I’m Just Crackers about Cheese

Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit is the smashing feature length adventure for the Aardman pair that started it all. Apart from Gumby & Pokey, has there ever been a more brilliant claymation duo? Of course I’ve been a major fan of Wallace & Gromit ever since I was a lad. Created by claymation expert Nick Park, Wallace & Gromit are an absent minded, cheese loving inventor and his handy silent dog. Since stop-motion takes so much time, they only ever appeared in three shorts. A Grand Day Out is simple space fun, The Wrong Trousers has plenty of fast paced heist excitement, and A Close Shave offers massive sheep thrills. Yet they never made a movie. So the equally brilliant Chicken Run served as an experimental starting point. Eventually a feature length film was finally made in 2005.

The Curse of the Were-Rabbit is a wonderfully British comedy. So it’s a wonder Dreamworks wanted it to be more Americanized. The Britishness is part of the charm. In this adventure, Wallace & Gromit are animal control business Anti-Pesto. Their reintroduction is filled with Wallace’s signature Rube Goldberg inventions and Gromit’s ingenious pantomiming. But Wallace & Gromit aren’t alone in their endeavor. The movie was finally enough to give them a whole cast of hilarious townspeople. As Brits like Helena Bonham Carter and Ralph Fiennes join Wallace mainstay Peter Sallis. The Curse of the Were-Rabbit is a clever twist on monster movies. It’s a G rated vegetarian horror movie. When the annual giant vegetable competition comes up, Wallace & Gromit are tasked with weeding out the rabbit infestation.

Wallace gets a new love interest in the posh aristocratic Lady Tottington. And a villain in the hunting obsessed Lord Victor Quartermaine (and his vicious bull terrier Philip). In order to re-educate the rabbits, Wallace invents a way to get them off vegetables. It goes horribly wrong when rabbit DNA is merged with his own. Resulting in a mystery that reveals him to have transformed into a veg ravaging rabbit monster known as a were-rabbit. More time means more clever innuendos, sight gags, and impressive action that’s beautifully achieved through stop-motion. Which looked even better on the big screen. The Curse of the Were-Rabbit is the only claymation Best Animated Feature winner, the second from Dreamworks Animation, and another non-Pixar winner thanks to the lack of competition. I’m just crackers about Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.

Wallace & Gromit The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

Wallace and Gromit attend to Lady Tottington

We Must Skulk in the Shadows

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is a terribly demanding prequel that went to rubbish rather quickly. I wouldn’t called it Crucio to watch, but this is the weakest installment in the Wizarding World full stop. Warning signs came from J. K. Rowling gradually failing to understanding her own series. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to have her write the screenplay. Should’ve called it Fantastic Beasts and the Crimes of Grindelwald for consistency sake. David Yates’ usual visually effective direction and the dedicated cast at least make The Crimes of Grindelwald watchable. We begin well enough with the thrilling prison escape of Gellert Grindelwald. Regardless of ill-timed controversy, Johnny Depp made the dark wizard his own (even wearing that weird makeup). Bringing charisma to the infamous villain who tried to rule the Wizarding World decades before Lord Voldemort. Grindelwald’s crimes are intertwined with his once close friend Albus Dumbledore.

Unlike the simple approach of Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them, The Crimes of Grindelwald really leans into nostalgia. Jude Law effectively captures a young suit wearing Dumbledore. Then Hedwig’s theme builds up to the reveal of Hogwarts. Along with its students, Quidditch, and a Defense Against the Dark Arts lesson. McGonagall even appears despite not having been born at the time. One of a few direct contradictions Rowling establishes. She also starts a globe hopping gimmick where each film is set in a different world capital. This time it’s 1927 Paris, France. Although Newt Scamander and the Ministry of Magic of each country still play a part. Though searching for his lost creatures was fun, I fail to see the need for a magizoologist in a story like this. Newt wrangles a giant fiery feline Zouwu and rides a sea monster called Kelpie. We also see the rather crude looking Matagot cats and any beast seen prior. Jacob & Queenie are shoehorned back into the story with a lovers quarrel that somehow turns Queenie to Grindelwald.

Newt also faces his love for two women. There’s reinstated Auror Tina searching Paris for Credence and Leta Lestrange now engaged to Newt’s more successful older brother Theseus. Non-British Zoë Kravitz complicates the plot by playing a Lestrange. A family with a complex history featured in the Harry Potter franchise. The movie comes to a screeching halt just to explain an incident from Leta’s past. Dumbledore sends Newt to Paris to stay with immortal founder of the Philosopher’s Stone Nicholas Flamel. Newt & Tina infiltrate the French Ministry to find answers about Credence’s identity. Meanwhile, Credence & Nagini do the same. Though not a snake, Rowling made another controversial decision to introduce yet another creature called a Maledictus. Causing actress Claudia Kim to some day permanently transform into Voldemort’s trusted snake. The climax is simply Grindelwald making a speech to his loyal followers about the incoming World War II. Then obtaining further followers in a blaze of fire. The thought that this is just setting up future installments is both confusing and frustrating. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is making it really difficult to stay on board.

18. The Crimes of Grindelwald

Grindelwald gives a speech

Preceded by: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

A Case Full of Monsters

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is an undemanding look into the magical past of the Wizarding World. With Harry Potter ending its 10 year run with 8 movies, J. K. Rowling needed new ways to keep the franchise alive. Including the polarizing stage play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. As well as any information added to Pottermore. It only took them 5 years to realize they could pull a 5 part prequel series out of a bloody textbook. Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them is simply a field guide for all sorts of magical creatures. The lack of narrative meant J. K. Rowling forwent writing a book to write the screenplay instead. Since I watched all of Harry Potter before the prequels announcement, Fantastic Beasts was the first film I saw in theaters. Don’t expect any cameos, because this is 70 years in the past. Just the usual namedrops of Dumbledore or Hogwarts. Fictional British author of Fantastic Beasts Newt Scamander is just a magizoologist taking a trip to 1926 New York. Eddie Redmayne is the awkward Brit you get for a role like this.

The trouble comes when a magical suitcase Newt carries is opened. Letting loose all the fantastic beasts mentioned in the book. Each brought to life with dazzling CGI. There’s the adorable jewel obsessed Niffler, Newt’s faithful lock picking bowtruckle, mischievous camouflaged Demiguise, colourful size shifting Occamy, rhino-like Erumpent, deadly Swooping Evil, and magnificent golden Thunderbird. Among far more house-elves and a fully CGI Goblin. Catching all these creatures is the most enjoyable part, but a larger plot still needs to happen. Director David Yates is maintained, but unlike Harry Potter, Fantastic Beasts is a little too American with the setting that’s chosen. With Americans like Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Jon Voight, and Ezra Miller having their chance in the usually British series. Even Irish Colin Farrell plays American Percival Graves. Though the period setting did earn the franchise its first Oscar for Best Production Design. Everyone Newt encounters is an old fashioned New Yorker.

The American wizarding community is a bit less creative with names like No-Maj instead of Muggle. This sets up a fun dynamic where aspiring baker No-Maj Jacob Kowalski steals the show when Newt fails to Obliviate him. Leading to the involvement of the American equivalent of the Ministry MACUSA. Specifically former Auror Tina Goldstein trying to win her job back. Her bombshell mind reading Legilimens sister Queenie complicates things when she falls for the No-Maj. They’re also facing a “Second-Salem” movement that risks to expose the Wizarding World. As a devastating magically repressed Obscurus makes it harder to hide. When all beasts are found, Newt and his new friends Jacob, Tina, and Queenie face the Obscurial revealed to be “Second-Salemer” Credence Barebone. The magical clash reveals Graves to have been monumentally important dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald all along. Oddly played by Johnny Depp in weird makeup. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a fine monster hunt with an okay backstory to tell.

17. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Newt spots a fantastic beast

Followed by: Fantastic Beast: The Crimes of Grindelwald

Let’s Finish this the Way We Started it, Together!

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 is the finest possible conclusion to the epic franchise. After 7 books, 8 movies, and 10 years, it was finally time to finish this the way we started it, together. With J. K. Rowling’s final book more packed than a single adaptation can cover, Part 2 became the true end to the successful film series. I wouldn’t say I regret missing out on the craze, but it would’ve been fun to see it in theaters in 2011. Surrounded by screaming fans. The Deathly Hallows – Part 2 was so big that it became the third highest grossing film of all time. As well as the best reviewed Harry Potter film, with a glowing 96% rating.

Although campaigned for Best Picture, it only secured nominations for Best Art Direction, Makeup, and Visual Effects. There’s no way I could stay away from the franchise for longer than 3 years. Like most grand fantasy conclusions, Harry Potter’s journey ends with a major battle. The Battle of Hogwarts sees Harry face Voldemort once and for all. Director David Yates and every major cast member returned as Warner Bros. went out with a bang. With top notch acting, dramatic stakes, and magical Shakespearean grandeur, Part 2 really is the best in the franchise. SPOILER ALERT! for all will be revealed…

15. The Deathly Hollows Part 2

Harry Potter vs. Lord Voldemort

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 covers the remaining 200 pages of the 607 page book. Yet it still feels like a complete and satisfying conclusion. Part 2 continues to be faithful to The Deathly Hallows without sacrificing what the movie’s have accomplished on their own. Unlike most film’s, a quick recap brings us up to date before the pitch black Warner Bros. logo and stormy title card appears one final time. After Dobby is buried, the trio hastily decide their next move. They’re staying at Bill & Fleur’s house with the rescued Griphook and Ollivander. John Hurt returns to the role after a full 10 year absence. As Ollivander is needed to identify the wands Harry’s obtained. One belongs to Draco Malfoy and the other to Bellatrix Lestrange. When they realize the latter was particularly nervous about an item in her vault, they waste no time hatching a plan to infiltrate Gringotts bank. That’s where Griphook comes in.

