Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001) - Rotten Tomatoes

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001)

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AUDIENCE SCORE

Critic Consensus: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone adapts its source material faithfully while condensing the novel's overstuffed narrative into an involving -- and often downright exciting -- big-screen magical caper.

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Movie Info

The best-selling novel by J.K. Rowling (titled Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in England, as was this film adaptation) becomes this hotly anticipated fantasy adventure from Chris Columbus, the winner of a high-stakes search for a director to bring the first in a hoped-for franchise of Potter films to the screen by Warner Bros. Upon his 11th birthday, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), who lives in misery with an aunt and uncle that don't want him, learns from a giant named Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) that he is the orphaned son of powerful wizards. Harry is offered a place at prestigious Hogwarts, a boarding school for wizards that exists in a realm of magic and fantasy outside the dreary existence of normal humans or "Muggles." At Hogwarts, Harry quickly makes new friends and begins piecing together the mystery of his parents' deaths, which appear not to have been accidental after all. The film features alternate-version scenes for every mention of the titular rock. Richard Harris, Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, John Cleese, and Fiona Shaw co-star. ~ Karl Williams, Rovi
Rating:
PG (for some scary moments and mild language)
Genre:
Action & Adventure , Kids & Family , Science Fiction & Fantasy
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
 wide
On DVD:
Box Office:
$317,557,891.00
Runtime:
Studio:

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Cast

Daniel Radcliffe
as Harry Potter
Emma Watson
as Hermione Granger
Rupert Grint
as Ron Weasley
Maggie Smith
as Prof. Minerva McGonagall
Robbie Coltrane
as Rubeus Hagrid
Alan Rickman
as Prof. Severus Snape
Richard Harris
as Albus Dumbledore
Richard Griffiths
as Uncle Vernon Dursley
Ian Hart
as Prof. Quirrell
John Hurt
as Mr. Ollivander
John Cleese
as Sir Nicholas "Nearly Headless Nick" de Mimsy-Porpington
Fiona Shaw
as Aunt Petunia Dursley
Zoë Wanamaker
as Madame Hooch
Harry Melling
as Dudley Dursley
Julie Walters
as Mrs. Weasley
Sean Biggerstaff
as Oliver Wood
David Bradley
as Mr. Filch
Tom Felton
as Draco Malfoy
Matthew Lewis
as Neville Longbottom
Warwick Davis
as Prof. Flitwick/Goblin Bank Teller
Terence Baylor
as The Bloody Baron
Richard Bremmer
as Lord Voldemort
Alfie Enoch
as Dean Thomas
Joshua Herdman
as Gregory Goyle
Devon Murray
as Seamus Finnegan
Katharine Nicholson
as Pansy Parkinson
James Phelps
as Fred Weasley
Oliver Phelps
as George Weasley
Chris Rankin
as Prefect Percy Weasley
Geraldine Somerville
as Lily Evans Potter
Will Theakston
as Terence Higgs
Verne Troyer
as Griphook
James Waylett
as Vincent Crabbe
Bonnie Wright
as Ginny Weasley
Nina Young
as The Grey Lady
Luke Youngblood
as Lee Jordan
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Critic Reviews for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

All Critics (194) | Top Critics (44)

Harry Potter's first venture onto the screen is a solid blockbuster.

Full Review… | November 13, 2015
New York Daily News
Top Critic

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is, despite its trickery, that plainest and least surprising of artifacts: the work of art that is exactly the sum of its parts, neither more nor less.

Full Review… | November 27, 2013
New Yorker
Top Critic

A near-perfect commercial and cultural commodity.

Full Review… | March 5, 2008
Variety
Top Critic

I hear the J.K. Rowling books are great, and on the basis of this 2001 movie I'm ready to believe it.

Full Review… | March 5, 2008
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

What a feast for children! Long, and engrossing. Kids will love it! Wizard!

Full Review… | February 9, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

It offers more delights than disappointments -- and that qualifies as one of the year's great reliefs.

August 9, 2002
Denver Rocky Mountain News
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

½

A decent adaptation that is almost identical to the book, relying on remarkable technical aspects and on Rowling's impressive imagination (yet with not much added by Columbus), and it should definitely please the fans and entertain everyone else.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

