11 ‘Harry Potter’ Movies, Ranked (Including Fantastic Beasts)

harry potter movies ranked

For those who have been with the Harry Potter saga from the beginning, it’s hard to believe there are now 11 “Wizarding World” movies to watch. At this point it’s clear we’re well on our way toward never-ending, expanded universe territory.

There will be more Fantastic Beasts films; there will almost certainly be other spinoff projects; and at some point, inevitably, the core story will be told again, either through fresh films or a TV series (one season per year at Hogwarts, anyone?). 

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So, which chapter in this magical saga is the best? And which one isn’t as wizardly wonderful as the rest?

We’re spinning Hermione’s Time Turner and going back to relive every chapter from the popular movie series.

To properly honor the marvelous and enduring tale of the boy-who-lived, here’s a list of all Harry Potter movies ranked from worst to best.

11. The Crimes Of Grindelwald

IMDb Rating: 6.9/10

We know, this is pretty much everyone’s pick for the worst Harry Potter movie, or at least one of the worst two. That’s for the simple reason that it’s not very good. 

The whole film just feels…random. Goofy muggle Jacob Kowalski is thrust into a massive role for no apparent reason other than to provide misplaced comic relief; Zoe Kravitz’s Leta Lestrange exists primarily for audiences to gasp, “Did they say she’s a Lestrange!?” And the significance of the Credence character ramps up so much that it feels odd we wouldn’t have heard about him (or Obscurials) in the original series.

Although a pretty bad sequel, what works, however, is Jude Law’s portrayal of a younger Albus Dumbledore. Law simply floats into the Potter universe with that twinkle we all envisioned in Dumbledore’s eyes when we first read the books.

He’s everything we know Dumbledore to be: clever beyond measure, extraordinarily sure of himself, a little bit guarded, sad, and silly; he is also friendly and accepting, but somewhat prone to using people. 

For us, and with due respect to two wonderful actors in Michael Gambon and Richard Harris, Law’s Dumbledore is the best we’ve seen on screen. 

10. Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them

IMDb Rating: 6.9/10

For a lot of fans, Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them never had a terrific chance. We wanted to see the Wizarding World expand (or at least we accepted that it inevitably would), but the decision to base that expansion through an afterthought Care Of Magical Creatures textbook seemed – and still seems – extremely bizarre. 

It’s also a decision that led to a more kid-oriented series, in some respects. That’s not to say there aren’t some pretty dark aspects to this film, but let’s be honest: It’s about CGI creatures and selling Potter merch like stuffed Nifflers to kids. 

With that said, this movie is almost saved by Eddie Redmayne’s Newt Scamander. This was a unique challenge that Redmayne doesn’t get enough credit for.

Think about it: Newt was the first original cinematic protagonist to take form in the Wizarding World with (virtually) no foundation in the books. They had to craft a good guy out of nowhere, and they came up with a lovable and intriguing (albeit determinedly odd) hero. 

Our affection for Newt (and some of his cuter creatures) can’t quite save this film from the tenth spot though. Ultimately, the screwball Muggle antics, over-the-top CGI, and convoluted Obscurus plot-line turn the film into a bit of a mess – albeit a pretty tame and watchable one.

9. The Secrets of Dumbledore

IMDb Rating: 6.9/10

Lacking the awe and amazement of any of the Harry Potter movies, we’ve decided to rank this installment lower than any Potter flick, but higher than its two Fantastic Beasts predecessors. 

Although a significant improvement over its disappointing previous film, we have to criticize this movie for being somewhat chaotic and messy. Needless to say that after three films in the saga, we’re also still unable to connect with its characters (except Newt, of course).

While the occasional funny moments were giggle-worthy and the CGI and production value was mesmerizing, the overall entertainment of this movie was undeniably slacking. 

