Ranking the Harry Potter Films.

a ‘definitive’ ranking, by Dan McQuarrie

A while ago, I found myself in a discussion on Twitter over the Harry Potter films and where certain films ranked against each other. Whilst arguing for a certain few, I realised I hadn’t actually seen the films in years, so thought it might be an enjoyable exercise to rewatch them all again and form ‘The Definitive Dan McQuarrie Ranking of Harry Potter Films’. 

In this blog post, I am going to go through the films chronologically, giving you a very short afterthought on each film, and then after I’ve watched them all, attempt to rank them in quality order and explain my reasoning behind doing so. 

So first up;

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

When you look past the poor child acting, this film is actually pretty great. The magic and wonder of the first half of the film that comes from Harry discovering the world of magic for the first time; combined with the beautiful score, is a joy to watch. Whilst the final act does fall off a little bit, Quirrell and the testicle Voldemort face being quite a lacklustre villain, I came away from the film having really enjoyed it, and to be honest, much more than I remember enjoying it in the past. 

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

I’ve always had quite a soft spot for this film, though it does at times drift into the land of cheesy. The main plot is very interesting as it slowly unravels, and still to this day the first entrance into the chamber of secrets gives me the chills. There are cheesy moments, such as the slug scene and the polyjuice potion sequence, that much like the Weasley’s car, don’t really land. But overall, it’s exciting, it’s suspenseful and Tom Riddle proves to be a really compelling villain.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban 

There’s not much negative I can say about this film. The plot is excellent and slowly revealing, the suspense is strong, the performances; especially from Gary Oldman as Sirius Black, are fantastic, the the third act is very intelligently crafted. The scene in the shrieking shack is really one of the great scenes of the fantasy genre. Overall, this is a truly excellent film, it’s fun, it’s intense, it’s spooky, and I can already see this film being very high in my ranking. 

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

I really like the Goblet of Fire. There are times where the plot drags, all the nonsense with the ball being an example, but the core plot, the three trials, the rebirth of Lord Voldemort; it’s all fantastic watching. Great emotional performances from the key cast, and personally I love Mad-eye Moody in this film, and particularly the reveal as Barty Crouch Jr, which still has all the impact after seeing the film many times. This is a great entry in the franchise, and whilst it does have some weaknesses, it still stands up as a damn good film. 

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix 

I feel this film sits in the same vein as the previous two, but is the weakest of the three. Not to say it isn’t a great film though, it has fantastic moments like the Dumbledore and Voldemort fight, heartbreaking moments like the death of Sirius Black (any time Gary Oldman is on screen the film is elevated) and hilarious moments like Fred and George chasing Umbridge out the school. Another cracking film in the franchise.

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

This film is a bit of a mixed bag. As harrowing as it was, the plot of the attempt on Dumbledore’s life and the eventual murder by Snape is brilliant storytelling. I enjoyed the parts of the film that looked a bit more into Tom Riddle’s past, and the reveal of the horcruxes, however the extensive Slughorn subplot with the dinners and the tween romances got a little tiresome. That aside, this is another great film that proves the consistency of this film series.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, pt 1

This was where the films start to wobble a bit in my opinion. Deathly Hallows pt 1 is a whole lot of wondering about learning things, mostly focused on the Hermione and Ron love story which I will unapologetically come out and say I hate and every time they address the love story I get a little angry at the film. The finale at Malfoy Manor is pretty great though, and Dobby’s sacrifice still stands up as a great moment. But overall, whilst I still enjoy this film, I find myself disliking it more every time I watch it simply because the Ron and Hermione love story is so painfully bad to watch. 

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, pt 2

A finale that I feel is simultaneously satisfactory and disappointing in its conclusion. Everything with Snape, from Mcgonagall chasing him out the castle, to the huge twist reveal about his protection of Harry all along, is perfect, and Alan Rickman’s performance is outstanding. The Battle of Hogwarts is pretty epic, with some stand out moments from Neville and Mrs Weasley. But the final battle against Voldemort after Harry comes back to life is a bit lacklustre, and then yes there is the awful future scene with the terrible ageing and cheesy happy families, which reinforces my hatred for Ron and Hermione. Good film, could’ve been better, could’ve also been way worse, I still enjoyed it. 

