Ranking the Harry Potter Films

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BearSkinBathRobe's Avatar
"That may be, but I've got the Falcon."

This was originally a FaceBook note, but I thought someone on here might enjoy my thoughts on the movies. Comments are welcome! But not looking to start fights! I ain't that much of a Potterhead, now...

Officially, seeing as I have done this verbally twice as conversation with my wife in the past--both time changing the order, no pun intended--but cannot remember the ranks for either one. This is surprising to me, as I know myself to possess a strong memory--pun intended with that one. I read the books in my youth and ranking the films has been of interest as I enjoy writing about films, and especially because my initial feelings of certain entries in the Harry Potter saga have been known to change after repeat viewings. To set an example, I strongly disliked Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows Part One, and to a lesser extent, Order of the Phoenix and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Mostly I’m just excited to be writing again in long form, a pleasant contrast to my brief chatter on film boards and the like. Bear in mind these rankings are solely for the film adaptations. I may, as this entry naturally takes on a life of its own, cite adaptation quality/faithfulness from my perspective.

Credit for a muse’s spark by JeremyJahns, a famous YouTube critic, for reviewing the films recently. Check him out--a fellow cinephile whose feelings on certain movies I tend to share.

UPDATE: The eight-film viewing is complete, now, much thanks to my wife for tolerating even her least favorite entries to help me get a stronger sense of my rankings for the saga.

Admittedly, it was tough to not pick the original film; that being said my top choice is not too surprising, as it was nearly a shoe-in. I did some digging into critical response, box office, the film itself, watching it from a more critical and analytical perspective. I liked it better, still!

Eternal Glory! That is what awaits the student who wins the Triwizard Tournament. But to do this, that student must survive three tasks. Three extremely dangerous tasks.”

GOBLET OF FIRE takes the top slot! It has a nice balance of comedy and drama. Most fans note this film as the moment when “things get serious” in the story, but it is not the fan favorite. Some say the set pieces were not done well, but I disagree. I think Mike Newell took the best elements of the first two ‘classic’ by-the-page films and Cauron’s artsy departure in Azkaban. The new characters add color and freshness. The main trio is starting to grow up and really capture their roles. Michael Gambon certainly does better in this one than in Azkaban and he doesn’t look as short in this one on camera compared to Azkaban due to the height disparity between him and the the late Richard Harris. Even John Williams’ wholesome and enchanting music score is gone, as he was too busy with other projects to return, but Patrick Doyle adds a mysterious, powerful touch to the music and Goblet needs it!

Screenwriter Steve Kloves and Mike Newell were able to omit elements from the very long book, considerably longer than Azkaban. But they pulled it off, making neat changes that worked for the plot as all three tasks were done well, especially my favorite: The Black Lake. We meet the Mer-People, and the rest of the film is ominous in tone...but not dark-looking. Add the arrival of Ralph Fiennes’ flawless portrayal of the Dark Lord’s return? Then Goblet must be commended for its extract of a long book and its thrilling, heavy themes of promise: Ron and Hermione’s first sparks of love at the Yule Ball, Harry’s own lust, seeing his parents, the special effects and Michael Gambon’s sorrowful speech about Cedric Diggory’s murder.

PRISONER OF AZKABAN takes the bottom spot, as I had so many problems with it.

Alfonso Cauron was a bit out of his depth with Azkaban and it shows. If he’d gone with his gut, he’d have kept turning it down. I don’t blame him for trying. Maybe it was more Kloves that got too choppy with the source material, but this one is by far the most uneven entry.
Awful pacing! Important scenes happen too fast, silly scenes take too long, as magic mythos suffers incongruity with the prior films. The kids are too rebellious here. David Yates does much better with the D.A. Club, but we’ll discuss that one later. No respect for their robes, Muggle-garb galore! No house would even have points by the end of the year. It feels unpolished and rushed, too many expected elements and new ones underwhelming or missing entirely. Azkaban is too dark, too much left out from the book, too rough around the edges. Poor box office and some critics agree, but it remains a fan favorite. I say otherwise.