Kudos to Steve Kloves for doing a better job than J.K. Rowling as screenwriter and pat on the back to Mads Mikkelsen who took over Johnny Depp’s role as Grindelwald. But let’s admit it – the ‘secrets’ were underwhelming and the overall story was a bit of a humdrum…

8. The Chamber Of Secrets

IMDb Rating: 6.9/10

Chamber Of Secrets is one of the toughest films in the series to assess for a simple reason: It’s a pretty dark story, but the kids (and their audience) were still very young.

A lot of fans classify the early Harry Potter films as ‘the kiddie ones’, which makes perfect sense. They’re lighter and more carefree, and the actors are quite literally children (who haven’t really learned how to act yet). 

But when you think about the substance of Chamber Of Secrets, it’s more than fair to say it would be better served by the much darker tone of some of the later films.

Reminder: This is a story about the demonic echo of an evil wizard terrorizing a school with a giant snake and threats written in blood!!! 

It’s kind of ridiculously creepy – no matter how cute the kids are, how amusingly pitiful Dobby is, or how much Kenneth Branagh hams it up as Gilderoy Lockart (note: He does all of the hamming). 

Because of these jarring contradictions in premise, tone, and content, this movie feels a little lost. It’s caught between a kid-friendly presentation and a horror show foundation. Now, that’s not us suggesting that this should have been a full-fledged horror film.

But trusting the audience with a little more seriousness would have made for a better movie. 

7. Deathly Hallows Part I

IMDb Rating: 6.9/10

The whole project that is Deathly Hallows – from the book through both films – seems to be polarizing. There’s pretty much two or three books’ worth of material packed into the final novel, and in that sense splitting it up into two films actually made sense.

Or at least it would have, had the first film been used to really flesh out the chase for the horcruxes – which even in the book comes across as somewhat abrupt or rushed. 

Instead, this is a pretty faithful adaptation of half of the book, and the result is that it feels almost like a placeholder. Throw in the fish-out-of-water feeling of leaving Hogwarts, and it’s really just a bizarre movie within the series. 

Aspects of it are handled well enough: The kids give some of their best performances and the sense that the stakes have been upped in an almost World-War-II-movie way works pretty well.

Also, Dobby’s final scene is legitimately heartbreaking in a way that makes you want to join in the fight against Voldemort yourself. That’s not bad, in terms of setting up Part II

…. It’s just that setting up Part II feels like the whole point. 

6. The Goblet Of Fire

IMDb Rating: 6.9/10

This is without a doubt the strangest Harry Potter movie – largely because of when it takes place in the lives of the characters and the actors we had by then all come to love.

Director Mike Newell’s challenge was unique in that he had to depict the transformation of our lovable witch and wizard friends from little kids into confused teenagers (even if most of the characters would technically have been 13 in The Prisoner Of Azkaban). 

This task results in all sorts of bizarre scenes – a wizard rock show at the Yule Ball, and a whole sequence of kids getting a bit nastier and sporting “Potter Stinks” badges.

It also produces some off-putting or irritating stretches. Ron’s moodiness over Harry’s selection for the Triwizard Tournament is so angsty and petulant as to be annoying to watch, even if it’s fairly true to the book.

The chemistry between Harry and Cho Chang is so poor, it’s cringe-inducing; it’s lacking in the books as well, but there you can at least sort of be reminded of the awkwardness of a first teenage crush in a way that resonates.

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It’s really a weird watch. But you know what? Those early teenage years are pretty weird and embarrassing! To show what that time of life can be like within a Wizarding World story – and a particularly pivotal one at that – oddly seems like an admirable achievement.

Throw in some Triwizard Tournament sequences that are a blast to watch, a really fun performance by Brendan Gleeson (as Mad-Eye Moody), and a chilling introduction to Voldemort, and it’s a relatively strong installment. 

But come on….We couldn’t have watched a few minutes of the Quidditch World Cup? 

5. The Half-Blood Prince

IMDb Rating: 6.9/10

Despite taking place two years after The Goblet Of Fire, it’s Half-Blood Prince that really picks up the angsty-teenage-drama theme.