Although Verne Troyer physically portrayed the goblin in The Sorcerer’s Stone with Warwick Davis providing the voice. This time it’s entirely Davis as dedicated to the franchise as always. Griphook agrees to the plan in exchange for the Sword of Gryffindor. The only weapon against a Horcrux that they’re aware of. Ron disguises himself as a Death Eater and Hermione uses Polyjuice Potion to disguise herself as Bellatrix. Helena Bonham Carter perfectly captures Watson’s mannerisms. Harry and Griphook hide under the Invisibility Cloak as they enter Gringotts. Using Imperio on a goblin, they’re taken to the vault on the coaster-like minecart. The albino Gringotts’ dragon guards the high security Lestrange vault. In it lies Helga Hufflepuff’s cup. The fourth Horcrux hidden in a vault filled with magically duplicating treasure. Griphook double crosses them by leaving with the Sword before they have the chance to destroy it. How do they escape? They fly of course. While on the back of the Ukrainian Ironbelly, Harry, Ron, and Hermione escape. Creatures like this really go to show how far the series has come with its CGI.

Harry receives another Voldemort vision that confirms the next Horcrux to be in Hogwarts. The Sword then disappears in the midst of Voldemort’s carnage. After apparating to Hogsmeade, the trio are welcomed by Albus Dumbledore’s estranged brother Aberforth Dumbledore (played by Ciarán Hinds). He continues to make Harry question everything he knows about his late mentor. Including a strain left by the passing of their younger sister Ariana. Though Aberforth is key to the survival of Dumbledore’s Army. After a full film without it, we finally return to Hogwarts. A much darker place thanks to Severus Snape taking over as Headmaster. The portrait of Ariana hides a secret passageway where the trio is greeted by their dear friend Neville Longbottom. Who really stepped up in their absence. Matthew Lewis went from chubby and bucktoothed to a surprisingly handsome badass. Though the books likely do a better job of representing that.

Dumbledore’s Army is all accounted for with each student given their due. Harry reveals the next Horcrux to be affiliated with Rowena Ravenclaw. Crucial Ravenclaw members Cho Chang and Luna Lovegood figure it must be her diadem tiara. Harry (and Ron) are also awkwardly reunited with Ginny after months of seperation. Snape gathers all staff & students to the empty great hall where he threatens anyone that aids Mr. Potter. Harry appears for the final time in his school robes to berate Snape and reveal the Order of the Phoenix has joined the fight. Snape draws his wand, but it’s Minerva McGonagall who engages in a duel. After her only absence in the franchise, Maggie Smith shines with her most brilliant McGonagall portrayal yet. Voldemort casts a threatening message promising to spare those who release Harry Potter to him. Pansy Parkinson of Slytherin house of course accepts the deal. Leaving McGonagall to finally instruct Argus Filch to send Slytherin to the dungeon.

After a much needed welcome back, McGonagall then performs the Piertotum Locomotor spell to bring the armed Hogwarts statues to life. Leaving the teachers and Order to cast a shield around the school. The Battle of Hogwarts brings back nearly every living witch or wizard. Including Professors Slughorn, Sprout, Trelawny, and Flitwick, Madame Pomfrey, Oliver Wood, the entire Weasley family, Fleur Delacour, Dean Thomas, Lavender Brown, Kingsley Shacklebolt, and Remus Lupin joined by his wife Nymphadora Tonks. All played by the corresponding actors who’ve portrayed them from the start. Known pyrotechnic Seamus Finnigan has a more important role with Neville to set explosive charges on the bridge to Hogwarts. As the rest of Hogwarts panics, Luna tells Harry he needs to seek answers from someone who’s dead. The Grey Lady ghost otherwise known as Helena Ravenclaw now played by Kelly McDonald. She angrily reveals the tarnished diadem to be in the Room of Requirement.

Meanwhile, Ron & Hermione seek to destroy Helga Hufflepuff’s cup in the Chamber of Secrets. When they realize the Basilisk fang was strong enough to destroy the first Horcrux. Ron somehow learned Parseltongue from listening to Harry and he lets Hermione destroy it. Though not as character driven as the book describes, Ron & Hermione’s first snog is nevertheless a long awaited perfect moment. Even if Watson & Grint felt more like siblings at this point. As the barrier is destroyed, all manner of Death Eaters invade the castle and unforgivably set fire to the Quidditch pitch. It’s an epic clash where non-verbal spells truly come in handy. Even creatures such as trolls, giant spiders, werewolves, and Dementors take part in the Battle. In an impressive effort to bring everything full circle. Harry reunites with Neville (who’s now lovesick for Luna) and he shares one more passionate snog with Ginny. Draco returns to Hogwarts to pluck Gregory Goyle and Blaise Zabini from Slytherin. Although there from the beginning, Vincent Crabbe doesn’t appear due to his actor getting himself arrested.

They follow the trio into the Room of Requirement where Harry has just found Rowena Ravenclaw’s diadem. Malfoy and friends corner Potter, but Harry reasons that Draco can’t be entirely evil after he didn’t reveal him to Bellatrix. Goyle is more ruthless when he accidentally sets the room on fire. The trio escape on brooms, but Harry shows his character by saving Draco and Blaise (Goyle isn’t so lucky). As Harry stabs the diadem, a final kick into the burning Room of Requirement destroys the fifth Horcrux. Another vision of Voldemort reveals the final Horcrux to be Nagini herself. The trio finds Voldemort at the boat house with Snape. He surmises that Snape must die in order for the Elder Wand to work properly. Snape’s throat is slit and Nagini is ordered to finish him off. Harry aids his fallen Professor who supplies him with tears for Dumbledore’s Pensieve before asking to look into Harry’s eyes. In the most shocking reveal of the entire franchise, Snape is revealed to have been good the entire time. He fell in love with Lily in his youth and despised James for gaining her affections. Then Snape worked closely with Dumbledore who asked Snape to kill him and secretly look out for Harry. All for Lily Potter, whom Snape will “Always” love.

Thanks to Rowling, Alan Rickman knew from the start how to play Snape. Making this the finest performance of his career. Harry realizes the awful truth that his survival as “The Boy Who Lived” means he is in fact a Horcrux. Voldemort allows the Battle to cease long enough for the dead to be mourned. Harry walks through a devastated Hogwarts. Finding George’s twin brother Fred Weasley dead and surrounded by his emotional family. As well as a dead Lupin & Tonks nearly holding hands. There’s barely any time to process it before Harry realizes he needs to face his death. Harry discovers the Resurrection Stone hidden within the Golden Snitch. With it, Harry speaks with his deceased loved ones. His parents Lily & James, Lupin, and Sirius Black all give words of encouragement. Though a captured Hagrid pleads Harry to leave the Forbidden Forest, Harry makes the ultimate sacrifice by dying for his fellow wizards. With a swift Avada Kedavra, Voldemort sends Harry to a heavenly King’s Cross station. Where a piece of Voldemort has just died with him. Michael Gambon appears one final time as Dumbledore to insight his words of wisdom before Harry. Though conflicted, Harry is resurrected to fight once more.

The religious debate may continue, but I can honestly say I wasn’t expecting so much Christian symbolism. Narcissa Malfoy covers for Harry after asking him if Draco is alive and Hagrid tearfully carries Harry’s body into Hogwarts. Ginny cries out in anguish as all of Hogwarts is devastated by the loss. Draco’s parents bring him to their side and Voldemort awkwardly hugs him. Neville steps forward with a speech in defiance of Voldemort and the Sorting Hat which hides the Sword of Gryffindor. Ralph Fiennes continues to steal the show when Voldemort is left dumbfounded by Harry leaping from Hagrid’s arms to finish this once and for all. Neville is stunned, but retaining the Sword, Draco, Lucius, and Narcissa leave like cowards, and Ron & Hermione try to kill Nagini. Molly Weasley even protects her daughter in a cheer worthy fight against Bellatrix Lestrange that rightfully kills her. The final duel of Harry Potter vs. Lord Voldemort takes them to every corner of the castle. Until they end up outside with their wand streams locked in a moment built up from the beginning. Nagini strikes, but it’s Neville who saves the day by killing the final Horcrux.

Harry’s spell disarms Voldemort who finally dies a cloud of ash. Draco disarmed Dumbledore, then Harry disarmed Draco. Meaning the Elder Wand belonged to Harry all along. Harry concludes the hectic year 7 by appreciating those who survived the Battle. The trio come together once more to witness Harry destroy the all powerful Elder Wand (instead of return it to Dumbledore). 19 years later, the colour returns for a satisfying epilogue at Platform 9¾. An aged Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Bonnie Wright, and Tom Felton see their character’s children off to the Hogwarts Express. Harry & Ginny have three children, Ron & Hermione have two children, and a softened Draco has one child. Harry’s son Albus Severus Potter has doubts about Slytherin, but Harry encourages him one last time. Ending with a satisfying shot of Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger. Followed by the signature Hedwig’s theme. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 is a triumphant way to end a 10 year journey.

16. The Deathly Hollows Part 2

Harry, Ron, and Hermione in the Battle of Hogwarts

Preceded by: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1

These are Dark Times

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 is the first conclusion in a major franchise to split into 2 films. Starting a trend that other young adult book adaptations saw the potential in. Though the decision wasn’t entirely motivated by money. The final epic novel in the Harry Potter franchise was so complex that one movie would have simply been impossible. J. K. Rowling wrote The Deathly Hallows as far away from society as possible. With major spoilers under lock & key, the finale became the fastest selling book of all time. Even with the increased fan mania, I continued to stay away. Though the news of a 2 parter did peak my curiosity in 2010.

