The Definitive Harry Potter Movie Rankings: Don’t @ Me Edition
Great stories shape us, great franchises shape us over and over again.
I love Harry Potter like he was a member of my muggle family. It actually pains me, cruciatus curse-style, to do a Harry Potter movie ranking list.
This seems like an idea from he who must not be named… But, when the topic came up in our weekly meeting, I salivated at the chance to return to Hogwarts and get all of you mad at me all over again.
Seriously, stop sending me howlers over the Rocky rankings--we are making these in good fun. Some of the things you said were hurtful. One of you called me a mudblood!
When I look into the Mirror Of Erised, I see you all being nice to me in the comments.
I will talk about the books, I will talk about where I was reading them, as well as seeing the movies.
I’ll bring in elements like direction, cinematography, and writing, so we can open up the discussion as to how this series has shaped us as filmmakers and storytellers.
But for the most part, I’m going to let you know that my rankings are all about theatrical experience, and where I was in my life at the time. Because the franchise is so big that it's spanned a big portion of my life journey. The Harry Potter movies all have something different to offer, and ranking them gave me a chance to tell my own story through them. Let's undertake this ranking process together. Pottermore told me I was a Ravenclaw/Gryffindor, but that’s beside the point. I’m an emotional Potter-fanatic already stressing about this ranking.
JK Rowling, please don’t hold this against me. You’re legit the reason I got into reading and writing. So this is basically your fault.
Okay. Enough stalling.
This list takes us from the Harry Potter movies I liked the least, to my favorite.
So let’s jump into the Harry Potter movie rankings, and see if we all agree, or if this list is just another one of my Horcruxes.
Ready for me to shed some light on this situation?
10. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
First of all, I said don’t @ me on this one. Chamber of Secrets is not my favorite, okay? I guess from the time I was a wee child, I always felt bad for Harry in this book.
The kid saved Hogwarts ONE YEAR ago and now, just because he speaks parseltongue, everyone turned on him? These Hogwarts kids are cruel. Buncha witches, am I right?
As far as the movie goes, it never feels like it captured the mystery that made the book such a page-turner. Instead, it narrows in on the exposition, and every scene feels like you have to take notes just to keep up with the wizarding world.
When I saw the movie, I think I felt like an outcast, kind of like Harry. I had acne. I was in high school. I just wanted this kid to succeed. Maybe I wanted that too. But I felt like this book and movie were about how no one ever gets a fair shake, and that’s a tough chocolate frog to swallow.
Especially when Ginny, who just wants attention, almost lets that fact kill her.
9. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Crimes of Grindelwald
There are so many characters in this movie that I spent most of the time looking left, and right to track who was speaking to whom. JK Rowling the screenwriter has a lot of trouble translating her expansive worlds into two-hour movies. And that’s okay.
I’m always here for a vast imagination and inventive ways of telling a story. One of the cooler things about the entire franchise and the way it translates to the screen is watching how that decision-making process evolved and changed over time.
Personally, if I was going to recreate the Harry Potter world, I’d do it as a Netflix series so you could keep all the best parts of the books intact!
Since this wasn’t a book, I had no crutch to lean on as various plot points were under-explained while I was forced to rely on the facial recognition software I had installed in my brain to track all the interpersonal relations and dramas from this expansive cast.
I got lost a lot, so I am excited to see it again. I bet it moves up with more viewings.
On another note, this movie looks so damn good. I mean WOW the VFX are immersive. I honestly can’t wait for more Potter movies because of how magical they've become.
It feels like we are truly getting Rowling’s full imagination realized, and that’s important.
But nothing can make me un-see Johnny Depp. And I hate that he’s in these movies.
8. Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them
No surprise here, I rank the Beasts franchise below almost all the other Potter movies. Again, this has less to do with quality, and more to do with the fact that I am so emotionally entangled with the books, that this just has less of a pull for me.
I’m into Newt, and we’re all a Kowalski at heart, but I did feel like this first movie was more about setting the world than delivering an exciting journey.
I wasn’t into the Jon Voight subplot. There I said it. We needed less Jon Voight.
But I was very into the Nifflers.
