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A Definitive Ranking of the Harry Potter Movies From Someone Who Grew Up With Them

I'm still here for the Marauders and the Weasley twins.

Hermione Granger is sorted into Gryffindor by the Sorting Hat in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

As a textbook “Potter generation” kid who basically was raised with a foot in Hogwarts at all times from the ages of seven to sixteen at the very least, I often think back to this story that has had a massive influence in making me the person that I am today, and has also grown to be so tainted by its author being a horrible person all around. It’s a wild rollercoaster, really.

By now, we all know J.K. Rowling’s stance on trans rights specifically and social issues generally—and it’s not a good one. In fact, it’s the very opposite. She continues to use her considerable personal influence and wealth to support transphobic causes—and that includes those of the people who used to be her fans, whom one could argue she herself raised to clock Umbridge and Voldemort-types and fight against them.

All this to say that the decision many people have made to not support her and her creations in any way, shape or form is immensely valid. I include myself in that—I stopped spending my money on Harry Potter ever since the last Deathly Hallows film premiered in Italian cinemas and I have no intentions of starting again anytime soon. And that’s while fully acknowledging the massive privilege I had in identifying the most problematic aspects of the books relatively later than I probably should have.

I was actually talking with a friend of mine about this recently—it’s like there are two versions of Harry Potter. One is the books and movies canon, with all its questionable decisions and the legacy of being attached to Rowling’s name. The other is the story that was born out of a decades-old fandom—with its own headcanons that have by now become pretty much unshakeable truths and its much more diverse take on the Wizarding World. 

The fact that the saga lives as a kind of similar but also fundamentally different version of itself within the fandom will never cease to amaze me.

And it’s from this perspective that I’m writing this guide—half with the eyes of the girl who lived and breathed Harry Potter and half with the understanding I have today of what’s written in canon and also what has risen to prominence in the fandom. 

Just a heads up—I’ll only be focusing on the eight movies that make up the story of Harry and Hermione and Ron and all the others. I feel like the Fantastic Beasts saga is not worth the pixels it would take for me to write about it, which should already be a pretty good indication of what exactly I think of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, The Crimes of Grindelwald and The Secrets of Dumbledore. Here’s every Harry Potter movie ranked worst to best.

8. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Funnily enough, Half-Blood Prince probably still is my favourite out of all the Harry Potter books—which is probably why I’m placing its movie adaptation last on this ranking. Pretty much everything that was central to the events happening in Harry’s sixth year at Hogwarts was cut—starting from the Prince’s potion book, which was relegated to a corner, and the many many nights Harry and Dumbledore spent exploring the memories about Voldemort’s childhood and adulthood. The fact that there isn’t a single mention of Merope Gaunt’s story in the entire movie is absolutely criminal.

And don’t even let me get started on the butchering that was made of the relationship between Harry and Ginny, or Ginny’s character in general (Harry’s too, but I feel like I’ll have space to talk about it later). The only saving grace of the entirety of Half-Blood Prince is that we finally see Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes. I said what I said.

7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2

In general, I find that the second half of the franchise suffers greatly—is it David Yates’ directing? Is it the complete upheaval of Harry’s character from a spunky teenager who’s rightfully angry all the time and isn’t afraid to talk back to a sombre and serious hero who rarely speaks up? I’m not entirely sure, but I do know that both Deathly Hallows movies didn’t give me the same rush of emotions that the book did—which I pretty much inhaled as soon as the Italian translation hit bookstores.

The reason I placed Part 2 before Part 1—when arguably Part 2 is much more dramatic and I will admit that the sight of Hogwarts burning did a number on me when I first saw it on the big screen—is because it contains the one thing I have always disliked with a passion in the entire Harry Potter franchise. The epilogue, nineteen years later. I hate that thing with a passion and I could go into a massive rant about it and how it alienated Harry from his audience but this article isn’t really the place for that. Suffice it to say the presence of the epilogue is enough to make me rank down the entire movie.

6. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 1

Part 1 of Deathly Hallows suffers from the same problems as Part 2, but at least there’s no epilogue in it and its entire central section—with the trio camping out in the English countryside after the Ministry mission, plagued by the Horcrux—does a pretty good job in highlighting the personal toll the war is having on our protagonists. 

