Emma Watson, Daniel Radcliffe, and Rupert Grint in "Harry Potter"

'Harry Potter' stars' best and worst films

Written by:
April 8, 2022

'Harry Potter' stars' best and worst films

In 2001 "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" hit theaters, marking the start of a decade-long, eight-film franchise that would net $7.73 billion at the box office worldwide, making it one of the most successful movie series of all time.

In 2021, to mark the original film's 20th anniversary, HBO put together a partial cast reunion and tribute special, "Return to Hogwarts," looking at the magic these movies brought into the world. Among other things, fans were treated to behind-the-scenes stories, making-of trivia, and new interviews with some of the franchise's biggest faces.

The special's runaway success led viewers to reflect on the various actors who appeared in the series, from newbies like Emma Watson to legends like Maggie Smith. With very few exceptions, all of the primary actors in the franchise have had incredibly successful careers, making appearances in dozens of films, TV series, and stage plays.

Stacker took a look at the best and worst films of the actors that play Harry, Hermione, and Ron, along with seven other acclaimed actors behind significant characters. Bests and worsts were determined by IMDb user ratings with ties broken by user votes. Metascores are included for critical context. For four of the actors in question, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" is considered to be their best film. Only feature films were considered. Cameos were not counted.

From children's movies to action flicks, read on to find out how well your favorite "Harry Potter" stars wowed fans in other films.

Helena Bonham Carter's best: 'Fight Club' (1999)

- Director: David Fincher
- IMDb user rating: 8.8
- Metascore: 66
- Runtime: 139 minutes

Helena Bonham Carter shines as the deranged, drug-addicted girlfriend, Marla, in "Fight Club." The cult classic was based on a sinister Chuck Palahniuk novel of the same name and follows a young man whose attempts to deal with the world have led to a detrimental case of dissociative disorder.

Helena Bonham Carter's worst: 'Planet of the Apes' (2001)

- Director: Tim Burton
- IMDb user rating: 5.7
- Metascore: 50
- Runtime: 119 minutes

The English actress has found the most success in roles where she plays dark and quirky characters—like Bellatrix Lestrange in the "Harry Potter" franchise—which is likely why "Planet of the Apes" is considered her worst movie, to date. In the 2001 film, Helena Bonham Carter plays Ari, a chimpanzee who leads a human revolution against ape enslavers. Despite taking on such a unique role, much of what makes Bonham Carter such a great actress was lost on critics who panned the film.

Ralph Fiennes' best: 'Schindler's List' (1993)

- Director: Steven Spielberg
- IMDb user rating: 9
- Metascore: 94
- Runtime: 195 minutes

Ralph Fiennes loves playing an evil character. Case in point: his roles in "Schindler's List" as a Nazi lieutenant who gleefully murders Jews and runs concentration camps, and in the "Harry Potter" franchise as the wizarding world's villain Lord Voldemort. In both cases, Fiennes won critical acclaim for his portrayals, and his turn in "Schindler's List" even earned him an Academy Award nomination.

Ralph Fiennes' worst: 'The Avengers' (1998)

- Director: Jeremiah S. Chechik
- IMDb user rating: 3.8
- Metascore: 12
- Runtime: 89 minutes

On the flip side, Fiennes' part in "The Avengers" was bashed by critics and audiences alike. The late '90s spy movie was a spinoff of a British TV series of the same name, and it follows secret agents played by Fiennes and Uma Thurman as they try to stop a villain who is building a machine that will control the world's weather. 

Rupert Grint's best: 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2' (2011)

- Director: David Yates
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Metascore: 85
- Runtime: 130 minutes

Before landing his role in "Harry Potter," Rupert Grint didn't have any professional acting experience. He'd participated in school plays and had bit roles in local theater productions, but his turn as Harry's poor-but-loyal best friend Ron Weasley was his first big gig. It makes sense, then, that fans would feel that "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" would be Grint's best film—it was the culmination of a decade-long course in how to be an incredible character actor.