7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I
Alright, now we’re getting into the meat of the Potter stuff. I like this movie a lot, but I wish they spent more time on the wedding scene in the beginning and less time in the wilderness.
What I loved about the book was that it delivered this Godfather/Deer Hunter-esque long wedding scene, that planted literally everything else that followed.
It also paid homage to the people we met along the way… it gave a human element to the war that was coming.
Since the movie wanted to begin with more urgency, we’re out of the wedding incredibly rapidly. The humanity of the war has to be delivered via the radio later.
Still, I loved everything about the ministry break-in. It’s tough, because the movie is so exciting, and then it hits this weird second act lull. And it lasts a while.
I know we have to get Ron away and bring him back, but did it have to take an hour?
Ending on the death of Dobby and Voldemort getting the Elder wand is very Empire Strikes Back.
By the time this movie came out, I was about to start Graduate School. Harry Potter has spawned my entire formative years.
The books ended my high school career, and the movies were ending my collegiate pursuits.
The future was bright, but it was also scary.
Lucky for me, I had great friends willing to go on the adventure.
And so did Harry.
6. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Book six always felt like it was going to be a race to the finish. And I think the movie has the same thing going against it.
You knew cracking the cover of six, that the most important parts were the last 50 pages. And in this movie, the most critical part is the final forty-five minutes.
Sure, there’s lots of fun information to learn. We see the actual spite brewing between both sides of the wizarding world, but this movie is a powder keg with a lit fuse.
We’re waiting for it to explode.
And not in an occlumency way.
Also, I feel like we know the entire time that Malfoy is behind the attacks on Dumbledore’s life.
So I’m not confused by the misdirects, I’m frustrating Harry can’t pin it on him.
But I was a HUGE FAN of Malfoy using the room of requirement against Hogwarts.
It’s a genius plot twist.
Also, junior year of high school I got my first cell phone. And my voicemail was “Hi, you’ve reached Jason Hellerman’s phone, Snape killed Dumbledore, leave me a message!”
I was such a prick.
And so was Harry in this book and movie. Self-righteous to a fault. If he wasn’t such an impetuous kid, Sirius might still be alive.
Luckily, I grew out of it… (I think).
5. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II
It always made sense for them to split this into two movies, from both a financial standpoint and a storytelling one. There is so much wand-lore to pack in, and the final standoff as well.
I find this movie very emotionally effective, but I do wish there were a few more moments from the book incorporated. Like the subtle parts with Ginny to sell that romance.
And I always want more Neville.
I rank this ahead of Part I because I cry at Snape. And I think Yates masterfully incorporated the dream sequence with the train after Harry gets hit with the Avada Kedavra.
I always wondered what Voldermort saw when he almost crossed over. Did he have that Horcrux POV? I think probably.
Ok on this point you can @ me. I want to know your opinions.
Anyway, it was a fitting end. But I wish it took its time.
I would use that time to spend as much time with these characters as I could.
Also, I wish there was a way they could have looped in some dialogue at the very end about Harry’s scar never hurting again.
Hot take: I love using those characters in makeup that made them look older.
Maybe because after this movie came out I moved to LA. And I was imagining how I’d look in years.
Would my scars have healed?
Would I be in my dream job?
I don’t know. But I was willing to try. And so was Harry.
4. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
So, now we are generally getting into movies that I had awesome times watching. I really love the Potter movies because of the range of emotions they took me on. Emotions that greatly aligned with what it felt like to read them for the first time.
I think Order of the Phoenix nails this more than any other movie. It’s somber. It’s like watching a lamentation.
Harry feels the way everyone as a teenager does at some point or another.
This book and movies are about wanting the world to listen to you.
It’s why I got into writing. To get you all to listen!
We have emo Harry doing his best Sirius impression by being pissed off all the time.
I wish we spent more time on the Order’s formation, but man was there a better in-book villain than Umbridge?
This movie really is a highlight reel of the book, but I didn’t mind the speed at which it hurtled toward the ending.
The third act is badass. Incredible chase scene, emotional loss of Sirius, and an amazing duel between Dumbledore and Voldemort.
