All Your Favorite Harry Potter Movies, Ranked

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We solemnly swear we are up to some good: These are the best Harry Potter movies, ranked!

When Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone premiered on Nov. 14, 2001, moviegoers were introduced to the visual wizarding world for the first time. Almost magically, the Harry Potter movies transferred the massive success of the novels by J.K. Rowling, some of the best fantasy books of all time, to the screen. With eight magical movies, plus three Fantastic Beasts prequels, how are the best Harry Potter movies ranked?

The uniqueness of each movie makes the rankings difficult, not to mention personal opinion. To come up with our order, we looked at critical reviews, ratings from Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, fan favorites, box office numbers and our own personal views to put them in order from worst to best. Still, definitively ranking Harry Potter movies is even harder than coming up with the Star Wars movies ranked!

But first we must address the elephant (dragon?) in the room: Rowling’s controversial and upsetting comments about gender identity. Many people disturbed by her words had previously found a safe and welcoming place in the Harry Potter universe, with its themes and hidden messages in the Harry Potter books of the positive forces of inclusion, trust, loyalty and love. We’re taking the lead from Daniel Radcliffe, who wrote on The Trevor Project, “If you found anything in these stories that resonated with you and helped you at any time in your life—then that is between you and the book that you read, and it is sacred. And in my opinion nobody can touch that.” In addition, the movies are the work not just of the author of the novels, but the many actors, directors, writers, special effects masters and all the other crew members who brought to life the visual Harry Potter world we know and love.

With that said, let’s take a look at the films that many would consider among the best movies of all time, must-see classic family movies and the most exciting drama movies to ever grace the big screen. Though the rankings were difficult, we solemnly swear we were up to some good.

Which Harry Potter movie did the best?

In terms of box office success, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, the last film in the series, earned the most money, with a lifetime domestic gross of $381,011,219. But the first film, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, also did extremely well, breaking the opening weekend record of $72 million held by Jurassic Park: The Lost World by taking home more than $90 million and earning its place as the second-highest grossing movie ever at the time. The most popular movies in the series, both Deathly Hallows: Part 2 and Sorcerer’s Stone, have since passed the $1 billion worldwide box-office gross.

Which Harry Potter movie is the most underrated?

Just as it would be hard to decide which Harry Potter novel belongs on the list of most underrated books, this is, of course, a completely subjective question. There’s really no such thing as a bad Harry Potter movie! Personally, we love the reflective quality of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, although for most fans it’s on the bottom of the list. Another low-ranking movie, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, has a long runtime that only gives viewers more Harry Potter to enjoy. But for most fans, the most underrated is generally agreed to be Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which is gorgeously shot, well acted and sprinkles in bits of humor missing from some of the earlier films.

Can you watch all eight Harry Potter movies in a day?

If you’re talking about just the eight films in the main Harry Potter series, then technically, yes—if you’re up for a 24-hour movie marathon. All the Harry Potter films clock in with a total runtime of 19 hours and 39 minutes, so you’d have just over four hours left for pee breaks, trips to the fridge and maybe a little sleep. But adding in the three Fantastic Beasts movies puts it over the 24-hour mark, as they’d add on another nearly seven hours combined. Only the most die-hard fans would attempt this feat—probably the same ones who could ace any Harry Potter quiz.

And now, on to the Harry Potter movie rankings!

11. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

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The second Fantastic Beasts ranked lowest among critics and audiences alike, even with a script from J.K. Rowling herself. Among the positives, though, is a return to a more familiar wizarding world after the first Fantastic Beasts movie took viewers to America and added brand-new characters to the universe. In this 2018 film from longtime Harry Potter director David Yates, we return to Hogwarts and a very young professor Dumbledore (Jude Law) as he plans to take on the evil wizard Grindelwald (Johnny Depp). We even find out the origin story of Voldemort’s snake, Nagini.

Critics, though, thought bringing back familiar characters and settings didn’t allow Fantastic Beasts to exist as a stand-alone series. Even hard-core Harry Potter fans thought the flick was too heavy on the world-building setup for future films and confusing sub-plots, and too light on character development and satisfying plot conclusions. But still, the world of Harry Potter lives on—there’s even a new Harry Potter theme park opening.

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10. Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore

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This 2022 film debuted to no small amount of controversy. Alongside Rowling’s statements about the trans community, actor Mads Mikkelsen also replaced Johnny Depp as Grindelwald in this installment, following Depp’s abuse allegations. In the months since its release, actor Ezra Miller, who plays Credence Barebone/Aurelius Dumbledore (spoiler!), has come under fire for extremely erratic behavior, several arrests and allegations of grooming a minor.