It doesn’t help that Chris Columbus was burnt-out and didn’t want to return to the series, missing his own “Hogwarts” at home with his family, or Richard Harris’ untimely passing. But it is just too jarring to watch these much older child actors (especially Tom Felton’s Draco Malfoy) pretend to be 13, wasn’t it? They’re tall, lanky, voices completely dropped, and Emma Watson barely resembles her character in this film. While I always enjoyed Azkaban for David Thewlis’ turn on Remus Lupin and his talks with Harry (as Radcliffe’s acting ability improvements begin to show) in the film, and yes--Sirius Black is kind of the coolest as Gary Oldman steals the show within seconds--it was shocking that I wound up placing this entry at the very bottom of the list, almost like condemning it to, well, prison. But the other films that I previously felt “meh”, “blah”, or “eh” about impressed me more. The third act is definitely the strongest and almost salvages the story, but it just struggles. The special effects are arguably worse in this one as well, even compared to the first two.

A/N: Throughout our drawn-out viewing marathon, I tried to keep a “top 4” list in mind, e.g. Is [the entry we’re about to watch] capable of making it into the Top 4, i.e. as there’s 8 films.

It was tough, with all due respect, to knock SORCERER’S STONE out of the top four spots.

However, I offer that it is the perfect bridge between the entries that were exemplary achievements, in my eyes, and those that trickled-down to some success and some failure. Now, offer me a better child’s film. Yes, there’s witches and goblins and possession and ghosts. But the overall themes and journey for young Harry are so heartwarming. The child actors really were plucked from a special crop, and if you’re a fan of the book, this is it. If they never made any sequels, this movie could nearly stand on its own. I enjoy it every time I watch it, so it was heart-wrenching to place it in the bottom four. Negatively, it is maybe “too British”--not to sound racist, but this franchise was almost Americanized instead. The story setup does take a while, and if you’ve seen it before, it is all-predictable almost to a fault. The scenes can be too boastful--and yes, this is Harry Potter, the worldwide phenomenon--but it is a touch too grandiose, despite the basic introductory plot and simple whodunit themes. Stone is definitely by far the most kid-friendly entry in the saga, and to place it above those that raked in nearly a billion dollars almost by contrast is asking too much of me. Still, a fine film for what it is. The special effects hold up nicely to me (with some dodgy ones here and there) but the merit is rightful and the set pieces in the third act are pretty “wicked” to boot.

This coming from the guy that is about to place...

CHAMBER OF SECRETS: Number two in the saga, now number three on my list.

I was so impressed this time by a later entry that I could no longer justify ranking Chamber #2 on the list, especially after demoting Stone down to #5. Critics would agree with me when I say that it is a fraternal twin of the original, but it is probably still my personal favorite for the cool Slytherin elements and the most awesome set piece ever made: the Chamber itself, as I loved seeing its cameo in the finale for good reason. It is repetitious to the original, a tad dry and overlong. Now, the special effects are more adventurous here: especially Aragog and the Basilisk and better Quidditch action...more interesting and more elaborate than Stone. Fans strongly dislike this one, and many have asked exactly why that is, but I think there’s enough similarities between Volde--er, Stone and Chamber that this one feels like a rehash. J.K. Rowling would tell you it is very key to later plot elements (e.g. horcruxes, Dobby, etc) and I agree. But it is what it is. A very faithful, surprisingly strong sequel. I obviously prefer it to the original both in these rankings and in my heart, but the critic within must be fair.
It makes sense that the bombastic (if only deeper!) finale to the film saga would not drop to #7 on the list, and so it is that DEATHLY HALLOWS PART TWO is #6.

