Harry Potter Movies Ranked from Worst to Best
With the release of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and the 15th anniversary of the release of the original Harry Potter film on November 16, there's no better time than now to get nostalgic and return to the Harry Potter franchise. Based on the best-selling series of children's fantasy novels by J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter chronicles the life of a young orphan named Harry, who discovers he is a wizard and is whisked away to a magical school where he befriends two other talented youngsters, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. Over the course of seven years, from their adolescence to early adulthood, Harry, Ron, and Hermione embark on fantastical adventures and slowly become entangled in a larger conspiracy within the Wizarding World involving a certain sinister wizard who was thought to be dead. . .
Coming in at eight films, Harry Potter has garnered over $7 billion at the box office and is still one of the highest-rated film franchises of all time. It may seem impossible to try to order a series so beloved in terms of quality, but being five years separated from the last film, some installments seem to shine brighter than others. Here's my list of all eight Harry Potter ranked from worst to first. Disclaimer: this is just my opinion; you're allowed to have your own!
8. HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, PART 1
Although the decision to split the final book into two adaptations works much better for Harry Potter than it does for the unnecessary trend that followed (Twilight, The Hunger Games, Divergent, etc.), the first in the two-parter finale can't help but feel like set-up with no pay-off. On a quest to find and destroy the remaining Horcruxes, Harry, Ron, and Hermione are forced to rely only on one another as they battle inner demons and personal struggle. It's really only half a movie, so standing on its own, Deathly Hallows Part 1 tends to leave viewers unsatisfied. It's biggest pitfalls are pacing issues and lack of climax and resolution. That being said, the film still serves as a worthy precursor to Part 2, and where it lacks in action, it provides compelling character development. Without the usual run-time restraints, Part 1 is also able to contain more of the source material than previous films, and even has some of its own unique flavour too (most notably a dancing sequence between Harry and Hermione). With the focus on our three heroes alone in the real world and the absence of the Hogwarts setting and characters, this is the least Harry Potter-esque movie in the franchise, but a beautifully-shot and emotionally-resonant penultimate chapter nonetheless.
7. HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS
The followup to the original is more or less built upon the same formula of the first film, which is both its strength and its weakness. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is an entertaining adventure, but one of the more forgettable entries in a formidable franchise. In their second year at Hogwarts, Harry and Co. uncover a dark secret at the heart of the school when the mysterious "Chamber of Secrets" is opened. Despite a close adherence to the novel, there are few surprises and the storyline hits a lot of the same beats as Philosopher's Stone. It's mostly family-friendly fare, but to its credit, the premise is more intriguing this time around, and the breathtaking set design for the Chamber and visual effects for the Basilisk make for an impressive third act that still holds up today. Chamber of Secrets is a fun adventure in the saga with gleeful humor and great world-building.
6. HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER'S STONE
The funny thing about Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is that introduces all the characters and lays the groundwork for this fantastical world so incredibly well that it's easy to overlook its flaws - particularly, a so-so plot. Make no mistake, the way the film establishes Harry's journey from life under the stairs to the Wizarding World and Year 1 at Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry is marvelous. It takes its time and makes it a point not to miss anything from the book. On the flipside, once its finally time for Harry and friends to solve a mystery and save the day, it isn't all that exciting - at least compared to some of the other films that succeed it. Despite a lackluster third act, Philosopher's Stone deserves all the credit for accumulating arguably one of the best casts in movie history. It's hard to imagine anyone besides Daniel Radcliffe playing Harry Potter, not to mention some strong supporting performances from Maggie Smith, John Hurt, and Alan Rickman. Plus, it also features one of the greatest film scores of all time, thanks to the great John Williams. Even if it's not the best of the bunch, Philosopher's Stone is a timeless classic.
5. HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE
The Wizard World quickly becomes more expansive than we had originally thought with the addition of two other magical schools visiting Hogwarts for the Tri-Wizard Tournament during Harry's fourth year. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire throws Harry into an unexpected and exciting adventure with a few surprises towards the end. It's also a turning point in the franchise for the not-so-young cast, who are a little more matured this time around and experiencing puberty - which, for a series all about growing up, makes for some memorable moments; as is tradition for the Tri-Wizard Tourney, a school dance is held, which stirs some of the noticeable romantic tension between Ron and Hermione. It's also an action-packed thrill ride, and each challenge in the tournament, including fighting off a dragon and racing through a hedge maze, become increasingly more suspenseful, leading to a shocking finale that changes everything. Radcliffe's performance in particular is worth noting, as he demonstrates how completely devoted he is to the character in some of the franchise's most heart-wrenching scenes.
4. HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX
Right from the opening shot, there's a distinctive shift in tone and aesthetic to Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Director David Yates' cinematographic flare shines through the entire production, which helps establish a new direction for the franchise, since the characters are no longer kids, and the stakes are no longer small. With the return of the He Who Must Not Be Named, Harry begins teaching classes for his peers to help train the students in defense again the Dark Arts. Harry as a character has never been a more admirable hero than he is in Order of the Phoenix, and his role-model humility sets a great example for younger viewers. The actors have grown into their characters so believably by this point that it's an absolute joy to watch them on screen, pulling off both the funny and the emotional beats effortlessly. And as much as you hate her, Professor Umbrige is perhaps the greatest foe Harry encounters in the saga, and their clashing is both furiously-frustrating and wildly-entertaining. With the addition of the ever-so-delightful Luna Lovegood and an awe-inspiring showdown between Dumbledore and Voldemort, Order of the Phoenix is easily one of the favourites.
3. HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN
Many Potterheads contend that Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is the best film in the franchise. To be fair, the story is undoubtedly outstanding, and the twists are both unanticipated and powerful. The only reason it doesn't quite match up to the top two is that it somehow fails to understand who Harry Potter is as a character - which is arguably the most important part of a Harry Potter film. From the opening shot and onward, Harry is portrayed as a rule-breaking, short-tempered, magic-abusing, authority-disobeying brat. It's unfortunate that director Alfonso Cuaron couldn't make the character work, because every other decision he made is gorgeous; from the unconventional cinematography to the strong performances to the complex narrative, Prisoner of Azkaban is a mystifying masterpiece. Rather than adhere to the established formula, the movie neglects to turn its 'Dark Arts' teacher into a villain, but rather introduces David Thewlis' Remus Lupin, a fan-favourite father figure for Harry, and Gary Oldman's enigmatic Sirius Black - characters that help give the film its dramatic intricacy. Even though I don't hold Prisoner of Azkaban as high as some other Potter fans, I still see it as a true work of art.
2. HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, PART 2
A ten-year-long franchise with a massive fanbase and seven films under its belt couldn't have ended any more satisfyingly than it did with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2. The briskly-paced final chapter of the Harry Potter saga is full of exhilarating action sequences, mind-bending twists and turns, and a deeply emotional conclusion that brings everything full circle. Radcliffe, Watson, and Grint sell this movie on their acting work alone (not to mention the supporting cast members, like the late and great Rickman who steals the show in his final moments), but this film also has a lot more to offer. Rather than feel stretched-thin by being the second half to one movie, Deathly Hallows, Part 2 is bolstered by a strong sense of story. In fact, it's almost as if Rowling saved her best material for last, and in turn David Yates brought to life these lasts pieces to the puzzle with true craftsmanship. The only reason it doesn't take the top spot on the list is that it doesn't work as well on its own, but rather as a companion piece to Part 1. Nevertheless, Deathly Hallows, Part 2 is a monumental spectacle and a grand sendoff to the characters of Harry Potter.
1. HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE
I may be in the minority, but in my opinion, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is actually the greatest Potter flick. Although it’s a less faithful adaptation than some of the others, the film maintains all the necessary components for telling the most interesting chapter in the saga, and pulls it all off beautifully. Harry’s commitment to Dumbledore is put to the test when he is tasked with befriending the newest professor, Slughorn (played by the wonderful Jim Broadbent), and uncovering certain secret information that Slughorn may be concealing. Unlike the earlier films, the comedy is sophisticated instead of slapstick, and the threat isn’t some giant snake or ghoulish spirit, but a crisis of morality (on both sides of the good and bad guys: Harry and Snape). In contrast to the childish antics of Philosopher’s Stone, Half-Blood Prince has an older audience in mind, and tackles heavy subject matter with poise and efficiency. The maturity of the characters is well-matched by the elegance of the premise, direction, music, and visuals. In fact, this is easily the best-looking film in the franchise. With the inclusion of Tom Riddle's backstory interwoven with the main story thread, and the coming-of-age themes of love, family, and friendship, Half-Blood Prince is a magical (in all sense of the word), mature, and masterful movie in the Harry Potter saga.