Over two decades ago, the Harry Potter book series telling the story of the boy who lived was transformed onto the big screen with unknown lead actors, a barrage of familiar faces from UK acting royalty and special effects galore
From day one, the films cast a magical spell over audiences around the globe who couldn’t stop discussing and debating the films even though the series came to end in 2011.
With a rebooted television series coming in a few years from Max, it looks like we’ll still be talking about these movies for years to come.
So, grab your wands and your Patronus (if you can!), and read on for our countdown of the Harry Potter films from worst to best.
Harry Potter films ranked
8. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Kicking off the rundown is the second instalment in the series and last from director Chris Columbus. The 2002 movie, also the longest in the series (clocking in at over two hours and 40 minutes), introduced the much-loved character Dobby. At a time when CG characters came in for a bit of stick, the lovable Hogwarts house elf lifted the film above its slightly darker and more plodding scenes. Whilst certainly not bad, Chamber of Secrets is quite some way off the heady heights of its sequels.
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7. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone / Sorcerer's Stone
Chris Columbus had the unenviable task of introducing the world to his cinematic take on the already beloved series of books from author JK Rowling. But the Home Alone and Mrs Doubtfire director waved his magic wand, or camera at least, and created the cinematic universe millions would come to love.
6. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
Harry’s final book would be split into two, which was the style at the time, though many feel that perhaps, in hindsight, one epic movie would have sufficed. The second part is much-lauded but this opening salvo feels too bogged down in setting up the sensational climax.
5. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
British director David Yates comes in from 2007 and sees the series out behind the camera. Yates, who continued with the Wizarding World franchise by helming the Fantastic Beasts films, kept up the mature tone set by its predecessor (higher up this list). Of course, any discussion around Order of the Phoenix has to mention Imelda Staunton’s performance as the you-love-to-hate-her Dolores Umbridge. A character Imelda herself described as a “bloody monster”.
4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Fourth film in and a third director for the series. This 2005 gem was helmed by England’s very own Mike Newell (known for Four Weddings and a Funeral and Donnie Brasco), but this time things were very different for the Hogwarts gang.
Harry and his chums were growing up and, even from the marketing with its more subdued colours, you could tell this was a more adult affair. The innocent magical wonder of the preceding instalments has firmly gone and become super gritty.
Who can forget Cedric Diggory’s father howling in grief at his son’s death? A turning point in the series.
3. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Aka Harry Potter and the Full-Blown Puberty. This love potion is hot with hormones and (Tom) riddled with romance – not to mention Harry and Ginny’s secret kiss. A romcom with wizards and witches.
Elsewhere, Harry’s sixth year at Hogwarts saw the Death Eaters memorably mess up London and a much-loved character bites the big one during a shocking finale (if you hadn’t read the book, of course). The visuals were on point and, rather fittingly, the film was Oscar-nominated for its cinematography.
2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
And so HP fans around the world mourned as the final year at Hogwarts for our heroes came to an end. Undoubtedly, Warner Bros was mourning too as its cash cow came to an end – with this one raking in $1.34 billion (of course the Fantastic Beasts films would follow, less successfully, and there’s the aforementioned small screen reboot coming).
The final battle enthralled and the coupling-up satiated all those shippers around the world. For those who followed from the start, this finale was worth the wait and kept the magic bubbling in that cinematic cauldron for so many years.
1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Given that director Alfonso Cuarón was known for films such as Y tu mamá también and the 1998 modern interpretation of Great Expectations (with Robert De Niro and Gwyneth Paltrow), the Spanish filmmaker did seem like an off-the-wall choice. But the results speak for themselves.
Harry's third year at Hogwarts introduces ‘bad guy’ and the titular prisoner, Sirius Black. Except, he’s a prisoner no more and he’s not really bad. With a franchise-stealing turn from Gary Oldman, a heavy dose of time-turning, and the introduction of Buckbeak, Prisoner of Azkaban moved the series up several gears.
Despite being roundly lauded by fans and audiences alike, its performance at the box office is actually the lowest in the series (unable to break $800 million). But many wondered what could have been had Cuarón been able to stay on for more outings.
Harry Potter movies and the entire Wizarding World collection are available to watch now on Sky Cinema.