Originally, I strongly disliked it from first viewing. This time around, I noticed all the good things it did and understood that simply they just couldn't conceptualize, afford or suffer through adding any more to the final entry for the movies. It definitely feels right as a finale, and the missed opportunities are just that. I highly recommend reading the final book, although long, as I enjoyed reading it through with my wife. Doing that definitely marred my first viewing, but this time around I appreciated it more for ending the series strongly, mixing a nice blend of elements from previous films and leaving a strong sensation of fondness to resonate for Potterheads as that Epilogue scene unfolds. Everything comes full circle here, and credit must be given to J.K. Rowling for introducing new (yes, side quest/horcrux details) characters and interactions (e.g. the ghost of Ravenclaw) and to those behind the adaptation for honoring the material well enough. However, it must be said that this is not the best part of the two. Characters die and I wonder why we couldn't know them closer, and believe me, I will condemn an entry below for not stepping up and making sure that didn't happen...

…Which means DEATHLY HALLOWS PART ONE has moved to #2 on my list. Believe me, I disliked it initially more than I disliked Part Two. I'm fickle! But I just really fell in love with this entry this time around. It truly is a road movie. The emotion is there, and moving away from the fantasy elements, getting gritty and touching human struggles--er, muggle-like--death, pursuit, survival, preserving family, all those great heart-pokey things…really pull this one further for me. It is so ambitious. The musical score is solid and the actors really deliver in this entry, given a lot of fresh material and scenery to chew up, and it works. The fact that it is a part one does detract from it, but honestly a crammed final entry wouldn't have been good for business (they both made loads of cash) and the story suffered enough, even with the two part split. I like when Harry visits Godric's Hollow--there's just a lot of emotion-stirring, heartfelt sequences in this half--and it really is a fitting intro to the final battle against Voldemort. The ending is very human--SPOILERS AHEAD--when Dobby's death prompts Harry "You're a Wizard, Harry" Potter to 1) implore his friends to "Help me!" and 2) to insist that magic not be used for the burial of his elf friend. I still recall people clapping in the theater--not that Dobby was dead, you monster! #elfrights--when he declared to Bellatrix how he was a free elf.

We see friendships tested and the light outweigh the dark as the scales begin to balance against the Death Eaters. Even Draco and Harry's animosity is challenged in this entry, and the sets are nice-looking. The world just becomes so open and yet so oppressive and impossible to enjoy for Harry and his friends, knowing the danger they face by daring to defy those in power. It's just a good movie. If I had to pick an entry of Harry Potter to show a friend that was interested or unaware of the story, this is the one I would show them because it still has magical elements but it really does tap into that human connection, muggle or not!

Good stuff.

ORDER OF THE PHOENIX is kind of just there, honestly. I used to find it boring, but this time around it softened my heart toward it. It's not bad, and I remember being that anti-authority teenager myself once, but it's kind of basic in that regard. I'll still wonder how Richard Harris's take on Dumbledore might've fared in that epic duel with the Dark Lord, alas, and this is also David Yates' first tackle of the saga. It's a good middle piece of the series, I suppose, and embodies that "close but not quite" relationship portrayed between Sirius Black and his godson Harry. The D.A. Club is neat, sure, and Umbridge makes for a nasty villain, but it's just sort of unremarkable. This is probably one of the worst adaptations in my eyes, as I recall enjoying the book a lot more. Can't say the same about the others, but I feel like they had a chance to shake things up again, let us mingle with the titular Order a lot more (it's like that in the book) and do it better than Azkaban--*shudders*--but they didn't so the story just strikes me as a blend of basic between the simpler early books and more intricate later entries. The third act is the strongest point, kudos for Snape and Harry's occlumency sessions, and Michael Gambon's Dumbledore does improve here from Goblet and definitely from Azkaban, but the franchise does not improve unfortunately until…

HALF-BLOOD PRINCE takes #4 on my list to end all lists, so that I may simply enjoy the movies next time around (Ha!). Naturally, if you haven't been paying attention, I strongly disliked this movie the first time feeling it went too light on the darker themes in the book. Then I caught it again and went "Wow!", finally realizing the muted style and ominous tension the movie was going for. The actors are only getting better here, and I do sympathize with Draco Malfoy. The music is nice, and that final act in the Cave is something worth watching by itself! And whom! Michael Gambon--yeah, buddy!--he is really on his game here and arguably makes for the finest Dumbledore portrayal of all the movies (I said it!). I really was taken by his acting in this one. It took three movies, but he nailed it…just in time, if you know what I mean. Pathos, I tell you, pathos…and lots of melancholy in this one. Slughorn, Hermione realizing her feelings for Ronald, Harry and Ginny…Draco and the light side…all comes together. The Death Eaters are a force in this one which is nice to see, and this is the probably the darkest ending of the movies--sorry, Cedric--and boy, does it work.

