April 1, 2023


Without Art It's Really Boring!!!

Every Harry Potter movie ranked, from Prisoner of Azkaban to Crimes of Grindelwald

7 min read

The Harry Potter 20th Reunion special will hit HBO Max on New Year’s Day.

Warner Media

It’s been 20 years since Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the first of the Harry Potter film franchise based on J.K. Rowling’s books, Apparated onto our screens. It saw words such as “Apparated” become part of the vernacular (at least among the Potterhead generation) and spawned everything from theme parks (stacked mainly with gift shops), to not-so-warmly-received prequel movies and even Lego advent calendars. Why stop at plain old Lego sets when you can stuff Lego into a Harry Potter-themed advent calendar?

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the first movie — it premiered in the US Nov. 16, 2001 — HBO Max announced it would give Harry Potter the Friends treatment and bring back the main cast, including Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, for a reunion. (Notably, there won’t be a seat for Rowling.) The special, streamed from the London set of the first movie, will hit HBO Max on Jan. 1, New Year’s Day.

Before then, here’s our ranking of all 10 Harry Potter movies, including those prequel flicks featuring adorkable Hufflepuff and famed Magizoologist Newt Scamander.

10. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018)

Warner Bros. Pictures

J.K. Rowling popped her screenwriting cherry with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, but her follow-up to that magical prequel seemed less experienced than the first. A big edit might have cut out the dense detail and plotting that seemed better placed within the pages of a book. It’s the lowest ranked Harry Potter movie of them all, not just here, but on Metacritic (the only one that matters), with a measly 52%. The biggest criticism? Sorry, I zoned out too much thinking about this movie to answer that question.

— Jennifer Bisset

9. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010)

Warner Bros. Pictures

The movie that can arguably be blamed for Twilight Breaking Dawn: Part 1 (not to mention The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1). Many would argue that the adaptation of the final Harry Potter book did need to be split into two movies. I agree, but its downbeat tone can be heavy, plus it mostly spends time setting up the second part. It’s a bit of a marathon to commit to, peppered with awful, tragic deaths.

— Jennifer Bisset

8. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)

Screenshot by Abrar Al-Heeti/CNET

Arachnophobes, beware. Chamber of Secrets is a perfectly acceptable film so long as you don’t have a crippling fear of spiders, snakes or Jason Isaacs. Our first introduction to one of the franchise’s biggest plot points, our tiny trio finds themselves taking on the heir of Slytherin who holds the leash to a beast so dangerous you can’t even look directly at it. It loses points, however, for introducing the film version of Ginny Weasley. Bonnie Wright did a reasonably good job, but we’ll never forgive the scripts for reducing Ginny from a bold, charismatic individual to a two-dimensional side character with heart eyes for Harry.

— Steph Panecasio

7. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)

Warner Bros. Pictures

When Warner Bros decided to turn Rowling’s slim pamphlet into a sprawling multi-movie franchise, it could be seen as a return to the magic or cynical moneymaking sorcery. And thanks to off-screen controversy (Rowling’s outspoken views on Twitter, Johnny Depp’s marital difficulties) the Fantastic Beasts series has sputtered like a wonky wand. 

But we will say this: the first film is decent. It gives fans and casual viewers a chance to enjoy the fantasy without being stuck in twee boarding school world, and the expanded look at Rowling’s wizarding world comes with delightfully colorful creatures and a dandy retro fantasy vibe. 

It’s also really well-cast: Eddie Redmayne is great as Newt Scamander, a big screen hero whose character is defined by gentleness, curiosity and compassion instead of violence and aggression. Katherine Waterston and Ezra Miller provide intriguingly off-kilter support, and Colin Farrell is such a smolderingly seductive baddie it’s a real shame Depp took over. Wherever the series goes next, you can find some fantastic stuff here.

— Richard Trenholm

6. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures, Courtesy Warner Bros.

The main thing I remember about this movie: Daniel Radcliffe making weird clicking spider noises while tipsy on a potion (drug) that makes you lucky. Almost visually as dark as a Game of Thrones episode, Half-Blood Prince is marked by a vicious duel between Harry and Malfoy, not to mention the death of Dumbledore. It doesn’t really have a clear cut beginning, middle and end, instead feeling like a big jumble of subplots about teen romance. Not complaining.

— Jennifer Bisset

5. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)

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We wouldn’t have had the tremendous, perfect casting of Daniel Radcliffe, Emily Watson and Rupert Grint without this movie. We wouldn’t have the perfectly pitched Harry Potter aesthetic. Perhaps most importantly, we wouldn’t have had the sublime John Williams score. Outside of Star Wars and Indiana Jones, is there a more iconic and memorable Williams theme? I’d argue no.

With fantastic movies down the line, Prisoner of Azkaban, being the most obvious example, it’s easy to forget Harry Potter’s sequels were following a visual and stylistic template designed, in part, by the steady hand of Chris Columbus. The man directed Home Alone and Mrs Doubtfire for god’s sake, he knew what he was doing!

The Philosopher’s Stone is one of his best. It’s far more of a kids movie than what would come later for Harry Potter, but that’s entirely appropriate given the source material. It’s timeless, smart, visually brilliant and a great movie to watch with children to this day.

— Mark Serrels

4. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)

Everett Collection

Order of the Phoenix had a lot of memorable moments. Some were fun, like Arthur Weasley vibing in Muggle world, and others were tragic, like the death of Sirius Black. The film also featured one of the franchise’s better villains in Dolores Umbridge. But to me, the film was significant for being the first time visual effects technology caught up to the story Harry Potter was trying to tell. The duel between Dumbledore and Voldermort in the Ministry of Magic? That’s worth a million Galleons.

— Daniel Van Boom

3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011)

Warner Bros

Was it satisfying finally seeing Voldemort break up into little pieces and disintegrate like a Disney witch? Yes. Was it satisfying seeing Ron and Hermione finally lock lips? Not if you’re a Harmony (Harry and Hermione) shipper. Still, this (long) movie managed to tie the bow on one of the biggest and best film franchises of all time. It’s fraught with tension and danger for our heroes, many of whom don’t make it to the end. A satisfying final chapter.

— Jennifer Bisset

2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)

Warner Bros.

Goblet of Fire has a bit of everything. It has sports, communal bathing, ballroom dance and even Sir Michael Gambon transforming a calm, curious line into a roaring interrogation. The film takes pages and pages of exposition and makes it all seem incredibly normal. 

Oh, there are two more schools of magic? Of course there are! There’s an ancient Triwizard Tournament that pits school-aged children against each other in a potentially fatal inter-school competition? Sure! The most evil person in the world is threatening to return again? Brilliant! It has everything you want in a Harry Potter film AND it gives the leading men shag haircuts. What’s not to love?

— Steph Panecasio

1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)

Warner Bros. Pictures

In the biggest argument for why we should DEFINITELY have had a Marauders era spinoff, the introduction of David Thewlis and Gary Oldman makes this film an easy number one pick. The only film in the franchise not to include an iteration of big bad Voldemort, it’s a refreshing and entertaining adventure that explores the concepts of friendship, loyalty, found family, angst and, well, the healing qualities of a good chocolate bar. 

It provides much-needed context for the Marauders era, with the interaction between veteran actors like Oldman, Thewlis, Alan Rickman and Timothy Spall providing a masterclass within the confines of what is genuinely just a really good time. You’ll very likely enjoy this movie regardless of your opinion on Harry Potter. Alfonso Cúaron’s entry into the series is cinematic (those Dementors, am I right?), concise and character-driven, so for that we rightfully celebrate its superiority.

— Steph Panecasio

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