The Deathly Hallows was still filmed simultaneously with David Yates continuing to bare the burden. They may be the same with the darkest Warner Bros. logos to date, but both parts are highly distinguishable. Part 1 is the only Harry Potter movie not set in Hogwarts. It’s a road film that sees Harry, Ron, and Hermione on the run to hunt down Horcruxes. I’ll admit I prefer the school set up, but it was necessary to cover all important information. Even with the lowest percentage of the series (77%), Part 1 is a sophisticated drama with its PG-13 rating rightfully restored. SPOILER ALERT! for the home stretch…

13. The Deathly Hollows Part 1

Harry rides with Hagrid

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 covers approximately 407 pages of the 607 page book. Creating a much more faithful adaptation. The benefit of making 2 movies for 1 book. Moments may feel a bit stretched at times, but it’s all worth it in the end. The only flaw was the inclusion of elements from the book that previous movies failed to acknowledge. While Rowling encouraged filmmakers to include vital pieces of information, some things were forgotten. Like the two-way mirror Sirius Black gave Harry or the thieving Mundungus Fletcher. I was confused due to my lack of book knowledge, but that didn’t keep me from enjoying the first half. Part 1 is an intense PG-13 that very nearly ended up R. As newly instated Minister for Magic Rufus Scrimgeour declares in the opening, these truly are dark times. Bill Nighy might as well play a part before it’s too late.

What follows is our trio preparing for the hardships that lie ahead. Ron cautiously waits at the Weasley Burrow, Hermione makes the heartbreaking decision to obliviate her Muggle parents memory, and Harry silently watches the Dursleys leave for good. Although a deleted scene does reveal Aunt Petunia admitting to missing her sister Lily and Dudley redeeming himself by apologizing to Harry. How that was cut is beyond me. Then the nearly pitch black darkness returns with a haunting meeting by the Death Eaters. With Harry’s 17th Birthday spelling the end of his protection, Severus Snape informs Lord Voldemort of Harry’s long awaited departure from Privet Drive. Voldemort intimidates everyone in the room. Including an increasingly disheveled and disgraced Lucius Malfoy as the Dark Lord requires his wand to kill Harry. The Death Eaters successfully plan to overthrow the Ministry of Magic in order to further police all Muggle-borns. Voldemort seals his wickedness by feeding the Hogwarts Muggle Studies teacher to his snake Nagini.

Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger have all become fully realized young adults. I’m sure some fans feel this way about Daniel Radcliffe (and possibly Rupert Grint), but this was the year I really noticed how attractive Emma Watson is. Though I’m sure I would’ve had a crush had I grown up with the movies. Everyone is certainly more Hollywood pretty than Rowling likely intended. After one final stroll through his childhood home, Harry is greeted by his best friends and the Order of the Phoenix. There’s Ron & Hermione, Hagrid, Fred & George, “Mad-Eye” Moody, Remus Lupin, his wife Nymphadora Tonks, Fleur Delacour, her fiancé Bill Weasley, and the previously unseen Mundungus Fletcher. Bill is fully featured with Domhnall Gleeson playing the part opposite his father. Book details are hinted at with Bill’s Fenrir Greyback scar and Tonks & Lupin mentioning their son. Hagrid comes full circle by taking Harry away on his flying motorcycle complete with sidecar.

Some levity comes as Ron, Hermione, Fred, George, Fleur, and Mundungus disguise themselves as Harry using Polyjuice Potion. The rest of the Order take their decoy Harry’s by broom through a tense Death Eater ambush. Sadly, Hedwig is tragically struck down defending Harry. Leaving him temporarily vulnerable to Voldemort. Except Harry’s wand narrowly manages to hold off the Dark Lord. As George is horribly injured and Moody is killed off-screen, Harry has enough of people dying for him. Luckily Ron is around to snap him out of it. Some peace comes as the wedding of Bill & Fleur is held at the Burrow. Harry even gets in a quick snog with his true love Ginny. Before the wedding, Harry, Ron, and Hermione are visited by Scrimgeour reading Dumbledore’s will. Ron is given Dumbledore’s deluminator that was fortunately seen at the beginning of The Sorcerer’s Stone. Hermione is given the (eventually written) wizard children’s book The Tales of Beedle the Bard. And Harry is given the Golden Snitch he caught in his first Quidditch match.

The Sword of Gryffindor is also bequiffed despite being missing. Each item has significance, but the wedding leaves Harry with some questions about Dumbledore’s mysterious past. Among Hagrid’s old flame Madam Maxime and Hermione’s old flame Viktor Krum, are Luna and her equally eccentric father Xenophilius Lovegood. Effectively played by Rhys Ifans and bearing a mysterious symbol. Kingsley Shacklebolt eventually sends a Patronus informing everyone that the Ministry has been overthrown. Leaving the trio to apparate on their own to London in order to begin hunting for Horcruxes. Part 1 is entirely focused on the harsh reality of the magical trio left to their own devices. Following any clue they have about the whereabouts of the remaining Horcruxes. Hogwarts isn’t seen, but a band of Ministry employed Snatchers (that place a Taboo Curse on Voldemort’s name) raid the Hogwarts Express. The only time we see students such as Neville. Harry is fully dedicated to his impossible task. Hermione is useful as always with her superior spell casting skills and Mary Poppins handbag. Ron is mostly useless, but don’t count out his deluminator.

After a caffe duel with Death Eaters, they follow Harry’s fake R.A.B. locket to the Black headquarters. They realize the initials refer to Sirius’ estranged brother Regulus Black. Kreacher shows his importance when it’s revealed he failed to destroy the real locket. Leaving the equally important Mundungus to steal it. Kreacher leaves to retrieve Mundungus and returns with none other than Dobby the house-elf. A longstanding book character who hasn’t been seen since The Chamber of Secrets. So Dobby’s CGI is now on par with Kreacher. Unfortunately, the locket is now in the hands of Dolores Umbridge. Who’s unsurprisingly part of the Death Eater controlled Ministry. Harry, Ron, and Hermione infiltrate the Ministry using Polyjuice Potion to disguise themselves as employees. By comically transporting through a toilet, they each search the Ministry for Umbridge. Disguised Ron is sent elsewhere, disguised Harry searches her office, and disguised Hermione attends a Muggle-born hearing for the wife of Ron’s disguise.

It’s satisfying to see Umbridge stunned by Harry, but the thrilling escape and evasion of Dementors leaves Ron’s arm brutally splinched by an apparating Snatcher. The locket can’t be destroyed by mere spells, so the best Hermione can do is shield them from Snatchers as they camp out in the forest. A lot of time is dedicated to camping that spans across several months. The locket can be weakened when worn, but like the One Ring, it has wicked repercussions on the wearer’s psyche. The locket, seeing Hermione with Harry, and fear of losing his family causes Ron to lash out in an unfortunate outburst. Leaving Harry & Hermione to go on without him. Their mutual bond and out of nowhere dance are the closest they’ve ever been. Making yet another futile argument for their romantic pairing. Only the Sword of Gryffindor can destroy a Horcrux. So after intense visions of Voldemort, Harry decides to visit his birthplace at Godric’s Hollow. Harry & Hermione share a somber Christmas at the grave of his fallen parents.

Historian Bathilda Bagshot takes them to Harry’s birth home, but it’s all a trap. Bathilda is really Nagini trying to kill them in a particularly creepy fight sequence. They apparate back to the forest after Hermione accidentally breaks Harry’s wand. It seems insignificant, but when is anything ever. Hermione identifies the wizard in Harry’s visions to be the monumentally important Gellert Grindelwald. Who tells Voldemort the whereabouts of the equally important Elder Wand. A doe Patronus alerts Harry to the Sword of Gryffindor beneath a frozen pond. Ron finally returns to rescue Harry, who opens the locket using Parseltongue. After dark visions of Harry & Hermione berate and snog in the nude, Ron finally destroys Salazar Slytherin’s locket for good. The only Horcrux destroyed in Part 1.

Hermione is understandably peeved at Ron, but he reconciles by revealing Hermione to be the light he followed back to them. The purpose of Dumbledore’s deluminator. Harry only realizes it’s his mouth that can uncover the Snitch’s secrets. While Hermione’s Beedle the Bard book comes in handy for tracking down the meaning behind Xenophilius Lovegood’s symbol. He reveals them to be the titular Deathly Hallows. Legendary Wizarding World objects believed to be myth. Hermione reads about them in “The Tale of the Three Brothers.” Which is visualized in a brilliant animated sequence. Death himself gifted the three brothers with the Elder Wand (I), Resurrection Stone (O), and Invisibility Cloak (Δ). Each object holds deathly significance, but it’s still the Horcruxes that are most important. Xenophilius betrays the trio to Snatchers in order to save a kidnapped Luna.

Leaving them to flee in the forest until their inevitable capture. Hermione disguises Harry’s face, but they’re still taken to the never before seen Malfoy Manor. When Draco doesn’t identify Potter, Bellatrix viciously tortures Hermione for information. Harry & Ron are imprisoned with Luna, Ollivander, and Griphook the goblin. Using the mirror, Dobby apparates to the rescue. Though Peter Pettigrew is left with an unknown fate, Harry & Ron come to Hermione’s aid. Harry disarms Draco, but it’s Dobby who nearly maimes Bellatrix before apparating everyone. Though it may just be half a movie, a wounded Dobby dying in Harry’s arms is still quite devastating. Made worse by Voldemort raiding Dumbledore’s tomb to retrieve the powerful Elder Wand. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 just made it personal.

14. The Deathly Hallows Part 1

Harry, Ron, and Hermione escape

Preceded by: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince & Followed by: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2

Avada Kedavra

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is truly the calm before the storm. I’d even call it the most well balanced film in the entire series. Mixing prolonged darkness with an almost normal school year. So despite being 6 movies deep with a notable shift towards PG-13, The Half-Blood Prince is rated PG once more. Even I thought that was quite odd despite not viewing the movie in 2009. Supporting my theory that only movies with Lord Voldemort are deemed worthy of the higher rating. The Half-Blood Prince is a book that J. K. Rowling mapped out years in advance.

