Please note this post contains spoilers for all of the films in the Harry Potter series. But you have probably seen them all by now so it’s okay!
8. Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets
I always struggle when I try to explain just why I hate this film so much. Maybe it’s the “difficult second album” syndrome. Maybe it is because I know the series gets so much better after this point, so I can never fully enjoy it. It is probably the closest to the books in terms of how well it follows the storyline, but it just isn’t that interesting. We find out about the horcruxes (even though it isn’t referred to as one until much later), and learn more about Tom Riddle which is great. The basilisk fight is pretty good also. I think my main problem with it is that it pushes the comic relief too far. We have Dobby (who I love, don’t get me wrong) dropping cakes on relatives, hijinks in a flying car, a run-in with a wayward tree, pixies running riot, people turning into cats. It is just all a bit too much and kind of lessens the threat in the film. When the more memorable scenes are the funny ones, rather than the ones of blood messages on the walls or a giant snake attacking students, then you know something has gone wrong somewhere.
- Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince
Until the very end, nothing much of any consequence happens! I don’t really care about the Slug Club, or whoever Ginny Weasley is dating this week, or whether Ron is going to make the Quidditch team. From the point Dumbledore tells Harry the location of a Horcrux, things are much better. The death of Dumbledore is as incredibly emotional as it is in the books, and the threat to Harry’s life becomes even more real when you realise, possibly the only person who could protect him, is now gone. My main problem with this film is the title. Or should I say, how it appears they forgot what the title of the film was until really late on and then they were like “oh crap, we need to tell everyone who the Half-Blood Prince actually is!” In the books, this was a major reveal and the main point of the whole story, including its significance in Snape and Harry’s relationship. It just felt very rushed and haphazard and was a big letdown, especially when it was handled so much better in the book.
- Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire
After the darkness of Azkaban, the series suddenly jolts back to a slightly more whimsical story. It does take a dark turn right at the end again, but prior to that we get to see the competitions of the Triwizard Cup, the Quidditch World Cup, the awkwardness of a school dance, and the perils of wizard dating. Which is all well and good, but I can’t help but sit there and think why? Are there not more important things to be dealing with right now? The end scenes with Voldemort and Harry in the graveyard are fantastic, but other than that, there isn’t too much to shout about.
- Harry Potter & The Philosopher’s Stone
It is rather twee to look back on now, and the acting is very ‘stage school’, but it does a great job of introducing the world and the characters who we’ll grow up with as the films go along. No other film in the series has the same sense of magic and wonder, and we as an audience are seeing all these things for the first time just as Harry is, which is great fun to watch. I bet by the later films our protagonists were just wishing they could go back to the good old days when defeating Voldemort meant winning a game of wizard chess and solving some puzzles. Those were the days!
- Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Part 1
Lots of important things happen in this film, but it is essentially just build-up to the second part of the film, where most of the action happens. However, it is still good enough to rank at the halfway point in this list! The absolute highlight of this film, and one of the best bits in the whole series is the animation for The Tale of the Three Brothers, created by Framestore. It is so beautifully done, the animation is perfect and Emma Watson’s narration is equally amazing. One of the drawbacks of this film is Ron’s angsty, jealous routine when he thinks Harry and Hermione are getting too close. It’s kind of dull and doesn’t add a whole lot to the overall plot. Notable mentions to the scene where Harry and Hermione go to visit Godric’s Hollow. I’m still traumatised by this.
- Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix
The film wisely cuts out a lot of the unnecessary chit-chat that made the book so dense, and that makes for a much better story. We also get to meet evil in human form, Dolores Umbridge for the first time, portrayed fantastically by Imelda Staunton. Her exterior is all pink, fluffy kittens and china tea cups, but underneath is a despicable, dark, twisted person who takes great delight in inflicting the most horrific of punishments upon the students who cross her. All of the scenes inside the Ministry of Magic are amazing, particularly in the Department of Mysteries. It is also here that we get another pivotal moment, and a big reveal in the form of a prophecy that will shape the films to come.
- Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Part 2
The climax to the series is unquestionably the most emotive of the whole series with numerous key character deaths, and some heartbreaking flashbacks (Always, Snape. Always.). It is easily the most action-packed as well with a truly epic battle taking place in the grounds of Hogwarts. The only thing that lets it down is the terrible epilogue scene, in which we see our heroes 20 years later sending their own kids off to Hogwarts for the first time. It is so unnecessarily saccharine that it actually leaves a slightly sour taste. The terrible ageing effects (or should I say, a beard and crows feet), are part of why it is awful, but also it just feels a bit tacked on. Other than that, this film is fantastic, and an easy choice for number 2 on this list!
- Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban
Suddenly things get dark! Both the book and the film marked a pivotal turning point, when it went from learning potions and charms, winning the house cup, and Quidditch, to dealing with murderers, terrifying shadowy creatures (Dementors) and genuine life or death situations. Part of the reason why this film is so great is the direction of Alfonso Cuarón, and the gorgeous cinematography of Michael Seresin. Looking at the first two films, and then Azkaban next to each other, the differences are so stark that it is almost jarring, but it just works so perfectly with the tone of the film. The scenes with the Dementors are genuinely terrifying, the twist with Sirius Black and Peter Pettigrew is expertly handled, and the whole time-turner sequence is easily my favourite bit in any of the films. Simply magical!
Agree with everything I’ve said, or am I a terribly misguided idiot who has got it all wrong? Please let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to share as well.