How do the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts movies stack up against each other? J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels revolutionized the world of literature throughout the 2000s, with characters and stories that defined a generation. In an increasingly digital age, every Harry Potter book release became a major event, dominating headlines around the world as both adults and children lined up to binge-read the young wizard’s latest adventure. While Rowling’s books became a money-making juggernaut in their own right, Harry Potter‘s reach expanded even further when Warner Bros. picked up the movie rights.
Harry Potter & The Philosopher‘s Stone released in 2001, 4 years after the book of the same name, and triggered a movie franchise that saw the central trio of Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson mature in front of the camera. The live-action adaptations proved as popular as the books, and the generally faithful series fully realized what many fans had been visualizing in their minds for years. The main series of Harry Potter films concluded in 2011, but with money still to be made, Warner Bros. set about adapting Rowling’s short charity spinoff release, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them.
There are no real duds in the Harry Potter movie franchise, certainly within the main series, but the movies do differ greatly in quality, with changing directors, an evolving cast, and certain books proving more popular than others all factoring into the franchise’s ups and downs. From worst to best, here is our ranking of all the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts movies.
10. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald (2018)
There isn’t an outright bad film in Harry Potter‘s film canon but if there is one to avoid like a vomit-flavored Bertie Bott’s bean, it’s the most recent effort and the second in the Fantastic Beasts series. Where the original Fantastic Beasts succeeds by moving away from the established story of Harry, Ron and Hermione and focusing on different aspects of the wizarding world, the sequel brings that spotlight right back, with Jude Law cast as a young Dumbledore against Johnny Depp’s Grindelwald. In many ways, The Crimes of Grindelwald was exactly what Harry Potter fans feared the first movie would be – a cynical cash grab with tenuous attempts to tie into the ever-popular main story. Up to 3 additional films are already in the pipeline, so fans can make of that what they will.
9. Harry Potter & The Chamber Of Secrets (2002)
Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets features some of the franchise’s most memorable moments, including Harry and Ron’s flying car being mauled by the Whomping Willow and the appearance of a young Tom Riddle in Harry’s fight against the giant Basilisk. In relation to the rest of the series, however, this second entry is somewhat forgettable and arguably the most expendable of the primary Potter series. The acting skills of the younger cast are still taking shape, and without the sense of newness the first film benefited from, The Chamber of Secrets lacks the major developments and gravity that would come later. Enjoyable enough to watch, Harry Potter‘s second offering doesn’t quite make the most of its considerable running time.
8. Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows – Part 1 (2010)
Adapting the final Harry Potter book for the big screen presented a problem – one film simply wasn’t enough to do justice to the abundance of story and drama that needed to be covered before the series bowed out but, realistically, there wasn’t enough material to warrant two full, feature-length films. Ultimately, this is the option Warner Bros. went for, and The Deathly Hallows – Part 1 suffers as a result. If there’s a sense that this penultimate release is merely a set-up movie for a much bigger climax, it’s because the first half of The Deathly Hallows is exactly that. Despite making the most of its assigned book chapters, this Harry Potter effort always holds back, and is forced to eke out half a book into a full movie. Other franchises would echo this tactic, with similarly disappointing results.
7. Harry Potter & The Order Of The Phoenix (2007)
Harry Potter & The Order Of The Phoenix is perhaps the most divisive in the series, with some ranking it among the best in the franchise, and others preferring a date with a Dementor than sitting through the fifth Potter movie. In fairness, trimming down the longest of Rowling’s books into one of the shortest movies in the main series was always going to be a thankless task, and it’s testament to director David Yates and screenwriter Michael Goldberg that nothing feels missing from The Order Of The Phoenix in live-action. Perhaps the underlying reason this particular film divides fans is that The Order Of The Phoenix represents a turning point in the overarching story; the moment Harry, Ron and Hermione stop larking around the halls of Hogwarts and start realizing the danger facing them. This shift in tone takes work, making The Order Of The Phoenix a necessary part of the Harry Potter story, but unfortunately not one of the most entertaining.
6. Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them (2016)
As alluded to above, there was an understandable air of skepticism around Rowling’s decision to let Warner Bros. continue the Harry Potter movie franchise and embark on a journey into entirely original territory. Thankfully, the experiment proved more worthwhile than the scant premise of the original Fantastic Beasts book would suggest. Eddie Redmayne puts in a charmingly adventurous performance as Newt Scamander, while moving away from Harry Potter and his constantly painful forehead finally allows for some major expansion within Rowling’s world. In particular, the threat of muggle (or, indeed, no-maj) society being exposed to the hidden world of magic carries enough weight without delving back into the darkness and danger of the later Potter films.
