting a Despair Event Horizon once he realizes he may never get to return to his job. However, there are still some funny moments; for example, when he first meets Wong, Strange asks if Wong is like any number of artists with Only One Name (such as Beyoncé), while Wong acts as if he doesn't know what Strange is talking about. A later scene shows Wong listening to "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" by Beyonce as Strange secretly takes books from Wong's library in the background.
  • Set Right What Once Went Wrong: In the climax, Strange and Mordo arrive too late to prevent Kaecilius from destroying the final Sanctum in Hong Kong and allowing Dormammu to unleash his Dark Dimension on Earth, so Strange uses the Eye of Agamotto to reverse time, saving countless civilians and Wong, who had fallen in battle earlier. It partly succeeds, though, as Kaecilius manages to break free and tampers with the Eye, making the time freeze, forcing Strange to Take a Third Option and deal with Dormammu in the Dark Dimension himself.
  • Shadow Discretion Shot: Kaecilius beheading the Kamar-Taj's librarian at the beginning of the film is shown as silhouettes cast on the wall.
  • Shifting Situation Duel: The movie has several of these fights happening throughout the movie, given how the characters have reality-bending powers, but the most notable one occurs when Strange and Mordo are being chased around New York by Kaecilius and his henchmen while within the Mirror Dimension. As they're trapped there, they must dodge and run through the scenery as it changes constantly around them, until the Ancient One steps in to join the fight.
  • Shirtless Scene:
    • Strange appears without a shirt, showing off his muscular build, when he finally trims his scraggly Beard of Sorrow.
    • Mordo also goes without sleeves during his sparring session with Strange, showing large arms usually kept beneath his robes.
  • Shot to the Heart: One of the Zealots manages to stab Stephen in the heart. Fortunately, it's just a nick that only causes blood to flood the pericardium and interfere with with his heart's ability to beat...
  • Shout-Out: Collected in their own subpage for this movie.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • Because so much of Strange's spellcasting is dependent on gesticulation and finger placement, Benedict Cumberbatch mentioned during pre-production that he tried hard to nail every gesture perfectly before starting filming, in order to stay true to the character (and, of course, to prevent fans from dismissing him early on as inaccurate).
    • While complete medical accuracy is put aside for the sake of drama, there are a few details that have been commended, such as the precise way doctors wash their hands before surgery, the arduous rehabilitation Stephen faces after his accident and the way the trauma team handles the Ancient One when brought into the ER after her fall.
  • Sigil Spam: Where the temple of Kamar-Taj in Kathmandu is an unassuming building, the sanctum in New York has a giant bronze symbol of the Mystic Order announcing its presence, because of course New York would do that.
  • Significant Reference Date: Strange's car crash happens on February 2nd (on Groundhog Day).
  • Sink or Swim Mentor: The Ancient One drops Stephen off on top of Everest in order to force him to master magic by surrendering to it.
    Mordo: Oh, no, not again.
  • Sir Not-Appearing-in-This-Trailer: Dormammu was not a part of any advertising leading up to the release of the movie. However, once the movie was released overseas, glimpses of the character were shown in a few television spots.
  • Skeptic No Longer: Strange quickly comes around to the "magic is real" camp after The Ancient One shows him a thing or two such as punching his astral form right out of his body.
    Doctor Strange: Teach me...
  • Sleek High Rise Apartment: Strange's career as a world-class neurosurgeon affords him a large New York City apartment with Simple, yet Opulent modern furnishings, among many other creature comforts. After his Career-Ending Injury, he sells the contents and ultimately the apartment to fund his search for a remedy.
  • Small No: When the Ancient One promotes him to Master, Strange rejects it.
    Strange: No. It's Doctor Strange. Not mister Strange, not Master Strange. It's Doctor Strange.
  • Spell Book: The Library of Kamar-Taj contains many mystical tomes and volumes, including the restricted Book of Cagliostro, which deals with the manipulation of time, including the spells for drawing energy from the Dark Dimension.
