The Harry Potter books are staple reading, with author J.K Rowling introducing all of us Muggles to the Wizarding World, the mystical school of Hogwarts, and the conflict between Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort. They’re a cornerstone in many people’s lives, and it was inevitable that they’d be turned into movies. Luckily for audiences, the transfiguration spell that turned these childhood books into adult movies went well, unlike Ron’s attempt to turn a rat into a goblet. I decided to put some time aside and rank the entire Harry Potter movie franchise from worst to best.
The exploration of the magical world didn’t end with the books, as in the years following, a new story focusing on the magizoologist Newt Scamander began, explaining his role in the wizarding world. Unfortunately, the magic had pretty much all left.
Made up of 11 movies, the Harry Potter saga and its fantastic companions unfolded on the big screen for over 20 years, starting in 2001 and ending in 2022. David Zaslav, CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, has announced that the studio intends to reboot the story and tell it over the course of several seasons of TV. While fans eagerly await for that to come out, here are all of the projects in the Wizarding World ranked from best to worst.
Ranking All Harry Potter Movies (Best to Worst)
11. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
Finally, there’s Fantastic Beats: The Crimes of Grindelwald. The true crime of this film is it’s got absolutely nothing to do with fantastic beasts, with a plot that veers into Harry Potter prequel territory and never leaves. The film does away with the fun and whimsy of the Harry Potter world, becoming a depressing tale of a dead baby, a tragic Nagini story that undermines Neville’s best moment, and Grindelwald saying that he can stop World War Two if only the wizards rose against muggles. That last point is never referenced again.
There are way too many characters with forgettable names talking to each other about nothing notable, at least not concerning the main plot. Jacob and Newt are largely pointless to the story, and Queenie makes a baffling decision to join Grindelwald because the script tells her to. It’s a disaster from start to finish.
10. Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore
Looking past the controversy that Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore was neck deep in upon release, it is a weak film. It attempts to salvage the mess that Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald made, walking back some of the controversial decisions that the film makes. But it’s still a boring Harry Potter prequel, with the story focusing too heavily on Dumbledore’s and Grindelwald’s relationship than Newt’s beasts.
There are brief moments of Harry Potter fan service that might count as fun, but they’re once again crushed under zombie deer and weird, pointless assassination attempts. Ezra Miller keeps turning in a performance as Credence that somehow gets more depressing and mopey as these films go on, which is an accomplishment in itself. And when the film itself says that it was the plan all along, confusion is a sloppy excuse for poor screenwriting, especially when nothing of note happens until the end. Jude Law’s scenes as Dumbledore are great and emotional, but that’s it.
9. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is an attempt to resuscitate the Harry Potter franchise, detailing the origins of the in-universe textbook. The first film sticks to this premise, showcasing some truly weird and wonderful beasts, though it doesn’t capture the Harry Potter magic. Eddie Redmayne whispers his way through the film like all of his other roles, playing a truly awkward character.
The other main characters aren’t that interesting, either. Dan Fogler pulls some funny faces as the muggle Jacob Kowalski, Katherine Waterston is boring as Porpentina Goldstein, and Alison Sudol as her sister Queenie is mad and not in an endearing way. The film, at times, decides to abandon the fun and magic for a side plot about child abuse, making the film unnecessarily dark.
8. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is another casualty of time, with the effects of aging similarly bad, like in The Philosopher’s Stone. The young actors give slightly better performances, but they still have a long way to go before they reach their full potential in later films. It still has that Harry Potter charm, and that keeps it largely enjoyable.
The plot of the film is largely faithful to the book, acting as a thrill ride from start to finish. The evils it presents are rather cartoonish, but they help to keep the film’s tone fun and lighthearted throughout.
7. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
When Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was released back in 2001, it threw the world into a tizzy. And with good reason. Director Chris Columbus had an immense job adapting the first novel of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, and he did an admirable job. The film captures the magic found in those books and translates it perfectly onto the screen.
