The Harry Potter franchise, for many individuals, was an integral part of their coming of age. Whether fans were the same age as Harry when he began his wizarding adventure, or a bit younger or older, the tale has amassed an army of fans with J.K. Rowling’s novels and a successful film franchise to boot. Now as fans are in the midst of the spinoff Fantastic Beasts franchise, they may question whether the Harry Potter movies are still as good as they remember.
The short answer is “yes,” although adult fans who already know the major beats may want to pick and choose which classic movies to revisit, and which ones may not be quite as fun now that they’re all grown. Harry Potter’s tale is still great, but some of the movies definitely stand out as superior to others. One may think all the films are the same quality, but will quickly realize upon re-watch this is far from the case.
Before diving into this list, it’s worth mentioning again this ranked list is for those who know the world of Harry Potter and have already seen the movies. Trying to watch the movies in the ranking they’re given for the first time would be absolute madness and is not at all advised by me, or probably any other fan. Watch the whole series through first, then come back to this list and see if you agree with these favorites.
8. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets
Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets may have been cool as hell to experience back in the day, but nowadays, it’s a huge time suck. The Harry Potter movie clocks in at just under 3 hours in length, and was one of the last attempts to try and adapt even minor details from the corresponding book of the same name. It drags on upon re-watch, especially for audiences who know how it ends.
It was fine for the time it was released and, as mentioned, none of these movies are necessarily “bad.” When measured up against its peers, however, there are far more engaging scenes to watch in other movies compared to Ron navigating a giant game of Wizard’s Chess. Just remember that Harry unknowingly got Voldemort’s diary, and ended up saving his future wife from a Basilisk while also unintentionally destroying a Horcrux. As for the rest, well, it can largely be forgotten.
7. Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 1
Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 1 isn’t just an awkward title, it’s a movie with an awkward ending. While the intention of splitting the final book into two separate movies was the right idea from Warner Bros., it required this Harry Potter movie to essentially end at the middle point in the story.
Now, that middle point was Voldemort’s stealing of the Elder Wand from Dumbledore’s corpse, which was pretty dark and crazy. Still, in the context of what’s to come, Harry Potter movie lovers may find themselves a bit too anxious to suffer through all of the depressing parts of this movie knowing the real action is laying in wait in Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2. As a consolation, it’s one of the best in that it made Part 2 a stronger film, so there’s that!
6. Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix
Much like in the books, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was the Harry Potter movie where the main cast “grew up.” Everyone in the cast dealt with their own issues and the fact the magical world at large was unwilling to admit Voldemort had truly returned. This was also the directorial debut of David Yates, who would direct the rest of the movies from then on.
So, what makes this Harry Potter movie a cut above the two previous entries? Beyond the fact the general story shifts to a more adult tone, Dolores Umbridge was one of the best villains in the franchise. It helped that the actress who played her, Imelda Staunton, was a near-perfect casting that really encapsulated what made the headmaster so damn irksome and evil. Watch for Umbridge, stay for the heart-wrenching exit of Sirius Black.
5. Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince
At the risk of proving my point with its middling status on this list, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is one of the more underrated titles of the franchise. It’s forced to navigate a sort of sexual awakening amongst the characters, and also shows the death of Albus Dumbledore all in the span of two and a half hours, which sounds like a damn near impossible task.
Yet Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince manages to do both well enough, and may even convince some audiences to feel a sense of pity for Draco Malfoy, who never deserved any prior. The Slytherin goes through quite the gauntlet of emotions in this adventure, which is somewhat overshadowed by other events, but tragic to see nonetheless. It’s a performance Tom Felton can be proud of, provided he ever re-watches the Harry Potter movies down the road.
4. Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone
It’s the Harry Potter movie that started it all, and just as enjoyable to watch today as it was back then. Perhaps it’s the nostalgia of reliving the movie that showed Hogwarts for the first time, or the wonderful directing of Chris Columbus? There’s also that awesome iconic scene of Hagrid’s arrival to tell Harry he’s a wizard, which remains one of the most memorable moments in this franchise.
Really, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is the Harry Potter movie that set the standard for all of the films that followed. It’s still very much a kids film, but there’s enough maturity to it that older fans won’t groan and feel bored living through it once again. At least, not as much as they would while watching Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and watching Ron Weasley freak out about spiders.
3. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban
This is hands down the best of the young Harry Potter movies, and a lot of that is credit to Oscar-winning director Alfonso Cuaron. He expertly edited down the story into a masterful adaptation, which was a challenge the two prior films balked at. It was a great decision that effectively set a standard for the movie world of Harry Potter: that all events directly affecting Harry stayed, and the rest got shuffled out.
It also helps that Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban marked a significant change in the main cast. Each actor came into their own as actors, and it was the first film in which Michael Gambon took on the role of Albus Dumbledore. There’s so much that is different about Azkaban compared to the first two films it could’ve caused some massive backlash, but instead, it created one of the best Harry Potter movies of the whole franchise.
2. Harry Potter And The Goblet of Fire
It was quite a tall order for a film to tackle Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which featured one of the biggest events to have ever happened at Hogwarts, The Triwizard Tournament. The scale of the film still feels massive upon re-watch, and while the movie left out a good deal of material from the book, it nailed the whole scope and majesty of the tournament rather well.
It’s still so satisfying to watch, and fun right up until Cedric Diggory’s corpse flops in front of the unassuming crowd at the final event. Some would argue the Harry Potter movie somewhat undersells Voldemort’s return with too much emphasis on the tournament, but things get so dark after Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, fans revisiting should appreciate the final truly lighthearted adventure in the franchise right before everything goes to shit.
1. Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2
As mentioned earlier, Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 1 took the bullet so that this Harry Potter movie could get a lion’s share of the glory. It offered a non-stop thrill ride that led up to the final showdown between Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort. We even got a scene where Mrs. Weasley called Bellatrix a bitch; it’s just all so fantastic!
It’s not often that fans of a franchise should hit up the final film first when contemplating a re-watch, but starting from the beginning may cause a burn out before hitting this gem. Hit this one up early because it’s a great way to reflect on how far the franchise came leading to that grand finale. The book helped, but the movies really brought a fantastical and tragic final sequence together in a way imaginations couldn’t quite do justice.
Related: The Harry Potter Cast: A Look Back Then And Now
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Which is your Favorite Harry Potter Movie