Harry Potter Books vs Movies – 20 Major Differences

Harry Potter Books vs Movies

It’s been ten years since the last Harry Potter movie was released, and over a decade since the final novel hit shelves, and yet Potter-mania has never been so alive. Fans still have enduring adoration for the ever-popular movie franchise, yet like us, are still bummed out that the movie adaptations were so different from the books.

Like with any book to film adaptation, there are many discrepancies between their plots, characters and scenes.

While we know it’s impossible to fit in every little detail (and we’re still huge superfans, either way), we have however, spotted some differences between the Harry Potter books and movies…

1. James Potter’s Legacy

We’re not gonna lie, Harry’s father seems like a bit of a jerk – if we were to judge him by the character presented in the films, that is.

The movies show James Potter bullying Snape and have him vaguely mentioned by characters who knew him.

There are some scenes where Harry’s parents appear by his side to motivate him and reassure us. Still, the books do a better job to convince us that James was a good chap by having Remus and Sirius explicitly tell Harry his father was an honorable, kind man.

2. Happy Deathday

In the second book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Nearly Headless Nick invites the children to his “death birthday” where Harry and his friends meet a string of ghosts.

This is a scene that is entirely abandoned in the movie, which is understandable since it isn’t vital to the plot. But still, it would have been fun to meet more ghosts, since the franchise didn’t exactly offer us quite enough of them.

3. Dudley’s Goodbye

A scene with Dudley saying goodbye to Harry in the very last movie was deleted, though it is still available to watch on the internet and present in the book for all to enjoy. In this particular scene, despite the many years of torment he inflicted on his cousin, a matured Dudley bids Harry goodbye and shakes his hand, seemingly remorseful.

Damn, we always wanted to forgive Dudley…or not.

4. Voldemort’s Past

As great as they are, the Harry Potter movies have a tendency to omit the backstories of important characters or only mention them in part. The books, on the other hand, are quite elaborate when it comes to understanding where even the most villainous protagonists’ motives come from.

Without justifying his deeds, Dumbledore shows Harry memories that take him back to Voldemort/Tom Riddle’s childhood. The novels widely dig into his family’s past, notably how his mother had given his father, a muggle, a love potion.

In the movies, the only interesting piece of Tom’s backstory we see is him being a rather disturbed child in an orphanage. Learning that Voldemort was born due to a love potion and finally understanding why was unable to love might have been appreciated by some movie fans.

5. The Prophecy

Another example of a poorly chosen omission in the Harry Potter movies is the exploration of the Prophecy. For something so essential to the whole overarching plot of Harry’s adventures, explanations about the Prophecy that have foreshadowed Voldemort either defeating his great opponent or being defeated by the latter are incredibly lacking in the movie.

In the Order of the Phoenix book, Dumbledore goes into depth explaining the importance of the Prophecy and how it binds Harry to the Durselys (more on that later) and why Neville Longbottom may have been the chosen one (more on that later).

Instead, the movie adaptation merely focuses on the “neither can live while the other survives” part of the Prophecy.

6. Peeves the Poltergeist

A mischievous and troublesome poltergeist in the books, sadly, Peeves is not present in the movies at all. A thorn in the feet of Hogwarts’ well-meaning staff members, Peeves never misses an opportunity to play pranks and make himself noticed.

Maybe his presence in the movies wasn’t vital, but we do think that seeing him at least once would have been quite fun. Like we said earlier, a few more ghosts would’ve been appreciated.

We’re totally peeved about that.

7. Learning the Patronus Charm

In the third novel, Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry takes several lessons to learn to cast the Patronus Charm, compared to the very few that he does in the movie. Although the film requires him to learn the Patronus Charm quite quickly for obvious reasons, it takes a while for Harry to master it in the source material.

8. Fred’s Death

In the books, Fred’s death is depicted as it happens – the sad moment occurs after an explosion in a fight with the Death Eaters during the Battle of Hogwarts. The Deathly Hallows Part 2 only hints at our favorite prankster’s passing when the battle is over and we see his family cry beside his dead body.

Indeed, watching poor Fred die such a death would have added even more emotion to an already-emotional roller-coaster of a movie.

9. Percy Weasley’s Betrayal

If you’re one who’s watched the movies, but not read the books, Percy is merely that ‘other Weasley brother’. All film fans know is that he’s a Hogwarts prefect and Head Boy who comes and goes throughout.

In the books, however, Percy Weasley betrays his family by taking the Ministry’s side when Voldemort returns, an allegiance that his relatives do not share at all. He even goes as far as to convince his family to cut ties with Harry.

The Order of the Phoenix movie, however, only brushes the surface of it, but never mentions this in depth.

10. Ginny & Harry’s Romance

The romance between Harry and Ron’s little sister makes much more sense in the books, as the characters are often seen interacting, at least enough to develop a real dynamic and chemistry.

In the movies, however, Ginny has far less screen-time (barely a few minutes each movie, particularly outside the Weasleys’ house) and Harry’s sudden infatuation with his best friend’s sibling towards the end of the saga doesn’t really make much sense.

Throughout the movies, he doesn’t seem much interested in Ginny beyond having respect for her as Ron’s baby sister. Throughout most books though, Harry’s hots for Ginny is often mentioned.

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11. Dumbledore’s Backstory

The movies barely give attention to Dumbledore’s backstory except for his brother’s brief appearance and his dead sister showing up in a painting.

For readers, this was a shame because the powerful wizard’s family drama in the book is explained in length – from his sister Ariana who suffered tremendous trauma and accidentally killed their mother, to Ariana’s accidental death in a duel between her brothers and Grindelwald.

The movies deprived us of this sad, fascinating backstory which was truly disheartening for book fans.

12. SPEW

Being intelligent and resourceful to the point of saving Harry and Ron’s lives many times over, it comes as no surprise that in the books, Hermione creates an organization to protect the highly-neglected and abused house elves in the wizarding world.

The organization called S.P.E.W (Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare), is a passion project that sees the beloved witch knitting socks and hats for the enslaved creatures.

Nothing unexpected from the best witch that ever lived. But a plot line that is completely erased from the movies.

13. Two Different Rons

Although Rupert Grint did an amazing job as the heartwarmingly awkward Ron Weasley, the books describe him very differently as far as his appearance is concerned.

Despite his well-adapted ginger hair, Ron is supposed to be much taller than Harry and Hermione (he seems to be about their height in the movies) and have freckles – features that Rupert doesn’t have.

Still, we couldn’t be happier about Grint’s work and we don’t think these details were essential at all.

14. Neville’s Destiny

Starting out as a clumsy, shy kid, Neville ends up playing an increasingly bigger, braver role as the books and movies unfold. Let’s not forget his most triumphant moment in killing the serpent, Nagini, one of Voldemort’s Horcruxes.

The books however, explore a different angle to Neville, one that follows the Prophecy. They hint that ‘the chosen one’ Prophecy could have applied to Neville as well as he was also “born at the end of July” and his parents had “defied Voldemort three times”, too (read the Prophecy).

It ended up being Harry, but Neville was just as fit for the role, something that the movies do not emphasize at all. At least he got his moment in the spotlight when he killed Nagini.

15. Hermione’s Hair

Another lighter, less important change in the movies is Hermione’s hair. The Sorcerer’s Stone adapts book-Hermione’s wild mane perfectly, which suited the introduction to our favorite know-it-all.

From the second movie onwards, however, Emma Watson’s hair is cut much shorter and appears more tamed.

We can’t exactly blame the movie’s hairdressers though, since shorter hair is quicker to style and really practical on a busy, tight schedule.

16. Argus Filch’s Backstory

In the movies, Argus Filch comes across as a grumpy old man whose only redemption trait is his love for his cat. Other than that, the movies don’t really give us much to chew on when it comes to this character.

The books don’t exactly give Argus a side-quest either, but they do brush upon the fact that he was born a powerless wizard – a Squib, or a child who was born without magical powers, despite having wizards as parents.

While this plot isn’t entirely important, it might have helped movie fans sympathize with Filch just a little.

17. “Your Mother’s Eyes”

“You have your mother’s eyes” is a significant line spoken by Snape in both the Harry Potter movies and novels. So, who in their right mind decided to cast an actress (who played Lily Potter) whose eye color (brown) was blatantly different from that of Daniel Radcliffe’s (blue)?

Not to mention neither of them even have the actual color that Harry and Lily are supposed to share – green.

The logical move after this casting should have been to abstain from having any characters tell Harry that he “had his mother’s eyes” when he so obviously didn’t. Talk about a movie mistake…

18. Rita Skeeter’s Ability

The notoriously unethical journalist of the wizarding world rarely appears in the movies and little is said about her, except that she is fabulously annoying.

The books, however, explain that Rita Skeeter is an animagus, or a wizard who can turn into an animal, in her case a beetle. This makes absolute sense and explains how she knows so much about the people she interviews – Rita only has to crawl anywhere to listen to conversations unnoticed.

Now that would have been a fun inclusion to see on screen.

19. House Points

“10 points to Gryffindor!”

Hogwarts’ famous ‘House Points’ that are awarded and withdrawn from each house depending on achievements or failures play a crucial role in the books, however they are only important in The Sorcerer’s Stone movie. The other films barely mention them at all and they no longer seem important in the students’ school year thereafter.

20. The Quidditch Cup

The wizarding world’s favorite sport is a huge part of the books, and many important events and character developments occur on the field (e.g. Harry’s weakness with dementors, learning the Patronus Charm, kissing Ginny in front of Ron). However, if we compare this to the movies, they are barely present, if not for a few minutes.

Clearly, the Harry Potter movies leave many details behind, but they are nonetheless just as enjoyable as the books in their own way. The franchise might not have become what it is today without the magical blockbusters, after all.

It’s safe to say we are forever grateful to J.K. Rowling for this wonderful world she has created – both on and off screen.

What did you think of these book vs movie differences? Would you say the books were better? Let us know in the comments and don’t be shy, it’s never too late to join the Pottermania!

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  • Maria Supplisson

    Maria is a screenwriting student at the London Film Academy with a Bachelors' degree in English & Creative Writing, blogger and storytelling-obsessed, from literature to TV shows, movies to documentaries. During her time at the London Film Academy, Maria wrote two short films that were produced by the school, one of which was showcased at the BFI for graduation, and she is now working on multiple projects from a short film to a play, while also translating articles from English to French about film, series, and celebrities for a London-based entertainment news agency. Unhealthily addicted to Game of Thrones lore.

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