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The Wizarding World Franchise Ranked Worst to Best

From its humble, family-friendly fantasy beginning to its emotionally gripping, action-packed finale, and now into its world-expanding prequels, the films centered on boy wizard Harry Potter and the Wizarding World have more than cemented themselves as one of the greatest film franchises of all time. That’s saying something when those ranks include Star Wars, James Bond, Lord of the Rings and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There’s probably never a moment when someone on the planet is not watching one of the movies adapted from J.K. Rowling’s series of books, and such will be the case until the end of days or until TWILIGHT-loving aliens come down and take over the planet.

All nine of the movies have been watched, rewatched and marathoned with friends, with batches of makeshift Butterbeer and red, yellow, green and blue cupcakes covering the counter. With such widespread fandom and viewership comes fierce opinions about the movies with everyone having their “Best Of” list firmly locked in their minds. Now that the new movie – FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD – is here everyone’s lists are coming to the surface, and I'm here to throw my wand into the ring and lay down my own “Best of the Wizarding World” list.

All the films from the first HARRY POTTER to 2016’s FANTASTIC BEASTS are represented, with the list going from worst to best. In a slight, immediate edit, it’s not exactly accurate to say, “worst to best,” but rather “least good to greatest.” All these movies are great and suitably magical in their own ways, and it’s just that some are much, much better than others. FANTASTIC BEASTS may not be as good as DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 2, but who doesn’t love that adorable Niffler swiping all that gold? You don’t think he can fit anymore in, and then he goes and fits SO MUCH more in.

There’s not an overall bad movie in the bunch, which made compiling the ranking all the harder. Scroll on down to see where each movie in this fantastical series is placed, and be sure to include your own lists in the comments.

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9.) Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them:

There should be no surprise from anyone that the first of five planned spinoff/prequels to the main POTTER series – FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM – comes in at the very bottom of the list. Nothing about it makes it a bad movie, per se, but what becomes very clear when watching it is that this was something that was never intended to be a movie. Based on a textbook the students of Hogwarts must acquire (which was then turned into a real book by Rowling) that contains info on the many magical creatures that make up the Wizarding World, FB was made in an ongoing attempt to expand on the Potter lore via the adventures of the textbook’s author – Newt Scamander. On paper that sounds like making a franchise of movies around the mascot for Cheetos, but the final product actually quite good, if not entirely fantastic.

Eddie Redmayne makes a wonderful lead as Scamander, giving his character enough quirks, warmth, and personality to make him a hero worth rooting for. Returning director David Yates gives the movie a more grounded feel, taking place more in the Muggle world (set in the 1920’s) than any Potter movie previous, with series creator/writer J.K. Rowling infusing the script with her sense of wit and imagination that made her original series such an endearing classic. However, in the quest to try and carve out something different something can’t help but feel lost from the previous movies. That sense of wonder, innocence and, dare I say, magic isn’t always there. Sure, scenes like the reveal of Newt’s case – showcasing many of the many adorable and amazing creatures – is wondrous to behold, but outside of a few other magical scenes, the movie drags in trying to find a strong story to focus on.

FB isn’t bad, but it’s hardly as strong as the rest of the movies. Perhaps it just suffers from the initial, world-establishing slog, wherein we must be introduced to the new characters and atmosphere before we can really kick off the training wheels and see what this puppy can do. Gotta love those Nifflers though, stealing all those jewels. Seriously, where do they fit them?!

8.) Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets:

The first HARRY POTTER came out like a rocket at the height of Pottermania, driving the box office tallies to the highest they would ever be until the final movie. Needless to say, the sequel experienced a bit of a sophomore slump and one that holds even after 16 years. I will go to my grave (or whatever container my ashes are stuffed into) believing there’s no bad movie in the HP saga (yet), and that applies to CHAMBER. But when I watch the movie after watching the first – as I always do – it can’t help but slightly suffer from an expected, inescapable, overall sense of sameness.

On the effects and action scale, the movie is certainly improved over the first, with the train sequence, the spider escape, and the climax being more exciting set pieces than most anything in the first movie. Plus, there’s the presence of the whimsically obnoxious Gilderoy Lockhart, played by the enigmatic Kenneth Branagh.  But aside from those welcome elements, the movie doesn’t have a lot going for it over the first, and director Chris Columbus keeps everything moving at a similar pace.

