Ranking the Harry Potter Movies

I’m a huge Harry Potter nerd. Pottermore correctly sorted me into Ravenclaw and my Patronus is a wolf, in case you were wondering (and I know you were). I’ve already done a ranking of the Harry Potter books, and with the wizarding world now off in a different direction with Fantastic Beasts, it only makes sense to go through and rank all eight HP movies. Let me know your favorites in the comments below, and enjoy!

8. Goblet of Fire

Considering Goblet of Fire is my favorite book in the series, it might come as a surprise that I was incredibly disappointed in the movie. It’s just really not good all around. Shots are poorly framed, the acting is often stiff, and the narrative gets muddled with too much focus on side stories like Hagrid and Madame Maxime’s love story and unfunny bits like Ron’s obsession with Viktor Krum at the Quidditch World Cup. This was before Robert Pattinson was famous thanks to the Twilight movies, but he was still boring and annoying in this.

This movie also had the main cast at their most hipster, and it was painful to witness. On the positive side, I loved the casting of Cho Chang. She was a huge crush of mine after reading the books, and they nailed it. While the final Triwizard task was immensely cooler in the books, the other two were still fun to watch on screen. And Voldermort’s return was satisfyingly terrifying and creepy.

7. Chamber of Secrets

Chamber of Secrets is my least favorite of the Harry Potter books, and the movie doesn’t fare all that much better in comparison. The actors were still very young and predictably awkward to watch, but it really comes down to the main story. I just wasn’t all that invested in this one. Learning more about Voldemort as a teenager was cool and I really liked the actor that played young Tom Riddle, but in reality, that was a small part of the movie.

Kenneth Branagh was perfect casting as Gilderoy Lockhart, and he’s certainly the standout performance in Chamber of Secrets. Unfortunately, it’s always annoyed me that none of the professors were able to figure out what the monster was, considering Hermione put the pieces together with relative ease. And then when Ginny was taken to the chamber, they were more concerned with embarrassing Lockhart than they were with saving her. Pretty shameful behavior, if I’m being honest.

6. Deathly Hallows Part One

When movies make as much money as the Harry Potter series, you can’t exactly blame them for stretching things out whenever possible. That’s how we ended up with two movies telling the story that one book told. Unfortunately, Deathly Hallows had the least amount of story in any of the books, and most of the story that it did have was in the latter half. That all adds up to Deathly Hallows Part One feeling overly drawn out.

There is very little that even happens in this movie. After a strong start with our main cast escaping the Death Eaters and reclaiming the real Horcrux necklace, they spend the rest of the movie pretty much wandering aimlessly through the woods, fighting amongst themselves. It was boring to read, and even more boring to watch. Dobby’s death in the final scene was very touching, but made for an awkward end to the movie. And the added scene of Voldemort getting the Elder Wand from Dumbledore’s tomb felt even more tacked on because of it. At least this one has Emma Watson in that red dress at the beginning because I mean DAYUM.

5. Order of the Phoenix

I know, I know, Order of the Phoenix is a lot of people’s favorite movie in the series, but I just have too many problems with it. It’s still a great movie, and really the lowest ranked movie on this list that I still love. But the two biggest problems I have are its length and story. To clarify, Order of the Phoenix is the longest book in the series, yet it’s also the shortest movie. By necessity, that means a large number of things had to be cut, and it shows. Some of these are minor, like ditching the secret keeper aspect of Sirius’s house and just having Mad Eye Moody clank his staff down in the middle of the street. But they all add up to a movie that’s missing a lot of the charm and intricacy of the others.

As for the story, there just isn’t really one to speak of. What’s the driving story in this movie? Harry training other students? That isn’t for any specific purpose. Bringing down Umbridge? She’s certainly an antagonist, but Harry doesn’t really do anything specific to defeat her. Getting into the Department of Mysteries? That isn’t introduced until later in the movie, and Harry doesn’t decide to go there until near the climax. There are plenty of great moments in Order of the Phoenix, like Harry kissing Cho and Sirius’ sad end, but the sum is, unfortunately, less than its parts.

