The Wizarding World franchise has yielded dozens of memorable Harry Potter characters, including humans of good and evil varieties as well as a menagerie of magical creatures. Across seven books and eight movies, those characters have burrowed their way into our hearts and minds.
Condensing all of the Harry Potter characters down to such a short list is an incredibly formidable task with so many to go through when you watch the Harry Potter movies in order. Expect some of the scariest Harry Potter villains to snarl their way in, along with several humans who magically transform into dogs in certain circumstances, and, of course, several devoted sons and daughters of Gryffindor. So here are our favorite characters picked from the incredible Harry Potter cast.
We first met the calculating goblin Griphook way back in the first movie, but his expertise in historial artifacts proved crucial to the end of the franchise. There was more than one copy of Godric Gryffindor’s goblin-made sword out there, and our heroes needed to know which one was real.
Warwick Davis did a terrific job of communicating every different facet of Griphook’s personality. On the one hand, he was a willing ally for our heroes in the fight against Voldemort. But he was also out for himself and had no qualms with betraying humans, who he didn’t trust even a little bit.
49. Lavender Brown
Jessie Cave only got a single movie to shine in the role of Lavender Brown, which frankly makes her impact in Half-Blood Prince even more impressive. Lavender starts a romance with Ron due to his heroics on the Quidditch field and they spend a few weeks intensely entangled in just about every imaginable way.
Not all of the rom-com elements in Half-Blood Prince well, but Cave deserves to take a bow for giving it both barrels as Lavender in unforgettable fashion. She also gets a memorably horrific fate in the Battle of Hogwarts, dying at the hands of the vile werewolf Fenrir Greyback.
The role of Voldemort’s trusted snake companion is a decent job. You get to be adored by a human being who can speak your language, and he’s also willing to offer you regular murder victims to eat. Bliss. At least, Nagini‘s life was bliss until everyone found out she was a Horcrux and Neville Longbottom cut off her head. Oh dear!
In the second Fantastic Beasts movie, we got our first hints at Nagini’s backstory, with Claudia Kim playing the snake in human form. We’re probably never going to see how her Maledictus curse would’ve played out in that franchise, but we’re still holding out hope to see what happened next.
47. Aunt Marge
Pam Ferris only appeared in a single scene of the Harry Potter franchise, but nobody will have been able to forget Aunt Marge after it. She spent several minutes brutally bad-mouthing Harry and his parents before he inadvertently inflated like a balloon and sent her spiraling off into the Surrey sky.
Marge is a particularly memorable Muggle monster, embodying all of the class snobbery of the Dursleys but with an even loftier sense of superiority. Given how Ferris already terrified a generation of kids as Miss Trunchbull in the ’90s Matilda movie, it’s very impressive that she did it again. And on both occasions, her comeuppance was wonderful.
46. Nearly Headless Nick
The pompous ghost of Gryffindor House is the most famous of the Hogwarts ghosts, largely thanks to the presence of Monty Python star John Cleese in the role. His semi-removal of his head was one of the more gross moments back in the first movie, and it gave us Emma Watson’s beautifully precocious delivery of the line “how can you be nearly headless?”.
Of course, Nick’s finest moment never made it to the big screen. With the Harry Potter TV series release date on the horizon, we hope the time has finally come for us all to see what a Deathday Party really looks like.
45. Queenie Goldstein
The concept of reading minds through Legilimency was introduced in the main Potter franchise, but we had never met a truly masterful Legilimens until the Fantastic Beasts movies gave us Queenie Goldstein. Alison Sudol has brought real wit and charm to the role thus far.
Queenie has undergone a complex character arc throughout the franchise to date, joining Grindelwald’s army in a misguided attempt to secure her forbidden relationship with Muggle baker Jacob Kowalski. But we knew Queenie was good in her heart, and she eventually rejoined the right side of the conflict.
44. Fenrir Greyback
Perhaps the most outwardly sadistic of the Harry Potter villains, the worst excesses of Fenrir Greyback were kept from movie viewers. He was a werewolf who fully embraced his animal side and had a particular fondness for biting children. We’re not sure what the MPAA would’ve said about Greyback at his coldest.
