Bringing up Harry Potter is likely to put a faraway look into the eyes of a super fan of a certain age. That fan has surely been transported back to a caffeine-fueled, who-cares-if-I-have-class-tomorrow midnight visit to the bookstore on a sweltering July night. Those book releases were big communal gatherings of Harry Potter fans who had been waiting years to see what JK Rowling had in store for them. The midnight releases of the Harry Potter films, though exciting in their own right, weren’t quite as memorable. It’s just doesn’t have the same impact when you see a two-hour adaptation of a 600 page book you’ve already read.
The movies aren’t as good - except when they are!
In translating the books to the screen, a lot of necessary (and a few not-so-necessary) changes were made. Some weakened the overall story, but we’ve found quite a few more that actually helped turn the film series into its own distinct, worthwhile contribution to the Harry Potter franchise, especially in the movies that director David Yates oversaw later on. Sit back and enjoy our compilation of all the most interesting changes the movies made to the story. Which were better? Which were worse?
Here are 15 Harry Potter Movie Changes Better Than The Books (And 10 Worse).
25 Worse: Dumbledore isn't that nice
Harry and Dumbledore are the heart of the seven books. The headmaster’s benevolence and sense of humor endears him to Harry, and the love and respect is mutual. “I think you may have been his favourite student,” Harry is told at Dumbledore’s funeral. It’s more a grandfather/grandson relationship than a teacher/pupil one. “Dumbledore was beaming at Harry” is a phrase that’s used at least a few times per book.
Here’s a thought exercise: picture Richard Harris or Michael Gambon as Dumbledore. Now picture them “beaming.”
These guy are great actors, but warmth never came off of them. Harris sadly didn’t live long enough to really flesh out Dumbledore, and Gambon, though he captured the character’s energy, never came off as all that nice. Book purists immediately go to that infamous scene where Dumbledore roughs Harry up a bit in Goblet of Fire, but the problem goes deeper than that. Movie Dumbledore comes across as someone who has a use for Harry but simply doesn’t seem to personally like him much.
If Dumbledore doesn’t have his sense of humor, or a strong bond with the lead character, what are we left with? He’s just an elderly butt kicking wizard, and Gandalf the Grey already has that market cornered.
24 Better: Less of Hagrid's magical creatures
It’s a sure thing that a new year at Hogwarts means a new potentially fatal encounter with a creature Hagrid recently acquired under dubious circumstances. Hagrid always insists that it's fine; the creature doesn’t know its own strength, and oh by the way Harry, would you mind looking after him if something happens to me?
The movie thankfully turns Hagrid’s reckless love for fantastic beasts into more of a background quirk. Norbert the Dragon only gets a cameo, Grawp is a lot less violent, and the Blast-Ended Skrewts are nowhere to be found. Visits with Hagrid are much easier to look forward to in the movies, especially when you factor in how likeable Robbie Coltrane is in the part.
There’s also an extra level of nuance in the book. Hagrid is portrayed as having a great big blind spot for how dangerous his creatures are, but Harry has a similar blind spot for Hagrid. The half-giant was the one who rescued Harry from his terrible foster family, and Harry’s gratitude is so everlasting, he similarly won’t see any of Hagrid’s flaws, even when they’re pointed out by his friends. It’s a neat little bit of deconstruction, but it’s a lot easier to fit into a book, so the movies are better off playing up Hagrid’s more likeable qualities.
23 Worse: Hermione steals Ron’s biggest moments
Screenwriter Steve Kloves received JK Rowling’s blessing to script the Harry Potter films when he told her Hermione was the best of the three lead characters. Many fans feel the same, but Kloves did seem to be a little biased in her favor.
Hermione got some lines and moments that Ron had in the book, leading to Ron coming off as more of a comedic relief character.
In Chamber of Secrets, Malfoy calls Hermione “mudblood,” and Ron gravely explains to her that in the Wizarding World, that’s a highly derogatory term for magic people with non-magic parents. It’s one of the most important moments in the series, and Rowling used it to teach a generation about how irrational bigotry is. On screen, Hermione already knows this word and is emotionally affected by it while Ron sits in the background belching slugst.
