• The
    Harry Potter
    franchise is incredibly successful, making over $9.5 billion in worldwide box office sales and selling millions of copies of the books.
  • The first two movies, directed by Chris Columbus, are the most faithful adaptations of the books, staying true to the narrative beats.
  • As the series progressed, the movie runtimes varied, sometimes leading to pacing issues and the exclusion of important characters and plot points. However, the split of the final book into two movies allowed for a more comprehensive adaptation.

The Harry Potter franchise is one of the most successful movie franchises in history, although the Harry Potter movie run times are much longer than usual for young adult movies. The Harry Potter series has brought in over $9.5 billion in its worldwide box office, with the original franchise and the Fantastic Beasts movies combined. The story started in books, and they have sold millions of copies as well, making it one of the best crossover hits in cinema history. While the flagship series has ended, The Wizarding World lives on, both in the world of movies and video games, with Hogwarts Legacy and the Harry Potter TV show reboot.

However, the future of the franchise on the big screen remains in question. Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore was the lowest-grossing movie in the franchise by almost $250 million. That has caused Warner Bros. to pump the brakes on that specific spinoff franchise for now. However, Warner Bros. also said that the Harry Potter franchise remains valuable to the studio, and fans should expect to see more of the property in one way or another, with the Harry Potter reboot TV show in the works at HBO.

Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone (2001) – 152 Minutes

Harry Potter with Ron and Hermione in Sorcerer's Stone.

The movie that started it all established the series’ structure with this Harry Potter movie runtime clocking in at two-and-a-half hours. In the film, a young boy named Harry Potter learns his parents were great wizards, and receives an invitation to begin studying at Hogwarts, a prestigious wizarding school. Daniel Radcliffe took on the role of Harry Potter at the young age of 12, along with fellow child actors Emma Watson and Rupert Grint. The cast was rounded out by some of Britain’s top acting talent, and the film went on to an impressive $975 million at the box office for director Chris Columbus.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is the shortest book in J.K. Rowling’s series but boasts one of the longer Harry Potter film lengths. Despite this, numerous beloved characters like Peeves were still cut from the final product. That said, Columbus’ first two movies are the most faithful adaptations of the books, leaving out only what could be considered extraneous (Peeves aside) and following Rowling’s narrative beats almost to a T. The runtime reflects this fact as, at times, Sorcerer’s Stone can run at a glacial pace whilst the book itself is a relatively quick read.

Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets (2002) – 161 Minutes

Harry and Ron in Transfiguration class in Chamber of Secrets.

Released one year after Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Chris Columbus finished up his two-film run with Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and the Harry Potter movie runtimes increased. Columbus had previously worked well with children as a director on films like Home Alone and a writer on The Goonies, so he was perfect to launch the franchise. This second movie continued Harry’s discovery of magic. It also showed what dangers he faced in the future as the past of Lord Voldemort, the main antagonist of the franchise, is delved into. The film made $879 million and was the second highest-grossing film of 2002.

Much like Sorcerer’s Stone, Chamber of Secrets and its ending stick relatively close to the source material. Of what was cut were various encounters with secondary antagonist Gilderoy Lockhart that only further served to enforce his buffoonery and much of Percy Weasley’s role in the narrative. Of all the Harry Potter film lengths, Chamber of Secrets was the longest and is sometimes regarded as the worst Harry Potter movie of the bunch because of this fact (when not counting the Fantastic Beasts franchise). Chamber of Secrets exacerbates Sorcerer’s Stone‘s pacing issues, but at least Harry is seen actually performing magic in this film and Lucius Malfoy was introduced.

Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban (2004) – 144 Minutes

Sirius Black in the Shrieking Shack Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban has a complex ending and while Columbus made his Harry Potter movies mostly about children discovering magic, Alfonso Cuarón took the helm for this one and made one of the most adult films in the series — with one of the shorter Harry Potter movie runtimes. He cut back the runtime, although it was still over two hours. Sirius Black, a man once held at the Azkaban prison, was introduced as Harry’s godfather, and the film changed the franchise’s tone drastically. Cuarón only directed one movie, but was the most acclaimed of the franchise’s directors, winning two Oscars for Best Director following this movie.

Prisoner of Azkaban is widely regarded as the best Harry Potter movie in the series, and it doesn’t contain the main antagonist Voldemort at all. The film moves at breakneck speed without sacrificing important exposition and its noticeable tonal shift was necessary to usher in Goblet of Fire, as the Harry Potter stories themselves grew darker with each successive book. However, with the cut runtime came cut characters, and side characters like Neville, Dean, or Seamus weren’t featured often. Quidditch also got the ax in Prisoner of Azkaban, with Harry receiving his Firebolt at the end of the film and the movie only containing the Hufflepuff vs. Gryffindor match.

Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire (2005) – 157 Minutes

A wet Harry Potter in Goblet of Fire.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was the movie that really showed that character deaths could be serious in the series, but with one of the middling Harry Potter movie runtimes, audiences experienced major cuts for the first time. In this film, Harry Potter took part in a Triwizard Tournament that saw him battle in a series of tests to determine the school with the best young wizard. However, that was just to move the plot along as the true importance of this movie, directed by Mike Newell, was to bring Lord Voldemort back from the dead, setting up the main villain for the rest of the series.

Despite having a runtime of almost 2 hours and 40 minutes, Goblet of Fire was the first Harry Potter film that saw huge cuts to the narrative to reach its conclusion while still providing enough exposition. For starters, those who have only watched the Harry Potter movies have never heard of Ludo Bagman, Hermione’s House Elf rights campaign, the importance of Winky the House Elf, or how Barty Crouch Jr. managed to escape Azkaban and eventually orchestrate his evil plan. The Ministry’s growing influence seems like a stark change in Order of the Phoenix. Had the Goblet of Fire runtime been expanded a bit, certain things going forward would’ve made more sense.

Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix (2007) – 138 Minutes

An image of Harry and his friends standing in a circle in Harry Potter and The Order of The Phoenix

While Order of the Phoenix is the longest Harry Potter book, it is the shortest in terms of Harry Potter movie runtimes. David Yates directed this film and remained with the franchise to the end. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix saw the rise of the powerful Order of the Phoenix to battle the Death Eaters, and Harry learned who his real allies were. This was the step in Harry’s journey where he found himself betrayed, as the Ministry of Magic refused to believe Voldemort was back and left the Order to fight alone, which resulted in the death of Harry’s beloved godfather Sirius Black.

Thanks to Goblet of Fire, fans of the novels were prepared for how much cutting Order of the Phoenix would undergo. Despite this, it seems almost criminal that the longest book in the series got the film with one of the shortest runtimes. Much of Harry’s inner turmoil and scenes that displayed his increasingly troubling connection to Voldemort didn’t appear, with the attack on Mr. Weasley being one of the only major instances included. Because of its short runtime, Harry’s angst is downplayed to a degree, important moments in his relationship with Sirius are absent, and the most integral part of Snape’s worst memory doesn’t happen, impacting his big reveal.

Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince (2009) – 153 Minutes

Harry Potter and Horace Slughorn in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (1)

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince came in 2009 and added a new twist to the story as Dumbledore’s close companion proved to be a possible Death Eater sent into Hogwarts as Snape took center stage. Snape, the Half-Blood Prince, left a notebook behind that Harry found and used to aid him through the year. By the end of Half-Blood Prince, things looked dire as the Death Eaters began to infiltrate Hogwarts. While Voldemort demanded that Draco Malfoy kill Dumbledore with the wand tied to him, it’s Snape who steps forward and murders the headmaster, taking away Harry’s beloved mentor and leaving him and his friends alone to battle Voldemort.

While Half-Blood Prince has one of the more appropriate Harry Potter movie runtimes, fans of the books would’ve stuck in their theater seats for longer to see Voldemort’s backstory played out on the screen. The film only includes two out of the seven memories that relate to Voldemort’s overall backstory, which would’ve included how he procured the locket, cup, and ring Horcruxes, the Gaunt family, and Tom Riddle’s gradual decline into Voldemort. However, Yates decided to keep the Half-Blood Prince runtime down to about the same length as Goblet of Fire, with the latter being slightly longer.

Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010) – 146 Minutes

Lucius Malfoy talking to Draco in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1

The final book in the Harry Potter series was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and it was split into two movies, both having some of the shorter Harry Potter movie runtimes. The first of the films came out in 2010 and saw Harry, Hermione, and Ron on the run after the death of Dumbledore. This entire movie mostly focused on the relationship between the three leads as their friendship fractures, breaks, and is eventually mended to make them stronger than ever as they return to battle Voldemort and the Death Eaters to end the war once and for all.

