The best Harry Potter movies: every film ranked, from worst to best

Ron, Harry, and Hermione point their wands at the camera in The Philosopher's Stone, one of the best Harry Potter movies
Do you agree with our ranking of the best Harry Potter movies? (Image credit: Warner Bros)

Determining the best Harry Potter movies is a contentious topic. There's eight movies all offering something different to fans. After all, the franchise has had four directors with different styles and approaches to adapting the books to the screen. Which means there's plenty of differing opinion when it comes to which are the best Harry Potter movies in the saga. But, we've dived deep into the Wizarding World to devise this ranking of the Harry Potter films from the worst to the best. 

If you'd rather stick to the flow of the story, then utilize our guide on how to watch the Harry Potter movies in order instead. For US viewers, you can watch all of the Harry Potter movies on Peacock after the streaming platform took them from Max in 2022. In other countries, you'll find the Harry Potter movies on Netflix. For now, let's advance to our ranking of the best Harry Potter movies.

8. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets 

Release date: 15 November 2002
Runtime: 161 minutes
Age rating: PG (US) / PG (UK)
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Robbie Coltrane, Jason Isaacs, Alan Rickman, and Maggie Smith
Director: Chris Columbus

As the second movie, Chamber of Secrets, had a lot to live up to after the stellar success of the first instalment of the franchise. Chris Columbus, the Home Alone director, returned for the second movie – and he chose a darker, more dangerous path for the series, setting the tone for each subsequent movie.

Whilst an incredibly important narrative builder for the Harry Potter franchise, it's not filled with the magic and wonder of the others, hence why it's placed last on the best Harry Potter movies ranking. Plus, at a whopping two hours and 41 minutes, it was arguably a bit long for being one of the movies that focused more on introductions and narrative. That being said, Chamber of Secrets is where we first meet some iconic stalwarts of the series such as Draco Malfoy’s prolific dad, Lucius (Jason Isaacs) and everyone’s favourite house elf, Dobby (Toby Jones).

Chamber of Secrets does a fantastic job at maturing the story from the first instance of a group of kids, big-eyed and bushy-tailed, embarking on their adventure at Hogwarts. And then, there's the stark realisation that the Harry Potter series was to be more ghastly than expected with Tom Riddle’s true identity slowly unravelling, an unfortunate slug-vomiting charm, and the terrifying Basilisk.

7. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Release date: 18 November 2005
Runtime: 157 minutes
Age rating: PG-13 (US) / 12A (UK)
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Timothy Spall, David Tennant, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Gambon, and Robert Pattinson
Director: Mike Newell

Goblet of Fire is the stage for the Triwizard Tournament - bringing together alternative magical schools for which it may have initially seemed that Hogwarts was the only one. The promise of a Quidditch World Cup finale was a promising one, but did not come into fruition. Instead, there was a questionable focus on the teenage romantic angst of the characters that left fans divided. Underlying it all though, the first big reveal of he who shall not be named.

In Goblet of Fire, the students are going through a certain teenage stage of their lives and arguably, this ends up dominating much of the movie. It was always going to be a hard one to tackle given the shift in narrative, but director Mike Newell rose to the occasion creating drama, rivalry, and a notable change in relationships, not only in the newly-introduced characters, but with the Harry, Ron, and Hermione too.

 6. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone 

Release date: 10 November 2001
Runtime: 152 minutes
Age rating: PG (US) / PG (UK)
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Robbie Coltrane, Warwick Davies, Richard Harris, Alan Rickman, and Fiona Shaw
Director: Chris Columbus

The movie that started it all and what an absolutely fantastic start. But, not the best. It’s clear that the Sorcerer's Stone (or Philosopher’s Stone as it's known outside of the US) had one focus in mind - to begin an adventure. Given what we know now about all the epic stories it was building up to, it’s no surprise that it made sure it set us up just right. 

There are so many iconic moments in the Sorcerer's Stone that fans and newbies alike can enjoy as the first foray of Harry Potter to screen. We meet Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane), the Hogwarts’ gentle gamekeeping giant. We board the Hogwarts Express alongside Harry for his maiden voyage to Hogwarts and, of course, we meet his best friends, Ron and Hermione. Plus, seeing Hogwarts itself. Whilst Sorcerer's Stone is incredibly important to the franchise – without it Harry Potter wouldn’t exist – the main storyline in the movie lacks magic and action, placing it sixth in the best Harry Potter movies.

5. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 

Release date: 19 November 2010
Runtime: 146 minutes
Age rating: PG-13 (US) / 12A (UK)
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Bill Nighy, Julie Walters, Bonnie Wright, Helena Bonham Carter, and Ralph Fiennes
Director: David Yates

Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is continuously applauded for how true it stayed to the book. Ending a series after such a long time meant there was a lot at stake and it needed to be done right. But, you’re not going to please everyone. Deathly Hallows: Part 1 turns its focus onto Harry, Ron, and Hermione, demonstrating the growth they’ve made as characters and actors throughout the franchise. There’s long narrative moments, emotional exchanges, and the slow, nail-biting crescendo that, we know now, inevitably amalgamates into the epic finale that was to follow. 