Rupert Grint's worst: 'Thunderpants' (2002)

- Director: Peter Hewitt
- IMDb user rating: 3.8
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 87 minutes

There are likely two key reasons "Thunderpants" is considered Grint's worst film. First, the movie is about a boy astronaut whose excessive flatulence saves the day. The second is that the movie was made in 2002, only a year after Grint began acting professionally, making it more than understandable that some of his earliest work would turn out to be duds.

John Hurt's best: 'Alien' (1979)

- Director: Ridley Scott
- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Metascore: 89
- Runtime: 117 minutes

There's an iconic moment in the science fiction film "Alien" where a creature erupts from the chest of one of the human astronauts, setting off a cat-and-mouse chase that ends with most of the inhabitants of the spacecraft dead. This astronaut, Kane, was played by the veteran English actor John Hurt, who earned a British Academy of Film and Television Arts nomination for his role. Decades later, Hurt would go on to play Mr. Ollivander, the wandmaker, in the "Harry Potter" franchise.

John Hurt's worst: 'Even Cowgirls Get the Blues' (1993)

- Director: Gus Van Sant
- IMDb user rating: 4.3
- Metascore: 28
- Runtime: 106 minutes

Between his impressive performances in "Alien" and "Harry Potter," Hurt flopped as the Countess in "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues." The early '90s rom-com is about a cowgirl with oversized thumbs, played by Uma Thurman, who hitchhikes around the country, works as a model, and takes over a ranch where she drugs a group of endangered whooping cranes and falls in love with one of her co-conspirators.

Gary Oldman's best: 'The Dark Knight' (2008)

- Director: Christopher Nolan
- IMDb user rating: 9.1
- Metascore: 84
- Runtime: 152 minutes

In some of his most popular movies, depicting Sirius Black in the "Harry Potter" franchise and police commissioner Jim Gordon in the "Batman" installment "The Dark Knight," Gary Oldman plays characters who are ready to do whatever it takes to rid their worlds of evil forces and ideologies. Oldman's oft-discussed intense acting style shines in these types of parts, allowing audiences to develop an emotional bond with his characters—an experience that likely leads them to rate the roles and films more highly.

Gary Oldman's worst: 'Tiptoes' (2002)

- Director: Matthew Bright
- IMDb user rating: 4.3
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 90 minutes

In "Tiptoes," which is about an average-sized person coming to terms with the fact his unborn child may have dwarfism like the rest of his family members, Gary Oldman received criticism for playing a little person despite being of average size himself. By and large, audiences were disappointed that many of the characters who were little people were played by average-sized actors when the parts could have gone to actors who were actually little people instead.

Daniel Radcliffe's best: 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2' (2011)

- Director: David Yates
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Metascore: 85
- Runtime: 130 minutes

Daniel Radcliffe, who played orphan-turned-wizard Harry Potter himself, was the only one of the primary child actors in the "Harry Potter" franchise to have had previous professional acting experience. Despite this, and despite his more extensive filmography, fans still feel that "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" is Radcliffe's best film so far. This assessment may have something to do with the fact that Harry's character arc comes to a satisfying close when, in the final scenes, he finally realizes his destiny and vanquishes evil.

Daniel Radcliffe's worst: 'Beast of Burden' (2018)

- Director: Jesper Ganslandt
- IMDb user rating: 3.6
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 89 minutes

In "Beasts of Burden," Daniel Radcliffe's character has basically no story arc, which is likely why audiences generally disliked the film. The movie follows Radcliffe's character, a man named Sean, on his final day as a drug runner for a Mexican cartel. Most of the action takes place in the cockpit of his tiny Cessna airplane, and while the nature of his job—as well as the fact that he's acting as a double agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration—should keep the tension high, the finished product falls flat.

Alan Rickman's best: 'Die Hard' (1988)

- Director: John McTiernan
- IMDb user rating: 8.3
- Metascore: 72
- Runtime: 132 minutes

Audiences love seeing Alan Rickman play a villain—in "Harry Potter" it was possible death eater and Professor Severus Snape, and in "Die Hard" it was German terrorist leader Hans Gruber. In the later action classic, Rickman's character holds a bunch of Christmas party attendees hostage, while NYPD officer John McClane, played by Bruce Willis, attempts to rescue them.