It’s another movie full of awkward romantic entanglements and confused relationships, but we’d argue this one pulls it off with a little more humor (even if Ron’s infatuation with Lavender Brown is more or less unwatchable).

The film’s humor also extends to Jim Broadbent’s casually absurd portrayal of Horace Slughorn – and comes to a head during a legitimately hilarious sequence in which Harry, high on “liquid luck,” leads Slughorn across the grounds to Hagrid’s hut after curfew. This sequence ends in a mini-scene that is simultaneously one of the weirdest and most powerful of the series.

As Hagrid mourns his deceased giant spider friend Aragog, Slughorn speaks over the body; the camera backs up, and we see Hagrid, Harry, and Slughorn, heads hanging, the Hogwarts grounds growing mistier around them as Nicholas Hooper’s score takes on a bittersweet, memorial tone.

It’s mostly meant to be funny (we think), and Slughorn is. But something about that last shot always feels like a final deep breath before we press forward to darker times and greater sacrifices to come. 

That’s really what Half-Blood Prince excels at overall. There’s a sense throughout the movie that the sun is being blacked out, and everyone is nervously trying to squeeze in a few last laughs.

Of course there’s plenty more going on: exposition of Voldemort’s past, Malfoy’s journey to becoming a Death Eater, Snape drama, Dumbledore’s intensifying tutelage of Harry, and so on. But it’s that overarching tone that director David Yates really nails.

4. The Order Of The Phoenix

IMDb Rating: 6.9/10

There’s a whole lot going on here – multiple major characters are introduced, and Radcliffe faces his most complex (and maybe most impactful) work as Harry. 

It’s not a film without flaws. Once again the romantic entanglements feel more distracting than enriching (the Harry-Cho thing just never comes close to working), and the argument can be made that Imelda Staunton is a little over the top in her portrayal of Dolores Umbridge.

She’s certainly effective, in that she’s both despicable and legitimately unsettling. But she’s almost too ridiculous, ultimately coming across like some unholy hybrid of Roald Dahl and Tim Burton villains

Other Harry Potter characters, however, work extremely well. Gary Oldman’s larger role serves to give us a real look at the endearing bond Sirius and Harry share in the books.

Helena Bonham Carter explodes into the series as the murderous psychopath Bellatrix Lestrange (who, more than in the books, really establishes herself as Voldemort’s most dangerous stooge). 

Two things in particular earn Order Of The Phoenix the fourth spot in our ranking of Potter movies, though. Firstly, it succeeds in upping the stakes and advancing the plot. Yes, Voldemort returns in Goblet Of Fire, but it was always book five that moved us from kids-growing-up toward kids-joining-the-old-war. This film gives us a good sense of that transition.

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Secondly is the duel between Voldemort and Dumbledore in the Ministry lobby. It could have gone any number of ways, but it wound up being a fun, fascinating, and scary scene all at once.

It’s also one in which we truly see demonstrations of these two wizards’ immense power (and the hint that Dumbledore might not be able to keep up much longer, which is essential as he passes the torch to Harry). 

3. The Sorcerer’s Stone 

IMDb Rating: 6.9/10

Come on. What’s not to love? Sure, it’s a lot more kid-friendly than the rest. Yeah, some of the effects (ahem, Voldemort’s face on Quirrell’s head) feel a bit dated. And of course the core cast is pretty raw. But it’s the film that built the Wizarding World in so many ways…

Really, it’s easy to forget what a tall task that was. But when this film came out in 2001, Harry Potter was already an explosive phenomenon around the world. Rowling’s books were selling by the tens of millions; lines had formed for midnight releases of Goblet Of Fire the previous year; the casting of Harry had been like something of a slow-motion reality show played out in magazine articles.

Chris Columbus used a cast of unknown kids to churn out an adventurous, charming, and wholly satisfying film that successfully met the hype.

Hogwarts was captivating, the score by John Williams was (of course) absolutely perfect, and the kids –despite being raw – were thoroughly endearing. It was a near-perfect start, and it will always hold a special place in the hearts of many fans. 

