I am currently working my way through another YA series, The Infernal Devices trilogy. So, taking a small break from that, but sort of sticking to the YA/fantasy theme I thought I would rank the HP books and films. I was mainly curious to see where I would place each one and what my reasoning would be. I am ranking the books and films separately.
I want to preface this ranking by explaining that both the books and film series are one of my absolute favourites. So, while certain ones are in last place in this order does not mean I don’t still love them.
7. Philosophers stone: This, I believe, is quite an unpopular opinion. When I was making this list, I didn’t think this book would come last, but I just couldn’t put it above the others. I think as a stand-alone it does a phenomenal job of setting up the story of Harry and the wizarding world, it’s magical and there are a lot of foreshadowing in this which illustrates how great the story is. However, the writing improves with each book, the tone shifts to a darker one later which I am just more of a fan of. Personally, I just couldn’t put any other book lower than this one.
6. Order of the Phoenix: There’s lots of things I love about this book. The ending is one of them. The scenes in the ministry are some of the best in the entire series. While I love long novels and intricate stories, I do feel OOTP is a bit too long. The middle felt as though it could have done with some editing. There are just one too many scenes with Umbridge reviewing classes. It does really drive the character home, but she’s so over-the-top dislikeable anyway, I just felt as though some of this could have been taken out and made the whole thing pacier. Also, the scenes with Cho and Harry, particularly at Madam Puddifoot’s, make me cringe.
5. Chamber of Secrets: This book still makes me shiver. It is, in my opinion, the scariest book. Not the darkest but the creepiest. The chilling voice Harry hears in the walls and blood threats on the walls. Not to mention the spiders. I also really love the idea of the diary and Tom Riddle’s teenage arrogance adds another nice layer to the villain. We are also introduced to the first Horcrux of the series, which has an excellent pay off later. Above all books, in my opinion, you get the feeling that Hogwarts isn’t safe. That the castle has elements not even Dumbledore understands. We get a small look into the history of the castle and its founders, which is fun. I also like the development of Draco in this book. Considering this is an early book, and the protagonists are twelve/thirteen, the theme of prejudice and race are prevalent. The reason it’s not higher is because the others are just so great.
4. Deathly Hallows: It’s a solid end to the story. It’s satisfying in some ways but heart-wrenching in others. It’s pretty hard to fault this book. I simply can’t put it any higher though because I am just never a fan of endings. They always feel a little too neat, too wrapped up, particularly in fantasy. It was for this reason I was not a fan of the epilogue. I think I would have preferred the ending without it. I can see why readers may enjoy it/crave it, as we saw these characters grow and overcome evil, some readers may want that catharsis of seeing the cycle complete (the protagonists sending their children to Hogwarts). In saying this I was still moved by this ending, so it clearly had the desired effect.
3. Prisoner of Azkaban: For a long time, this was my favourite. However, sections of it sort of annoy me now. One section being the time travel. Another being Ron and Harry’s treatment of Hermione. I understand it’s needed to display character growth and they are young, but Hermione is always right. That aside, I love this book. The introduction of Hogsmede makes me feel all cosy inside. Exploring more secret parts of the castle. The marauders map and the marauders themselves. On top of that, my favourite character is introduced in this one: Lupin.
2. Half Blood Prince: I love a villain. HBP was always going to be high on my list because we get so much of Voldemort’s backstory and I love it. Though Voldemort will never be the first villain I think of when listing great literary villains, this book works in showing his motives and the choices he made. I also really like the subversion of expectations we get in many parts of this book. We see Harry’s enjoyment of DADA dwindle and his like for Potions rise. I love the introduction of Slughorn and the slug club, it plays into the theme of growing up in this novel. The last chapters in this book are excellent and so gripping. The cave, the Inferi and obviously Dumbledore’s death. You really leave that book feeling for Harry. It’s up to him now, and while he’s not alone, he feels that responsibility. It fits so well that this is the last book they spend in school because everything really does change.
1. Goblet of Fire: For me this is simply the most entertaining book. I love the addition of the quidditch world cup and the Triwizard tournament. The introduction of the new schools and the Yule Ball. There’s also so many red herrings in this book. I remember reading it for the first time and being convinced that it was Bagman who put Harry’s name in the goblet. Even Ron not talking to Harry, painful as it is, allows us to see more of Harry and Hermione’s relationship which I enjoyed. I’ve talked about tone quite a bit and I think this one has the biggest tone shift of them all. That scene in the graveyard is excellent. It reintroduces Voldemort so well. I still get nervous reading it now. All the fears the books have been building on are realised and Harry is right in the middle of it. Cedric’s death is the first of many. “Kill the spare” is so simple, but it really illustrates the magnitude of Voldemort’s immortality. From the death eaters at the world cup, to the tasks, to the graveyard; the story in this book is so packed with action and tension. It comes as midway through the series and it just really sets the pace for the following books. I think this is another reason why OOTP is low on my list because it follows this one.
8. Philosophers Stone: I know. I’m sorry and I promise I don’t hate this story. Again, I just felt as though I couldn’t put it above the others. The feeling I get watching this film is pure nostalgia. Some of the special effects hold up, though not all of them. (Thinking of the Troll). Beyond that it just doesn’t really excite me anymore. This may be because I’ve seen it so many times, but I just think it’s not as exciting. The scenes I really enjoy are the Mirror of Erised scene and then down the trap door. I like the introduction to Quidditch. Oliver going through the rules and the lead up to the game, with the tense music you feel Harry’s nerves. I also think this film has one of the best scores in the series. Every piece is just so memorable. Again, I do love this film, I just think all the others are better.
