The next instalment of Fantastic Beasts is coming out so let’s see what the best Harry Potter film is to compare it to.
I just want to say I hated ranking these. I watched all of these as they came out, grew up with them, and never had to actually think about which is better than the other. They were just great movies (with the exception of one). Now though I’ve forced myself to try and critically think about these movies and give them a rank.
I’m not taking into account the books as that would make this list longer than it already is. So this is just purely about the films themselves.
10. Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald
The Crimes of Grindelwald is perhaps the first truly bad Harry Potter movie. It’s forgettable but its biggest crime is that it doesn’t have very consistent internal logic. There’s a lot of twists but they felt unnecessary, it hasn’t been set up properly and they just kind of happen. It gets to the point where it’s barely a twist as either no one asked for it or no one could have possibly seen it coming.
The introduction and characterisation of new characters aren’t very interesting with the exception of Jude Law’s Dumbledore. Johnny Depp is unfortunately nowhere near as good as Colin Farrell in the role of Grindelwald (which we don’t have to worry about any longer).
Oh, and fantastic beasts are also just thrown in there because they remembered the title of the film.
9. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
When this came out, the general consensus was that this is good, but lacks some of the magic of the original series. Not literal magic of course in the context of this series. Perhaps it was too much to ask that Fantastic Beasts would be able to live up to the lightning in the bottle that was the original series. Regardless of its failure to recapture the magic proper, it’s still a fun little romp in the Wizarding World.
8. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
From here on, all of these films are good. All of them. Having to rank them has been incredibly difficult so if you see one of your favourites towards the bottom of this list, rest assured it’s not because I dislike them, it’s just the nature of a ranked list.
I have to start somewhere and Chamber of Secrets is unfortunately at the bottom of the original series. That isn’t because it’s bad but it’s really just a victory lap of the previous film, The Philosopher’s Stone. That makes sense considering these were filmed essentially back-to-back by the same director, Chris Columbus. There wasn’t any reason to switch things up, just to keep doing what they were doing. It was working and there was still no guarantee that the series would continue.
There is plenty to like here: all the child actors have improved, the mystery is fantastic, and we do get some great worldbuilding. It just isn’t as interesting as some of the others on this list.
7. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
I like this movie a lot more than most fans but that doesn’t mean I can put this much higher on the list than here. To be fair, director David Yates had to adapt probably the worst book in the series. It says a lot when you make the shortest film in the series out of the longest book.
If people remember anything from this movie specifically, it’s Dolores Umbridge. A villain who many feel is even worse than Voldemort himself. That’s high praise, but I have also heard that not everyone loves to hate Umbridge and many feel that they hate her too much to enjoy it.
There are fantastic scenes like the duel between Voldemort and Dumbledore, Sirius’ death, and the whole Dumbledore’s Army plot is a great young adult element.
It feels weirdly juvenile at times given that it has just come in the aftermath of Goblet of Fire. The big problem with the film is one of tone. You’ve got this full-on young adult high school drama mixed with the very dark consequences of the previous film and they haven’t been mixed well.
6. Deathly Hallow Part One
The Deathly Hallows Part 1 is a good movie. It’s slow but I appreciate the differing pace compared to the other films. I can understand why many people dislike this film more than the others, but I personally think it’s refreshing. The cinematography is good with some great landscapes of the British Isles. The strained dynamic of the main cast is put to the test and it’s interesting to watch. It isn’t just Harry Potter hides out in the forest, there’s more going on. But it isn’t as exciting an adventure as the others, it doesn’t hit the same highs and is overall a very depressing film, especially considering that ending. The problem is that is really does feel like a ‘part one’, it doesn’t stand on its own as well as any of the other films do.
5. Deathly Hallows Part Two
Deathly Hallows Part 2 is a good ending but Harry Potter’s ending isn’t really why you’re watching Harry Potter. Not the only reason anyway. It’s the worldbuilding and the characters and at this point, the world has been firmly established as are the characters, new concepts are few and far between, the only thing left for the movie to do is to complete the plot. Does it do it effectively? Yes. Is it an amazing ending? No. The ending is not the best part of the Harry Potter story so that’s really why this is here in the middle of the list.
4. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
This is the most magical and whimsical of all the films. It’s also a fantastic introduction to the whole Wizarding World. Everything is almost perfect, and I can hardly think of a better way to introduce this franchise to film. The only downside is the less than stellar performances of the child actors but that seems a little too harsh as their performances do fit with the more child-friendly tone of the film. Some of the effects have dated but it came out in 2001 so how harsh can you really be? This movie might not be as high on some other lists, but it really depends on your preference as to which tone you prefer, the darker tone of the later films, or the lighter one in the early ones.
3. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
This solved the tone problem found in Order of the Phoenix. Half-Blood Prince manages to capture the high school feel without it feeling displaced from the greater action and darker tone. That’s thanks to the discovery of the identity of the Half-Blood Prince is heavily related to Harry’s schoolwork. It therefore allows the teen comedy moments to appear without being egregiously out of place.
It also has some iconic scenes, funny jokes, and a deeper understanding of horcruxes and Voldemort himself. It’s a great set-up for the finale and a great movie on its own. It’s the last time we really have time to expand upon the universe before all we can focus on is the plot.
2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
This is my personal favourite and almost everyone I talk to says something similar. It isn’t the best film in terms of filmmaking, and honestly, it’s a bad adaptation of the book. Bad adaptation doesn’t mean that it’s a bad film though, not by a long shot. The Tri-Wizard tournament is a great way to get Harry to battle all sorts of magical creatures in rapid succession. We also get a firm establishment of the darker tone hinted at in previous films and some absolutely game changing moments for the Harry Potter franchise.
1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
This isn’t my favourite Harry Potter film, but it definitely is the best made. The camera work, the effects, the character work, it’s all there thanks to the brilliant direction from Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men, Roma). It breaks the rules of Harry Potter on more than one occasion but the filmmaking here is second to none in the series. The Chris Columbus films are shot traditionally and so the direction is competent but unexciting; Mike Newell’s decisions were strange, but they didn’t overall add to a larger or interesting style; David Yates established the series’ tone as a cohesive franchise and so are incredibly competent blockbusters with enough unique choices to make his direction interesting. But Cuaron on Azkaban, is something else. This was an artistic filmmaker taking the reins of a huge franchise and making something more than just a blockbuster. That’s why it takes the top spot on the list.
For more rankings, check out or list of the best movie Batmans!
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