Actor and MMA fighter Dave Legeno was deeply frightening in the role, making the most of limited screen time to create fanged scares. Sadly, Legeno passed away in 2014, but he will have a big impact on the nightmares of Potter fans for years to come.
43. Professor Quirrell
It’s difficult to remember anything else about a dude when you learn that he’s got the most evil wizard in history living on the back of his head. But let’s be fair to Professor Quirrell, who was just the right amount of fascinating way back in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
Much of the credit for that should go to Ian Hart, who convincingly portrayed Quirrell as a permanently terrified wizard, struggling with the consequences of his own actions. Look, you’d stutter too if you had someone living behind your ears.
He also suffers from the unfortunate plague of terrible names in the Potter franchise. His first name is Quirinus. Look, you’d stutter too if your parents called you Quirinus Quirrell.
42. Xenophilius Lovegood
Newspaper editors are a strange lot, and editors of wacky fringe conspiracy magazines are even weirder. Xenophilius Lovegood, played with a true commitment to the manic by Rhys Ifans, is the man behind The Quibbler and a devotee of rabbit holes so deep that even the most unhinged Redditor would steer well clear.
But all of this unpredictability is very entertaining indeed and Ifans clearly had a great time with his brief appearances in the Deathly Hallows movies. We’ll never forget his dance scene with his daughter Luna at the Weasley wedding. Truly unique.
41. Gellert Grindelwald
There aren’t many magical scumbags who can get close to the Dark Lord himself, but Grindelwald has to be right up there. He was the scourge of the Wizarding World before Voldemort even finished school, amassing followers and spreading toxic ideology before he was finally subdued by Dumbledore in a famous wizarding duel.
Grindelwald has been played by Johnny Depp and more recently Mads Mikkelsen in the Fantastic Beasts movies, and there’s no denying his capacity for chilling evil. We hope his story continues when we eventually get a Fantastic Beasts 4 release date. If nothing else, we need to see that Dumbledore duel.
Harry’s trusted companion and loyal bringer of post, Hedwig is the coolest of all of the Hogwarts owls. Nobody else could shell out for such a beautiful snowy owl, but then again Harry always had more privilege than the average student.
In the end, Hedwig’s most memorable moment was probably her brutal and senseless death. That was the moment we all realized that all bets were off in these final installments. If Hedwig could be blasted off her perch in a flash of deadly green light, then nobody was safe.
39. Tina Goldstein
A driven and morally righteous Auror, Tina is one of the most memorable and enjoyable parts of the Fantastic Beasts franchise. She’s a great scene partner for Newt Scamander, playing by the rules while his chaos makes that a very difficult job indeed.
Katherine Waterston was really good as Tina in the first two Beasts movies, but we were inclined to send out a search party for her in Fantastic Beasts 3. We need a lot more of her than just a few, oddly-shot cameo moments. Hopefully that fourth movie does happen and gives Tina room to shine.
38. Sybill Trelawney
Divination might be, in Hermione’s words, a bit of a woolly discipline, but it’s frankly worth it to be able to spend time in the wildly unpredictable company of Professor Trelawney. Dumbledore seemingly hired her off the basis of one successful prophecy, but she doesn’t appear to have many palpable skills beyond that. She’s certainly not much of a teacher.
Unsympathetic and a little exhausting on the page, Trelawney got a new lease of life in the movies thanks to Emma Thompson’s hilarious performance. With eyes the size of truck wheels and a voice like wind rattling through a stack of tin cans, she’s a truly special creation and we love seeing her on screen.
37. Peter Pettigrew
Frankly, spending most of his life as a literal rat is a pretty fitting existence for Peter Pettigrew. Trusted so intimately by the Potters that he became their Secret Keeper, he betrayed them to Voldemort and ensured their deaths, disappearing into hiding as Sirius Black took the blame for his murder.
Timothy Spall does terrific work as the mousey, pathetic Pettigrew from Prisoner of Azkaban onwards. It’s a performance that’s as comic as it is unsettling. This is a man who’s so terrified of his boss that he’ll do literally anything he’s asked to do.
