HBO Max and HBO Go Asia kicked off 2022 with a nostalgic bang by giving fans a trip back to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry with the 20th Anniversary Special of Harry Potter. Fan-favorite actors and actresses such as Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Tom Felton, Gary Oldman, and Helena Bonham-Carter, just to name a few, reminisced their favorite scenes and memories from the franchise. Fans took the time to do the same by rewatching the entire Harry Potter franchise from start to finish which was exactly what we decided to do while simultaneously ranking the best HP films down to the worst.
J.K. Rowling has proven to be one of the great authors of this generation with how she treated the Harry Potter series. Rowling fully knew her readers and paid attention to their growth as readers by expanding and transforming her voice and themes are the readers themselves matured. She started off by delivering child-like and fantasy-rich stories with the first few installments while changing the mood eventually as the years passed. The fan base for the books grew exponentially and eventually paved the way for an even bigger expansion of the film franchise.
It is important to note that the rankings for this article are strictly limited to the film franchise and not the novels that Rowling has graciously blessed us with. Furthermore, due to the popularity of the novels and films, it’s somewhat a given that the majority of those who will be reading this article will have had some knowledge regarding the entire Harry Potter story. There will therefore be spoilers up ahead so proceed with caution.
Without any more delay, here are our personal rankings of the worst and best movies from the Harry Potter franchise:
8. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
The second installment of the Harry Potter franchise tried to deliver the same energy and grandeur that the first film had already set up. Sadly, however, it felt like it was trying to juggle too much while eventually leading up to an underwhelming villain and battle sequence. The exposition and build-up were lackluster and sluggish as they failed to really provide an element of excitement once the big twist finally came in. Furthermore, it lacked the magical spectacle that The Sorcerer Stone had given us which would have been crucial for the tonality and child-like appeal that this film should have had. There wasn’t enough of a captivating visual experience and while the story still has its merits for the franchise as a whole, it simply is the weakest installment and one that frankly becomes a tad bit forgettable.
7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
The decision to split the last book into two parts was an understandable move in order to build up the momentum and spectacle of the grand final as well as a response to the lengthy nature of the source material. The first part of the finale however was a long and grueling 146-minute film that seemed to just be a lead-up to the epic conclusion. It didn’t carry much emotional weight except for just a few prominent scenes but even those weren’t strong enough to round out the entire film. This film was however visually and aesthetically brilliant as it felt like a very different film altogether. The storyline just suffered from being excessively long which felt like an entire movie’s worth of exposition and rising action for its second part.
6. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
This film marks the final change in the director’s chair for the entire film franchise. It’s the film that may be the most conflicting film installment for fans because it has its merits and some points that were also a tad bit underwhelming. We do get a set of strong and riveting villains in the form of Dolores Umbridge, Bellatrix LeStrange, Voldemort, and at times even the Minister of Magic himself, Cornelius Fudge. The Order of the Phoenix also boasts a very politically driven theme that dives into the denial and controversies that involve various groups and institutions such as Hogwarts, The Ministry of Magic, and even The Order and Dumbledore’s Army. Its change in tone is a bit too hard to swallow at times as its darker themes are truly unlike any film that we have seen in the franchise. It also shines for the depiction of a conflicted Harry who starts to explore his own identity and purpose —showing off phenomenal character development in the process. When taken on its own, The Order of the Phoenix is actually pretty good, however, it lacks the thrills and excitement when compared to the other films.
5. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
The film that started it all. The Sorcerer’s Stone appeals to the child within us all and continues to stand as the most magically-stunning film in the Harry Potter franchise. This movie sucked us all into the gripping and fantasy-filled world of Harry Potter as it also establishes key themes. plot points, characters, and ideas that would recur in the films to come. The world-building all started with this film and it was rightfully done to truly anchor and set the stage for the plot of the story to grow even further in the next 7 installments. We were also able to see the fantastic chemistry between Radcliffe, Watson, and Grint as young as they were which goes to show their incredible acting abilities as early as the first movie.
4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
The fourth film lands on the fourth spot on this list due to the spectacle and grandeur that it provides. It is an exhilarating ride from start to finish which is built on the competitive nature of the Triwizard games. The world of Harry Potter also expands in this film even further — going beyond the walls of Hogwarts with the presence of the Beauxbatons Academy of Magic and Durmstrang Institute. There is still that light and bright treatment to this installment for the majority of the film until the last few moments that is when the dark and eerie return of the Dark Lord takes over. The Goblet of Fire brilliantly transitions the entire franchise in the darker years of the films as this is truly the turning point — an indication of the maturing process of the movies and the characters as a whole.
3. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
The Half-Blood Prince as a film methodically balances light and dark elements with perfect precision avoiding becoming too serious all throughout. What is intriguing about this film is the culmination of a variety of genres from small comedic scenes to teenage romance which all boils down to a riveting climax and conclusion. This is a film that has it all while not attempting to juggle so many elements at once. The visuals also pair nicely with the overall mood that is set which makes it all the more exciting to watch. To top it all off, this is probably one of the more emotional films in the franchise due to the epic and devastating conclusion.
2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
It all comes down to this — the epic conclusion. Movie franchises don’t often get it right when it comes to ending their epic stories but that isn’t the case for Harry Potter. Deathly Hallows Part 2 satisfyingly gives a fitting end to the 8 films with fast-paced and engaging battle sequences and a story that contains so many twists and turns along the way. It has a certain depth to it that allows the entire franchise to come full circle. This is a film that extracts so many emotions from fans — leaving us with both a feeling of heaviness and joy all at once. Furthermore, each scene and moment is just so entrancing to watch as this installment doesn’t contain a boring bone in its proverbial body. Deathly Hallows Part 2, despite strangle choices with its epilogue will go down in history as an excellent lesson for filmmakers on how to properly end a riveting story whilst leaving the door still a tad open for possible spinoffs and expansions.
1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Hands down the third installment still stands as one the best Harry Potter films of all time. It may be a bold statement but one that it rightfully deserves. This movie with its darker color grading and a mixture of both fun and serious tones is done to a T. This is a great sample of an interesting story that smoothly develops throughout its entire running time. The biggest highlight in this film is the time-traveling elements that are showcased in the latter part of the movie. It however doesn’t take that long for fans to fall in love with the story due to the impeccable characterization and acting skills as well from the main cast as well as the additions of Gary Oldman as Sirius Black and David Thewlis as Professor Remus Lupin. The Prisoner of Azkaban also tackles some themes that are more mature compared to the last two films but it carries itself so brilliantly and ages quite nicely — proving to be one of the best stories written by Rowling in her Harry Potter repertoire.
Our rankings of the best and worst Harry Potter films come from our purely honest minds. There is a level of subjectivity with films in general therefore it may change from person to person. There is one truth that stands however despite the polarizing opinions and arguments regarding the worst and best of Harry Potter and that is the transcendent and inspiring nature behind the story. Eight films or years is long enough to build a long-lasting impact and to resonate with people so much so that a huge fan base has been built. This is a franchise worth reliving and celebrating time and time again because in more ways than one, it has been a huge part of many of our childhoods.
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