In The Order of the Phoenix and The Deathly Hallows, supportive lines that indicate the deepness of Ron's dedication to Harry are given to Hermione, thereby strengthening the relationship between those two characters while Ron seems flighty.
They are small changes that all add up to Ron - Harry's first and best friend - winding up in a decided third place of importance in the cinematic trio.
22 Better: Lucius Malfoy’s hidden cane wand
Jason Isaacs transforms the tiny role of Lucius Malfoy into a highlight of the eight movies. He’s even hammier than Professor Snape, and his appearances are all the more precious because they’re so widely spaced out. Still, Lucius can often be counted on to swish his way into the darkest and scariest parts of the story.
The most memorable aspect of his character - the wand concealed inside the handle of his cane - was Isaac’s addition. Not only does he get to whip it out so fast it makes an audible whooshing, it’s the perfect metaphor for his character: unspeakable evil concealed by something dandy.
Isaacs seemed to enjoy the part as much as us. He was so dismayed when the fifth film ended with Lucius going to jail, he prevailed upon J.K. Rowling to reveal his character’s fate, and the notoriously tight-lipped author obliged: “I met Jo Rowling for the first time at a big awards dinner. I went over and basically fell to my knees and said ‘Get me out of prison, I beg you.’ She looked over her shoulder and looked back me mouthing ‘You’re out. Chapter One.’ And that was it, that’s all I had to know.”
When you picture that moment, Jason Isaacs is still wearing the blond wig, isn’t he?
21 Worse: That Prisoner of Azkaban ending
Alfonso Cuaron replaced Christopher Columbus in the director’s chair for the third movie, and deserves a lot of credit for developing the visual look of the Harry Potter world. Under him, Hogwarts became a more exciting and more foreboding place filled with texture and strange detail. If you like, you can even draw a straight line between Prisoner of Azkaban and the Universal Studios Wizarding World. Cuaron created a world so desirable-looking that we wanted to see it made into a major theme park attraction. His contribution to the series is hard to measure.
Why did they end on a blurry freeze frame?
The book has a perfectly good ending, but the movie has Harry getting a new broomstick and flying across a lake. They really couldn’t have come up with something better? It’s the kind of ending that causes a movie theater full of people to awkwardly not look each other in the eye as they head for the exit. Daniel Radcliffe probably can’t Google Image search himself for the rest of his life because he doesn’t want to risk seeing himself in that picture.
There are so many cool visuals elsewhere in the movie, but what where they thinking?
20 Better: SPEW is left out
Hermione was into social justice before it was cool. Carrying on with the theme of her discovering the seedier underbelly of the Wizarding World, in Goblet of Fire Hermione is appalled to find out that Hogwarts is looked after by hundreds of unpaid House Elves who are brought up knowing nothing but servitude. She sets to work looking for a way to liberate the elves, but without regard for what they might actually want.
You need only look at J.K. Rowling’s Twitter to know that she’s someone who has no problem calling out what she sees as being wrong in our very real world. So it’s a bit surprising to find that although the story is sympathetic to Hermione’s cause, it’s doesn’t portray her as being completely right. At worst, she gets scoffed at. At best, she only ever finds people who agree that the enslavement of the house elf slaves is a problem, who then patiently explain that she can’t fix what’s bad about society overnight.
It’s a measured, complex subplot that sketches out the world even more, but it never directly impacts the main storyline. It's best to just leave it out of the movies entirely, but it’s there in the books if you want it.
19 Worse: The Order of the Phoenix is basically a montage
Considering Order of the Phoenix is 750 pages long, the two-hour movie adaptation doesn’t turn out all that bad. Still, out of the seven novels, that’s the one that least lends itself to the screen. It’s a story that does away with the big magic setpieces and complex mysteries that the series had been known for, instead telling a slow burning tale of a bureaucratic fascist installing herself at Hogwarts.
