With Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them set to release in almost a month, I thought it would be cool to look back on one of the biggest franchises in the history of film, the Harry Potter franchise, and rank each film from worst to best. I consider myself a big Harry Potter fan, having read all the books and watched all the films multiple times. Being 24, I am around the same age as Harry, Ron, and Hermione were, so it was cool growing up a long with those characters. It was an event to watch a movie in theaters when it premiered, or buy a book as soon as it was released. It’s something I will always cherish about my childhood, and it was really cool watching the films all over again having not seen them in so long. Just keep in mind these are based solely on the films and not the books.
8. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)
The second film of the franchise was directed once again by Chris Columbus who brought the same adolescent charm that he gave to the first film. The problem is, this film was meant to be more dark than the previous film, but the tone felt too similar to the first. It is also maybe the only film that felt too long and even dragged at times. It has the longest run-time for any Harry Potter film at 2 hours and 41 minutes.
7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010)
If the characters of Harry, Ron, and Hermione, and the chemistry between the actors weren’t so good, than this would be a massive failure. This film really just focuses on the three central characters and their journey to destroy the Horcruxes. It started off really good, but really just dragged on and on, and didn’t have a satisfying climax. In all honesty, this felt like an appetizer to the ultimate main course of the finale that we will see. Why this was longer than Part 2, I don’t know. It also started an awful trend of splitting the final book of a franchise into two movies. Something that the Twilight and Hunger Games franchises would copy.
6. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)
The last film to take place primarily in Hogwarts, The Half-Blood Prince had the feel of a high-school coming-of-age film while at the same time, a dark and gritty adult drama. So, why is is only #6? It is pretty uneventful and dull for a large portion of the film, of course until the incredible last few scenes. Also the film focuses a lot on the relationship of Harry and Ginny which was good in the book, but in the films, I never felt like they had good chemistry and their relationship was just forced upon. The climax to this film is one of the best in the franchise though and sets the tone for the final two films perfectly.
5. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)
The first film in the franchise introduced the characters and the story perfectly. The casting was spot-on, the music by John Williams iconic, and the directing by Chris Columbus was perfect. I consider this one of the greatest children’s films of all time, because that’s what it is. This film wasn’t really meant to please teenagers and adults like the later films would do. It’s goal was to reach a younger audience, and have them grow into the franchise with the characters. Yes, I will admit the visual effects and the acting by the leads weren’t really up to par yet, but it perfectly set out what it wanted to do while planting seeds that would help the franchise grow into one of the most iconic in film history.
4. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)
This was the first film to be directed by David Yates, who would go on to direct the rest of the franchise. The Order of the Phoenix stands out for a number of reasons. It introduced fan-favorite Luna Lovegood, played brilliantly by Evanna Lynch. It also introduced one of the best villains in the series in Dolores Umbridge. I remember after reading the book, how in the world they were gonna use that character in a film, but they somehow made it work. Imelda Staunton lived and breathed Umbridge and stole very scene she was in. She really owned that role, and her performance really lifted the film. I also loved the Dumbledore’s Army storyline where Harry secretly teaches his friends defense against the dark arts. This really was influential in the series, as we characters like Neville improve because of it. The climax at the Department of Mysteries is gripping and heartbreaking, as we see a beloved character die, and Voldemort comes close to killing Harry Potter.
3. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)
The Goblet of Fire is responsible for giving us an idea of how the rest of the series would shape-up. This was the first PG-13 film in the franchise, it was even more dark and gritty than the previous film, and it introduced some key characters including Brendan Gleeson’s Mad Eyed Moody and Ralph Fiennes’ Voldemort. You can also notice changes in the main characters as their teenage hormones change the way they act. The Yule Ball is a perfect template for this, and it makes for some great comedy as we see Harry and Ron trying to find dates, but are too shy to ask. This is one of the most fun, exciting, and humorous films in the franchise, but ends on a very dark and tragic note. The climax to this film might be the best in the series, and is the turning point for the entire series.
2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011)
I had a really hard time deciding which one of these final two films was the best in the franchise. I could make a strong case for both. It seemed like David Yates and company saved all the best moments in the final book for this film. While the first part had one or two memorable moments, this film was extremely memorable and exciting from beginning to end. This film is pretty much a straight-up action film, and Harry Potter is the action star. That’s basically how they promoted the film, as you can see in the picture above. There were so many great moments and scenes. From the dragon escape at Gringotts to the final, epic climax with Voldemort. My favorite scene was the Snape reveal as we see flashbacks of who he really was. Alan Rickman should have been nominated for an Academy Award. One of the best supporting performances I have seen in a film. It seemed liked David Yates was most concerned on creating an emotional and exciting last two hours for the fans to indulge in. It certainly pleased most fans of the franchise and is still one of the highest grossing movies of all time.
1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
Prisoner of Azkaban was very influential to the series, and was also the best directed and shot Harry Potter film. The great Alfonso Cuarón directed this film, and offered his signature long takes, wide camera angles, and restless camera work to the film which makes it very unique among the other Harry Potter films. This was really the first film that displayed the darkness and grittiness that we would be accustomed to seeing in the later films, while still maintaining a joyous charm for people of all ages to enjoy. We get a very exhilarating scene with Harry riding Buckbeak (one of my favorites in the series). However, we also get very scary scenes with the Death Eaters. How Cuarón managed to keep this PG I have no idea. Everything just seemed to work with this film. It introduced us to great new characters including Gary Oldman’s Sirius Black and one of the most underrated characters in the series, Professor Lupin. Cuarón really explored more on what made Harry so unique and his past, which is something we learn a lot in the scenes with Harry and Professor Lupin. Overall, Prisoner of Azkaban is the most unique film in the way it was made, while also having a very intriguing story while introducing very important, new characters to the franchise. This is the best, because it was the one film that managed to combine everything that is great about the franchise: humor, joy, charm, darkness, tension, and excitement.