The release of the final novel 2 years prior meant fans need only sit back and enjoy the Warner Bros. adaptation. As such a pivotal part of the series, The Half-Blood Prince stepped up its game with better drama, performances, humor, and a dark brownish colour palette that earned the film an Oscar nod for Best Cinematography. David Yates was worth holding onto afterall. In his sixth year, Harry Potter accepts his role as chosen one and learns more about his archenemy. It’s the installment that contains the biggest plot twist in the entire franchise. One that non-readers needed to stay away from. SPOILER ALERT! for the twist alone…

11. The Half-Blood Prince

Harry learns more about Voldemort from Dumbledore

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince isn’t absurdly lengthy like the previous 2 books, but it was trimmed down nonetheless. This time it was changes that made Harry and friends feel more like genuine young adults. As well as a decrease in Ministry involvement. Thus The Half-Blood Prince opens with Death Eaters in the middle of attacking Millennium Bridge in the Muggle world and kidnapping Mr. Ollivander in the Wizarding World. Another notable Death Eater is shown in the form of vicious werewolf Fenrir Greyback. As well as Severus Snape himself! He’s visited by Bellatrix Lestrange and her sister Narcissa Malfoy. Mother to Draco and played by Helen McCrory who was originally meant for Bellatrix. Turns out Voldemort has selected Draco to perform a secret mission at Hogwarts. Should he fail, Snape must complete the mission for him. They use the magically binding Unbreakable Vow as a contract.

With his growing maturity, Harry is not seen with the Dursleys once more. Rather he’s seen in a Muggle café where he asks out a random black Muggle waitress. Then Dumbledore makes a dramatic entrance to wisk Harry away. The first time we see wizard apparition in a more extensive way. The magical teleportation will come in handy later on. After playing Dumbledore for 4 movies, this was when Michael Gambon really got it right. Striking the right balance between comforting and commanding. It’s this year that a nostalgic Dumbledore really takes time to get to know his young wizard ally. He takes Harry to the overturned house of Horace Slughorn. A purely academic former Slytherin potions professor that Dumbledore needs to refill his position. Although shady in his unknown connection to Voldemort, the often comedic Jim Broadbent fills the role. He’s the last of the great British thespians to join the franchise. Although unclear as usual, Dumbledore specifically asks Harry to get to know Slughorn.

After Delores Umbridge told too many lies, Severus Snape finally became this year’s Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. A jinxed position that always spells trouble for whomever fills it. Dumbledore drops Harry off at the Weasley family Burrow where Ginny is first to notice Harry’s supplies and Hedwig. Although Daniel Radcliffe doesn’t think much of his performance, I believe he’s just as brilliant as before. While Rupert Grint finally got that Quidditch subplot. After not being seen for years, Quidditch uniforms have been altered with improved broom riding effects. Emma Watson was very hesitant to return, but thankfully it was a passing thought. With Fred & George already graduated, they appropriately open their own magical joke shop in Diagon Alley. Nearby on Knockturn Alley, Draco suspiciously enters a shop with a group of Death Eaters. Although Draco has been relegated to being more pathetic than threatening in his last 3 appearances, Tom Felton finally gets to be cruel again. As he secretly uses a Vanishing Cabinet to complete his mission.

Harry’s suspicion leads him to Invisibility Cloak himself in the Slytherin carriage of the Hogwarts Express. In what is perhaps his cruelest act, Draco uses Petrificus Totalus on Harry with the intention of leaving him on the train under his cloak. Thankfully Luna is there to help with her fancy 3D spectrespecs. She even painfully fixes Harry’s nose for him. Of course Luna’s Gryffindor mascot hat is memorable as well. Harry & Ron intend to slack off more this year, but McGonagall persuades them to retake Potions class. It’s there in Slughorn’s class that Harry finds a textbook belonging to the titular Half-Blood Prince. Slughorn teaches the class all about death and love positions. Harry surpasses even Hermione with the notes left by the book’s previous owner. Slughorn’s prize is a bottle of Felix Felicis or “Liquid Luck.” Unlike the book, any question about the identity of the Half-Blood Prince is severely downplayed.

With a far more laid back feel to the sixth year, everyone has time to put their love lives in order. The tension felt between Ron & Hermione reaches its apex as they share many charming moments. Hermione’s sass is the best in this installment. She secretly helps Ron when he tries out for Quidditch Keeper, but it’s love starved Lavender Brown who nabs Ron for herself. Leaving pigheaded upperclassmen Cormac McLaggen to go after Hermione. Lavender is a bit whiter than before with a sole interest in snogging Ron. With Hermione actually crying over Ron’s new relationship, she finds comfort in Harry. I’d be lying if I said I don’t ship them, but it’s not meant to be. Although girl’s like Romilda Vane crush on Harry, it’s Ginny Weasley whom he really begins to fancy. The seeds have been planted from the start. Bonnie Wright may not always leave an impression, but I believe Harry & Ginny’s relationship well enough. The problem is her relationship with Dean Thomas. A relationship left almost entirely off-screen. Save for the trio witnessing a snog while drinking a butterbeer. A drink I’ve only tried in soda form.

Trouble rears its ugly head when Harry, Ron, and a drunken Hermione find Katie Bell cursed by a necklace intended for Dumbledore. McGonagall hilariously lampshades this by pointing out that it’s always the usual three. Harry & Hermione use Slughorn’s private Slug Club supper to get closer to the professor. Then again in a Christmas party where Harry settles for taking Luna and Hermione settles for taking Cormac. Snape continues to hide his deal with Draco, but Harry continues to suspect something. Christmas break is spent at the Burrow where Order of the Phoenix members Lupin & Tonks come to visit. Their sudden romantic relationship will likely leave you confused if you haven’t read the book. Harry & Ginny also get closer, but protective brother Ron literally comes between them. The biggest book change is the addition of Death Eaters attacking the Burrow. It adds tension and a false sense of security to the mostly sparse action. It also strengthens Harry & Ginny’s bond as they both fight off Bellatrix & Greyback.

With the increase in Death Eater activity, it’s finally time for Harry to learn more about the unseen Voldemort. Dumbledore’s very important Pensieve also holds memories to Tom Riddle’s past. The young Albus Dumbledore met the creepy child Tom Riddle at an orphanage. His wicked tendencies made him powerful, but Hogwarts made him a model student. Until his fascination with death led to him asking too many dark questions as a teenager. Slughorn is the key to a memory he wants to bury. Harry’s chance comes when Ron comically eats powerful love potion laced chocolates meant for Harry. Slughorn offers him a cure, but continues to deny Harry answers. Like Katie, Ron is poisoned by a celebratory bottle of mead meant for Dumbledore. The incident at least helps an incapacitated Ron proclaim his need for Hermione in front of Lavender. As the staff stands around watching the teen drama. Dumbledore talks about young love, but him retroactively being gay is never addressed. The necklace and mede links back to Draco who is cornered in the bathroom by Harry.

Their duel is long awaited, but it ends horribly when Harry uses the unknown Sectumsempra spell he found in the Half-Blood Prince book. Despite being PG, the spell causes Malfoy to bleed from his chest. Snape heals Draco and no consequences come of it. Instead Ron, Hermione, and Ginny decide Harry needs to get rid of the book. The newly cluttered Room of Requirement is the best option. It’s where Harry & Ginny finally share their first snog. With nothing left to lose, Harry uses his Liquid Luck to get answers from Slughorn. Lucky Harry is plenty of fun when he saunters off to meet Slughorn doing his shady academic business. Hagrid’s biggest moment is him mourning the loss of his beloved pet Acromantula spider Aragog. Slughorn finally loosens up enough to pluck out the memory Dumbledore needs. It reveals how Slughorn answered Tom Riddle’s questions about Horcruxes. The reason the twisted Voldemort was able to stay alive for so long.

A Horcrux stores part of a person’s soul to keep them from dying. The process requires murder and an object of value. Tom Riddle’s diary from The Chamber of Secrets was a Horcrux that Harry unknowingly destroyed. As is Marvolo Gaunt’s ring that Dumbledore already sacrificed his hand to destroy. Dumbledore finally asks Harry to join him in finding Slytherin’s locket in a spooky far away cave. The locket is under a liquid potion that causes horrible pain. Harry must force Dumbledore to drink it all. Unfortunately the locket was really a fake left by R.A.B. Zombie-like Inferi surround the wizards, but Dumbledore unleashes his full power in a swirl of fire. Their return to Hogwarts brings back the darkness as Draco disarms Dumbledore, vowing to kill him. Death Eaters enter through the Vanishing Cabinet, but Draco is too cowardly for his mission.

Leaving Snape to utter those haunting words, “Avada Kedavra.” The third major heroic death of Albus Dumbledore is the biggest in the franchise and they really do the scene justice. Bellatrix trashes Hogwarts and cruelly sets fire to Hagrid’s hut. A furious Harry tries to fight Snape, but he’s no match for the Half-Blood Prince. Alan Rickman only got better with each passing film. With no time for a funeral, witches and wizards of Hogwarts hold up their wands in respect for their fallen Headmaster. McGonagall tries to comfort Harry, but all he wants to do is distance himself from everyone. Ron, but especially Hermione ensures that will never happen as they conclude year 6 with a desperate Horcrux search as their biggest concern. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince successfully gave the famous boy wizard his greatest challenge yet.

12. The Half-Blood Prince

Harry, Hermione, and Ginny support Ron’s Quidditch tryouts

Preceded by: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix & Followed by: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1

We Fly of Course

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix deals with the fallout of years past in the most grown up way yet. The continued PG-13 rating, blackened Warner Bros. logo, and dark blue colour palette make that perfectly clear. The Order of the Phoenix is the longest book J. K. Rowling has written. Yet the movie is the shortest in the franchise (as a one movie book adaptation). Thus usual screenwriter Steve Kloves was briefly replaced by Michael Goldenberg. All eyes were on the fifth year story since it was the first book released in the midst of the film franchise.