  • Spiritual Antithesis:
    • To Iron Man; both are about brilliant, intelligent, rich, and highly arrogant people who suffer a serious injury that leads them to reevaluate their circumstances and ultimately pursue heroism. However, Tony Stark finds his purpose by channeling his ego creatively and in a way that benefits others, whereas Stephen Strange learns to shed his ego and self-sacrifice. Further, Iron Man is a hero who builds his own identity with science and technology, while Doctor Strange inherits ancient knowledge of mysticism.
    • To Thor; Thor was about a deity traveling to Earth and learning the beautiful mundanity of humanity, while Doctor Strange is about a mortal man who travels to other dimensions and learns about powerful creatures. Thor himself is a mythological character who learns humanity from mortals while Strange is an ordinary mortal man who learns magic.
  • Spontaneous Weapon Creation: The Ancient One fights with shields and fans made out of Instant Runes. The antagonists of the film are eventually empowered by the Big Bad to warp space into blade shaped planes.
  • Standard Bleeding Spots: Strange is bleeding from his eye brow and lip after his melee with Kaecilius and his henchmen.
  • Stealth Pun: Christine made a rule against sleeping with colleagues, and called it "The Strange Policy." Because the man who inspired the rule is named Strange, and because "strange" is another word for sex.
  • The Stinger:
    • Mid-credits stinger: Strange tells Thor that he's keeping watch for individuals or beings who might threaten our world, and that his adopted brother Loki is one of those individuals. When Thor tells Strange he's brought him to New York to look for their father and that they'll leave afterward, Strange offers to help. (Like the stinger from Ant-Man, this is a scene lifted straight from a future Marvel movie, specifically Thor: Ragnarok, although the lines and their delivery were slightly different in the actual movie.)
    • Post-credits stinger: Mordo confronts Pangborn in his workplace and takes away the magic powers that allowed him to walk again. Pangborn asks Mordo why he's doing this, to which he responds "Because I see now what's wrong with the world. Too many sorcerers."
  • Stopped Reading Too Soon: Lampshaded, where Strange, after being rebuked for trying out a dangerous spell he found in an old book, comments that it really doesn't make any sense to put the warnings about horrible, mind-shattering potential consequences after the spell.
  • Strategy, Schmategy: In his first real magic fight, Strange has very little idea of what he's doing — which is what probably saves him, as Kaecilius is too baffled by his actions to be able to beat him easily.
  • Superhero Movie Villains Die: A rare aversion for an MCU film; as an undying demon lord, Dormammu is still alive and well at the end of the film, and the remaining Zealots who worship him are mostly alive too, though that's only true for a loose definition of life.
  • Superman Stays Out of Gotham: The reason the Ancient One and her followers didn't intervene when Loki and the Chitauri invaded New York or when Ultron tried to drop a homemade asteroid on the planet is that they have a different kind of fish to fry.
    Wong: While heroes like The Avengers protect the world from physical dangers, we sorcerers safeguard it against more mystical threats.
  • Supernatural Martial Arts: How a lot of the spellcasting works, particularly in combat, with the sorcerers using magic to generate swords, shields, javelins and whips.
  • Talking Is a Free Action: Exploited when Kaecilius is trapped in a restraining device that Strange used on him, he goes on a Motive Rant to keep Strange from realizing that he had lost his Sling Ring, and that one of Kaecilius's followers — who Strange thought he already dealt with earlier — has returned and attacks him. It works perfectly, and Strange is critically wounded by an attack he didn't see coming. If the mook was aiming at a more vital part of his body, Strange would have been dead from that one blow.
  • Talking the Monster to Death: Strange's plan to defeat Dormammu involves putting him in a situation where he is forced to bargain. Strange traps the demon in a time loop and continues asking him to bargain, until Dormammu becomes frustrated enough to agree to leave Earth alone.
