Thankfully, we’re limiting ourselves to ranking just the films in this franchise, not the books, but still, establishing a hierarchy amongst these blockbuster titles is no easy feat. We’ve got no magic wand to help us, no time-turner to use if we get something wrong, but after sifting through the best of what each of these films has to offer, we’re confident in our choices.
Let’s see if you agree.
Here is our ranking of the Harry Potter series, from worst to best.
8. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
The Half-Blood Prince benefits from its exciting bookends – the film begins and ends with action that feels relevant to the plot and entertaining as hell to watch – but it’s the long middle of this film that weighs it down enough to warrant this worst ranking. Despite establishing high stakes with the return of Voldemort, the attack on The Burrow, and later, the destruction of another Horcrux and the death of Dumbledore, the film languishes when the kids spend their time at school. With its dim lighting and gloomy tone, odd couplings, uncomfortable confessions, and awkward dinner parties, this movie feels more like a melodramatic rom-com than anything else. The only thing that saves it is its actors, who are so clearly comfortable in their characters and abilities they can sell anything, even a half-baked romance plot and a weirdly incestuous pairing.
7. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
The second film in the franchise suffers from the dreaded sequel syndrome for most of its hours-long runtime. We’re familiar with these characters, but not knowledgeable enough about their world to escape scenes explaining what our heroes are doing, where they’re doing it, and why. There’s a bit of magic lost in returning to the classroom and the presence of Gilderoy Lockhart (Kenneth Branagh) is distracting at best, irksome at worst. The film serves up a good mystery and tries to explore the darker nature of magic as Harry learns to communicate with snakes and eventually faces off against a sewer-dwelling Basilisk, but it lacks a real villain. With Voldemort physically absent, the film needed more than just a bumbling professor and a nightmarish monster to fight against to keep things interesting.