Despite the shadow of controversy that only seems to grow more complicated as the film ages, Secrets of Dumbledore was generally considered a better movie than its previous installment. Though it earned nearly $250 million less at the box office, it tried to course-correct from the unfocused Crimes of Grindelwald and saw an uptick in critical and audience ratings. Despite suffering from the predictability and heavy-handedness that has plagued the Fantastic Beasts franchise, impactful action sequences and a strong performance from Jude Law as young Dumbledore in love with Grindelwald made this movie more satisfying than its second effort. However, it’s unclear if that will be enough to justify the filming of the previously planned fourth and fifth installments, which have yet to be confirmed.

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9. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

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Based on the fictional book Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander, a magical text mentioned in the Harry Potter novels that Rowling then turned into an actual book, this 2016 film directed by David Yates is the first prequel to the main film series. It’s a little jarring to be out of the world of Hogwarts—and indeed out of England—as our main character, a gentle soul and “magizoologist” who’s good with magical creatures, travels to New York in the 1920s.

But Eddie Redmayne touches our hearts as Newt, and the supporting cast, including a sly Colin Farrell, helps bolster the movie, written by first-time screenwriter Rowling herself. Eventually, we find a connection with the Harry Potter world we know in the dark wizard Grindelwald, who we recognize as the thief who stole the Elder Wand, one of the Deathly Hallows, and who we know Dumbledore defeated in 1945. The film is notable for winning the series’s only Academy Award, for its wonderful costume design. But although we like the movie and all its adorable magical creatures, it can’t touch the main series when it comes to Harry Potter movies ranked.

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8. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets 2

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With the longest runtime of any Harry Potter movie (2 hours and 41 minutes) and one of the lowest worldwide box office grosses of the main series, the second film, from 2002, does show the series hitting a sophomore slump. Although there are some standout moments—the flying car, Harry battling the basilisk, getting to see a young Tom Riddle (aka Voldemort)—much of the second movie seems a bit overloaded. Many of the other films trimmed down and adjusted the book content for the screen, but on his second outing, director Chris Columbus seemed determined not to miss a moment in Harry’s search for the legendary secret chamber in Hogwarts and its terrible monster. The resulting film just may be too much of a good thing, although it might allow you to look for the Harry Potter details you missed the first time you read the book.

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7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1

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When it comes to ranking Harry Potter movies, some fans like the pensive and suspense-building nature of the second-to-last film in the franchise, which covers half of the final novel in the book series. But because it leaves the entire climax for the second Deathly Hallows, much of this 2010 film feels like the setup that it is, as Harry, Ron and Hermione go on the run to find Horcruxes, the objects in which Voldemort has hidden parts of his soul to make himself harder to kill.

In a lovely, if creepy, animated sequence, we also learn the story of the Deathly Hallows, three treasures that make one a “master of death,” which Voldemort is also after. Although there are some heart-pounding scenes, such as our three heroes acting as spies in the Ministry of Magic and escaping from evil wizards in the heart of London—not to mention a heartwarming dancing scene between Harry and Hermione—many fans deemed this contemplative movie from director David Yates too slow-paced.

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6. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

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The only Harry Potter movie that scored an Oscar nomination for cinematography, this beautifully filmed 2009 movie focuses on teenage love (maybe using some Harry Potter pickup lines?) as much as on finding the identity of the title character. But even more important, in this second outing from director David Yates, Dumbledore recruits a new Hogwarts teacher, Professor Slughorn (Jim Broadbent), and tasks Harry with retrieving a memory from him that may hold the key to Voldemort’s evil plan.

Harry also starts hunting Horcruxes with Dumbledore, who, in one of the most heartbreaking moments in the entire series, meets a tragic fate. The movie is a bit meandering, but besides the first and last films, it earned the highest domestic box office gross, which means it’s still a success on our list of Harry Potter movies ranked. The sixth film in the series also marks a return to a PG rating after two PG-13 films (all subsequent films are PG-13 as well).

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5. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

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In this 2007 flick, Harry and his friends form a secret club to learn how to fight dark magic, mirroring the grownup resistance group the Order of the Phoenix, which includes the amazing Gary Oldman as Harry’s godfather, Sirius. The fifth Harry Potter movie, which also lands at No. 5 on our list of Harry Potter movies ranked, is the most political, as it features the subversive actions the rebels take against a corrupt regime. We also see Harry’s first kiss, the brilliantly wicked Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter) and the most eerie villain ever to wear pink, Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton, also known as Queen Elizabeth in Season 5 of The Crown). A thrilling duel between Dumbledore and Voldemort caps off the first installment from director David Yates.