  • The Teaser: The movie opens with Kaecilius and his disciples breaking into the Kamar-Taj's library and stealing a few pages from Di Cagliostro, and then the Ancient One pursuing and fighting them, giving us the first taste of high-level magic before the film introduces Strange.
  • Telescoping Staff: Mordo's Staff of the Living Tribunal is able to extend into a chain of magical energy.
  • Thanatos Gambit: Strange doesn't mind dying for eternity if it's enough to stop Dormammu.
  • That Wasn't a Request: Strange uses the phrase, "I've come to bargain" when he speaks with the abomination that is Dormammu. He keeps repeating it as he is killed but he keeps resetting time to just before he makes his declaration and after the umpteenth time the Big Bad realizes this isn't some bequest or area he has any leverage in. He better listen to Doctor Strange or he will be trapped forever by Strange in a loop of Strange coming to him and Dormammu killing him.
  • These Are Things Man Was Not Meant to Know: Played with. Wong says there is "no forbidden knowledge in Kamar-Taj, only certain practices".
  • These Hands Have Killed: Due to his Hippocratic Oath, Strange is visibly distraught with having had to kill Lucian in their battle.
  • They Call Me Mr Tibbs: Stephen Strange is a medic, so he insists on being called "Doctor". All sorts of variations occur as a result.
  • Thinking Up Portals: The Sling Rings, brass-knuckle-like Relics, are essential tools of budding sorcerers, allowing them to form dimensional portals at will to anywhere they wish. It's how they get around the world quickly, and is a very powerful getaway method, hence why disabling or stealing a sorcerer's Sling Ring is a very important factor in magic fights.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: A few times, Strange recognizes that Dormammu is going to kill him in some horrible, painful way.
  • This Is the Part Where...: Happens when Strange kicks Christine out of his flat.
    Christine: There are other things that can give your life meaning.
    Doctor Strange: Like what? Like you?
    Christine: This is the part where you apologize.
    Doctor Strange: This is the part where you leave.
  • This Is Your Brain on Evil: The way Kaecilius and his followers draw power from the Dark Dimension is not healthy for their bodies and even less so for their sanity.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Strange kills one of Kaecilius's zealots in self-defense during battle and is deeply disturbed by it. As a doctor, he swore an oath to save lives, and applies that idea to super heroics.
    Doctor Strange: When I became a doctor, I swore an oath to do no harm. And I have just killed a man! I'm not doing that again—I became a doctor to save lives, not take them!
  • Thwarted Coup de Grâce: When Strange crawls helplessly on the floor of the New York sanctum, a mook walks up behind him to perform a Coup de Grâce, but Strange's cape disables him Just in Time.
  • Time Crash: Mordo and Wong warn Strange that toying with the Eye of Agamotto too much may cause time to branch out, essentially creating a whole bunch of these. Strange almost causes this while first playing around with it, but is quickly stopped by Mordo and Wong before anything bad happens.
    Karl Mordo: Temporal manipulations can create branches in time. Unstable dimensional openings. Spatial paradoxes! Time loops! You wanna get stuck reliving the same moment over and over forever... or never having existed at all?
  • Time Is Dangerous: When Stephen is caught experimenting with the Eye of Agamotto, he is quickly chided by his mentors regarding its dangers, which include preventing one's own birth or getting stuck in a time loop.
  • Time Loop Trap: When Strange confronts Dormammu to bargain for Earth's safety, he uses the time stone create a loop where the two are trapped until Strange releases them. No matter what Dormammu does the loop just continues to reset. Since Dormammu has no concept of time, he has no knowledge of how to escape the trap and after killing Strange many, many times without success, eventually concedes to Strange's demands to leave the Earth alone.
  • Time Master: The Eye of Agamotto is revealed to be the Time Stone and is able to bestow a sufficiently advanced user, like Strange, with the power to manipulate the flow of time almost at will.