Alan Rickman's worst: 'The January Man' (1989)

- Director: Pat O'Connor
- IMDb user rating: 5.5
- Metascore: 33
- Runtime: 97 minutes

One Alan Rickman film that didn't land with audiences the same way "Harry Potter" and "Die Hard" did was "The January Man." Released in 1989, just a year after "Die Hard" became a box-office smash, "The January Man" is a bizarre crime comedy about an ex-NYPD officer who is tasked with tracking down a serial killer with the help of his artist neighbor, Ed, portrayed by Rickman. Critics lambasted the film over its tone—it can't seem to decide if it wants to be a violent thriller or a quirky rom-com, an optimistic story about love, or a cynical look at the evil nature of humans.

Maggie Smith's best: 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2' (2011)

- Director: David Yates
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Metascore: 85
- Runtime: 130 minutes

In "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2," Maggie Smith, the legendary theater icon, plays Professor McGonagall, the kind but firm head of the Gryffindor house. The film (and the role) made her a household name with a new generation. Smith began her career decades earlier in the '50s and revived her career, which had previously been in a bit of a lull.

Maggie Smith's worst: 'Sherlock Gnomes' (2018)

- Director: John Stevenson
- IMDb user rating: 5.2
- Metascore: 36
- Runtime: 86 minutes

In the animated kids' movie "Sherlock Gnomes," Maggie Smith plays Lady Blueberry, the leader of the blue gnomes and unofficial head of the garden. The detective adventure film utilizes the voices of other big-name celebrities like James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Michael Caine, Ozzy Osbourne, Mary J. Blige, and Johnny Depp to bring the rest of the garden ornament crew to life.

Imelda Staunton's best: 'Paddington 2' (2017)

- Director: Paul King
- IMDb user rating: 7.8
- Metascore: 88
- Runtime: 103 minutes

Originally a period actress, Imelda Staunton gained widespread fame when she starred as Dolores Umbridge, the miserable, evil Ministry of Magic employee, in the "Harry Potter" franchise. Her successful turn in these films led to more opportunities for mainstream roles, including one in "Paddington 2." In the animated children's movies, Stanton lends her voice to Aunt Lucy, the elder relative of everyone's favorite anthropomorphic bear, who is getting ready to celebrate her 100th birthday.

Imelda Staunton's worst: 'Amulet' (2020)

- Director: Romola Garai
- IMDb user rating: 4.8
- Metascore: 62
- Runtime: 99 minutes

Staunton utilizes the cruel, sadistic character traits she developed for Dolores Umbridge in the 2020 horror movie "Amulet." In the quiet, slow-burn film she plays a nun who tricks an unsuspecting soldier into becoming a part of something much more sinister than he bargained for while he stays in an old house with her.

Emma Watson's best: 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2' (2011)

- Director: David Yates
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Metascore: 85
- Runtime: 130 minutes

Rounding out the trio of young wizards at the center of the "Harry Potter" franchise is Emma Watson, who played the brainy witch Hermione Granger. Critics and the franchise fans alike frequently praised the film, most especially Watson's portrayal of Hermione throughout all eight films, calling out the actress' dedication to focusing on all the character had to offer—her smarts, her bravery, her loyalty—rather than making her just another pretty face who brought little value to the overall story.

Emma Watson's worst: 'The Circle' (2017)

- Director: James Ponsoldt
- IMDb user rating: 5.3
- Metascore: 43
- Runtime: 110 minutes

Emma Watson once again chose to play a smart, ambitious character who is valued for her brain over her looks in the 2017 thriller "The Circle." Unfortunately, the film's plotline and thematic content didn't resonate the same way "Harry Potter" did, leaving the movie with lower ratings overall. Rotten Tomatoes wrote "The Circle," which looks at how social media and technology negatively impact our lives, "spins aimlessly in its half-hearted exploration of timely themes."

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