Rankings

My big takeaway from rewatching this franchise is actually just how good it still is. Whilst there is moments of weakness throughout the series, bad acting, dragging subplots etc, every film is enjoyable and the story is fantastic. So whilst this ranking will be best to worst, the worst are still damn good films. 

Obviously, without a shadow of a doubt, Prisoner of Azkaban is my top film. It is an utterly compelling film with fantastic performances and thrilling moments and I could happily watch it over and over again. Probably to no surprise, I would then follow that with Goblet of Fire for much the same reasons. What may come to some as a surprise is what I’m putting at the bottom of my list, Deathly Hallows pt 1. My memory had me liking this film more, but after the rewatch I genuinely consider it the weakest of the franchise. I also would put part 2 quite low down the list, but the Snape moment saves it a space, as you will see in my final ranking. Maybe my hatred of Ron and Hermione together (I love them as characters, just to make that clear, just not together) has clouded my judgement, maybe people might be angry with how highly I rate Chamber of Secrets, I can’t help it, I have a real fondness for that film. 

But in all honesty, this is how I would rank the Harry Potter film series…

The Definitive Dan McQuarrie Ranking of Harry Potter Films

  1. Prisoner of Azkaban
  2. Goblet of Fire
  3. Order of the Phoenix
  4. Chamber of Secrets
  5. Half Blood Prince
  6. Deathly Hallows pt 2
  7. Philosopher’s Stone
  8. Deathly Hallows pt 1

So there you have it, my personal ranking. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my ramblings, I for sure enjoyed rewatching all the films and writing a bit about them. Now, in time I may force myself to watch the Fantastic Beasts films, but after watching only the first one I already bet they will likely occupy the two spots below this list above. 

Next up in my series of franchise rankings… Star Wars. 

Let’s be honest, Avengers: Endgame is the best film ever made.

by Dan McQuarrie

 

Imagine being given the job of; making the biggest movie event of all time, concluding twenty one films worth of character development and world building, trying to appease and impress tens of millions of fans around the globe and all the while attempting to a tell a somewhat coherent and enjoyable story. I wouldn’t want that job. Yet, here we are, in 2019, with Avengers: Endgame, a film, that I would argue, is the single greatest achievement in filmmaking ever. Forget every Best Picture Oscar winner ever, forget every artsy masterpiece that your film teacher forced you to watch, let’s be honest, Avengers: Endgame is the best film ever made. And here’s why:

  1. The Epic Conclusion

So, the MCU is literally the biggest franchise on the planet right now. There’s eleven years worth of films, all interconnected and supposedly leading up to this film. If you can pull that off, with impact, you’ve done a great job. At the end of Avengers: Infinity War, half the population of the world was decimated by Thanos’ snap, and most of our beloved heroes were gone. In Endgame, it is down to our original Avengers, with a few extra pairs of hands, to steal the Infinity Stones from the past, and snap everyone back into existence. Through a lot of hard work and close calls, they did it, until bang, Thanos attacks, and it’s time for a battle. The battle that unfolds is the most epic, huge battle sequence of the franchise, featuring every single superhero the series has to offer, fighting to stop Thanos from ending the universe all together. And with a powerful sacrifice, from the man who started it all, Iron Man, they win. 

Now the reason that this conclusion is so perfect is simply because Tony Stark is a legend. Robert Downey Jr has carried this franchise for years, Iron Man has been the face of the MCU from the very beginning, and whilst this film wraps up the first volume of the MCU for most characters, it is still teasing the future for them. But not for Tony Stark, this is the end of the road he started them on, and it’s so poetic that this epic conclusion is the perfect way to say goodbye to the hero that launched the franchise. Also, there was not a dry eye in the room, but we’ll get onto that.

