I’ll be the first to admit I have an obsession with Harry Potter that goes back to first grade, when my aunt read the entire series to me in a British accent. Since then, I have read the series on my own, cover to cover, seven times; and I plan to go for my eighth during the holiday season.
However, I’m here to rank the movies, not the books. I think it is much more interesting to rank the movies. The best of the movies are a result of amazing chemistry between the actors, or a passionate director, while the worst have plot errors and characters not acting like themselves. I’m not here to rank these movies based on their soundtrack or picture. I’m giving you the best and worst of the Harry Potter films based around how true they were to the books. Let’s get started.
(Please beware of many major plot spoilers).
The Worst: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)
I have a lot to say about this film, but I’ll start with the worst of the worst. That scene. Harry Potter fans, I know you know what I’m talking about. For everyone else, let me explain. In the books, when Harry’s name is unwillingly put in and called out of the titular Goblet of Fire, he is led in a room with the other tributes. There, the professors meet him to discuss what might have happened. This is what Professor Dumbledore says, taken directly from the book.
“Did you put your name in the Goblet of Fire, Harry?” Dumbledore asked calmly.
In the movie, Dumbledore practically sprints across the room, grabs and shakes Harry’s shoulders, and aggressively screams “Harry! Did yah put your name in the Goblet of Fire?!”
Michael Gambon plays Dumbledore from movie three and on, after Richard Harris passed away. While Richard Harris was a huge fan of the Harry Potter series and was pressured by his granddaughter to try out for the role (she said she would never speak to him again if he didn’t), Michael Gambon had never read any of the books when he accepted his role. In fact, Gambon has been quoted saying that there was no point in reading them, and he played some of the role simply as himself.
Although not all actors have to read the books before they agree to a movie, by not doing so Gambon really hurt the movie. It wasn’t just the one scene; he never got Dumbledore right. Throughout the movie Gambon is pacing, shouting, waving his arms around: Dumbledore is a quiet leader, not an aggressive and frightening one. It makes me wonder if Gambon even bothered to watch Harris’ Dumbldore before agreeing to the role, because his version was perfect.
What also hurts The Goblet of Fire is the weird plot holes. I know it was a long book, but some things just aren’t explained. Like how after Cedric died, the kids just bounce back from it within a day? Harry witnessed the murder of a friend and the rise of Lord Voldermort, and his friends don’t even check up on him? The movie ends on a light note after You-Know-Who rose from the dead: this is the one point where the movie should be dark.
I rewatched The Goblet of Fire a few days ago and found that I was just stressed the whole time. Harry’s worried about the tournament, his feud with Ron and the way his peers pit him up against Cedric. The TriWizard Tournament was supposed to be a fun addition to the school year, but since the movie cuts so much, it only features the stressful parts of the tournament, and that’s not how someone should feel watching Harry Potter. At least not the fourth installment.
I will say the graveyard scene where Voldemort rises is a top tier moment for the entire franchise, and I took into heavy consideration. However at the end of the day, it wasn’t enough to save the movie as a whole, which is why The Goblet of Fire is at the end of the pack.
The Best: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)
Bet you thought I was going to say Prisoner of Azkaban, didn’t you? It was a tough call. What eventually made me choose the sixth over the third was that the sixth was so much harder to tackle than the third. Remember, Sirius just died! Voldemort is publicly confirmed alive! Harry now has the burden of being the chosen one! Muggles are now in danger! Director David Yates does well in projecting the seriousness of it all.
Yet at the same time, it feels the most normal of all the movies. There is danger, but now everyone acknowledges it. No longer is it Harry, Ron and Hermione going off on their own childish quest no one else knows about. They kinda just vibe with everyone and for the first time do normal school things.
It’s also hilarious. Seriously people, rewatch this movie. There are jokes that you probably didn’t notice as a kid. Like after Harry and Ginny hide the book in the room of requirement and share their first kiss, Ron meets up with Harry afterwards and says “So did you and Ginny do it then?” To which a taken aback Harry replies “What?” and Ron asks “Hide the book?”
Other great moments include Harry taking his Felix Felicus potion, Ron accidentally eating a love potion and just about every scene with Professor Slughorn. I was not expecting this movie to be funny. It fits well though, because it reminds us that as much as these characters are growing up and facing real world issues, they are still sixteen year olds exploring their sexualities.
Tom Felton. Okay listen, I am not a Draco Malfoy fan; I think Draco is a bully. But Tom Felton does a prodigious job in this movie. As I mentioned earlier, in the same way bad acting can ruin a movie based on a book, good acting can save one. This was undoubtedly Draco’s most important movie in the entire franchise, and Felton delivers. He actually manages to make me feel bad for him. Draco going over to the darkside is probably the second most important plot in the Half-Blood Prince and you can feel the shift in Draco’s character. Wasn’t it just the last movie where Draco is seen sucking up to Professor Umbrigde, and now he’s on the astronomy tower pointing a wand at Dumbledore?
Felton’s performance paired with Alan Rickman’s (Snape) is the icing on the cake. Rickman had already carried the franchise for five movies, but for the first time we see a drift between Draco and Snape. I think it encapsulates what the sixth movie is all about — getting independence from the ones that have taken care of you throughout your life. The same happens with Harry and Dumbledore here.
I realize most of the above I listed under “best” are plot points, but it is the set up and delivery that makes The Half-Blood Prince standout. In theory, Goblet of Fire had a great plot, too, and had the potential to be equally as good…it just fell short.