Every Harry Potter Movie Ranked Worst To Best

With a trio of young actors having to carry a franchise through a decade that encompassed their teenage years, it's something of a miracle that the "Harry Potter" franchise is as good as it is. Facing the enormous pressure of adapting some of the most successful books of all time, producer David Heyman successfully pulled off the near impossible. Gathering a huge ensemble cast of some of the best British actors, including Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, Gary Oldman, David Thewlis, and Helena Bonham Carter, the franchise maintained a consistent quality over 10 years.

Directors such as Alfonso Cuarón and Mike Newell injected some distinctive visual qualities into their entries, but the important thing is that all the films focused on getting us to care about the characters and adapting the books well. The production designers and art directors did some fantastic world-building, conjuring up beloved locations such as Diagon Alley from the page and rendering them beautifully. And of course, Alexandre Desplat and especially John Williams brought further enchantment through their lovely musical scores. Daniel Radcliffe must be commended for coping so well with what must have been unimaginable scrutiny and delivering a satisfying finale for fans the world over. The less said about the "Fantastic Beast" spin-off, the better, but the "Harry Potter" movies are a marvel that continues to bring comfort to millions.

11. Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore (2022)

Before we get to the main "Harry Potter" saga, we need to get the "Fantastic Beasts" movies out of the way. It's dumbfounding that one of these came out in 2022 because the moment it was over, it was as if it had been obliviated. There's nothing about it that leaves any kind of lasting impression. The wasted potential of what could have been a fun spin-off has been squandered by this trilogy (let's hope there aren't any more). Going back to the 1920s and 1930s and exploring cities such as New York and Paris within the Wizarding World sounds good and should have appealed directly to me. So if I'm telling you these films are bad, we know that something has gone seriously wrong.

The other anger-inducing factor is that these films completely gloss over the fact that Jude Law delivers a committed performance as a younger Dumbledore. The total bungling of the character of Grindelwald, with the character being portrayed by three different actors in three movies, also undermines any stakes these films could potentially have had. Unfortunately, Law's performance gets lost in some of the worst writing and directing of any modern blockbuster. We are given no reason to care about any of the characters or anything that is happening at any given moment. It's just a horrendous waste of time and money, and the "Fantastic Beasts" mini-franchise needs to be put out of its misery.

10. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018)

To begin on a positive note, the costume and production design of the "Fantastic Beasts" trilogy has been a highlight throughout, and that certainly continued in the second movie of the series. There's a thrilling magical circus scene in "The Crimes of Grindelwald," there's a green copper statue that comes to life, and it's interesting to see how the ministries in different countries are designed. The new additions, Callum Turner as Newt's brother Theseus, Zoe Kravitz as Leta Lestrange, and especially Jude Law as Dumbledore are all very well cast and play their roles brilliantly.

As is the curse of these films, the writing is muddled, with far too much confusing plot happening, and it is chaotically edited. This movie also returns to Hogwarts where we see a young Newt and Dumbledore as the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, which is a pleasing sequence. However, the plots centered around Grindelwald and Queenie go haywire. So many bizarre choices are made, and we are left with a horrible mess.

Again, the potential of this world is squandered. The trilogy also seems to completely forget that it's supposed to be about magical creatures, and they become sidelined. Trying to cover the rise of fascism in the 1930s via Harry Potter was never going to work and absolutely should not have been attempted. Some lovely ingredients, mainly the design and the cast, are buried under some horrific script decisions and poor editing.

9. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)

The first of the "Fantastic Beasts" films retrospectively looks like a masterpiece compared to the fairly disastrous two movies that followed it. While the plot is busy with many characters to get our heads around, it is more streamlined than the confusing messiness that came afterward. Colin Farrell makes for a surprisingly great Grindelwald, and he sports one of the best coats in movie history. Eddie Redmayne's Newt was never really the main strength of this trilogy, but at least some of the beasts, including nifflers, bowtruckles, and the grumpy erumpant get a chance to shine here.

This "Fantastic Beasts" film deserves its Oscar for costume design and BAFTA for production design, and these two areas remain strong throughout the three films. The bank sequence, in which Newt first meets muggle Jacob (Dan Fogler) and Teddy the niffler is caught with half the contents of the vault in his pouch, is delightful. Newt introducing Jacob to the magical world and his Tardis-like suitcase full of beasts (each in their own climate and habitat) makes Jacob a good proxy for the audience, replacing Harry in the main franchise. The 1920s New York nightclub (but magical!) scene is another highlight.

While still lacking the sense of wonder and crucially, the attachment to the characters that the "Harry Potter" films have, this "Fantastic Beasts" movie is mostly coherent and does contain a few pleasing sequences.

8. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)

Coming in at a whopping two hours and 40 minutes, the main problem with the second movie in the "Harry Potter" saga is that it's just too long. Considering how much plot the later films had to pack in, it's mystifying that "Chamber of Secrets," which only has one main focus, is so long. It also sees the introduction of Dobby the house elf, who is very much the Jar Jar Binks of the franchise. To be fair, as this is the second film, there's still world-building to be done such as seeing how a magical home works in the Burrow. The flying car and the Whomping Willow is a charming start to this movie.

Kenneth Branagh's Gilderoy Lockhart is a very welcome addition, and he manages to be annoying in a funny way rather than irritating like some of the other "villains." The concept of a creature living in the walls of Hogwarts and occasionally coming out to stupefy students and eventually taking one into his lair is creepy. The possessed diary, which talks to Harry, will gain significance as a Horcrux in the last few films, and it's clear in "Half-Blood Prince" that Harry learns nothing from this experience.

There's nothing particularly bad about "Chamber of Secrets." It's just mystifying why they made it so needlessly long. The first two films have their own childlike atmosphere before things change gears significantly in the third movie, and they certainly have a nostalgic charm.

7. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)

The fifth "Harry Potter" movie is very much a mixed bag of good and bad elements. Gary Oldman's Sirius Black and Helena Bonham Carter's Bellatrix Lestrange are certainly highlights, and "Order of the Phoenix" has a strong finale that turns things around in the final 30 minutes. Unfortunately, much of the rest of the movie is concerned with Imelda Staunton's intentionally grating Professor Umbridge, and there are other annoying elements, including Snape probing Harry with the Legilimens spell, an elf called Kreacher, and a giant called Gorp.

The scenes set at the HQ of the Order of the Phoenix are among the best, but unfortunately, there aren't enough of them. David Thewlis' Lupin (one of the best characters in the entire franchise) makes a brief appearance. Daniel Radcliffe has cited his shared scenes with Oldman in this film as the moment he first started to feel like he was acting, and it's easy to see why. One of the greatest strengths of the franchise is that actors like Oldman and Alan Rickman in no way phone in their performances, and even if an esteemed actor only shows up briefly, they commit themselves fully.

With her line delivery of "itty bitty baby" burning into the audience's brains, Helena Bonham Carter makes an amazing entrance towards the end of "Order of the Phoenix." The death at the end of this movie is more devastating than the one at the end of "Half-Blood Prince." This is a good Harry Potter movie, just not one of the best.

6. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)

The fifth and sixth "Harry Potter" movies both have convoluted and confusing plots that must be hard to follow if you haven't read the books. The uninitiated might feel like they're treading water in bridging the gap between Voldemort's return at the end of "Goblet of Fire" and getting us to the two-part finale. While "Order of the Phoenix" and "Half-Blood Prince" tend to blur together, "Half-Blood Prince" deserves a higher place for a couple of reasons.

The annoyance that was Dolores Umbridge is gone, but she is replaced by Ron's even more annoying girlfriend Lavender Brown (who gets less screen-time, mercifully). Jim Broadbent's Slughorn is a welcome addition, even if the plot surrounding him is mostly nonsensical. Tom Felton gets his time to shine as a tortured Draco Malfoy, who has been ordered to kill Dumbledore. Katie Bell and the cursed necklace provide a genuinely scary moment in which she floats in the air, her mouth fixed in a silent scream. Harry and Dumbledore rowing through a lake full of Inferi (water-bound zombie-ghosts) is another creepy scene, but the real MVP of "Half-Blood Prince" is Bruno Delbonnel's cinematography, which gives the film the most distinctive visuals since "Prisoner of Azkaban."

While "Half-Blood Prince" is mainly remembered for its shocking ending, there are several sequences that stand out, including the Christmas attack on the Burrow. Don't overthink the plot too much. There's plenty of atmosphere to soak in.

5. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (2001)

For most fans, the most nostalgic attachment to any of the "Harry Potter" films surely has to be with the first "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone." The central trio are "itty bitty babies," we have the wonder of seeing locations like Diagon Alley and the Great Hall for the first time, and it has a proper autumn feel, aided by its November release (before later movies in the franchise became summer releases). John Williams' score (which is sadly missed after the first three movies) also adds a real sense of, well, magic.

The CGI is noticeably dodgy in the first couple of movies, especially in the flying and Quidditch scenes. It had improved significantly by the third. "Philosopher's Stone" gives a proper sense of the seasons passing during a school year, which got somewhat lost in the later movies. The Halloween feast being interrupted by the troll in the dungeon is a highlight, as is Ron and Harry playing wizard's chess at Christmas alongside carol-singing ghosts. The finale of the movie, a series of challenges (the giant plant, the flying keys) is also really fun.

"Philosopher's Stone" is a reminder of how far the central trio came from the first movie, and what an achievement it was to last for an entire decade, giving fans the satisfaction of following these characters through their teens. We also saw the cast evolve as actors. The first movie is still a sweet, heartwarming film for children.

