With the announcement of Harry Potter IMAX mania hitting the theaters again this week, I wanted to give you a quick tutorial on what to watch and also dust off some of those memories before venturing out into the theater. To my knowledge, there won't be a marathon showing them in order, and it appears that they will be spread out in different orders over most of the week. So how do you watch them? Can you watch them all? Which of them do you pick to go see if you can't make all of them?
I want to answer all of these questions, but I don't want to necessarily rank them all in order of best to worst. This is more of a "which of these would be best to see in the theater" as opposed to at home, which means the story might be good, but the combination of story and visuals make the big screen a must for some, but not so much with the others. Make sense? Good.
To me, all of the 8 movies are good and very watchable, but if I have to pick, then I need to group them into a tier system rated from "I could pass seeing it in the theater" to "I need to bust out my Hogwarts gear and draw a fake scar on me to go to the theater" and as you can probably tell, it's a sliding scale. Let's go through the 3 tiers
Tier 3: I can see this on cable and not leave the couch
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
- Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
The first in the series is good, but I don't need to go out of my house to see it. Sure the kids were good, but if I'm going to see the theater, I don't want to see the most "kids" version of these kids movies. It was fun, but leaned more on introducing a world that got better, so in hindsight that first movie doesn't hold up as well. As far as the Half Blood Prince, it is by far the worst of the series and even though it had potential there isn't anything now that would entice me to go back to the theater to see it. Everyone knew what that book was leading to and the movie telegraphed it. Sure, there were some good scenes, but I'm OK with seeing those on the couch.
Tier 2: These are more fun than good and it might be fun to see them again. Also, nah I'm good.
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2
The end of the series drags on and on and on and.....you get it. Look, when they are not in the woods, it is entertaining and after 8 movies, they can drag on the sentimental final train/kid scene, but too much of the time is spent with the weak Ron thinks Harry is diddling Hermoine, which everyone knows isn't true. There are some full on amazing moments, like the battle at Hogwarts, Snape telling Harry he has his mother's eyes (makes it so much heartbreaking now that Alan Rickman has died), and the underrated how the Elder wand belongs to Harry scene. Those do not make up for the super slow moments that get dragged out over two movies. I love parts of each of them, and when they are on cable I will watch large parts of it, but I'm not sitting through one of them in the theater and I don't see how you could see one without the other.
As for Goblet of Fire and Chamber of Secrets, they are very entertaining, but with Secrets they are still too young and kid based and the snake fight at the end doesn't hold up well. I'm on the fence about Goblet of Fire because of all of the action and the ending is legitimately sad with Cedric dying, but overall it's not worth the time in the theater. At least not over the two choices we have for the top tier.
Tier 1: Take my money because these movies are f**king rad!
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
This is what I'm talking about! Both of these are still worth the price of admission and hold up as really rad movies that have terrific story-lines, accompanied by visually stunning scenes. The fight scene between Dumbledore and Voldemort at the end of Order of the Phoenix is my favorite scene and favorite ending from any of the other 8 movies. It is amazing and the ending where the ministry sees He Who Should Not be Nosed just before he leaves is done to perfection. That scene alone is worth the price of admission, especially when you realized the stakes that are real for Harry. Phoenix is the first of these movies where they seem adult in nature and they cease to be kids movies.
Prisoner of Azkaban is the most well executed of all of the movies and the tone from beginning to end is great, which is not a surprise when you think back to the director. Alfonso Cuaron directed this movie before any of his Children of Men or Gravity fame. He is by far the best director to helm the reins of a Potter movie and the results speak for themselves. This is scary and intense and the best of what the series has to offer. That's not to say that David Yates didn't do a fantastic job with the 4 Potter films he directed, but he made the best scene and also the weakest movie. Either way, go see both of these movies in the theater and watch the rest at home. These are by far the best and worth the time and money.
Stephen Balding is the founder of Cinema Soapbox. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org