Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them, the latest instalment in JK Rowling’s wizarding world is almost upon us, and with recent news breaking that this is going to become a five film franchise, it seems us Muggles will have plenty of magic to keep us ticking over for a long time… or at least whilst we wait for the inevitable film version of hit stage play Harry Potter & The Cursed Child – come on, it’s bound to happen right?!
For over 10 years, the Harry Potter film franchise delighted audiences young and old, as the pages of Rowling’s hit books were brought to life across eight epic films. Everyone has their favourites, but here for your reading pleasure is the absolutely correct and 100% official* ranking of all the Harry Potter movies so far!
*Just kidding, this is all opinion, and you of course are entitled to yours!
Spoilers ahead for all the Harry Potter movies!
8. Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets (2002)
Despite arguably being the closest in terms of book to film adaptation, it suffers greatly from the “difficult second album syndrome”. The first film had to deal out heavy amounts of exposition in order to establish this world, which is fairly essential for the first movie in a series, even when there is the familiar book source material behind it. However, where the exposition was somewhat necessary in The Philosopher’s Stone, in The Chamber of Secrets it feels like it really drags the film down. It’s laden with unnecessary exposition and set-up which it could really do without by this point.
It’s tonally a little all over the place as well and has an over-reliance on slapstick comedy which lessens some of the more serious events which occur later. There’s cakes being dropped on family friends, hijinks in a flying car, a run-in with a violent tree, pixies running riot, people turning into cats, and it’s all just a little bit too much. There’s a pretty serious and interesting plot-thread about a murderous giant snake who seems to only be targeting those whose magical bloodline isn’t entirely pure, but when this is being treated as a subplot, there’s quite clearly something that has gone awry. It suffers even more so when you know how great the film’s get afterwards, and where the first film can get away with nostalgic childhood whimsy, by the time Chamber rolls round, it starts to wear a little thin.
7. Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince (2009)
The way most of this film plays out, you wouldn’t think that a major character death was going to occur at the end, and the entire course of the series would reach a drastic turning point from then onwards. It all feels a little “middle of the series” rather than driving us purposefully towards the dramatic conclusion, and the focus is weirdly shone on Professor Slughorn’s Slug Club (it is a thing!), whoever Ginny Weasley is dating this week, and a really petty squabble between Ron and Harry. It picks up towards the end when the quest for the Deathly Hallows begins, and Dumbledore’s shocking death is every bit as dramatic and devastating as it was in the books.
The Half-Blood Prince also rather shamefully glosses over a pretty salient point given the title, that being the identity of the Half-Blood Prince. It is revealed to be Snape, which was fairly obvious, but it is dealt with so off-hand that you’d be forgiven for thinking it wasn’t a super important thing, especially considering the Prince in question’s character arc over the next two films. No Harry Potter film is bad per se, but this easily slots into the bottom half of the movies in terms of quality.
6. Harry Potter & The Philosopher’s Stone (2001)
It’s all rather twee to look back on now, the acting is very “straight outta stage-school”, and the plot is not just “by-the-numbers”, but one which is served to you on a big silver platter with someone loudly stating the incredibly obvious things that are being presented to you simultaneously. It serves as a very interesting reference point for where it all began, and it is particularly interesting to look back on now, especially knowing how the three young leads develop into pretty fine actors as the films progress.
It is absolutely not a bad film, but one which when compared to what follows, doesn’t quite stack up. It’s a film which is best enjoyed with a childlike wonder, and a strong sense of looking back on old friends in more carefree days. The first sights of the wizarding world as seen through the eyes of young Harry, are still just as magical now as they were then. Embrace the twee, and this is still a film to watch fondly, and enjoy.
5. Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire (2005)
Also known as ‘Harry Potter & The Terrible Haircuts’, where the teenage angst and edginess of our not-so-young-anymore heroes was demonstrated by the fact that both Harry and Ron were going to see the same Wizard barber, who quite frankly did a pretty shoddy job with their barnets. There’s many things which go in this film’s favour, and it is quite nice to have a storyline which revolves around something different to the Potions lessons and Quidditch games that we’ve seen so far. It expands the magical world to show that Hogwarts isn’t the only Wizard School we should be submitting our applications to, and this adds an interesting layer of history and mythos into the world we’ve come to explore over the first three movies. It’s also the first movie in the series to give us a pretty major character death which really helps to up the stakes for the films to come.
It falls pretty much dead centre in this list, because it’s just fine really. There’s a little too much focus on the perils of Wizard dating which takes a little of the focus away from the real peril of Harry being set up to win the tournament and go to his death and the small matter of Voldemort returning, but it still makes for a pretty enjoyable watch. It also has a truly exceptional cameo appearance from Jarvis Cocker who fronts some kind of Wizard indie rock band, which ups it’s awesome factor, tenfold!
4. Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Part 1 (2010)
When watched as a whole, it would be very easy for The Deathly Hallows to top this list, but because of the all too common decision from studios to split final parts of franchises into two, the first part gets knocked a little further down the rankings. That’s not to say this film isn’t great – it really is – but rather that because it features the slightly less important part of the whole story, it’s impossible to put it much higher. Whereas Part 2 is the epic, emotional conclusion, Part 1 is heavier on plot and set-up; it’s purpose is pretty much to get the characters to where they need to be in order for the really exciting stuff to happen later. There’s some really beautiful moments in this film though which elevate the quality of it over some of Harry’s other exploits.
The dance scene between Harry and Hermione set to the haunting Nick Cave song, ‘O Children’, is a moving interlude for both characters and audiences; a tender moment between two friends as they try to make the most of the incredibly dark situation they find themselves in. There’s also a gorgeous animated sequence as Hermione narrates the story ‘The Tale of the Three Brothers’; kudos to Framestore for the incredible visuals and Emma Watson for a flawlessly delivered monologue. It remains as one of the standout scenes across all the films, and it’s wonderful to see something so fresh being utilised so well, this late into a film franchise which pretty much had it’s formula nailed by now.
3. Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix (2007)
Wisely trimming away a lot of the unnecessary chit-chat from the weighty 766 pages of the source material, The Order of the Phoenix film adaptation is a much better story as a result of this cut-throat editing. Whilst it’s not technically the half-way point for the movies, it does mark a very important turning point in the story. The arc of 1-4 was the return of Voldemort, and from this point on the focus is on what Voldemort does next, now that he’s back. Teased at the end of The Goblet of Fire, this is our first opportunity to really see Ralph Fiennes terrifying incarnation of Voldemort, and consequently the series continues in a much darker vein. This film is also notable for introducing us to evil in human form, Dolores Umbridge, deliciously played by Imelda Staunton.
Visually it is an altogether more impressive film as well, and the action scenes taking place in the Ministry of Magic are really quite spectacular. We also have the key plot point about the prophecy involving Harry and Voldemort revealed which once again acts as the catalyst for the direction that the films take from this point on. Where The Goblet of Fire introduced us to death in the Harry Potter universe by killing off Cedric Diggory, The Order of the Phoenix delivers a devastating blow with the death of Harry’s godfather Sirius Black, and things would never be the same again for Harry or for us.
2. Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Part 2 (2011)
Despite the fact this film is best enjoyed when watched as a whole with the first part, there is no denying that the sheer scale, devastating emotional moments, and the action-packed battle scenes, make this easily one of the best films in the Harry Potter series. It’s emotionally charged right from the off, and where the other films had introduced us to death in a fairly steady climb, this throws us right to the top of peak, delivering emotional blow after blow as the bodies start stacking up.
It’s strange to look back on the series and the innocence of where it started, and then where it gets to, and it’s impossible not to feel invested, having grown up with these characters and seen them develop and progress over the course of the films. Alexandre Desplat’s score is truly wonderful in this film, emotive and epic in equal measure, particularly during the Battle for Hogwarts scene. Amongst the big battle scenes and death, Deathly Hallows Part 2 still puts time aside to give us some quieter moments, and most notably in the flashbacks of Severus Snape, played of course by the late great Alan Rickman. Having gone on a pretty tumultuous journey with this character across all the movies, the place this character goes to, and the way this is portrayed is truly exceptional.
The only slight blemish on this film is the incredibly cheesy epilogue, however it is part of the story, and it’s understandable that it was kept in the films. On the whole however, this film is the most fitting of endings to a beloved film franchise, but regardless of that, it’s just a really great film.
1. Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
Whilst there’s many shifts and developments in the story across the eight films, Prisoner of Azkaban marked a much darker turn, both tonally and visually. With the exit of Chris Columbus following the first two films, the warm tones and colour are swapped for a much darker colour palette, and a black vignette clouding the screen, courtesy of Alfonso Cuarón who took over directorial duties. The change in direction and this slightly murkier focus was absolutely necessary, as it also takes a darker turn story wise as wizard chess and flying cars shifts to the hunt for a supposedly dangerous serial killer who is on the loose and looking for Harry! If this wasn’t enough, we also meet the Dementors, the fearsome guardians of the titular prison, who feed on happy memories and perform a particularly nasty procedure which involves sucking out a person’s soul. Yes, this is still a film aimed at families!
The time-turner sequence is also exceptional, and an easy to digest example of time travel paradoxes. Again, yes this is still a family film! This film (and indeed the book) consistently features fairly high up on people’s list of favourite Harry Potter stories, and it’s not hard to see why. It is beautifully shot, the story is interesting and engaging, and it is arguably the oldest Harry Potter film that you can go back and watch now without cringing about how twee and “stage-school” the acting is! It introduces some future key players in later films as well, and even after the five films which followed it, it still easily tops the list.
Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them is set for release this week so keep tuned in to Filmoria for our review at the end of the week.