Dolores Umbridge is very methodical in terms of how she transforms Hogwarts into an extension of the corrupt Ministry of Magic, and the book is about how you resist when you realize your comfortable world is being turned into something totalitarian.
Although the movie has its strengths - David Yates becoming the go-to director for Harry Potter is probably the best thing that ever happened to the films - it has to depict months and months of new proclamations and secret Dumbledore’s Army gatherings over the course of a few montages.
You get the idea of the story that’s being told, but you never really feel it.
As good as Imelda Stauton is, she was never going to be get enough time to make Dolores Umbridge as loathsome as she was in the book.
Order of the Phoenix is a noble effort, but it was hobbled from the start.
18 Better: Harry feels sorry for Voldemort
The climactic moment of Order of the Phoenix, in which Voldemort tries to possess Harry, is a couple of paragraphs long. It goes by so fast you don’t really register what’s happening until it’s over, but on screen, David Yates and his editors turn this into a moment.
Voldemort tries to worm his way into Harry’s mind. Lying on the floor of the Ministry of Magic with Dumbledore at his side, Harry fights back, picturing his friends, picturing Sirius, who lost his life only moments ago. Ron, Hermione, and the rest of his friends arrive on the scene (another change), and when Harry sees them, he wins the battle for his soul as he tells Voldemort this: “You’re the one who is weak. You will never know love. Or friendship. And I feel sorry for you.”
To be honest, it should be the cheesiest moment. But because of the way the scene is edited, and because it’s a theme that runs all the way through the series, it works. It’s even predictive of the final confrontation with Voldemort in the final book - which hadn’t come out at the time of this movie - in which Harry expresses something similar. Every now and then a good old fashioned “Power of Friendship” moment is a wonderful palate cleanser.
17 Worse: We never see St. Mungo’s Hospital
A hallmark of the films, and one that understandably went away as time went on, were the scenes of Harry gazing around in childlike wonder as he stepped into an all new, all magical environment. There was a chance to recapture a bit of that old whimsy as late as Order of the Phoenix with the visit to St. Mungo’s, but - and this is not something you get to say often - unfortunately we didn’t get to go to the hospital.
It’s too bad, as there was some real cinematic potential for St. Mungo’s. It wouldn’t have been a sterilized, white-walled Muggle hospital, but been another gothic, moodily lit building full of people with darkly comedic magical ailments and injuries being cured by exotic herbs and spellwork. Even though Mr. Weasley’s near fatal encounter with Nagini the Snake makes it into the movie, any visits to his hospital bed happen offscreen.
This also means we never get to see the depressing, but incredibly powerful scene of Neville Longbottom visiting his irreparably damaged parents.
The moment in which we see for ourselves what exactly fuels Neville’s insecurities and later on his fierce desire to undermine Voldemort changes our view of the character forever. It’s a scene that stays with the readers and it would have stayed with movie audiences as well.
16 Better: Harry and Hermione’s shared heartbreak
Harry spends the better part of Half-Blood Prince coming to the realization that he’s fallen for Ginny Weasley after she’s moved on with someone else. On the page we’re privy to his thoughts, but the movie lets us know how he feels by making Hermione into his confidant. This winds up strengthening the emotions behind the flagship platonic friendship of our generation: Harry Potter and Hermione Granger.
Hermione is also nursing her own heartache about Ron’s relationship with Lavender Brown, and she and Harry wind up spending a lot more time together. They provide emotional support to one another, something that carries on into the next couple movies and especially into the famous tent dance scene in Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows: Part One.
The true highlight is the moment in which they quietly sit with one another after seeing their own respective love interests in the arms of someone else. There’s never any sense that something might happen, they’re just there for each other.
Indeed, Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson have an interesting screen chemistry that could have switched gears to something romantic, but how rare and special is to see an entirely platonic male and female friendship in a movie? That's just the magic of Harry Potter's wonderful wizarding world.
