If you’ve been on Netflix recently, chances are you’ll have seen a certain boy wizard plastered everywhere. At the time of writing, 8 of the Netflix top 10 are Harry Potter movies, but unless you have access to a time-turner, there are only so many hours in the day. While the cast is exceptional throughout, which (or Witch) of the movies is actually worth your time?
Here’s our ranking of all the Harry Potter movies, from worst to best — no arguments, ok?
8. Order of the Phoenix
One of the most uneventful movies in the franchise and arguably the start of the darker era of Potter, Order of the Phoenix is fine. Just fine. The fact that the high point of action resolves around a battle for a bottle says a lot. At least we are introduced to Imelda Staunton’s Dolores Umbridge as the love-to-hate head of Hogwarts, reminiscent of our least favourite school teachers.
Otherwise, a film about a badass underground order of wizards sounds brilliant but in reality it’s just dull. We’re introduced to way too many characters too quickly that they don’t get enough time for development, five house points if you can tell me anything about Kingsley Shacklebolt.
7. Deathly Hallows part 1
Splitting one book into two parts was never going to make for a balanced narrative structure and its safe to say that the first part of Deathly Hallows suffers for it. Not only does this film make the unforgivable mistake of killing off Hedwig at the start and (REDACTED) at the end, but in between the two deaths, nothing particularly happens. We are introduced to Maguffin after MacGuffin throughout on what feels like a sixth-former school trip treasure hunt.
While it's nice to see our trio of heroes outside of Hogwarts and Ron gets some much-needed development, there is little else of note outside of setup for the second half.
6. Half-Blood Prince
This movie is largely remembered for one spoilerific moment that has gone down in cinema history and made a million children cry. The rest of the story is by no means not top-tier Potter but it does blend high drama with the awkwardness of teenage romance pretty well. Ron and Hermione feel a lot more fleshed out than in the earlier films too, even if Ginny is a pretty dull character throughout.
It’s great as well to see a larger focus on Malfoy, a character who at other times in the series has felt like a spare part, while Alan Rickman’s Snape is his usual superb self.
5. Deathly Hallows part 2
As a finale to the entire mainline series (of course, we have Fantastic Beasts now too), Deathly Hallows Part 2 manages to stick the landing and provide a suitable end to a decades worth of movies. The Avengers: Endgame of the Potterverse, is the pay-off for a whole film’s worth of buildup and largely consists of the famous “Battle of Hogwarts”.
Speaking of the battle, the action is shot superbly and while there are some lighter moments, shout out to Neville’s iconic “That went well” and Ron’s “That’s my girlfriend you numpties”, you will be crying by the end unless you’re some kind of Death Eater.
4. Philosopher's Stone
Our first depiction of Hogwarts on the big screen is a generational moment and seeing all the characters so young makes us swell with pride, but this is one of the best-structured movies in the franchise. Having to introduce Harry and his unhappy life in Privet Drive, a whole world of magic and then defeat Voldemort all in one movie is a lot to do.
If this film wasn’t so good, it’s safe to say that we probably wouldn’t have been treated to the rest of the books hitting the silver screen. The narrative is a classic tale of an outcast finally finding somewhere to call home and everyone will be whisked back to their first day of secondary school/high school instantly. You’ve probably seen this movie dozens of times, but it’s always worth going back again.
3. Prisoner of Azkaban
This might be the hottest take on this list. Widely considered by many to be the best of the franchise, The Prisoner of Azkaban is undoubtedly a great movie but doesn’t even make our top two. Harry, Ron and Hermione’s third year of study is dominated by the escape of the mysterious Sirius Black from Azkaban prison, with constant warnings that he is out to get our hero.
Aside from Sirius Black, we are introduced to yet another Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, Professor Lupin (David Thewlis) who seems to be exhibiting some strange behaviours. Time-turner shenanigans later in the story can become a bit of a plot hole but this is definitely a first-rate Hogwarts adventure.
2. Chamber of Secrets
Criminally underrated, I would argue that this movie actually offers the biggest look into life as a student at Hogwarts. We get a lengthy look at Harry’s second year of studies in what is the longest instalment in the series and well before the Fantastic Beasts movies we are introduced to a host of magical creatures including the Basilisk, Phoenix, House-Elf (everyone loves Dobby) and the Whomping Willow.
The actual confrontation between the Basilisk and Harry is amongst the most dramatic in the series but we also get plenty of fun with the likes of Moaning Myrtle and Ron’s flying car.
1. Goblet of Fire
The ultimate Potter movie ticks all of the boxes. Opening with the Quidditch World Cup is a breath of fresh air and the Tri-Wizard tournament (the ultimate school sports day) is a brilliant framing device for a series of spectacular encounters and exciting action.
This was also the first time we got a look at Voldemort in his true, most dangerous form… Ralph Fiennes. Robert Pattison also gets his big appearance as an excellent Cedric Digory, bringing a real likeability to someone who it could be easy to dismiss as just the handsome, popular kid.
Michael Gambon’s Dumbledore really came into his own in this instalment as well, his hysterical “Did you put your name in the Goblet of Fire?” ramblings show a new side to a character we previously saw as unflappable and all knowing. Watching in order is obviously the best way to get your Potter fix, but if you only have time for one movie, make it this one.