Then all eyes were on the movie since plot details were telling about the soon to be released final book. My eyes weren’t on the fifth film in 2007, but I did take notice of the increasingly dark tone. Harry deals with the return of his mortal enemy Lord Voldemort and how to fight back against him. The fourth and final director appointed to the franchise was the British David Yates. The least decorated director, yet the only one to stay on board for the remainder of films. The strongly political themes used in his TV work made him perfect for the position. SPOILER ALERT! for those who can’t see the Thestrals…

9. The Order of the Phoenix

Harry and Luna see a Thestral

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is a 766 to 870 page book condensed into a 2 hour & 19 minute movie. Not having read the books, I imagine fans were the most upset by the large chunks of story removed in this adaptation. True, reviews aren’t as glowing as the rest of the films, but I believe it works as a purely entertaining action-filled political thriller. The biggest difference from the book is the removal of Quidditch. As well as the unseen Wizarding World hospital St. Mungo’s. Book characters like Rita Skeeter, Gilderoy Lockhart, or Dobby continue to be left out, but another house-elf was too important not to use. Other characters like Draco Malfoy are severally reduced. All to make room for Harry’s increasingly dark journey. Although The Order of the Phoenix actually begins in a sunny park where Harry is harassed by his cousin Dudley. This is the first time Harry Melling has appeared since The Prisoner of Azkaban and the first time he’s spoken since The Chamber of Secrets. It’s been so long that he needed a fat suit to hide his weight loss.

After insulting Harry, the sky is permanently darkened with the reappearance of Dementors. They suspiciously attack Harry & Dudley in the Muggle world. Leaving Harry to cast an unauthorized Expecto Patronum charm to save his cousin. Harry’s neighbor Arabella Figg rescues the boys and reveals herself to be a Squib (Wizard-born without magic) sent by Dumbledore himself. After the Dursleys decreased importance, Uncle Vernon & Aunt Petunia return as well. This time to relish in the fact that Harry has just been expelled from Hogwarts. From a Howler letter sent from the Ministry of Magic. We know that’s not going to stop Harry from attending his fifth year. The solution arrives in the form of the titular Order of the Phoenix. A secret organization founded by Dumbledore to fight Lord Voldemort and his growing band of Death Eaters. Harry is rescued by familiar faces such as Remus Lupin and the real “Mad-Eye” Moody. As well as new faces like Ministry Auror Kingsley Shacklebolt and shape-shifting Metamorphmagus Nymphadora Tonks.

George Harris stands out for his “Dumbledore’s got style” line. While Natalia Tena stands out for her colourful hair and hinted at depth. It’s times like these that knowing the books helps a lot. Otherwise subtle nuances will go over your head. There may not be Quidditch, but at least there’s a brilliant broom flying escape in full view of clueless Muggles. They arrive at their secret headquarters hidden between a block of houses. Harry is greeted by the rest of the Order including Arthur & Molly Weasley. As well as the godfather he hasn’t seen in years. This is Sirius Black’s family house afterall. Of course Hermione, Ron, Ginny, Fred, and George are already there. Arthur escorts Harry to his hearing at the Ministry of Magic in London. After years of build up, we finally see the Ministry in all its magically bureaucratic glory. The heavier political theme meant the clever introduction of stylized moving newspapers to cut through the red tape, so to speak.

Minister for Magic Cornelius Fudge refuses to accept Voldemort’s return. Thus his unnecessary hearing for Harry’s minor offense. Dumbledore arrives to defend Harry, but he strangely keeps his distance for the entirety of Harry’s school year. Harry’s problem this time is his growing anger, visions of Voldemort, and feeling of isolation. Hence Harry’s short haircut. Draco only antagonizes Harry once as he’s leaving the Hogwarts Express. It’s mostly his friend Seamus who antagonizes Harry for worrying his mother over Voldemort’s unproven return. Harry may feel alone, but he finds a friend in new Ravenclaw student Luna Lovegood. My personal favorite character in later installments. Her wide-eyed quirkiness is just so infectious. Newcomer Evanna Lynch is spot on in the role. Although even Hermione thinks she’s looney, Harry nevertheless shares the connection of death with her. As witnessing death is the only way to see the winged skeletal Thestrals that pull the Hogwarts carriages.

When Dumbledore officiates the year, he announces the increased meddling of the Ministry of Magic. After “Mad-Eye” Moody turned out to be Death Eater Barty Crouch Jr., Ministry member Dolores Umbridge became this year’s Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. Umbridge is a real witch with a capital ‘B’ and by far the worst professor to ever hold this position. Only someone as acclaimed as Imelda Staunton could pull off the gaudy amount of pink worn by such a despicable character. Her corrupt political hold on Hogwarts and clear hatred for children are what make her sometimes worse than even Lord Voldemort. Since she spreads the lie that Voldemort hasn’t returned, Umbridge’s Dark Arts lessons show no practical defensive learning. Rather more focus on studying for fifth year O.W.L. exams. Her dictator-like grip comes from her increase in school rules that take all the fun out of the experience. Filch is unsurprisingly on her side as he nails rule after rule on the Hogwarts walls.

Umbridge’s most evil actions are making Harry discipline himself by writing in his own blood and banishing Professor Trelawney in front of everyone. Thankfully McGonagall stands up to her on multiple occasions. Dumbledore puts his foot down, but it’s clear that Umbridge is after his headmaster position. With no other options available, Harry, Ron, and an uncharacteristically enthusiastic Hermione form the secret group Dumbledore’s Army. For students who require defensive training for the impending battle ahead. Although Rupert Grint was bummed about not getting his Quidditch subplot, Emma Watson was a different story. It was around this time that she considered leaving the series, but thankfully that didn’t happen. With Harry as the reluctant leader, he trains fellow schoolmates Neville Longbottom, Luna Lovegood, Dean Thomas, the Patil twins, Fred & George, Ginny, and his crush Cho Chang. Neville’s role in the series increases once more as he’s the one who finds their hidden training room The Room of Requirement. A place that only appears when wizards are in need of it.

Although less fleshed out than the book, Neville feels emotion over the photo of the original Order of the Phoenix that Sirius gifted Harry. As it shows the Longbottom parents who were tortured with the Cruciatus Curse by an evil witch. That witch is my second favorite new character Bellatrix Lestrange. A loyal Death Eater broken out of Azkaban. The only time we see the spooky uniquely shaped prison. None other than gothic heavyweight Helena Bonham Carter fills the deliciously wicked boots of Bellatrix. Harry teaches Dumbledore’s Army practical defensive spells such as Expelliarmus, Stupefy, and Petrificus Totalus. As well as more advanced spells like Expecto Patronum. It’s a fun training montage that leads up to Christmas break. A time where Harry finally gets his first proper mistletoe snog from Cho. Even though it seems disrespectful to Cedric’s memory. Harry’s dark visions return when he witnesses Arthur Weasley attacked in the Department of Mysteries.

Harry finally gets Dumbledore’s attention when it’s decided Snape will use Occlumency lessons to defuse Harry’s connection to Voldemort. It goes about as well as you’d expect. With Snape antagonizing Harry and insulting his father. It’s only in Snape’s mind that we see him being bullied by young James Potter. Added depth that’s crucial moving forward. Arthur is patched up by Christmas at the Black headquarters. Where Harry spends time with his friends and godfather. They view Black’s complicated family tree and Harry meets surly house-elf Kreacher. A nearly excised character that’s too important in the finale. Hagrid is mostly absent all year, but only to help recruit giants to their cause. His biggest moment is asking the trio to look after his child-like giant brother Grawp in the Forbidden Forest. While the CGI is highly refined, Grawp could’ve used more work. Dumbledore’s Army is unfortunately discovered when Malfoy and his cronies get answers out of Cho. It ruins Harry’s romance with her and plunges the school into further turmoil when Dumbledore accepts responsibility for the rebellious group. Fawx helps him leave in style and Umbridge becomes Headmistress.

A dark cloud looms over Hogwarts, but Fred & George graduate in style by pranking Umbridge with fireworks whilst riding brooms. Even Professor Flitwick celebrates Umbridge’s hilarious humiliation. Harry later experiences another vision of Sirius in danger. Harry, Ron, and Hermione attempt to flee using the Floo Network in Umbridge’s office, but guess who shows up. It’s only by tricking her into getting ambushed by Grawp and a band of angry centaurs in the Forbidden Forest that they finally get rid of the witch. With time running out, Luna cleverly suggests flying to the Ministry of Magic. So Harry, Ron, Hermione, Luna, Neville, and Ginny ride Thestrals to the Department of Mysteries. The object that Voldemort was after is Trelawny’s bottled prophecy regarding the link between enemies. How one can’t live while the other survives. The whole trip was a trap set by the Death Eaters to obtain the prophecy. Lucius and Bellatrix corner the young witches & wizards who defend themselves using everything Harry taught them.

It’s not enough in the end, but hope comes when the Order arrives in time. The first proper wizarding battle is a tense one that ends tragically when Sirius is killed by Bellatrix. The second major heroic death stings just as much. An enraged Harry wants to kill Bellatrix and Voldemort even encourages him to do so. Of course Harry wouldn’t go that far even when Voldemort has him cornered. Until Dumbledore makes a grand entrance to fight off Lord Voldemort. It’s perhaps one of the finest wizarding duels ever put to film as the evenly matched forces trade spells. Voldemort attempts to possess Harry, but he realizes it’s love and friendship that makes him stronger. Voldemort disapperates just in time for Fudge to realize he was wrong about everything. Dumbledore explains himself to Harry and year 5 ends with Harry confident about the battle that lies ahead. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is an efficient way to bridge the gap between youth and adulthood.

10. The Order of the Phoenix

Harry, Ron, and Hermione explore the Department of Mysteries

Preceded by: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire & Followed by: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

The Triwizard Tournament

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is the best possible transitional period for the franchise. Depending on who you ask, these aren’t just for children anymore. Hence the PG-13 rating that reinforced the weight of the impending darkness. Although I wasn’t watching in 2005, the ratings change was intriguing to me. The Goblet of Fire was the most difficult book J. K. Rowling had to write at the time. Considering it being twice as long as the first three books. As Harry competes in a complex school tournament and faces his greatest enemy Lord Voldemort. A 2 movie split was considered, but the idea was dropped.

