Harry Potter Movie Marathon


One of the few advantages of quarantine was having nothing to do. My sister and I decided to spend some of this free time over winter break to watch all 8 Harry Potter movies back to back. We originally wanted to do a true marathon, all in one day, but eventually decided that spreading it out over two days would be much better for our overall health. I am a massive fan of the books as well, and came up with a way to compare how much of the book was put into the movie by dividing the minutes of the film by the pages of the book. Obviously it isn’t perfect, but it is still an interesting metric to compare each film. We also made snacks based on something from each film that I describe in the article. I hope you enjoy it, and maybe you can even use this as a guide for your own Harry Potter marathon.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Snack: Ice Cream Cone Sorting Hats

50.96% of the book filmed

At precisely 9:30 am, my sister and I started the first of the 8 Harry Potter movies, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. We were still a little tired, having just woken up several hours before we normally would over break, but we were ready to commence our magical journey. Our snacks for the first film were Sorting Hats, ice cream cones filled with colored M&Ms, and topped with a cookie. I have seen the first HP film more than any other, so the 159-minute runtime of the extended edition was filled with laughter and recitations of our favorite lines. While the young actors obviously don’t have as much experience as the other cast members, including the brilliant Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, Robbie Coltrane, and of course Richard Harris, their charisma and chemistry is apparent from the first scene on the Hogwarts express. Casting Director Karen Lindsay-Stewart is the unsung hero of this film, responsible for finding the completely unknown but totally perfect Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson to play Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Director Chris Colombus, who also directed Home Alone, was not only able to coax the more than passable performances out of the young cast but also successfully introduced us to a wizarding world of mystery and wonder. The vibrant colors and brilliant set design emphasize Harry’s feelings of awe at anything magical. Of course, the music from John Williams, another Home Alone alumnus, is perfect. Every scene with his iconic score is elevated beyond this world, helping to weave the tapestry of magical wonder created on screen. This film needed to absolutely nail everything to not only please the millions of fans but also lay the foundation for all future HP films. It accomplishes this in spades, successfully translating the book almost chapter by chapter, pleasing critics, and becoming a box-office hit. We finished around noon and took a quick lunch break, then back to the couch for Chamber of Secrets.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Snack: Polyjuice Potion (sprite and sherbet)

51.03% of the book filmed

After some technical issues, we continued our marathon with Chamber of Secrets. Immediately we noticed how much the golden trio aged between the two films, which fit with the darker, more mature tone. While most of the rest of the cast stayed the same, the additions of Toby Jones voicing Dobby, Shirley Henderson as Moaning Myrtle, and Kenneth Branaugh as the hysterical Professor Lockhart were absolutely brilliant. This was Richard Harris’ last film, as he died months after production wrapped, but his performance is as good as ever. This was also the last HP film from director Chris Columbus, whose talent shines through even more in this second attempt. Like the first film, the aged CGI is made up for by some brilliant practical effects, including a monstrous snake and spider. The nearly 3-hour runtime of the extended edition followed the book even more closely than the first, but it still feels really long. The ending is fantastic, but it is almost identical to the first. This is one in the series that is definitely a drag to get through, but I’m still glad we watched it.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Snack: Marshmallow Aunt Marges

32.79% of the book filmed

As we start the third HP film, it begins to snow outside and everyone becomes completely distracted. The film, as it is, contains quite a bit of snow. The much darker and mature tone is brought to us by the outstanding director of Roma, Gravity, and Children of Men, Alfonso Cuaron. This film is a step down in runtime at only 142 minutes but is a major step up in the quality of filmmaking. Not to slight Chris Columbus, but Cuaron brings a much more artistic taste to the HP films with his long-takes and constantly moving camera. The acting has also improved with the age of the lead characters, aided by newcomers Gary Oldman (Sirius Black), Emma Thompson (Professor Trelawney), and David Thewlis (Remus Lupin). The special effects are much more modern looking, with the incredibly impressive dementors and hippogriff. This was the last John Williams-scored HP film, and while the majority of the main motifs are gone, several new ones still stand out, including the brilliant and hypnotizing Marauders theme. Prisoner is my favorite book in the series, and while they cut out a lot of the subplots (including winning the Inter-House Quidditch Cup), the story still flows really well and keeps the essence of the book in place. Mischief Managed.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Snack: Butterbeer

21.33% of the book filmed

A quick break for dinner and we are back for the final film of the day, Goblet of Fire. This is where the series really begins to get dark, literally and figuratively. New director Mike Newell shines with a clever and unique style, utilizing zooms and focus shifts. However, condensing a 500-page book turned out to be a bit of a challenge, and the movie suffers from pacing issues all the way through. It also disappoints fans of the books, leaving out many things that would’ve made the film both more interesting and exciting, the biggest of these being the Quidditch World Cup. Another fault in this film is Richard Harris’ replacement as Dumbledore, Michael Gambon, who made his first appearance in Prisoner. Gambon, rather infamously, refused to read the books and therefore made some poor character decisions for the calm and contemplative Dumbledore. The rest of the cast, including Robert Pattinson as teenage heartache Cedric Diggory, Brendan Gleeson as the literally mad Mad-Eye Moody, and Ralph Finnes (finally) as the spine-chillingly awesome Voldemort. My sister, as a Hufflepuff, was especially affected by Cedric’s heartbreaking death, and the ending of the film in the graveyard was both creepy and effective. We have reached the series’ turning point and will continue tomorrow morning.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Snack: Strawberry Sour Strips

