I grew up on Harry Potter, as I feel many people my age have. I would be lying if the Harry Potter films did not have a profound impact on my own attitude, hairstyle, or wardrobe. As the characters evolved so did I. I felt like I was part of Harry and his crew, and I do believe I am better of because of it. These films are not only good, but they have positive role models through Harry, Ron and Hermione. Since Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is coming out soon, I thought this would be a good time to revisit one of my favorite film franchises. Before I get into my list, here is a little disclaimer: This is my own personal ranking of the Harry Potter films. Your list is probably different than mine, but this is just how I view them.
8. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
This is by no means a bad film, but over time I cannot help but feel underwhelmed by it. There is some nice evolution with Harry, Ron and Hermione, but the plot does seem to drag on a bit. Perhaps this is because much of this film felt very similar to the first one. With that said, the strongest aspect of this film is really the evolution of the characters (as previously mentioned). Each and every character is given some more to do, which allows us audience members to latch onto them more. For instance, in the first film Draco Malfoy may have been a nuisance, but in this one he is more of a straight up bully. He and Harry engage in a wizarding duel and compete during quidditch. We even get introduced to his father who is more vile than he is.
Because of this we begin to understand why he is the way he is. I am surprised just how well the special effects hold up today with the basilisk. Overall this is a very fun film. It may have some issues with he plot and the pace, but it remains thoroughly entertaining with engaging characters.
7. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Honestly this was my least favorite of the bunch until I re-watched it recently. It has several moments that feel a little too goofy, plus some aspects of the plot that are rather dull. However, much like the second installment, this film is full of great character moments. In this film, Harry becomes more of a teacher to his peers. Since he has much more experience using spells in combat he decides to train others so that they can defend themselves against Voldemort and his army. Even though some of these scenes are a bit cheesy, it is nice to see Harry in charge. Another character that gets some major development is Snape himself. Up until now Snape has been seen as a thorn in Harry’s side. Sure he has his funny moments, but we as audience members do not feel much for Snape. That all changes when we get a glimpse at Snape’s past. He used to be bullied by Harry’s own father, which gives us a great reason for why he has loathed Harry since day one (of course we get much more of that in the final installment).
I also quite liked the addition of Dolores Umbridge. Other than Voldemort she is quite possibly the vilest character in the entire franchise. Someone who I feel was not used properly is Dumbledore. The whole film is him avoiding Harry, but his justification at the end is pretty idiotic. He thought that was the best way to keep Harry out of harm, but really if he thought about it for a little bit longer he would have realized how stupid that is. Thank god for the finale battle between Dumbledore and Voldemort though. That is the one saving grace to how they used Dumbledore. One final aspect of the film that I want to mention is the special effects. I do not know why, but they look worse in this film than they have been in the past two films. Maybe they had to lower the budget for some reason, but a lot of the CGI did not impress me.
6. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
A lot of people did not like this film when it was first released, but there are many great qualities to it. While it has some pacing issues like most of the other Harry Potter films, it does have some more great character moments. We learn a lot more about the world of Harry Potter, as well as a lot more about our three main heroes. There are some parts in the narrative that do not feel quite right, but it is refreshing to watch a Harry Potter film that does not follows the basic structure of all the past ones (Go through the school year, uncover some new details, and fight off a Voldemort-related character). We do not even get to see Hogwarts in this film. One aspect of the film I truly adore is the sound design. The spells have never felt quite as powerful, the ambient noise has never felt quite as crisp, and because of this the film feels more inviting than ever before. I mentioned the pacing issues earlier, but this film is really quite slow.
The characters keep our attention, but throughout the middle portion of the film I could not help but wonder when it will end. Even though Ron, Harry and Hermione have clashed in the past, this time it felt very real. I understood why each character felt the way they did, and all three actors were able to convey those emotions perfectly. It may not be great, but this is definitely a very good Harry Potter film with plenty of attributes.
5. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
This may be too low for some people, but even though I really do love the first Harry Potter film, it does have some flaws. Before I talk about said flaws, I have to give this film major props. It is the reason why we have so many other Harry Potter films. The casting is all around perfect, the music is fantastic and most importantly the atmosphere is absolutely inviting. I love how Harry is in awe of everything he sees, mainly because that is precisely how the audience would react in his position. The effects in this film are okay, but they have not aged very well. The younger actors are fine, but of course compared to how they act in later films they are not very good. Again, one of the biggest problems with this franchise is the pacing and the pacing is a little off in this film too. There is a lot of exposition which is natural, but occasionally it does stifle our own engagement with the Wizarding World.
