Usually, whenever someone asks, “Was the book or movie better?” I tend to answer that both were great in their own ways. After all, movies can have things that are better than books and vice versa. When it comes to the Harry Potter series, though, the answer is clear.
The Harry Potter books are much better than the movies. There was so much going on in the books that never made it into the films. Also, Voldemort’s ending in the books far surpassed his movie ending. The films were great at bringing the Wizarding World to life, but they’ve got nothing on the books.
This article will outline how the books were better than the movies. However, because the films were also phenomenal, it will touch on a few things they did even better than the books. Keep reading to learn more, but beware: there are spoilers ahead!
The Books Are Better at Details and Pacing
The Harry Potter movies are wonderful, magical, and a genuine pleasure to watch. However, compared to the books, they seem rushed and don’t contain nearly as much detail.
For example, in the books, we get to experience Harry’s innermost thoughts through Rowling’s narration. She even gives us a glimpse into a few other characters’ thoughts at pivotal points in the books.
It’s hard to do that in movies. Unless the directors are willing to add voiceover effects or written text to provide background, it’s pretty much impossible. The Harry Potter movies did neither of those things. Therefore, we miss a lot of that sometimes crucial minutiae.
Additionally, there wasn’t enough time in an approximately 2-hour movie to work everything in from the books.
The longest Harry Potter book is The Order of the Phoenix, 870 pages in the U.S. paperback edition. The corresponding movie, though, is just 2 hours and 18 minutes, including credits!
There’s no way everything in that book made it into the film. It’s just not possible. So those who only watched the movies are missing out on a lot.
Additionally, sometimes the movies can feel rushed. Again, that goes back to the director having to fit hundreds of pages into 2 hours. They did a surprisingly great job of making excellent movies from the source material, but by necessity, they had to rush through some scenes.
The Movies Leave Out Important Characters
If you’ve only ever watched the Harry Potter movies, the names Peeves, Merope Gaunt, and Ludo Bagman probably hold no significance. That’s unfortunate, because they all had relatively important parts to play in the books.
Peeves was Hogwarts’ resident poltergeist, and many of his scenes brought much-needed levity and humor to the books. He even had some vital plot points a few times. Unfortunately, he never appeared in the movies. Initially, he was supposed to, but all of his scenes were eventually cut.
Merope Gaunt was the mother of Tom Riddle (Lord Voldemort). Her tragic story played a big part in helping readers understand why Voldemort was the way he was.
Ludo Bagman, Head of the Department of Magical Games and Sports, played a fairly significant role in The Goblet of Fire, but he didn’t appear anywhere in the movie. Other characters the film series left out include:
- Charlie Weasley: He’s mentioned in the movies but never shows up
- The Crouch family’s house-elf, Winky
- Tonks’ parents, Andromeda and Ted
- Neville’s grandmother, Augusta: In the films, Neville mentions her, but she never appears.
- Neville’s parents: In the movies, they appear briefly in a photo. However, Harry discovers they are in the wizarding equivalent of a psychiatric hospital for long-term patients in the books
- Colin Creevey’s brother, Dennis
- Marietta Edgecombe: In the books, it’s Marietta, not Cho, who tells Umbridge about Dumbledore’s Army
- Professor Binns, the ghost professor
- Tonks and Lupin’s son, Teddy
- The Sphinx in the Goblet of Fire maze
Other characters appeared in the movies, but had their roles greatly diminished. Firenze, the centaur, appears in the first Harry Potter film, but he never becomes a professor at Hogwarts. In the books, Dumbledore hires him to teach Divination. He also plays a role in the final battle at Hogwarts.
Alecto and Amycus Carrow play very brief roles in the movies, but they were pretty significant villains in the books. Additionally, Hagrid’s half-brother Grawp saw his role in the movies drastically reduced to just one film.
Furthermore, other characters, specifically Ginny, are incredibly different from their book counterparts. Ginny is fiery, intelligent, witty, and bold in the books. The movies make her meek and trivial.
Voldemort’s Death Scene Was Changed in the Movies
This is probably my biggest complaint with the movie – even more than them leaving out Peeves and Charlie Weasley and making Ginny a totally different character.
Voldemort’s death scene.
The movie massacred it.
The great thing about this scene in the book is that Voldemort died just like everyone else. Rowling says Tom Riddle – not Voldemort, but Tom Riddle – “hit the floor with a mundane finality.” He just died. There was no spectacle, nothing showy or fantastic. He was just gone.
The movie, on the other hand, featured an elaborate scene of him flaking apart like ash and blowing away into the wind. Visually, it was more impressive than if he would have simply fallen over and died, but his death wasn’t meant to be impressive. To this day, this scene still infuriates me.
Why You Should Still Watch the Movies
Now that I’ve given you several – though not all – of the reasons the books were better than the films, you might be wondering why you should even watch the movies at all. That’s simple.
Because they’re great.
True, they’ll never measure up to the books in complexity, detail, and wonder. However, they brought the books to life in a magical way. The three actors who played Harry, Ron, and Hermione were spectacular, and most other casting choices were just as spot-on.
For example, Alan Rickman’s portrayal of Snape is one of my absolute favorites, and Maggie Smith as McGonagall couldn’t have been more perfect.
Furthermore, visually, the movies were breathtakingly beautiful. They couldn’t showcase everything that made the Wizarding World so fantastic, but they did an excellent job including as many of them as possible. For example, reading about Hermione’s time-traveling exploits was hard to picture, but the movies portrayed those scenes flawlessly.
There were a few other things the movies did so well that they rivaled – or even surpassed – the equivalent scenes in the books. These include:
- Hedwig’s death scene: Hedwig dies somewhat by accident in the books. It’s still heartbreaking, but watching her die in the films to protect Harry is much more meaningful and heart-wrenching.
- The dialogue: The films – and the actors themselves – made some impromptu changes to the dialogue in places. Notably, there was much more bickering, banter, and sarcasm, and those brief flashes of comic relief were so much fun and made the characters more realistic and likable.
- The music: Obviously, books don’t come with music, so they didn’t have a chance to be “better than the movies” in this respect. Still, the Harry Potter films’ musical score was gorgeous. Even all these years later, it’s still iconic and adds so much to the movies.
- The disposal of the elder wand: In the final book, Harry decides to put the Elder Wand back in Dumbledore’s tomb because he doesn’t think any wizard needs that much power. In the movie, though, he breaks the wand, destroying it forever. It was a much more satisfying end to such a powerful, dangerous weapon.
Now you’re probably thinking: How long does it take to watch the Harry Potter movies? You will find the answer in this blog I wrote.
The Harry Potter books are much better than the Harry Potter movies. They contain more detail, give you more time to absorb everything, and don’t cut out any essential scenes or characters. However, the films are still magical and worth watching. Just be sure you watch them in addition to the books, not instead of them.