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4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

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Directed by Mike Newell, 2005’s Goblet of Fire marks the series’s turn to darker, more grown-up fare—largely due to the death of a fellow student at the end of the film, and Voldemort’s return in a snake-like human form, chillingly played by Ralph Fiennes. The fourth movie in the series also serves to expand the wizarding world: The opening sequences take place at the Quidditch World Cup, and Hogwarts plays host to students from other wizarding schools as they compete in the Tri-Wizard Tournament. With several riveting challenges in the tournament, and the Yule Ball thrown in for good measure, this flick is a fan favorite. Nice touches show the characters’ transition into teenage-dom, including the boys’ shaggy haircuts and the students’ disheveled uniforms, creating plenty of fodder for Harry Potter jokes—like Ron’s frilly Yule Ball robe.

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3. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

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Ranking Harry Potter movies proves to be difficult at the top of the list: The best three Harry Potter movies ranked come down to personal opinion! Although its special effects haven’t all held up over the years, 2001’s Sorcerer’s Stone belongs at the top of the list because it set the stage for all the movies that followed: the look and feel of Hogwarts, the soaring theme music by legendary film composer John Williams and the brilliant casting of three fresh-faced child actors.

Seeing the Harry Potter world come to life for the first time truly is magical, and director Chris Columbus accomplished this daunting feat with seeming ease. For sheer nostalgia, this movie ranks in the top three. It also stands as the second-highest box-office grossing flick of the bunch—and you can even listen to Daniel Radcliffe read the book aloud.

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2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

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The highest-grossing of all the Harry Potter movies, the 2011 finale of the main series, directed by David Yates, is almost all action after the slower-paced, reflective feel of Deathly Hallows: Part 1. The first action sequence involves freeing a dragon and a thrilling escape from Gringotts Wizarding Bank, with most of the movie focusing on the Battle of Hogwarts and Harry’s final showdown with Voldemort. But a break in the action gives viewers one of the best scenes in the film, as Harry talks to Dumbledore in the place in between life and death. Emotional and thrilling to its climax, the film is a satisfying conclusion to the hugely successful series.

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1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

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The lowest-grossing Harry Potter film, and the third in the series, is also widely regarded as the best by fans and critics. Director Alfonso Cuarón changed the look and feel of the Harry Potter world created by Chris Columbus in the first two films—enough to update it as the characters and the storylines mature, but not enough to turn off viewers. New faces in the 2004 flick include David Thewlis as one of the best teachers Harry ever has, Professor Lupin, plus the introduction of Gary Oldman as wrongfully convicted Sirius Black. Add in a werewolf, an escaped prisoner, time travel, Harry’s flight on a Hippogriff, a thrilling ride on the Knight Bus and the Marauder’s Map, and you’ve got a recipe for a fun-filled outing that Cuarón keeps moving at a quick pace for the best film in the franchise. The flick also contains one of the most memorable Harry Potter quotes: “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.”

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Sources:

  • The Trevor Project: “Daniel Radcliffe Responds to J.K. Rowling’s Tweets on Gender Identity”
  • Rotten Tomatoes: “All Harry Potter Movies Ranked by Tomatometer”
  • Metacritic: “Every Harry Potter Movie, Ranked from Worst to Best”
  • Forbes: “Every ‘Harry Potter’ Movie Ranked by Worldwide Box Office”
  • The Numbers: “Box Office History for Harry Potter Movies”
  • Box Office Mojo: “Franchise: Harry Potter”
  • The Hollywood Reporter: “‘Fantastic Beasts’ Wins First Oscar for ‘Harry Potter’ Franchise”
  • Variety: “‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’ Crosses $1 Billion Box Office Milestone After China Rerelease”

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Tina Donvito
Tina Donvito is a regular contributor to RD.com’s Culture and Travel sections. She also writes about health and wellness, parenting, and pregnancy. Previously editor-in-chief of Twist magazine, Donvito has also written for Parade Magazine, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Parents Magazine online, among others. Here work was selected by author Elizabeth Gilbert to be included in the anthology Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It: Life Journeys Inspired by the Bestselling Memoir. She earned a BA in English and History from Rutgers University.