When a film series has achieved international recognition and enjoyed enormous commercial success, it becomes very easy to believe that its eventual standard was replicated throughout its history. The appeal of Star Wars, Indiana Jones and James Bond is so widely spread throughout our culture that the individual films begin to blend into a single entity; the notion of Star Wars as a very good thing makes us forget the shortcomings of the individual films. As with each of these examples, it simply isn't the case that the Harry Potter series has always been of the highest quality. For all the praise it has garnered, especially for its impact on the British film industry, the series had a very shaky start. Watching The Philosopher's Stone now, there are times when it is hard to believe that we ever got as far as the seventh book being split into two lucrative parts. While it comes with the very best intentions, it is decidedly ill-disciplined and unengaging compared to later instalments. The roots of this problem lie in the choice of director. J. K. Rowling's original choice had been Terry Gilliam, who was then coming off the back of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Gilliam's vision for the film was ambitious and every bit as fantastical as his work on Brazil, but the studio opted for Chris Columbus following the director's two-hour pitch to executives. Columbus' track record with family-friendly hits like Home Alone and Mrs. Doubtfire went down much easier than Gilliam's history of quarelling with studios and his multiple (but undeserved) box office failures. This decision, taken before any of the film had been shot, shapes the entirety of both The Philosopher's Stone and its sequel. It's the classic example of a studio playing it safe, putting a potentially lucrative property in a safe pair of hands, who will in turn deliver something which will offend the least amount of people and thereby create the widest possible market. Columbus' directorial style is an accountants' dream, and the worst nightmare of anyone who cares about proper fantasy filmmaking. In my review of Percy Jackson & the Lightning Thief, I spoke about Columbus' conservative approach to the source material and how this hurt the finished project. In both cases, he opted to stay extremely faithful to the original novels, personally going through the script with Rowling to ensure that all the minor details were intact. While attention to detail is always welcome, with Columbus it manifests itself in literally putting the page on screen, in a manner which makes the whole experience much less cinematic than it could have been. There is evidence of this throughout The Philosopher's Stone, particularly in the many long scenes with our three main characters in the corridors of Hogwarts. These scenes feel for all the world like the actors were reading their lines directly from the book, without the adjustments being made for the visual language of cinema. Not only are these scenes a lot longer and more expository than they need to be, but they give the sense of a film crew fighting against the material; the camera chases after the story, rather than grabbing it by the scruff of the neck like a proper adaptation would. Because the talky scenes feel so much like readings from the novel, the film doesn't flow especially well. All the more action-based scenes, like the quidditch match, the broomstick lessons or the wizard's chess scene near the end, feel like set-pieces which have wandered into what otherwise resembles a recital rather than a film. And because the dialogue is often flat, these scenes don't carry the weight they they need to carry; rather than building up to, say, the chess game, it comes out of nowhere and feels like a distraction. By attempting to cram in every last detail of the book, Columbus has committed the ironic sin of gradually alienating a mainstream audience. While fans of the book may be impressed by how faithfully certain scenes are replicated, this approach results in a film which is altogether too long and too leisurely paced. With The Lord of the Rings, Peter Jackson sought to be as faithful as possible to J. R. R. Tolkien's work while acknowledging the need to keep the plot moving and make changes to keep casual fans interested. Columbus has neither the skill nor seemingly the desire to pull this off, appearing to settle for dramatic longeurs to avoid upsetting fans of the book. One could argue that this film has to be slower than those that followed it, because it has to introduce and explain so many different aspects of the world of wizards. But at the time of its release, there was never a guarantee that the series would run its course: not all the books had been written, and the studio took a big chance on the three young actors - probably the biggest chance they took on the whole production. The Fellowship of the Ring may be the gentlest instalment in Jackson's trilogy, and it does have to set up a lot of things, but it's still a rivetting thrill ride whose dynamism pulls all its interesting ideas and themes to the fore. Columbus' conservatism is also present in the visual sensibility. When pitching the film, he claimed that he wanted to make the scenes in the muggle world "bleak and dreary" while those in the wizard world would be "steeped in colour, mood and detail." He referenced David Lean's work on Great Expectations and Oliver Twist in his chosen cinematography, while comparing the colour palettes to those in Oliver! and The Godfather. The thing is, you would never garner any of this from actually watching The Philosopher's Stone. The scenes in the muggle world look like a dodgy American take on what a typical British household might look like: for all the charm of the late Richard Griffiths, it still feels too chocolate-box to cut the mustard. While the film does have a loosely Dickensian feel, it is not the Dickens of Lean, with its bleak shadows, striking expressionist angles and emphasis on social inequality. It is instead the Dickens of many American versions of A Christmas Carol, in which all the edges have been taken off and even the least fortunate people look like they've been well-fed for years. This overly cosy sensibility means that many of the darker or more gruesome qualities in the story aren't allowed to have that great an impact. Some of the CG effects are pretty good, such as the sorting hat or putting the face of Voldemort on the back of Professor Quirrell's head. But when they're being presented in the context of scenes filled with warm candles and goofy jokes, they either feel like bizarre intrusions or come across as silly and unthreatening. The film plays up the sentimental aspects of the book far too much, especially in the mirror scene with Voldemort and the bedside chat between Harry and Dumbledore. In the midst of all this disappointing mediocrity, there are a number of aspects to The Philosopher's Stone which are enjoyable, either on their own terms or within the context of the overall story. The series' biggest asset from the beginning has been its cast, with each of the three main child actors finding their feet reasonably quickly. There are some obstacles in their way, with Hermione being far more irritating than she is in the later films, but the actors feel settled in their parts and at home in front of the camera. The adult cast are equally appealing, for a variety of different reasons. Alan Rickman was simply born to play Severus Snape: resisting the urge to turn in another Hollywood villain performance, he instead uses his unusual delivery to keep surprising you about the character. Richard Harris is very capable as Dumbledore, as is John Hurt as Mr. Ollivander: while both parts are essentially exposition with extra dollops of whimsy, both actors manage to bring some kind of weight to their dialogue. The only weak link in the adult cast is Ian Hart: while his Quirrell is convincing (if annoying), he simply isn't intimidating enough as Voldemort. The film is also pretty funny, perhaps because we have such a strong bond with the cast in the the first place. The running gags about Hagrid breaking things and telling people things he shouldn't have done are funny throughout, as are all the bad things that befall Neville Longbottom over the course of the story. The humour is played very broadly, with much of it being set up a little too obviously, but for the most part it still feels genuine in its delivery. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is a mediocre first offering in the then-fledgling franchise. Despite having a strong cast and quite a lot of entertaining humour, it's ultimately far too cautious and literal an adaptation to pass muster as a properly cinematic outing. Its flaws become all the more painfully obvious as the series grows and develops, making all its decisions to play safe seem utterly ridiculous in hindsight. While not the worst instalment in the series, it's hardly the start that we wanted or deserved.

Daniel Mumby
Daniel Mumby

Super Reviewer

½

Though it may be a little overtly child-oriented for adult audiences, this is still a beautifully designed world full of wonder and a great start to a series. Full review later.

Thomas Bowler
Thomas Bowler

Super Reviewer

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