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Ranking the Harry Potter Movies from Worst to Best: I Solemnly Swear I’m Up to No Good…

 

The Harry Potter franchise is a worldwide sensation unlike any other. Although it has already been 13 years since the last book was released, and 9 years since the last movie, the fandom is as strong as it ever was. This kind of longevity in the pop culture sphere is extremely rare, and it’s all to do with the quality of the wizarding world  J.K. Rowling brought to life over 20 years ago.

The world of Harry Potter doesn’t begin or end with the books. As with any popular trend the first Harry Potter film was released a little over a year after J.K Rowling’s fourth book hit the shelves. In what could be considered a modern miracle, the Harry Potter film franchise was able to maintain a level of quality seldomly found in film series that stretch on past one or two movies, let alone eight!

The Harry Potter movies brought to life the wizarding world avid book readers had long fantasized about in their heads - and grew just as the novels did - with a total of four different directors creating the films. It’s an incredible accomplishment made all the more impressive by the fact that there’s not a truly bad movie in the series.

A brief note before we begin: For my own personal writing adventures, I have decided to evaluate each Harry Potter movie as a film only - not how it compares to the book it was created from. That's a whole other bucket of slugs...Harry Potter humor anyone?

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8. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

This movie is actually the longest of the entire series ( a bold move for one of the first films might I add) and is by far the most family friendly. Quite coincidentally it’s also the last film to try and fit practically everything from the book into the movie. This film is a wonderful follow up introduction to the world of Harry Potter and his friends and while the film isn’t bad per se, it’s definitely the most laborious of the bunch to watch - especially if you're not a fan of slugs. Quite honestly there are two main reasons why this movie falls to the bottom of my list: the rest of the films are so incredible one had to come dead last and Hermione's hair in this film is so unruly its enough to make any hairdresser have nightmares for weeks. You can't tell me there are spells that can fix glasses and open locked doors and yet there's nothing to fix that poor girls hair?

7.Harry Potter and the Deathly Holllows Part 1

This movie was the reason Ron Weasley will forever be my least favorite of the iconic trio. Deathly Hallows – Part 1’s biggest issue is just that—it’s a lot of setup for the finale without much room for payoff. I was personally rooting for a Ron and Hermione romance since the beginning and Rons disappearance to only come back later with no other explanation other than "i'm sorry" was enough to crush 13 year old me's dreams to pieces. Despite my frustrations over Ron's hormonal attitude, the overall film works wonderfully as part of a whole, but as a standalone film, it leaves plenty to be desired by viewers. That’s not to say this movie doesn’t have merit, however. There are even flashes of rarely seen intimacy and raw emotion, from the haunting Deathly Hallows sequence to Harry and Hermione’s dance - a reprieve from the grave seriousness that surrounds them, and a sequence that reminds the audience that these are only kids. Kids who have Hermione to thank for that bottomless bag of hers...

6.Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

I must say my distaste for Ron Weasley in this ranking goes out the window and is replaced by pure joy in this movie. Nothing makes me laugh harder than seeing him all dressed up in what could be described as the biggest wizarding fashion fail of all time.The scope of Goblet of Fire is quite broad and the pacing of the film suffers a bit in places, but the emotional beats of the third act strike a cord even if Voldemort’s arrival isn’t as terrifying as it totally should have been. The movie’s themes echo Harry’s character "arc" as he is once again faced with an impossible challenge for which he was given no choice but to participate. Then there's the death of Cedric Diggory. Enough said. I do love how this movie gives the audience a glimpse into the other wizarding schools and their students lives (it's ok you can admit you wanted Viktor Krum to be your date to the Yule Ball too...). 

5.Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

While it may not be as flashy, refined, or impressive as the rest of the films in the franchise, Sorcerer’s Stone deserves immense credit for setting up this series so wonderfully, and laying a fantastic foundation off of which the other films could be built. Since this film is told through the lens of an 11 year old boy, it is hard to compare to the intense films that follow. This film falls in the middle of my list due to its charm and of course Hagrid. The birthday cake he made for Harry was nothing short of a baking masterpiece and I fully expect the same pastry flair for my birthday this year. Big shoutout to Hagrid for taking down the bullies one pig tail at a time like a real hero.

4. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

In this film we get the pleasure of being introduced to the character of Dolores Umbridge, who just might turn in the best performance of the entire franchise. Don't get me wrong, she's by no means a lovely lady. Dolores is disgusting, disarming, and terrifying all at once, and her impact at Hogwarts spurs Harry and his friends to start taking matters into their own hands. For that reason and that reason alone she has earned herself some minor accolades. It’s clear from the beginning that Order of the Phoenix is going to be a rather different film, as the movie opens in the heat of the summer, in a new location, with a multi-layered confrontation between Harry and Dudley. The film once again serves to prove that Harry is not alone in his quest and is in the dark about what’s really going on around him. Not to mention the return of Sirius Black that sends Harry into an emotional tailspin. This film has crept to the top half of my list due to some of the franchise’s best Harry and Snape scenes.Overall Order of the Phoenix culminates in a surprisingly moving battle between Voldemort and Dumbledore at the Ministry of Magic, which is realized in a manner that’s both unexpected and deeply intimate in a way not typically seen by either men. 

3. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

Half-Blood Prince is certainly the funniest film of the entire franchise. Jim Broadbent brings a goofy quality to Professor Slughorn that never goes over the top, while Harry and Ron’s many brushes with the opposite sex provide loads of comedic material, culminating in the humerous “Hermione’s got nice skin” exchange during a nighttime chat. They dynamic trio shine in these moments, and it at times feels like they’ve been waiting the whole series to knock these comedic beats out of the park. My personal favorite scene from all the films occurs in this movie as Harry (who is hopped up in liquid luck no less) decided to visit hagrid only to find Aragog the giant spider has died. He consoles Hagrid but makes sure to point out the "pinchers" they possess by clicking his tongue and mimicking the pinchers with his fingers. And yet, for all its comedic content , Half-Blood Prince tackles some extremely dark material. The film builds to Dumbledore's death and Snape's “betrayal” without the climax feeling like a shock as well as the introduction of the horcruxes with ease. It’s this impeccable balance that makes Half-Blood Prince one of the most affecting films of the series, swinging from laughter to tears at the drop of a hat - and making it my go to film to rewatch on a rainy day.

2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part 2

Deathly Hallows Part 1 was nearly all setup, but Deathly Hallows Part 2 hits the ground running from the first frame and never lets up. This is a movie that is a payoff for viewers in every sense: emotional payoff, action payoff, and of course relationship payoff. Part 2 builds to a grand finale at the place where it all started: Hogwarts. Not only is the battle at Hogwarts exhilarating, but its anchored by all the characters we’ve grown to love over the course of seven films. Although viewers are left to handle the deaths of many familiar faces in unexpected ways - including the reveal of Fred’s fate after the fact, surrounded by his family, there is little left to be desired by the end of the film.The most difficult task of the entire film was to establish Snape as a hero within a single sequence. This film sits soundly in my #2 spot as the directors rose to the challenge in one of the most emotional moments in the film that not only leaves the audience in tears for Snape, but also solidifies Harry’s purpose: he to must die. I can't imagine a better way to end such an incredible film series. The boy who lived, come to die.

1.Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Some of you may be confused as to how any of the Harry Potter films could outperform Deathly Hollows Part 2. This film takes a deep dive into the wizarding world and allows the viewer to really feel every aspect of the world Harry has come to find himself in. From the cheeky night bus, to the tense encounters with dementors, and of course the Hogwarts choir adorned with frogs, we get a rare glimpse into the magic. The irises and the Womping Willow mark the changes of the season as the camera moves through the clock—making the film full to the brim with unforgettable imagery. This film also contains the mystery of Hermione's time turner. The entire sequence of her struggles to pass through time itself are incredibly clever and make for some very funny scenes and of course the punch to the face Malfoy had been deserving for several films now. The high points of Prisoner of Azkaban are almost unending, and while the Harry Potter franchise would lead to other outstanding films in subsequent years, this film still marks the creative highpoint in one of the best, most diverse, and most satisfying film franchises of all time. At the risk of sounding over enthused, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is nothing short of pure magic.

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morgan brownhill

West Chester '23

Morgan is a Media and Culture major at West Chester University. She is studying to receive her masters in communications and digital marketing in 2023. She is currently a published author and hopes to expand her writing career in the future. She also currently serves as the Vice President of Delta Phi Epsilon Sorority as well as the Panhellenic Council Vice President of Standards. Professionally Morgan works as a content creator and website developer for emerging companies.
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