A-List: Ranking the Harry Potter Movies

By J. Don Birnam

June 9, 2016

This is the very most Scooby-Doo of all the Harry Potter images.

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Daniel Radcliffe is back in theaters this weekend playing a magician, but it is not the boy who lived. Still, Harry Potter is also making headlines again because the next chapter in the saga, The Cursed Child, which takes place around the end of the last book and focuses on the children of the main characters, has begun previews. Oh, and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the first of perhaps many HP movie spinoffs (Star Wars can’t have all the fun), is also coming soon.

So, I deftly put two and two together and decided to try and rank the top five of the eight Harry Potter films. Hey, I’ve done it for Star Wars, so why not this series?

I’ll start off by saying I like all eight of the movies, but, then again, I’m a huge fan of the entire series. It is also difficult to do this entirely divorced from the book. Everyone knows which ones are the best and the worst books, and the relationship between that source material and the strength of a particular film are undeniable. Still, the relationship is not an exact match - directors and screenwriters do have a choice in terms of what scenes to cut from the long novels, who to cast, and how to tone the movie overall. And, in that sense, noticeable differences do emerge by the end.

All of that is to say that my rankings are based on a combination of those factors - choices made from the books, tone, style, and casting picks. I will not make any honorable mentions today because that would give away which movies I’ve selected for the top five. I’ll just reemphasize that you can never go wrong with Harry Potter, which I did name my favorite movie franchise of all-time, after all.

If you have murderously different opinions, you know where to find me. Please note that this contains heavy spoilers.


5. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Widely considered the worst of the seven books due mostly to its verbosity, the editing job alone warrants giving this movie one of the top spots. But once you consider the brilliant casting of Imelda Staunton (and her riveting performance) as Dolores Umbridge, then the deal is sealed.

This movie was pivotal in its own way - it was the first of the second half of the series - and the first to be directed by David Yates, who then turned into the guy that closed out the franchise behind the camera. Yates has a steady, unpretentious style that worked well and did not interfere with the storytelling in this or other films. He also did his best with the somewhat weak storyline underlying the movie - the whole business with the mysterious prophecy - by focusing on the stronger points of the film such as the Umbridge/Potter relationship, as well as the climactic scene in the Ministry of Magic. The death of Sirius Black was particularly well portrayed, and Yates also made strong use of Helena Bonham Carter, who dazzled throughout the franchise but in particular here as the macabre Bellatrix Lestrange.

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