2. The Prisoner Of Azkaban 

IMDb Rating: 6.9/10

We think The Prisoner Of Azkaban gets a little bit too much credit because people recognize that Alfonso Cuaron is perhaps the ‘best’ director to have worked on the series (at least in terms of peak critical acclaim).

With that said, the near-consensus opinion that Prisoner Of Azkaban is a favorite film in the series is justified. It’s also one of the most faithful book-to-film adaptations.

From the perfectly crafted introduction of Sirius Black, to the much gothic tone of the film as a whole, this chapter truly nailed the atmosphere of the novel. It also fulfilled the mammoth task of making a smooth transition between the more innocent early installments and the darker, grittier adaptations to come.

Cuaron manages the challenge of the time-travel plot deftly. The climactic sequences of this story are basically repeated a second time, and in shaky (or just less creative) hands, that would have been exceedingly dull to watch. Cuaron makes it clever, gripping, and at times a little bit funny. 

More impressive though is the way in which Cuaron deepens the Wizarding World – not in the sense that we visit more locations, but rather that it’s all a bit more dynamic, feeling less like a film set and more like a lived-in environment.

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If we say that the first two films gave us a brilliant picture of Rowling’s world, Prisoner Of Azkaban gave that picture added dimensions. In doing so, it managed to advance the series toward more mature content – without dismissing or altering the foundation of the first two films. 

It’s also the film in which the kids – and we might argue Emma Watson in particular – really began to show what they could do. 

1. Deathly Hallows Part II 

IMDb Rating: 6.9/10

Here it is! The best Harry Potter movie – in our opinion, at least. Deathly Hallows Part 2 pleased most Potterheads across the globe and proved an efficient epilogue to the story we’d all grown up with.

There are tears, cheers, and oh so many nerves in this final goodbye to the franchise. It truly is one of the most thrilling two hours in the history of Harry Potter, there’s no surprise why it’s the highest rated Potter film on IMDb and one of the highest-grossing movies EVER!

Those who don’t love Deathly Hallows Part II tend to be thrown off, by the first few sequences of the film. There’s certainly something a little rushed about our three heroes coaxing the goblin Griphook to help them break into Gringotts.

From that point through the eventual return to Hogwarts, it does feel like the search for horcruxes is on fast-forward (which for the record is true in the books as well). 

Once Harry and Co. are back at Hogwarts though, this film takes on an epic quality that none of its predecessors matched – and which the material demanded.

The Deathly Hallows story fundamentally has enormous emotional payoffs: the final reveal with Snape, the wave of characters bursting onto the scene to defend Hogwarts – and the gradual, can’t-quite-believe-it realization by Harry that he might just be able to stop Voldemort.

Quite simply, David Yates brings these payoffs to life in astonishing fashion. The 60-ish minutes during which this film peaks will give you chills in a way the others just don’t. 

Start to finish, and on its own, Prisoner Of Azkaban is perhaps a more accomplished production. But when we consider the series in its entirety, and the highs that Deathly Hallows Part II hits, this is our pick for the top spot. 

Let’s just not talk about that epilogue. 

We’re not going to lie, ranking these movies from worst to best was certainly trickier than any Triwizard Tournament – they’re all so great! But there’s always going to be one film that outranks the rest.

What did you think of this list? Do you agree with it or would you have ranked the films differently? Join us in this Sorting Ceremony and let us know your ranking of the Harry Potter movies from worst to best!

This article was originally published in March 2020.

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Angela Stephanou

Angela Stephanou

Owner and chief editor of Tell Tales. Angela has a BA in Communications and oversees the content and strategy across Tell Tales, building an audience of pop culture junkies like herself. Her social media follows have more celebrities than real-life friends, music runs through her veins and she’d much rather be glued to her TV screen, piled under an array of snacks than go out on a Friday night. Angela’s guilty pleasure is watching cheesy reality shows like Keeping Up with the Kardashians, but she’s also a sucker for all things Marvel and DC - two entirely different worlds, we know.

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