Splitting The Deathly Hallows in two worked well for covering the final book, and the film cut off in the story at the perfect place. Due to having two films to tell the entire tale, much of what happened in The Deathly Hallows book was included. The only thing that felt somewhat pushed to the wayside was Dumbledore’s backstory and how Harry wrestled with that relationship and trust. In addition, Harry’s internal struggle between pursuing the Hallows and the Horcruxes wasn’t addressed in the tight two and a half hours.

Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011) – 130 Minutes

Daniel Radcliffe in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2.

The final movie in the initial Harry Potter franchise saw Harry Potter and his friends join forces with the wizards that had survived the Death Eaters to this point. It was the Battle of Hogwarts, and everyone gathered to take on the villains and save their school. By the end, most characters had their heroic moments, many beloved heroes died in battle, and Harry had his final battle with Voldemort to end the war and save his school and friends. By the final scene, Harry was allowed to live happily ever after. Concerning the Harry Potter movie runtimes, this movie was shorter than any other movie in the series.

Despite having the shortest of all the Harry Potter movie runtimes, Deathly Hallows Part 2 covered the second half of the novel pretty well and ended the series on a bombastic note. Certain elements were changed from the book for the better, with Harry and Voldemort’s final battle being much more action-packed and taking place in the courtyard rather than the Great Hall. The only unfortunate part of this was that the tight runtime didn’t allow proper impact for major character deaths like Fred, Lupin, and Tonks.

Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them (2016) – 132 Minutes

Newt in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Five years after the end of the Harry Potter franchise, the Wizarding World came back to the big screen, but the film wasn’t based on books and was instead a story J.K. Rowling created for the big screen. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them told the story of Newt Scamander, whose books about fantastic beasts Harry studied in school. In these movies, Newt is an adult fascinated with the fantastic beasts in the world. However, this series had a bigger arc – the rise of Grindelwald. These Harry Potter movie runtimes were still over two hours, but not as long as many of the earlier films.

The Fantastic Beasts franchise started out strong, and audiences welcomed new protagonist Newt Scamander with open arms. No books to follow meant runtimes would tell the proper amount of story in the proper amount of time and the future of Fantastic Beasts seemed bright. While it was clear that Rowling’s talents as a screenwriter didn’t match that of her authorship, the film’s runtime felt comfortable and introduced new magic into the franchise along with an entirely different setting and time period.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald (2018) – 134 Minutes

Nagini and Credence in Crimes of Grindelwald
Claudia Kim and Ezra Miller in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

The next movie in the Harry Potter world hit theaters in 2018, and this Harry Potter movie runtime is only slightly longer than the first movie. This was the second movie in the Fantastic Beasts series, and while Newt Scamander was still the main protagonist, there was a lot here to set up a battle mentioned in the original Harry Potter movies between Albus Dumbledore and his greatest rival, Gellert Grindelwald. This saw both Jude Law and Johnny Depp arrive as Dumbledore and Grindelwald, but the movie was mostly a set-up for the upcoming battle with Grindelwald preparing to start a Wizarding war with humanity.

Crimes of Grindelwald is famously where the Fantastic Beasts franchise went wrong, and while the runtime was longer it still didn’t give enough breathing room for audiences to understand the complexity of the plot with one watch. Crimes of Grindelwald was packed to the brim with information and tie-ins to Harry Potter which worked more to its detriment than its success. Canon was retconned many times and despite only being two minutes longer than the first film, Crimes of Grindelwald felt eons longer.

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets Of Dumbledore (2022) – 143 Minutes

Newt looking forlorn in Fantastic Beasts 3

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore ended up as the lowest-grossing movie in the entire Harry Potter franchise at the box office. When it comes to Harry Potter movie runtimes, it is the longest of the prequels. This caused concern for Warner Bros., who has questioned if continuing this story is even worth it. In the movie, Newt takes even more of a backseat to the war between Dumbledore and Grindelwald, recast in this movie by Mads Mikkelsen. There was still more of this story to tell, but Fantastic Beasts 4 isn’t happening.

Despite being the lowest-grossing of the Harry Potter movies, Secrets of Dumbledore was an improvement on Crimes of Grindelwald, and Mikkelsen’s performance was a particular highlight. Unlike some of the other Harry Potter movies, runtimes were never the issue with Fantastic Beasts. Rather, the series didn’t make its intentions clear from the start, canon was broken, Mikkelsen should’ve been the casting team’s first choice, and Newt was slowly ousted as the protagonist. Audiences did get to see Dumbledore’s backstory that should’ve been in Deathly Hallows, but the Fantastic Beasts’ shorter runtimes work for casual fans of the series that aren’t married to book canon.

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