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Which is the best film in the 'Harry Potter' series?

November 19, 2010 |  5:01 pm


The talk this weekend in moviedom is how "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" measures up to previous installments in the fantasy franchise. Which got us thinking -- which of the movies is the best of the bunch? At a midnight showing Thursday night, moviegoers had opinions: The first two should top the list because the kids were so innocent, the latter ones were better because the story was so dark, etc.

We decided to take a walk down memory lane and see which movie was most affecting. Then we came up with our own (admittedly subjective) list. Click on the jump to see what we ranked as the best and worst of the series (hint: neither are what you'd think), where the new film sits in the Potter pantheon (hint: it's in the top half) and share your own opinions, affirmations or stinging jinxes.

7. "Half-Blood Prince"
The worst of the lot. How much did the history of Voldemort advance the story? And Harry was way too quick to adopt strange magic from some random book.

6. "Order of the Phoenix"
Not far behind. With Voldemort exerting his influence over Harry, the boy wizard spent too much of the movie as a one-dimensional jerk kid.

5. "Prisoner of Azkaban"
The film helped lay the foundation for explaining Harry's familial history but seemed to stray, unfortunately, from the central Harry vs. Voldemort theme.

Potte 4. "Chamber of Secrets"
A sense of mystery and discovery is palpable, and Harry and Voldemort's relationship begins to hit its stride

 3. "Deathly Hallows, Part 1"
The mental and physical challenges keep coming as Harry, Ron and Hermione go on the run, away from the protective embrace of Hogwarts. The magic seems stronger. And the existence of the Deathly Hallows is finally revealed. (This, and "Sorcerer's Stone," also happened to be our favorite books.)

2. "Sorcerer's Stone"
J.K. Rowling draws us muggles in to a new magical world, seamlessly integrating strange creatures, abilities and places -- and showing young Harry Potter's sense of wonder.

1. "Goblet of Fire"
Filled with action and quick-thinking, the "Goblet of Fire" brought the majesty of the wizarding world to the fore. And the heroics were on full display.

 -- Jevon Phillips



Photos: Top, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and Hermione (Emma Watson) ponder their next move in "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows." Bottom, a young Harry in "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone." Credit: Warner Bros.

- Read more Harry Potter news and interviews with cast members over at Hero Complex.

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I don't have a "worst" Potter film. I loved them all. They were all brilliant adaptations of the books. It sucks that some of the storylines were cut, but it has to happen, especially when you're adapting a series with that much detail. I loved all the films for different reasons. It's impossible for me to choose a "worst" one, but I chose GOF, because I wasn't a fan of Mike Newell's direction. I don't think he really tried to get the best performances out of the cast.

Loved the books and loved the movies...not how I would have listed it, but everyone has an opinion. But seriously can you call the first book/movie by it'd proper name...Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone not the Sorcerer's Stone...why change the name?!?

@Peyton: because that is what they called that film in the states, who knows why is another story

Peyton-my book and DVD both read "Sorcerer's Stone." Ask the publisher of the book why the name was changed. Did you buy your copies in England?

Nope, bought my book and DVD in Canada. The only country to change the name was America, not sure why and to be honest I'm not the only person who thinks this is messed up!
@PeytonIsAPlonker I'm not really sure what I did to offend you, for you to call me names...I just stated the fact that Sorcerer's Stone is not it's proper name. Not sure what your issue is with the truth!

Scholastic was responsible for changing the title when the first book was published in the US, because "a child wouldn't buy a book with the word 'philosopher' in the title" [Harry Potter Lexicon]

I suppose this is not so high a crime as dubbing Mad Max for the US market was.

Anyway, I prefer "Philosopher's/Sorcerer's Stone" and "Prisoner of Azkaban" to all the others, for the well-created new world of magic in the former and the turn into darkness of the latter.