7. Deathly Hallows pt. 1: I quite like this film and I’m not mad they split up the last book at all. Structure wise they did a good job of creating an arc with only the first half of the book. That being said, all the less exciting stuff happens in this half. I do love the scenes at the Malfoy Manor. And the part in Godric’s Hollow is super creepy. Unlike a few other deaths (mainly in pt. 2) they deal with Dobby’s death so well in this film, he is given an excellent send off that still makes me ball like a baby. I also have to mention the animation used for the telling of the Tale of the Three Brothers. It was such a beautiful way to tell the story, it looked straight out of a Henry Selick film.
6. Goblet of Fire: The film didn’t really stand a chance next to the book. There was just so much in that book it would need a 5-hour film to fit it all in. There are some things I think it does well, having the Durmstrang and Beauxbatons enter immediately allows the film to get to the inciting incident fast. Not to mention the Dumstrang arrival was just really cool! The cast is great. Mad-Eye, Cedric and Barty Crouch jr are particular highlights. I think they do a good job of the first two tasks. However, so much is missed out its hard not to feel cheated. The maze was completely changed. The world cup, I mean come on! So many fans were looking forward to seeing that. And in my opinion, the whole film is edited slightly strangely. It feels a bit choppy in places.
5. Half Blood Prince: Again, my favourite parts of this book were left out. I have put it above GOF because I think it does certain things well. I like the inky images when they do use the pensive. Although, if anything, this makes me sad that they didn’t include all the backstory scenes. The cinematography in this film is one of the best, maybe only second to POA. The cave scene, with the Inferi, was made for screen and translated amazingly in this adaptation. Tom Felton’s Malfoy got a lot more screen time in this, which was great to see. Daniel Radcliffe’s acting while Harry is using Liquid Luck is hilarious, and definitely a highlight of the whole series for me. They pushed aside a lot of the main plot here to make way for Harry and Ginny, Ron and Lavender and Ron and Hermione. I think these are important parts of the story but to heighten those and take away from the main antagonist’s back story, I feel, was a mistake. They also had the chance to really develop Ginny in this film and my god did they fail.
4. Deathly Hallows pt. 2: They did many things wrong in this film. The most frustrating being the death of Voldemort. But the battle of Hogwarts is epic. The scene where Harry, Ron and Hermione return to Hogwarts gives me chills just thinking about it. And the portrayal of Snape and his true part was brilliant. So many deaths are glossed over with a camera pan. (Tonks and Lupin deserved better). I know they were mid battle so it would have been difficult for Harry to grieve, he was simply in shock but just a little more time on the deaths would have heightened the emotion. Seeing George, Ron and Molly over Fred’s body is heart-breaking. The film starts with a bang as they infiltrate Gringotts, Hermione polyjiuced as Bellatrix. Helena absolutely nails Emma Watson playing Hermione playing Bellatrix. Wow, that’s confusing! They rushed over the explanations for both the master of the elder wand and the horcrux in Harry, leaving non-book-readers confused.
3. Chamber of Secrets: Often I hear people rank this as their least favourite film, which I can’t understand. I love this film. As a child I watched it on repeat on the weekends. I think it’s a great adaptation from the book. They really don’t miss much out! It has such an ominous feeling to it. Much of the film is cast in a dim/dark light with a slightly green hue adding to the doubt Harry is feeling about his morality. It has more Draco in it than most of the other which I enjoy. The spider scene is grim, but it’s supposed to be. Tom Riddle is well cast and the face off in the Chamber is excellent. The Basilisk holds up and is still pretty terrifying. I also think the casting of Kenneth Branagh as Lockhart was genius. Furthermore, who didn’t fall in love with Dobby!? (Okay, I’ll admit, he is a little annoying.)
2. Prisoner of Azkaban: I’m sure it surprises no one that this is high. It is arguably the most beautifully shot of all of the films, so aesthetically pleasing. Again, the casting for this (aside from the issue of age, but that was because they were casting off Alan Rickman, so I’m not too mad) is phenomenal. Oldman makes a great Sirius and Thewlis’ Lupin is fantastic and so likeable. I think the dementors were done well, so creepy. The shots in this film are sensational, you could take a still from almost any scene and it’s like artwork. They built Hogsmeade beautifully. Buckbeak was animated brilliantly and the quidditch games were kicked up a notch! The only real issue I have with this film again is the time travel. While I loved Harris’ Dumbledore and do think his portrayal was closer to the book version, I really enjoy Gambon’s version too. This is where he takes the reins and I think his darker, more pensive Dumbledore heightens the whole tone of this film.
1. Order of the Phoenix: I am unsure if this is an unpopular opinion or not, but this film is my favourite. Unlike GOB and HBP, it removed the right parts of the book. So much of the middle is made into a montage which works really well. I think there is a nice amount of humour in this one. They begin to set up Ginny’s character and provide quite a nice springboard for her, however this was totally missed in the next film. Imelda Staunton does an outstanding job of bringing Umbridge to life. I think the connection between Harry and Voldemort is done well. I love the introduction of Luna and the thestrals, it plays into the theme of loneliness and this comes back around in the end with Harry, during the possession scene, seeing how loneliness and the lack of love is Voldemort’s weakness. This was added into the films, but I really like it. It would have been nice to see a little more of Sirius and the Department of Mysteries in general, but again I think they focused on the right parts of the story in this film. One of the only things that makes me mad about this adaptation is not hearing Dame Maggie Smith say those four immortal words: “Have a biscuit, Potter.”
There you have it, thanks for sticking with it until the end!
These are my current opinions, but to be honest, they are always changing! Let me know if there’s anything you agree or disagree with! What are your favourites?
This is just the humble opinion of a Hufflepuff.