The Harry Potter films are quite the technical achievement. Eight pretty decent films with a great cast, and cool special effects that are true to a massive book series? That’s a lot of work for everyone involved. And while all the movies are watchable, some of them are much better than others.
8. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone- The first effort of the series was wonderment when we first saw it. But it is definitely the worst one of the series. Sorcerer’s Stone is the most child-like of the series, which would be okay on its own, but it is also the most standard. While the story is inventive because of the source material, the movie itself winds up being a pretty typical kid’s movie.
7. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix- The first attempt by director David Yates, who ended up directing some of the greatest films in the series, Order of the Phoenix doesn’t quite cut it. Part of the problem is that the book is the longest of the series, and therefore has a lot of stuff to cover. Having read all the books, I enjoyed it okay, but some of the people that I saw the film with had never read the books and they were completely lost. It also should be one of the darkest films, but despite the intriguing dark imagery of Bellatrix’s escape from Azkaban, the film doesn’t really go there.
6. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets- The second film is low on the list merely because, while it is fun, it doesn’t quite match up to what follows. Kenneth Brannaugh’s Gilderoy Lockhart is hilarious, as is the introduction of Moaning Myrtle. The Chamber of Secrets itself is pretty cool to look at, but overall the movie is fun, but not much more than that.
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire- The Tri-Wizard Tournament is super cool, but what’s even cooler is what it is building up to. Perhaps one of the reasons that Order of the Phoenix fails to reach its dark potential that is that it came on the heels of the Goblet of Fire. The fourth film in the series gets pretty darn dark by the end of it, but it has ribbons of darkness throughout. The trials in the Tri-Wizard Tournament are supernaturally spooky in a great way, and the end of Goblet of Fire was the darkest moment the series had seen up to that point (both in the books and on film).
4. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince- The movie for the sixth book showed that Yates really could do wonders with the series. He surpassed The Half Blood Prince by far, but it is still one of the best of the series. Dumbledore’s death still brings me to tears, and the film does a great job of showing how the turmoil in the wizard world might be affecting the muggle world as well.
3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban- Fans seem to be split down the middle about Alfonso Cuaron’s turn as director on the third Harry Potter film. But Azkaban is a pretty cool movie, and it felt especially so after the first two. The werewolf doesn’t look as cool as it could, but the time travel in the story is done in a way that is super cool and inventive.
2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two- The last film would be the best of the series, and to be fair, one might consider handling the last two films as one long movie. When it comes to ranking one above the other, it really becomes a matter of personal preference. The Battle of Hogwarts is amazing but…
1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One- For me nothing beats the quiet desperation that goes on between Harry, Ron, and Hermione in The Deathly Hallows Part One. The three of them in the woods, moving away from Hogwarts, and everything they loved, to a more desperate and intense life shows how serious the situation with Voldemort has gotten. While Hogwarts is important, and the story needs to end there, what is more important is the characters. And we get the most interesting scenes of the three of them in the second to last movie.