11 Motivational Doctor Strange Quotes to Inspire Every Marvel Fan
Doctor Strange isn’t only a Master of the Mystic Arts, he and his supporting cast are also masters of motivation.
Following Tony Stark’s sacrifice in Avengers: Endgame, it wasn’t Nick Fury or even Spider-Man who became the new axis of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Instead, it seems Doctor Strange is now at the center of the MCU.
Equipped with vast magical knowledge and the best of intentions, the Master of the Mystic Arts has defeated adversaries, doled out advice and altered the very fabric of reality. Along the way, he and his allies and enemies have summoned some motivational Doctor Strange quotes.
Beginning with Doctor Strange, the 2016 origin film that introduced the Sorcerer Supreme to the MCU, Stephen Strange has safeguarded Earth from magical threats. He’s also unleashed some of his own. But in between, and sometimes during mystical crises, Doctor Strange and his supporting cast have provided their share of words of wisdom.
Here are 11 of the most inspirational Doctor Strange quotes, from the MCU and Marvel Comics.
‘You cannot beat a river into submission.’ – the Ancient One
Full quote: “You cannot beat a river into submission; you have to surrender to its current, and use its power as your own.”
Marvel Studios’ 2016 film Doctor Strange tells the superhero origin of Stephen Strange, a brilliant but arrogant neurosurgeon whose hands are severely injured in a car crash, seemingly ending his career. After he’s unable to find a cure in modern medicine, he travels to Kathmandu, Nepal, and the Kamar-Taj, home to the Masters of the Mystic Arts. Their leader, the Sorcerer Supreme known as the Ancient One, then accepts Strange as her student.
He soon becomes frustrated by his perceived physical limitations, as his injured hands hinder his ability to create dimensional gateways. The Ancient One cautions her pupil about the futility of working against a river (here, magic). However, the quote easily can be viewed as a more elegant taken on, “Work smarter, not harder.” Don’t fight the current; accept it, and then turn it to your advantage.
‘We’re in the endgame now.’ – Doctor Strange
With the fate of the universe at stake in Avenges: Infinity War, Doctor Strange, Iron Man and their allies fight Thanos on the planet Titan to stop him from securing the fifth of six Infinity Stones. Protected by the Sorcerer Supreme himself, the Time Stone is essential to Thanos’ plan to bring “balance” to the universe. Yet, Doctor Strange hands it over willingly, in exchange for the Mad Titan sparing the life of Tony Stark. “We’re in the endgame now,” Strange offers as explanation.
The line not only hinted at the title of Infinity War‘s sequel and launched countless internet memes, it introduced a chess term into everyday conversation. In the strategy game, the endgame is when only a few pieces remain on the board; in some instances, the outcome is already known.
Such was the case in Infinity War, where Doctor Strange used the Time Stone to view 14,000,605 alternate futures, including the one in which the heroes defeat Thanos. However, that victory could only be achieved through great sacrifice.
‘We never lose our demons … We only learn to live above them’ – the Ancient One
With a name like the Ancient One, it’s little surprise the Sorcerer Supreme has more than a few words of wisdom to share. In fact, she’s responsible for some of the most powerful Doctor Strange quotes.
A prime example in Marvel’s 2016 film is when her uncompromising pupil, Karl Mordo, addresses the Ancient One’s initial reluctance to teach Stephen Strange, out of fear of losing another student to darkness. “You didn’t lose me,” Mordo reminds his mentor. “I wanted the power to defeat my enemies. You gave me the power to defeat my demons.”
The Ancient One’s response is succinct and effective, and reaches beyond the magical corners of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Perhaps surprisingly, here the Ancient One isn’t referring to literal demons (although the MCU has its share), but, instead, personal ones.
‘I carefully choose my battles. I fight those I can win.’ – Doctor Strange
Full quote: “I have been accused of being unrelenting. Merciless. Perhaps I am. For I have looked into that heart of darkness. I know the chill of evil. I have clearly seen that, no matter what, sometimes the night cannot be kept at bay. So I carefully choose my battles. I fight those I can win. And make sure the ones I can’t win are worth dying for.”
If asked to come up with one word to describe Doctor Strange, many would probably say “arrogant”; or “aloof”; or, after the events of Spider-Man: No Way Home and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, maybe “reckless.” Those are all fair enough. However, he is also unrelenting; he has to be, because so are the magical threats he faces.
As influential writer/artist Jim Starlin detailed in a short story in Marvel: Shadows & Light (1996), Doctor Strange can only fulfill his role as protector of Earth by carefully selecting his battles. He can’t fight, or win, every one. And so he must make difficult choices.
Although few of us will ever wage campaigns of good versus evil, or life and death — unless we count the refrigerator in the break room — the sentiment holds, nonetheless: Not every fight is winnable. Sometimes you have to choose your battles.
‘Time is the true enemy of all of us.’ – Kaecilius
Full quote: “People think in terms of good and evil, but really, time is the true enemy of us all. Time kills everything.”
Heroes aren’t the only ones who can inspire. Every once in a while, a villain can provide some great motivational words, even if unintentionally. Take, for example, Kaecilius, the primary antagonist of Marvel’s Doctor Strange.
A former Master of the Mystic Arts, Kaecilius became disillusioned with the order, and its leader, after the Ancient One failed in her promise to help find meaning in the deaths of his wife and son. Kaecilius and his followers subsequently sought to bring the cosmic entity Dormammu and his Dark Dimension to Earth, and, in the process, achieve immortality.