I haven't seen Deathly Hollows yet and so can't judge its quality, but I don't think there is any doubt that Prisoner of Azkaban was the best of the series up until now.
After two episodes of Chris Columbus' sloppy, meandering, unfocussed and cheesy directing, Cuaron brought a sharpness, a genuine sense of danger to the series. Add to that Gary Oldman's menacing performance and David Thewlis' sympathetic turn as Lupin and the end result is tight, intelligent storytelling.

Harry Potter... Puppets!! One of our favorites - http://wp.me/p106i6-1wX

It was called the Sorcerer's Stone in the US because history curriculum here does not include Nicolas Flamel- the scrivener and manuscript seller who was posthumously reputed to be an alchemist and the inventor of the philosopher's stone that turned led to gold, which much later morphed into the elixir of life. But the UK does. Publisher decision.
As far as the journalist who rated the movies, read the books, then rewrite this article. You may have a different opinion

uh, no

I also loved them all but was only able to enjoy reading the last two books.

in fairness the first 2 films were very bad and i think it was the fact that not much happens as well as the fact that it shows that the kids were poor actors! not very well done HP 3-7 are brilliant!

It astonishes me that anyone in the whole entire world could say that Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was the worst.

"How much did the history of Voldemort advance the story?"
Tons! How could you even say something so ignorant? First of all, who in the world wasn't wondering about the history of Voldemort? They'd been waiting six books/movies for that. History of characterization is one of the most important parts of storytelling. Not to mention, we learn about HORCRUXES through the history of Voldemort.

Don't they screen you people before they let you write articles?

I agree with this list, Half-Blood Prince was the worst. The film cuts most of the history of Voldemort that was in the books and if had not read the book I don't think I would have really understood the story all that much, especially knowing what happens in the end of Deathly Hallows, I can't work out how they are gong to do it.
Of course they have to leave things out but I think they should have also made the decision to make Half Blood Prince a 2 parter as well, I think it's actually a longer book (please don't attack me if I'm wrong)
The other thing they missed on this one was the significance of the half blood princes book, after all it is the title of the film. It seems to just be there with no real importance to the story?
I could rant about that film all day but the only other thing I'll say is why change the ending so that Harry is able to save dumbledore at the end, the character built up of Harry would not have let him die unless it was impossible to stop it, hence J K Rowling adding in the full body bind.
So in essence yes I agree that HBP is the worst film (as an adaptation of the book) but maybe a couple of swop rounds with the rest.

If you are talking about these films as just "films", which is NOT what this blog did, then it is clear that "Prisoner of Azkaban" was by far the best. Cuaron was the first director to say make these films adaptations of the story don't just try to copy the book to the screen. It was also directed by Alfonso Cuaron who continued to prove with "Azkaban" why he is one of the greatest and most respected directors alive today. "Goblet of Fire" had retarded structure and was an action movie but THAT'S ALL IT WAS! Also it had a random 15 minutes of everyone trying to get a date for the ball. now we're all young and have hormones. oh the ball is over now for the tournament. awesome. "Order of the Phoenix" for the most part just plain sucked. Yes they should have done more with "Half Blood Prince", I was disappointed as well. Cinematically though, it was beautiful to look at and was nominated for best cinematography which it deserved so that does win it some points as a film. The entire scene in the cave with Dumbledore and Harry was spot on and the shot of Dumbledore waving the fire around him and Harry gave me chills. Columbus' first 2 films were a bit childish but so were we when the films came out. The actor's were young so the editing had to be quicker for dialogue. But Columbus created the on screen world of Harry Potter. Yes, it would eventually evolve into something darker, more beautiful, and better, but that does not mean we can ignore the origin. HE CASTED EVERYONE! All the perfect casting for the teachers and students was done by Columbus' team and I still thank him for that. "Deathly Hollows 1" was as beautiful to look at as "Half Blood Prince" if not more. These are becoming legitimate films while incorporating the story of the book. I think the book was split perfectly at the right point. They really took advantage of people caring so much about the story and used that in the best way. The added scene of Harry and Hermione that was not in the book did not detract from the original story and added depth to their friendship and the tone of the film. The tale of the 3 brothers was one of the most beautiful pieces of animation i've seen since the original silent short film that inspired "9". I applaud what they are doing and look forward to part 2. To conclude, "Prisoner of Azkaban" - Alfonso Cuaron, Gary Oldman as Sirius, David Thewlis as Lupin, the new darker tone of the whole series, the timeturner sequence, "Something Wicked This Way Comes", as a film it was by far the best and set the tone for the rest of the series that not all of them lived up to and in my opinion is one of the only ones, if not THE only one, that can stand alone as a film.

