a ‘definitive’ ranking, by Dan McQuarrie
A while ago, I found myself in a discussion on Twitter over the Harry Potter films and where certain films ranked against each other. Whilst arguing for a certain few, I realised I hadn’t actually seen the films in years, so thought it might be an enjoyable exercise to rewatch them all again and form ‘The Definitive Dan McQuarrie Ranking of Harry Potter Films’.
In this blog post, I am going to go through the films chronologically, giving you a very short afterthought on each film, and then after I’ve watched them all, attempt to rank them in quality order and explain my reasoning behind doing so.
So first up;
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
When you look past the poor child acting, this film is actually pretty great. The magic and wonder of the first half of the film that comes from Harry discovering the world of magic for the first time; combined with the beautiful score, is a joy to watch. Whilst the final act does fall off a little bit, Quirrell and the testicle Voldemort face being quite a lacklustre villain, I came away from the film having really enjoyed it, and to be honest, much more than I remember enjoying it in the past.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
I’ve always had quite a soft spot for this film, though it does at times drift into the land of cheesy. The main plot is very interesting as it slowly unravels, and still to this day the first entrance into the chamber of secrets gives me the chills. There are cheesy moments, such as the slug scene and the polyjuice potion sequence, that much like the Weasley’s car, don’t really land. But overall, it’s exciting, it’s suspenseful and Tom Riddle proves to be a really compelling villain.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
There’s not much negative I can say about this film. The plot is excellent and slowly revealing, the suspense is strong, the performances; especially from Gary Oldman as Sirius Black, are fantastic, the the third act is very intelligently crafted. The scene in the shrieking shack is really one of the great scenes of the fantasy genre. Overall, this is a truly excellent film, it’s fun, it’s intense, it’s spooky, and I can already see this film being very high in my ranking.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
I really like the Goblet of Fire. There are times where the plot drags, all the nonsense with the ball being an example, but the core plot, the three trials, the rebirth of Lord Voldemort; it’s all fantastic watching. Great emotional performances from the key cast, and personally I love Mad-eye Moody in this film, and particularly the reveal as Barty Crouch Jr, which still has all the impact after seeing the film many times. This is a great entry in the franchise, and whilst it does have some weaknesses, it still stands up as a damn good film.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
I feel this film sits in the same vein as the previous two, but is the weakest of the three. Not to say it isn’t a great film though, it has fantastic moments like the Dumbledore and Voldemort fight, heartbreaking moments like the death of Sirius Black (any time Gary Oldman is on screen the film is elevated) and hilarious moments like Fred and George chasing Umbridge out the school. Another cracking film in the franchise.
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
This film is a bit of a mixed bag. As harrowing as it was, the plot of the attempt on Dumbledore’s life and the eventual murder by Snape is brilliant storytelling. I enjoyed the parts of the film that looked a bit more into Tom Riddle’s past, and the reveal of the horcruxes, however the extensive Slughorn subplot with the dinners and the tween romances got a little tiresome. That aside, this is another great film that proves the consistency of this film series.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, pt 1
This was where the films start to wobble a bit in my opinion. Deathly Hallows pt 1 is a whole lot of wondering about learning things, mostly focused on the Hermione and Ron love story which I will unapologetically come out and say I hate and every time they address the love story I get a little angry at the film. The finale at Malfoy Manor is pretty great though, and Dobby’s sacrifice still stands up as a great moment. But overall, whilst I still enjoy this film, I find myself disliking it more every time I watch it simply because the Ron and Hermione love story is so painfully bad to watch.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, pt 2
A finale that I feel is simultaneously satisfactory and disappointing in its conclusion. Everything with Snape, from Mcgonagall chasing him out the castle, to the huge twist reveal about his protection of Harry all along, is perfect, and Alan Rickman’s performance is outstanding. The Battle of Hogwarts is pretty epic, with some stand out moments from Neville and Mrs Weasley. But the final battle against Voldemort after Harry comes back to life is a bit lacklustre, and then yes there is the awful future scene with the terrible ageing and cheesy happy families, which reinforces my hatred for Ron and Hermione. Good film, could’ve been better, could’ve also been way worse, I still enjoyed it.
My big takeaway from rewatching this franchise is actually just how good it still is. Whilst there is moments of weakness throughout the series, bad acting, dragging subplots etc, every film is enjoyable and the story is fantastic. So whilst this ranking will be best to worst, the worst are still damn good films.
Obviously, without a shadow of a doubt, Prisoner of Azkaban is my top film. It is an utterly compelling film with fantastic performances and thrilling moments and I could happily watch it over and over again. Probably to no surprise, I would then follow that with Goblet of Fire for much the same reasons. What may come to some as a surprise is what I’m putting at the bottom of my list, Deathly Hallows pt 1. My memory had me liking this film more, but after the rewatch I genuinely consider it the weakest of the franchise. I also would put part 2 quite low down the list, but the Snape moment saves it a space, as you will see in my final ranking. Maybe my hatred of Ron and Hermione together (I love them as characters, just to make that clear, just not together) has clouded my judgement, maybe people might be angry with how highly I rate Chamber of Secrets, I can’t help it, I have a real fondness for that film.
But in all honesty, this is how I would rank the Harry Potter film series…
The Definitive Dan McQuarrie Ranking of Harry Potter Films
- Prisoner of Azkaban
- Goblet of Fire
- Order of the Phoenix
- Chamber of Secrets
- Half Blood Prince
- Deathly Hallows pt 2
- Philosopher’s Stone
- Deathly Hallows pt 1
So there you have it, my personal ranking. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my ramblings, I for sure enjoyed rewatching all the films and writing a bit about them. Now, in time I may force myself to watch the Fantastic Beasts films, but after watching only the first one I already bet they will likely occupy the two spots below this list above.
Next up in my series of franchise rankings… Star Wars.