15 Worse: Ginny doesn’t have much to do
JK Rowling had a clear arc for Ginny. We’d meet her as Ron Weasley’s little sister, she’d be in the background for a while, she’d emerge as her own distinct character, and that would lay the groundwork for Harry to later fall in love with her. The movies follows the exact same trajectory - except for the part where they remembered to take her out of the background.
Order of the Phoenix is the book that’s meant to be Ginny’s big coming out party, as she spends more or less the whole story as a direct participant in Harry’s adventures. In the movie she has maybe four lines of dialogue.
At least we see her more in the Half-Blood Prince film, but Harry’s interest in her comes out of nowhere.
Then his winding journey across the Wizarding World in both Deathly Hallows movies keeps the two characters separate for the rest of the story.
Ginny is constantly alive in Harry’s thoughts, even being the last person he thinks of before he gives up his life to Voldemort. But that doesn’t translate to the screen, and when they’re seen together with three kids after Harry comes back to life, the reaction is more “Oh, them? Okay then."
14 Better: Lavender fogging up the train window
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is low-key a better rom-com than most of the movies that get marketed as actual rom-coms. Really, given that their last couple of years were dominated by huge tournaments and Umbridge’s reign of terror, Year 6 is the first chance the characters get to stop and think about who they want to date. The film stays true to the established couplings but adds a lot of its own lightly comedic moments. And there’s nothing funnier than this bit with Lavender Brown.
Almost accidentally, Ron gets into an intense relationship with Lavender after he misplaces his feelings for Hermione, and is looking forward to getting a break from her over Christmas. As Harry and Ron ride home on the train, Lavender materializes at their compartment window.
The two boys watch as she very slowly, very methodically fogs up the window and draws a heart with her and Ron’s initials.
This takes up an absolutely staggering amount of time onscreen. She gives Ron a lovelorn look through the glass. Then she just leaves, and Harry and Ron just kind of have to sit with what just happened. It’s as funny a moment as you’re going to find in any of the eight films, and it’s a Steve Klove/David Yates original.
13 Better: Bellatrix shows up to wreck Harry’s day more often
The filmmakers must have known they had something when they got Helena Bonham Carter to play Bellatrix Lestange. She showed up looking even more like a Tim Burton character than all the Tim Burton characters she'd actually played. She got to work chewing up all the scenery she could find, and when her scenes were over she must have been hungry for more.
Bellatrix just starts appearing in sequences where she was originally nowhere to be found, and we’re all better off for it.
We’re the first to admit it’s a bit silly that she blows up the Weasleys' house, especially considering everything is exactly where it once was when the next movie starts up. Howver, it continues to build Bellatrix up as a villain and gives even more of an edge to her battle with Mrs. Weasley in Deathly Hallows - Part Two. Writing her into the scenes where Dumbledore meets his end, where Hagrid’s hut blows up, and even her attack on the Great Hall were all good moves.
In a nice bonus, she gets to be Hermione Bonham Carter in Deathly Hallows: Part 2 when Hermione goes around disguised as Bellatrix. That’s a really fun scene, as well as a much needed reminder that she’s a really good actress.
12 Worse: The Marauders are all too old
The late Alan Rickman was the perfect choice for the role of Severus Snape, but there was one problem: he was twenty years older than the character, who should have been in his early thirties. The solution was to age up all the other characters of his generation. If this change means we got Rickman as Snape then that’s what we might call an acceptable trade-off, especially if Gary Oldman and David Thewlis were part of the bargain. However, this choice robbed an element of tragedy from the backstory.
Misery befalls the Marauders very shortly after they graduate from Hogwarts. When they’re only 21 years old, James and Lily lose their lives and leave Harry an orphan, Snape is left devastated and emotionally stunted, Sirius is framed and put in jail, Wormtail turns traitor and goes into exile, and Lupin spends many long lonely years without his support system.
