The wizarding world of Harry Potter is, as its name suggests, one of the most fantastical works of fiction. In honor of “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” a prequel of sorts to the “Harry Potter” franchise that hit theaters on Nov. 18, I decided to share my ranking of all eight “Harry Potter” films, from worst to best. I use “worst” as a relative term, because in my eyes, all of the films are well-constructed and faithful to the novels. While my order has shuffled throughout the years, as of today, I have a pretty definitive rank in mind.
Starting at number eight is “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.” Directed by Chris Columbus, the film is the second in the franchise, following Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger as they try to solve the mystery of who—or what—is attacking muggle-borns in the school. “Chamber of Secrets” is not a bad film by any means; I enjoy that it has a darker tone than the first “Harry Potter” film, and that we get to see a little more of Voldemort’s—oh shoot, I said his name!—backstory. However, the action sequences are not as exciting as other installments, and its plot structure is a little too similar to that of the first film’s.
Next on my list is the film that started it all, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone,” also directed by Chris Columbus. My ranking between “Sorcerer's Stone” and “Chamber of Secrets” toggles quite a bit, but the main reason I place this film slightly higher is because it establishes Harry’s universe. We get to see Harry, Ron and Hermione on screen for the first time as they navigate through the magical world, which gives the film a higher rewatchability factor. Because the movie does introduce many new details to audiences, the plot points and climax in this film don’t resonate as much as the rest. Nonetheless, the first film set a pretty high bar for the rest of the franchise.
“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” is next at number six. Directed by David Yates, “Half-Blood Prince” is the sixth film and follows Harry as he learns more about Voldemort’s time at Hogwarts. This film changes many plot points from the book. I was always bothered that the relationship between Harry and Ginny was portrayed very differently and that the beginning sequence is also changed. However, this film is still beautifully shot and directed, and the emotional beats hit hard, especially with the death of beloved character Albus Dumbledore.
Following “Half-Blood Prince” is “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I.” Also directed by David Yates, the film depicts the first half of J.K. Rowling’s final novel in the series, when Harry, Ron and Hermione must find and destroy magical objects called Horcruxes in order to finally defeat Voldemort. The film’s pacing gets a little sluggish as our heroes journey from place to place. Yet, viewers get a full sense of finality with these characters, making for a very emotional and suspenseful film.
At four is “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.” In this film directed by Mike Newell, Harry competes in the Triwizard Tournament, where a student from each wizarding school—Hogwarts, Beauxbatons and Durmstrang—must complete life-threatening tasks to win. Like the first film, this one has high rewatchability. It marks a deep tone shift as Harry faces Voldemort in the flesh for the first time.
The last three films on my list could really be put in any order. However, “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” directed by David Yates, comes in at third. “Order of the Phoenix” is a personal story, as Harry has just witnessed the death of his classmate after dueling with Voldemort. He must navigate that reality as he take leadership to teach his fellow classmates “Defense Against the Dark Arts.” These scenes foreshadow the role Harry must inevitably step into later. This film has one of my favorite action sequences as our heroes fight evil Death Eaters in flashes of black and white to distinguish sides.
“Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” directed by Alfonso Cuaròn, is number two. Here, Sirius Black escapes from the magical prison Azkaban and is suspected to be after Harry. This film introduces many new characters, creatures and magical objects that expand this world. And we learn more about Harry’s backstory. My appreciation for this installment has grown over the years, and I think it’s because “Prisoner of Azkaban” is not only a great “Harry Potter” film, it’s a great film in general.
The best film in the series is its last installment, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II,” directed by David Yates. Picking up where “Part I” left off, Harry faces against Voldemort and his army in the final battle at Hogwarts. This film has nonstop action beginning to end. Everything in the series builds up to these final moments. The film is emotionally resonant, from the devastating character deaths to the final scene, and the screen fades to black on our heroes for the last time. I remember tearing up a little when I left the cinema because that was the last time I would watch a “Harry Potter” film in theaters.
These films will always be among my favorites. There is no fictional world quite like this one; it’s been five years since the last film and we still discuss them as much now as we did then. I am grateful for everyone involved in making these eight films, taking good care in adapting this series.