Every Harry Potter (And Fantastic Beasts) Movie Ranked

Harry Potter movies ranked

by Ben Travis, Sophie Butcher |
Updated on

Few film franchises are as downright magical as Harry Potter and the surrounding Wizarding World. The classic adventures of Harry, Ron and Hermione, plus the ongoing exploits of Newt Scamander, have become generation-shaping fantasy favourites, providing thrills, charm and comfort for both new and returning viewers.

From Hogwarts to The Burrow, Diagon Alley to Hogsmeade, the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts films create a world that viewers can get lost in time and time again, packed with mystery-fuelled adventures, a loveable cast of witches and wizards (often populated with British acting legends), and epic good vs. evil showdowns.

But, what is the best Harry Potter film? Which movies passed their NEWTs, and which need to go back for remedial potions lessons? Team Empire assembled a crack team of aurors, magizoologists and Hogwarts professors to rank every film under the Wizarding World umbrella, voting for the most enchanting entries in the saga. Here’s the official order (of the phoenix).

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Every Harry Potter (And Fantastic Beasts) Movie Ranked

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald1 of 11

11) Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald

If it's not a total write-off, the second Fantastic Beasts proved disappointingly lacklustre. Eddie Redmayne still brings bumbling charm to unconventional hero Newt Scamander, there's a welcome (if all-too-brief) return to Hogwarts, and a top addition in Jude Law's magnetic young Dumbledore. Oh, and fleeting glimpses of baby Nifflers. But the real crime here is a lack of incident, Rowling's screenplay letting the wheels spin for too long as Johnny Depp makes his debut proper as wizard-supremacist baddie Gellert Grindelwald. The invocation of Wizarding Paris is grey and murky, a family tree twist proves both confusing and uncinematic, and one hero's surprise turn to the dark side feels desperately unearned. Still, in its closing minutes, Crimes Of Grindelwald delivers a shocking twist that should effectively sets up Fantastic Beasts 3.

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10) Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them

Without Hogwarts, the first Fantastic Beasts lacks the cosy familiarity of the main Potter saga. But it has its delights – introverted magizoologist Newt Scamander is a very different kind of leading man, one who prefers empathy to traditional acts of heroism, and Rowling's screenplay strikes up a fun new foursome with Tina and Queenie Goldstein and muggle baker Jacob Kowalski. The beasts themselves are cute too – the gold-pilfering Niffler and size-shifting Occamy proving particular favourites – though the film finds itself caught between being a zippy standalone adventure and the launching pad for a bigger, darker franchise arc. The Jazz Age New York setting doesn't quite dazzle as it should, and the demise of Colin Farrell's Percival Graves to make way for Johnny Depp's Grindelwald remains a disappointing downgrade. Still, Rowling provides a welcome thematic link to Potter in Ezra Miller's Credence Barebone, another magical orphan growing up without the love he deserves – with more dangerous consequences.

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9) Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets Of Dumbledore

Secrets Of Dumbledore had a tough job: the first Fantastic Beasts film out since J.K. Rowling became a controversial cultural figure, it also had cast departures and other tabloid troubles to overcome. Whilst it may not have set the box office alight, it's the strongest Beasts film so far – co-writer Steve Kloves helped develop a more cohesive, action-filled plot, Mads Mikkelsen is a major upgrade as the villainous Grindelwald, and it gave Jude Law's Dumbledore, arguably the best single part of the franchise, much more to do. Plus, the mystical Qilin might just take the crown for the most adorable fantastical creature yet? A match for any of the _Potter_s it ain't, but it's a solid threequel that sets the stage nicely for a fitting finale to the second Wizarding World saga.

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8) Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets

Just like its predecessor, Chamber Of Secrets is full of kiddie charm. Whether it's the flying Ford Anglia, the arrival of Dobby, or Kenneth Branagh's gloriously vainglorious Gilderoy Lockhart, it revels in all the fun of JK Rowling's second Potter novel – to a fault. The only real mark against Chamber Of Secrets is its mammoth length, clocking in at an unwieldy 160 minutes, bogged down as near every narrative detour in the book (the Deathday Party aside) gets indulged. Notably, it was the last film in the series to hew quite so slavishly to the source material. Still, Hogwarts has never felt warmer, the Chamber (and Basilisk) itself is impressively spooky, and we get Jason Isaacs sneering it up as Lucius Malfoy.

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7) Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone

Chris Columbus doesn't get enough credit, especially for his opening Potter movie. He set the template right here with Philosopher's Stone, conjuring Rowling's vivid world on the screen with loving care, attention, and child-like wonder. This is, appropriately, the most Amblin-esque Potter movie – one that captures the joy, the wish fulfilment, and, yes, the magic of a story about an unloved orphaned boy discovering he has hidden power and worth. And sure, the kids aren't total thesps, but the central trio of Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson are really sweet as Harry, Ron and Hermione. Right from the very beginning, Columbus gets so much right – the feeling of Hogwarts, the gleaming red sheen of the Hogwarts Express, the first trip to Diagon Alley – all sealed off with a lush John Williams score. The result is a film that's warmer than a roaring fire in the Gryffindor common room, a cosy and colourful foundation for everything to come.