This is where Yates really defined his look too. He came in and just said “Harry Potter looks this way now,” and I was HERE FOR IT.
Now I’m going to tank three movies ahead of his stuff and eat a crow flavored Bertie Bott’s every flavored bean.
I can feel your “crucios” from here.
Quick Harry Potter Anecdote!
So, weeks before Order of the Phoenix came out, my brother and I were losing our minds. The book was our most anticipated event of the year.
I was actually possibly dying of anticipation.
So when we saw a PDF of the book on a popular illegal music download site, we lost our goddamn minds.
Like actually went insane for a few hours.
It took THIRTY-SIX HOURS for us to download the book, and the print was so small we couldn’t read it on a computer.
So we printed out all NINE HUNDRED PAGE WORD DOC while my parents were at work.
We were bad kids.
I was so eager to read, that my brother and I sat next to each other on the couch. He would read a page, then pass it to me. I would read the page, then drop it on the floor.
It was an insane system.
Anyway, we got about 150 pages into the story and my brother stopped. He handed me a page, and my eyes BUGGED OUT.
At this moment, Harry was searching for clues, and he opened a closet at Hogwarts and found Ginny and Malfoy… in a sexual act, which I won't name.
We were confused, but I insisted that in all her interviews, JK Rowling said the series was going to take a very adult turn.
So we kept reading.
And then it got really explicit.
And my brother and I realized we had stumbled onto our first encounter with fan faction. We kept the book for a while, but it has since been lost to the recycle pile.
We went to Borders Books at midnight a few weeks later and bought the real Order of the Phoenix.
It was way better.
But every time I read it I think about two fourteen-year-old boys debating whether or not the series had taken a dramatic turn into softcore porn.
Let me tell you, the wand lore presented was…Fifty Shades of nasty.
Okay, back to your regularly scheduled Harry Potter movie ranking.
3. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Rumor has it Spielberg almost made this movie and combined the first two books to give more narrative drive.
I think Steven Spielberg is a god among men...
But that’s a terrible idea.
Let’s look at what this movie gets: PERFECT… CASTING.
Arguably the most underrated part of the Harry Potter series is how perfect the cast was right from the start.
Casting is nearly impossible with adaptations. Especially ones with such a huge ensemble. Can you think of anything else based on a beloved property that gets it this right?
Maybe Lord of the Rings. MAYBE.
Look, I am not ashamed to admit that I get choked up even when someone shares a meme that says “Yer’ a wizard, Harry.”
I don’t think there was a more important moment in my young reading life than when my Mom handed me this book in 1997.
I can picture the chair I curled up into. My dog sleeping at my feet. Fireplace roaring. I went somewhere else. And I’m not sure I ever mentally came back.
That book Horcruxed me. It took a part of my soul and kept it.
So when the movie premiered in 2001, and I ventured to the AMC Painters Crossing (again, shout out West Chester, PA), I was ready to go to Hogwarts.
I knew I wasn’t getting an owl, but the Chris Columbus movie was the next best thing.
Okay, I’m gonna go sob now and come back to finish after I read the prologue again.
2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
In the first two Harry Potter books there was danger and intrigue but no one died. By the time you got to three, you knew that happy endings were kind of over.
The wizarding world was hurtling toward war. War has battles.
And you’re gonna lose a lot of battles if you want to win the war.
When you’re growing up, you eventually make the transition into adulthood. In coming of age movies, it’s often when characters face death for the first time. Or they experience a loss.
The Goblet of Fire makes you root for Harry to win. You root so hard that you forget that an insane amount of peril is involved in these games.
And that someone has rigged them.
Again, you root for Harry so much you forget this movie is about dealing with loss.
Man, this movie gets it all right. I think it glosses over Rita Skeeter and her drama a bit, but the emotional core here is solid. The Ron and Harry fight is done and has a point.
The Harry dating thing is so gut-wrenching. Mostly because it came at a time where I was just learning how to fail at talking to girls.
Harry swung and missed, and then so would I.
The Yule Ball crushes you as you see Hermione finally have happiness and the guys rip it away.