15.83% of the book filmed

Day two of our HP marathon begins with Order of the Phoenix. New director David Yates brings us into his much more grounded wizarding world as Harry finally begins to really grow up. We ran out of ideas for snacks but found some pink strawberry-flavored sour candy (pink and sour like Umbridge). Order is my least favorite book in the series, and this is the only film in the series that I think is better than the book. Yates and writer Michael Goldenberg were able to effectively cut down the bloated book with the use of montages, while still keeping all the fan-favorite moments. Composer Nicholas Hooper is no John Williams, but some new themes for Umbridge and the Order prove he is still very talented. Helena Bonham Carter joins the cast as the devoted Death Eater Bellatrix Lestrange, and Imelda Staunton perfectly translates the infuriatingly condescending Professor Umbridge from book to screen. The action sequences are brilliantly shot, with the Voldemort and Dumbledore fight at the end being one of the best in the series. The theme of friendship is effectively shown with the brilliant portrayal of Luna Lovegood by young actress Evanna Lynch, who won the part over 15,000 other girls who auditioned. Jamie and Oliver Phelps are given room to shine as the mischievous Fred and George Weasley in the most satisfying scene in the film, and Alan Rickman as Snape is given some much-needed character development. Lunch, and then onwards and upwards to Half-Blood Prince.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Snack: Half-Moon Spectacles Cookies

23.47% of the book filmed

One long lunch break later and we start the sixth HP film, Half-Blood Prince. David Yates is again in the director’s chair but leads us through the darkest book by focusing on the comedic and romantic elements of the teenage drama. That is my main complaint with this film, how much it cuts from the book. The film itself is great, but it could’ve been so much better. Scenes depicting Harry and Dumbledore uncovering Voldemort’s origin are replaced with scenes of romantic tension and snogging. The ending is still beautiful and tragic, thanks to the now brilliant acting from Radcliffe and Rickman. Tom Felton as Draco is given more focus in this film, and his talent shines through in some very dark scenes. The action in this film, specifically the wand fights, are not very magical. Draco versus Harry should be one of the best fights in the series, but it ended up looking like a normal action film gunfight. Another random addition to the movies was an attack on the Weasley family’s home, The Burrow, which has no consequence on later films because it wasn’t in the book. However, the scenes between Harry, Ron, and Hermione are more mature, and the acting has improved dramatically. We also get to see Quidditch in this film for the first time since Chamber. While the book is still superior, and the film was a little disappointing, overall it works really well.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1

Snack: Sugar Cookies

30.35% of the book filmed

We’re on the home stretch as we put the disc for Deathly Hallows Part 1 into the blu-ray player. This film has probably my favorite intro, a closeup of the Minister of Magic telling the Wizarding World how the ministry will stay strong, moments before he dies and the ministry falls. David Yates again closes out the franchise with these two films, once again utilizing montages to show time passed and distance traveled. I have to mention the brilliant sound design in this film, giving the Horcruxes a distinctive, high-pitched ringing noise to make them seem alive while agitating both the characters in the film and the audience. Once again there’s a change in composers, with Alexandre Desplat scoring the last two. While his soundscapes are deep and effectively emphasize what’s on-screen, more often than not they are generic action pieces rather than distinctive motifs like those of Williams and Hooper. The film is slow at times, but I find it more contemplative, and the slower pace allows for more in-depth character and plot development. It also allows for the now fully grown-up actors to show their incredible talent and ability in emotional sequences. The occasional action scenes are clever too, with the one in Godric’s Hollow being especially creepy. Another highlight is the brilliantly animated “Tale of the Three Brothers” sequence, a very clever and creative way to deliver exposition. The ending is also the most heartbreaking death scene since Goblet, but it is again tragically beautiful. Although audiences had to wait six months after this film to see Part 2, we started it immediately after.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

46.76% of the book filmed

Finally, we come to the end. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. This film has been and remains my favorite in the franchise. The story is translated almost directly from the book but manages to emphasize all the right points. Every film has been building to this point, and each piece of the film comes together perfectly to deliver on everything we’ve been waiting for. The acting is brilliant, with Alan Rickman and Ralph Finnes giving the best performances of their characters in this film. Warwick Davis as Griphook and Flitwick finally gets some room to shine alongside Maggie Smith as McGonagall. The kids have finally grown up too, and their acting is the best yet. Daniel Radcliff, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Matthew Lewis, Tom Felton, Bonnie Wright, and Evana Lynch remain the strong core seven. Since the other films did such a good job of developing everything, we feel for each character and we understand them. My few complaints are in the details: the cinematography is so dark during action scenes we couldn’t see them, and the music, while emphasizing the action effectively, is generic, resorting to action ostinatos and war drums rather than real melodies. However, the John Williams score at the end of 19 years later is perfect and brings tears and a smile to my face every time. The Prince’s Tale is another brilliant sequence, where David Yates once again shows off his skill at montages. The King’s Cross scene is translated directly from the book and is exactly what fans of the series wanted. This conclusion is up there with all the other great franchise conclusions, Return of the Jedi, Return of the King, and Endgame. While the film isn’t perfect, it is a perfect conclusion, delivering on everything fans wanted and needed from the franchise. And now, it’s finally time to put away the snacks, books, blu-rays, and wands, and finally, go to bed.

Final Ranking:

  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire