The Harry Potter films: ranked

Semler at the Cinema features Brandon Semler’s thoughts on the world of film, including reviews, think pieces, previews and more.

By Brandon Semler

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of re-watching a series that has impacted my generation like no other pop culture relic. Not only do these films hold up magnificently well, but one could argue that their lessons become more and more relevant the older we get. 

The “Fantastic Beasts” sequel inspired the re-watch, and I was reminded of better times in the world of wizards and witches. I was also reminded of how impressive these films truly were; how many other series maintained such a level of quality (an improved quality in many instances for me) through seven sequels? The list is, indeed, VERY short.

Below, I’ve ranked the films from my least favorite to my favorite, though I should note that I am ultimately a fan of all of them. Watching these films was a blast; ranking them is another story. It’s like choosing between children. 

8. “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” (2005)

The last place choice was one of the easiest for me. “Goblet of Fire” is a very busy movie from start to finish, with some truly chaotic action sequences. The Yule Ball is a wonderful sequence, but there could have been more of it. It’s a film with too much to do in too little time. Status: Recommend 

7. “Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part  2” (2011) 

I know, I know, hear me out. “Deathly Hallows Part 2” flies through what was so delicately set up in “Part 1,” and sprints its way to the final climactic battle, which is an epic feat. I’m not suggesting that this film should have been four hours (maybe), but many important plot points are handled with ease and convenience. Status: Recommend

6.  “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” (2007)

David Yates’ first outing is an impressive one, as we get an introduction to what the series will be for the next three films. The final battle in the Ministry of Magic — namely Dumbledore and Voldemort literally fighting the elements — is spectacular. Status: Recommend 

5. “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Askaban” (2004) 

This film is the favorite of many and its easy to see why. It’s directed by auteur Alfonso Cuarón, features a wonderful performance from Gary Oldman and introduces some of the darker elements to the series in a digestible way. While the tone, for me, is sometimes inconsistent, its a terrific film. Status: Strongly Recommend

4.  “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” (2001)

This film is where the magic it is. If John Williams’ whimsical score and Chris Columbus’ colorful fantasy frames don’t send tingles up your spine, what will? The world building for everything falls on this film, and boy does it deliver. Status: Strongly Recommend

3. “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” (2002) 

“Chamber” does more of the what the first one did, while weaving in a fascinating mystery, and seemingly higher stakes for everyone. Status: Strongly Recommend

2. “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince” (2009)

As the series and the stakes build, Yates manages to descend the it further into the darkness, while holding on to a quirky sense of humor. The film captures the beauty and sadness of growing up, even in the most unique and grim of situations. The film moves quickly, and the ending proves to be one of the most powerful in the series.

1. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1” (2010) 

If “Half Blood Prince” captures the beauty and sadness of growing up, “Deathly Hallows: Part 1” totally lives in it. The film at times flows like a stage show, bringing the viewer uncomfortably close to its three protagonists. The film also captures the insecurities, emotions and fears of its characters in a way that few blockbusters do. This is a best case scenario of the classic studio “split-one-into-two” premise. We end up with a film that is entirely unique in pace, tone and format. 

Brandon Semler can be reached at, or on Twitter @BrandonSemler.

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