The choice to cast Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson would eventually prove to be great, along with the rest of the cast. Richard Harris’ Dumbledore fits the earlier, lighter years at Hogwarts well. The first film doesn’t showcase the acting talent of the leads (they were only children), which makes it difficult to rewatch. The effects have aged quite a bit. So while this film is a classic, it’s a flawed classic.
6. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
Many book-to-film adaptations split their final installments into two, and the same is true for the Harry Potter franchise. It can sometimes result in the final parts being drawn out, which is certainly the case with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1. Most of the film is Harry, Hermione, and Ron on the run camping, which makes for a rather boring watch. The visit to Godric’s Hollow and Xenophilius Lovegood’s house does little to spice things up.
There are some engaging moments throughout, like the opening battle in the sky, the infiltration of the Ministry of Magic, and the battle at Malfoy Manor, but the latter two scenarios are too short. The film could have done more to explain the importance of Harry’s mirror and how he got it, especially as it’s vital to his escape. But if the movie’s point was to illustrate just how isolated Harry is, then mission accomplished, but at the expense of making anything interesting to watch.
5. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
The sixth entry, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, tries to follow in Order of the Phoenix’s footsteps and balance the lighter school stuff with the heavier fate of the world, but unlike the fifth film, it never feels like it gets this balance right. It has a heavier focus on love in the Wizarding World. This features some awkward relationships, especially between Harry and Ginny.
This and Slughorn’s parties never quite mesh with the darker tale this film is telling about the Horcruxes. But it’s still enjoyable to watch and enough to get a smile out of those watching it, even if that smile is quickly disappearing and reappearing as the film goes on.
4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
While Prisoner of Azkaban might have started the series’ turn towards a darker tone, this darkening of the franchise is felt most of all in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. At times it feels more like a horror movie, with the opening murder of Frank Bryce, the Merpeople, and the last act of the film. It’s unsettling.
This unsettling nature is reflected in Voldemort himself, who is brought to terrifying life by Ralph Fiennes, which shows the continued strength of the cast. The performances of the young leads are improving too. This film gives a wider look at the world beyond Hogwarts, including the Quidditch World Cup and students from Durmstrang and Beauxbatons.
3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
This film is almost non-stop action, starting with the trio breaking into Gringotts with Griphook in an amazing sequence, with the movie capturing the thrill but desperation of the act. This quickly transitions into the Battle of Hogwarts, the opening of which sees all kinds of creatures join in the fight, really showing off all the magical creatures and people Harry met along his journey.
The second half after Harry is brought back to life isn’t as fun, with much of the magic, especially Harry’s duel with Voldemort boring wandwork, with none of the imagination that Order of the Phoenix had. Some emotional moments make up for this, especially Neville’s defiant speech to Voldemort and the moment he kills Nagini. To quickly comment on the 19 years later scene, the CGI looked awful when this film was released and has only got worse.
2. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
While awesome action isn’t usually associated with Harry Potter (it’s mostly just wand laser beams), Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix excels in its action. The fireworks display from the Weasley Twins’ escape and the final battle in the Ministry of Magic are standout moments, especially when Dumbledore duels Voldemort.
It’s not just the action that makes this a stand-out entry. Dolores Umbridge, played by Imelda Staunton, is delightfully hateable, with her medieval punishments, the perfect pink in her office and clothes, and being a stuck-up teacher. There are some genuinely funny moments throughout the film, like Hermione saying Ron has the emotional range of a teaspoon. It gets the balance of light and dark elements right, combining school fun with high stakes threat.
1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
The best Harry Potter film by far is Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. The actors have matured from their early days in Philosopher’s Stone and have begun to grow into their roles. The franchise grew up with them too, retaining some of the early joy of the earlier films but hinting at the coming darkness. Michael Gambon made his first appearance as Dumbledore here, and he makes for a more serious headmaster, a better fit for the heavier years at Hogwarts.
Gary Oldman as Sirius Black is a welcome addition to the cast, being at first a crazy and violent man, before giving way to a more loving godfather. The Dementors are a terrifying creation, much more so than those like the Inferi introduced later on. They’re brilliantly realized, and it’s possible to feel the cold creep in whenever they’re onscreen.
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