36. Dudley Dursley
The youngest member of the Dursley clan, Dudley is an awful bully and a brat. But when you have parents like he does, it’s tough to be anything else. So we’re actually inclined to cut the guy a little slack, especially as he gets a bit of a face turn by the end – in the books at least.
Harry Melling, who has since become a fascinating and idiosyncratic character actor, really maximiszes the rather meager screen time Dudley gets, but his work during the opening of Order of the Phoenix is a real highlight. He’d be completely furious at his position on this list too. 36?! Last year he was 37. That’s right; he’s not clever enough to know how rankings work.
35. Rita Skeeter
Fiction has a long history of portraying journalists as utter scumbags. Sometimes, it makes us a bit furious, but other times we get loathsome individuals with the entertainment value of Rita Skeeter. Played by Miranda Richardson in Goblet of Fire, Skeeter represents the sensationalist tabloid side of the Daily Prophet, using her trademark Quick Quotes Quill to twist the words of Harry and the other Triwizard champions into lurid, scandalous articles.
It’s a shame that Richardson didn’t get chance to explore some of the more fascinating revelations from the books, such as the fact Skeeter is actually an Animagus who takes the form of a beetle. If nothing else, her literally being a “bug” to listen in on everyone is just a delicious pun.
34. Jacob Kowalski
There aren’t many Muggles who have had as much involvement with the magical world as Fantastic Beasts’ lovable baker Jacob Kowalski. He meets Newt Scamander by chance in the bank and quickly becomes embroiled in the magizoologist’s search for his lost critters in New York City. Dan Fogler brings the laughs and the charm across the three Beasts movies, even if they’re not nearly as beloved as the main Potter saga.
Jacob is also a part of one of the franchise’s great love stories due to his bond with Queenie Goldstein. We’ve hurt our brain trying to follow the logic of the various dramatic revelations across their romance, but the actors can’t be faulted for making us feel every moment of affection and heartbreak.
33. Argus Filch
In the pantheon of the most dastardly Potter villains, few of them are as completely without a light side as Argus Filch. The Hogwarts caretaker is repellent to pretty much everybody and only nurses any affection at all for his cat Mrs Norris, to whom he is psychotically devoted. The books, of course, reveal that part of his resentment for the magical world and the students of Hogwarts is that he’s a squib, but there’s none of that in the movies.
David Bradley, though, leans into the comedic side of Filch and gives both barrels to some of the funniest moments in the franchise. Whether it’s the way he rolls his eyes at Hagrid’s love for the dragon Norbert or that bizarre run across the Great Hall he does in Goblet of Fire, Bradley turned the grumpy, misanthropic Filch into a comedy genius.
32. Petunia Dursley
Fiona Shaw delivers some of the best line readings in the entire Potter franchise, pronouncing the word “freak” with about a hundred syllables and narrowing her eyes better than just about any actor we’ve ever seen. As the epitome of a curtain-twitching neighborhood busybody, Shaw is a prime example of a character who was given a fair amount of depth on the page, but was never given chance to explore that on screen.
We know that Shaw is a terrific actor – she recently gave a rousing speech of rebellion as part of the Andor cast, for example – and that’s why her take on Petunia makes such an impression, even if the Dursleys are edged out of the series as the movies go on. The deleted scene of her final farewell to Harry is well worth seeking out.
31. Nymphadora Tonks
There’s not nearly enough of Tonks in the Harry Potter movies. Introduced as part of the Order of the Phoenix, she’s effectively a cool aunt figure to Harry, and forms an intense romantic connection with Lupin. Game of Thrones alum Natalia Tena made the most of her limited minutes in the movies, showcasing Tonks’ fun side as well as the deep reservoir of love at her heart.
It’s also worth noting that Tonka has one of the coolest magical abilities in the whole franchise. She’s a Metamorphmagus and can change her appearance at will. We see that technique used for comic effect a few times in the films, but it could have been much more useful in the story.
30. Cho Chang
Cho Chang certainly makes a big impact on our title character, emerging as Harry’s first crush. In fifth movie, Order of the Phoenix, Cho and Harry share the latter’s first kiss, accompanied by about five camera angles too many and absurd, swooping camera movement.
