Ranking the Best Harry Potter Movies

By: Adam Perkinson

Harry Potter was my childhood. I grew up reading the books, but most of the movies had come out by the time I finished reading them. For reference, the first movie came out in 2001 and the final installment came out in 2011. I started reading the books sometime in 2009, but I didn’t watch any of the movies until late 2010. I’m not sure if they still do this, but I specifically remember it being snowy outside and then coming in to watch ABC’s Christmas Harry Potter marathon. It was this memory that gave me the inspiration to rank the Harry Potter movies from worst to best. I’m not including any movies released after Deathly Hallows Part Two, because, well, they’re dead to me.

I’m ranking the movies as if I’ve never read the books, though, because comparing a 2 hour-long movie to a 500 page book just isn’t fair. Plus, you know the saying: The books are always better than the movies.

***Spoilers Ahead. Duh.***

  1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2

This movie is one giant waste of time. It’s 2 hours and 26 minutes of Harry, Ron, and Hermione doing a lot of running around only for a whole lot of nothing to happen. The most interesting thing to happen is the destruction of the locket horcrux, but that takes almost the entire movie for the trio to figure out. Other than a few miscellaneous battles with Death Eaters, this movie was nothing more than a money grab by Warner Brothers, which is why I’m ranking it as the worst Harry Potter movie.

Also, RIP Hedwig and Dobby.

  1. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

The Half-Blood Prince introduces us to the end of Harry Potter. It sets up the events in Deathly Hallows, kills off a major character, and begins the sense of doom and gloom not found in the earlier adaptations. And I guess that’s why I’m ranking it so low. I prefer the earlier movies (and books for that matter) when life in the wizarding world wasn’t so depressing. 

Also, RIP Dumbledore (and, basically, Snape, for that matter).

  1. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

This is where my opinion probably deviates from everyone else’s. While this movie has all of the..ahem…magic the rest of the early Potter movies possess, the story just doesn’t make much sense. It relies heavily on the fact that Dumbledore and the rest of the Hogwarts staff — who are supposed to be some of the brightest wizards in the world — can’t seem to see through the obvious trap Voldemort placed for Harry. How else would his name be placed in the cup? And even if Harry technically couldn’t back out of the tournament, there is nothing keeping him from sitting out of the trials and thus failing out, but that wouldn’t make for a good movie. 

That being said, however, it’s a good movie otherwise, but the plot holes ruin it for me.

Also, RIP Cedric.

  1. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Around this point in the list, the movies go from being completely unremarkable to somewhat enjoyable. This movie introduces one of the most universally hated characters in the entire series in Dolores Umbridge. It also kills off Sirius Black and gives Harry yet another person to hate. The movie is filled with teenage hormone-filled drama, including, for the first time in the series, romance. While that part of the movie isn’t my thing, I can appreciate it from a storytelling standpoint in that there needed to be some way to show how the characters are maturing, but to be honest, this is a perfectly average Harry Potter movie. There’s a pretty even amount of good and bad things in it and for the first time in this list, I’m not left with a bad taste in my mouth

Also, RIP Sirius.

  1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

It was hard not to be biased about this decision. It’s my favorite book, but this movie is very different from the rest, mainly because it had a different director than the first two movies did. Chris Columbus directed Sorcerer’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets, but Alfonso Cuarón directed this one. It was also his only Potter movie, as British filmmaker Mike Newell would take over for 2005’s Goblet of Fire. Cuarón’s influence on the movie is most evident in the fact that for the first time, the characters are dressed in more “normal” clothes rather than the stereotypical wizardry robes seen in the predecessors. There are also numerous storyline changes that almost make the movie completely separate from the book aside from the name, but I digress. Ranking the movie for what it is means that it’s one of the better ones, but not quite the best. 

Also, RIP Hagrid’s Flabberworms.

  1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2

Part 2 absolutely blows Part 1 out of the water. Whereas Part 1 exudes excrement, this movie exudes action and excitement. The soundtrack, combined with the black and dreary setting Hogwarts has and 10 years of indecisive fights between Harry and Voldemort makes for one of the greatest final battles in all of cinema. That being said, however, it falls short of being the greatest overall, mainly due to the super-depressing theme of which I’ve never been a fan. It’s only the return of the most powerful dark wizard, why the long faces?

Also, RIP Fred, Snape (for real this time), and Lupin.

  1. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Ah, good old Tom Riddle. It’s awfully lucky you kept a diary, now isn’t it? Otherwise this entire movie wouldn’t exist. It’s a great one, too. Following in the footsteps of Sorcerer’s Stone, it starts off with an amusing scene when the Weasley brothers show up to bust Harry out from the Dursley’s in their father’s modified Ford Angela, which Ron later steals to take to Hogwarts after he and Harry miss the Hogwarts Express because of Dobby and his attempts to keep Harry out of Hogwarts. It continues to follow Voldemort’s rise as he slowly but surely gets stronger, and unbeknownst to anyone at the time, acquaints us with horcruxes for the first time. (We wouldn’t know what horcruxes are exactly until Order of the Phoenix.) With all this in mind though, even it pales in comparison to The Sorcerer’s Stone.

  1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

This movie is the reason Harry Potter is as legendary as it is. It was the foundation the rest of the movies built upon. It beautifully introduces you to the Harry Potter universe without overwhelming you and leaves you wanting more once it’s over. It perfectly encapsulates the wondrous, amazed feeling Harry and his fellow first-year students were undoubtedly experiencing without being too over-the-top. It also has one of my favorite scenes in the entire series when the trio play “wizard’s chess” in order to get to where You-Know-Who is hiding. It also lets us see Voldemort for the first time as this broken shell of an evil wizard and gives us a starting point to base his return off of later in the series. 

It was hard not to be biased, but I’m pretty happy with that list. Regardless of their ranking though, they’re all solid movies that can be enjoyed regardless of whether or not you know exactly what’s going on the entire time.

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