Written By: Nick Poulimenakos
The Harry Potter franchise can only be described as a global phenomenon. Seven book titles and nine movies later, the series is as strong as ever. For me, I wasn’t even a fan of the franchise until my sister became a massive fan herself and introduced me to the wizarding world. The kind of longevity the Harry Potter series has seen is extremely rare and it’s all thanks to the wondrous writing from J.K Rowling that all began 20 years ago today. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the first novel’s release, here are the Harry Potter films ranked from worst to best!
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
I understand why the seventh book was split into two parts. It’s a big book and it covers a lot of ground that just can’t fit into a two hour film. Despite a pretty decent first hour, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 completely loses steam by the second and becomes an utter snooze fest. Harry, Ron and Hermione are on a hunt for horcruxes and all the character conflict that comes with it is average at best. The film is one giant setup for Part 2 and leaves much to be desired. It may work as part of a whole, but as a standalone film, it runs in circles, has narrative stalling and seems wholeheartedly unmotivated. Voldermort is still super cool and super scary though and Alexandre Desplat’s score is stunning. So that’s something.
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
The longest film in the franchise, Chamber of Secrets tried to fit everything from the book into the film it turns out to be… at best, decent. Director Chris Columbus returns and expands the world built in the first film and Chamber becomes an increasingly lengthy film that is darker and muddled. While John Williams’ score and the characterization of Dobby were fantastic, the film has tons of exposition, the pacing is off, and is an overall less exciting affair when compared to the first entry in the film series.
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
I’m not sure if this will get me some kind of hate for putting this film this low but I truly believe that The Goblet of Fire is the most average entry into the wizarding world. The fourth film in the franchise marked a real turning point as it was the first step into adulthood and had the first real appearance of Voldermort, which undeniably was awesome and gave viewers one of the best wizard battles ever. Aside from that however, the film is a thinly crafted story designed to “change everything” but in reality, it doesn’t. I mean, it does, since Voldermort is here, but we have to get through two hours of a very unexciting Tri-Wizard Tournament to get to it. Now, this film does have a lot more positives than I’m letting on. Ron and Harry’s antagonistic relationship was fun to watch as were the stunning visual effects. Patrick Doyle’s musical score was fantastic and seeing Harry’s parents again always makes for an emotional moment but still, Goblet of Fire is an average film at best.
- Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
That’s right… we’re including the spin-off’s on this list as well. All one of them. After the main series ended, it was clear that there was more story to be told and J.K Rowling decided to write a prequel to the story of the boy who lived. Well, a prequel/spin-off. And as it turns out, it’s a pretty good spin-off. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them tells the story of Newt Scamander and the beasts he brings to America. Along the way the film drops some wonderful hints to the outside wizarding world that fans know and love and it makes for a great start to this new series. Aside from leaning too heavily on CGI, Fantastic Beasts includes great performances, a truly awe-inspiring musical score, and gives viewers an even wider look at what the wizarding world truly is. The main negative I have for this film is its unquestionable waste of Colin Farrell. Don’t get me wrong, his performance was great. But by the end of the film, you’ll agree with me that Colin Farrell should have been given more.
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
The film that truly changed everything. The effects may not have aged to well, but no one can deny how truly wondrous and fun this film is. Chris Columbus was given the daunting task of being the first director to adapt a Harry Potter book to the silver screen and he succeeded on pretty much all fronts. A film that has an incredible cast, an incredible story that skews a bit more to the younger audience but proved to be just as fun for older fans, and always remains as marvellous as ever, The Philosopher’s Stone nails down the foundation for the franchise to come. The strongest asset this film has is that it is told purely from the perspective of a wide-eyed eleven year old so you get a true sense of the awe-inspiring visuals being experience by Harry himself. Oh, and who could forget the absolutely phenomenal musical score from John Williams. Best in the series. Hedwig’s Theme remains one of the greatest songs in cinema history.
- Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
Easily the darkest but also arguable the funniest entry, David Yates’ second outing in the Harry Potter series enhanced the themes first introduced in Order of the Phoenix and he does it exquisitely. The Half Blood Prince was an absolute blast from start to finish, with a devastating climax, intense action and truly wholehearted moments that left audiences everywhere clamoring for the adaptation of the seventh book. From the heart of the narrative to the rage felt by characters, The Half Blood Prince demonstrates the more dangerous world of Harry Potter thanks to superb performances, a riveting musical score from Nicholas Hooper and perfectly sets the series up for an exciting conclusion. Wands up for Albus Dumbledore.
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
The longest book turned into the third greatest entry into the franchise. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix took almost all the book had to offer and focused the film narrative on the essentials. Harry’s makeshift father/son relationship with Sirius Black was at the forefront with the growing threat of Voldermort lurking in the shadows. Unlike The Goblet of Fire, Order’s pacing feels much more natural despite the massive scale of the film as viewers witness the students of Hogwarts rise up and unite against the threat of evil. The action sequences are among the best in the franchise, being beautifully shot and choreographed and blended seamlessly with wonderful visual effects. It would also be remiss if I didn’t mention how much I can’t stand Dolores Umbridge. Her incredible performance was encompassed by the truly sadistic, hateful nature of the character and it made for cinematic gold. And then, we have the battle between the Order of the Phoenix and the Death Eaters. I won’t say much, but I will say this, wands up for Sirius Black.
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
If it weren’t for its muddled first part, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 would likely rank at the top of most lists. However, since it takes an average film to get to this truly fantastic one, it shall remain at number two. Now, this film is quite possibly the greatest ending to a franchise ever. Being one of the most horrific coming-of-age stories ever told, a rampant war film and one of the most emotional entries, Deathly Hallows Part 2 is a stupendously fitting conclusion to the story of the boy who lived. From the battle of Hogwarts to the meeting of Harry and his family to Neville Longbottom finally getting his chance to shine, this film succeeds on all fronts. And Voldermot… just… wow, what a beautiful performance from Ralph Fiennes. Then there is Severus Snape who stole the show thanks to Alan Rickman in what I will always call his best performance ever. The entire Lily/Snape flashback sequence was so fantastic that it left audiences in tears as we see a perceived villain become one of the biggest heroes in the series. Wands up for Severus Snape.
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
This is probably not shocking at all but, here we are, the best film in the Harry Potter franchise, The Prisoner of Azkaban. The film is definitely the most important in the series as it marked the first turning point in the light-toned franchise. Prisoner of Azkaban took the film down a much darker path, telling the story once again almost exclusively from Harry’s point of view showing the real, raw emotion felt by the character. Brining in Alfonso Cuaron to take over as director, he told an air-tight story that included the debut of my favourite character, Remus Lupin and the debut of Artur’s favourite character, Sirius Black, amazing action sequences, heartfelt drama and another magical score from John Williams (in his final outing with the franchise). Gary Oldman especially delivers one the greatest performances of his career as you can really feel the pain and suffering Sirius Black has faced throughout his 12 YEARS OF WAITING IN AZKABAN. Alfonso Cuaron really laid the groundwork for how the series would, not only look, but the dark yet hopeful tone each film that followed took up. It has been said that the third film in a series is usually the worst. In a rare occurrence, it is undeniably the best and cemented Harry Potter’s place among the greatest film franchise in film history.
So, what do you think? Should some films ranked in different spots? Let us know in the comments and on social media and for all things in entertainment and nerd culture, keep it locked on Talkies Network!