The Harry Potter film franchise is easily considered an iconic series because it introduced the viewers to an epic journey and a fantastical magic world many have fallen in love with over the years. The films have sparked yearly festivals, marathon rewatch parties and have birthed hundreds of relationships between people who met on forum boards, conventions and comment sections of social media pages. And we have J.K Rowling to thank for one of the most beautiful stories the world has ever seen.
Ever since their bitter breakup in 1776, America and Britain have often found themselves working together; and the story was no different when talents, studio heads, crew members from both countries came together to turn J.K Rowling’s best-selling book series to film. Before the movie adaptation process began, the book had an almost religious following around the world, thus the films becoming a box office franchise was never in doubt with popular director Steven Spielberg once noting that there was no challenge to making the film; “it’s just like withdrawing a billion dollars and putting it into your personal bank accounts”.
While he was certain the film would succeed, no one could predict just how much of a commercial success the Harry Potter films would become. Five of the films’ eight entries are on the list of the 50 highest grossing films of all time and the entire franchise of just 8 films had a box office return of $7.7 billion during their theatrical runs. Not including home video releases and merchandise.
Interestingly, When David Heyman first received a copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, he dumped it in his low-priority bookshelf until his secretary found it, read it and gave a positive review of the book, sparking the beginning of a production journey of one of the world’s most beloved franchises.
Of the eight films, Chris Columbus directed the first two, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Alfonso Cuaron directed Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban while Mike Newell directed Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Lastly, David Yates directed the final four films in the series, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the Half-Blood Prince, the Deathly Hallows Part 1 and Part 2. While the film series had multiple directors, all eight films were produced by David Heyman. A remarkable fact is that over 700 people worked on the production of all 8 films.
Harry Potter – Synopsis
The overall plot of the story details the journey of Harry Potter’s battle against Lord Voldemort whilst dealing with betrayal, prejudice, death, and political corruption. The films individual plot is as follows –
In the first film, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the main character of the story, Harry Potter is introduced as an orphan boy who is being raised by his aunt and uncle. On his eleventh birthday, he gets a letter and a visit from Rubeus Hagrid who delivers the now iconic line “You are a wizard, Harry”. Harry is revealed to have lost his parents at the hands of Lord Voldemort, who would be his mortal foe. Voldemort had also tried to kill him but failed and was left weakened by the curse’s failure. Harry Potter discovers the incident has made him famous in the Wizarding World when he begins his first year at Hogwarts. While at Hogwarts, he meets Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger who end up becoming his closest friends. In his first year, he and his friends are faced with the mystery of the Philosopher’s Stone.
In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and his friends – Ron and Hermione return to Hogwarts for their second year and are faced with even more difficult challenges than their first year. They discover that the Chamber of Secrets has been opened and a monster is terrorizing students and ghosts in the school. Harry is also accused of being Salazar Slytherin’s heir while he discovers the existence of a mysterious diary and that he can speak parseltongue (the language of snakes).
The third film is Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. While in his third year of school, Harry, Ron, and Hermione welcome a new teacher, Professor R.J. Lupin who became their teacher for one of the most important classes in Hogwarts, Defence Against the Dark Arts. Sirius Black, a convicted murderer escapes from Azkaban prison and the Dementors of Azkaban are sent by the Ministry of Magic to protect Hogwarts. Harry Potter continues to learn about his past which includes his relationship with the escaped prisoner.
In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the titular character starts to enjoy his time in the school, having grown into his own during his time at Hogwarts. However, his name is mysteriously produced by the Goblet of Fire as the fourth contestant of a three contestant competition hosted by Hogwarts – the Triwizard Tournament. His inclusion in the tournament inevitably puts him in a face to face confrontation with Lord Voldemort who had been reborn.
For Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the fifth film in the franchise, the story enters its critical point with the return of Lord Voldemort which the Ministry of Magic denies. Harry Potter starts his school year getting attacked by dementors while he continues to have nightmares. Himself and the gang get a new Defence of the Dark Arts teacher and the rebellion begins.
In the sixth movie, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Lord Voldemort’s influence and power on the Wizarding World grows as he continues to terrify the Wizarding World and the Muggle World. Albus Dumbledore and Harry concoct a plan to destroy Voldemort and while Harry comes into possession of a book with the inscription – “this is the property of the Half-Blood Prince”. Draco Malfoy, an antagonist of Harry Potter fails to carry out an instruction by the dark lord and Dumbledore convinces Horace Slughorn to become a professor in the school.
The seventh movie is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1; after the events of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the trio of Harry, Ron, and Hermione to set out on an adventure to locate the secret of Lord Voldemort’s immortality which is called Horcruxes. While they are on their adventure, Voldemort rises to power, collapsing the Ministry of Magic in the process. Harry Potter and his friends have to navigate several challenges and obstacles while dealing with the growing mental connection between Harry and Lord Voldemort.
The final film in the beloved franchise is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. During their adventure in this film, Harry Potter and his friends destroy one of Voldemort’s Horcruxes and learn of the Deathly Hallows. Their search for the rest of the Horcruxes eventually leads them back to Hogwarts where they face one last battle with Voldemort and his supporters.
Cast and Characters: Where Are They Now?
Over seven books and eight films, Harry Potter has had a revolving door of cast and characters who made the story the legend it is today. Here is a list of some of the cast and where they are today.
Daniel Radcliffe – Harry Potter
Daniel was cast after a seven-month search for an actor. He was discovered after his appearance in a BBC One television show, David Copperfield and he became a part of a group of actors that auditioned severally before he was chosen. Although his life and career have been consumed and defined by his appearance as the titular character of the film series, he has starred in other films like The Woman in Black, Swiss Army Man and Now You See Me 2, among many others. He may not have been able to cement a reputation independent of his Harry Potter appearances but unlike many child actors, he has grown to develop a decent film career. He is set to appear in Tokyo Vice and The Modern Ocean.
Emma Watson – Hermione Granger
Emma Watson played Hermione Granger who was undeniably the brain of the gang and today, she is arguably the most successful of the trio post-Harry Potter. Despite going back to complete her education at the end of the franchise, she has continued to star in both critically and commercially films like The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Beauty and the Beast, Noah, and Regression. She is due to appear in Little Women in 2019. Emma is also an activist and a UN Women Goodwill ambassador.
Rupert Grint – Ron Weasley
Rupert Grint played the less brainy but loyal friend of the trio, Ron Weasley. Post-Harry Potter, Rupert has appeared in a number of projects but none that has stood out both commercially or critically. He has however branched out to be a stage actor and continues to enjoy the reputation of his childhood success. In 2012, he participated in the Olympic torch relay.
Other cast members and their characters are – Tom Felton as Draco Malfoy, Harry Potter’s eternal rival and antagonist; Alan Rickman as Severus Snape; Robbie Coltrane as Rubeus Hagrid, one of Harry’s friends among Hogwarts staff; Richard Harris and Michael Gambon as Professor Albus Dumbledore; Dame Maggie Smith as Minerva McGonagall; Ralph Fiennes played the human form of the series’ villain, Lord Voldemort, among many others.
The Harry Potter story exists as part of a universe called Potterverse, and it has spurned other film stories like Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them which is set before the events of the Harry Potter series.