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Every Harry Potter Movie Ranked From Worst To Best



Warning: this article contains some spoilers. But Deathly Hallows, Part 2 came out 8 years ago, so how have you not watched them all already?

The golden question of mankind. We've all thought about it. "Which Harry Potter film IS the best?". These seven magic words cross each of our minds as soon as we're old enough to even comprehend such a conundrum (usually age 10 or so). It's hard.
I know. But don't cry, little muggle. Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light. Why? How? What could possibly bring such joy? A chap with too much time on his hands, that's what. So, here's every Harry Potter movie ranked from worst to best. Except the Fantastic Beasts films. Because as we all know they don't count as Harry Potter films and never will. Ever.


8. Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 1


Let's get this one out of the way. We all knew this would be ranked the lowest. Why? Because it's literally filler, made to get us to pay to go see the same movie twice; and you know what? It's still ok, because even as the lesser of the Harry Potter films, Deathly Hallows Part 1 still has its merits.

After six films mainly set in the exact same place, the entirety of the seventh entry taking time off from Hogwarts is a welcome change of pace. Instead, we get portions of chase-heist film across the muggle and magical worlds; placed in tandem with a treasure hunt that also works as a quest for answers; Harry, Ron and Hermione are searching for the Horcruxes, along with any hints at ways to destroy them, thus Voldemort.

With what's at stake, the tone of Deathly Hallows Part 1 is arguably Harry Potter at its most grounded, thanks to its illustrated themes of war in a magical world, dealing with buried sinister emotions and how isolated a hero can feel even in such a wondrous fictional universe. Mere reminders of Dobby's final scenes will still make your average Twitter user curl up into a ball of tears.

Being two and a half hours of moderately enjoyable filler, it's easy to grow impatient towards how Deathly Hallows Part 1 attempts to overstay its welcome. Trying to stretch half a book into an entire film is always going to result in a viewing experience that goes stale half way through, namely Harry, Ron and Hermione's camping trip that seemingly drags on forever. The first time seeing DHP1, it was the desire to get to the long-awaited conclusion that got us through to the end. Years and multiple series rewatches later, it often feels like a chore, subjecting ourselves once again to what's merely setting up events for a much better part 2.


7. Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire


While Deathly Hallows Part 1 struggles with filling a massive runtime with only half a book as its source material, Goblet of Fire contends with an almost opposite issue: working from a book so large, that it shouldn't have tried to be contained in a single film. If any of the Harry Potter series needed a part 1-part 2 format, it was this one.

We could talk about the book-to-film differences with Goblet of Fire all day. When asking Harry about putting his name in the Goblet of Fire, Dumbledore going from calm and assuring to stark-raving mad has been one of the best memes in the last decade. Cutting Dobby and the rest of the Hogwarts house elves, the latter of whom are revealed as the Hogwarts kitchen staff, is still a heinous crime. Omitting the fantastic reveal of annoying tabloid reporter, Rita Skeeter, being an animagus (turns into a beetle) that uses her ability to intrusively steal stories, was an inevitable but unfortunate consequence of an adaptation.

However, it wasn't what was cut from the theatrical version that puts Goblet of Fire in the seventh spot. It's what was left in its place. The Tri-Wizard Cup served as a much-desired vessel for introducing other schools that are part of the magical world, making the Harry Potter universe much more broad and grandiose than the previous three films would have you believe. The trials of the competition are epic in scale but like the Qudditch World Cup, they're all over far too quick. Sadly, much of Goblet of Fire's run time is dedicated to teen angst and high school drama that some would argue as inevitable, but no one asked for.

Ron starts a long-running grudge of insecurity towards Harry out of nowhere with literally nothing to substantiate it. Ron-fueled annoyance continues when spiteful jealousy emerges towards Hermione as he sees a love rival in wizard-Russian stereotype, Victor Krum, making him feel more like an imposter than the Weasley we've come to love. Finally, Harry's whole struggle of not being able to ask a girl out would be a lot more ironically adorable, if Daniel Radcliffe's 2005 acting wasn't as charismatic as the piece of driftwood he seemed to have been inspired by.

