This week marked 18 years since the Battle of Hogwarts (within the world of the story) so now seems like a good time to rank all the Harry Potter books and films…
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
An enchanting beginning chapter of the series. Its whimsical tone – much more so than the other books – means it can sit comfortably alongside such children’s classics as Alice in Wonderland.
A very faithful rendition of the novel, with great casting choices – including the closer-to-the-text Richard Harris version of Dumbledore and the instantly loveable Hagrid as played by Robbie Coltrane.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Personal admission: this was the first Potter book I ever read which might help it jump up a few places. That said, the tightly-plotted story improves on the first to be a rollicking mystery/adventure.
Chamber is very much more of the same as the first film – which makes it all the more likeable in retrospect, after the changes the series would take later on. It’s close but this one just pips Philosopher to the broomstick.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
A popular choice for the best book among Potterheads, and it’s not hard to see why. The Marauders’ backstory and the time travel element in particular prove to be the highlights.
The most visually striking of all the films, though the stark change from the previous two is jarring. The newly-stylised look – plus the inclusion of werewolves, serial killers and dementors – make it less of a family film and more of a horror fantasy.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
To this reader, the deal with the Triwizard Tournament feels more tangential to the overall arc of the books than any other, even though it eventually results in Lord Voldemort’s return.
The first film that really struggles to adapt the – admittedly brick-sized – book to the screen and one which makes some annoying deviations. Gambon’s Dumbledore, in particular, is angry and frustrated a lot of the time, a far cry from the always collected headmaster of the novels.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
The length may be indulgent, but it isn’t a slog to read and effectively raises the stakes for the later books. It also introduces fan-favourite characters like Luna Lovegood and the series most despicable villain. No, not Voldemort…
The… interesting decision to turn the longest book into the shortest film of the series leaves the story feeling truncated. That said, Imelda Staunton as the oh-so-hateable Umbridge – yep, she’s the one I was talking about – is one of the franchise’s best casting calls.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
A grim and foreboding novel, but one with humour and romance in it too. Highlights include Voldemort’s fascinating backstory and the heart-wrenching ending. Dark times are a-coming…
An unpopular opinion, but this is one of my favourites of the film series. The plot doesn’t translate too well (with much of the book’s content removed) but the tragi-comic tone and the performances of the three leads – plus Gambon’s finest hour – make it one of the stylistically best adaptations of the books.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
JK saved the best till last here. A hugely shocking, entertaining and satisfying finale to the septology that does all you could have wanted it to do and more. The films are great, but nothing compares to the detail and skill of the novels.
The slower-paced road trip movie-esque first part is often controversial, but it does provide a suitable calm before the storm of its energetic sequel. Finally, the films learn to balance slavishly adapting the novel and intelligently inserting their own material. A brilliant duo to bow out on.
How do you rank the Harry Potter books and films?