This entry checks all the boxes--you see the school, the Hogwarts Express, the character dynamics, and it just revs up and gets more serious--it's terrific. Fun never leaves, either. The chase for the Horcuxes begins here on a very tragic note, but the flames and inferi only add to this entry. This is probably the most consistent entry, in regard to tone. It's not quite as "Wicked!" as the elements in Chamber of Secrets (a set design that I want to own, lol) but it is pretty daring and bold and unexpected. There is clearly a vision in this film and it shows, pulling off the same nice balance between dread and humor, unlike Phoenix, and direction, unlike Azkaban--making a perfect spark for the finale that is to follow similar tone and trials.

A/N: Before I put the list below, I will say that this note was delayed because I couldn't decide between Half-Blood and Part One but I finally made up my mind. While I do enjoy Half-Blood a great deal, I can't attempt to underscore the ambition and rich storytelling of Part One as those core friendships are laid bare and I'm left to observe and enjoy them. Seeing Ron and Harry clash, Hermione use her magic to protect them in several ways, and how it all comes to a head at the end--the symbolism--it's truly great. And if I had to knock down Half-Blood a bit, I would say that Slughorn wasn't fat enough and that Harry's joy from becoming a potion master was not portrayed well enough. Radcliffe does make a nice turn in Half-Blood, but the combined effort of the trio in Part One, away from Hogwarts, away from the familiar, pushes it ahead for me. Wow! It pulls me into that atmosphere...

Well, there you have it! And if any escaped Azkaban fugitives want to grumble about me dissing that masterpiece, I’ll just say that is the lowest money-maker of the franchise and the fan-base (both book and movie) is divided severely about the flick. Okay, then. I recently watched an episode of ScreenJunkies’ Movie Fights in which a contestant argued for how great Azkaban was, except, uh, no, it wasn’t, saying “how many fans love it and bought it up.”

Oh, how I was yelling at the TV...ha-ha. Moving on, now.


Goblet of Fire
Deathly Hallows Part One
Chamber of Secrets
Half-Blood Prince
Sorcerer's Stone
Deathly Hallows Part Two
Order of the Phoenix
Prisoner of Azkaban
"They knew and they let it happen! To kids!"-Spotlight

Waw, this was long. Great read. But you sure ended up with a strange list. I had to make an account just to comment as this list is quite something (unusual). From a quality-of-film perspective, I dare say it's almost the opposite of how you have listed!

Prisoner of Azkaban is widely considered the best Potter film, while I've always felt Goblet of Fire is the weakest, again, from a quality-of-film perspective. I might prefer the plot in GOF over the one in POA, but the latter is still a far better film, I think. I do agree though that Order of the Phoenix is among the weaker, and that Deathly Hallows Part 1 is ignored by many as one of the best.

My Ranking.
8. Order of the Phoenix
7. The Half Blood Prince
6. Goblet of Fire
5. Deathly Hallows Part 2
4. The Chamber of secrets
3. Deathly Hallows Part 1
2. The Sorcerer's Stone
1. Prisoner of Azkaban

POA had the weakest box office because it came off the weakest two in the series, not because the film itself was weak. It's an exceptional film, to many the greatest fantasy film ever made.

From POA to GOF the box office improved as much as it had decreased from COS to POA, and with good reason. I firmly believe Harry Potter wouldn't be as popular as it is today if Columbus had directed POA instead of Cuaron.

