Fall is upon us. For some, that means pumpkin spice lattes, hot apple cider, and decorative gourds. For others, though, it means binge-watching every movie in the Harry Potter series, arguably the best movie franchise for autumn.
In honor of the autumn season, we thought we’d take a look back at every Harry Potter movie and rank them — not necessarily from worst to best, but more from really good to excellent, as the Harry Potter franchise really has no weak entries (something that very, very few movie franchises can claim).
8. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 1 (2010)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 1 certainly isn't a bad movie. In fact, it has some scenes that are the highlight of the entire franchise —the forest chase, the break-in and escape from the Ministry of Magic, the opening mid-air battle… But let's face it, most people feel that Part 1 is nothing more than a prelude to Part 2, similar to how Half-Blood Prince provided the same sort of prologue to this movie. However, that doesn't make Deathly Hallows — Part 1 a weak entry in the Harry Potter franchise at all.
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As much as it feels like a prologue to Part 2, a tremendous amount still occurs, the stakes being continually raised throughout the movie, setting up the action for Part 2, but also managing to make itself feel like the first part of the finale. Elements of this can of course be found in the ending, with a certain memorable character's incredibly sad death, and the main heroes' quest to destroy Voldemort's Horcruxes.
As good a movie as this is, it, unfortunately, tends to get quite a bit overshadowed by Deathly Hallows — Part 2 — although, with how good Part 2 is at tying the whole franchise together, it's easy to understand why.
7. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)
It's somewhat rare to see a franchise movie where the hero doesn't outright win against the villain. In fact, it's the movies where the hero just barely survives and the villains' triumph that audiences still seem to gravitate towards and remember the most, such as Empire Strikes Back or Avengers: Infinity War. Such is the case with Half-Blood Prince, today largely remembered for its completely twist ending that saw the shocking death of Dumbledore (we don't count Dumbledore's death as a spoiler since most people seem to know it, even without having the seen movie — it's as universal a twist as “No, Luke, I am your father,” still, we'll leave the identity of his killer a mystery for those who haven't seen the movie or read the books yet).
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At the time, all anyone could talk about for months after the release of Half-Blood Prince was its ending, and how on earth Harry and his friends would be able to beat Voldemort without aid from their mentor, the most powerful wizard alive, the only one who seemed capable of going toe to toe with He Who Shall Not Be Named himself. No doubt it's a great ending, but the other parts of the movie are equally well-done, including further development about Tom Riddle, allowing audiences the ability to understand him a bit more and finally providing a set origin story for the character that explained his motivations.
The movie also perfectly set up the final showdown between Voldemort's dark forces and the forces of good formerly led by Dumbledore that would be seen in Deathly Hallows, making this an incredibly strong prologue to two movies that, unfortunately, tend to overshadow this one quite a bit.
6. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)
The Goblet of Fire was the first entry in the series that established the franchise as a series “not just for kids.” In its more gritty, neutral-colored tone, it's a lot like the movie before it, Prisoner of Azkaban, but is far darker and more adult than Azkaban was, establishing a more somber tone that the rest of the series would adopt moving forward in subsequent films. This time around, Harry is mysteriously entered into a world-famous tournament which sees some of the most skilled wizards competing in dangerous challenges for the coveted Triwizard Cup (basically, it's like the wizarding world's junior version of the Olympics).
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As Harry narrowly competes in this incredibly hazardous race, however, he faces the imminent physical return of Voldemort for the first time in the series. For that reason alone, Goblet of Fire is an incredibly important movie in the series, and just as Harry reaches a distinct level of growth and adulthood by the end, so too does the entire franchise moving forward (evidence of this can be found by the fact that Goblet of Fire was the first movie in the series to earn a PG-13 rating).
5. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)
Hypothetically, we can spend the entire section of this list talking about how great a villain Dolores Umbridge is. She's a villain not in the same vein as Darth Vader, Thanos, or even Voldemort — she isn't some grim manifestation of dark, twisted magic. She's simply a bureaucrat who loves doing her job of enforcing rules and suppressing the free will of the Hogwarts students and staff. She loves kittens and tea and the color pink, and speaks in a cheerful sing-song voice, rather than being a dark representation of ultimate evil like Voldemort. She's an incredibly well-done antagonist, so ridiculously hateable with her smug attitude and by-the-book demeanor, she's virtually a modern equivalent of One Flew Over the Cuckoo Nest's Nurse Ratched.
The actress who plays her, Imelda Staunton, does a phenomenal job at giving such arrogance, self-righteousness, and general peppiness to the role that you hate Umbridge before she even opens her mouth. Umbridge aside, the story of Order of the Phoenix is also fairly well done, featuring a slight step back in the Voldemort-centered war between the wizards and instead focusing on a story about bureaucracy interrupting the day-to-day education of Hogwarts students, turning them more into prisoners bowing to authoritarian edicts than children trying to learn how to be wizards.
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As good as this movie was, though, it seemed somewhat disconnected from the rest of the franchise, not really building on Voldemort's return until the end. Regardless, Order of the Phoenix did a great job at showing how terrified and paranoid everyone was upon hearing of Voldemort's return—including Cornelius Fudge and the Ministry — and the lengths they would go to denying or covering up that fact (something that further legitimized Voldemort as a threatening villain that literally no one wanted to talk about).
4. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)
They say first successes are easy when compared to follow-up movies and sequels. If you don't believe us, just look at all the hopelessly disappointing movies out there in the world that failed to start a franchise or engage audiences the same way that the original movie did. For every Empire Strikes Back in the world, there are a hundred Jaws 2s, with sequels attempting to establish a franchise being a notoriously difficult thing to pull off. However, Chamber of Secrets was good enough to join the likes of Superman II and Wrath of the Khan in terms of developing the world of Harry Potter further and crafting a new story set within it.
Directed once again by Chris Columbus, the man responsible for establishing the cinematic world of Harry Potter in the Sorcerer's Stone, Chamber of Secrets is notable for its darker storyline in comparison to the somewhat lighthearted magical splendor of the first movie, though is certainly not as dark as every movie that followed this one.
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Striking a balance between old-school scares with the similar family-friendliness of the first movie, Chamber of Secrets manages to perfectly follow up Sorcerer's Stone, proving to audiences that the Harry Potter franchise was well on its way to becoming a major cultural phenomenon and was not limited to the success of the first movie alone.
3. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001)
Where would the world be without Sorcerer's Stone, arguably one of the most important movies in the Harry Potter canon, along with the finale, Deathly Hallows—Part 2. Sorcerer's Stone is important in so many ways, and is just about as groundbreaking a movie as the original novel was when first published in 1997. Like all first movies designed to kick off a franchise, Sorcerer's Stone had a lot riding on it, with the entire future of the Harry Potter franchise hanging in the balance should the movie flop or audiences react negatively to it.
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Luckily, that wasn't the case, and Sorcerer's Stone not only managed to defy expectations and achieve overwhelming critical and commercial success — it also managed to perfectly adapt the Rowling novel to the big screen without losing any of the signature magic from the original book. Choosing director Chris Columbus, known for his family-friendly work with the first two Home Alone films and Mrs. Doubtfire, was a genius decision, with Columbus perfectly able to embed the movie with enough lightheartedness while introducing the world of Harry Potter to moviegoers around the world.
If this movie weren’t nearly as good as it ended up being, it’s doubtful the name Harry Potter would be the universally beloved literary and cinematic character that he is today.
2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2 (2011)
Ending a franchise on a high note is just as important, if not more so, as getting fans properly invested in the series within the first few movies. (Just look at audience division over the new Star Wars sequels.) Knowing that J.K. Rowling had a lot of pressure to end the series on a high note and write a satisfying conclusion to a series fans had been invested in for over a decade. Luckily, she managed to do so, delivering an ending that had fans weeping and rejoicing in a way that few final entries in novel series can properly do.
When it came time to translate the book onto the Big Screen, director, David Yates, perfectly managed to adapt Rowling's final novel, delivering a smash hit of a movie that audiences similarly loved and applauded. Coming up with a satisfying ending is never easy, but it's no exaggeration to say that Deathly Hallows — Part 2 ended the series in an incredibly satisfying way, culminating in a final cinematic duel between Voldemort and Harry literally ten years in the making. Not only that, but by the time the credits roll, you've seen just how far all of the characters have come over the years, maturing from inexperienced young wizards to brave, powerful sorcerers able to stand up against the forces of evil without batting an eye.
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Virtually every character in the movie receives some level of key development, including the three main stars, as well as Neville (Matthew Lewis), Draco (Tom Felton), and of course Severus Snape, among others. It's an endlessly enjoyable movie through and through, with a huge wizarding battle at the movie's climax that will have you impressed by the visuals, but also fearing for many of your character's lives (and of course, by the end epilogue, leave you crying upon seeing the kids you grew up watching send their kids to Hogwarts to have childhood adventures of their own).
1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
Out of all eight movies, Prisoner of Azkaban is often named the favorite of many fans of the series. Watching the movie in its entirety and noting just how unique it is, it's easy to see why. While the first two movies were directed by Chris Columbus, who managed to infuse them with enough child-like sense of wonder that managed to capture moviegoers' imagination, the third movie was overseen by acclaimed director Alfonso Cuarón, possibly the best director who ever worked on any of the Harry Potter movies, and who made a ton of creative decisions that informed the look and tone of every subsequent Potter film that followed this one.
Those decisions not only helped set this movie stylistically apart from the first two, but also managed to shift the overall tone of the Potter movies to an increasing sense of maturity that neither Sorcerer's Stone nor Chamber of Secrets had (something that would come to full fruition by Goblet of Fire‘s more serious, darker ending). This movie also marks a period where the three young main actors have truly begun to grow, moving past the somewhat stiff performances they gave in Sorcerer's Stone and Chamber of Secrets and putting some great acting on display throughout the movie, managing to hold their own against accomplished actors like Michael Gambon, Gary Oldman, and Alan Rickman.
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Additionally, like all Potter movies, Prisoner of Azkaban has an absolutely fantastic cast, highlighted by performances from David Thewlis and Gary Oldman as fan-favorite characters Remus Lupin and Sirius Black. In many ways, Prisoner of Azkaban is easily one of the strongest movies in a series full of impressive films, and remains one of the franchise's most popular nearly two decades later.
Harry Potter is and continues to be one of the most popular franchises of all time. The series has spanned from the original novels and film series to amusement park attractions and video game adaptations. We don’t know what the future holds for Harry Potter or if we’ll ever see another addition to the world of Hogwarts, but we’re sure that, with how beloved the original film series is, Harry Potter will continue to hold a special place in many people’s hearts in the future.
This list best represents every Harry Potter movie ranked from very good to excellent—although, with how good each movie is, it’s difficult to say which one is definitely better than another. Of course, this autumn, we suggest playing it safe, and sitting back with a nice warm cider (or homemade butterbeer, if you prefer) and watching all eight movies to decide for yourself.
This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.