How Harry Potter films changed the books

Joe Utichi
Yahoo UK Movies Features
29 June 2012

This June marked fifteen years since the very first Potter novel, ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone’, hit shelves. Only 500 copies were ordered for the first run, and it would be some time before Potter would become a phenomenon. By the time Rowling sold the film rights to the first four books in 1999, they were worth £1 million. In retrospect, that figure seems quite low.

Fans were generally pretty taken with the films, which came from Warner Bros. and cast a very young Daniel Radcliffe as the titular boy wizard. In the space of 10 years the production team packed much in. But, for the sake of comparison, the films' 17 hour runtime pales in comparison to nearly 125 hours of Stephen Fry's Potter audiobooks. The movie series made hundreds of changes from the novels, with some working better than others…

[Related gallery: Movie poster mistakes]
[Related gallery: Silly foreign movie title translations]


Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

The Good:
The casting. Dan had an allergic reaction to the green contact lenses he was asked to wear, so Harry's eyes in the film are blue. And we can't help thinking Emma Watson's modelling agent is grateful that she wasn't forced to wear fake gnashers for Hermione's buck teeth. Rupert Grint isn't lanky tall like Ron in the books.

The Bad:
A sequence involving Ron's brother Charlie, who's drafted in to help get Hagrid's dragon Norbert out of Hogwarts, is missing. In fact, Charlie was never even cast in the film adaptations. Scenes with the poltergeist, Peeves, were shot (with Rik Mayall), but never made the final cut.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

The Good:
When they drink Polyjuice potion, the filmmakers niftily made Dan and Rupert's voices come out of Crabbe and Goyle. This detail wasn’t in the book, and made the scene both funnier and less confusing. They repeat this trick in ‘Deathly Hallows’.

The Bad:
This book ends with a giant party; altogether more fitting than director Chris Columbus's saccharine round of cheering and happy news.



Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

The Good:
Director Alfonso Cuaron brought a few of his own idiosyncrasies to JK Rowling's world, most notably including shrunken heads throughout the flick. And then there's Professor Flitwick's frog choir, which sings a John Williams-penned song.

The Bad:
We never learn who the marauders are, whose map is passed on to Harry by Fred and George. Messrs Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs aren't ever revealed in the films to be Lupin, Pettigrew, Sirius and Harry's dad James, respectively.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

The Good:
Goblet is the first Potter pic to do away with a Dursley opening. We love Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon, not to mention little Dudders, but given the main action is relentless in this book, it was some smart sidelining. Also No-one really misses Hermione's crusade for the House Elves, and her organisation S.P.E.W.... Do they?

The Bad:
Harry encounters any number of interesting beasties during the maze task in the book. None of these were ever realised on film; a shame, because Harry Potter's creatures workshop was one of the best on the planet.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

The Good:
Luna introduces Harry to the Thestrals instead of Hagrid. Given she's wont to see things that others can't, it's a great way to get across Harry's connection to this weird but loveable girl.

The Bad:
Missing entirely is the gang's visit to see Mr. Weasley at St. Mungo's hospital, which means Harry never meets Neville's parents, tortured insane by Voldemort.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

The Good:
Movie Harry is saved the indignity of having his first kiss with his future wife, Ginny Weasley, occurring in front of the entire Gryffindor common room. In the film, it's a private peck.

The Bad:
Most of Half-Blood Prince is in the form of flashbacks, as Dumbledore shares his Pensive memories with Harry. In the films, only a handful survive and we never meet the Gaunts, nor hear their tale.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

The Good:
We miss out on the gang's meticulous preparation of their Polyjuice-fuelled raid on the Ministry. This adds to Harry and Ron's bumbling in a lovely way; clearly Hermione was the one who did the thinking.

The Bad:
Poor Jamie Campbell Bower, who plays Grindelwald, is all but cut out of the film. In the books, his and Dumbledore's backstory is a key plot point. It's also never pointed out that Harry's cloak was one of the Hallows. Presumably we're supposed to intuit this from the information we are given. And that's to say nothing of Peter Pettigrew's missing fate!

What other departures from the books made you mad? Let us know below...

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