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The 7 Best Moments From the Harry Potter Films

High points from the entire saga.

By Rob Vaux     July 13, 2011

7 Best Moments From the Harry Potter Films
© Warner Bros/Robert Trate

 After ten years and eight movies – one more than the book series that spawned it – the Harry Potter franchise finally comes to an end this Friday with the second part of The Deathly Hallows. Readers already have a pretty good idea of how it’s all going to play out, and the early word is that director David Yates brings the series to a climax with enthusiasm and respect. That’s par for the course on this film series. Though it never approached the greatness of the books, it remained solid entertainment almost from the start: a remarkable achievement for a franchise this prolific. Part of its success lies in the little moments, where Rowling’s imagination really takes root and you feel her universe springing to life around you. Everyone has their favorites, and we thought we’d share some of ours before we wave good-bye to The Boy Who Lived and his friends. We’ve picked one for each of the previous seven movies, arranged in chronological order below.


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: The Owls

Chris Columbus had a bit of a shaky start. His young cast still needed seasoning, and the strength of the universe struggled to assert itself in the first outing. It resonated most deeply during an early moment: after Daniel Radcliffe’s Harry received his first invitation to Hogwarts, only to be thwarted by his odious relatives, the Dursleys. The invitations kept coming, however… and coming… and coming… and coming… until the very ordinary street on which he lived was festooned with messenger owls. It’s a striking image -- genuine magic breaking through into the ordinary world – that the rest of the film never quite manages to match.


Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: The Hat Comes Back

The series really found its footing with the second go ‘round: still one of the best entries so far. Throughout the first movie, Harry is seemingly given everything he needs, because he’s the great Harry Potter after all. Here, we start to see him act on his own. More importantly, we begin to see the depth of this universe and the fact that it doesn’t all revolve around him. The touchstone moment comes with the Sorting Hat, who looks down at him from its shelf and says, “I still think you would have made a good Slytherin.” Not only does it deepen a seemingly throwaway line in the first film, but it reminds us that the Hat still exists… even after its function in Harry’s story has passed.


Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Buckbeak

Purists decry this film for slighting the first appearance of Sirius Black (Gary Oldman), while film lovers praise the imaginative direction of Alfonso Cuaron. The debate rages on, but lost in the middle is a lovely character who demonstrates the strength of Rowling’s writing and how well it translates onto the screen. No, it’s not David Thewlis’s Remus Lupin (a marvelous figure in his own right) but rather Buckbeak: the condemned hippogriff that Harry and Hermione need to rescue from execution. He exists completely as a CG figure, but was rendered surprisingly well onscreen. More importantly, Cuaron filled him with loads of personality, ensuring that we cared deeply about his fate and shared the thrill of his victorious flight with Harry at the end.


Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: He’s Baaaack…

We’d heard a lot about Voldemort in the previous three films, and even caught a glimpse of him here and there as a deformed spirit being. This time, he finally arrives: big as life and twice as scary. Ralph Fiennes proved an inspired casting choice, with a coiled menace that never requires him to so much as raise his voice. But the extraordinary make-up job – featuring serpentine eyes, skull-like teeth and a nonexistent nose – really sends chills down the spine. Not only does it give Fiennes an exquisite launching point for his performance, but it adheres closely to Rowling’s description: a balance this series has gotten quite good at over the years.


Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: Worst. Teacher. Ever.

Imelda Staunton deserved an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of Delores Umbridge: sickly sweet paragon of petty authority who delivered Orwellian oppression with a Mary Poppins smile. She single-handedly staved off franchise fatigue with her usurpation of Dumbledore’s position at Hogwarts, while providing Fred and George Weasley – whose film presence was severely truncated from the books – with a proper target for their endless pranks. From their good-hearted mischief came genuine social rebellion, as well as a reminder that the greatest evils are often facilitated by small-minded people.


Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: “He’s Going to Kill Me!”

Poor Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton): the sheep amid the lions that constitute Harry’s adversaries. When you’re facing villains bent on global domination and wholesale genocide, the school bully starts to look like small change. For five movies, Malfoy acted as a tiny fly in Harry’s ointment: starting out bad, then fading to utter insignificance with nary a backwards glance. And then, like a minor miracle, he finally flowered here, forced to commit an unspeakable deed at Voldemort’s behest, lest his own life be forfeit. The terror in his eyes spoke to the bargain he made... a bargain whose fine print he blithely neglected to read. Consequences are a bitch, aren’t they Draco?