  • Time Stands Still: This is Kaecilius's goal: He strives for a world without suffering, death, destruction, or hardship. What he really means is that he wants Dormammu to incorporate Earth into his dimension—as time doesn't exist in Dormammu's dimension, time suddenly stopping is how it would appear to an observer on Earth. Well, one immune to Dormammu's effects anyway.
  • Time Travel Taboo: A similar principle is brought up in the movie, where time-based sorcery is considered forbidden among the Masters of the Mystic Arts, with the Eye of Agamotto their most powerful relic used to house and control the green Infinity Stone (also called the Time Stone) being their most valuable relic. They explain that tampering with the space-time continuum is considered a violation of natural law, the Masters themselves existing to protect such laws.
  • To Be Lawful or Good: While Doctor Strange is willing to bend rules for the safety of the world if he needs to, Mordo doesn't agree with doing so at all, especially when it comes to manipulating the Laws of Nature and using the power of the Dark Dimension.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Of course Strange is arrogant enough to think he can speed on an ess bend while talking on the phone and planning surgeries.
  • Too Spicy for Yog-Sothoth: It seems Dormammu, being the lord of a dimension beyond time, space, and death, doesn't know how to deal with the concept of time.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Strange himself. Early in the movie, he's instantly beaten by a trio of thugs armed with nothing but their fists and feet. At the very end, he is willing to endure a repeated cycle of painful deaths in order to keep the Earth safe from Dormammu.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Strange starts the movie as an arrogant jerkass who's focused on wealth and fame. By the end, he's willing to endure an eternity of anonymous torment if that's what it takes to save humanity from Dormammu. One of the first things he does is humiliate Nic in front of the rest of the doctors. Then, when the Ancient one is dying, he realizes he can't perform the surgery and asks Nic to do it.
  • Tragic Keepsake: An underplayed example with Strange's wristwatch. It's the only valuable thing left in his possession, and he's very attached to it, even trying to fight against a gang of thugs for it. He keeps it throughout his training, but doesn't wear it, and him putting it on by the end of the film is a sign that he's finally moved past his injury. Another thing is that it is revealed to be a personal gift from Christine, so it also serves as a reminder of their lost love. It's broken because it's the watch he picked out in the beginning because it was a gift from Christine.
  • Training from Hell: A downplayed example. The training regime shown in the film isn't particularly harsh but when Strange keeps on complaining that his trembling hands keep him from casting spells, the Ancient One decides to leave him in the freezing cold of the Himalayas and forces him to open his own portal to get back before he freezes to death. Mordo's terrified expression tells us that this is not the first time she has done something like this, either. Mordo himself is a friendly teacher but still aggressively attacks Strange while the two are sparring, telling him to fight as if his own life depends on it (because someday it might).
  • Trauma Conga Line: Strange's life after his injury. His hands perpetually tremble, he loses his job, then goes through seven very painful and very experimental surgeries to try and regain control over his hands, all of which fail, spends all of his money and then some — even selling off everything in his house except for a few pieces of furniture, then spends what little he has left on a one-way ticket to Kathmandu, and then, as he's looking for Kamar-Taj, he's assaulted for his watch and knocked down. Only the timely intervention of Mordo saves him.
  • Truth in Television: Obviously there are arrogant Jerkass doctors out there. Less obvious is the so-called celebrity doctors who are brilliant in part because they, like Stephen, use their discretion to refuse to take cases they don't think they can win.
  • Understatement: "This was a mistake." Said by Strange after Kaecilius has transformed New York City into an Escheresque nightmare, thanks to Strange summoning the Mirror Dimension. Topped off by an exasperated stare from Mordo.
  • Unskilled, but Strong: Strange shows an amazing talent for the Mystic Arts, but he ends the movie still very far from knowing much about the broader multiverse, its history, and its threats.
    Wong: You might have a gift for the Mystic Arts, but you still have much to learn.
