Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Harry Potter Movies Ranked

The Harry Potter universe has been near and dear to my heart for a long time now. I first dove into the books shortly after the release of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in 2000, which was released right before I began my sixth grade year in school. For a period of 11 years, which spanned my from my junior high school years all the way up until the first part of my college years, I was always looking forward to the next book or the next movie. Summer 2011 was a very sad time for me as after watching Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2 in theaters, I thought this chapter in my life was over. But Hollywood being Hollywood found a way to bring it back by starting up a spin-off franchise with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. In honor of that movie's release this upcoming weekend, I thought it would be fun to take some time and give you my personal rankings of the Harry Potter movies. In preparation for this, I spent the last couple of months rewatching every movie and pondering over what my list would look like. After much though, I do feel comfortable with what I've come up with and it's bound to be a bit controversial simply because everyone has a different ranking for these movies. But hey, I'm no stranger to controversy, so let's dive right in! When you're done reading, please feel free to share your own personal ranking and we can discuss!

8- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

One trend you'll notice throughout this list is that I don't hate any of these movies. I know many fans of the books hate all the movies because they aren't perfect adaptations. That's a bit silly to me. I try not to hate an adaptation just because it's different. That said, The Goblet of Fire is easily the worst adaptation in this series. The epic beginning is glanced over, the World Cup is an afterthought, Dumbledore is a jerk, we rush through the whole Triwizard Tournament, the Yule Ball (which I loved in the book) is completely pointless and the best part of the final task, the sphinx, is completely cut. And that's just me touching on highlights. I do blame this to growing pains with the producers. This was the first book where J.K. Rowling kinda got carried away with the length and while that works great for the book, they really had no idea how to turn this into one into a successful movie. They considered turning this into two movies, but instead decided to tackle the whole thing in one movie. And, well, perhaps they should've turned this into two movies because the final result was a Goblet of Fire highlight reel instead of a movie. It's not a bad movie, just a disappointing one. In my opinion they learned from their mistakes here and did much better the next time around.

7- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

In all honesty, with the storyline that J.K. Rowling started with The Goblet of Fire, she really could've written 10 or more books, spending a book or two with each horcrux. But she committed herself to just seven books, which meant she was essentially forced to rush the ending a bit and spend a whole book bridging the first fix books to the final book. That's what The Half-Blood Prince is to me. Information overload. Thus it may be the most important book in terms of what we learn, but as a stand-alone story it really isn't that good and is thus my least favorite book. Thus the movie producers here were doomed from the beginning. And sadly they took a sticky situation and crashed it into a brick wall. In addition to including a bunch of weird things, like the burning of the Burrow, they also completely butchered the ending with Dumbledore's death, the lack of emotion as Snape, Malfoy and company escape and the cutting of Dumbledore's funeral. I mean, that finale was the best part of that mostly eventless book and they couldn't even get that right. There were some great individual moments in this movie, like the scene in the cave at the end as well as learning about Tom Riddle's past, but as a whole I found this movie fairly empty and boring, just like the book.

6- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Now that we've got the two big disappointments out of the way, it's time to start doing more praising. Even though I still think The Goblet of Fire and The Half-Blood Prince are serviceable, there's definitely a huge step up from here on out. The first two Harry Potter movies are pretty close to me. There's definitely an undeniable magic with the introduction of this series and although I have some issues with Chris Columbus' direction, which I'll get into more next, I still like these two movies quite a bit. The best part of The Chamber of Secrets is that it is actually fairly intense and mysterious. We have a mysterious monster roaming the castle that is petrifying many of the students. We learn about a dark secret of the castle's past that may involve Hagrid and his spiders that is coming to the forefront that may lead to the closing of Hogwarts. I really love this mystery element of the movie and the performance of Kenneth Branagh as the hilariously stupid Gilderoy Lockhart is perfect. The big problem here is that the movie kinda falls off a cliff with the ending. There are a whole lot of conveniences that lead to 12-year-old Harry rather easily defeating the legendary basilisk after he blindly goes into the Chamber with no plan. The final battle is also really cheesy and poorly choreographed. I don't blame young Daniel for this. Just the adults that were training him.

5- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Yes, I know the first book was called The Philosopher's Stone in the U.K. initially. No, I don't know why they decided to change it in the U.S. to the much more lame title of The Sorcerer's Stone. But that's how I knew it as a young kid so that's the title that's stuck in my brain. Deal with. Regardless of what you call it, this first movie is so magical and brings with it a ton of nostalgia. The casting in the entire series is beyond perfect and I especially wish Richard Harris would've lived long enough to play Dumbledore in all eight movies. May he rest in peace. The storyline in the book may not have been quite is intense and mysterious as in The Chamber of Secrets, but it's still pretty good and has a much more fulfilling in the finale, even though I would've liked the potions room included. The big problem with this movie and the second is the direction. The child acting is pretty bad and I blame that on Columbus because there is a HUGE improvement with our main cast of kids in terms of the acting from the second movie to the third movie. Also the Hogwarts set design is boring and flat. Yes, this was, and still is, a magical experience. I love our introduction to Hogwarts and the Wizarding World. It's just that they managed to make it more magical as they went on.

4- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1

And now we jump from the first movie to the first half of the last and the biggest controversy surrounding this one is the decision to split it into two movies. Was this necessary? Absolutely! If not, we would've had The Goblet of Fire all over again because there is such much crammed into the finale that barely fits into two movies. Did every other young adult franchise need to follow their example? Heck no! But this one worked. And I loved both parts. Sure, there is more downtime in this first half as we spend much of the time with Harry, Hermione and Ron in the woods, but the thing that really made this worked were the performances of those three. They continually grew as actors throughout this series and by the time we get to this two part finale, they were seasoned actors who absolutely killed it as these three. There are so many beautiful character moments in this film that I loved and enough intense drama to keep me from being bored. One thing that stood out to me as I rewatched this series was that Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson just oozed in chemistry. The scene where they dance is one of my favorite scenes in this franchise. That same chemistry just isn't there between Emma Watson and Rupert Grint and certainly isn't there between Daniel Radcliffe and Bonnie Wright. Sure, the producers of the movie had their hands tied with this and they certainly couldn't predict how they would all turn out when they were initially cast as young kids, but Harry and Hermione belonged together. And J.K. Rowling now agrees with that.

3- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix 

As I mentioned earlier, there was a definite learning curve when it came to figuring out how to adapt these longer Harry Potter books. While The Goblet of Fire turned into a disjointed highlight reel of what the book was, The Order of the Phoenix might be the one instance where they improved on the book with movie. If I'm being honest, The Order of the Phoenix book is the second worst book in this series for me ahead of only The Half-Blood Prince and part of that is that it's about 200-300 pages too long. Not that I'm opposed to long books, especially since the Harry Potter books are practically double-spaced, but there needed to be some condensing with that book and the movie did it perfectly. From the moment I left the theater, I felt that they did a perfect job here of cutting what wasn't needed while included what was needed. That holds up upon rewatching it. This is a beautiful film. It's tragic seeing no one believe Harry that Voldemort is back and Daniel Radcliffe excels in presenting the emotion that Harry is going through. This is the first movie where Micael Gambon really worked as Dumbledore because Dumbledore is much more dark and mysterious from here on out and Gambon does that well. This leads to a beautifully emotional finale where everyone realizes Harry was right after an intense final duel with Voldemort and his death eaters. And yes. I. HATE. DELORES. UMBRIDGE. She was perfectly portrayed here.

2- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban 

Decided my top two on this list was a real struggle. In this series of eight movies, there are two disappointing movies, four good movies and two masterpieces. I so wanted to make The Prisoner of Azkaban my top one, but instead it came in a close second. I mentioned earlier that Chris Columbus' portrayal of Hogwarts was flat and dull. Alfonso Cuarón's Hogwarts is truly magical. First off, it's on a hill. Having Hagrid's hut be on the bottom of the hill instead of looking like it was in the middle of the Quidditch field was perfect. And visually this movie is stunning. Every shot is breathtaking. And there is a HUGE improvement with our young three. Cuarón got that best out of them and I think this movie propelled all of them forward. And I loved how they often dressed in normal clothes. Then we have the storyline of the movie. This is without a doubt the best individual story that J.K. Rowling wrote. Many portray time travel as creating an alternate timeline. Azkaban portraying it on one singular timeline was genius. In fact, this may be my favorite time travel movie ever. Then we have Gary Oldman's Sirius Black. Terrifying villain at first. Until you learn he is not a villain, but a hero who was framed. So many beautiful story arcs as our main characters learn to accept this as fact and spend the finale trying to save his life. Genius. The glue holding this all together is David Thewlis as Lupin. I kid you not, the individual moments between Harry and Lupin almost made me cry when I rewatched this movie because they are so beautiful and emotional.

1- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2

It's interesting to note that almost across the board The Deathly Hallows - Part 2 is seen as the best Harry Potter movie. It has the highest IMDb score. It has the highest Rotten Tomatoes score for both critics and audiences. And it was the highest grossing film domestically and worldwide. That's not how I base my opinions, of course. I go against the grain all the time. In fact, I was so close to putting The Prisoner of Azkaban first. But in this instance I agree with the masses. The final movie is the best. In beautiful contrast to Part 1, which is slow-paced and character-driven, this finale is fast-paced and action-driven. From the opening scene in Gringotts to the final battle at Hogwarts, this movie doesn't slow down. And the finale is perfect. We have the emotional reveal of Severus Snape and his tragic death. Then we have Harry making the decision to sacrifice himself, becoming a true metaphor and symbol for good. The scene where he talks to his parents, Sirius and Lupin right before he gets killed gets me every time. The conversation with Dumbledore at King's Cross was perfect. Then Harry comes back and we have the epic final battle between him and Voldemort. Yes, they changed it. But to be honest, I had more issues with him snapping the Elder Wand at the end than I did with the extended Voldemort battle. You can nit-pick it if it you want, but for me this did everything I wanted it to do. It was my favorite book and favorite movie.

1 comment:

  1. In case people are curious, here's how I would rank the Harry Potter books:

    1- The Deathly Hallows
    2- The Prisoner of Azkaban
    3- The Goblet of Fire
    4- The Sorcerer's Stone
    5- The Chamber of Secrets
    6- The Order of the Phoenix
    7- The Half-Blood Prince