You know I to agree that "Prisoner of Azkaban" was by far the best Harry Potter film in the series. However, I just watched the new Deathly Hallows and that by far is the worst film in the series. They just left waay to much out of this film to be the last, and have a part II. I felt the film was rushed, the acting was rushed and the film was emotionless. I especially didn't like how they ended the movie.

I mean for all intents and purposes, If you're going to do a part II at least end part I on a climatic scene with a..........To be continued.

Who cares?

Half-Blood Prince was the trickiest to adapt, for sure, since the book is so exposition-heavy and Harry's central mission--get the memory from Slughorn--isn't exactly action-packed. I thought they did an admirable job, although they did cut the titular storyline down so much they should have just renamed the movie Harry Potter and the Setup For the Big Finale.

Goblet of Fire was idiotic. It was all set-piece and no substance, and Dumbledore storming around and shouting is so out of character it makes me cringe.

I still think Cuaron captured the tone and flavor of the world best, although I'm also a fan of David Yates. It would have been really interesting to see Cuaron take a crack at one of the later, more complex films in the series.

I chose Goblet of Fire as the best, only in the sense that it was my favorite of the movies. I say this because, when I saw it in 2005, I had not yet read the books, so I had no basis for comparison except the previous three films, which I liked increasingly with each installment, but Prisoner of Azkaban was the first that really got me interested in the story, and since I had Netflixed the first three movies, PoA's goodness prompted me to see GoF at a theater, in IMAX, and I simply LOVED it. After that I started reading the books, and I can see GoF's faults as an adaptation, but also the faults in all the other movies, and so nothing has changed the fact that GoF was the best Harry Potter movie experience for me. Every movie since has left me somewhat disappointed, if not overall pleased, because I've gone in having read the book first. Obviously, with everyone else, your mileage may vary.

GASP. I never knew I was so alone in thinking the Half Blood Prince was the most layered, understated and disquieting of the bunch. Yes, it cut out a bit too much but what it lacked in exposition, it earned back in its elegant cinematography (matched only by the visual wizardry of Cuaron's Azkaban) and effortless pacing. It also set up the edgy darkness of the seventh beautifully. I also believe the sixth to be the final nail in the "kid-friendly" chapter of Hollywood's Potter franchise, which, to me, always tasted a bit too sweet and artificial. Characters suffered in this film, they were tested and taken places that forced them to change in ways the other Potter films only flirted with. The scene in which Dumbledore forces Harry to feed him poisonous liquid despite his pained pleas, all while dark creatures emerge from an unseen lake and try to kill Potter, took fairy tale lore to a frightening psychological realm. I cannot help thinking the sixth was the very best of an already extensive and intermittently fascinating series.

OK, I'm having a hard time coming up with a "best" overall, but the arguments on here for Prizoner of Azkaban are pretty persuasive. But unlike the blogger, I think Goblet of Fire was my LEAST favorite adaptation. It took a good book and made it into a mediocre movie. On the other hand, Order of the Phoenix was my least favorite book, but I felt that the movie was the best adaptation. For me, it actually improved upon the book by reducing the emphasis on Harry's teenage angst, enhancing the action and improving the tone. The book was a terrible debbie downer read, compared to the rest of the series. Now, I'm not in HS anymore and haven't been for many years, so maybe for the targeted audience it spoke to you -- but that was just my belief so it's ironic that most people think it was the worst movie. My favorite book by far was Deathly Hallows and I can't wait for the conclusion!

