As previously discussed: Okay, so these movies are mostly ass. In fact, calling them “movies” is pretty much a stretch. For the most part, it just feels like the books were plugged into Google Translate to go from “book” to “movie” and they were just spit out. There was no real vision and the differing early styles, and the whole thing was clearly just a quick cash-in. Whatever! These books were not designed well for adaptation for the screen (big or small). But I ranked them. Why? I don’t know. I was bored.
8. Goblet of Fire
Of all the films, this has always been the most embarrassing. The only thing that can be said in its defense was that condensing a 735 page book where there is only one character and that character is boring is really a hard task and nearly impossible to do well. As a franchise, they would get better at it in time, but they had a real rough time here. The one sequence that could have salvaged it was the rebirth of Voldemort, but it was so goofy (like everything in this film) and Ralph Fiennes was so bad (as he would be in every film)
7. Chamber of Secrets
This movie is just crazy long (nearly three hours!!) and was thankfully the end of the brief period where they thought they needed to put the entire book into the movies. It was just a totally insane decision to do anyway given that even then people understood this was a weak link in the book series and offered very little of value.
6. The Order of Phoenix
Book 5 is where JK Rowling left her writing comfort zone (fairytales for twelve year olds) and where she tried to push herself to do something she had no skill to do well (young adult dystopian fiction) with this big epic trilogy to finish off the series. She put out the longest book of the series full of so many stupid decisions that made absolutely no sense and really put the books in a hole that she could never really dig herself out of (even if books #6 & 7 were in fact better). Given what went wrong with movie #4, the film had different priorities though. Instead of trying to invest in kicking off the epic finale, this film really just tried to make as light of an adaptation as possible. David Yates (the director of every Harry Potter related film since) took the longest book in the series and produced the shortest movie of them all. As such, the movie was a breeze in comparison to get through but lost all of its emotional stakes as it just moved too quickly given just how much was happening.
5. Prisoner of Azkaban
Breaking away from Chris Columbus and the concern about how faithful the films were being to the books were things that desperately needed to happen. Bringing in a talented filmmaker like Alfonso Cuaron was also just a pleasant choice to make. The film however is just kind of a mess though with some weird characterization choices (Gary Oldman was just ALL over the place as Sirius in this series, and it rarely was logical or pleasant let alone cohesive) and strange pacing decisions (the Shrieking Shack scenes really dramatically change our perspective on the world…and Cuaron clearly had no interest in them). It’s far from a bad film, but it’s just nothing special.
4. Philosopher’s Stone
Okay, this movie is far from being especially good or anything. It does however capture the limited strengths of the series: fairytales for twelve year olds. The three kids do just fine, and the film allows the adults to carry most of the heavy lifting to make this one of the more pleasant viewing experiences in the film.
3. Deathly Hallows Part 2
In an understandable decision, the last book of the series )which was quite long and contained more stuff than the other long books) was split into two films. The odd consequence of where they decided to split the films though was that the second film essentially just became all final act stuff. As a film that stands on its own, it’s not much. From the perspective of the whole series though, it’s a light and fast-paced watch in a series not known for that in the slightest.
2. Deathly Hallows Part 1
This was actually somewhat of a polarizing film at the time, which makes it the only Harry Potter that managed to be vaguely interesting enough to warrant such a debate! Was it boring or good? The answer? Somewhere between the two. No film besides this in the series fully captures just how much these books would be best suited to be adapted into a half-hour dramedy television series. There’s not enough going on for it to be a serious drama, but there is too much for them to be coherent movies. It’s just the nature of the story. Anyway, this is pretty fine and enough happens for it to not be boring.
1. Half-Blood Prince
No book in the series was better suited to be adapted into a single film than this one, and it was probably the closest the series came to actually trying to truly adapt a book into a film while recognizing that they could mess around make changes to better suit the needs of the film. The biggest example here is that the film often just feels like a goofy teenage romantic comedy than anything else which is not really the biggest part of the book. It make the film light and fun though and easily the most creatively successful.