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20 Years of Movie Magic: Harry Potter

Courtesy of Warner Bros Pictures

This November marks the twentieth anniversary of the release of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in theaters. Based on the popular book written by J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone broke box office records and was well received. Since then, the franchise has grown in popularity, with more movies based on the books. More recently, a prequel series called Fantastic Beasts has been the main focus. Before the Marvel Cinematic Universe grew and Star Wars came back, the Harry Potter franchise was considered the most popular film series in the world. While these franchises have topped it in the box office, Harry Potter remains popular today.

I remember as a kid getting into Harry Potter by my older sister. I saw the first four films before reading the books. Watching Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for the first time was an amazing experience I still remember nearly twenty years later. As Harry Potter is learning about the Wizarding World, the audience is also learning. I remember watching Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 in theaters ten years ago and getting emotional. I always appreciated the work put into the movies even before I appreciated filmmaking. The special effects work was always great. The way they brought the spells and creatures to life was fantastic.

The best thing about the Harry Potter franchise is the cast. Everyone plays their role perfectly. Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson played the Golden Trio perfectly. Even as young kids in the first two films, the trio embodied the characters of Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger. It’s hard to imagine anyone else playing them. The best performance comes from Alan Rickman as Severus Snape. Rickman’s performance as the potions master is spot on, from playing a grumpy potions professor to giving an emotional final performance in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. Rickman’s performance was so important Rowling told him ahead of time his arc in the final book before anyone else knew.

The two Harry Potter films I rewatch a lot and are in my top three favorite Harry Potter films are Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Both films had a unique take on the franchise and took it in a darker direction. Some of my favorite Harry Potter scenes are in the movie. In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, it is when Harry is riding Buckbeak the hippogriff. In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, it is the First Task of the Triwizard Tournament. I enjoyed the change in tone as well as the humor in those movies. Directors Alfonso Cuaron and Mike Newell had a perfect blend of dark moments and humorous moments. Both films had chilling moments. The Dementors in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban scared me for a long time. The resurrection of Lord Voldemort in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire does such a great job making me nervous no matter how many times I have seen it.

The film score in each film is also iconic. Hedwig’s Theme is still the first Harry Potter score that comes to mind. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban has a great blend of the original theme from the first two movies and a more medieval-like score. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 has the most emotional score. The costume work was great despite making so many, from the school uniforms to wizard robes and Death Eater uniforms. The design of locations such as Hogwarts and the Ministry of Magic is amazing to look at.

The films of course have differences from the books they are based on. One film in the franchise I considered better than the book it was based on is Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. It shortened a long book, but kept the main focus on Harry not only dealing with people claiming he’s a liar, but growing into a leader teaching his classmates how to defend themselves against Voldemort and his Death Eaters. I also felt the relationship between Harry and his Godfather Sirius Black was handled better in the movie than in the book.

All in all, the Harry Potter franchise remains relevant today and is still one of my favorite franchises. A few things from the first two movies might not have aged well, but the films are still good. Universal theme parks have a section called The Wizarding World of Harry Potter based on the franchise. The next film in the franchise is Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore. The film is currently scheduled to come out on April 15, 2022. There have also been rumors of a film sequel to the original franchise, but nothing official. I hope Harry Potter continues to stay relevant and people who didn’t grow up with the series like myself and others watch these films at least once in their lives.

What do you think about the Harry Potter movies? Let me know in the comments down below.

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