  • Urban Fantasy: The movie tells a Lovecraft Lite of magic and eldritch terror in modern day. Also played for laughs when Mordo hands Strange a piece of paper with the word "Shamballa" written on it after Strange begins his training to become a Sorcerer.
    Doctor Strange: Well, what's this, my mantra?
    Karl Mordo: It's the WiFi password. We're not savages.
  • Victorious Loser: Strange could never win against Dormammu directly, and indeed is quickly dispatched within moments. That's fine, because Strange has locked them both into a Time Loop Trap, and is willing to suffer death over and over to keep Dormammu from invading the Earth. Eventually, Dormammu caves and agrees to bargain.
  • Victory by Endurance: Strange uses the Eye of Agamotto to establish a time loop in the Dark Dimension (where time otherwise does not exist), and traps himself and Dormammu within it. He refuses to release them until he can bargain for the safety of the Earth. Although Dormammu can and does easily destroy Strange, the loop resets with each death. This lasts until Dormammu has had enough and begs Strange to end the time loop.
  • Villain Has a Point: Mordo is going full Knight Templar on sorcerers, but he isn't wrong that people bending their rules and playing with the natural laws is rife with consequences.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Dormammu realizes that he is captured in a Time Loop Trap with no means of escape and unable to kill Strange. Since he has had no concept of time before now, he has no defense against this trap and eventually agrees to bargain with Strange for his release.
  • Violence Is Not an Option: Occurs during the climax: Strange hasn't got a prayer against Dormammu in direct combat, so he has to rely on an alternative method. Strange seals himself and Dormammu in a Time Loop Trap and everytime time he kills Strange, the loop resets. So instead Dormammu has to bargain for his freedom.
  • Walk and Talk: An early scene shows Strange and Christine walking down the hospital corridor talking about personal matters which lasts for almost a minute.
  • We Can Rule Together: Kaecilius tries to convince Strange to join his side in the New York Sanctum. It's ultimately subverted, as he was only trying to distract Strange so that one of his followers could get a sneak attack in.
  • Wham Line: One revealing the true nature of the Eye of Agamotto:
    Wong: Wise choice. You'll wear the Eye of Agamotto, once you've mastered its powers. Until then, best not to walk the streets wearing an Infinity Stone.
  • Wham Shot: During her face-off against Kaecilius, the Ancient One is shown with the brand of the Dark Dimension upon her forehead, which challenges not only her earlier words regarding the downsides to immortality, but also Mordo and Strange's faith in her.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: After the initial battle with the Ancient One, Kaecilius escapes with five Zealots. But then in the scene where they're in the church receiving Dormammu's power, he only has four. If you're wondering where the fifth guy went, Kaecilius killed him in a Deleted Scene for questioning him and losing faith.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Wong and Mordo come in when Strange starts the ritual to connect with the Dark Dimension, screaming at him to stop and telling him his curiosity could have gotten him killed.
    • Strange and the Ancient One trade very pointed barbs after the battle at the New York Sanctum. She reminds him of his overwhelming arrogance, that he didn't become a physician to save lives, but for wealth and fame. He tells her that he knows how she earned immortality, by using the power of the Dark Dimension in violation of the Mystic Order's laws. She tells him how he was a hypocrite, he tells her that she is a hypocrite.
  • When Dimensions Collide: Near the finale, Strange introduces a normally timeless character to the concept of time he explicitly brings with him from Earth. The prospect of being stuck in an endless time-loop is so terrifying that the big bad agrees to leave the Earth in peace and take his minions with him.
  • Who's Laughing Now?: After trapping Kaecilius into the Mirror Dimension while in the New York Sanctum, Strange says "Who's laughing now, asshole?" Kaecilius responds, "I am," and proceeds to use his own magic to stop Strange.
  • Who's on First?: We have the exchange below which becomes a bit of Running Gag as the movie progresses:
    Kaecilius: How long have you been at Kamar-Taj, Mister...
