If anyone knows me at all, they’ll know that the Harry Potter film series is probably my favourite of all time. I can rewatch all 8 of them whenever I feel like it without ever tiring of them. Obviously, the series set and broke records throughout its decade-long cinematic run; they collectively grossed $7.7 billion worldwide, making it the third highest-grossing film series of all time with the second highest average gross per film in the top 10 after Jurassic Park. Each film created massive hype amongst fans of the books, propelled the three main actors to superstardom and featured some of the best known British and Irish acting talent in supporting roles. But how do they rank (in my opinion)? Below I’ve listed each film from worst to best, taking into account a combination of the following: faithfulness to the books, characterisation, the film/story’s flow, the acting, and the cinematography.
8. The Philosopher’s Stone
Unfortunately, those responsible for casting the child actors seemed to be making the decisions based on their looks and potential. The vast majority of them had little to no acting experience (the “little” only being in school plays, for example), and even Daniel Radcliffe, who had acted before, was not seasoned – and it showed. It made me wonder if the children were given any actual acting lessons throughout their time filming (and not just this film), since they only ever really slightly improved – and that’s more because they had been thrust into the deep end. The only redeeming qualities of the film was that it did well to set the scene of the series with great cinematography and special effects, it stuck as faithfully as possible to the book and the adult actors were there to set an example of what good acting really is.
7. The Goblet of Fire
One word: hair. The boys’ hairstyles in this film was so annoyingly off-putting, that I seriously am ranking it so low. However, although I understand the reason so much of the book was left out was to focus solely on the narrative of the Triwizard Tournament and Voldemort’s return, I also feel the film failed to do justice to what was a great, if very long, book. The beginning of the film (the Quidditch World Cup scenes) seemed rushed and key characters from the book were eliminated instead of at least given more minor roles (Winky and Ludo Bagman). The only really redeeming part was the return of Voldemort, with Ralph Fiennes stealing the film’s spotlight.
6. The Chamber of Secrets
Although the child actors were still amateurs at best, the film showed growth in the storyline and tone of the series. Again, it followed the book as closely as possible – the last of the series to really do so without any major changes or omissions. All in all, more exciting than the first film but by no means a major improvement.
5. The Prisoner of Azkaban
Finally we begin to see a bit of growth from the child actors and the introduction of new characters that would become staples of the series and fan favourites (Remus and Sirius). We also see the growth of Harry as a character as well as Michael Gambon fulfilling the role of Dumbledore – and, dare I say, with more flair and personality than Richard Harris did. The Time-Turner scenes were expertly done, being a highlight of the film.
4. The Deathly Hallows Part I
Although this film was pretty slow-paced in the middle compared to the others, it was a pivotal moment in the series since Harry and his friends were left without Dumbledore to (poorly) manage hunting and destroying Horcruxes. You do, however, get to see more emotion and tension between the trio as their characters are frustrated by their situation and almost torn apart by jealousy and alleged disloyalty. Here we also lose poor Hedwig in the exhilarating air chase/battle near the beginning and the beloved Dobby at the end.
3. The Deathly Hallows Part II
A fitting and exciting end to the series, Part II wrapped it up well, tying up the loose ends and allowing closure to some great characters whose journey we had watched unfold over the years. The one character in particular we see come full circle is Snape, for which Alan Rickman deserved the acclaim he received and awards which he didn’t get, while in contrast Dumbledore’s backstory is never explored – only implied by his brother and briefly mentioned in Rita Skeeter’s controversial biography. The several final battle scenes are as mesmerising to watch as they are exhilarating.
However, points are lost on the fleeting fight between Molly Weasley and Bellatrix – a villain who deserved a much longer ending to her end, and in general there’s so much going on to really cover it all unless you know the story and books, plus so many supporting characters are killed off that their deaths are more a mere quick camera shot of acknowledgement than a chance for the other characters and the audience to mourn. And let’s not dwell on the hilarity of Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny’s looks “19 years later” in the final scene…
2. The Order of the Phoenix
Dolores Umbridge may have been an awful person but Imelda Staunton made her a character you love to hate and it was the first time we were introduced to the maniacally evil Bellatrix Lestrange, portrayed brilliantly by Helena Bonham Carter. It was also the first time I felt sad at a character dying (sorry, boring Cedric) when Sirius was killed, but that of course led to the most epic battle of sorcery between Dumbledore and Voldemort.
The book is the longest in the series and a vast majority of it unfortunately had to be cut or shortened for the big screen, and while thankfully much of the book’s main and most important bits were retained or somehow written into the script (unlike parts from the other books), one bit that is left out is Umbridge’s admission that SHE set the dementors on Harry at the beginning – a revelation in the book that fuels even more disdain for her (if that’s possible). In the film, this isn’t explored, but only one theory (Voldemort is responsible) is mentioned and dismissed. Aside from that, Order of the Phoenix was truly a rollercoaster ride of a film where the villains certainly outshone the heroes.
1. The Half-Blood Prince
Apart from the historically inaccurate scene where the Millennium Bridge is destroyed (the book/film is set in 1996-1997) and you don’t see any humans on the bridge when it crashes into the river after they all run off (but according to the newspaper headline, there were deaths from said incident), the Half-Blood Prince is a near flawless film. The introduction of Jim Broadbent as the eccentric Professor Slughorn was very welcome for a bit of comedic relief amongst the darkness, and Malfoy is given room to evolve as a character from a simple, smug bully from a powerful family to someone from a family that’s fallen swiftly from grace torn between feeling the need to murder Dumbledore to either protect himself and his parents or to prove his worthiness and the conflict of whether he truly wants to move over to the dark side or not.
We are finally given more of an insight into Voldemort’s background growing up but unfortunately a lot of his story present in the book – for example, his acquirement of the objects that would one day become Horcruxes – is left out. However, the addition of the scene where the Burrow is destroyed and the chase through the fields of wheat added extra action that kept in line with the film’s tone as we start seeing the true danger Voldemort and his Death Eaters pose in it.
Do you agree with my ranking and ratings? If not…