Clearly not a fan of small gestures, Kaecilius is responsible for one of the best Doctor Strange quotes, a grand pronouncement about the relentlessness of time. Sure, it’s self-serving, as he uses is to try to re-frame his ruthless acts. However, if you can set that aside, there’s value in the realization that time — or, rather, our inability to manage it — is a major obstacle to achieving our goals.
‘Forget everything you think you know.’ – Baron Mordo
Full quote: “I once stood in your place. And I, too, was… disrespectful. So, might I offer you some advice? Forget everything you think you know.”
When neurosurgeon Stephen Strange journeys to Kathmandu, Nepal, in Doctor Strange in search of a mystical cure for his injured hands, he’s guided by Karl Mordo to what he seeks: Kamar-Taj, home of the Masters of the Mystic Arts. However, the unassuming entrance — faded wooden doors that open onto a dingy alleyway — isn’t what Strange expects for the portal to the fabled house of wisdom.
Mordo offers some sage advice that certainly applies to everyone, not only those who seek the knowledge of the Masters of the Mystic Arts. It’s a call to abandon preconceptions, and embrace the daunting idea that you may not know as much as you think. It’s difficult to imagine a better Doctor Strange motivational quote for beginning a major new life experience.
‘I believe observation and knowledge must precede action.’ – Doctor Strange
Avengers: Infinity War aside, the Doctor Strange of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is hardly a textbook example of forethought. Look no further than his 2016 solo film, and his appearances in Thor: Ragnarok and Spider-Man: No Way Home. However, it’s largely a different matter in Marvel Comics.
There, the Master of the Mystic Arts is traditionally depicted as far less impetuous than his big-screen counterpart. In the comics, the longtime Sorcerer Supreme relies upon his intellect, and his vast collection of magical texts and artifacts, to create winning strategies. This Doctor Strange doesn’t merely charge into a fight.
That explains why he appears out of nowhere in Daredevil Annual Vol. 3 #1, by Alan Davis, to provide exposition about a minor opponent before delivering his own take on “Look before you leap.” Maybe this Doctor Strange should have a chat with his MCU counterpart.
‘Sometimes one must break the rules in order to serve the greater good.’ – the Ancient One
One of the biggest twists of Marvel’s Doctor Strange is that the Sorcerer Supreme, the Ancient One, extended her life for centuries by drawing power from the Dark Dimension. It’s a violation of the rules governing the Masters of the Masters of the Mystic Arts and, as Karl Mordo would attest, a transgression against natural law.
Whether the Ancient One is clear-eyed in her role or merely attempting to rationalize her actions, she tells Stephen Strange, “I’ve hated drawing power from the Dark Dimension.” When her new pupil rightly points out the intransigent Mordo won’t view her behavior the same way, the dying Ancient One tells Strange, “He needs your flexibility, just as you need his strength,” to succeed in their mission to protect Earth.
That, and not a reckless disregard for the rules, may be the true lesson of this Doctor Strange quote. Sometimes a task requires a partnership between someone who follows the rules and someone who delights in breaking them.
‘Impossible? I’ve learned never to use that word in my line of work.’ – Doctor Strange
When you’re Sorcerer Supreme, sworn to protect Earth from mystical threats, it’s not wise to discount something as “impossible.” However, one doesn’t have to be a Master of the Mystic Arts to embrace that sentiment.
Launched ahead of the release of the 2016 film, the fourth volume of Marvel Comics’ Doctor Strange, by writer Jason Aaron and artist Chris Bachalo, focused on the true cost of magic to the Master of the Mystic Arts. After Strange uncovers the murders of Sorcerers Supreme across 17 dimensions (and counting!) in Issue 4, he suggests to his newly hired librarian, Zelma Stanton, that a “dead” mystical book may be simply another victim of the killer, who seeks to murder magic itself.
A wide-eyed Zelma dismisses the idea of murdering magic as impossible, but her employer knows otherwise: Few things are impossible.
‘The bill comes due. Always!’ – Baron Mordo
Full quote: “You think there will be no consequences, Strange? No price to pay? We broke our rules, just like her. The bill comes due. Always!”
Karl Mordo’s advice in Doctor Strange to “Forget everything you think you know” is an almost-reassuring welcome into the unknown. However, his later reminder about consequences is one few — including Stephen Strange — want to hear, and even fewer tend to heed.
The warning arrives in the film’s finale, after Doctor Strange defeats the dark entity Dormammu. However, Mordo views Strange’s tactics as a disregard for nature’s law.
Although in this instance, most would likely agree the “greater good” argument prevails — the fates of Earth and the entire multiverse were at stake! — Mordo is right in at least on respect: Actions almost always have consequences. It’s perhaps not the most uplifting Doctor Strange quote, but it’s undoubtedly a motivational one.
‘Some things can’t be avoided… Some things just have to be faced.’ – Doctor Strange
Full quote: “Some things are beyond magic and medicine. Some things can’t be avoided… Some things just have to be faced.”
In Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #5 (2019), by writer Tom Taylor and artist Yildiray Cinar, Peter Parker is confronted by one of his greatest threats yet: the mortality of a loved one. Asked to accompany May Parker to her first chemotherapy treatment, Peter insists he’s to busy. He throws himself into his superhero work, but discovers there’s no escape.
After he inadvertently breaks the wrist of a teen, Peter seeks the medical aid of Doctor Strange, and raises the possibility the Sorcerer Supreme might help Aunt May. Strange concedes there are potential mystical solutions, but they likely come with dire consequences. Instead, the Master of the Mystic Arts suggests, some problems must be faced head-on. It’s perhaps the most relatable Doctor Strange quote, and the most applicable to everyday life (well, minus the magic).