You can listen to our discussion this list on our podcast, available here.
With the release of Fantastic Beasts: Secrets of Dumbledore we thought it would be a good idea to revisit all the films that have come from the Wizarding World Universe. All the way back to 2001 from the franchise’s start with Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone to the prequel films we’ve seen in the past few years, the franchise has made billions worldwide and become one of the most beloved franchises of all time. But, with a total of 11 films to its name, just how good are the individual instalments?
11. Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald (2018)
Elements of the second Fantastic Beasts film worked but overall it was a static and oddly paced film that struggled to find its personality. Whatever the first film had done to create a slicker, more adventurous look into the wizarding world felt low on the agenda as Crimes of Grindelwald struggled to find wonder, instead opting for choppy sequences and lengthy scenes of dialogue that aim to shock and allure but merely bore.
One aspect that the Fantastic Beast films have achieved is the interesting exploration of different wizarding eco-systems across the globe, more specifically the fantastical elements of a magical Paris are the highlight of this particular film – it’s just unfortunate that the exploration becomes bogged down by everything else around it. While David Yates could probably recreate the tone of the universe in his sleep by now, Crimes of Grindelwald suffers more from its dodgy pacing and lacklustre story which often leave the final product devoid of anything magical.
10. Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them (2016)
Like with most successful franchises Warner Bros. maintained a ‘never say never’ attitude towards the Wizarding World which meant an obvious rehash was inevitable. There was no doubt that something new was going to come after the behemoth franchise made such a stamp on popular culture and it was a nice surprise to see a film that maybe didn’t blow people away, but gave enough entertainment to merit its existence.
The film comfortably paddles in the shallow end without ever really taking a dive into something deeper, the world it is building expands on a world that people know and love and much like the title suggests, explores the interesting creatures in the hopes of finding commerciality. With it mostly being set in New York, the Americanisation of such a British product was jarring but as stated earlier, it was just exploring something new while never daring to go too far. It was a well balanced welcome back into the world, albeit a safe one.
9. Fantastic Beasts: Secrets of Dumbledore (2022)
The newest film to the franchise, Secrets of Dumbledore is by no means perfect. What it does do however, is understand where to grow and how to maintain consistent levels of entertainment. It expands the world into a more political landscape while never sacrificing the ingredients that make the world so entertaining. Arguably its biggest faults are its complete demotion of what seemed like an important story, as well as being unable to find the small moments of literal magic that made Harry Potter so great to watch as a younger viewer.
Sometimes the film feels like it’s rushing through its story despite a runtime of 2 hours 20 minutes, but the reason it’s able to sit above its predecessors is its ability to interject a lot of scenes of fun in and around its more political backdrop. To add to that a new and improved Grindelwald in Mads Mikkelsen, what you have is a film that broadens its world without over stretching, while never forgetting to have a little fun.
8. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)
It may seem a little transparent to have all eight Harry Potter films in the final eight spots, but the truth is that the newest films struggle to match the originals in a lot of aspects. One is character, the source materials are able to ignite a connection to the characters on screen before the film has even come out and it’s hard to match something that has that advantage. While the characters of the film were well established and beloved in Order of the Phoenix, it’s the tone that makes it the weakest out of the Potter saga.
When the franchise started it felt much more kid friendly, but as the stars got older and the stories demanded more maturity the films had to adjust. The third and fourth instalments are great examples of slow change, moulding to a new style each time but with Order of the Phoenix it felt too dark and gloomy to really capture any kind of magic or humour. That’s not to say it wasn’t an enjoyable film that honours its source material, as well as adding some great actors to it’s cast, but as the franchise slowly ascended to a darker tone and mood Order of the Phoenix felt a little too much.
7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010)
In the latter stages of the franchise when tone was fully established and it was all about story, the studio opted for the Part 1 and 2 split of the final book. While that allowed the final film to flourish, what happened to Part 1 was it became an overly stretched film fighting to justify its 2 hour 20 minute runtime. It was honest to the scenes that fans awaited and ended at a tear jerking part of the story, but long stretches in between felt endless and less than exciting.
This film was always a precursor to the finale, with its intentions much more about establishing anticipation, as well as grabbing the money along the way, rather than being about creating a well balanced film. When the scenes of action do arise they are filled with popcorn entertainment of the highest order, but it is a shame it can’t find the same engagement in its connecting scenes, as well as giving us one of the most uncomfortable dance scenes you’ll see between Harry and Hermoine.
6. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)
The sixth instalment to the franchise felt like one of the better films to come from the Potter series. It was entertaining, tonally consistent and managed to balance its humour and maturity well. Harry Potter has always been a family friendly franchise and Yates understood that Half-Blood Prince needed to feel lighter, while never allowing the more mature and character defining moments to suffer.
