Doctor Strange's Powers: How They Work, And What They Can Do

Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) blasts red energy binds in Avengers Infinity War

Dr. Stephen Strange only made his debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe less than five years ago, but in that time he has successfully been established as one of the most powerful heroes in the canon. Between Doctor Strange, his cameo in Thor: Ragnarok, Avengers: Infinity War, and Avengers: Endgame, he has shown off some remarkable and unique skills that have successfully saved the universe multiple times. He has performed some fascinating things with his use of magic – and his abilities are most definitely worth deeper exploration.

It’s with that in mind that I have put together this handy guide breaking down the powers of Doctor Strange in the MCU. Examining both how he does what he does, and also what he has done, hopefully you’ll gain an even deeper appreciation of the character, and even further anticipate his upcoming adventures in Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness.

Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) reads a spell book in Doctor Strange

Doctor Strange’s Core Powers And How They Work

If I wanted to be cheeky we could just conclude this feature with one word – Magic! – but since Doctor Strange’s powers are a tad bit more complicated than that in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ll do my job and properly break it down for you:

Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) casts a spell in Doctor Strange


Principally, the use of magic in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is through recitation of an ancient language that, according to the Ancient One, the original users called “spells.” It’s a language that’s spoken not so much verbally as it is through specific articulated gestures performed by a sorcerer’s hands. Upon his arrival at the Nepal-based magic school Kamar-Taj, Stephen Strange finds this particularly complicated given the damaged nerves in his hands, but his impressive intelligence eventually allows him to pick up the practice.

The information about these spells are kept in books that are stored in the library at Kamar-Taj, and require deep study for usage. It’s really how much knowledge of the magic one can properly memorize that determines one’s power level as a sorcerer, as Stephen Strange is particularly adept because he possesses a natural photographic memory (which he boasts is what allowed him to earn a master’s degree and a medical degree simultaneously).

Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) fires red binds in Avengers: Infinity War

Conjuring Energy

When a spell is properly practiced, what it does in practical terms is draw energy from across the multiverse into a sorcerer’s hands. Exactly what the energy is used for depends on the spell that is being exercised, but based on what we’ve seen just so far in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (as further explored below) there is a suggestion that the possibilities may be endless.

Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) looks at the Cloak of Levitation in Doctor Strange

Using Magical Relics

This is certainly the most basic aspect of Doctor Strange’s powers. Practicing magic gives one the capacity to be attuned to particular relics, and utilize them by imbuing them with magical energy. These relics, of course, come in all shapes, sizes, and varieties, and can be trinkets, weapons, clothing, jewelry, and more. Each one seems to have its own set of rules that must be learned, but there are a wide variety of them kept at hand by the Master of the Mystic Arts at Kamar-Taj and in the New York Sanctum Sanctorum.

Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) creates multiple forms in Avengers: Infinity War

The Biggest And Best Uses of Doctor Strange's Powers

Mixing the three elements listed above, Doctor Strange has been able to perform some phenomenal feats during his short time in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – and while there are far too many to list all of them, there are individual uses of his abilities that demand recognition and highlighting:

Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) creates a portal in Avengers Infinity War

Doctor Strange Can Open Portals

Arguably the coolest magical device in all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the sling ring – which is the piece of jewelry that Doctor Strange is given at the start of his training at Kamar-Taj. With the ring and the right gestures, he has the ability to open up a portal to… well, anywhere. It makes travel a breeze not only when moving around places on Earth, but also when accessing other dimensions.

Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) uses an energy sword in Avengers Infinity War

He Can Conjure Weapons And Shields

During a fight, Doctor Strange is definitely a hero that you want on your side, as in some ways his capacity is only limited by his imagination and speed. Using conjured energy, he can create a wide variety of weapons – including whips, swords, and more – and also generate powerful shields and walls that can be used to protect himself and his teammates. He does both of these things frequently, but most notably (thus far) in Doctor Strange and Avengers: Infinity War.

Thor (Chris Hemsworth) drinks a magic beer in Thor: Ragnarok

Doctor Strange Can Manipulate Matter

You know Doctor Strange is doing something cool when you start seeing sparks of orange on the big screen, but not all of his powers are that visible. With properly-executed waves of his hands presumably learned from a spell book, he can also move and contain all varieties of matter – whether that means refilling Thor’s mug of beer when he comes for a visit, or stopping a massive wall of water from flooding the battlefield in the climax of Avengers: Endgame.

Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) astral projects in Doctor Strange

He Can Project His Astral Form

While it’s technically forced upon him, learning to astral project is one of the first powers that Doctor Strange learns during his time with The Ancient One. While his body remains dormant, he is able to access the astral dimension, and while that in part means that he is able to float around the world and observe time and space in his own world without being seen, it’s also a form he can use to traverse other realities.

Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) flies in Avengers Infinity War

Doctor Strange Can Fly

Not every sorcerer has the ability to fly, but Doctor Strange is special because of his relationship with the Cloak Of Levitation. It’s not a sartorial piece that can be worn by just anyone, as it specifically chooses the individuals worthy of having it draped across their shoulders, and Dr. Stephen Strange happens to be one of those individuals (as depicted in Doctor Strange). It proves to be advantageous during conflict, and also as an emotional support system when needed – able to comfort and wipe away tears.

Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) looks at possible futures in Avengers: Infinity War

He Can Manipulate Time

With Thanos destroying the Time Stone and Captain America returning the one taken from The Ancient One, this isn’t really a power that Doctor Strange can exercise anymore, but he used it to such amazing effect in his solo movie and Avengers: Infinity War that it deserves recognition. His powerful magical abilities allowed him to manipulate the ancient ingot, and by extension he could make time function forward and backward simultaneously, create time loops, and even view millions of alternate futures.

Ebony Maw reaches for the TIme Stone in Avengers: Infinity War

And He Can Protect Objects

Sometimes a Master Of The Mystic Arts is charged with protecting powerful and sacred objects from individuals who would use them for dangerous means, but a protection spell can be cast to stop that from happening. We see a perfect example of this in the opening act of Avengers: Infinity War, as Doctor Strange is able to prevent Ebony Maw from ripping the Eye Of Agamotto from around his neck – stopping Thanos from getting access to the Time Stone inside.

If you’re hungry now to watch Doctor Strange do what he does even more in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you should know that you won’t have to wait too much longer to be satiated. Sam Raimi’s Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness is one of the earliest films on the franchise’s massive Phase 4 slate, and it will be arriving in theaters on March 25, 2022.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.