Worst to Best: Harry Potter

Now that my official mini-reviews for each film in the Harry Potter series are up, I figured I’d post a summary of how I rank them, from worst to best, in the hopes of hearing from you how you would rank them! What’s your favourite of the series and why?
As a huge fan of the books as well, I tried reeeeally hard to watch and review them as stand-alone works, but it was easier said than done. Anyways, click on the title for my official mini-review, and without further adieu:

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8. Goblet of Fire

Don’t get me wrong, this was still an enjoyable flick, but it kind of felt like the awkward 14 year old of the series. There’s a whole lot more going on at school (Tri-wizard tournament, a school dance) and outside of it (the Quidditch Cup fiasco), to go along with a heap of new characters (Cedric, Moody, Karkaroff, Crouch, Krum, Fleur, etc.). Amidst it all, the film is trying to transition to darker, more epic scale material, no longer just dealing with shenanigans at school. It just felt like it couldn’t quite handle it all at once, breezing through plot points trying to fit it all in.

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7. Chamber of Secrets

A fun sequel to the magical first installment, to be sure. The flying car; the slugs, the spiders, the snake; loser Lockhart, creepy Myrtle, frustrating Dobby… and an engaging mystery plot, to boot. The whole duelling bit was painful though… it was more like just politely taking turns to wave their wands and knock the other person back than any form of mutual combat. The ending, too… painfully cheesy. How does the whole school (minus Malfoy) all of a sudden love Hagrid so much so as to give him a standing ovation when he returns. Nothing against Hagrid, I like him, but the sentiment felt a little forced.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

6. Half-Blood Prince

Certainly the funniest of the lot, with its teen romance hijinks (Ron’s escapades with Romilda and Lavender are certainly a highlight), but also the darkest, with Snape’s dark turn, Malfoy’s sinister plan and inner torture, Voldemort’s backstory, and the crushing blow at the end. I just felt like the teen romance should have been dialed back a bit to let the dark bits develop more.

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5. Philosopher’s Stone

Everyone’s adorable, so that helps. Truly a magical beginning–the film does well in introducing the world and giving it that feeling of wonder–thanks largely to that iconic theme, the grand sets, the moody lighting, the mature camerawork.

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4. Order of the Phoenix

This was by far my least favourite when it first came out–but I think I was just disappointed by how it chalked up the shortest run-time for what was the longest book. And while I still cringed at Harry’s awkward hair and the awfully blue climactic scene in the Department of Mysteries, the third time around or so I could appreciate this film a lot more. I loved the development of Harry’s torturous connection with Voldemort and of course the irresistible rebellion plot. Dumbledore and Voldemort’s final duel was actually cool, too, unlike the painful examples from Chamber of Secrets.

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3. Deathly Hallows: Part 2

The most cinematically spectacular of the series, for sure: The chaotic action scenes at Hogwarts with Harry, Ron, and Hermione making their way through it all with the mournful music in the background were beautiful. Snape’s memory montage-epic, even though it raised some questions I couldn’t quite answer. I loved the way it tied in clips from the earlier movies, and so seamlessly edited its varying voiceovers and visuals. And of course, its aftermath–a punch to the gut. A finale that didn’t disappoint.

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2. Prisoner of Azkaban

Such a striking turn from the second film; though its plot bore similarities in structure to the previous two, its direction was a lot better. The film looked gorgeous, finally departing from the cozy but stuffy golden-tinged indoors of the first two films and incorporating in some beautiful scenery. It also flowed much better; the Whomping Willow transitional scene bits were a nice touch, and the conversations flowed more naturally too–a testament also to the maturing main three. The time-travel in the final act was also awesome; loved the way the film incorporated the clips from the “past” in the movie into the next scenes–Back to the Future style. Smooth and mature, the second best of the series!

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I

1. Deathly Hallows: Part 1

THEY FINALLY SLOWED DOWN. I know that the books had a lot of content to incorporate, and it was tough to fit even just the necessary bits all in there without it feeling rushed, and that it obviously wouldn’t have worked to divide each book into two movie, but splitting the final book into two movies was the best thing that happened to the series. It allowed part 2 to really revel in cinematic glory, and it allowed part 1 to finally slow down the pace and let things simmer and build more gradually. There’s actual lingering character drama here, and slow-burning tension–nuanced feelings of frustration, hopelessness, jealousy. There are still exciting plot points (the Ministry break-in is great), and the setting is as beautiful and riveting as ever (the Voldemort takeover of the Ministry is chilling), but for once the story is allowed on occasion to take a backseat to the characters-making for the most mature, and best developed film of the series.

So tell me–how do you rank them?
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9 thoughts on “Worst to Best: Harry Potter

  1. Interesting to see Deathly Hallows Part 1 taking the top spot! I’ve always loved that one. Personally, though, I would rank The Goblet of Fire much higher! Maybe I need to rewatch it, but I’ve always found a lot to like about it. Great list, with some excellent insight!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, Brett! Yeah, I feel like Deathly Hallows Part 1 deserves more love than it gets! I think Goblet of Fire might have been the one where I let my reading of the book affect me the most-like the whole backstory reveal with Crouch Jr. being skipped. Maybe another time through and it’ll bump up a few rankings!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. My rankings have more to do with how much I enjoyed or appreciated the film, so take this list with a grain of salt, but my ranks go as follows:
    1) The Half Blood Prince
    2) The Deathly Hallows: Part I
    3) The Deathly Hallows: Part II
    4) The Philosopher’s Stone
    5) The Chamber of Secrets
    6) The Goblet of Fire*
    7) The Prisoner of Azkaban*
    8) The Order of the Phoenix
    *These two have much different pros and cons, so it is hard to rank them, and, while I’m being persnickety, the first two movies are so different from the rest it is hard to place them in this list at all.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. As far as I can rememeber, 3 stands perhaps as the best adapted screenplay of the series, which is a positive through the lens of the books and besides. Most significantly from my critic’s perspective it was the first “mature” film in the series, which reflects both positively and negatively on it. Coming from watching 2, the contrast of depth and artistry strikes 3 in a phenomenal light: it looks amazing, in movement and set. However, the leading trio, now judged as mature actors due to the tonal shift, simply could not stand up to judgment–they were not very good.
        In 4, they are much improved, and the setting and tones are the same, which makes the whole film more palatable. Just because 3 was the first to transcend a children’s film does not mean it should be the only to benefit from the merits thereof. 4 also looked and felt great, and this time was populated by actors who could properly stand beside their mature supporting cast. As a retelling of the novel 4 was horrible, but I think it could be argued that it was a fair adaptation all the same–there is a hell of a lot that goes on in the novel, after all, and this film did not ruin the franchise plot moving forward, which is something.
        Anyway, the only merit 3 has over 4 is its retelling (the time travel sequence is its highlight) and the only merit 4 has over 3 is its acting. Except in extreme cases, I will always take acting over story, provided there is still a story to tell (cough Foxcatcher cough), which, in 4, was the case. A weaker telling, but still a good story, and a telling through superior acting makes a lot of difference.

        Liked by 1 person

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