Since I probably will not mention him again, I want to talk about Hagrid: I love him in this film. Hagrid is that parental figure that Harry needed, and I found myself wanting Hagrid in my life too. He was just the coolest character with plenty of heart. Overall, this is a great introduction to the world of Harry Potter despite a couple of missteps along the way. Regardless of those missteps, this film will always hold a very special place in my heart.
4. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
This is one of the more controversial Harry Potter films. I never finished reading the books, but from my understanding they cut out some substantial material from the films. I am a fan of the films first, so as a film I really enjoy The Half-Blood Prince because it continues to evolve our main characters while also devoting some great time to side players such as Malfoy or even Dumbledore. Dumbledore and Harry have an interesting relationship, but it was not before this film that I truly bought their friendship. The early scene in the film was key.
They had a camaraderie about them as if they are old pals going off having an adventure together. Malfoy had been put on the back-burner for the past couple of Potter films so it was nice to see him again, but not as the villain we know him as. This film introduces us to a deeply misguided Malfoy who is battling his inner demons. Of course Harry, Hermione and Ron had some great moments, but it was nice that Ron and Hermione finally came together in this one (it was a long time coming). Harry also found someone to love in Ginny, but I think that could have been handled a little bit better. It felt a bit rushed. All in all this film has many layers but it does a great job of balancing the darkness with the light.
3. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
This installment of the Harry Potter franchise feels so very unique because of its focus on The Triwizard Tournament. The Prisoner of Azkaban was a nice departure from the formula of the first two films and Goblet of Fire kept up this evolution. Prisoner of Azkaban also started growing up our main characters, but Goblet of Fire did a fantastic job showing the conflicting emotions of adolescence. It did not work perfectly (The Ron and Harry dispute did not entirely work for me) but it was important to have it there.
This film also introduced Mad Eye Moody which turned out to be a great character. I must also mention the effects in this film. They are quite a step up from the previous ones. The dragon looked amazing and the effects used on Voldemort (First full appearance) were quite convincing. There was still plenty of fun in this film, but the darkness established in the third film continued to grow.
2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
I could see this topping most people’s lists, and the reason it did not top mine is because there is another Harry Potter film that is so much more innovative than the rest. With that said, this is a fantastic send off to a series that never had any real missteps. The entire cast did spectacularly in this film, but the standout will always be Alan Rickman as Snape. The scene where Harry learns of Snape’s true nature was absolutely heart-wrenching to watch for the first time. It made me greatly appreciate him as a character and made past films make more sense as well.
The battles in this film were fairly well done, but it is interesting how the film decided to focus on the trio of characters rather than the entire battle that was going on at Hogwarts. Even though it was a risky move it was the right move. By doing so director David Yates streamlined the action instead of hopping around from person to person. If I had a complaint with the film it would be how they handled Bellatrix’s death. It felt very quick and anti-climactic. For someone who provided a great deal of scrutiny to our fellow heroes, her death should have felt like more of an occasion. This final installment of the Harry Potter franchise did everything it should have done and more. While it may just be the bleakest of them all, it never ceases to inspire. It was certainly bittersweet saying goodbye to these three friends I had grown up with, but it was easier seeing as though they left on a remarkably high note.
1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
A couple of years ago I would not have said that this is my favorite Harry Potter film. I probably would have chosen the last one, or Goblet of Fire. However, recently I payed more attention to the use of effects and camerawork. Once I did that I realized that this film is truly different than all the rest. It has some great long takes, interesting visual effects (look at the scene with Lupin teaching the class), along with a great story to tie it all together. I am also a sucker for time travel and guess what? They have some time travel here too. I mentioned this earlier, but this is where the Harry Potter film start allowing their characters and narrative some much needed growth.
Instead of revisiting familiar plot points like the first two films, Prisoner of Azkaban decides to pave its own way with fantastic results. This is also the only Harry Potter film that does not feature Voldemort at all. He may be mentioned once or twice be he does not make a physical appearance like he does in all other Harry Potter films. Finally I would like to mention how this is the first film where the young actors truly begin to shine. Some of the acting was a bit rough in the first two films, but here they really started hitting their stride.
Well that is my list. I am most curious to know what is yours. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them comes out on November 18th and hopefully it ends up being a good film. I have a gut feeling that it will not be very good, but I hope I am proven wrong. Regardless, I will be checking out the film and so should you.