These misgivings are a shame because the climatic scene in Goblet of Fire is one of the best in the entire series. Voldemort's revival in the fantastically eerie and horror-inspired graveyard is a hard-hitting twist, still leaving its signature with the tragedy that comes with Cedric Diggory's murder. Against the fully restored power of You-Know-Who, Harry's clear powerlessness makes the scene almost hard to watch yet so gripping, as we had never seen him so desperate before. It introduces the large mountain that The Boy Who Lived will have to climb for the rest of the series and what's at stake along the way.

On its own, the graveyard scene would put Goblet of Fire much higher. As a film though, the nail-biting conclusion to the Tri-Wizard tournament is more like a reward for sitting through an episode of a Hogwarts-themed One Tree Hill.


6. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix


The first obvious improvement since Goblet of Fire is that Harry and Ron finally cut their hair. Another is that instead of an arduous tournament and Ron being an unlikable prick, Order of the Phoenix gets back to what attending Hogwarts is actually about: learning magic. That and Harry's accomplishments from previous years actually being put into perspective. When getting going with teaching the other kids advanced spells, it's nice to actually see Harry actually be competent at something on purpose and without help. Be that as it may, a downgrade would be going from contending with dragons and ferocious mermaids to what's supposed to be Harry & co's biggest foe at school to date: bureaucracy and fake news.

From a tiresome first act that spends way too much time around a Ministry of Magic hearing to enforcing a new curriculum before exam season, the Umbridge saga often feels like another sample of filler that's meant to keep your interest minimally engaged, all before the far more interesting Voldemort-related stuff at the end. Although you wish the centaurs carried her off far sooner, Dolores Umbridge serves well as the antagonist you'll love to hate: being the embodiment of a crazy cat lady Margaret Thatcher doused in pink.

Funnily enough, the best thing about Order of the Phoenix also happens to be what leaves a bittersweet aftertaste in everyone's mouth: Harry and Sirius' relationship. Sirius' death is supposed to be one of the most hard-hitting moments in the entirety of Harry's journey and looking at it on paper, it's not hard to see why. Sirius was supposed to be the replacement father figure Harry grew up thinking he'd never have; whilst to Sirius, Harry was both a son and best friend, a latter being a void left behind by the death of Harry's father, James.

But by the time Sirius takes his last breath, we realise that none of us are actually as upset as we should've been. Why? Because thanks to almost all of Sirius' scenes in Goblet of Fire being cut in its film and some extra special moments being taken out from OOTP and Prisoner of Azkaban, him and Harry literally had only three conversations with each other.

There talks were sweet, deep and meaningful, yes, but Sirius Black was the biggest tragedy in Harry Potter not just in his murder, but his character as a whole when being adapted from book to film. For the non-book readers, Sirius' backstory and the Black family history is so fascinating in a heartbreaking way. Sirius' ancestors were a long line of racists and bigots, whilst Sirius, sought to do what good he could as the last of his line. That combined with his evidently fleshed out father-son bond with book-Harry is what makes his unjust murder stick with readers so much.

In the world of cinematic adaptations, when you give more time to magical politics instead of adding weight to a film's most important relationship, a certain serious death isn't exactly going to make you flood the room with tears.


5. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2


We're officially onto the actual good ones now. Hooray.

Deathly Hallows Part 2 is as big in scale as it is emotionally heavy, making any rewatch just as intense as that first cinema viewing back in 2011. With Part 1 being a sizable filler piece, Part 2 is a silver lining that shimmers the same as a memory strand ready for the Pensieve: it makes way for all of the good stuff.

Another heist in getting the Hufflepuff Cup Horcrux from Gringotts, Harry's "How dare you stand where he stood!" rant, full-on magical war scenes at The Battle of Hogwarts, the subtle hints at the unwritten instruction manual for the Elder Wand; these all serve as delectable bottom layers of this fantasy trifle before getting to the sweet topping that is the reveal of who Severus Snape truly is, where his allegiances lie and how this makes you look back on every other film with a new perspective.