4. Sorcerer’s Stone

Just like the book before it, Sorcerer’s Stone benefits from being first. There was just something special about seeing Hogwarts on screen for the first time, and I relive that nostalgia every time I see it. Sure, the child actors are mostly horrible, but every single one of the adults is completely brilliant, and the world they created on screen is truly something special. I also really miss Richard Harris’ Dumbledore. He was quiet, yet powerful. Mysterious, but with a childish wonder — he always had a twinkle in his eye. Not like Michael Gambon’s bombastic, often angry portrayal that felt so completely wrong.

This was also one of the few movies where Hogwarts really felt like a wizarding school. The students wore robes and there was always something magical going on. In a lot of the later movies, Hogwarts just felt like a normal high school, only the students carried wands to class instead of pens. I also loved the way that Quidditch was portrayed on screen. It was always such a huge element of the books, but was mostly ignored in the movies unless it served a story purpose. I understand that from a filmmaking perspective, but it was still disappointing.

3. Prisoner of Azkaban

Prisoner of Azkaban is kind of the black sheep of the Harry Potter movies. Either you love it or you hate it, and I definitely fall into the former category. There are certainly problems with it, but it’s easily the funniest in the series and the somewhat complicated turn of events in act three is handled very cleanly. I get why people hate on director Alfonso Cuaron for taking some of the magic out of Hogwarts, as this was the first movie in the series where the students wore normal clothes instead of robes, but that was an inevitability.

I certainly haven’t loved all of Alfonso Cuaron’s work (as my review of his film Gravity shows), but his direction and cinematography in this one are great. I love how he showed the passage of time through comedic vignettes, while also subtly including the Whomping Willow, which would hold immense importance in the climax of the film. The portrayals of Sirius, Lupin, and Peter Pettigrew were all great, as well. I wish they had highlighted the feud between Ron and Hermione over Scabbers and Crookshanks a little more, as that would have kept Wormtail in the viewer’s mind more and made the eventual reveal stronger, but that’s a small gripe.

2. Deathly Hallows Part Two

It’s easy to make a satisfying movie when all that’s left is the climax and emotional resolution of a journey that’s been going for years, but Deathly Hallows Part Two rises even above that standard to be something special. Sure, it still kind of only feels like half a movie, but it’s definitely the best half. Harry’s final sacrifice and talk with Dumbledore at King’s Cross were so perfectly handled, and really the whole Battle of Hogwarts felt satisfyingly epic and dire. It was like the Battle of Helm’s Deep from Lord of the Rings. The odds are so stacked against our heroes, but you can’t help but hold onto hope.

Of course, I still have a few small complaints. I never liked how reliant the trio was on Polyjuice Potion in the final book/movies, which really took away some of the fun of their plot to break into Bellatrix’s Gringotts vault. And that epilogue. Yikes. It read like bad fan fiction in the book but was even worse on screen. It’s like they put forth no effort at all to make the actors look older. Still, as a send-off for one of my favorite series of all time, Deathly Hallows Part Two was a success. It gave me the roller coaster of emotion that I wanted and the final, epic confrontation between good and evil.

1. Half-Blood Prince

Half-Blood Prince was a bit of a complicated book. There wasn’t a ton of story throughout most of it until Harry was roped into Dumbledore’s quest to get Voldemort’s Horcruxes. Harry set out to learn something from Slughorn, but that kind of took a back seat to more traditional exploits around Hogwarts. We did get to learn a lot more about Voldemort throughout the book through flashbacks, but that ended up being kind of a smaller part of the movie that I had expected. The kid that played young Voldemort was fantastic, and I also really enjoyed Jim Broadbent’s odd portrayal of Slughorn. It was different than the way I had imagined reading the books, but it worked.

But let’s be honest, most of the movie was just build up to Harry’s journey with Dumbledore to get a Horcrux, and Dumbledore’s subsequent death at the hands of Snape. Both scenes were brilliant in the movie. Far too infrequently in both the books and movies did we get to see really powerful, ancient magic, and the scene in the cave showed just that. It was clear how in over his head Harry would be once he set out to find the remaining Horcruxes on his own. I never liked Michael Gambon’s Dumbledore, but that slow-motion fall still tugged at my heartstrings. And Harry chasing Snape at the end, finding out that he was the Half-Blood Prince all along? That’s some good writing right there.

So what about you? What’s your favorite Harry Potter movie? Let me know in the comments below, and be sure to check out my ranking of all seven books!

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