“You’re a wizard, Harry.” It’s one of the most iconic lines from the most iconic book of our time. The Harry Potter series has been around for two decades and has influenced thousands of children all over the world. J.K Rowling, more than any other author, has created a book series that truly brings you to another world. In addition to the texts, Harry Potter has been adapted into a popular series of movies, which many fans praise just as highly as the books. Being a firm believer in “the book was better,” and a self-proclaimed Potterhead, I used to regard the movies with some disdain, believing they wouldn’t be able to do the book justice. While this was true in some cases, many of the movies are actually really good! In order to spare you from false expectations, I’ve ranked all eight Harry Potter films with these four things in mind; How good the movie was overall; how accurately the movie captures the essence of the book; the design of the sets and cinematography; and most importantly, how well the movie carries out the plot as a whole.
8. Deathly Hallows Pt. 1
Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows brings the beloved series to an end. In order to do the book justice, the story was split into two parts. This was done in order to preserve every part of the story - but it didn’t work as well as it could have. This movie felt extremely slow and tedious. Many scenes had no action and were simply just Ron, Harry, and Hermione sitting in the forest. Although this is accurate to the book, simply adding some dialogue could have turned these boring scenes into interesting ones. The story felt a bit rambling like there was no clear plot or finish. Because the movie covers only half a book, most of its duration is spent leading up to the second movie. Because of this, it felt like there was no clear point or end to the film. There was nothing significant to look forward to, and more time was spent establishing Ron and Hermione’s complicated romance than looking for Horcruxes. All in all, this movie was just. Very. Boring. There was nothing that gave it magic. The film gets a 4/10 for its lack of action and round-about plot.
7. Chamber of Secrets
Although this book was an amazing sequel to its predecessor, the movie was a letdown. The novel is one of the shortest books in the series, but the movie was over two and a half hours long. As I mentioned before, I’m a firm believer in “the book was better,” usually because the movie changes too many components. However, this film somehow managed to do the opposite - it stayed so true to the original that there was absolutely no sense of discovery or magic. There was simply too much crammed into one film, and many of the details were unnecessary and very slow. Instead of adapting the book to make sense on a screen, Chris Columbus seemed set on not missing a minute of Harry’s second year. However, that’s not to say that this was a bad movie - the sets were amazing, especially the Chamber of Secrets. Despite it only being made a year after “The Sorcerer’s Stone,” the CGI (computer-generated images) was much better and made everything feel more real. And there’s a flying car! What’s not to love about that? But even a flying car can’t mask the fact that this movie failed to compare to others in the series, so this film gets a 5.5/10 for a slow plot and boring progression.
6. Sorcerer’s Stone
This movie was released in 2001 and was the first Harry Potter film to be made. In order to live up to the amazing books, this movie would have to leave a great impression; and in my opinion, it did. It felt like being reintroduced to the wizarding world, seeing magic come to life, and watching the characters on screen. Norman Craig, the set designer, did an amazing job of bringing Hogwarts to life. The director Chris Columbus managed to gather an amazing cast and capture Rowling’s world in a pure and engaging manner. The foundation of friendship drives this film, and when combined with adventure and whimsy, it certainly provides a great base when watching all the Harry Potter films. However, the movie is not all amazing; it’s being told through the eyes of an eleven-year-old, so it’s bound to feel a bit childish, but the plot seems to turn a bit juvenile and shallow at times. When the book provides an opportunity for challenge and danger, the film takes away the sense of risk, diluting the experience. Plus, the CGI simply pales in comparison to later installments of this series. It gave the film an archaic feel, and from the eyes of a modern viewer, made everything feel outdated. Despite that, the film was generally magical and is not one to miss. This film gets a 6.5/10 for a childish outlook, but it successfully kicks off the series.
5. Goblet of Fire
Goblet of Fire is widely known for its expansion of the wizarding world, and it remains the favorite book in the series for many Potterheads. Because of its good reputation, even though the film was relatively good, it had so much potential to be great. On-screen, everything just feels a bit fake, like it’s just a big performance and not a real world. The details of the novel get very muddled in the film, and not everything comes through clearly. In the novel, Rowling writes, “ ‘Did you put your name in the Goblet of Fire, Harry? ‘ asked Dumbledore calmly.” In the movie, Dumbledore shouts in Harry’s face and practically pins him against the wall. It makes Dumbledore’s portrayal feel very intense and uncharacteristic. The action is very fast-paced, and the movie is packed with adventurous scenes that really advocate a great sense of danger. The Yule Ball goes on a bit too long, and takes up precious minutes that could have better been spent progressing the plot, but the dance does truly feel magical. The costumes are gorgeous and the portrayal of emotions is spot-on. On a different note, I wish it was Dobby that gave Harry his gillyweed. It would have expanded the viewer’s love for Dobby, but instead, we haven’t seen him since book two. This film gets a 7/10 for its slight inaccuracies but exciting challenges.