A lot of it is dipped in much more cheese than usual. Like Voldemort and Harry's final standoff getting changed in adaptation to a wizard lightning battle in the courtyard, elements are rushed and shifted around to conveniently hurry things along and for the sake of marketing. Nevertheless, even with the odd and obvious plot hole, it's just about enough weight on the Harry Potter brand to get away with.

Whether you've been with the series since 2001 or you've been getting up to speed in a pop culture catch up, the Resurrection stone and Dumbledore scenes are instantly received as some finely-crafted nuance, letting the tears begin to stream as you watch Harry ascend through his final development into the man he's meant to become.

Potter fans can often be split whether the earliest or the latest films are the best. Whichever camp they're in though, it can't be denied that Deathly Hallows Part 2 ties a poignant bow around a story that had been captivating audiences for a decade and beyond, with its finale being both respectfully sentimental and almost as moving as its debut.


4. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone


The one that started it al- NO. No. We're not doing that. God, could you imagine?

It's hard for a film you loved as a kid to be enjoyed on the same level after hitting adulthood. Philosopher's Stone is one of those rare gems that even goes beyond the exception, with the first Harry Potter film being more outstanding the older you get.

Taking you through Harry's perspective, entry to the magical world manages to astonish in tandem with the protagonist. Even in repeat viewings, the sense of wonderment never lessens, thanks to the reveal of each new creature, spell or part of this incredible world appealing to the childlike fascination that embodies us all. It brings us right back to the times when we were still wishing for our own Hogwarts letters.

Despite being burdened with some stiff acting ability natural to 10-year-olds, Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson's debut performances still hold up, thanks to the stellar direction that allowed them to bounce off the seasoned skills of the older cast. Even the special effects have aged well, especially the bathroom troll and fluffy, the three-headed dog, looking like they're truly belong in the film's universe as much as they did 18 years ago.

Philospher's Stone without a doubt holds the best pacing amongst all eight films. The first half does excellent in establishing the ground-level knowledge of a wizarding universe before the second applies everything learnt so far to the series' narrative and themes; the most impactful of which being the way Harry's orphan status was handled.

Her mother passing away whilst writing The Philosopher's Stone, J.K Rowling conveyed her pain and sorrow in the life of Harry, being exposed like a delicate wound just as much in the film adaptation. Although the circumstance around its creation is unfortunate, Harry's anguish around the loss of his parents taught a lesson that resonated with us all. Molded with the creation of his lifelong friendships and the awe-inspiring tracks from the John Williams score, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone reminds us that those who we hold dear don't have to be related by blood to be thought of as loved ones.


3. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince


Following the well-meaning but incredibly-muddled messes that were Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenix, Half-blood Prince pulled off a combination that was unexpected. Carefully stabilizing the looming threat of Voldemort with some trials and tribulations about love and potion-making, Harry's sixth and final proper year at Hogwarts works astoundingly as the series' darkest and yet closest thing to a full-on comedy.

From the get-go, excitement is felt in motion as Harry is recruited into tactics against Voldemort by Dumbledore. All the while, the wheels in plans of Snape and the Death Eaters start to slowly turn, seamlessly entwined with intriguing B-stories: one of culminating romance and another around the mystery that is the Half-Blood Prince.

With so many layers, Half-Blood Prince shouldn't work, even with it's two and a half hour runtime. Director, David Yates, seemed to have learnt his lesson from the inconsistency of Order of the Phoenix. Instead of killing time with one plot thread before starting another, all switch back and forth between the spotlight, reengaging our interest each time but with the stakes of everything else still present in the background without feeling too muddled. If you skipped right from the playful and charmfully-written Slug Club dinner party scene, to a weery Dumbledore summoning a fire tornado to kill a horde of terrifying cave zombies (best scene), you wouldn't think it's the same film. Everything inbetween builds up at the ideal pace to make it all feel earned.

