Bust out the Weasleys’ Wildfire Whiz-bangs and hoist a pint of Butterbeer: The “Harry Potter” movies are turning 20.
Two decades ago, director Chris Columbus’ “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” (which premiered in the U.S. Nov. 16, 2001, six days after bowing in the boy wizard’s homeland of England) introduced film audiences to magical BFFs Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint), the heroes of J.K. Rowling‘s mega-popular book series. The movie franchise wound up casting a spell, too, with eight hit films based on the novels followed by two recent “Fantastic Beast” spinoff prequels starring Eddie Redmayne as 1920s-era hero and awkward magizoologist Newt Scamander. (A third “Beasts” is slated to arrive in April of next year.)
In honor of Harry’s movie anniversary, here are all the “Potter” films, ranked from the biggest dud to the most enchanting fantasy.
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10. ‘Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets’ (2002)
This isn’t dead last because house-elf Dobby is the Jar Jar Binks of the “Potter”-verse. (He doesn’t help, though.) The underwhelming second installment unleashes a monstrous Basilisk on the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, but other than bringing in family members of the antagonistic Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton), it doesn’t do a whole lot for the overall saga.
9. ‘Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grendelwald’ (2018)
Due to off-screen legal issues, Johnny Depp has since exited the franchise as silver-tongued, entrancing dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald, but this weighty prequel goes all in – somewhat to its detriment – with “Potter” connections andnumerous bombshells, from debuting Jude Law as a young version of Harry’s (and also Newt’s) wise mentor Dumbledore to a mystery surrounding intensely repressed magical youngster Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller).
8. ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire’ (2005)
The best “Potter” book doesn’t quite equate to the top movie, as Harry gets thrown into a high-profile wizard competition in the overstuffed fourth film. It has some decent action scenes, though, plus a pre-“Twilight” Robert Pattinson makes an appearance as the doomed Cedric Diggory and we finally get Ralph Fiennes’ dark wizard Lord Voldemort, the biggest bad of the “Potter” franchise, slithering out in all his very evil glory.
7. ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ (2016)
Featuring a slew of new characters to the canon, the first spinoff brings wizarding to America for the first time in a charming narrative, set in 1926, that doubles as a buddy comedy featuring Newt and his non-magical pal Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler). There’s a lighthearted adventure vibe as Newt and Jacob track down a whole bunch of crazy critters that get loose, though the film also explores heavier themes of tolerance and inequality.
6. ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’ (2001)
While certain special effects in the kid-friendly “Sorcerer’s Stone” didn’t age that gracefully over the past 20 years, you can’t help but be won over by Radcliffe’s youthful charm as the much-ballyhooed orphan who arrives at Hogwarts with a mountain of expectations, learns about his late parents, plus finds allies, enemies and, of course, a bunch of danger around every corner.
5. ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1’ (2010)
Not unlike “Avengers: Infinity War,” the adaptation of the first half of Rowling’s final “Potter” novel is a whole lot of setup to a climactic showdown that welcomes back a lot of old faces. Harry, Hermione and Ron have to find and eliminate the Horcruxes (aka items that hold part of one’s soul) that give Voldemort immortality in a sprawling adventure with quite a good cliffhanger.
4. ‘Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince’ (2009)
As Hogwarts’ shady Potions Master Severus Snape, the late Alan Rickman is one of the franchise’s enduring highlights, and he particularly had some hefty material to play in the sixth film. Voldemort’s got the wizarding world in a tizzy, Harry falls in love and finds a mysterious textbook, and “Half-Blood Prince” conjures one of the best and most impactful endings in the whole series.
3. ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2’ (2011)
The inevitable concluding showdown between Harry and Voldemort, for all the magical marbles, definitely lives up to the seven-movie buildup, with a few twists thrown in to make it interesting. What makes the intense final film really sing, though, is how it takes its time to show how the final battle – and the saga as a whole – emotionally affects not only the main characters but also the supporting players, good, bad, and in between.
2. ‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix’ (2007)
Director David Yates (who’s helmed every “Potter”-verse film since “Phoenix”) took the kids out of Hogwarts, showed audiences a more expansive look at the wizarding world and also gave us the universal GIF of an exasperated Dumbledore (Michael Gambon). Also, Harry has a new role to play in this, training up an army to take on foes – most dastardly of whom here is Imelda Staunton’s superbly loathsome Dolores Umbridge.
1. ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’ (2004)
After Columbus’ first two family-friendly films, director Alfonso Cuarón (who would later win the best director Oscar for “Roma”) made Harry’s world dark, weird and really cool. Looking and feeling unlike every other “Potter” movie (in the best way possible), “Azkaban” introduces the horrifying dementors, Hermione does what we all want to do and sock Malfoy in his punchable face, and there’s even a little bit of time travel as Harry journeys to find out more about his past and what connection he has with a recent escapee (a great Gary Oldman) from magic jail.