CHAMBER OF SECRETS isn’t necessarily a worse movie than the first outing in terms of visuals and acting, but by not evolving the series in strong, notable ways like the following entries, or by not having the same sweetness and pure magical energy of the first movie it can’t but feel like the one movie in the series that feels like “just another” adventure for Harry Potter. Surely people will point to the new characters and improved visuals as why CHAMBER is a de facto superior to the original movie, and I can certainly see the point. However, CHAMBER proves that perhaps the filmmakers didn’t quite know how far they could take the movies tonally and visually just yet, and it can’t help but feel like a placeholder for the much more superior entries to come.

7.) Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire:

The fourth entry in the HARRY POTTER franchise was the perfect entry to come out when it did. The previous two movies saw diminishing returns for the series – and though they were still raking in the dough – that is never a good sign. GOBLET OF FIRE upped the ante in terms of sheer spectacle and danger, resulting in the first PG-13 rating in the series, and was adapted from one of the most beloved books in J.K. Rowling’s series. However, though it reaped the benefits of great reviews and improved box office, over time it stands as an entry that falters in some areas while trying to improve on the series in others.

Out of all the HARRY POTTER movies up until the DEATHLY HALLOWS 2, GOBLET is the one that feels most like a straight action-fantasy flick, filled with improved visual effects an exciting premise set on a dangerous, tournament. The book was a big leap forward for Rowling in terms of scope, introducing tons of new characters and elements – a lot of which did not make it into the movie. Here we get a movie that focuses on the action and the tournament itself, as well as the occasional detour to showcase the main characters’ budding hormones. The result is a movie that's exciting, but of which the pacing feels off and it bounces between challenges and character moments. 

Director Mike Newell and recurring POTTER scribe Steve Kloves seem preoccupied with expanding on the Wizarding World – giving it more scope and character – which was necessary for this stage in the series. For that, we got a more purely adventurous outing in the series, with one stupendous set piece after another. With that in mind, I totally understand why people would want to see this one ranked higher. It’s a ton of fun, no doubt. That being said, the characters tend to get put on the backburner, and any of the complexity in them that could've been explored and evolved feels scraped, all of them focused solely on the tournament at hand. While most of the movies push them forward this one doesn't do much besides showcase some awkward growing pains (which can often be hilarious). We do get the introduction to Ralph Fiennes’ brilliant work as Voldemort, which is certainly the most memorable moment in the movie.

6.) Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix:

Every time people talk ORDER OF THE PHOENIX there will be a point in the conversation when someone mentions – guaranteed – that they took the longest book and turned it into the shortest movie. This is true (until the final movie because the shortest one), and I believe this is why people view this one as somewhat lesser than most of the other entries. While that is somewhat true, I also feel like the movie gets a bad rap. The movie through an “on the whole” lens is not as strong as the best entries, but this is the movie where the action, characters, and tone needed to take a big leap forward going towards the finale, and on that front ORDER is a movie that deserves more credit than it gets.

For one, this is where Radcliffe, Grint and Watson really start to shed the adolescent image and become the adults their characters are turning into. Radcliffe, in particular, is terrific as a Harry dealing with the death of Cedric Digory and the return of Voldemort. Then there’s the action and spectacle, which is adapted to a more a grounded approach by turning wand fights into more of a sword-fight style and less “you stand there and I’ll stand over here and we’ll point these things at each other until someone falls down.” Simply put, David Yates was the right person to bring this movie into the more adult realm. And do I have enough time to talk about how adorably weird Luna Lovegood is? No? Shit.

This is the only movie in the main POTTER series not written by Steve Kloves, and Michael Goldenberg does a fine job taking what works in the book and bringing it to the movie. There's a ton that made it on the chopping floor, but the script and Yates' direction capture the growing, more sinister world around Potter, especially on the political front, personified wonderfully by the incomparable Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge. On the downside, the movie tries and doesn’t always succeed in finding the strongest pathway for the plot (Occlumency lessons with Snape is a big example). When it works it’s great (especially during that f**king stupendous Dumbledore v. Voldemort battle), making this a mostly successful entry that feels like we’re entering a whole new world after the first four movies, even if it faced the trouble of its daunting source material.