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One: The Doe

As of this writing, filmgoers still don’t know the full significance of that Patronus in the woods: the one shaped like a doe who leads Harry to the Sword of Gryffindor. (Those who have read the book know exactly what it is, but revealing it here would be telling.) It encapsulates the emotional core of the seventh film: a fragile, inexplicably mysterious source of hope just when things look their darkest. We’ll get the payoff this Friday – hopefully forming another high point – but for now, its beautiful secrecy forms a selling point all its own. 


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dawntreader 7/13/2011 1:17:01 AM

I so wanna see the last one!

lazerman 7/13/2011 3:50:34 AM

Just 2 more days of HELL to get through and I can see how SNAPE RULES!

Wiseguy 7/13/2011 6:16:48 AM

Wow I think I'm going to have to eat my words about Transformers outperforming HP. deadline has a piece stating how it has sold more 3D tickets than T3 or any other film this year and still 2 days to go, it's setting a record for most 3D screens and I-Max screens. All signs point to a possible record setting opening outdoing TDK. I'm impressed already

ddiaz28 7/13/2011 6:54:45 AM

Yeah, I wouldn't doubt it beating Transformers and giving TDK a run for it's money.  I passed by the IMAX theater in downtown Toronto yesterday and there was already a line of at least 40 people waiting to get in.  That is crazy!  I'm a huge fan but I'm waiting at least a week to see it so I don't need to worry about going super early to get a good seat.  I may even just pre-buy seats in an AVX theater (which is almost as good as IMAX imo) since you actually reserve specific seats which elimates any worry about crowds. 

One of my favorite moments in the series is Sirius' death scene.  Not that that was a good moment, but it was very emotional.  Dumbledore's duel with Voldemort at the end of OOTP was also spectacular.  That was really the first time we got to see an all out powerful wizard duel.  And the seven potters scene was also a highlight for me seeing it translated from page to screen.

I totally agree with the doe scene Rob.  I'm sure a lot of people saw that and just let it slip by their memory.  They have no idea how truly important and what a big clue to a huge mystery that was.  And of course Draco and Dumbledore's death was amazing too.  Although initially, I didn't like how it played out in the film versus the book.  In the book, Dumbledore puts a binding curse on Harry under his invisibility cloak so he can't move and is unable to help at all.  I just didn't like how Harry was able to just watch without trying to stop it.  Although they made it make sense with Snape confronting Harry first and making it seem like he would handle it.  Well, handle it he did. 

Following that scene was one of the worst omissions from the series, I think.  The small battle inside Hogwarts as Harry races to catch Snape.  That still irks me.  Along with how Harry and Ginny's first kiss and relationship was changed, Deathly Hallows is one of the films where the changes made bothered me the most.  But that is another article completely.  Do that next Rob.

Kadet2002 7/13/2011 7:45:25 AM


I will be part of those sold out 3D tickets here in colorado springs (the girlfriend is a big fan), so I don't doubt the huge number of sales that are already going on. As epic as I've been told this is going to be, I'm sure it will blow everything out of the water both domestically and world wide. Hopefully for your sake and mine it won't undermine Captain America's performance. That is the one I have been most wanting to see and will probably see it 10 times in the theater to give it some extra revenue.   

Wiseguy 7/13/2011 7:54:43 AM

Yeah Kadet I share your sentiments. I wish Cap had given HP an extra week to play out.

cheekymonkey 7/13/2011 8:38:03 AM

Owls count as moments?  I wouls but Nevell winning the house cup for Gryffendor as the best moment in Hp SS

halfbloodprincess 7/13/2011 8:54:54 AM

 I am not seeing it in 3D because I love Harry Potter and I hate 3D. I am seeing it at midnight though. I am sure it will be the highest grossing movie of the summer. Maybe even the year.

Higgy 7/13/2011 10:07:43 AM

@cheekymonkey, this is the best moments from the Films, not the books.  We never see that moment in the films.

almostunbiased 7/13/2011 10:14:49 AM

Strange list.


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