And I guess I was up to the same shenanigans.
But it all meant something.
And for me, that mattered more than all the losses.
In fact, you’re going to fail at most things in life.
Especially in Hollywood.
But if you learn your lessons, then you can get better.
The final hour of this movie is so tight it’s hard to breathe. You’re in the maze, then in the graveyard. And if you read the books you know what’s happening, but still, there’s a lump in your throat.
Maybe they’ll change it. Maybe Cedric will make it.
Nothing is more chilling than Cedric’s Dad yelling “my boy” as Harry straddles the corpse.
And then, to add insult to injury, the movie (and book) rips away Harry’s new best friend, Mad-Eye Moody, and sets up one of the best reveals in cinema.
Lick your lips. This movie has it ALL.
Okay, we’re getting to the final spot in this Harry Potter movie ranking…
One taught me love, one taught me patience, and this one taught me a helluva lot of lessons.
Thank you, next…
1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Yeah. I mean. Come on. It’s my favorite of the books. It’s my favorite of the movies.
Harry Potter was a kids book until the last few chapters of the second book. And when the third hit shelves, I was working at a drug store called Happy Harrys.
It no longer exists, as I think the statute of limitations over on this story.
We were told that if we opened the boxes full of Potter books before the following week, we would be fired on the spot.
That was scary. I enjoyed making $6.10 an hour. How else would I buy my comic books?
But this was HARRY POTTER we were talking about.
Totally worth the risk.
So I got a box cutter and opened the bottom of the box during my break, and slipped one out. I took the cover off that book, and taped a MAXIM MAGAZINE over it. Because apparently, that was the best disguise possible.
Then I shoved a few Suzanne Collins in the box to get the weight right.
I totally got away with it, and to this day believe I was the first kid in America to know what happened in book three.
Is that bad karma? I guess I’ll know if I see a grim.
As the third movie came out, it was the first one I saw without my parents. Just with a group of friends at the Regal Edgemont right by my high school.
It was packed.
I ate Skittles and a Cherry Coke.
And as I reveled in the story I realized that the most important part of your life was going to be friendships. Who you chose to be in your group.
Maybe they wouldn’t be the most popular, Or rich. Or handsome. In fact, some of them may even be gingers, but the point is, when you have a friend group, you ride a hippogriff or die.
You stick your necks out. Even if it breaks your leg.
Even if there’s a werewolf involved.
You do it because the only reason to be alive is to be surrounded by the people who love you.
And that’s a lesson that I hold true today. It’s what inspired Shovel Buddies, and what’s behind all of my writing.
We’re all Prisoners of our own Azkabans growing up.
Maybe it’s school, or a crappy home (not mine, love you Mom and Dad!), or a bad neighborhood, but if you have friends, you have everything.
Cuaron got this lesson and banged it like a drum.
He delivered a perfect movie that, not unlike the book, knew the most important parts were people standing up for what’s right.
No matter the cost.
Summing up the Harry Potter Movie Ranking
Damn, Harry Potter is so good. Are you guys crying? I’m crying.
Thanks for reading my Harry Potter movie rankings. This is all subjective, and I’d love to hear which ones you love and hate in the common room.
I mean…in the comments.
Go an idea of another franchise we should rank?
Put that in the comments too.
Making a voodoo doll to torture me or trying out a new hex?
I’m trying to have a happy holiday in Hogsmeade. This is the internet, can’t we all get along?
Just kidding. But seriously, no hexes. I’m trying to bring you free content!
And I’d love to have some more successes to share with you all, my friends.
Got your own movie universe you are pining to write about? Join my Free Screenwriting Seminar.
Not to get sappy, but we’re all in this together. Just like the battle for Hogwarts, life is going to throw you a ton of curveballs.
It’s easy to be discouraged, to see the shortcuts presented by the dark side, and to cheat to get ahead.
But we both know that’s not the way.
Even the worst Slytherins know that it’s about who has your back.
So be brave as a Gryffindor, smart as a Ravenclaw, and love unabashedly like a Hufflepuff.
No matter what happens, we’ll always have No Film School.
Now apparate out of here and read something else on our site.