The condensed plot didn’t stop Harry’s fourth year from becoming the second most successful film in the franchise. Becoming the highest grossing film of 2005. The high stakes coming-of-age nature of the story meant another new director was hired. Despite Rowling’s British only rule, Mike Newell became the first British director to helm an installment. He’s done romance, comedy, and character drama. Making him a suitable choice for this far more hormonal adventure. The Warner Bros. logo is darkened further to reflect the growing maturity. SPOILER ALERT! in case you didn’t put your name in the Goblet of Fire…

7. The Goblet of Fire

Harry hides from the dragon

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is the first book to film adaptation to get an extensive overhaul. As a 636 page novel couldn’t possibly be covered in full. Characters are left out, an entire subplot involving Hermione forming house-elf rights group S.P.E.W. is removed, and anything we’ve seen before is glossed over. Some of these changes may be unforgivable amongst fans, but that doesn’t make it any less impressive as a one movie adaptation. The Goblet of Fire makes its PG-13 rating clear by opening on darkened skulls. Followed by Muggle caretaker Frank Bryce entering a house occupied by Wormtail (Peter Pettigrew), an unseen Voldemort, his faithful snake Nagini, and an unknown Death Eater. After three movies worth of build up, it was finally time to put a name to the evil followers of the Dark Lord. Turns out this was all just a nightmare that causes Harry scar pain. Unlike all other years, Harry isn’t seen with the Dursleys. Rather Hermione, Ron, and the Weasleys are already with him.

The best way to distinguish The Goblet of Fire is by the length of all the boy’s hair. Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Tom Felton, and every other major male teenager sports long flowing locks. Most likely a phase. Arthur Weasley is taking Harry, Ron, Hermione, Fred, George, and Ginny on a surprise trip to the Quidditch World Cup between Ireland and Bulgaria. The event is of course the wizarding equivalent of our own Muggle World Cup. Another important piece of transportation in the Wizarding World is a Portkey. An object that apparates people to a chosen destination. Arthur’s friend Amos joins them along with his only son Cedric Diggory. The only Hufflepuff to get any kind of attention in the movies. Played by retroactively distracting Edward Cullen himself Robert Pattinson. The stadium is expansive and the light show is brilliant, but there’s no time to see any of it. We do however see Draco attend the event with his father Lucius, we see witches (and Ron) faun over the top Bulgarian Seeker Viktor Krum, and simply enjoy everyone having a good time.

Until the Klan-esque Death Eaters arrive to spread chaos. The Death Eater from Harry’s nightmare finishes by summoning the Dark Mark that all followers possess. The Hogwarts Express trip is a tense one, but Harry still finds time to make goo-goo eyes at Cho Chang. A Scottish-Asian Ravenclaw and Harry’s first crush. Burgeoning romances are a big part of this year. As the fourth year is officiated by Dumbledore, he announces the addition of two more wizarding schools. The lovely all-girl French school Beauxbatons and the fierce all-boy Eastern European school Durmstrang. Beauxbatons headmistress is a half-giant that Hagrid fancys throughout the year. An enlarged Frances de la Tour notably plays Olympe Maxime. Durmstrang headmaster Igor Karkaroff is notably a former Death Eater like Snape was. The three wizarding schools are here to compete in the famed Triwizard Tournament. An obviously dangerous event where three challengers compete for glory and the Triwizard Cup. Increased Death Eater activity means interference from the Ministry. Barty Crouch Sr. sees that no student under 17 can compete in the games. Not even Fred & George’s magical meddling can gain them access.

After Remus Lupin’s werewolf “condition” was exposed, Alastor “Mad-Eye” Moody became this year’s Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. He’s a former Auror with extensive knowledge of the Dark Arts. That, coupled with his off putting mad-eye, make him a particularly memorable professor in this position. With Brendan Gleeson as brash as always. Although classes and Quidditch mostly take a back seat to the Tournament, Moody’s Dark Arts lesson has major significance. He foolishly teaches everyone the Unforgivable Curses. The Imperius Curse or Imperio to mind control, the Cruciatus Curse or Crucio to torture, and the Killing Curse or Avada Kedavra that Death Eaters are especially fond of. While Neville Longbottom has mostly been relegated to accident prone comic relief, his reaction to Crucio is very telling of things to come. Moody’s methods are especially questionable when he punishes Draco for attacking Harry. By comically turning him into a ferrat.

The Triwizard Tournament challengers are selected via the titular Goblet of Fire. Each students parchment magically reveals the three challengers to be Viktor Krum of Durmstrang, Fleur Delacour of Beauxbatons, and Cedric Diggory of Hogwarts. Until Harry Potter’s name is mysteriously called as well. After “calmly” screaming at the top of his lungs, Dumbledore and the rest of the teachers agree to allow Harry to play. Despite his innocence, Ron becomes a right foul git about Harry playing behind his back. Leaving Hermione to act as intermediary. Although the information she gives about the first task is actually from Ron. In his isolation, Harry finds comfort in his godfather Sirius Black. Who warns Harry of danger through the fireplace. While Invisibility Cloaked, Hagrid shows Harry and his date the dragons being used. Another important piece of the Wizarding World is the newspaper The Daily Prophet. Miranda Richardson plays sleezy writer Rita Skeeter as she exaggerates information about the challengers.

Despite his importance as a famous Quidditch Seeker/challenger, Viktor barely speaks thanks to the actor’s thick Bulgarian accent. French Fleur actress Clémence Poésy is similarly short changed, but her role is nevertheless crucial. Cedric’s subtle friendship with Harry is given greater importance as they help each other out in the game. Only Hermione comes to tenderly wish Harry luck in his first task. The goal is to obtain a golden egg from a randomly selected dragon. Harry’s life is put into mortal danger when confronted with the Hungarian Horntail. The broom riding dragon chase is quite the thrill that really shows off how much better the CGI has gotten. Harry & Ron patch things up at the formers egg retrieving celebration. Unfortunately the egg’s secrets won’t be revealed until months later. The most prolonged Christmas event in the entire series is the Yule Ball. A school dance that Professor McGonagall officiates. The idea of asking someone to a dance is about the most relatable thing by far. Ron is unable to ask a Beauxbatons girl and Harry is turned down by Cho (who’s dating Cedric).

The dance is also where Ron & Hermione’s relationship gets complicated. Since she’s asked by Viktor Krum before he gets a chance to ask Hermione. So Harry and a badly dresses Ron have to attend with the Indian Patil twins. It’s a magical evening nonetheless. With dancing and the unexpected appearance of fictional wizarding rock band The Weird Sisters. Hermione has her Cinderella moment in a beautiful dress, but Emma Watson is already pretty. So the scene isn’t as shocking as they likely intended. Harry gets the answer to the egg from Cedric who suggests a bath in the abandoned girls bathroom. Which means the welcomed return of ghostly nuisance Moaning Myrtle. Even though Shirley Henderson was 40 when flirting with Radcliffe. The submerged egg reveals the second task to be underwater. Rather than Dobby, Neville supplies Harry with a water breathing Gillyweed plant thanks to a herbology book Moody gave him.

The plant gives Harry flippers that he uses to rescue his submerged friends. They’re guarded by some of the most unique mermaids I’ve ever seen. Viktor saves Hermione, Cedric saves Cho, but Fleur fails to save her sister. So Harry selflessly saves Ron and Fleur’s sister. After a chat with Crouch Sr. results in him winding up dead, Harry finds answers in Dumbledore’s very important Pensieve for viewing memories. In it he witnesses Dumbledore and Fudge at Crouch’s hearing for the Death Eater in Harry’s nightmare who would turn out to be his own son Barty Crouch Jr. Although brief, David Tennant is great at evil characters like this. While Snape’s most memorable moment is him comically forcing Harry & Ron to focus on a lesson, he does regain importance when questioning Harry about missing potion ingredients. The third and final task is a maze that tests everyone’s strength of character. Although far less populated by creatures, the maze is nevertheless a spooky obstacle. Harry saves Cedric and they agree to share the Cup.

Tragically, the Cup turns out to be a Portkey that brings the wizards to the graveyard from Harry’s nightmare. Wormtail appears with a weakened Voldemort and kills Cedric right in front of Harry. The whole game was a trap to lure Harry to Voldemort and revive him. With blood of Harry and hand of Wormtail, Lord Voldemort is finally seen at full strength. Only Ralph Fiennes could bring the ultimate evil in the Wizarding World to life. With wicked charisma and vile tendencies. His pale noseless face is disturbing to say the least. Making Voldemort a villainous movie icon in his own right. Voldemort unsurprisingly reveals Lucius Malfoy to be a Death Eater along with the fraternal Crabbe & Goyle. Then the first genuine wizarding duel commences with Harry using Expelliarmus and Voldemort using Avada Kedavra. As their streams lock in an intense match, a “Priori Incantatem” reveals Harry’s encouraging parents and Cedric requesting his body be brought back. Harry retrieves the Portkey with an Accio spell and takes Cedric’s body with him.

The first major heroic death in the franchise is both traumatizing and heartbreaking. Harry’s refusal to leave and Cedric’s father’s pained screams are what really sell it. Moody sets Harry aside and reveals himself to be behind the rigged Tournament all along. The liquid he’s been drinking is really Polyjuice and the real Moody is Death Eater Barty Crouch Jr.’s prisoner. Dumbledore apologizes to Harry for the trouble he’s caused and even goes behind the Ministry’s back by telling the students about Voldemort’s return. Year 4 ends with a somber, but hopeful note as Harry, Ron, and Hermione say goodbye to their new friends from Beauxbatons & Durmstrang. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is a game changer in more ways than one.

8. The Goblet of Fire

Harry, Ron, and Hermione search for clues

Preceded by: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban & Followed by: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Expecto Patronum!