It not only illustrates the capacity war has to destroy lives when they’ve only just begun, but it parallels what happens to Harry, Ron and Hermione later on. They too throw themselves immediately into the war against Voldemort after they leave Hogwarts, and the idea that they may come to similar ends hangs over the entire final book.
11 Better: The Deathly Hallows is split in two
The Deathly Hallows kicked off a nasty, financially motivated trend. If a series of young adult novels was being adapted, you could bet Hollywood was going to wring two movies out of that final book. Twilight, The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Hobbit. But even considering what splitting The Deathly Hallows led to, it was all worth it.
Specifically, the split allows the filmmakers to dump the not-particularly-cinematic 2/3 of the novel into its own movie that we don’t have to rewatch.
A surprising amount of the book is devoted to Harry, Ron, and Hermione hitting a series of blockades in their quest to vanquish Lord Voldemort. A sense of frustration and despair sets as the Trio get mired in an unstructured, tedious journey with no end in sight, and we see how that affects even the most powerful of friendships. It works for a novel, but doesn’t make for a great movie.
But the last two hundred pages, as we’ll soon get into, is a roller coaster ride that’s fully deserving of its own separate film. There probably exists an alternate world in which the events of Part 2 were crammed into the final 45 minutes of a single 2-hour adaptation of The Deathly Hallows. All things considered, it’s good we don’t live there.
10 Better: Hermione wipes her parents' memories
The seventh movie does get off to a great start with a sequence of the trio preparing to leave behind their childhood as they go to fight Voldemort. Steve Kloves’ Hermione bias is showing again, as it's she, and not Harry, who kicks off a movie that’s literally called Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part 1.
We hear in the book about how Hermione uses a spell to erase her parent’s memories of her ever having existed - not only to protect herself in case they’re captured and interrogated, but to protect her Mom and Dad from the pain of her almost certain end in the upcoming war. That moment is actually depicted on film. Assuming you’re not too distracted by the realization that Michelle Fairley (before she was Catelyn Stark) is Hermione’s mom, it’s going to break your heart. Especially when Hermione begins to fade from the pictures on her parent’s fireplace.
It’s one thing to hear about this moment. It’s another thing to see it, and it's really something to make it the first scene of the movie. The series has been getting both literally and figuratively darker, but the new placement of the scene sets the tone for what’s to come.
9 Better: The “Tale of Three Brothers” animation
All the way at the other end of The Deathly Hallows, we get Part 1’s other truly great addition. There’s a scene in which Hermione recites a children’s tale that contains some necessary exposition for the story. How do you avoid showing a character sitting there reading from a book? You drop a weird little avant garde animated short film into the proceedings, naturally.
Ben Hibon was the director of the sequence, collaborating very closely with director David Yates over the course of six months to develop the look of the three minute animation: “I dug up a couple of images and one of the early references that we responded to was from Lotte Reiniger for her scissor cut out, silhouette style of animation. And there was something naïve and very graphical that David responded to. So I came away with that and was already fascinated with Asian shadow plays and puppetry -- very crudely articulated puppets on sticks. I thought that merging the two things would look wonderful.”
You surely had your own images in your head when you read the story along with Hermione, but it’s safe to say it didn’t look anything like what was brought to the screen. Its an amazing little treat that can only be found in the film.
8 Worse: Whatever happened to Wormtail?
Harry’s conflict with Wormtail is two-fold. He was the one who betrayed Lily and James, and he was the one who brought Voldemort back to life. Thus, it's ffitting that he comes to maybe the nastiest end in the entire series when his own hand, under the magical control of Voldemort, strangles him after he lets Harry and company escape the Malfoy’s basement. Fans had been waiting years to see this character go and having it happen in an almost offhand way sends a clear signal - it’s all about to start going down.
It’s understandable that this scene wouldn’t happen in exactly the same way even in the PG-13 movie, but Wormtail completely disappears from the story.
He’s simply knocked unconscious when Harry makes a break for it, and later is nowhere to be seen at the Battle of Hogwarts in Part 2.
