If any franchise has managed to become the 21st Century equivalent of "Star Wars," it's "Harry Potter." Through eight movies and a new wave of "Fantastic Beasts" prequels, this magical saga has captured the hearts of millions. Here's how the ten movies released so far measure up.
10. 'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them' (2016)
Were it not an extension of one of the most popular movie franchises of all time, "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" may well have been a franchise killer. This prequel fails to conjure the magic of the other films. Sure, the titular beats are a hoot, as is Eddie Redmayne's soft-spoken protagonist. But the story is a real slog, making the prospect of four sequels a hard pill to swallow.
9. 'Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald' (2018)
“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” came into the franchise on slightly shaky feet. Not only was the first's reception mixed-to-lukewarm, there was also a swirl of controversy around the casting (and continued employment) of Johnny Depp as the titular dark wizard. (When J.K. Rowling has to issue a statement on Twitter, you know it’s a big deal.) So it’s a relief to say that the sequel is a total blast, an ornate, appropriately epic follow-up that feels like an honest-to-goodness part of the franchise (and not some weird side quest, like the first one did). Eddie Redmayne, as the twitchy Newt Scamander, endears more than annoys this time around, and Jude Law as Sexy Young Dumbledore is a welcome addition. (Also, critics be damned, Depp is terrific.) Darker, stranger, and more pointedly political, even if you weren’t a fan of the first, this should cast its spell on you.
8. 'Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone' (2001)
The original Harry Potter was great fun for its time, but it doesn't exactly hold up to what came later. The franchise was still at its most innocent and family-friendly here. It's a solid adaptation of the book, but there's definitely a spark that's missing.
7. 'Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets' (2002)
The second entry in the series is a definite improvement over the first. It's got a more compelling mystery, some memorable new characters (like Kenneth Branagh's self-absorbed Gilderoy Lockhart) and delves more deeply into the history of Lord Voldemort. Despite all this, there's a certain spark in the later movies that isn't present under director Chris Columbus.
6. 'Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire' (2005)
"Goblet of Fire" is one of the longest (and most beloved) books in the series, and more than with any of the other adaptations, you can really feel this one straining to cram in all the important beats. It's hard not to feel frustrated at seeing so many big moments (like the Quidditch World Cup) glossed over here. Even so, there's plenty of enjoyable material left, from hormonal teen wizards to a rousing dragon battle to the debut of Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort.
5. 'Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix' (2007)
Despite being based on the longest book in the series, "Order of the Phoenix" does a much better job than "Goblet of Fire" when it comes to streamlining the source material. It was also the darkest chapter in the series to date, with many of the franchise regulars rising to the challenge. This sequel also introduces some of the best characters in the series, from the spacey Luna Lovegood to villains so evil you love to hate them like Bellatrix Lestrange and Dolores Umbridge.
4. 'Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince' (
The "Harry Potter" series is one of those rare cases where the quality generally improves over time, and that definitely held true for the sixth entry. "The Half-Blood Prince" is the last movie to explore Harry, Ron and Hermione's time at Hogwarts before everything goes south. More than most, it manages to balance a grim tone with a sly sense of humor and moments of whimsy. The movie also goes a long way towards humanizing supporting characters like Dumbledore and Draco Malfoy.
3. 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1' (2010)
The penultimate chapter in the main "Harry Potter" saga, "Deathly Hallows - Part 1" pushes the story in an even darker and more dramatic direction. This sequel puts Harry, Ron and Hermione on the run, with the tone and visual style becoming grittier and more frenetic as a result. It doesn't end particularly well given the choice to split the novel into two parts, but it still offers a very satisfying ride.
2. 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2' (2011)
The "Harry Potter" movies reached their dramatic climax with this epic and emotionally satisfying final chapter. As with its predecessor, "Part 2" suffers a bit from having one story broken into two halves. Even so, it features so of the best moments in the series as well as some engrossing, emotionally charged acting from the franchise regulars. This is a movie designed to have you nonstop ugly crying for about the last hour.
1. 'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban' (2011)
As much as the series seemed to get better and better with each new installment, in the end no "Harry Potter" movie managed to outdo "Prisoner of Azkaban." The third in the series, "Azkaban" was also the first to show moviegoers what was really possible with this universe. It's a much darker, funnier and more visually stunning take on the source material than what we got with the slavishly faithful first two films. That's the benefit of bringing a director as talented as Alfonso Cuaron aboard. He elevated every facet of the series during his brief time at Hogwarts.