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is one of the best films in the franchise. As it’s the most focused book in the series. J. K. Rowling had no problem writing The Prisoner of Azkaban and it shows. Harry is only dealing with the wizard who betrayed his parents to the Dark Lord. Unlike The Chamber of Secrets, there’s no intricate worldbuilding or extraneous details to speak of. The much darker tone did however mean the hiring of a new director. All sorts of big Hollywood names were attached, but the job ultimately went to acclaimed Spanish director Alfonso Cuarón.

Despite previously directing hard R foreign films, he was a surprisingly good fit for the PG British film. His natural character focused style ensured a mature tone that didn’t sacrifice plenty of laughs. The Warner Bros. logo is appropriately darkened even further. With far more shadows and changes that were suitably atmospheric moving forward. Even when I wasn’t looking at it in 2004, I could tell it had one of the most thrilling modern movie trailers. The tonal shift was equally attributed to the recasting of Dumbledore. Although Richard Harris refused to be recast, it was nevertheless necessary. Thus Michael Gambon made the role his own. SPOILER ALERT! or should I say, mischief managed…

5. The Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry rides Buckbeak

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is simple in approach, but it was the longest book released at the time. It’s mostly the intricate exposition and backstories of certain characters that are left out. Thus giving the film more mystery and better momentum. Despite the darkness lying ahead, The Prisoner of Azkaban opens with Harry practising a Lumos spell to light up his dark room. You know the drill, the Dursleys are rotten to him and he doesn’t want to be there anymore. Unfortunately it’s at the expense of having a signed permission slip to Hogsmeade wizarding village. Something I’m sure we could all relate to. The problem this time for Harry is his mean Muggle Aunt Marge coming to visit. Ms. Trunchbull herself Pam Ferris is always good in those despicable roles. When she insults the Potters, Harry loses his temper and accidentally inflates his Aunt. The stylised approach to the comical inflating ensures Cuarón as a valuable addition to the franchise.

Harry’s anger is key to his growing adolescents. Since Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Tom Felton, and more are finally teenagers. They’re taller, each have their own unique hairstyles, and where unkempt school uniforms. Harry runs away from the Dursleys. Stopping at a spooky bus stop where a creepy looking dog watches him. Harry is greeted by the Knight Bus. A purple triple-decker London bus for all lost witches and wizards. Stan Shunpike conducts the bus, Ernie drives like a lunatic, and a Jamaican shrunken head guides him. It’s an equally silly scene that still finds time for the serious threat of Sirius Black. The titular escaped prisoner of Azkaban who’s aligned with “You Know Who” and is wanted for murder. Harry is greeted at the Leaky Cauldron by a much more hunchbacked Tom. He takes the young wizard to Minister for Magic Cornelius Fudge. Who simply lets Harry off with a warning about blowing up his Aunt and even acquires his school supplies and Hedwig for him. His most dangerous supply is the particularly vicious textbook The Monster Book of Monsters.

While at the Leaky Cauldron, Harry is greeted by his best friends. Ron & Hermione bicker a lot more due to Ron accusing Hermione’s cat Crookshanks of attacking his rat Scabbers. There’s also far more romantic tension between them. Between accidental hand holding and private conversations. The Weasley family is downplayed a bit, but we do see a full family photo of the Weasleys in Egypt. Aside from that, Molly only has one scene and Ginny only gets one line. Arthur at least pulls Harry aside to warn him not to go looking for Sirius Black. While aboard the Hogwarts Express, Harry, Ron, and Hermione ride with a mysterious stranger. They discuss Black before ice signals the arrival of a Dementor. Dementors are the wraith like guards of Azkaban prison. Only CGI could do them justice and it has certainly gotten better. They’re easily the creepiest monsters in the series as they can literally suck out a person’s happiness. They’re threatening because Dementors don’t distinguish good from bad.

So of course their third year is plagued with Dementors posted outside of Hogwarts. Harry develops a fear of Dementors, but is rescued by the mysterious stranger. After Gilderoy Lockhart lost his mind, Remus Lupin became this year’s Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. Lupin is the only decent bloke to ever hold the position. He’s kind, encouraging, and genuinely good. The mustachioed David Thewlis was perfect for such an efficient professor. Hogwarts students are welcomed by a choir singing the appropriate “Double Trouble” from MacBeth. “Something wicked this way comes” indeed. The school conductor retroactively became Professor Flitwick. Giving Warwick Davis a more dapper mustache and comb over. Harry, Ron, Hermione, Neville, Seamus, Dean, Draco, and the rest of Hogwarts are all officiated by the new Dumbledore. Gambon’s Dumbledore is a bit looser with grey robes, a floppy hat, and a tied up beard. Rather than Harris’ soft whispers, Gambon is far more commanding, but still friendly with his students.

He announces beloved gamekeeper Hagrid will hold his first teaching position and memorably tells the students to find the light in the darkness even in the midst of the Dementors. The danger comes when Black enters the grounds and attacks the Fat Lady portrait of Gryffindor. Everyone faces their fears when attending Lupin’s class. They face a Boggart, which can take the shape of what one fears most. Only the spell Riddikulus can turn them into something funny. Harry unintentionally sees a Dementor and Lupin steps in to stop it after seeing a full moon. While McGonagall is sadly unable to let Harry go to Hogsmeade, Lupin really shows he cares when he confides in Harry that he knew his parents. Their friendship also means Lupin will privately teach Harry how to defend himself against a Dementor attack. While using the most powerful charm, Expecto Patronum. A strong beam of positive light accompanied by the wizard’s Patronus animal. According to Pottermore, my Patronus is a chow dog.

New classes this year include Hagrid’s suitable Care of Magical Creatures class. Hagrid introduces everyone to Buckbeak the hippogriff. A proud creature that Harry is able to win over and take for a majestic ride. Until Malfoy of course ruins everything by getting himself attacked. Another class is the future predicting Divination class. Which is nonsense whether real or fictional. Hence the Professor Sybill Trelawney coming off as a crazy crackpot. The always talented Emma Thompson is hidden under all that hair. Her uncertain predictions bring out a rebellious streak in Hermione. I like how she whacks her crystal ball after Trelawney insults her booksmarts. The only thing to really come out of her class is a bad omen for Harry and a crucial prophecy regarding Harry’s ties to Lord Voldemort. Although Voldemort doesn’t appear, his presence is felt throughout. Not even a dangerous thunderstorm can stop this year’s Quidditch match. Just a stray Dementor that attacks Harry and causes his beloved Nimbus 2000 broom to get destroyed.

Professor Snape fills in for Lupin one day and delivers the iconic “Turn to page 394.” On it they discuss the difference between an animagus and werewolves. Considering the spooky nature of this year, there might as well be a werewolf involved. Snape also insults Hermione’s know-it-all tendencies. Which is telling of the fact that she continues to pop up in almost every class this year. When winter comes around, Harry is picked up by Fred & George. They gift him with the troublemaking Marauders Map. A nifty map that can locate anyone on Hogwarts grounds. Just say “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good” to view, then “Mischief managed” to keep it secret. The map belongs to Messrs Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs, but only in the book do we get direct answers of who those are.

Christmas time is when Harry gets another crucial piece of information about Sirius Black. After goofing off with his Invisibility Cloak, Harry eavesdrops on McGonagall and Fudge telling Madam Rosmerta about Black being Harry’s godfather. As well as his friend Peter Pettigrew ending up murdered when he betrayed James & Lily to Voldemort. An enraged Harry vows revenge on Black. Until he sees Peter Pettigrew mysteriously appear on his map. A nosy Snape confiscates the map and provides more clues about who Harry’s father was. The most immediate problem for the trio is actually Buckbeak being sentenced to death thanks to Draco’s actions. Hermione calling him a “Foul loathsome evil little cockroach” is a great insult, but her punch is simply brilliant. It’s what we’ve all wanted to do from the beginning. They visit Hagrid’s hut to comfort him, but strange occurrences force them to leave before Dumbledore, Fudge, and an executioner arrive. They see the axe come down from a distance, except their problems have only just begun.

Scrabbers scurries into the Whomping Willow as it makes short work of the trio. Sirius Black in dog form, pulls Ron to the Shrieking Shack where we finally see Black in his disheveled glory. They managed to nab Gary Oldman himself and he is indeed capable of such a complex role. Lupin complicates things by protecting Black from Harry and Snape complicates things by coming between everyone. Harry chooses to trust Lupin as they reveal Peter Pettigrew was truly the traitor. He was always Scabbers and he is the one Harry should hate. Only Timothy Spall could be so sniveling in the part. Sirius is really a caring figure who should’ve been Harry’s guardian all along. The hope of that disappears with a full moon. As Lupin transforms into a very unique looking werewolf, Pettigrew gets away. When Dementors descend on Sirius, Harry tries to repel them. Only to be rescued last minute by a stag Patronus that Harry assumes is his father’s. With Black still sentenced to the deadly Dementor’s kiss, Dumbledore cryptically tells Hermione what she needs to do.

Unlike The Chamber of Secrets, Ron is incapacitated while Harry & Hermione take the victory lap. Turns out McGonagall intrusted a 13 year old with time travel in order for Hermione to take more classes. The Time Turner is an ace little device, but it does come with the usual timey wimey confusion. Turns out Harry & Hermione are the ones who got themselves out of Hagrid’s hut. Then saved Buckbeak’s life and hollowed at werewolf Lupin. Sadly, Lupin’s “condition” costs him his teaching position. Harry’s finest hero moment full stop is when he repels the Dementors screaming “Expecto Patronum!” They’re able to save Buckbeak and Sirius in the end and year 3 concludes with Harry receiving a powerful Firebolt broom from his loving godfather. The film’s increased quality also meant 2 Oscar nods for Best Original Music Score & Visual Effects. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is a well executed thrill that brought light into the growing darkness.