But there’s far more to Katie Leung’s performance than that, standing tall as a valued member of Dumbledore’s Army. That is right up until the movies do her dirty and give her the role of accidentally betraying the DA to Umbridge and her student followers. Thankfully, she rejoins the ranks of the DA in the fight against Voldemort.
29. Arthur Weasley
Molly Weasley might get the headline moments, and the expletives, but her husband is one of the warmest and most lovable characters in the entire Harry Potter ensemble. His charming affection for the Muggle world and happy-go-lucky devotion to his family is a great counterpoint to Molly’s more no-nonsense approach.
Of course, Arthur is also a formidable wizard, surviving an attack from Voldemort’s snake and helping to defend the entire world during the Battle of Hogwarts. As played on screen by Mark Williams, he’s one of the more underrated characters in the franchise.
28. Moaning Myrtle
Shirley Henderson arrives like a whirlwind into the midst of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, bringing every inch of her intensity to the role of Hogwarts’ most memorable ghost. Given that she lives inside a girls’ bathroom, it’s remarkable how many interactions she ends up having with our male hero.
Myrtle is joyously entertaining whenever she’s on screen, playing a crucial role in revealing the location of the Chamber of Secrets, as well as helping Harry through the second Triwizard task. She might be primarily a comic creation, but that doesn’t mean she’s not a vital player in the overall story.
27. Horace Slughorn
Slughorn might not have been introduced until Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, but he made a big impact with his limited screen time. He’s brought in to take up Snape’s old post as potions teacher, but Dumbledore’s ulterior motive is to procure his memories about Tom Riddle and his interest in Horcruxes.
Jim Broadbent plays Slughorn with avuncular charm, but also a touch of something more sinister. He is a Slytherin after all. The broad comic moments he’s involved in really work, including the deeply odd scenes around the funeral of Aragog. Whether this sequence is actually good or not is a big question, but we’ll certainly never forget some of Broadbent’s more unorthodox line readings.
26. Vernon Dursley
Uncle Vernon is the first character we meet in the opening pages of the Harry Potter books. He might be described as if he’s an ordinary old grump, but Vernon is a stone-cold scumbag who is violent and abusive towards his nephew. He doesn’t even get the sort-of-redemption arc given to his wife Petunia and their son Dudley.
Richard Griffiths was simply brilliant as Vernon in the Potter movies, bringing genuinely loathsome villainy alongside a surprising amount of comic relief. Sometimes he was sinister and terrifying, while sometimes he was turning eating ice cream into a malevolently comic art form. A terrible man, but utterly unforgettable.
25. Newt Scamander
It’s slightly controversial, we know, to suggest that anybody from the Fantastic Beasts franchise might be a good character. But none of the problems with those movies are down to Eddie Redmayne or the dorky magizoologist he portrays, Newt Scamander.
He’s a devoted animal lover, a close and trusted ally to Dumbledore, and a very useful person to have with you in a fraught situation. That sounds like more than anybody could possibly ask for from anybody in the Wizarding World.
From the moment John Hurt wheeled those stairs into shot at the beginning of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, we were captivated by his strange, sinister performance as Ollivander.
In a lot of ways, Ollivander captures the spirit of that movie perfectly. He conveys the awe and wonder Harry feels at the magical world, but he’s also exactly the reason that Harry is scared right to his bones by everything. There’s something wrong and intimidating about this wandmaker, and it’s brilliant.
23. Cedric Diggory
He only got one movie in the spotlight, but Cedric Diggory made a real impact. The golden boy of Hufflepuff, as if such a thing could possibly exist, he’s one of those infuriating people who’s talented in every conceivable way, as well as being completely beautiful. A disgrace.
Robert Pattinson brought his dashing charisma to Cedric in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, boasting perhaps the only non-disgraceful hairstyle in the entire movie. Very cruel of Voldemort and Wormtail to take that away from us with a brutal, shocking Killing Curse.
22. Ginny Weasley
Yes, she marries Harry after the events of the movies, but there’s so much more to Ginny than being our hero’s other half. She’s a fiercely talented witch, as proved by the Reductor Curse that she displayed to such spectacular effect in Order of the Phoenix.