2) Crying, Lots of Crying

Some films do make me cry, but no film has ever had such an emotional impact on me as Endgame. I was laughing out loud, yelling with excitement, shaking with nerves, and for a record hour and a half, weeping. What this film did so well, was for anyone who was a fan of the franchise, pack itself so full of throwbacks, pay offs and wtf moments that you genuinely couldn’t tell if you were crying from sadness or from pure shock and excitement. From the moment that Hawkeye’s phone rang, to the moment RDJ’s signature signed off the film, my eyes didn’t stop streaming, fair play to the Russo Brothers I guess.

The reason that the film carried so much emotional weight was not just because it featured characters we’ve grown to love over a decade of films, but because the writing was just so good. For example, Black Widow. That moment was devastating because we saw a hero who was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice not just to allow her best friend to live out his life with his family, but also because she wanted to finally do something so good that it would clear the red on her ledger she had spent her life trying to undo. In that moment, Black Widow’s story was complete, she’s the ex-assassin who selflessly saved the universe so that her best friend didn’t have to sacrifice himself. If you didn’t cry at that excellent writing you have no soul and probably should stop reading now.

Want more proof that the writing is genius? We’ve touched on Iron Man’s sacrifice, but I’m going to touch on the actual moment it all happened. As a director, if you can make a scene in which a big purple thumb looking alien says “I am inevitable” and the hero, in triumphing over him by stealing his shiny stones and snapping him out of existence with the words, “I am Iron Man”, emotionally powerful, then you are beyond talented. On paper it is dumb, why those words, but with a performance as strong as RDJ’s, a character as beloved as Iron Man, and a throwback to the first ever MCU film used in such a powerful moment, every single person in the audience was shocked and heartbroken. I know I wept, I know the people next to me wept, I heard people from ten rows in front of me weeping. It was genuinely some of the most masterful and powerful filmmaking I have ever seen and hats off to everyone involved for making the whole world cry.

3) All the Callbacks 

Callbacks in films can often be naff and unnecessary. When you’ve got twenty one films to callback to, you’re probably going to ignore most of it. But no, this film is absolutely packed to the brim with perfect callbacks and character moments that shouldn’t land on paper, but absolutely crush it because of the execution and the set up that only fans will understand. Heres my favourite ones:

  • ‘On your left’ – Falcon, just in the moment that ‘the vanished’ are returning, let’s Cap know that they are coming with these words. If you remember The Winter Soldier well, you’ll remember this was what Cap said to Sam the first time they met, as he overtook him multiple times as they both ran. Not going to lie, this moment was a tearjerker.
  • ‘You’re taking all the stupid with you’ – Bucky says this to Cap as he is leaving him to go and return the stones in the time machine. In this moment we all knew that Cap wasn’t coming back, and Bucky clearly knew this too. In this sad goodbye, Bucky says to Cap exactly what Steve said to Bucky back in The First Avenger before Bucky went off to war. Strong callback, very emotional.
  • ‘Cheeseburgers’ – In possibly the saddest moment in the film, Tony Stark’s daughter asks Happy Hogan for cheeseburgers at her Dad’s funeral. Upon remembering that his former boss and best friend also loved cheeseburgers, he shares a cute moment with her. You may remember that when Tony returned from the cave all the way back in Iron Man, the first thing he wanted was a cheeseburger. Like father, like daughter. I’m not crying, you are.
  • Activate Instant Kill’ – This is a really small and insignificant one, but I noticed it and thought it was such a small, but well thought-out callback. When fighting Thanos’ army, Spider-Man says to his suit to active instant kill, something that he shouted at the suit not to use in Homecoming when it accidentally loaded it up in a fight with The Vultures men. Is this important? Probably not. But points for attention to detail. 

4) If you don’t like Thor in this film, you are wrong

Thor has been on a long and interesting journey throughout the MCU. He started off as a cocky and arrogant all powerful god, who slowly learnt what it meant to be a hero and a king. He then lost the object that gave him his power, but then learnt that his power came from within all along, deep. After having literally every person in his life that he loved killed in front of him he then sought to defeat Thanos to prove his strength, and even with his new hammer, he failed. Then in a fit of guilt and anger, beheaded Thanos after realising he had destroyed the stones, and fell into a state of defeat and depression. In this film that breakdown was represented through being fat.