5. Harry Potter & The Philosopher’s Stone (2001)
For those seeking flawless performances and a watertight plot, Harry Potter & The Philosopher‘s Stone (Sorcerer in the U.S.) perhaps wouldn’t be recommended viewing. The fledgling cast are still honing their craft and this particular adventure is far more in the mold of a traditional children’s story than subsequent books would be. However, the first Harry Potter movie was charged with establishing the tone, characters and visuals of the entire series. Everything from the iconic Hogwarts design and the Harry-Ron-Hermione dynamic to the renowned performances of Alan Rickman (Professor Snape), Maggie Smith (Professor McGonagall) and Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid) stems from the achievements of The Philosopher‘s Stone. Later films would be more polished and tell stronger stories, but there are few better examples of visual world-building than the Christopher Columbus-directed debut Potter film.
4. Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince (2009)
Though Harry Potter & The Order Of The Phoenix struggled with the weight of turning the books’ initial jovial innocence into something darker and more expansive, The Half-Blood Prince reaped the rewards. Also significant is that Rowling’s sixth release is where the Harry Potter endgame finally comes into view, with the introduction of Horcruxes and the inception of Harry’s quest to vanquish Voldemort once and for all after annual disruptions to his high-school education. The Half-Blood Prince succeeds in mixing the traditional Hogwarts-based antics of yore with more realistic teenage drama and some big story moments. Dumbledore’s death is just as devastating here as it is in the book and the attack on the Burrow makes for one of the franchise’s best action scenes, ramping up the stakes ahead of the final chapter.
3. Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows – Part 2 (2011)
And what a final chapter it was. If Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows – Part 1 was somewhat of a slog, burdened with exposition, piece-moving and set-up, Part 2 was the antithesis of that, free to dive headfirst into an all-out clash for the ages, concluding the Harry Potter film series in epic fashion. The Battle of Hogwarts and Harry’s final duel with Voldemort are beautifully rendered into live-action and the film only eases the intensity to let its big emotional beats sink in. Snape’s demise is even more crushing than Dumbledore‘s and there’s a real sense that the central trio have reached the end of their growth, both in reality and with their characters. The Deathly Hallows – Part 2 likely wouldn’t have impressed to such an extent had Part 1 not taken one for the team, but the final movie makes full use of the freedom afforded to it.
2. Harry Potter & The Goblet Of Fire (2005)
As with its literary counterpart, a lot of stuff happens in Harry Potter & The Goblet Of Fire. Voldemort’s resurrection, dragons, Cedric Diggory, the Yule Ball, the Triwizard Tournament, the Quidditch World Cup. The fourth Potter story is responsible for so many of the franchise’s most recognizable and referenced moments and gets away with being so tightly-packed by virtue of the effective slow build that culminates in Voldemort’s return. While it may not be the final Potter story, The Goblet Of Fire feels like the end of Harry’s “Phase 1,” bringing everything from the past 3 films together and beautifully setting up the bigger battle to come. The Goblet of Fire is the grand, bombastic centerpiece of the Harry Potter franchise, overflowing with ideas that broaden the wizarding world, and the movie adaptation revels in having so much rich material to play with.
1. Harry Potter & The Prisoner Of Azkaban (2004)
In J. K. Rowling‘s original book series, The Prisoner Of Azkaban was the moment where Harry Potter evolved, and that plaudit is even truer of the film adaptations. “Darker” is generally the operative word when it comes to the third Potter offering and Alfonso Cuarón took the horror elements of the book (an escaped murderer, a werewolf, dementors) and brought them to life in vivid fashion. The Prisoner Of Azkaban was already considered one of the best of Rowling’s books, but it also lent itself more naturally to the cinematic realm. Casting Gary Oldman as Harry’s godfather, Sirius Black, was a masterstroke and David Thewlis’ Professor Lupin is one of the most tragic figures in the entire series, at least until the Snape reveal, while Radcliffe, Grint and Watson had all started to become genuine acting talents by this stage. Visually stunning, morally complex and genuinely frightening, The Prison of Azkaban remains Harry Potter‘s finest moment.
Key Release Dates
- Fantastic Beasts 3 (2021) release date: Nov 12, 2021
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Craig first began contributing to Screen Rant in 2016, several years after graduating college, and has been ranting ever since, mostly to himself in a darkened room. Having previously written for various sports and music outlets, Craig’s interest soon turned to TV and film, where a steady upbringing of science fiction and comic books finally came into its own. Craig has previously been published on sites such as Den of Geek, and after many coffee-drenched hours hunched over a laptop, part-time evening work eventually turned into a full-time career covering everything from the zombie apocalypse to the Starship Enterprise via the TARDIS. Since joining the Screen Rant fold, Craig has been involved in breaking news stories and mildly controversial ranking lists, but now works predominantly as a features writer. Jim Carrey is Craig’s top acting pick and favorite topics include superheroes, anime and the unrecognized genius of the High School Musical trilogy.