I know, I know. You’d think this would be a battle between Gandalf and that one wizard from the Harry Potter books who looks a lot like him because everybody is always comparing the two. And I suppose it would be, except what is that wizard’s name anyway?
Also: Two Ian McKellans! You can’t go wrong with that.
On to the battle!
Physicality. Gandalf is a wizard in the Lord of the Rings who looks pretty much the way you’d expect a wizard to do, with the bonus of being portrayed by Ian McKellan.
Magneto is a master of magnetism, who, like many a robot before him, hates puny humans. Also, he has the bonus of being portrayed by Ian McKellan. Both these guys look like Ian McKellan, so it’s a tie, right? Not so fast, friend! Magneto was played by that one guy in the prequel, who was hot, but not so hot, apparently, that I can remember his name. Still, he was pretty hot.
More powerful? Magneto, as mentioned previously, is a master of magnetism. Which means blah blah blah science, he is practically all powerful. Also, he can kick Wolverine’s ass a lot, which is funny. Also, he has a cool (?) helmet that blocks Professor X’s mind control.
On the other hand, Gandalf is a powerful wizard. At first he’s a grey wizard, but then, after a battle against a flame monster, he becomes a white wizard somehow. (What? Yes, I didn’t read the books, as a matter of fact, why do you ask?) White wizards are something something magic, so he’s all powerful too. Although he doesn’t have the nifty helmet.
Winner? Gandalf, because magic beats science any day. Well, except in reality, but reality can go to hell.
Has a cooler entourage? It’s not like people (read as: mutants and wizards) as powerful as Magneto and Gandalf really have a lot of friends. No, they have followers. And who follows Magneto? Well, in the first X-Men movie, you’ve got Mystique, Sabretooth and Toad. Bonus points for Toad being played by Ray Park, a god among men.
In the second movie, it’s mostly Mystique, but then Johnny Whatsisname hooks up with them, so that’s cool, I guess. In the third movie, let’s pretend I had a stroke and never saw it.
Gandalf is part of a fellowship, some might say. The fellowship includes some hobbits, an extremely pretty elf with the superpower of arrowing you right in the brains…
…some human guy with a magic sword or something (What? Why, yes, I did kind of zone out during the movies, why do you ask?) and a dwarf. Bonus points for the dwarf being played by Jonathan Rhys Davies, a king among men.
Winner? The guy with all the mutants on his side: Magneto.
Fights a greater evil? Gandalf and his fellowship must face off against the mighty Sauron, who is so evil he manifests as a giant, hideous eye floating in the sky. That’s pretty evil, I guess. On the other hand, Magneto is the great evil that must be defeated in the X-Men movies and comic books. So, uh, winner? Gandalf.
Better costume? Gandalf’s costume is the traditional wizard garb of a flowing cloak and magic staff (or walking cane, I guess. I totally didn’t see the third movie at all). Magneto’s costume is the traditional evil villain garb of smashing black with a dandy cape. Also, he’s got that helmet.
Doesn’t murder any hobbits? You know, for an all-powerful being forced to spend so much time with those annoying little hobbits, Gandalf sure kills way less of them than you would think. The total is none, as far as I can tell, but if he goes on some sort of hobbit-murdering spree in the third movie, I’m sure someone will correct me in the comments. And insult my parentage. Magneto also doesn’t kill any hobbits, but he does kill a bunch of humans, so we’ll give this one to Gandalf. Winner? Gandalf.
Doesn’t have to deal with any hideous little henchmen? Sure, some people might think it’s hideous the way Toad uses his tongue for … well, everything, but those people have forgotten that he’s played by Ray Park and Ray Park wins at everything. Then you’ve got the third X-Men movie, which doesn’t exist. Moving right along, Gandalf has to put up with Gollum, one of the most hideous pieces of CGI ever put to film. Winner? Magneto.
Has better hair? Man, I’ll bet it takes Gandalf hours to comb all the tangles out. Winner? Gandalf.
The tiebreaker: Has a cooler means of transportation? Gandalf rides on a magical white horse, which is cool, because how does he keep that thing from getting dirty? (Magic, right?) On the other hand, Magneto uses the power of magnetism to fly, which I’m sure is totally scientifically possible.
Overall winner? Magneto, but it might have been Gandalf if I cared more about the source material.