Total Recall: Harry Potter Movies
With Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II hitting theaters, we run down the young wizard's complete filmography in chronological order.
After 10 years and several billion dollars, the Harry Potter film franchise is finally drawing to a close this week with the eighth installment in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II. With the kind of deafening buzz that goes with being one of the most highly anticipated movies of the year -- not to mention almost universally positive early reviews from critics -- the final Potter is the undisputed film of the week, so when it came time to put together this week's Total Recall, we knew what we had to do. While you're counting down the hours to the big premiere, join us for a look back at some of the critical highlights (in chronological order) from one of the most successful franchises of all time!
By 2001, J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books were a worldwide phenomenon, with the first four installments in the series selling millions of copies and helping reignite the market for young adult literature along the way -- but that was still no guarantee that filmgoers were going to turn out when the Hogwarts gang showed up on the big screen. Of course, we all know what happened next: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone kicked off our ten-year cinematic infatuation with Ron, Hermione, and the Boy Who Lived, grossing nearly $975 million while doing an impressive job of managing the nearly impossible balancing act between staying true to the book and offering a reasonably streamlined film. It entertained audiences while piquing the curiosity of critics like Jonathan Rosenbaum of the Chicago Reader, who wrote, "I hear the J.K. Rowling books are great, and on the basis of this 2001 movie I'm ready to believe it."
After setting up the war between Harry and Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) with Sorcerer's Stone, the Potter series set about untangling the mysteries of the Dark Lord's past with Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, which posed a crucial riddle (Tom Riddle, to be exact) regarding the evil wizard's true identity while foreshadowing Harry's eventual romance with Ginny Weasley. Along the way, Chamber served up a deft blend of comedy and drama, plenty of magical thrills, and a terrific supporting cast that included John Cleese and Kenneth Branagh. "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is superior to its predecessor in every way," wrote Terry Lawson of the Detroit Free Press, calling it "more thrilling, more entertaining and, yep, more magical."
In Harry Potter's world, things are often not as they seem -- whether they're magical train stations, flying cars, talking paintings, or even the legends of long-lost family friends who have been locked away in wizard prison for murdering one's parents. It's a lesson Harry learned in Prisoner of Azkaban, which introduced filmgoers to the menacing Sirius Black (Gary Oldman), a shapeshifting convict whose escape is of grave importance to Harry and his friends -- but not for the reasons they might think. The recipient of the Potter films' best reviews (up 'til now, anyway), Azkaban found things getting mighty dark for our young wizards -- and gave Alfonso Cuarón a turn in the director's chair, taking over after Chris Columbus handled the first two installments. As far as Salon's Stephanie Zacharek was concerned, it was "The first true Harry Potter movie -- the first to capture not only the books' sense of longing, but their understanding of the way magic underlies the mundane, instead of just prancing fancifully at a far remove from it."