5.) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone:

Holy crap look how cute Harry, Ron and Hermione are! Just look at their hair! Harry’s is too big for his head, Ron’s makes him look like a choir boy, and Hermione always looks like she just took her finger out of the toaster. Rewatching the first movie inspires a lot of those sorts of reactions because after going on this epic journey with these same characters there’s something so pure, uncomplicated and even a bit funny about starting all over again from the beginning. It’s like going through your mom’s old photo albums again and seeing yourself in diapers and crying with birthday cake smeared all over your mouth.

There’s a certain wonder that comes with that trip down memory lane that makes revisiting the first POTTER so much of a joy – and essentially what makes it hold up after all these years. Getting to go back and re-enter the Wizarding World and Hogwarts through Harry’s virgin eyes is more than enough to make up for the apparent growing pains in the movie – such as the still-learning young cast. Who we should all be thanking for giving the movie that special sense of magic and setting it on the path for greatness is the always fantastic John Williams. His main theme for the movie, and one that would nestle its way in our hearts like a heart-jerking, nostalgic time bomb is – and don’t debate me – one of his greatest works. And, yes, I am including in that his work on STAR WARS, INDIANA JONES, SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE, and E.T. As the kids say, don’t @ me.

SORCERER’S STONE doesn’t have the pomp, complex story or the thrills of later movies, nor the acting chomps of older actors beginning to grow into their craft, but what it lacks in visual grandeur it makes up for in simple, sweet and unbridled imagination. Going back and restarting the series wouldn’t be as much fun if the movie didn’t work, and unlike with something like PHANTOM MENACE, I can’t imagine most people go, “Oh Jesus. Alright, let’s just get through this one.” That’s in large part because there’s nothing un-stupendous about being thrust into the world Rowling created, even if it's for the 100th time. Don’t sit there and try to tell me going down Diagon Alley for the first time again doesn’t take you back to the most joyous time of your life.

4.) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1:

While franchises like TWILIGHT and HUNGER GAMES copied the same “Part 1, Part 2” approach to uninspiring results, HARRY POTTER manages to crack the formula in a way that makes sense and showed two sides to the DEATHLY HALLOWS coin. The first part is the road movie, the one where Harry and the gang are thrown into dire circumstances when the shit hits the fan and we see them all on their own. No Hogwarts, no robes, no potions class and no humorous encounters with Neville Longbottom to ease the stress.

The fact that their alone and on the run is precisely why I find it more enjoyable than many other people do. These characters are whisked away from everything they know, having to make the tough choices their arcs had been leading up to. David Yates keeps much of the movie focused on the trio at the center, keeping them constantly on the move and going through dramatic obstacles with each other. As much as people like to say this one is just nothing but walking (taking a page from LORD OF THE RINGS, amiright?), I always felt a sense of urgency in the story, as well as the heightened sense of danger. They have a mission to accomplish, and they’re failing.

The action is more intense this time around as they face Death Eaters and Werewolf drifters, and the movie is unafraid of embracing the darker elements. Yates and his team did an excellent job setting the stage for the emotional payoff that would come with the last movie, and of course, the death of Dobby is the real gut punch that gets the waterworks where they need to be.

3.) Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince:

Each HP movie has something about it that sets it apart from all the others, sometimes in big ways, and some in smaller. With HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE, the differences are far more noticeable right out of the gate. While the previous two movies felt and moved more like bigger, more action-packed fantasy adventures, PRINCE went back to focusing on the characters within the walls of Hogwarts, capturing the essence of what it means to be a magical teenager going to school inside an ancient castle. You know, typical adolescence stuff.

Thanks to this more accessible, humanist outing we get some of the very best performances from the veteran cast – especially Michael Gambon as Dumbledore. He so beautifully captures the essence of a man who knows his time is running dangerously low, and it becomes immediately noticeable that these movies become better the more he’s in them. Along with this fine performance is the delightful addition of Jim Broadbent as Professor Horace Slughorn, adding some quirky comedy to a movie that is already pretty hysterical at parts. Yeah, it’s pretty amazing to look back on this movie and realize that it’s by far the funniest entry in the series, which is odd considering the weighty material. Harry's nigh-drunken stroll across the grounds is pure comedic genius, and it begs one to wonder what exactly all the award outlets had against nominating anyone in this movie for any awards. A ball was dropped for sure, folks.

