Based on J. K. Rowling‘s best-selling fantasy novels, released between 2001 and 2011, the Harry Potter adaptations are the highest-grossing film series of all-time. Predominantly a story written for children, Hogwarts and its pupils quickly took the interest of people of all ages. Here’s my ranking of the franchise:
1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011)
In the final instalment of the franchise, Harry, Ron and Hermione must continue their search for Voldemort’s remaining Horcruxes in their effort to destroy the Dark Lord for good.
It was incredibly sad to see the franchise come to an end, but what an amazing way to do it. This final instalment is a brilliant film and a fairly decent adaptation, though its flaws lie in the huge amount of detail missed out in Part 1 (Dumbledore’s past, Tonk’s baby, I would go on but there’s seriously so much…). This final instalment brings so much to the franchise as a whole and is definitely the darkest and most emotional yet. The best thing about this film, however, is the character of Snape, adding a huge emotional spin to the franchise, creating layers that you wouldn’t have imagined it could have had as a child’s fantasy. What a great way to say goodbye.
“After all this time, Severus?” / “Always.”
2. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)
As Harry Potter begins his 6th year at Hogwarts, he discovers an old book marked mysteriously “This book is the property of the Half-Blood Prince”, and begins to learn more about Lord Voldemort’s dark past.
This is the novel that stuck out the most for me, and Yates does a brilliant job of directing it as the film adaptation remains one of my favourites in the franchise too. As with the final two films, there is too much from the novels left out to grant this sixth instalment a decent adaptation, but it still works really well as a stand-alone film. I found that this instalment had some of the most powerful and emotional scenes yet, with the cave scene being one of my favourites in the whole franchise, and that the performances really stepped up a gear. Alan Rickman, especially, does well to build up our opinion of his character, ready for his revelations in the next two films.
“Why is it that whenever anything happens, it’s always you three?”
3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010)
As Harry begins his search to destroy the Horcruxes, he uncovers the existence of three most powerful objects in the wizarding world – the Deathly Hallows. But which will better his chances of staying alive when he must ultimately face Lord Voldemort for one last time?
The franchise just gets better and better from here. Whilst it misses so much out from the novel, it was hard for it to go wrong. Grint is absolutely brilliant in this, but the whole cast seems to be at their best here, knowing that it will all soon come to an end.
“What a beautiful place… to be with friends.”
4. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
In Harry’s third year at Hogwarts, trouble is brewing with the news that convicted murderer Sirius Black has escaped Azkaban Prison and is coming after Harry.
Definitely one of the best in the franchise, and this is where it started to get a little scary for me (more so when I was younger, obviously), but it is undoubtedly more of an adult fantasy adventure from this point. There is a lot missed out from the book, again, but it still works as a solid film. Gary Oldman and David Thewlis’ characters are two of my favourites from the series so it’s brilliant to have their bromance as a key part of the storyline. The British talent in the Harry Potter franchise really is just superb.
“Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, when one only remembers to turn on the light.”
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)
In Harry’s fourth year, he finds himself selected as an underaged competitor in a dangerous multi-wizardry school competition.
I think this is one of my favourite films from the first four adaptations because it brilliantly shows how the cast have grown into the roles, and how much we, as an audience, have come to love them, as they all skip their yearly hair cut, go to prom, and get angsty with each other. This instalment puts a lot better focus on the use of magic, really bringing to life the world of Harry Potter as everything starts to get serious. It’s a definite change in tonal direction and a huge step up from the rest of the series, but it is also the film where I started to realise that I really don’t like Daniel Radcliffe in the lead. However, the cast, yet again, has a number of talented additions, including great roles for David Tennant and Brendan Gleeson, and a fantastic introduction to Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort, who couldn’t be played by anyone better.
“Do you think we’ll ever just have a quiet year at Hogwarts?”
6. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001)
The first film in the franchise, a young boy with a great destiny proves his worth as he enters his first year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
You can’t not like this film when it was the one to start such a fantastic franchise. Of course, the acting is average with such a young cast, but all of the actors fit into their roles brilliantly and each is introduced really well. The effects are a little dated, too, but that’s to be expected. Overall, the film is a very decent adaptation of the book and has some of the best moments out of all of the films altogether (‘You’re a wizard ‘arry / ‘TROLLL, in the dungeon!’ / It’s Wingadium Leviosahh / etc.). It is both funny and scary, appealing to all audiences, and I wouldn’t want anything more from it.
“It does not do to dwell on dreams, Harry, and forget to live.”
7. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)
With their warning about Lord Voldemort’s return ignored, Harry and Dumbledore are targeted by the Wizard authorities as Magic of Ministry official slowly seizes power at Hogwarts.
Whilst there is so much to love about this film, I can’t help but find it one of my least favourites in the series because not enough happens in terms of plot, at least in context of the franchise as a whole. Sure the whole focus on Dumbledore’s Army is exciting, but I find it a very easy film to skip over. That’s not to say that it isn’t brilliant, however, especially in the final half hour. As for additional talent, this instalment sees the introduction to the brilliant Helena Bonham Carter, Imelda Staunton really irritate you as the well-portrayed Dolores Umbridge, but also the loss of my favourite character in the franchise.
“The world isn’t split into good people and Death Eaters. We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.”
8. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2008)
Harry ignores warnings not to return to Hogwarts at the beginning of his second year, only to find that the school has been plagued by a series of mysterious attacks as Harry is haunted by a strange voice.
Whilst this instalment is much darker than its predecessor, I also found it more of a family film. This isn’t exactly a negative, but I still prefer the first. Nevertheless, the leading trio really grow into their characters, and Jason Isaacs and Kenneth Branagh make excellent additions to the cast.
“It is not our abilities that show what we truly are. It is our choices.”