In 1997, the Hogwarts Express departed King’s Cross Station from Platform 9 ¾ with little known about the beautifully epic adventure that lay ahead. Seven books later and the hugely popular Harry Potter series is an eight-strong movie franchise that has captured hearts, broken records, and astounded cinema fans across the world.
When Hollywood came knocking at the door of this wizarding world, a cast of acting greats and acting novices was brought together to transform the words from page to screen and what a spectacular experience they managed to create.
Each Harry Potter movie marries closely with the beloved books, but in some cases, there’s added extras, missing parts, or elaboration on much-loved storylines that begged to be translated onto screen.
Add this to the fact four different directors followed the series to completion and you’ve got a variety of movie styles to compare too. all eight of the Harry Potter movies can be streamed on Peacockafter the service took them over from HBO Max in 2022.
For this Harry Potter ranking list, from worst to best, we’ll be focusing on how each one told the story, what they did well, and what may have left viewers feeling a little deflated. We should also note that we’ll be looking at the eight core movies of the franchise, and not the Fantastic Beasts series, which is a whole other bag and we’re talking Hermione’s bag.
And, if you’re looking to watch the Harry Potter movies in order, we’ve got you sorted there too. Whilst we’re happy with our ranking, arguably, if you asked us tomorrow we might have something different to say each time with new debates popping to the fore. But, this seems a pretty solid place to start.
8. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Every single Harry Potter movie has something to offer, but the second movie, Chamber of Secrets, also needed to live up to expectations when it came to taking the franchise to the next stop on its journey. For the second (and final) movie from director, Chris Columbus, the Home Alone director chose a darker, more dangerous path for the series, and one which the train would continue to travel down with each subsequent movie.
With this in mind, it became more of a second-level of stage setting that, whilst incredibly important to the overall story, wasn’t filled with the magic and wonder of the others. Plus, at a whopping two hours and 41 minutes, it was arguably a bit long for being one of the movies that focused more on introductions and narrative.
That being said, Chamber of Secrets is where we did get to first meet some iconic stalwarts of the series such as Draco Malfoy’s prolific dad, Lucius (Jason Isaacs) and everyone’s favorite house elf, Dobby (Toby Jones). For this, we are forever thankful.
Chamber of Secrets does a fantastic job at maturing the story from the first instance of a group of kids, big-eyed and bushy-tailed, embarking on their adventure at Hogwarts and really just taking off their training wheels. With maturity came the stark realization that the Harry Potter series was to be more ghastly than expected with Tom Riddle’s true identity slowly unraveling, an unfortunate slug-vomiting charm, and the terrifying Basilisk to name but a few of the movie’s iconic moments.
7. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Goblet of Fire is the home of the Triwizard Tournament and a thrilling addition to the franchise. It brought together alternative magical schools for which it may have initially seemed that Hogwarts was the only one. The promise of a Quidditch World Cup final was a promising one, but one that was not delivered. And there was a questionable focus on the teenage romantic angst of the characters that left fans divided. Underlying it all though, the first big reveal of he who shall not be named (you know – we’ll name him later).
In Goblet of Fire, the students are clearly developing as they come to a certain stage of their lives and arguably, this ends up dominating much of the movie. It perhaps echoes the age of the cast too, showing fans that they were changing and that we would learn to grow alongside them.
It was always going to be a hard one to tackle given the shift in narrative, but director Mike Newell rose to the occasion creating drama, rivalry, and a notable change in the relationships not only in the newly-introduced characters but with the Harry, Ron, and Hermione too.
6. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
The first movie of the franchise, sure, and an absolutely fantastic start. But, not the best. It’s clear that the Sorcerer’s Stone (Or Philosopher’s Stone as it was outside of the US) had one focus in mind – to begin it all. Given what we know now about all the epic stories it was building up to, it’s no surprise that it made sure it set us up just right.
There are so many iconic moments in the Sorcerer’s Stone that fans and newbies alike could enjoy as the first foray of Harry Potter to screen. We meet Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane), the Hogwarts’ gentle gamekeeping giant. We board the Hogwarts Express alongside Harry for his maiden voyage to Hogwarts and, of course, we meet his best friends, Ron and Hermione. And, we’re treated to our very first look at the magical academy of Hogwarts itself..
Whilst Sorcerer’s Stone is incredibly important to the franchise – because without it Harry Potter wouldn’t exist – the actual main storyline in the movie is something that leaves a little less to be desired in terms of magic and action when stacked up against the other movies in the franchise, placing it sixth.
5. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
Deathly Hallows: Part 1 has been continuously appreciated for how true it stayed to the book. Ending a series after such a long time meant there was a lot at stake and it needed to be done right. But, you’re not going to please everyone. Part 1 absolutely turns its focus onto Harry, Ron, and Hermione, demonstrating the growth they’d made as characters and actors throughout the franchise. There’s long narrative moments, emotional exchanges, and the slow, nail-biting crescendo that, we know, inevitably amalgamates into the epic finale that was to follow.
It caused some split opinion with fans feeling that it wasn’t full of the action they had expected from Deathly Hallows and constant quibbling around the decision to split the movie into two parts. But, arguably, without Part 1 building up the momentum and slowing the pace to focus on the characters we had all become so incredibly attached to, the stark change in pace when the storm hits in Part 2 would not have been as impactful.
4. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
As discussed for a few of the entries in the list, the Harry Potter movies explore and finesse a fantastic balance between action-packed scenes and lending time to the relationship-building narrative. Half-Blood Prince is one of the movies that tests this balance to the extreme.
Filled with famed scenes such as the hunt for horcruxes, Christmas at the Burrow, and we still aren’t ready to discuss what happened in the Astronomy Tower, but our wands are held high. But then, taking long, gaping moments of screen time to build upon what the books started.
One thing feels right though, that without these moments of contemplation and focus, that the remaining movies would not have created such an all-encompassing emotion. Through JK Rowling’s writing and the director’s translation to film, the series manages to constantly allow its viewers to feel deeply for the characters and, as such, makes for a more impactful sensation when the action descends.
3. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
If action is what you’re after though, Order of the Phoenix, has always been ready and raring to go armed with a complete abundance of it. Voldemort, Death Eaters, and butting heads with the goliath that is the Ministry of Magic, Harry really has his work cut out for him and, of course, he doesn’t have to do it alone.
Director David Yates took the helm for this movie and, after great praise, the subsequent final three movies were his to play with. Yates took the humor, visuals, and action scenes to a new level for the franchise and delivered to fans what they’d waited years to see.
It’s the dialogue that truly shines in Order of the Phoenix, from conversations between Harry and Sirius (Gary Oldman), Snape (Alan Rickman), and Remus (David Thewlis) is unmatched in the series. Their discussions are tension building, emotional, and inevitably lead us to discover secrets about each character that surmised in shock and awe. Also, let’s not forget the epic Voldemort and Dumbledore duel that pitted two powerful wizards against each other to a momentous backdrop of the Atrium foundation in the Ministry of Magic.
2. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
There’s so much to learn about Harry Potter and the world he finds himself constantly thrown around in. His parents, Voldemort, Hogwarts and its many staff’s relationship to Harry’s story, the Wizarding War, and his survival. Prisoner of Azkaban acts as a great beacon of detail for what we know about Harry up to this point.
We meet Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, and Peter Pettigrew for the first time. We learn about the Marauders map, visit Hogsmeade, learn about Patronus’, and see Harry fly both on Buckbeak and his Firebolt for the first time. A lot of firsts but ones with pivotal importance for the rest of the franchise.
Whilst Voldemort isn’t present, the tale of his return hangs over the movie like a dark cloud. This dark cloud is a stalwart for Prisoner of Azkaban, changing up the pace of a childlike wonder into a more mature nightmare. Much like the book, a crucial moment in the story where it becomes apparent that this tale isn’t going to follow a group of children learning the magic ropes, but one that will test their durability and stamina throughout.
1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
Finally, it’s hard to put into words how truly fantastic Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is at achieving its main goal – to end it all. There’s a lot at stake both in the fight for survival, but also in the amount of pressure on a finale to live up to expectations.
After Part 1 split opinion and slowed down the pace, Part 2 came as almost a surprise to fans who felt they’d been listened to, that expectations were being met, and that non-stop action was about to unravel before their very eyes. As is true with a lot of movie finales, Part 2 becomes home to some of the most iconic scenes of the entire franchise.
Snape’s moments, in particular, that up to this point had painted a character over hours and hours of screen time as a villainous man, were transformed entirely by beautifully crafted directorial and writing prowess.
It was clear that everything up to this point had been leading to this movie. To tie it all together. To leave fans feeling satisfied, but also incredibly on edge. Part 2 is a true example of film craftsmanship that shaped a much-loved book series and did it justice, whilst taking fans on one last, nail-biting and thrilling ride.
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