4. Half-Blood Prince
This movie would be amazing if not for the fact that it leaves out so much important information. It's understandable that they would slightly stray away from the book, but instead, it just simply leaves out details that are instrumental in driving the plot. In the book, Ron, Hermione, and Harry learn all about Horcruxes and the terrifying way that Voldemort used them, but the movie doesn’t dive deep into that. These details are instrumental for setting up the finale of the series, so by skimping those ideas, it falls on the already plot-heavy seventh and eighth movies to cover those facts. This movie should implement fear in the viewer, as they are introduced to the idea of indestructible power and other terrifying ideas, but it doesn’t. Despite that lapse ,there are still many amazing components to this film. It strips back all the fluff and shows the characters for what they really are - teenagers. By focusing on the ups and downs of relationships, friendships, and family, the characters become rootable and relatable. Also, the cinematography is the best of the series. The wizarding world used to be portrayed as casual and bright, but this movie turns it really dark, offering an important contrast between the past and present. Overall, this movie gets an 8/10 for relatable character growth and amazing design.
3. Order of the Phoenix
This film, more than any other, relies on dialogue. It relies on conversations between characters, and tension-filled discussions that allow us to discover even more about each and every character. All the previous movies rely on action scenes to carry the story over, so it’s refreshing to watch a movie that takes a step back from all the constant excitement. There are many parts of this movie that vividly capture the essence of the book - Umbridge’s personality is on point, and the internal dynamics between the members of The Order are exactly how the book depicts. The DA meetings are also interesting to watch - It stays centered on the rebellion behind the meetings, and a montage of Filch and the Inquisitor's Squad reinforces that idea of risk. However, there are a few things that are skimped over, such as the visit to St. Mungos. The hospital isn’t even shown in the movie, but it was such an interesting and broadening aspect of the book. Also, by not asking Ron and Hermione prefects in the film, it doesn’t allow Harry to develop his complex relationship with Dumbledore, because he doesn’t feel any envy. Despite that, this film gets an 8.5/10 for
2. Deathly Hallows Pt. 2
There were a lot of expectations riding on this movie, as it had only one goal: to end the franchise in the best way possible. To everyone’s pleasure, those expectations were not just being met but exceeded. The Deathly Hallows Pt. 2 doesn’t have a dull moment, and the whole film is packed with adventure. After not seeing Hogwarts at all in the previous film, returning to the beloved school makes for an amazing finale. The film is visually stunning, with incredible special effects and breathtaking set pieces. The action sequences are intense and exhilarating, and the emotional moments are handled with care and sensitivity. Every part of the movie is memorable, but nothing stands out more than the epic “Battle of Hogwarts.” It showcases the incredible talent of the cast and crew, and every moment leaves the viewer on the edge of their seats. The special effects and practical effects work together seamlessly to create a truly immersive experience and offer a satisfying end to the amazing series. This film gets a 9/10 for clear storytelling and an action-packed end.
1. Prisoner of Azkaban
This movie was, hands down, the best of the whole series. It was directed by Alfonso Cusaron, who won an Oscar for his film Roma. The Prisoner of Azkaban acts as a pivotal point in the Harry Potter series, when we begin to learn more about dark magic and turn away from the child-like fantasy of the other films. The actors really become their characters, and they seem so much more comfortable in their roles. The whole world on screen becomes a lot more believable. As far as the adaptation from the book, this movie does an amazing job of staying accurate to the original novel while adjusting things to better fit the film. There are even a few added details, which actually improve on the original plot! When Hermione and Harry go back in time, Hermione throws a snail shell at their past selves - this was a tiny detail, but it gave the movie so much more depth. The plot is fast and riveting, so if you’re a fan of quick-paced adventure, this movie is for you. In my opinion, it’s the best movie of the whole series and gets a 10/10.