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6) Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 1

Yes, it's the one with all the camping. But what Deathly Hallows Part 1 lacks in major incident, it makes up for with atmosphere – this is the most textured Potter movie, one afforded rare breathing space after the breakneck pacing of the last few entries, with plenty of time for characterisation. It's a rare example where splitting a book into two makes for a better adaptation – with that added runtime you really feel the futility of Harry, Ron and Hermione's unenviable quest, alone in the British countryside and unsure of exactly what to do next. Like the book, it suffers slightly without the narrative structure of a Hogwarts school year, but in pitching our central trio into the wilderness it has a wide-open epic quality that no other Potter film possesses. Plus, the animated Tale Of The Three Brothers sequence is gorgeously gothic, the Polyjuice Potion-enhanced Ministry break-in is loads of fun, and the Elder Wand finale makes for an eerie, epic cliffhanger.

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5) Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince

The penultimate Potter story – and the final Hogwarts-centric instalment – balances out the series' increasing darkness, as Voldemort rises back to power, with a rom-com-infused lightness as Harry, Ron and Hermione head into full-on hormonal adolescence. It makes for a slightly awkward mix at times, but there's still plenty to enjoy – Half-Blood Prince is almost a Hogwarts greatest hits set, luxuriating in Professor Slughorn's potions classes, more Quidditch matches, lusty exchanges in the Gryffindor Common Room, and the mystery of what exactly Draco Malfoy is up to in the Room Of Requirement. If the book's brilliant House Of Gaunt chapters are skipped over, director David Yates does a decent, if slightly rushed, job of the cave setpiece – the most spine-tinglingly eerie sequence of perhaps the entire book series – and that big climactic death is genuinely affecting. Minus 10 House Points, though, for the murky brown colour grading that aims for moody and ends up rendering the whole film a tad muddy.

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4) Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix

For the first half of the Potter saga, the Wizarding World marks an escape from Harry's miserly muggle life. But in Order Of The Phoenix, the first of his six (to date) films in the series, director David Yates collided the ordinary and magical worlds with thrilling results – the moment Harry and several Order members fly past London's Houses Of Parliament on broomsticks remains exhilarating. Michael Goldenberg's screenplay (the sole Potter script not adapted by Steve Kloves) takes the longest and most internal Potter book and turns it into a pacy adventure – one that expands the world gorgeously with the introduction of the Ministry Of Magic, that has a rebellious spirit in the creation of Dumbledore's Army, and boasts the series' most spectacular wizarding duel as Dumbledore and Voldemort duke it out in the final reel. Plus, Imelda Staunton is perfect as Dolores Umbridge – a pastel-pink bureaucratic baddie who's perhaps more hissable than You Know Who himself. Keeping what's necessary and stripping away the rest, Order Of The Phoenix is a top adaptation – even if we could really do without Grawp.

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3) Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2

It was all leading to this – and the final Potter film did not disappoint. Aside from the thrilling dragon-bound Gringotts escape in the first act, the majority of Part 2 centres around the Battle Of Hogwarts – the series' grandest-scale wizarding brawl in which hordes of dark forces descend on the castle, our beloved heroes are forced to fight back (in some cases to the death), and Harry, Ron and Hermione desperately search for the final Horcruxes and Hallows. A few bungled beats aside (Molly Weasley's big "not my daughter, you bitch!" moment feels thrown away), Deathly Hallows Part 2 is grand, mythical fantasy storytelling – and from Snape's story to Neville's heroic deed, it's not just Harry who gets the big moments. Unlike most Potter films, it could even do with being a few minutes longer, with some beloved characters killed abruptly off-screen. But for the most part, it's pure magic.

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Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban

It's not just the fact that it's based on one of the very best – and uniquely Voldemort-free – Potter books that makes Prisoner Of Azkaban so good. It's also that incoming director Alfonso Cuarón so exquisitely shakes up the look and feel that Chris Columbus established in the first two movies, injecting flair, quirks and an impish sense of humour into Hogwarts and its inhabitants. The genius device of Hermione's Time-Turner makes for a twisty, brilliantly structured final act, helping it stand out from the wand battles of other instalments – and the introduction of Sirius Black, the only living family Harry has left, provides an effective emotional strand that carries on to the fourth and fifth films, and beyond.

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1) Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire

The fourth Potter film is the most exciting of the lot – easily the most action-packed, with the Triwizard Tournament providing a parade of epic set-pieces. Dragons! Mer-people! A floppy-haired R-Pattz! Goblet Of Fire has it all, delivering a string of action spectaculars, each with its own distinct identity, at regular intervals. Four Weddings director Mike Newell has fun too with the romantic entanglements – cranking up the melodrama with the hormone-fuelled Yule Ball and Harry's crush on Cho Chang. And then there's that pivotal finale, the graveyard rebirth of Voldemort, that sets in motion everything to come in the final four films – a chilling sequence fraught with very real threat, Ralph Fiennes utterly menacing in his debut as the snake-faced uber-villain. Bonus points, too, for Brendan Gleeson who is impeccably cast as Mad-Eye Moody. The key disappointment remains that infuriating cutaway from the Quidditch World Cup match after so much build-up – but there are plenty of other action scenes to make up for it. This is the point that Potter began to grow up, without leaving the magic behind – the pivot on which the whole series hinges. In bridging the adventure stories of the early half of the saga with the Voldemort-centric threat of the later films, Goblet Of Fire remains the ultimate Harry Potter movie.

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