Firstly, I have to apologise for how late this edition of MM Top 5 is, I have no excuses, I was simply away from my computer. So, considering my poor timekeeping, I think it’s best to jump straight in and tell you what this fortnight’s MM Top 5 is: Harry Potter Films.
I’m doing this mainly in anticipation for the Harry Potter studio tour which I am visiting with some friends in August; it is based near London and for those of you who may be interested all the details can be found here. To say I am exceptionally excited is somewhat of an understatement and I thought that it would be the perfect opportunity to relive the films that inspired a generation of young people and rank the best five movies. So, here we go!
5. Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix: David Yates, 2007
David Yates came to the helm of the troubled franchise in 2007 and promised to inject a darker flavour to a crop of films which were blighted by two poor first instalments and his first effort; a bleak and sombre take on the Order of the Phoenix delighted and infuriated fans in equal measure.
The dulcet tones of grey, black and silver in Phoenix were a huge difference to the slightly more colourful films that preceded it and most audiences simply could not get enough. The film made over $900m worldwide and became the 17th highest-grossing film ever released, which is especially impressive considering it is a British-made movie.
More mature performances from Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint didn’t hurt the film either, though an increasingly noticeable lack of screen time was given to the veteran actors who made the films such a delight. Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith and Michael Gambon were relegated to miniscule roles and the overall film did suffer as a result.
However, most of the shortcomings can be forgiven thanks to an engrossing screenplay, realistic special effects and a heart-stopping climax in the Ministry of Magic which will no doubt have you reaching for the tissues.
Order of the Phoenix strayed a little more from the novel it was based on, but in fairness, this was no bad thing – JK Rowling’s 5th instalment was a breezeblock of a book and wading through the fat was necessary to construct a film which moved quickly and efficiently.
4. Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows – Part 1: David Yates, 2010
We once again step into the midst of David Yates as we continue our countdown of Harry Potter films. Released in 2010, Deathly Hallows Pt. 1 was a real gamble on the part of not only the director, but the entire production team.
Splitting JK Rowling’s 7th book into 2 films reeked of money-grabbing and it’s not something I usually condone, but for Harry Potter it worked and it paid off in droves.
Moving the action away from the confines of Hogwarts could’ve spelled disaster for the series, as loyal fans loved imagining they were in that school, practising spells, taking on basilisks and trolls. This film was much grittier than any of its predecessors, there was a noticeable shift in the tone once again as the viewer was brought into the world of Harry and the realisation that a war was brewing.
The three lead actors came into their own here too, though perhaps a little too late, and it was needed desperately, as without having many of the adult characters performing in the entire film it could’ve dragged and thankfully it didn’t.
It’s by no means perfect however, there’s a little too much handycam work throughout and one dance scene in particular feels a little too awkward for it to be believable, but these are very minor points in a film which could’ve been the franchises undoing.
Credit must go to David Yates for turning the rather dull first-half of the novel, into a thought provoking, touching and emotionally satisfying chapter in the series.
3. Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire: Mike Newell, 2005
We break away from David Yates’ films for a moment and focus on a director who had not read the books or even given in to the hype of Harry Potter at all. It wasn’t Warner Bros’ finest hour handing over the reins of such an important series to Mike Newell, but his film showed that even a man clearly not that interested in the series could produce a fine film.
Goblet of Fire is arguably JK Rowling’s finest book, action packed from beginning to end whilst still maintaining the emotion necessary to draw people in, it had everything readers wanted and Mike Newell’s film largely kept those important factors.
The Triwizard tournament was an inspired idea in the novels and the films showcased the adrenaline pumping series of challenges fantastically. The special effects in the series really were stepped up a gear from this point onwards as dragons became a major part of the franchise.
We also saw Ralph Fiennes for the first time as the evil Lord Voldemort and what a fine job he did with his role. Brendan Gleeson and David Tennant also joined the cast and were perfectly suited to their roles.
Again though, the film had its issues. The pacing and editing were choppy at best, with huge swathes of the novel cut out in favour of focusing on the tournament and its many dangerous challenges and whilst this may have suited newcomers to the series, many fans were left disheartened and a little disappointed.
2. Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows – Part 2: David Yates, 2011
The silver medal in this fortnight’s MM Top 5 returns to David Yates and the final instalment in the Harry Potter series. Deathly Hallows Pt. 2 was without a doubt the most important film of 2011 as audiences across the globe said goodbye to a franchise that had grown with them over 10 years.
Continuing immediately from where Hallows Pt. 1 left off, it showcased the very best in the British film industry and deserved much more recognition that it received. The sheer scale of the final battle of Hogwarts was indescribable and a momentous occasion that had been building and building since the very first film was released all those years ago.
We witnessed eye-catching special effects and some exceptional acting prowess from the likes of Alan Rickman, Ralph Fiennes and Maggie Smith, not forgetting the performances of the three leads who continuously grew throughout the final two films.
Here, they reached a pinnacle with their performances – the perfect send-off for the most loved film franchise in cinema history.
However, it wouldn’t be an MM Top 5 without a few small criticisms. A couple of the more poignant scenes involving the deaths of characters were terribly rushed and fans were simply unable to grieve for some of their favourites, it felt a little strange as for once, the series gave too much attention to the action and not enough to the characterisation.
The epilogue sequence featuring Harry, Ron and Hermione’s children was also a disappointingly cheesy end to a series which had been followed, globally for over 10 years.
1. Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban: Alfonso Cuarón, 2004
So, for another fortnight we have reached the spot which everyone can only dream of, the most prestigious podium in cinema.
Prisoner of Azkaban takes this fortnight’s top spot and I can think of no other film in the series of 8 that could possibly fit here better. Whilst the 3rd movie in the franchise may have been the lowest grossing at the worldwide box-office, it earmarked a huge change for the series, one which was felt right up until the very end of film number 8.
Alfonso Cuaron came to the series with a vision, to make Harry Potter darker and to grow the franchise along with the teenagers who were continuing to watch it. As we grew, the series grew with us and that is why it had so much staying power.
Gone were the childish school grounds of Hogwarts, replaced by the rugged, unforgiving terrain that most fans wanted from the beginning. These were no longer children’s films, they were for teenagers. The moody sense of foreboding that stayed with the franchise right up until the very end was created here, by wonderful cinematography and masterful direction.
Cuaron brought the best of his young actors too, with Emma Watson really coming out of her shell and even getting to punch someone in the face. Emma Thompson was added in a brilliant bit of casting which made Professor Trelawny a loveable dope who audiences connected with throughout the rest of the series.
Gary Oldman arrived as Sirius Black and perhaps even more high-profile than that, Michael Gambon replaced the late Richard Harris as Hogwarts’ headmaster, Albus Dumbledore. Were Harris was kind and gentle, something which was necessary in the first two films, Gambon played Dumbledore with much more superstition, much more anger and much more power, something which was needed with the constant onslaught of the Dementors and the impending arrival of Voldemort in film number 4.
So there we have it, Harry Potter has been ranked! Do you agree with my choices or should another one of the 8 films be in pole position? Leave a comment in the box below, I reply to them all!