Maybe Wormtail just wasn’t invited - he never gets to join in when the Death Eaters do anything cool - but he also could have been terminated in a blind rage by Voldemort for letting Harry escape. That’s actually what we’d assume - except the Malfoys and Bellatrix are spared and they let Harry escape too. In either case, his offscreen fate is a nagging loose end.
7 Better: Neville and Luna are canon
It was once sort of widely accepted that Luna Lovegood and Neville Longbottom would end up together. That is, until JK Rowling herself began parceling out more information in the wake of the Deathly Hallows book release. In that same timeframe where she announced Dumbledore was gay, she also said Neville and Luna wound up not with each other, but with some other characters no one cares about. A billion fans writers cried out, and were suddenly silenced.
The movie deviated by having Neville declare, in the rush of battle, that he was “mad about” Luna, and the last time we see them, they look like they’re going to give things a shot. Everyone took care not to wander too far from the source material, even the actors imagine that Neville and Luna had a nice fling together and then moved on to find true love with Whatshername and Whoshisface.
However, the majority of people who’ve read the books and/or watched the movies don't read online articles about Harry Potter, and so never heard any of these after-the-fact comments. As far as they know, Neville and Luna is official. It’s a rare instance of the story kind of getting away from Rowling, but fans of the pairing don’t mind one bit.
6 Better: We see more of The Battle of Hogwarts
This is the least surprising, and probably the most welcome change the films made. It’s a neat bit of story construction that the inevitable climactic battle for the fate of the Wizarding World gets sprung on Harry before he’s ready. There’s a huge battle underway throughout the final six chapters of the book, but Harry is racing around looking for Horcruxes, only glimpsing the chaos.
The movies keep all that, but the scope is widened. Voldemort’s army gathers on the hilltop overlooking Hogwarts. Professor McGonagall gets a moment to shine as she assumes command of the castle’s defenses. All the adult wizards contributing to the huge protective shield over the school is a great visual.
We see a wide range of minor characters preparing for war and later getting into skirmishes with Death Eaters.
Neville even gets his own little heroic moment when he blows up that bridge we keep seeing in these movies, right out from under Voldemort’s army.
The only problem is that Fred Weasley’s passing, a moment so huge it ended a chapter in the book, happens in a blink-or-you’ll-miss-it scene that the trio isn’t even present for. That aside, the movie offers a nice, complete portrait of a Hogwarts gripped in chaos.
5 Worse: Blaise replaces Crabbe
One of the neat little things about the end of Deathly Hallows is despite everything that happens, Rowling still manages to work in a lot of minor characters and put a quick explanation point on their story arcs. Of all things, we find out that Crabbe and Goyle have really come into their own under Voldemort’s reign. They spend the first six books in the background guffawing at Malfoy’s bullying, here they speak aloud for the first time we know of, and reveal they have become great wizards - when it comes to torturing first year students. For old times' sake, the three of them pit themselves against Harry, Ron and Hermione in the middle of the Battle of Hogwarts.
The only problem is that it's Draco, Goyle, and Blaise - instead Crabbe. Actor Jamie Waylett had gotten in trouble in 2009 for growing illegal substances in his mother’s house, and was written out of the final movie altogether. Even just ten years later that may seem a bit disproportionate, but Waylett was later found participating and wielding a petrol bomb in the London riots of 2011, so who knows what else went on behind the scenes?
In any case, he doesn’t get to finish off his minor but memorable arc, and Goyle even winds up losing his life in Crabbe's place.
4 Better: Snape finding Lily
The deep dive into Severus Snape’s backstory results in the best chapter in all seven Harry Potter books. In one stroke it brings a complicated, tragic humanity to Snape, answers the fundamental mysteries of the series, and tees up the final, most important stage of Harry’s journey. “The Prince’s Tale” has all the emotions.
The sequence depicting Snape’s history in the movie is condensed, but it hits even harder than in the book. A huge part of that is Alan Rickman’s performance. Compelling as he is on the page, Snape is a deeply unpleasant character to spend time with, but Rickman’s innate charisma that makes him easier to like - or at least enjoy.
