Top 10 ‘Harry Potter’ Characters on Film (UPDATED: ‘Deathly Hallows Part 2’ Now Accounted For)
Yesterday I ranked the characters overall. Today I am focusing specifically on the films and how well certain actors were able to bring their characters to life and in some cases perhaps improve on J.K. Rowling’s vision. Most of the series’ cast has been a “who’s who” of British actors. This list is based mostly on consistency meaning no Harry or Dumbledore (Gambon’s performance in Goblet of Fire is unforgivable). Without further babbling, here are the ten most consistently well played characters in the series.
UPDATE on 11/8: This Friday, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 will hit Blu-Ray and DVD, making the saga truly complete. Leading up to the release, I decided to revisit these performances and see where everyone stands after the final film. At the bottom of the page, I will note any changes.
After a disappointing portrayal of Quirrell in Sorcerer’s Stone, we got a perfect villain with Lucius Malfoy in Chamber of Secrets. Isaacs gave the character a brilliant evil snarl. He returned for Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenix as one of Voldemort’s most trusted Death Eaters. His arrogance proves to be his downfall, just as it is in the book, and Lucius ends up in Azkaban until Deathly Hallows Part 1. As the saga ends Isaacs truly gets to shine. Lucius is but a shell of his former self after getting out of Azkaban as he begins to realize just how terrifying Voldemort can be. Isaacs brings this to the screen perfectly and makes Lucius a fascinating character to watch as the series comes to a close. The final shot of him in Deathly Hallows Part 2 running away with his family is the ultimate payoff to a great character on the screen.
Admittedly, most of the kids in the films have been pretty inconsistent particularly in the beginning of the series. Luna is not one of them. From the moment she is introduced in Order of the Phoenix she IS the Luna from the books. Evanna Lynch is every bit as weird, funny, and caring as Rowling wrote Luna to be. She also proves to be heroic as we see her fight at the Ministry alongside her friends. Luna also provides a lot of great comedy in the Half-Blood Prince movie (Remember the lion costume? Hilarious!). Perhaps the most emotional moment we have gotten from Luna in the films so far is after Dobby’s death when she closes his eyes. Lynch pulls it off beautifully adding an extra layer of sadness to the scene. Brilliant casting.
There are many words that are not appropriate to put on this blog to describe Umbridge. I honestly hate her more than I hate Voldemort. In Order of the Phoenix, Imelda Staunton brought her to life wonderfully. The hatred you feel while reading the book carries over to the film without anything being lost. She is one of the few characters in the films you really want to see suffer. The scene where she fires Trelawney is probably the peak of her evil and shows her hunger for more power. Also, she is a racist. While she is never actually a Death Eater, she indirectly works under Voldemort in Deathly Hallows Part 1, where Harry finally is able to get an ounce of revenge on her. In both of her film appearances, Staunton makes Umbridge the most unlikable character in the series, just as she is supposed to be.
Hagrid is the first person on this list who appears in all eight movies. From Sorcerer’s Stone on, Robbie Coltrane has brought the same goofy charm to Hagrid that Rowling did. Almost every scene with Hagrid makes me smile. He is hysterical to watch as he tries to woo Madame Maxine. He is also every bit as heartbreaking to watch while Buckbeak is about to be executed or while carrying Harry’s supposedly lifeless body back to Hogwarts. Hagrid has been an integral part of bringing these books to the screen and is one of the best parts of the whole series.
Sure, McGonagall’s role in the movies is not even close to what it is in the books, but Maggie Smith is perfect in the screen time she gets. Right off the bat in Sorcerer’s Stone she proves to be one of the best casting decisions in all of the films. She is funny in moments like preparing the Gryffindor’s (more specifically Ron) for the Yule Ball. She is powerful as she stands up to Umbridge. She is touching as she tells Harry how much Dumbledore cared for him after his death. She finally comes into her own and takes on Snape in the Great Hall followed by rallying the troops for the Battle of Hogwarts.
Gary Oldman is one of the finest actors around. The relationship between Sirius and Harry is the emotional core of the Order of the Phoenix movie. This is because of Oldman’s terrific turn as Sirius. Of course, he first appeared in Prisoner of Azkaban and brought all the frantic craze of having just escaped the prison to the character there. Yet we still got moments of the true Sirius in that film such as when he invited Harry to live with him. However in Order we got Sirius Black the hero. He is the perfect family for Harry (and one of the first actors to have any real chemistry with Daniel Radcliffe). Too bad his role in Goblet of Fire got cut so short as some of the best moments in the book were moments with Sirius.
Actually, there are six actors credited with playing Voldemort. In Sorcerer’s Stone Ian Hart (who also played Quirrell) provided the voice for the CGI Voldemort on Quirrell’s head. The other actor credited in Stone is the guy in the hood in the flashback of Harry’s parents’ death. Then, in Chamber of Secrets, Christian Coulson played a younger version of the character and was delightfully creepy in all of his scenes. Ralph Fiennes took over in Goblet of Fire and made Voldemort’s return the scariest scene in the series up to that point. In Half-Blood Prince, two more actors got a shot at younger versions of the character: Hero Fiennes-Tiffin (ironically Ralph Fiennes’ nephew) and Frank Dillane, who both perfectly captured what a young Voldemort would feel like. However Ralph Fiennes deserves the most credit as he has made Voldemort just as terrifying and evil as he is in the books.
I cannot imagine a better Hermione. Whoever found Emma Watson deserves a medal. From the moment she walks up to Harry and Ron on the train, we knew. Seven movies later and we have one of the best characters in the books coming to life perfectly. In many ways, Hermione and Harry’s friendship seems stronger in the films than Ron and Harry’s. That incredible scene in Half-Blood Prince where Hermione cries on Harry’s shoulder and sends the birds at Ron is a perfect example of why Emma Watson was the best choice to play Hermione. The series would not be nearly as successful without her.
I could write articles on articles about my love for Helena Bonhman Carter. Unfortunately, that is not what this list is for. Bellatrix is Voldemort’s most trusted lieutenant in the books, and she is certainly insane, but Helena gives her that extra flare that sends her over the edge. That’s right book loyalists, Bellatrix is better in the movies than in the novels. This is entirely because of Helena Bonham Carter and how much fun she has prancing around cackling at everyone around her. She is terrifying yet you can’t take your eyes off her. In Order of the Phoenix she kills Sirius Black. In Half-Blood Prince she destroys the Burrow, the Great Hall, and Hagrid’s Hut. In Deathly Hallows Part 1 she tortures Hermione and kills Dobby. No matter what small scenes she has they are always some of the most memorable parts of the movie. Helena’s performance is a high point of the entire series.
Snape is one of the most difficult characters to play in these films as we do not find out where his loyalties lie until the end of the final film. However, it seems like Alan Rickman knew the whole time where his character was going. He knew when to play Snape as evil. He knew when to play Snape as sympathetic. Perhaps Rickman is a wizard himself because in a series of films that have not been the most consistent, viewers will be able to go back through each movie and look for the subtleties of Snape’s character that give hints to his true motives. There is so much brilliance to be seen throughout Rickman’s performance throughout the series, however the best comes from his final scene, a timeline of memories chronicling the entire series and where Snape’s heart has been all along.
There you have it folks! Anyone I missed? As usual just post it in the comments section. Tomorrow I shall rank the top 10 moments transitioned from page to film.
Note: The only update on this list was that McGonagall was originally at number 8, but after all of her wonderful moments in Deathly Hallows Part 2, I moved her up to 6.