Before The Deathly Hallows begins the end of the Potter films, we decided to look back at the films, from their beginnings trapped within the pages of JK Rowling’s books to the emerging of an original identity on the screen.
1. The Prisoner of Azkaban 2004
In a near tie for first place, The Prisoner of Azkaban makes its way to the top for being the first Potter film to not only hold its own against the books, but break out from them and create an identity of its own. The first film to finally stylize the setting using clever cinematography, narrative rhythm and creative art direction came as a surprise to fans. It was much darker, more mature and more enthralling than the previous installments. See the opening scene that hints at masturbation for further proof. Much of this is attributed to director Alfonso Cuaron, who previously directed the Spanish youth sex odyssey Y Tu Mama Tambien before attacking this adaptation. Guillermo del Torro and Marc Foster turned down the project, fearing it was too happy and full of light. Luckily Cuaron found the gloom and realism even in the magical world of Hogwarts.
2. The Order of the Phoenix 2007
Just like The Prisoner of Azkaban redefined the way the Harry Potter world would be told and constructed, The Order of the Phoenix built on those changes, exploring what an even larger budget, larger sets and more visual effects could do for the story. David Yates was the perfect person to take over the rest of the series and handle the edge and seriousness the rest of the story had to offer. With a story drawing on really interesting themes like repression and rebellion, it’s about as fun and appropriate as it gets for a struggling-to-grow-up story.
3. The Half Blood Prince 2009
Though the story didn’t have a whole lot to offer in terms of what would happen with plot, it was still filled with the elements that made David Yates’s The Order the Phoenix so cherished. With intricate visual effects scenes and technical mastery, it looked like Harry Potter at its best. If only the film wasn’t so long and so slow paced, then the merits of Alan Rickman’s genius as Professor Snape and his plot with Potter would have made the film royal.
4. The Goblet of Fire 2005
Despite being lit with some of the best book material in the series, The Goblet of Fire seems to sidestep the plot of the series to go into a dim and nearly gothic setting that at times feels a bit of a drag. However, the darker tone of the film gives the young actors another chance to explore development in their characters they hadn’t had the chance to do yet in the other films. If nothing else it’s worth it to watch the bliss of Ralph Fiennes emerge as Lord Voldemort, even if it’s at the end.
5. The Sorcerer’s Stone 2001
The problem with the first two films of the series, particularly the first was that they were too faithful to the book to survive as films. Nearly three hours of little excitement and too young of a cast were too much to make this film anything better than stone cold.
6. The Chamber of Secrets 2002
Whatever gripes you had with the first film; you were likely to have with the second film. A safe adaptation and a safe sequel almost ruined the series’ potential to spread out and become its own in the movie world.