Fat Thor in Endgame has been a topic of debate. Some people found it hilarious, some people hated it for ruining his character. Here’s why I loved it. In this film we see what happens to a hero who has lost everything, and feels the literal weight of the loss of half of life in the universe on his shoulders. Thor knows he should’ve gone for the head, but he didn’t, because he wanted to gloat in Thanos’ face, and because of that choice, they lost. Fat Thor uses comedy to deal with what is actually quite a deep subject matter, and I believe it does so perfectly. Comedy can be used so brilliantly to tell us important stories, and here we see how broken and damaged Thor is, but through the use of comedy. Don’t forget that the conversation he has with his mother and his subsequent acquiring of his old hammer was a moment that proved, even after making mistakes and loathing yourself, you can still be worthy. I think this is a powerful conclusion to Thor’s story arc, and I can’t wait to see his interactions with the Guardians in future films. 

On a less serious note. Thor also makes this film incredible because of; the Big Lebowski jokes, his beard when he fights Thanos, he dual wields two hammers like a boss and he cranks 90s on Fortnite with his boys Korg and Miek. If you don’t like him, you’re wrong.

5) Finally, Captain America. Captain. America.

I will argue with people for days and weeks on end. But Chris Evan’s Captain America is not only the greatest character in the entire MCU, but I will also go as far to argue that Cap is the best hero in movie history. Thats right, I said it, he’s the GOAT. There is literally too much to get into in this film when it comes to Cap. So let me really quickly summarise.

This film is incredible because it is the film in which Steve Rogers becomes Captain America again after he abandoned the title in Civil War. As he says in the early moments of the film, ‘some people move on, but not us’. Even after five years Cap was never willing to give up on saving everyone, and as soon as Scott brought them the time travel theory, he was ready to lead the team again. Tony gives him the shield back, the man is back, and he’s making speeches and its incredible. But really, the reason Cap is the best is because he owns the two best moments of the film, and the two most powerful moments I’ve ever seen on screen. 

Firstly, let’s just talk about the hammer. CAPTAIN AMERICA LIFTS UP THORS HAMMER. If you were the one person in the cinema who didn’t leap out of their seat in pure excitement at that moment, get out. We realise in this moment that Cap is the real hero of this world, a young scrawny boy from Brooklyn, is worthy enough to possess the power of a literal god. And for the rest of the fight scene, seeing him fight with his shield in one hand, and Mjolnir in the other, is the proudest nerd moment to witness. 

Secondly, in what I will forever say is the single greatest moment in movie history, we see Cap standing alone in front of Thanos and his army, still refusing to give up because as he’s said many times before, he can do this all day. And then slowly, everyone and their mum arrives ready to fight alongside him, from Black Panther to Star-Lord, every Avenger is stood in line ready to fight. And Cap mutters those two words that any comic book fan had been waiting ten years to hear. AVENGERS ASSEMBLE. I fully lost my mind at this moment. The score is incredible, the shot of everyone charging is a cinematic masterpiece, the weight of Cap’s delivery, the fact we had to wait four Avengers films for him to finally say the words. The pay off was incredible, the film is incredible, its like Aragorn saying ‘for Frodo’ just a million times better. At this point I’m rambling but I’m going to cry just writing this. 

The film perfectly ends on the conclusion of Captain America’s seven film storyline. After leading the Avengers to save the world, he does one last job of returning the stones back in time. But as we’ve always known, Cap never got to spend his life with his true love Peggy, and in the closing moments of the film, we see how he chose to grow old and spend his life with her, as he gives his shield over to his worthy successor Sam. The film beautifully ends on Cap having the dance that he promised Peggy all the way back in 1945, and god did he deserve it.

The Endgame

I realise I’ve fully rambled for over two thousand words now on why Avengers: Endgame is the best film of all time, so I’m going to stop there. But to summarise, the action is incredible, the comedy is perfect, the characters and their arcs so elegantly done, and the conclusion of so many years of films, a feat of filmmaking genius. Special shout out to Kevin Feige and Stan Lee, the real MVPs. Thank you to everyone who made this film, we love you three thousand.