The comments here are very interesting.

For my part, I'd have to rank "Half-Blood Prince" the weakest movie. This isn't talking on a filmmaking level. Technically it was a very well-made movie, cinematography was brilliant. However, I find it BY FAR the worst adaptation of the source material. The title story of the Half-Blood Prince is shredded beyond recognition. The title of this story really is, "Harry Potter and Severus Snape". But, it didn't play like that at all. This killed any emotional investment I had in the material, and especially the climax (which was awful). Secondly, and more important to the actual plot, is that most of the crucial information about Voldemort's history was cut. While I understand that this book is very exposition-heavy, and knew it would be difficult to adapt before I ever saw it, I feel that the story was hacked to bits and is barely even the same story on film. I find it emotionally shallow and thematically light, which is totally opposite of the book it is based on. (Which is my 2nd favorite book in the series, BTW.)

My favorite of the films is easily "Prisoner of Azkaban". Alfonso Cuarón rescued the franchise from kiddie world. He made a real adaptation. I was enchanted by how dark and moody the film was, which I felt was perfect. I loved how nearly every frame of the movie radiated magic. From the customers at the Leaky Cauldron to the paintings at Hogwarts, everything in the universe seemed much more alive and magical. Plus, Gary Oldman and David Thewlis brought so much emotional depth to the characters. I actually like Sirius Black much more since I saw Oldman play him. Those two continue the great adult casting in the films, but really bring an extra level of humanity to the film. I wish Cuarón had been given a shot at one of the last two movies. Helping this film's cause is that "Azkaban" is actually still my favorite book in the series. It is especially great on re-read once you possess the full series understanding of the characters Snape, Lupin and Sirius.

"Philospher's Stone" and "Chamber of Secrets" were okay, but a bit prosaic. "Goblet of Fire" was too much an action movie, and the film's mystery plot is botched and no longer makes logical sense. "Order of the Phoenix" is.... okay, I guess. It is highly abridged. It still makes sense and doesn't leave any massive gaping plot holes. But, I happen to love the darkness and complexity of this book, and I don't feel the film was entirely reflective of that. Although, I love the battle scene at the end. "Deathly Hallows, Part 1" is a surprisingly faithful adaptation. The biggest problems are still those which relate to the botching of film 6. It may end up in my top 3 of the films. And book 7 isn't one of my favorites in the series.

I really loved Half-blood prince ... I thought it was one of the better in the series. I think it did a good job of sticking to the book (Voldemort's past is pretty important in the series) and it was just overall fun to watch ... reminiscent of the first movie. I thought that the Order of the Pheonix was .... horribly made. Too short, choppy, and it totally cut out Ron and Hermione.

I didn't like the fourth one that much at all either. I'd put it second or third to last ... not first, or even second or third. I thought it was kind of boring.

My favorite movie of the series is definitely Deathly Hallows Part 1; before, it was Prisoner of Azkaban. I felt that Deathly Hallows (even though it's half the story) was the best as a film, while still being faithful to the source material. The same goes for Azkaban.

I'm not completely sure, but I think my least favorite *might* be Goblet of Fire (I haven't seen HBP many times, but I love Michael Gambon's performance in it over all his other ones as Dumbledore). Goblet of Fire just feels rushed to me in ways that the other films don't. At the same time, it showcased some very good action scenes and kept the dark tone that Azkaban established, so I'm not fully sure.

I know Sorcerer's Stone and Chamber of Secrets went more by the book and were less about great acting, but I can't help but love those two. They're very faithful to the books and they're so nostalgic for me. So neither of those two is my least favorite.

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