It has split opinion with fans as some feel that it sorely misses action and are still annoyed that they split the movie into two parts. But, arguably, without Deathly Hallows: Part 1 building up the momentum and slowing the pace to focus on the characters, the stark change in pace when the storm hits in Deathly Hallows: Part 2 would not have been as impactful.

4. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

Release date: 15 July 2009
Runtime: 153 minutes
Age rating: PG (US) / 12A (UK)
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Jim Broadbent, Helena Bonham Carter, Warwick Davis, Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, and Timothy Spall
Director: David Yates

The best Harry Potter movies find a certain finesse when it comes to balancing between action-packed scenes and lending time to the relationship-building narrative. Half-Blood Prince is one of the movies that tests this balance to the extreme. 

It's filled with famed scenes such as the hunt for horcruxes, Christmas at the Burrow, and the Astronomy Tower scene we still aren't ready to discuss. But then, takes long, gaping moments of screen time to build upon the narrative. One thing feels right though, that without these moments of contemplation and focus, that the remaining movies would not have created such an all-encompassing emotion. Through J. K. Rowling’s writing and the director’s translation to film, the series manages to allow viewers to feel deeply for the characters so when the action descends, the impact of its consequences is felt even deeper.

3. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix  

Release date: 11 July 2007
Runtime: 138 minutes
Age rating: PG-13 (US) / 12A (UK)
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Michael Gambon, Ralph Fiennes, Brendan Gleeson, Jason Isaacs, Gary Oldman, and Imelda Staunton
Director: David Yates

If action is what you’re after, Order of the Phoenix comes with a complete abundance of it. Voldemort, Death Eaters, and butting heads with the Goliath that is the Ministry of Magic, director David Yates had a lot to navigate when he took the helm.

Fortunately, he received great praise for his humour, visuals, and action, which ultimately gave him the subsequent final three movies to play with. It’s the dialogue that truly shines in Order of the Phoenix though, as the conversations between Harry and Sirius (Gary Oldman), Snape (Alan Rickman), and Remus (David Thewlis) are unmatched in the franchise. Each builds tension, emotion, and inevitably leads us to discover secrets about each character that provoked shock and awe. Also, let’s not forget the epic Voldemort and Dumbledore duel that pitted two powerful wizards against each other to a momentous backdrop of the Ministry of Magic. All this places Order of the Phoenix firmly in the top three of the best Harry Potter movies.

 2. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Release date: 4 June 2004
Runtime: 142 minutes
Age rating: PG (US) / PG (UK)
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Robbie Coltrane, Michael Gambon, Gary Oldman, Alan Rickman, Julie Walters, and Emma Thompson
Director: Alfonso Cuarón

There’s so much to learn about the best Harry Potter movies and the world that he's thrown around in. Harry's parents, Voldemort, Hogwarts and the differing role its staff play in Harry’s story, the Wizarding War, and Harry's miraculous survival. Prisoner of Azkaban acts as a great beacon of detail for everything there is to learn. We meet Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, and Peter Pettigrew for the first time. We learn about the Marauders map, visit Hogsmeade, learn about Patronus’, and see Harry fly both on Buckbeak and his Firebolt for the first time.

Whilst Voldemort isn’t present, the tale of his return hangs over the movie like a dark cloud. This dark cloud is a stalwart for Prisoner of Azkaban, changing up the pace of a childlike wonder into a more mature nightmare. Much like the book, a crucial moment in the story, where it becomes wholly apparent that the tale isn’t just one of children learning the magical ropes, but one that instead tests their durability and bravery throughout.

1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 

Release date: 15 July 2011
Runtime: 130 minutes
Age rating: PG-13 (US) / 12 (UK)
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Michael Gambon, Ralph Fiennes, Alan Rickman, Domhnall Gleeson, and Evanna Lynch
Director: David Yates

Finally, we've reached the top of our best Harry Potter movies ranking. It’s hard to put into words how truly fantastic Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is at achieving its main goal – to end it all. After Deathly Hallows: Part 1 split opinion and slowed down the pace, Deathly Hallows: Part 2 came as a surprise to fans who felt they’d been listened to, that expectations were being met, and that non-stop action was about to unravel before their very eyes. As is true with a lot of movie finales, Deathly Hallows: Part 2 becomes home to some of the most iconic scenes of the entire franchise.

And it's a movie built on iconic moments. Most notably, Snape, a character who over hours and hours of screen time was painted as a villain, has his true story and motive unraveled by beautifully crafted directorial and writing prowess. It was clear that everything up to this point had been leading to this movie. To tie it all together. To leave fans feeling satisfied, but also incredibly on edge. Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is an outstanding example of film craftsmanship that shaped a much-loved book series and did it justice, whilst taking fans on one last, nail-biting and thrilling ride.

For more Harry Potter-based coverage, find out which films made it onto our best Netflix movies and best Max movies lists. Alternatively, read about Harry Potter's TV remake potentially being set to arrive in 2026, and who's been announced the showrunner and lead director for Harry Potter's TV reboot.

Grace is a freelance writer for TechRadar, with past work at sites like GamesRadar, Metro and The Loadout. 

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