It sits pretty in the middle of the list because, although it’s a good Potter film, it’s not a great one. It doesn’t stick with you as much as the very best do and it does fall victim to some very stale dialogue that even the very best of British acting can’t salvage. However, Half-Blood Prince felt like it captured a tone that would be the benchmark going forward for the franchise.
5. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001)
The film that ignited the worldwide cinematic phenomenon, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was a joyous experience for younger ages that was able to capture the wonder of the wizarding world in a very warm way. This is partly because of Chris Columbus’ direction, someone who’s experience directing child-driven stories was well established, who visualised the book with a wonderful insight which allowed the film to imprint on popular culture with instant impact.
The first film is by no means perfect, with its three main stars still finding their feet as performers and the franchise still in its infancy, but it still opened up the Harry Potter world to those who hadn’t already experienced it from the books. If you go back now and watch the first film in the franchise you may not find the giddy immaturity or lighter approach as entertaining, but it will more than likely grasp at your nostalgia as you fondly remember where you were when you first experienced the charming world.
4. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)
Stakes were high when Chamber of Secrets was released, it demanded a similarly lighter tone because of its characters’ ages but also demanded a rougher exterior as its story and fantasy became bolder. This one is often regarded as a personal favourite for many people because of the time it was released, but also because it felt like the film in which everyone became sold on Harry Potter as a cinematic icon and not just a literary one.
The performances from its younger actors felt more seasoned and the grizzlier plot points served as the foundations in which the rest of the franchise would follow, add to that a cast of adult actors all having copious amounts of fun with their roles and what you have is a sequel that surpasses its predecessor comfortably. The franchise was always going to be a goldmine, but Chamber of Secrets proved that the Harry Potter story stretched further than the title of a ‘kids film’.
3. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2004)
Arguably the instalment with the most popcorn entertainment, Goblet of Fire boasted a step away from the usual school life we had seen from the franchise and gave us a new branch of the world with the Tri-Wizard Tournament. Dragons, underwater creatures and a mystical maze were all a part of a film that felt more fun and also broadened in scale.
It was also the first time we got a taste of our main characters feeling the angst and romance of their youth, with Harry getting his first taste of attraction as well as Hermoine and Ron offsetting their awkward relationship. Like a lot of the Potter films, the runtime is a little bloated, but the reason this film is high on the list is its ability to further story and character while never lacking in blockbuster entertainment.
2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011)
You can have the smoothest take off of your life but the most crucial part of any franchise, or saga, is sticking the landing. With the split of the final story across two films the last one was able to really shine with epic proportions. Fans eagerly awaited to see the Battle of Hogwarts chapter be brought to life and the film delivered by making nearly the entire runtime dedicated to magical warfare.
Like all the Potter films the final one isn’t without its hiccups but it manages to find pockets of heroism, humour and sadness amongst the chaos in order to give the multitude of characters their own sense of closure. Very often franchises feel scattered and incomplete but Deathly Hallows: Part 2 allowed Harry Potter to feel well-rounded, bringing the episodic films to one complete halt and giving the franchise some finality.
1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2003)
The third instalment to the franchise excelled on multiple levels, as the cast were growing up and becoming adults the style and story had to feel akin to the people we were watching without ever losing the charm that the first two films had. What Prisoner of Azkaban had though was the classy touch of Alfonso Cuarón. A director that nervously approached the project, not being familiar with blockbuster filmmaking before this, and executed a film with a sense of personality that would also please the millions of fans waiting for it.
In a list of Cuarón films ranked this wouldn’t sit too highly, but as a Potter film it surpasses all others in entertainment and precision. Its sense of humour felt maturer and its time hopping climax felt light, not getting bogged down in logic but instead rejoicing in the fun that can be had with such a plot. There is a reason that the worldwide phenomenon has captured so many hearts across the globe, and Prisoner of Azkaban feels like the poster child for everything that is great about the Harry Potter franchise.
4 thoughts on “All films from the Wizarding World Universe Ranked Worst to Best”
Prisoner of Azkaban was the worst movie.
What would you say is the best then?
Personally to me order of the Phoenix is the worst, followed by the new Fantastic beasts. Crimes if Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald is in the middle and Deathly Hallows part 1 is the best with Sorcerers Stone a close second.
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In my opinion, there are two types of films created from written works; the first is a visual representation, the second is a visual interpretation! The first is taking characters, sceens, dialogue and background descriptions directly from the written work and turning them into replica 3 dimensional imagery on film. The second is using the written work as a starting point but then taking creative license and changing things to suit a directors vision. The first few Potter films attempted to follow canon as much as possible and that was well received by the book fan base. All the rest of the films seem to veer off in other direction for whatever reasons those directors decided to do so. Ignoring entire sections of the original stories, changing dialog and even character assignments that JKR made in the original written work. In my estimation, the worst Potter film was the last. It had very little to do with what really happened in the book.
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