Talking about PRINCE is not a worthwhile conversation without mentioning Bruno Delbonnel’s masterful cinematography, and even though this movie is not number one on the list it is indeed the most gorgeous-looking outing of the whole series. Sure, there are some plot points that seemed skimped over that maybe should’ve had a more prominent place (mainly stuff about, you know, the Half-Blood Prince), but this outing more than makes up for with terrific performances, a sharp wit, a welcome, dramatic tone and a beautiful look, which when all combined make this an easy choice for the top three.

2.) Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban:

Much like the first two books, the first two movies in the POTTER series are the most innocent and playful, if not with a sprinkling of danger and darkness in there. But with PRISONER OF AZKABAN, we start to get into some heavier material, as the darker area of the Wizarding World starts to rear its head. For that, the movie’s needed a different approach than Chris Columbus’ work on the first two, and the world shall be forever grateful that maestro Alfonso Cuaron brought his genius to the series.

AZKABAN was the first movie shot using mostly digital cameras, and thus the movie looks lightyears better than the first two outings, looking more polished and vibrant. Cuaron – with DP Michael Seresin at his side – uses the improved tech to make the movie feel more menacing, but no less fantastical, nailing the proper chemistry needed to solidify the series as one that could go the distance. The actors' performances are on par with the visuals, having found their grooves in the characters and shedding the awkward early years. Mix in the additions of Gary Oldman as Sirius Black, Emma Thompson as Trelawny, David Thewlis as Professor Lupin and Michael Gambon taking over for Richard Harris as Dumbledore and you have a cast that takes this series into the stratosphere of acting pedigree, elevating this movie to a masterclass on all fronts.

Everything about this movie is miles and miles better than what came before it, and it was essential in establishing the building blocks that the rest of the series grew from. Even with the rest of the movies to compare it to, AZKABAN stands on its own from the pack, with strong performances and a more thrilling story complementing a visual tapestry that meshes the practicality of the first movies with effects of a new age. No movie in the series looks and feels like this one, and it’s no wonder many view it as the best in the series.

1.) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2:

This is it. The end of an era, the culmination of almost ten years and eight movies. Humans who could barely count when they saw the first movie in theaters would be driving themselves to the finale – possibly in full Hogwarts garb.  Countless hours were spent on marathoning the previous movies over and over again, and unspeakable amounts of money blown on merchandise, tickets and everything else HP. Fans were owed something massive – both in spectacle and emotional payoff. Anything less than eyes full of tears and a rapidly racing heart would not suffice. In short, HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PT. 2 needed to be magnificently, stupendously, monumentally and magically epic – and it f**king delivered.

Picking up right where DEATHLY HALLOWS 1 left off at the gravesite of Dobby the Free Elf (Ah! It still hurts us, Precious!), PT. 2 lays a little groundwork about wand lore before diving into the rip-roaring action that soon sets the stage for the astonishing Battle of Hogwarts. The effects are tremendous, and the action is gripping, with Eduardo Serra’s cinematography capturing the destruction of Hogwarts and the death of beloved characters with gravitas. Then there’s Alexandre Desplat’s absolutely stunning score, working with a tapestry of different tones and sounds to give each moment their own sense of grandeur.

All of it is wrapped in a race-against-the-clock storyline that manages to neatly wrap up long-lasting plotlines, throwing both Harry and Voldemort into their most desperate states. But what makes HALLOWS work the most is the sheer emotional weight and power of the entire movie, with hard-hitting scene after another. The one-two punch of Harry discovering Snape’s true nature with him coming to terms with his own destiny is enough to set this movie apart from anything else in the series, lifting it to the upper echelon of blockbuster filmmaking.

That last point is what makes DEATHLY HALLOWS an easy pick for number one. In putting one big, fat exclamation point on the series it validates everything fans had come to love about the world. The wonder is plentiful, the acting is superb, the visuals are the best they’ve ever been, the emotion is devastating and everything comes full circle as the older Harry, Ron and Hermione send their children off to Hogwarts. It was a journey worth taking, and anyone who got to experience it as it was happening year after year is in a unique class of people who should consider themselves lucky.

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So, there you have it. The series has been ranked and there's no going back. Revisiting these movies is an experience audiences will cherish forever, and while some entries are certainly better than others, it's hard to find a series of movies so incredibly well-made from start to finish, and then kicking things off with a prequel series that will hopefully live up to the previous stories.

Be sure to include your rankings below and go see FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD in theaters November 16.

Source: JoBlo

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