Bonnie Wright provides comedy value and emotional heft as Ginny in the movies, though she was right to be frustrated by her lack of screen time. We’d have loved to see more of her story play out on screen, but what we did get was excellent.
21. Lucius Malfoy
Hello to Jason Isaacs! The velvet-voiced Brit brings every ounce of villainy he can muster to the role of Lucius Malfoy, who’s basically an emblem of everything wrong with posh people. Lest we forget, he actually tries to murder Harry at the end of Chamber of Secrets, before Dobby intervenes.
Perhaps the worst thing about Malfoy is that he doesn’t even seem particularly wedded to Voldemort’s cause. He follows the Dark Lord out of pure slimy self-preservation and the lust for power. What a terrible person, but a fantastic character to hiss and boo at from our couch.
20. Minerva McGonagall
Dumbledore’s right-hand woman at school is an absolute legend, quite simply. From the moment she greets Harry and Ron’s late arrival to her classroom by transforming from a cat into a human to her heroic enchantment of the Hogwarts suits of armor during the Battle of Hogwarts, she’s a straight-up badass.
Dame Maggie Smith manages the tonal gymnastics of the character perfectly, veering from severe schoolteacher to joyous comedian often within the same scene. She’s unforgettable.
19. Mad-Eye Moody
This is a bit of a strange one given the fact that most of Mad-Eye Moody’s most memorable moments (there’s some alliteration for you) actually weren’t him at all. Throughout Goblet of Fire, Moody is actually Barty Crouch Jr. with a stomach full of Polyjuice Potion. But, based on what we see of Moody in the rest of the franchise, it was a pretty good impression.
Brendan Gleeson grumps and growls his way through the performance, with that magic eye of his swirling wildly around inside his head. He might not be the best of the Defence Against the Dark Arts teachers, but he’s certainly the most unpredictable.
18. Fred and George Weasley
The most emotional death scene in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, on the page and on the screen, is probably the demise of Fred Weasley. That’s partly because it’s always sad to see a hero fall, but also because the Weasleys are about as entertaining as Potter characters get.
Played on screen by James and Oliver Phelps, the twins are a whirlwind of practical jokes and brilliant comedy beats, whether they’re scuffling while covered by enchanted facial hair or running Umbridge out of the school with hundreds of fireworks. Farewell Fred, and thanks for the memories.
17. Harry Potter
Harry might be the hero of this whole saga, but he’s sadly a lot less appealing as a character than many of those who help him. As the guy himself admits while setting up Dumbledore’s Army, he would have struggled with almost all of his achievements had he not had faithful friends around him.
But with that said, there’s no doubting the bravery and commitment to the cause of The Boy Who Lived. We guess he deserves a spot on this list just for that.
16. Albus Dumbledore
Dumbledore is as maddening as he is brilliant. Arguably the greatest headmaster in the history of Hogwarts, he was a key ally to Harry but also kept so much hidden from him when it came to the pursuit of Voldemort and his Horcruxes. He was benevolent and kind, but also had dark and prickly edges.
In the movies, he’s a twinkly old man when played by Richard Harris and somebody much more inscrutable in the guise of Michael Gambon. We might not have been given the chance to witness his famed duel with Grindelwald, but his fight with Voldemort in Order of the Phoenix was an instant classic.
15. Bellatrix Lestrange
If Voldemort represents calculated villainy and someone like Dolores Umbridge embodies the mundane inhumanity of political ambition, Bellatrix Lestrange is quite simple. She just loves being a murderous, evil nightmare being.
Bellatrix, played with typically unhinged joy by Helena Bonham Carter, is as bad as bad gets. She’s driven by her commitment to the Dark Lord’s cause and her pure love and adoration for the dude without a nose. With every curse she hurls or slur she carves into a teenage girl’s arm, she becomes an even more unforgettable baddie.
14. Ron Weasley
Harry’s name might be on the marquee and Hermione is just brilliant (more on her later), but Ron Weasley is in some ways the underrated hero of the central trio. He’s terrific when it comes to comic relief, but also has an explosive passion in his heart that comes through when his family is involved.