Seeing him cry onscreen after being so stoic for seven and a half movies has a punch that you simply cannot prepare for.
Alexander Despot’s fantastic score lends another advantage that the book cannot have, but the editing is the sequence’s true secret weapon. The book proceeds through Snape’s life in strict chronological order, the movie proceeds according to emotional logic more than anything. We jump around in time and build and build to the brand new image of Snape holding his lost love in his arms, intercut with the revelation of what Snape’s Patronus really means. That restructuring causes chills in a way that goes beyond even what the book accomplishes.
3 Better: Harry gets to say goodbye to Ron and Hermione
It’s a little bit surprising how often Ron and Hermione flat-out disappear during the end of Deathly Hallows - Harry’s final encounter with Voldemort is something he must do alone. The movie works them into the story a lot more. We see their trip into the Chamber of Secrets, they have an encounter with Nagini during the climax, and most importantly, Harry gets a chance to say goodbye to them before he goes off to lose his life at Voldemort’s hands.
Harry’s chapter long march to his end is one of the most memorable passages of the seven books. He reflects on the fragility of life, he thinks about everything he’s about to leave behind, and then he accepts that he must sacrifice himself for the good of the Wizarding World anyway. But it’s almost entirely internal, and putting in a voiceover, or making Daniel Radcliffe speak aloud to himself for the entire death march, wouldn’t have worked.
It’s a smart change to have him actually run into Ron and Hermione on his way to the forest. They’re certainly in his thoughts in the book, and his affection for them is as strong as ever. It’s great to see that in the film.
2 Better: Neville wipes that stupid smile off Voldemort’s face
With Harry seemingly dead, Voldemort is feeling very pleased with himself as he leads his conquering army into Hogwarts, but we the readers already know he’s doomed - what, Harry is really going to lose his life a second time after coming back to life, with 20 pages left in the book?
Lord Voldemort was a terrifying villain when we met him, and a complete joke by the end of the final book. That’s in large part Rowling’s desig: the more the character is deconstructed, the more he’s revealed to be a pitiful, ludicrously short sighted man who squandered the massive power he’d been given. And yet Voldemort is still wheezing a bunch of arch, deadly serious villainous speeches right up until the moment before his end. The movie instead has a lot of fun at his expense. In the adaptation he sneers, he mocks the students, and Ralph Fiennes is wonderfully game to go way over the top with Voldemort’s final moment.
The best moment is when Neville steps forward and gets to give a big speech that’s not in the book.
Voldemort just listens with that huge incredulous sneer as a fearless Neville lists off all the reasons why Hogwarts will keep on fighting him, even with Harry gone. Laugh it up, Snakeface. It’ll just make your comeuppance all the better.
1 Worse: Voldemort hugs Draco
In one take, Ralph Fiennes went off script and gave Tom Felton a “Welcome home” hug as only Voldemort can. It might be the funniest moment in any movie, past present or future. Just look at the frozen grimace that is Voldemort’s ideas of a warm, fatherly smile. At one point the camera cuts away to the Hogwarts students, who seem to be fighting back smirks. But is comic relief that broad really what the movie needs?
We’ll set aside the idea of whether or not Voldemort expressing any kind of affection, even affection this tortured and stiff, is in line with the character. The movie itself does a beautiful job of setting and maintaining a somber, almost elegiac tone throughout its final stretch. There's the journey into Snape’s backstory, the ghostly encounter with Harry’s parents and Sirius and Lupin, and the King’s Cross afterlife with Dumbledore.
Though it’s good to see Voldemort setting himself up for a fall, a laugh out loud moment in this crucial sceneis something that breaks the mood a little too much. It makes Voldemort a little too hard to take seriously.
We as a planet are certainly better off for having seen the Voldehug, but maybe we should have seen it in a deleted scene.
What other movies changes hurt or improved Harry Potter? Let us know in the comments!