It’s almost here. Five years ago, moviegoers worldwide said goodbye to our wizard friend Harry Potter. To many, 2011 marked the conclusion of a childhood journey that began in the late 1990s, and for millions, Harry Potter was a void that could not be filled.
We all knew either a sequel, prequel, or spinoff film or book series was inevitable, and in 2016, we were given both. On the theater side of things, we got Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a story that mostly followed Harry’s horribly-named son, Albus Severus Potter. On the film front, we will be getting Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. This film will be the first of five planned movies, all of which are set to be written by author J.K. Rowling and directed by longtime Potter director David Yates.
But before we dive into this bold, new world this weekend, I thought we could take a moment to reflect on the eight Harry Potter films. Which were great, which were good, and which were not so hot? Have a look below!
8. HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX
So this was weakest entry in the series, and perhaps the strangest adapted film in the franchise. The problems on this one are all over the place, but let’s start with director David Yates. This was Yates’ first of four Potter films he would ultimately direct, and it shows. He was still finding his sea legs, and was clearly trying to go in interesting new directions with the visual aesthetic, but in the process, it all came across a bit wonky. The CG was a bit odd, the acting was meh, and the comedy a bit forced.
This was also the only film in the franchise not to be adapted by Steve Kloves, and it didn't play off well. There’s streamlined storytelling, and then there’s this. Given that this was the longest book in the series, I can understand not wanting a beat-for-beat adaptation of the source material, but I’d at least like pacing and style to at least resemble what we read. Strangely enough, the longest book in the Potter series ended up as the shortest in the series (If you take into account that the last book consisted of two films). All in all, this was very much a casualty in the transition to Yates’ better work in future movies.
7. HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS
This film is by no means bad, but compared to most of the others, it doesn’t hold up as well. This was obviously the second film in the franchise, and as such, it was still trying to find itself. All in all, I’d say the tone, style, and filmmaking were all quite suitable for the source material, but there was one problem with this movie. It was too damn long.
Honestly, try and sit down to watch this movie again sometime soon. It starts off strong enough, but after about an hour, it’s real hard to sit still. It’s the second shortest book in the series, and somehow manages to be the longest movie, at around 2 hours and 42 minutes. That being said, I can't really fault the film too much, as it successfully captured what I imagined as I was reading the second book. But as a movie, it just didn't measure up to most others.
6. HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE
Don’t get me wrong, this is actually a solid flick. When this hit theaters back in 2001, I was thrilled as a fan. It faithfully converted my own vision from book to screen, and didn’t change anything. Literally, almost nothing is changed in this movie from the book. And while this is all good for fans of the books, it carries with it the same issues I have with The Chamber of Secrets. It’s too long.
This movie isn’t really Harry Potter the movie so much as it’s Harry Potter the Ride. If you decide to watch this movie again, imagine it as a ride at Harry Potter World, and it’ll forever change your mind. It doesn’t feel much like the narrative is actually driving the story. Instead, it’s like we’re riding through all the greatest hits of the book in a checklist. Again, it’s a great movie. But compared to the later ones, it doesn’t hold up quite a well.
5. HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS - PART 1
It was an interesting decision that the studio made to cut the final book in the series in half. In fact, it was the first film series to have this done. Other book-to-film series like The Hunger Games and Twilight followed suit in their own final books, but luckily for Harry Potter, the book was long enough to warrant being cut in half. This was around the time Yates had already established his style. It was dark. It was brooding. It was everything the source material required.
Like many Potter films, however, its weakness was its length. It could have trimmed a good 10-15 minutes, but that being said, I think a part of the approach was that we experience the frustration the characters were feeling in their search for the Horcruxes. Despite my complaints about pacing, there’s no denying that there’s some good-ass filmmaking and acting on display here, which is why I can’t really fault it too much. Some of the visual imagery in this movie is not only the best in the series, but some of the best stuff I’ve seen on screen.
4. HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE
This was quite the interesting picture for me. In a way, if you had asked which director I believe should have gone forward with the series, it would have been Mike Newell, the director of The Goblet of Fire. As great as Cuáron’s Prisoner of Azkaban was, it wasn’t an amazing fit for the source material. Yates also seemed like a bit too far off in a strange direction. Newell, on the other hand seemed like a fine blend between Christopher Columbus, director of the first two films, and David Yates.
I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there was something about the tangibility he brought to the world that was never really successfully recreated in any other film. Additionally, I think he may have handled the humorous elements better than any of the directors did in all eight films. That being said, I think The Goblet of Fire may also stand as one of the “safest” films in the franchise, which you can count as either good or bad, depending on your perspective.
3. HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS - PART 2
This was the stuff of dreams. It took us a full decade, but in 2011, we finally see the epic conclusion to the long-running series. And it didn’t disappoint. Between the infiltration of Gringotts and the final confrontation with Voldemort and his Death Eaters at Hogwarts, this film nailed it both emotionally and visually. Yes, the film was scaled back a bit — you won’t see any non-human creatures fighting the Death Eaters - but in doing so, they kept the focus solely on the wizards. Given that the films have almost exclusively focused on wizards, and very little on the other creatures brought up in the books, that wasn’t a bad way to go.
If I were to fault the film, it wouldn’t be due to anything the film did wrong. The “problem” is that it’s all payoff. There’s no time to catch our breaths as audience members, and if you’d gone into this without having refreshed your memory with the first movie, there’s a good chance this one didn’t have the resonance it could have.
2. HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN
I know, I know. This isn’t at my number one. Blasphemy! While I do think this may very well be the best movie of the bunch, I can’t say this is a great Potter film. I think director Alfonso Cuáron took one too many liberties with this one. Hogwarts was redesigned from the ground-up — which was distracting — the kids all dressed in normal clothes, and there was a shift to a more CG-heavy approach to the visuals, which did not age well.
As a fan of the books, I was appalled. As a film fan, however, I was entranced. This is the fastest-paced movie of the bunch, and it has a lot of amazing filmmaking that would never be matched in any other in the series. This flick has a lot of single-shot takes, fluid camera-work, and an entire scene that takes place in a mirror. If you want a prime example of how much a director can change a film franchise, you need look no further than this one.
1. HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE
What a shocker this was for me. Ironically enough, I found this book in the series to be the weakest. As great of a story it was, I thought the Pensieve was a lazy narrative device. I wasn’t going into this movie with high hopes, especially since the director making this one was the same one who put out Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, my least favorite film in the franchise. I’ve never been happier to be proven wrong.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was an amazing blend of David Yates’ and J.K. Rowling’s vision. It had the perfect balance between a driving narrative, and fun subplots. More than any other movie, this almost felt like a series of vignettes linked together by a loose, overarching plot, which is very much how many of the books felt. The tone was muted and interesting — perfectly reflective of the book's own darkening tone — and the acting was just about as strong as it ever got in the show (Jim Broadbent gave a particularly powerful performance as the lonely Horace Slughorn). It was also the first movie in a while where I felt that, for the first time, it felt like a cohesive partner to its predecessor in terms of style and music, which is something the series hadn’t experienced since Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. For the first time, it felt like we were watching an entry in a TV show more than a movie series, a consistency that was very welcome.
What do you think of our rankings? Do they match up with your own? Let us know in the comments down below!