The Harry Potter franchise is a global phenomenon like few others. It’s been 13 years since the last book was released, nine years since the last movie hit theaters, and yet the IP is as strong as it ever was. Harry Potter is ubiquitous in the form of elaborate theme parks, Freeform marathons (RIP), video games, and of course the highly re-readable novels. This kind of longevity is rare, and it’s all to do with the quality of the story J.K. Rowling set out to tell over 20 years ago and the lush, tangible world she created.
But Harry Potter doesn’t begin and end with the books. As with anything that’s popular nowadays, Hollywood came calling rather quickly, and the first Harry Potter film was released a little over a year after Rowling’s fourth book hit the shelves. But in another minor miracle, the Harry Potter film franchise was able to maintain a level of quality rarely found in film series that stretch on past one or two movies, let alone eight.
The Harry Potter movies visualized what book readers had long fantasized about in their heads, and with the creative input and blessing of Rowling, they were able to evolve and grow just as the novels did, with four different directors bringing a variety of flavors to the series from film to film without sacrificing character, story, or continuity. It’s a magnificent accomplishment made all the more impressive by the fact that there’s not an outright bad movie in the bunch.
As the franchise remains as popular now as it was a decade ago, and with the films now playing on their new basic cable home at Syfy and USA and streaming on HBO Max, now seems like as good a time as any to revisit the Harry Potter films and rank them worst to best—a somewhat difficult task given the high standard of quality throughout.
A brief note before we begin, though: For the purposes of this feature, I’m evaluating each Harry Potter movie as a film first and foremost, not necessarily how it stacks up against its respective novel re: what was left out, what was added, etc.
With that said, let’s get started…