    Doctor Strange: Doctor.
    Kaecilius: Mister Doctor?
    Doctor Strange: It's "Strange".
    Kaecilius: Maybe. Who am I to judge?
  • With Great Power Comes Great Perks: Strange isn't much interested in putting his powers to any serious use until he literally has no other choice; until then, he masters the art of opening teleportation portals by stealing books from the library and uses his astral projection to read said books while his physical body sleeps. Granted, he's still a student at the time, but the prospect of fighting interdimensional threats definitely doesn't appeal to him when it's brought up.
  • Wizarding School: Kamar-Taj is a temple Hidden in Plain Sight in Kathmandu, Nepal where the Ancient One and the Masters of the Mystic Arts live. There, ordinary men and women whom the Ancient One considers worthy are taught to draw energy from other dimensions into the form of magic, learning Supernatural Martial Arts and various other forms of sorcery. Students are allowed the option to leave with what they learned if they want (as was the case with Jonathan Pangborn) or stay and defend Earth's dimension from anything that seeks to threaten it. Kamar-Taj is one of the rare examples of the trope that is a school for adults.
  • Wolverine Publicity:
  • Words Do Not Make The Magic: Dr. Strange quickly realizes that if he imitated the other wizards' gestures by rote, he would be just "waving [his] hands around", and that he needs "study and practice, years of it" to become proficient in magic. However, he doesn't take the next step and realize that imitating the gestures exactly isn't necessary, and that his damaged hands aren't the obstacle he thinks they are, until Master Hamir demonstrates that he can cast spells just fine with a missing hand.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: When the Ancient One explains how she healed Pangborn to Strange in a way that he'd understand, he misinterprets this and assumes she's a scientist who has figured out the secret of cellular regeneration and is hiding in Kathmandu to keep her research secret from the medical authorities. She quickly explains to him that he couldn't be further off the mark.
  • Xanatos Gambit: Strange vs. Dormammu. Either Dormammu remains in the Time Loop Trap killing/torturing Strange, in which case Earth is safe because he's unable to harm anyone other than Strange, or Dormammu agrees to bargain, removing the threat he poses to Earth.
  • You Are Not Ready: Even though Doctor Strange is destined for the role of Sorcerer Supreme, by the end of the movie it is made clear that he's not there yet and is, at best, the Master of the New York sanctum.
    Wong: You might have a gift for the mystical arts, but you still have much to learn.
  • You Are Too Late: In a unique twist for the climax to a superhero movie, the heroes arrive too late to stop the destruction of the Hong Kong Sanctum and the incursion of the Dark Dimension has already begun. However, Doctor Strange has the Time Stone and decides to use it to reverse the incursion even though it violates the natural order. The battle then becomes one of steadily undoing what has already happened until it reaches a singular point where Strange now has a chance to stop it.
  • You Cannot Grasp the True Form: As confirmed by Word of God, Dormammu as he appears isn't what he truly looks like, as he has no real form in his own realm, so takes on a vague mimicry of Strange's form as an insult.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: While The Ancient One is able to look through time, to prevent all the terrible potential futures she foresees, she can only ever see up to a certain point. She believes this is the point at which she will die. She was right.
  • You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!: Dr. Palmer says "Are you kidding me?" on Strange's second visit to her hospital, bringing the dying Ancient One, after Strange's magic had already disrupted her day before.
  • Zen Slap: When Strange first meets the Ancient One and rants against her talk of mystical things, she smacks him in the chest in a way that triggers his first Astral Projection, during which he is flung through various exotic universes and sees that she was telling the truth.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Doctor Strange


The Time Stone

The Eye of Agamotto is one of the most powerful mystical relics on Earth, an artifact that can harness the power of time with the Time Stone. In the hands of a capable sorcerer like Doctor Strange, it can be used to thwart disaster.

How well does it match the trope?

4.83 (18 votes)

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Main / TimeMaster

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