4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011)

After an entire movie away from Hogwarts, the grand finale returns there for a spectacular battle involving a huge cast of characters and even stone statues brought to life. After three movies with nondescript scores, Alexandre Desplat steps in for the final two movies, which helps emotionally elevate them.

"Deathly Hallows: Part 2" involves a great scene in which Helena Bonham Carter plays Hermione-impersonating-Bellatrix to perfection. The giant white dragon bursting through the roof of Gringotts is a thrilling sequence. The battle for Hogwarts begins before we're even an hour into the movie and McGonagall saying, "Hogwarts is threatened! Man the boundaries! Protect us!" never fails to moisten the eyes. It's nice to see the whole Weasley family and the rest of the Order gather at Hogwarts as a last line of defense against the Death Eaters. The tears continue to flow as major characters are killed off, Ron and Hermione share their first kiss, and Harry brings his parents and loved ones back one last time for moral support. 

The seven-film saga builds to a final battle between Harry and Voldemort, and it doesn't disappoint. Snape's end may be controversial, but the way Voldemort is finally dispatched is fitting and beautifully rendered. The less said about the epilogue, the better, but the finale mostly sticks the landing.

3. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)

Commonly known as the "one with all the hair," the fourth "Harry Potter" movie is adapted from one of the longest books in the series and packs an awful lot of action. First, there's the Quidditch World Cup, then there's the Triwizard Tournament (which includes the Yule Ball). Fortunately, they didn't have time to include SPEW, as that would have been one subplot too many. "The Goblet of Fire" does a good job of introducing Robert Pattinson's Cedric Diggory and getting us to care enough about him to make the ending one of the most tragic of all the films.

The entrance of the Dumstrangs and Beauxbatons to Hogwarts is thrilling, and it's easy to imagine how excited the teens would be to see them descend upon their school. The three challenges that make up the tournament are well-paced and rendered brilliantly by Mike Newell, a director who manages to bring his personality to the franchise. The best one involves Harry deciphering a clue in the dragon's egg in a giant bath — with a little help from Moaning Myrtle (Shirley Henderson). He must then rescue Ron from the mermaids and grindylows in the Great Lake. The maze is also full of an eerie atmosphere, messing with the minds of the champions.

A couple of brilliant cameos come from Miranda Richardson as Rita Skeeter and David Tennant as Barty Crouch Jr. (with his creepy flickering tongue). "Goblet of Fire" is a great book adaptation.

2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010)

Sometimes the movies in franchises bleed into one another, so when one or two stand out as something different, it's to be celebrated. "Deathly Hallows: Part 1" takes place entirely outside Hogwarts, and is one of the saddest but most beautiful films in the saga. "Deathly Hallows" opens with Hermione removing her parents' memories of her, and it only gets more downbeat from there. 

The humor of having a large group of people all turn into Harry at the start is swiftly undercut by George Weasley (Oliver Phelps) having his ear severed and two significant character deaths. There are proper stakes, and these deaths mean something. Bill and Fleur's (Domhnall Gleeson and Clémence Poésy) wedding is another lovely moment, which is swiftly disrupted by "The ministry has fallen. They are coming." The bulk of the film sees Harry, Ron, and Hermione on the run in some of the most picturesque locations in Britain. You would not expect a Nick Cave song to provide a moment of sweet relief in a Harry Potter movie, but it does here. Another sad moment is when Harry finally visits his parents' graves. Godric's Hollow provides a genuine scare.

An undoubted highlight of "Deathly Hallows: Part 1" is "The Tale of the Three Brothers," rendered in stunning animation. Rhys Ifans is quietly devastating as Xenophilius Lovegood. Radcliffe, Watson, and Grint are at their best, and the gorgeously photographed locations make this film stand out from the rest.

1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)

Based on the best book in the series, the third film is the most distinctive of the entire franchise. It's mind-blowing that director Alfonso Cuarón squeezed a Harry Potter movie in between "Y tu mamá también" and "Children of Men," but we're all the better for it. There are fun flourishes from the book (such as the Knight Bus) and new additions for the movie, like the frog chorus and the sweets that make you roar like a lion.

With a steep and rocky descent down the mountainside to Hagrid's Hut and a new wooden bridge on stilts adding visual interest, the design and layout of Hogwarts are slightly different here. The enormous pumpkin patch and all the ravens make this the perfect Halloween movie. "Prisoner of Azkaban" sees the introduction of David Thewlis' Professor Lupin, who features in a scene with Harry set to the best piece of music in the franchise, "A Window to the Past." The Marauders (made up of Lupin, Oldman's Sirius Black, Timothy Spall's Wormtail, and Harry's father, James) is the best plot strand in the series, and to think we could have had a prequel centering on them instead of "Fantastic Beasts" is upsetting, to say the least.

While time travel and multiverses have become convenient ways to overcome plot snafus in superhero franchises, the time-turner works well here. With the best closing titles of all the movies and the best overall design and plot, "Prisoner of Azkaban" stands head and shoulders above the rest.