Still, it cuts out a lot of worldbuilding from the books about the Horcruxes and the Hallows which makes the whole plot line feel emptier and poorer—but at least the recreation of the Tale of the Three Brothers was given the space it deserved and the animation it needed to make it stand out.

5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Let’s get one thing out of the way first—Goblet of Fire holds a special place in my heart for being the most Weasley twins movie out of all eight. The “well done dragon” and the “bumbling babbling band of baboons” and the hairstyle—it’s all incredibly iconic and given how Fred and George Gred and Forge are some of my favourite characters from the entire series I can’t help but love Goblet of Fire. Even though the movie itself is kind of split into two.

The first part rushes through the main plot points and character beats, glossing over the worldbuilding and oversimplifying everything—like the entire Quidditch World Cup sequence. The second one, however, is saved by Voldemort’s return—the whole scene in Little Hangleton’s graveyard is absolutely amazing and one of the best of the franchise, in my opinion.  

4. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

I don’t think I’m alone in believing that the first two movies of the Harry Potter franchise are the superior ones. The atmosphere feels more book-like, and the plots in general are more faithful to their source material. Plus, I’ve always loved Kenneth Branagh’s cameo as Gilderoy Lockhart in Chamber of Secrets—and in general, the fact that these eight movies are filled with British acting royalty filling all the supporting roles around lead actors who were unknown when the franchise began.

Still, I’m placing Harry’s second year at Hogwarts in the fourth position—just because the three movies that are left are dearer to my heart in one way or the other. And also because I can’t forget how absolutely terrified I was of Aragog when I first watched it.

3. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

I know what you’re thinking—you pretty much started this list saying that you think David Yates is one of the worst things that could have happened to this franchise. And I stand by it, but consider this—I love the Marauders more than I love any other character in this story Hermione Granger excluded, even more than the Weasley twins, so the fact that we get crumbs of both Sirius Black and Remus Lupin is enough to put it third on my list.

I also absolutely adore the work Imelda Staunton has done as Dolores Umbridge—the character is vile, but then again it takes a great actress to make it so. Still, if I wasn’t so in love with the Marauders that their mere presence blinds me to everything else, I think that I would realistically place Order of the Phoenix before Chamber of Secrets—the way the movie butchered the entire speech between Dumbledore and Harry about the prophecy and the role he’ll have to play in defeating Voldemort is shameful, honestly. 

2. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Nothing beats the wonder you experience together with Harry when he first sees Hogwarts, with all its windows alight, rising up from the lake. The first movie of the franchise is beautiful exactly because it’s its beginning—and we get to discover this new world with its rules and quirks and unique atmosphere as it opens up to Harry.

The story of The Philosopher’s Stone is simple enough in the books and so it’s the same in the movie, which sticks pretty close to it and so gets to cover all the important story beats—from Harry’s first Quidditch game to the Mirror of Erised to the mystery behind Nicolas Flamel.

1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Did I mention I love the Marauders? So how could I not place the movie where they feature the most in the first place? Granted, they’re not as present in the movie version of Prisoner of Azkaban as they are in the book—but the Marauder’s Map is there, and so are Remus and Sirius and that’s definitely enough for me to consider the third installment of the Harry Potter franchise the best of the bunch.

Still, I do have my reserves over the casting choices made for both Sirius and Remus—not that Gary Oldman and David Thewlis aren’t amazing, but I maintain that if they had chosen actors closer to their canon ages the tragedy of the Marauders, James and Lily included, would have been that much more gut-wrenching. On the other hand, Prisoner of Azkaban Harry is the absolute best Harry—starting from his messy hair, so there’s that.

(featured image: Warner Bros)

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Benedetta (she/her) lives in Italy and has been writing about pop culture and entertainment since 2015. She has considered being in fandom a defining character trait since she was in middle school and wasn't old enough to read the fanfiction she was definitely reading and loves dragons, complex magic systems, unhinged female characters, tragic villains and good queer representation. You’ll find her covering everything genre fiction, especially if it’s fantasy-adjacent and even more especially if it’s about ASOIAF. In this Bangtan Sonyeondan sh*t for life.