6. The Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry, Ron, and Hermione mourn

Preceded by: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets & Followed by: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Follow the Spiders

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets plants the seeds for even darker adventures moving forward. By increasing the stakes, deepening the themes, and offering a far more complex sequel. The Chamber of Secrets was one of the harder books for J. K. Rowling to write. Since the sudden fame from The Sorcerer’s Stone (The Philosopher’s Stone) gave fans high expectations. It nevertheless earned the same level of admiration. Scooby-Doo ticket sales even increased when the trailer premiered with it. Although I ignored the movie in 2002, certain images from The Chamber of Secrets stood out the most in the series.

Like the flying car, living tree, and far more magical creatures. With the likes of house-elves, large spiders, and even a giant snake threatening Hogwarts. Director Chris Columbus was kept on board since the actors were still young. He just realized the PG rating needed to be challenged a bit. So the Warner Bros. logo is a bit more atmospheric, the mood feels more mature, and some blood can be seen in the climax. That’s not to say it hasn’t gotten far funnier and more polished in the child acting department. The only tragedy was the sudden loss of Richard Harris as Dumbledore. Who past away prior to the film’s release. SPOILER ALERT! in case you haven’t followed the spiders…

3. The Chamber of Secrets

Harry and Ron drive a flying car

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is the longest film in the franchise. With a staggering 2 hour & 41 minute runtime. Due to nearly every detail from the book being included in the movie adaptation. Some fans hold it in less regard because of that, but I still think it’s a very strong and crucial follow up. Since one year has past, Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Tom Felton, and more have all hit puberty. So now the boys have slightly deeper voices. The Chamber of Secrets begins right back at the awful Dursley house. Only now Harry has earned moderately better treatment. Like his own room and less abuse from Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia, and Dudley. Except Hedwig is the only one who keeps him company after not receiving a single letter from Ron or Hermione. The reason being the biggest scene stealer in the movie, Dobby the house-elf. In the Wizarding World, diminutive elves are slaves to magical families. Toby Jones lends a very imitatable voice to the nervous elf. Prone to comically punishing himself.

Dobby’s one of the only creatures done entirely in CGI. It’s not bad, but it is dated looking (especially considering Lord of the Rings was in the same year). Dobby is responsible for the missing letters since he’s trying to keep Harry out of Hogwarts this year. Going to such extreme measures as magically sabotaging the Dursley’s important dinner. Not even bars on the windows can keep Harry from school. Fred, George, and Ron all come to break Harry out. Using an impressive flying blue Ford Anglia owned by their father. The Weasley family Burrow is large, though the family is still mostly poor. Mark Williams is a fine choice for the oddball Muggle obsessed Weasley patriarch Arthur. Molly practically adopts Harry into the family. Which makes things awkward between him and Ginny. Bonnie Wright had one line in the first movie, but her role has increased since she’s now attending Hogwarts. When their clumsy owl delivers a list of supplies, another magical detail is revealed. That you can travel through fireplaces using Floo powder.

Harry butchers the pronunciation of Diagon Alley and winds up in the spooky Knockturn Alley. Kindly Hagrid comes to the rescue and Harry is also reunited with Hermione. Who once more repairs his glasses. They all attend a book signing for Gilderoy Lockhart. A dashing wizard that all the witches want and all the wizards want to be. He’s famous for his unbelievable stories of heroism which turns his attention to Harry. Although not known exclusively for his looks, Kenneth Branagh pulls off Lockhart’s egotism. Draco is also there and more slimy than ever. Equally slimy is his father Lucius Malfoy. A wizard purist who looks down on Muggles and Muggle-borns just as his son does. Hence his long hair, robes, and wand concealed within a cane. Jason Isaacs based his performance on Felton’s and he’s just as despicably magnetic in the role. Something goes wrong again when Harry & Ron are unable to cross Platform 9¾ and board Hogwarts express.

Instead they take the flying car in full view of Muggles. It has a cloaking function, but it’s faulty. Their harrowing ride lands them in the branches of the Whomping Willow. A clearly dangerous tree on school grounds. The car drives off and Ron gets yelled at via talking Howler letter. Ron’s wand is also broken for the remainder of the year. Suitable since Ron is an even bigger comic relief this time around. While Hermione’s braininess comes in handy even when she isn’t around. Professor Snape immediately scolds the boys for their foolishness, but Professors Dumbledore and McGonagall let them off with a detention. Neville, Seamus, Dean, Professor Flitwick, Filch, and other students & staff all return. With the exception of Madame Hooch since the actress wanted a pay increase. Miriam Margolyes makes her debut as herbology professor Pomona Sprout. She teaches an important class studying screeching Mandrakes. Gemma Jones also makes her debut as magical healer Madam Pomfrey. Since way more students will need to go to the hospital wing.

After Professor Quirrell turned out to be wicked, Gilderoy Lockhart became this year’s Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. You can tell he doesn’t know what he’s doing when he lets bright blue Cornish pixies loose on his class. The main theme of The Chamber of Secrets is prejudice. The first such incident comes when new Slytherin seeker Draco calls Hermione a “Mudblood.” A derogatory slur for magic born people with Muggle parents. Since the Grangers are Muggles, but Hermione is a witch. Ron shows he cares by attempting a spell on Draco, but it has sluggy results. Hagrid comforts all of them and they hear more about perceived blood purity. The main conflict centers around the titular Chamber of Secrets. Brought to everyone’s attention when Filch’s cat Mrs. Norris is petrified next to a message written in blood. During McGonagall’s transfiguration class, she explains the Chamber’s history. How Godric Gryffindor, Rowena Ravenclaw, Helga Hufflepuff, and Salazar Slytherin formed the school with the latter having his own agenda.

Only the “Heir of Slytherin” can open the Chamber and put an end to all Muggle-borns. The staff gets increasingly nervous when more bodies wind up petrified. Harry, Ron, and Hermione investigate with plans of interrogating top suspect Draco. It takes a month to perfect the Polyjuice Potion necessary to disguise themselves as Slytherin students. Hermione brews the potion in the abandoned girls bathroom. It’s there that other scene stealing nuisance Moaning Myrtle haunts. She’s a deceased Hogwarts student played by the perpetually youthful squeaky voiced Shirley Henderson. Christmas is when Hermione perfects the potion. Leading Harry & Ron to disguise themselves as Draco’s cronies Crabbe & Goyle. They get some answers, but Hermione stays behind since it was cat hair that she found. This year’s Quidditch match is just as fast paced and fun as last year. With the added rivalry between Potter & Malfoy. It just gets dangerous again when a runaway Bludger nearly kills Harry. Lockhart screws up again when he botches Harry’s broken arm by giving him a revolting noodle arm.

Dobby returns in the hospital wing and takes full responsibility for the blocked platform and Bludger. The increased danger leads Lockhart to organize a dueling demonstration between him and the more competent Snape. They pit Harry vs. Draco and their exciting duel conjures up a deadly snake. Another pivotal moment comes when Harry speaks Parseltongue in front of everyone. The snake language most associated with Slytherins. Students suspect Harry is the heir and so he tries to get answers from Dumbledore. The Sorting Hat offers an explanation when Harry meets Dumbledore’s pet phoenix Fawx. The only answers Harry gets are from the enchanted diary of Tom Riddle that tells him all about the dead Muggle-born girl that Draco mentioned. The young Riddle accused Hagrid of opening the Chamber years ago and that makes him the primary suspect. Harry & Ron have to go see Hagrid alone since Hermione is unable to help due to becoming petrified.

While under the Invisibility cloak, Harry & Ron witness Dumbledore, Lucius, and Cornelius Fudge escorting Hagrid to Azkaban prison. Robert Hardy portrays Fudge, an important figure in the yet to be seen Ministry of Magic. Before he leaves, Hagrid cryptically tells the boys to “Follow the spiders.” Ron’s fear of spiders is hilarious, but it’s something my brother fears as well. Making the appearance of Aragog, Hagrid’s Acromantula giant pet spider, extra creepy for him. Aragog explains that he’s not the Chamber beast, but that doesn’t stop him from sicking his children on the two. The car saves Harry, Ron, (and Fang) long enough for them to get back to Hermione. Even in petrification, she helps the boys with a note revealing the beast is a Basilisk. A giant snake that kills with a single stare, slithers through the pipes, and very conveniently petrified every victim who looked into some form of reflection.

Snape goats Lockhart into going after the Basilisk, but he’s a complete fraud and a coward who erases wizard’s memories to become famous. Harry & Ron force him to help and they both realize Myrtle is the girl killed by the Basilisk. So she shows them the passage to the hidden Chamber. While entering, Lockhart using Ron’s broken wand backfires an amnesia spell. The franchise’s only after-credit scene shows him locked in an insane asylum. Harry discovers Ginny was behind the Chamber opening and bloody messages. Thanks to a spell cast by a physically projected Tom Riddle. Turns out Tom Marvolo Riddle is really an anagram for “I am Lord Voldemort.” Not sure why he needed the “I am” part, but I digress. The giant snake-like Basilisk is the best creature effect next to Aragog and Fawx. Fawx flies in to scratch out the Basilisk’s eyes and supply him with the Sorting Hat. Which contains the fabled Sword of Gryffindor.

Making Harry Potter even more of a hero than he already was. He slays the beast and uses the Basilisk fang to destroy Riddle’s diary (remember that). Fawx flies Harry, Ginny, Ron, and Lockhart out of the Chamber and the school is safe again. Dumbledore encourages Harry with an important lesson in choices over birthright. Lucius reveals Dobby works for house Malfoy and Harry costs him his elf by inadvertently freeing him. A grateful Dobby saves Harry from Lucius’ bloody Killing Curse and a bond is formed. A cured Hermione has a friendly embrace with Harry and an awkward handshake with Ron. Year 2 concludes when Hagrid is warmly greeted upon returning to his home at Hogwarts. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is positively stuffed, but it’s an excellent means of magical worldbuilding.

4. The Chamber of Secrets

Harry and Hermione comfort a sick Ron

Preceded by: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone & Followed by: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban