After Fantastic Beasts The Crimes of Grindelwald, here’s a ranking of every Harry Potter movie
As a die-hard fan of the Harry Potter series, and as someone who has always been disgusted by toxic fandom – the sort that has attacked George Lucas and more recently, Rian Johnson – watching Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald finally put things in perspective.
The film ends with a scene that was so insulting to those of us who’ve craved for another opportunity to return to JK Rowling’s Wizarding World – those of us who’ve defended her annoying insistence to go back and ‘fix’ things – that it felt like a slap in the face.
What started as harmless alterations – Dumbledore’s sexuality and another character’s race were changed – has turned into a belligerent crusade to actively rewrite certain aspects of the Harry Potter stories that we love so much.
Perhaps I have fallen into that same category of toxic fandom that I despise, or perhaps this is a testament to the greatness of her creation that it has inspired such a passionate response. It’s a difficult situation. But of course, if anyone has the right to muck about with Harry Potter, it’s JK Rowling.
But I remember growing up with Harry. I remember placing advance orders for the books, and reading them, obsessively, again and again and again. I remember queuing up for the last film, surrounded by cohorts in black robes, wands at the ready. And I remember queuing up for it again, unable to let go.
This world is meaningful. To make us feel, however slightly, that what we have believed for so many years was always a lie, hurts.
But we’ll always have the books. No one can take that away from us. Nor can they erase the films from our memories.
As a remembrance, more than anything else, here is a personal ranking of all the Harry Potter movies, from worst to best – although only one film can actually be called ‘bad’.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
The only film of the lot that feels like an insult. What makes it worse is that is has been written by Rowling herself. It has none of the charm, the subtext, or the whimsy of her earlier work, and her screenplay single-handedly negates whatever flair director David Yates was trying to bring.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
It can be accurately described as the Harry Potter series’ answer to The Hobbit films – hugely anticipated, but perhaps too glib for its own good. There is, however, an unmistakable joy in discovering new worlds within Rowling’s magical universe.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
It was always going to be a difficult task adapting such a detailed book, and perhaps director Mike Newell’s vision wasn’t compatible with that of the fans’. His film has some truly memorable moments – everything about the Triwizard Tournament and the Yule Ball was fantastic – but the rushed opening act still sticks out. A special mention must go out to composer Patrick Doyle, whose score is one of the most memorable of the entire series.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1
It couldn’t help but feel like the first part of a larger story, but look closely and you’ll notice director David Yates absolute command over the material. He called it an existential road movie in the months leading up to its release, and I suppose that’s about as accurate a description for this film as there can be.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Chamber of Secrets doubled down on everything that made the first film such a wonderful experience. It is also perhaps the last of the lot that really took care in being faithful to the book.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
The first Harry Potter film will always have a special place in our hearts. We must also remember that for a significant chunk of the Potter fanbase, the films were their introduction to Rowling’s world. And we couldn’t have asked for a better big screen version. We all remember the first time we entered Diagon Alley, our first Quidditch match, and our first glimpse of Lord Voldemort.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Order of the Phoenix succeeded in the exact aspects that Goblet of Fire failed. It was a larger, denser book to adapt, but in his only writing credit for the series, Michael Goldenberg captured the essence of what made Rowling’s novel such a pivotal chapter in the story. It was also David Yates first Potter movie, and, remarkably, his first theatrical feature film.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Azkaban was the first Potter movie to take a bold artistic step. It couldn’t have been more different from the two that came before it, and for a film that came out in 2004, it was remarkable the sort of creative freedom that director Alfonso Cuaron was given. Keep in mind, back then he wasn’t the Academy Award winning director of Gravity. This was before Children of Men. He was, simply, an acclaimed foreign filmmaker. Let us not ignore Warner Bros’ brave risk.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2
Years before Mad Max: Fury Road redefined action movies, David Yates’ final Potter movie was also, essentially, one long action scene. Perhaps it is Yates’ firm loyalty for the series, or perhaps it is something else, but because fans haven’t quite seen his full range as a filmmaker – prior to Potter he had directed several TV films – we have also not quite appreciated what he brought to the table. His handling of action is immaculate; like Ridley Scott and Justin Lin, he is capable of telling smaller stories within the framework of a large set piece. Not everyone can do that.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
An unusual choice, but certainly not an undeserving one. Half-Blood Prince is frighteningly experimental, in hindsight. It has an odd, romantic comedy tone, visuals that would remind you of an Ingmar Bergman movie, and the most beautiful pacing of any of the Potter movies. We forget just how funny it was, and the quiet character moments that Yates peppered in between the epic scope of the story.
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