Harry Potter was an element of my childhood that I will never forget. Not only was it my first fictional book series that I took seriously, but JK Rowling’s material meant a lot to my young, innocent self. As you can imagine, the anxious wait for The Philosopher’s Stone brought the kind of excitement that matched the euphoria of the massively anticipated Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Now, years later, I can reflect on the movie series as an adult that expanded JK Rowling’s words onto the big screen. Below you will see my official ranking of all the movies including Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The Harry Potter fandom is a different breed since I was a child, so I am expecting many to disagree with my list angrily. Vent all you like in the comments as a form of therapy, but remember, the entire story is about magic; it ain’t real folks.
Oh, just as a disclaimer: once I watch Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald I will update this list. Also, if you want to listen to the RSC Movie Podcast discuss all the movies, then here you go, plus, we also have a poll running on the best Harry Potter movie – have your say here.
In descending order:
9. The chamber of secrets
I can forgive the lack of acting quality in The Philosopher’s Stone, but The Chamber of Secrets does irritate me, especially Daniel Radcliffe, who serves zero improvements between both movies. Maybe it was because there was a year gap between the first two movies, but the second Harry Potter film feels like a separate universe. The entire experience feels slightly wooden, and it is absurdly long considering the size of the book.
The only saving grace is that once it delves deeper into Tom Riddle’s diary, it gets interesting, and you can always look back at the story as uniquely significant due to the Horcruxes. However, it is never a movie I desire to rewatch.
8. The philosopher’s stone
I will never overly criticise The Philosopher’s Stone because of the experience it gave me when I first watched it in the cinema. I went with the whole family, and it was one of the best movie experiences I’ve had. The first Harry Potter film captures the wizarding world, the magic and the essence of the book rather well, despite a few pitfalls in the story.
Unfortunately, The Philosopher’s Stone suffers for being the first movie made by Warner Bros, so in comparison to the other films, and the disastrous acting, the film does not age well. Despite the apparent criticisms, its ranking in no way reflects its cultural significance. The Philosopher’s Stone birthed the start of this world, inspiring theme parks and opening the story to people that hadn’t read the books.
Also, let’s not forget that it spurred a whole lot of memes, including “I’m just Harry”.
7. The goblet of fire
Talking of memes; “did you put your name in the Goblet of Fire!” is undoubtedly the second best meme, because the book clearly states Dumbledore said it calmly. The Goblet of Fire followed The Prisoner of Azkaban, and in comparison to the latter, it does not hold up.
The Goblet of Fire is by no means a bad movie, the Triwizard tournament is well executed; however, the film decided to enjoy it too much and forgot many elements of the story.
The Goblet of Fire highlights some critical moments in Harry Potter. You see Voldemort in his full form for the first time in The Goblet of Fire which spurred a run of darker movies. One moment, in particular, put a scar on the entire series; Hermione in her ballroom dress was meant to be a moment of transformation, but due to the casting of Emma Watson, it served no impact in the grand scheme of things. Hermione was meant to be a buck-toothed with mousy hair. No wonder JR Rowling was not amused.
6. The order of the Phoenix
The Order of the Phoenix begins to lose the innocence of children, delving into the darker elements of JK Rowling’s universe. The Order of the Phoenix is a well-executed movie, with the politics starting to take centre stage due to Harry Potter’s claim that the Dark Lord has returned.
The central moment comes at the end, with the duel between Dumbledore and Voldemort. Seeing two powerful wizards fight left much to be desired, and from here to the rest of the series, the films feel more of a continuation rather than single films led by a unique plot device.
The Order of the Phoenix serves one of the most tragic moments in the series, with the murder of Sirius Black, a chapter which JK Rowling famously cried while she wrote.
5. The Deathly Hallows Part 1
I admit, when I heard that Warner Bros decided to split the last book into two parts, I was fuming at the apparent greed. However, reflection is a beautiful thing and looking back, it made a lot of sense. The final book has a lot of loose ends, and one film may have suffered in fitting in everything together.
The Deathly Hallows Part 1 is slow, but it is crafted well and shows the characters more maturely as they begin to leave childhood and enter adulthood. Everything is dark and dangerous, giving Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley a task to deal with the real wizarding world and destroy the Horcruxes.
The only problem with The Deathly Hallows Part 1 is the lack of impact because you understand this is the calm before the storm. The death of Dobby was not emotional, and the only chills you receive is when Voldemort disrespectfully opens up Dumbledore’s grave and takes the famous Elder Wand.
Oh and one last positive: Daniel Radcliffe begins to act in the second to last film. I can’t fault him at all here.
4. Fantastic Beasts and where to find them
When I heard that JK Rowling had written five screenplays, I was dismayed at the opportunism and greed. We are yet to realise if this was ever a good idea. However, the first movie in the new series was refreshing. JK Rowling always skirted around the history of the wizarding world pre-Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them provided snippets of information that we longed to understand with the Grindelwald reveal.
My only issue is that I am not a huge fan of Eddie Redmayne. His style of acting does not resonate with me. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them always had the ultimate advantage of when it was made, with improved CGI, and it’s probably the best-made out of all the films in the series.
3. The Prisoner of Azkaban
The Prisoner of Azkaban feels like a separate movie to the rest of the series. It’s dark, mysterious, well crafted and it is a reasonable interpretation of the book. I will never understand why some fans rank this movie so low, as it is wonderfully directed and it one of the most important stories to Harry Potter’s childhood. The Prisoner of Azkaban came after The Chamber of Secrets and what a ridiculous gulf in quality.
I always imagine JK Rowling being frustrated with the first two movies and then thoroughly enjoying this. The way it hones in on the importance of Sirius Black and the significance of family to Harry Potter is articulated wonderfully.
2. the Half blood prince
For years I did not rate The Half-Blood Prince as a film, but the story of Severus Snape cannot be ignored. Snape’s story is the most important in Harry Potter and represents JK Rowling’s mastery of storytelling. The Half-Blood Prince is a fantastic movie, and it unravels the Dark Lord’s plans to destroy and rule the wizarding world.
It also provides excellent context for the struggle of Draco Malfoy, who spends most movies finding the best one-liners to offend Harry Potter. It’s somewhat saddening that Draco does not want the life that Voldemort forces on his family. The Half-Blood Prince delivers the most shocking twist in the Harry Potter series well, with the deceptive plans of Snape and Dumbledore coming to fruition; the great betrayal was all part of the plan, forcing the audience to shed tears in the finale.
1. The Deathly Hallows Part 2
No-one can deny that The Deathly Hallows Part 2 is the best movie in the series. It’s exciting, emotional and holds the famous Hogwarts battle. I was relieved when I watched it for the first time in the cinema that it stayed true to story, and the villain taking centre stage was a fantastic move.
It’s weird, but for all its greatness, the best scene in The Deathly Hallows Part 2 is Snape’s memory; that gets me every time, which is the better moment than Harry Potter pretending to be dead in Hagrid’s arms. What else is surprising is that all the characters get their moment and Harry Potter and Voldemort aren’t the only famous people in the story. There was a delicate balance, demonstrating the need for Part 1, allowing Part 2 to breathe and bring home the final chapters.
That’s it, folks, that is my ranking. If you agree with it then good, and if you disagree with it then I can imagine you comically foaming from the mouth. It doesn’t matter really because the books are extensively superior. And again, for context, it’s about a world with wizards and witches.
Make sure you put your rankings in the comments.
Daniel Hart is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has operated as Editor-in-Chief since 2017.