By George Bate
With the release of Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore this weekend, the Wizarding World has hit its 11 film mark with potentially more to come. Now is the perfect time to revisit a ranking of the Wizarding World (Harry Potter / Fantastic Beasts) films from worst to best.
11. Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore
The newest installment in the franchise also proves to be the weakest, unfortunately. The Secrets of Dumbledore feels like a course correction of sorts for the Fantastic Beasts franchise. Despite being a fun reentry into the Wizarding World, the film is marred by the strange omission of Katherine Waterston’s Tina and a plot that falls flat. Jude Law’s Dumbledore in an expanded role is a highlight though.
10. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindewald
A movie that would’ve worked infinitely better as a book, the second Fantastic Beasts marked a step down from its underrated predecessor. An excessive number of characters and plot threads make the film feel overstuffed. That being said, the central mystery of Credence’s true parentage is gripping until the film’s last moments. Johnny Depp proves to be an excellent, theatrical Grindelwald. And there’s a sense of impending doom in the film that raises the stakes and intensity.
9. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
The first departure from the central Harry Potter series was a surprisingly lovely movie. Eddie Redmayne’s Newt proved to be a likable lead amidst a story that felt refreshingly low-key. The introduction of a new era and location of the Wizarding World was also something to behold, while the host of new characters (especially Jacob) were charming. It didn’t quite capture the magic of the eight Harry Potter films, but that’s a hard standard to reach.
8. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part One
The first part of the series’ two-part finale suffered from how the filmmakers approached the concluding story. It makes sense to split the final book in order to spend enough time on all of the myriad of events, but, in doing so, Part 1 feels like half of a film. The ending comes rather abruptly and the middle act of the film is spent meandering in the woods.
7. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
The fifth film marked the introduction of David Yates, who has helmed every Wizarding World installment since. Yates capably turns the franchise darker with Order of the Phoenix and wrangles a lengthy book into a great motion picture. Imelda Staunton’s Umbridge and Helena Bonham Carter’s Bellatrix are terrifically evil villains, while Voldemort is given his biggest chance to shine yet in the franchise. The movie focuses perhaps too much on Harry and Voldemort’s connection, however, and lacks some of the joy of the other films.
6. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
Half Blood Prince represents, perhaps, the most notable difference in quality between book and film adaptation. While the book is one of the series’ most touching installments, the film adaptation lacks in comparison. It is excessively dark, with entire scenes looking black and white. Nonetheless, Half Blood Prince still brings a lot of heart. It’s features perhaps the series’ best performance in Michael Gambon as Dumbledore and there’s a sense of impending doom pulsating throughout the film.
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
The first film in the franchise to have a PG-13 rating, Goblet of Fire pushed the series into darker territory than ever. Centering the entire plot around the Triwizard Tournament adds a terrific structure to the film, and each of the characters grow substantially here. The twists are executed to perfection, the stakes are high, and the ending feels straight out of a horror film.
4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part Two
There are many ways in which the final Harry Potter film could have gone awry, but David Yates nailed the ending. Due to the splitting of the source material, the film plays a little too much like an all-out action picture, but that is a slight negative in comparison to what positives the film has in store. Daniel Radcliffe delivers a stunning, heartfelt performance, as does every actor for that matter. It’s hard to hold back tears watching this one.
3. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
The Sorcerer’s Stone was a tough act to follow, but director Chris Columbus was more than up for the task. The second Harry Potter film is a sprawling tale that takes its time unraveling a mysterious, frightening narrative. The film ramps up the scares, drama, and world building and is one of the best family films of all time.
2. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s / Philosopher’s Stone is pure magic to say the least. It was a gargantuan task to bring the world of Harry Potter to the big screen and in live action, but Chris Columbus and company did it seamlessly with this film. The characters from the books are adapted beautifully and the world of Hogwarts comes alive in ways fans could have only imagined. The first Harry Potter film remains one of the best book adaptions of all time.
1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
The Prisoner of Azkaban is, in many ways, the definitive Harry Potter film. The character arcs are powerful, the humor is on point, there are twists and turns abound, and living in this world had never been more fun. The film interestingly departs from its predecessors stylistically and is arguably the best made installment of the franchise. Alfonso Cuaron’s film is visually arresting, narratively complex, and one of the few films of the franchise that can stand on its own apart from a franchise. It’s as spooky as it is emotionally engrossing. It’ll be quite the task to ever top this classic.