This month the Wizarding World film franchise is celebrating a major anniversary. The famous boy wizard Harry Potter made his big-screen debut 20 years ago when the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone premiered in November 2001. While J.K. Rowling’s books were already a worldwide phenomenon, the visual representation has taken things to a whole new level, inspiring video games, theme park attractions, and cosplays. What’s more, even though the last Harry Potter film was released ten years ago, the franchise is still going strong, with the Fantastic Beast series still ongoing, and an upcoming HBO Max series. There’s even a quiz show coming up proving just how intense Harry Potter fandom really is.
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the first Harry Potter film here is my ranking of all ten of the Wizarding World films. The movies here will be ranked from worst to best. For the record, I don’t think any of these films are bad, but some are significantly better than others.
So without further ado, Accio Top-Ten List.
10. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
This film already had a lot going against it due to controversial casting choices. Unfortunately, a weak story couldn’t save it. While an entertaining film, it’s a major letdown from its predecessor. The story is all over the place with more twists and turns than a pretzel. A potentially complex and compelling character is introduced only to get killed off fast, a twist is revealed at the end that seems suspicious to the point of jerking the audience around, and it feels like we’re heading into dark territory way too quickly for a fairly new series.
Perhaps all this craziness will make sense after Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore is released in 2022 and I’ll appreciate this film more. But until then, this film is a bit messy, but entertaining nonetheless.
9. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
I also like to call this one Harry Potter and the Evidently Dead Barber. But I digress.
All the Harry Potter films deviate from the source material in some way, but this one is particularly notorious. Seriously, where were Dobby and Winky? While the tri-wizard tournament scenes are pretty compelling and breathtaking, this film has the least character development of all the movies. The deepest glimpse into a character we get to see is Ron being a jealous jerk for the first half of the film, and eventually, that gets quite annoying. The first PG-13 film and the one that marks the turning point into the darker and more mature section of the series, this film had a lot to accomplish. Unfortunately, it just ends up being forgettable.
8. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
This is possibly the most divisive film in the series, with some absolutely loving it and others considering it joyless and depressing. I’m unfortunately in the latter category.
There’s a lot to like in the film. Luna Lovegood is introduced, the scenes with Dumbledore’s Army are excellent, and the battle between Dumbledore and Voldemort is magnificent. But unfortunately, there’s a hurdle in this film I can’t get over: Harry is a pain in the neck in this film. I understand he’s got a lot going on in this movie, but he’s so short-tempered and grouchy in this film that he doesn’t feel like Harry at all. Sorry, but I can only take so much of Harry having a stick (or wand) up his butt for an entire film.
Still, the film is well-made and well-acted. Imelda Staunton put intense work into bringing the evil and loathsome Dolores Umbridge to life, and Gary Oldman is phenomenal as Sirius Black. And given Harry’s emotional state, you’ve got to give props to Daniel Radcliffe for putting his all into this one.
7. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Based on my favorite book in the series, I wish I could rank this one higher. To its credit, it’s the funniest one in the series, with hilarious moments such as Ron under the influence of a love potion and Harry intoxicated on Felix Felicis. And the scenes where we glimpse into Voldemort’s past are compelling to watch as well. Unfortunately, those moments with Voldemort were much more vast in the books, and the film would have been much better if they hadn’t been taken out. Perhaps that is why we got the fan film Voldemort: Origins of the Heir.
My biggest issue with the film though is the visuals. The film consistently switches between a normal hue, a gray hue, and a green hue. The green hue works in the Pensieve when we see Voldemort’s memories, but it’s annoyingly distracting everywhere else, as is the consistent switching of hues. It’s intended to be artistic, but I just found it irritating.
6. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
This is where I start to really love the films. Of all the Wizarding World films I consider this the most criminally underrated. Yes, it is long and some points in the story are stronger than others, but it’s still thrilling. The special effects and set designs (specifically the basilisk and the chamber itself) are still impressive today, which says a lot considering this film was released in 2002. Honestly, seeing a twelve-year-old go up against a giant killer snake is a tense and exciting battle to watch. And come on… the film has Dobby!!
5. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
I don’t care what anyone says, I love this one. Honestly, I’d always wanted to see what the Wizarding World would be like in America, and I always wanted to get a deeper glimpse into what wizard life after school is like in the films. The four main characters are charming and loveable, with Newt Scamander, in particular, making for a fun and quirky protagonist. But as the name rightly suggests, the beasts really are the fantastic stars of the show. Who doesn’t love those nifflers and Pickett?
Can I just say I hope the future films give us a glimpse into the American wizarding school? The boy in me needs to see this.
4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
This was the first film that pulled that whole “divide the last book into two films” ploy (which some feel should have happened with the other long books). It’s also the only one that did it well. While it’s a bit weird to not have the characters at Hogwarts, that’s sort of the strongest aspect of the film. This film reminds us that it’s really all about the characters, particularly the trio that is Harry, Ron, and Hermione. This film is an intense watch, as we see more clearly than ever that these aren’t the same kids we met in the first film. The seriousness of all they’ve been through and what they have to face has forced them to grow up fast, and emotions and tensions run high as we see them on a journey to find and destroy the Horcruxes keeping Voldemort alive.
Even in all the darkness, there’s some fun to be had. You can’t help but smile when you see Harry and Hermione dancing in the midst of their troubles. And there’s also the reappearance of Dobby, which is awesome considering his omission from the three other films he should have been in.
3. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
This film gets a high ranking simply because of its nostalgic and emotional appeal.
Honestly, if you look back on this film after seeing all the other films, it’s hard not to have your heart warmed seeing Harry Potter when he was a wide-eyed young boy learning that he was a wizard and attending Hogwarts for the first time. The first film stands strong as a reminder of the youthful innocence and childlike wonder we all had as kids. Just like all of us, Harry’s life will soon be filled with tragedy and conflict, but that youthful joy he had when he first met Ron and Hermione and entered the Great Hall where he was sorted into Gryffindor still has the power to lift our spirits and awaken our inner child. All of the dated CGI aside (it has been 20 years), Roger Ebert was right to call this one a classic.
2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
The end of a long and powerful saga, Deathly Hallows Part 2 is a complex mixture of fun, excitement, darkness, and sad finality. While the film does feel a bit rushed due to picking up right where the previous film left off, that’s a forgivable flaw given how powerfully this film delivers. The movie is essentially one long battle, but it’s an exciting one and the most action-packed of the series. This is the one where all the main characters we’ve watched grow up truly come into their own. Polar opposites Ron and Hermione finally give in to their feelings for one another, the formerly awkward goof Neville Longbottom becomes an inspiring hero, and Harry completes his journey from boyhood to manhood through endurance and self-sacrifice. The film is full of death and tragedy (Snape’s death probably being the most tragic) which is hard to watch, but once the battle is over, there’s a sense of peace and closure as Harry walks through the great hall. And of course, the “19 years later” sequence allows viewers to say goodbye to these characters knowing they’ve found the peace they were long overdue for.
1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
With all due respect to all the other Wizarding World films, this was an easy choice. Director Alfonso Cuaron created more than a great Harry Potter film. He gave us a fantasy masterpiece.
This film blended the childlike wonder of its first two predecessors with the dark maturity that would be prevalent in all future entries in the series. The young actors truly became comfortable in their roles, and Gary Oldman (Sirius Black) and David Thewlis (Remus Lupin) brought their literary counterparts to life beautifully. Emma Thompson is also hilarious in her performance as the quirky and clearly self-deluded divination teacher Professor Sybill Trelawney. The special effects still hold up to this day, the score is incredible, and the story manages to be both fun, thrilling, and at times scary given the addition of the dementors and a werewolf. While I would have preferred to see the men behind the Marauder’s Map explained, it’s something I can let go of since the film is so masterfully made. This is easily the greatest Wizarding World entry we may ever see.
Do you agree or disagree with this list? How would you rank the Wizarding World films? Which film is your favorite and why? Talk to us in the comments.