Not sure I would rank it that highly but I'd agree POA came at a point where the franchise was in serious trouble and suffered at the box office because of it yet helped reenergise it in the long term. if the films had stayed with the Columbus formula I'm not sure they would have gotten to the end of the story before the plug was pulled, at least not without a reduced budget.

Even though most of my friends hold either Chamber of Secrets or Half-Blood Prince dearest, for me (and beyond doubt many, many others) the jewel is Prisoner of Azkaban. I can watch it again, and again, and again, and it sets the mood every single time. It has an unmatched way of bringing you to the world of Harry Potter in an instant. I would go:

1. Prisoner of Azkaban
2. Chamber of Secrets
3. Sorcerer's Stone
4. Deathly Hallows II
5. Half-Blood Prince
6. Deathly Hallows I
7. Goblet of Fire
8. Order of the Phoenix

the jewel is Prisoner of Azkaban.
Pretty much - it seems as if the main issue people have with it is that it ignores several crucial parts from the books (Marauders in particular is often used as an example) which is why so many of the bookworms hold it lower on the list than the counterpart of film-fanatics. It's similar to Half-Blood Prince, though to a lesser extent. Ignoring source material, those two in particular are exceptionally well-made films.

BearSkinBathRobe's Avatar
"That may be, but I've got the Falcon."
Waw, this was long. Great read. But you sure ended up with a strange list. I had to make an account just to comment as this list is quite something (unusual). From a quality-of-film perspective, I dare say it's almost the opposite of how you have listed!

Prisoner of Azkaban is widely considered the best Potter film, while I've always felt Goblet of Fire is the weakest, again, from a quality-of-film perspective. I might prefer the plot in GOF over the one in POA, but the latter is still a far better film, I think. I do agree though that Order of the Phoenix is among the weaker, and that Deathly Hallows Part 1 is ignored by many as one of the best.
Thanks a lot! Glad it stirred a response from you! Yeah, this is the first time I've ever undertaken an intensive reviewing process, but my wife and I are considerable fans of HP so it merited the urge to do it. A week or so ago, she said "when we gonna watch them again?" as she's recently re-read the books and I was like, "Whoa, it's gonna be a while."

Glad you also like DH Pt 1...it grew on me over time.

Thanks a lot! Glad it stirred a response from you! Yeah, this is the first time I've ever undertaken an intensive reviewing process, but my wife and I are considerable fans of HP so it merited the urge to do it. A week or so ago, she said "when we gonna watch them again?" as she's recently re-read the books and I was like, "Whoa, it's gonna be a while."

Glad you also like DH Pt 1...it grew on me over time.
That's awesome - and impressive. I imagine my wife would only join in on it if we were reviewing the books (she has that 'love-the-books & hate-the-films' relationship to Harry Potter). Just the other day I tried luring her with me at a Potter marathon that was playing near where I live - impossible. Remember to appreciate what you've got

Not a fan, but being as constructive as I can:

The Philosopher's Stone:

The Chamber Of Secrets:

The Prisoner Of Azkaban:

The Goblet Of Fire:

The Order Of The Phoenix:

The Half-Blood Prince:

The Deathly Hallows Part 1:

The Deathly Hallows Part 2:
Originally Posted by doubledenim
Garbage bag people fighting hippy love babies.

Bots gotta be bottin'

Not a fan, but being as constructive as I can:
Bloody hell, with this judgment I wonder if there's a film in the world you'd give five, hell even four, popcorns.

I'll have a go myself:

Philosopher's Stone

Chamber of Secrets

Prisoner of Azkaban

Goblet of Fire

Order of The Phoenix

Half-Blood Prince

Deathly Hallows Part 1

Deathly Hallows Part 2

The movies look good, aesthetically they're ok and the special effects are decent... I just don't like the stories, arcs, characters, books or films, and I don't like Rowling.

So you incorporate your dislike for the author of the books the films are based on into the assessment of the films, likely making the assessment less precise. I often catch myself doing the same, so fair enough.