The addition of Professor Horace Slughorn works dynamically as a dual plot device in the Half-Blood Prince's balance. Although he's the source of information that Harry has to work for information on Tom Riddle, his return of potions master also meant that lessons in Hogwarts could actually feel fun again, a lighthearted first for the series in three films.

Speaking of potion masters, the label of dual plot device goes for Snape as well but in a much different way. His role as Death Eater/Malfoy Babysitter is entertaining enough on its own but after seeing the Deathly Hallows films, how we see the Half-Blood Prince himself is altered entirely. Looking back through the realisation that he was a double agent the whole time, the empathy it generates rejuvenates the film entirely, making it almost a whole new experience.

There's so much to love about the Half-Blood Prince. What clinches it though is at last seeing an actual friendship between Harry and Dumbledore. It could easily be described as the closest we get to a Dumbledore movie, as we at last get to see less of the legend and more of the man himself: his personality, his up-close morality and most importantly, his mortality. As we all know, every human has their flaws no matter how impeccable they seem, the lesson of which is used to flesh out Dumbledore enough to immortalise him as the best of all sweet yet noble elderly father figures; which is what makes that Avada Kedavra spell hit us all in the heart just as much.

Let us also remember cherish the fact that Daniel Radcliffe managed to actually inject some charisma into this one. "Not to mention the pincers".


2. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban


Starting its full submergence into the gritty remainder of the Harry Potter narrative, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is that perfect balance of maturity with the sinister and extraordinary, at the same time avoiding becoming too convoluted.

As a new director taking the reigns from Chris Columbus, Alfonso Cuaron's presence is evident from the onset, with much bleaker and drab aesthetics dominating the cinematography, crafting a cosy Victorian theme that makes you enchanted by each attention to detail.

The only entry without the appearance of Voldemort in some form, You Know Who being substituted by the dementors is as horrifying as back in 2004. With their visual effects aging astoundingly, the prison guards of Azkaban still command a sense of eerie dismay with a grim reaper-like appearance as the true embodiment of fear itself, making for one of the leading obstacles Harry has to overcome.

At this point, Harry's not exactly been taken down a peg just yet. Over his last couple of years, he disintegrated a man just by being touched, learnt he could talk to snakes, then stabbed a giant one of which in the face with a sword he pulled out of a magic hat. Harry's not had to really work that hard for the means to overcome his antagonists until Prisoner of Azkaban, making his obvious struggle to fight off literal ghostly definitions of fear all the more satisfying character development; albeit with a lot of help from best professor to ever teach at Hogwarts, Professor Lupin, obviously.

As with the contrast Harry's had in his battles between then and now, Prisoner of Azkaban doesn't defer in bringing grief to the surface in showing his darker side. During the series of reveals around Sirius Black, the scene where Harry finds out of his godfather betraying his parents to their death is one of utter sorrow. One that also for the first time see's him truly pour out real anger, allowing us at least for a short while to resonate with his life of despair.

Prisoner of Azkaban is heavy on its shift from wondrous to darker storytelling but does superb in sprinkling bits of the former over the latter. What turns out to be a turn of faith that Harry could actually have a proper guardian through Sirius, we're treated to an ageless twist of time travel being key to the film's third act all along. Buckbeak, the one magical creature we should adore with all of our hearts, made for a more magnificent scene in the series: gloriously gliding across the water with Harry riding on its back, being an insight as to what an absolute miracle this mythical world can bring.

Prisoner of Azkaban might've definitely been the best of all Harry Potter films if not for one glaring omission: the marauders. Not just who the owners of the Marauders Map really were, but the Prisoner of Azkaban film had also cut the details of Lupin's group friendship with James Potter, Sirius Black and Peter Pettigrew altogether, along with Sirius' general backstory, the Prisoner of Azkaban himself. After clearing away the story of such moving friendship, nothing else was put to fill in the blanks as to who, what, where and why, leaving fragments of confusion. As a result, Prisoner of Azkaban falters just a bit too much to be the #1 film.


1. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets


Like the flying car, the best film in the entire franchise, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, harnesses everything wonderful about the Philosopher's Stone and takes flight, dipping its toes into a darker tone but being sure to remain plentiful in magical wonder.

Amongst the sequels, Chamber of Secrets outdoes the rest in showing off the absurdity of Harry's life in the muggle world, his aunt and uncle treating him like a stray cat that they're too stubborn to set free. After an adorably awkward first meeting of Dobby the House Elf, Chamber of Secrets expands on the miracles of the magical world. One of the most tender was Harry meeting the Weasley family at The Burrow, seeing for the first time not only how wonderful a magical household can be, but how lively and loving a family should really be.

What the debut of the full Weasley family also brings is the flying car: the best thing exclusive to the film, each one of its sequences leaving you in awe just imagining if we had such a marvel in our own lives. Chamber of Secrets is the one Harry Potter sequel that can truly be enjoyed on its own, showcasing what joy this reintroduced magical world can bring to the dreary reality that is our own muggle lives.

Then there's the second-best feature that's exclusive to the Chamber of Secrets film: Gilderoy Lockhart, our very own impersonator of a Disney Prince Charming brought to life. Cartoonishly narcissistic, overflowing with bravado and spewer of confidence-flavoured nonsense, actor, Kenneth Branagh, brought the fraudulent Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher to life with a charisma that made it the grandest performance in the series. Pushed further by director, Chris Columbus', flair for dry humour, Lockhart was without a doubt Hogwarts' best worst professor.

John Williams, who scored the first three films, is heard most beautifully in Chamber of Secrets. As with any of the Potter films, Chamber of Secrets carries an assortment of scenes of varying tone: A sombre and nostalgic like Harry looking at photos of his parents and friends, an intense urgency during the near collision between the flying car and Hogwarts Express, the hauntingly creepy horde of giant spiders dangling above, an unrivaled mix of fear and dread as Harry see's a near-dead Ginny in The Chamber of Secrets. Everything in the score emphasizes what you're feeling in every scene and in Chamber of Secrets, each track feels as if it's been specifically crafted for what's going onscreen so that you're truly enamored, making each its own brand of iconic.

A lot of discussion over the years was that Prisoner of Azkaban had been Harry Potter's introduction to more malevolent storytelling. Where in fact, it was actually Chamber of Secrets had been the series' entry to a storyline that could almost be in its own horror. Whereas Philosopher's Stone exposed us to the delights of the magical world, Chamber of Secrets made us dive in to the darker and frightening, wrapped in a mystery of a terrifying monster that petrifies and kills its victims as it roams the castle. Yet, there's still its share of the breathtakingly sensational type of magic to keep things in balance. The entirety of the Polyjuice Potion arc is one of the more extremely remarkable creations to come from the mind of J.K Rowling.

Outside the castle, we're given a taste of what dangers lurk in places like The Forbidden Forest. Whilst Prisoner of Azkaban's horde of Dementors are chilling, many would rather take those over an army of hundreds of thousands of giant, man-eating spiders any day. The third film's climax ending with a hope-fueled reminder of happiness that is the Patronus Charm against the ghostly Azkaban guards is excellent, but Chamber of Secrets features our hero sword-stabbling a 60-foot, centuries-old, snake in the mouth! That's fantasy storytelling at its peak. Symbolic in both good triumphing over evil and what Harry will have to endure in years to come.

To top it off, the captivating mystery within a mystery of Tom Riddle's diary is one of the most terrific reveals that properly sets the stage for the years ahead. Catering over the basics of the Horcruxes with enough finesse to not give too much away, Chamber of Secrets skillfully got us hooked with an expanded second look into the Harry Potter world and its lore, including origins of Voldemort himself, making us want to come back again and again for more detail we may have missed when the curtains closed on the series finale.

As a reward for getting this far, please enjoy the compilation of sensational Ron faces that should've won Rupert Grint an Oscar.


Do you agree or disagree with these rankings? What's your number one Harry potter movie? Tell us what you think in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.

 
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