Ron isn’t the cleverest guy around and he’s certainly not the most talented wizard, but he’s the ultimate best friend and someone who will always follow his buddies into battle. That sort of commitment is worth its weight in redhead gold.
13. Gilderoy Lockhart
Cinema thrives on fraudsters and con artists. When it comes to the Wizarding World, scammers don’t come much scammier than Gilderoy Lockhart. He built an entire career around his skill with Memory Charms, causing other witches and wizards to forget the great achievements he then wrote about as his own.
It’s a shame that Kenneth Branagh’s smarmy take on this classic Potter baddie only got one movie to shine. He’s a terrible teacher and a terrible person, but he’s certainly entertaining to watch.
12. Rubeus Hagrid
One of our first introductions to the magical world in the movies is Hagrid‘s arrival at the hut on the rocks, turning Dudley Dursley into a pig (sort of) and whisking Harry off to Diagon Alley. Over the remaining movies, he stands firm as a reliable friend to the central trio and a fierce advocate for what’s right in the world.
Robbie Coltrane made Hagrid a lovable (half) giant and found real humanity and comedy behind that beard. The less said about the time he nearly got Harry and Ron eaten by spiders, the better.
Dobby is now best remembered for a death scene so iconic that it means people keep defacing a beautiful Welsh beach with socks. But way before that, he was one of the most memorable magical creatures in the Potter franchise.
His debut in Chamber of Secrets is morally ambiguous and often hilarious, then his subsequent friendship with Harry is nothing short of delightful. And we can’t talk about Malfoy Manor. We’ve been crying since 2010.
10. Neville Longbottom
If the essence of a good character is the idea of an arc or a journey across a series, they don’t come much bigger than Neville Longbottom. In the early movies, he’s blundering around searching for his pet frog and being bullied by six-inch-tall pixies.
By the time Deathly Hallows comes around, though, he has become a fearless and formidable warrior capable of striking one of the final blows to ensure that Voldemort is human and beatable by the time he squares off against Harry.
Obviously, actor Matthew Lewis’s decade-long glow-up has become something of a meme – and spawned the term “Longbottoming” – but the character goes on at least as much of a journey as the actor’s jawline. Neville, perhaps more than any other character, embodies the heart and courage that defines the house of Gryffindor. Long live Longbottom and his magnificent cheekbones.
9. Luna Lovegood
Evanna Lynch, as Luna Lovegood, gets one of the best entrance scenes in the entire franchise when she appears in Order of the Phoenix. Harry spots that a Thestral is pulling the Hogwarts coaches and remarks on this to Ron and Hermione, who are baffled as they can’t see the creatures.
At this point, a sing-song voice kicks in as Luna looks up from her upside-down copy of The Quibbler and tells Harry: “You’re not going mad. I can see them too. You’re just as sane as I am.”
Luna is one of the series’ best creations – a human who embodies the idea that you should never judge a book by its cover, or a person by their upside-down reading preferences. Despite her “Loony” nickname, she’s as fiercely clever as any other Ravenclaw and a vital part of Hogwarts’ fightback against the Death Eaters.
8. Draco Malfoy
From the sniveling introduction of the unbearable posh boy Draco Malfoy in Philosopher’s Stone, warning Harry against making friends with “the wrong sort”, he’s a perfect nemesis for Harry throughout the series. But what’s most fascinating is the way subsequent entries deepen him, conveying his fear and inadequacy as a teenage boy trying to move out of the shadow of both his father and his father’s homicidal boss.
All of this is conveyed brilliantly by Tom Felton. He has perhaps had one of the least impressive post-Potter careers of the central young cast members, but his acting talents in the series show that he absolutely deserves better.
His involvement in the later films is curtailed for time reasons, but he delivers so many memorable moments early on. His clash with Harry in the Chamber of Secrets dueling club remains legitimately thrilling.
7. Molly Weasley
The head of the Weasley clan, Molly, is driven entirely by her desire to protect her family – and Harry, whom she considers to be just as much her son as any of her biological kids.
Played by Julie Walters at her most delightfully maternal, she serves a predominantly comic role in the early part of the franchise, only to dial up the emotionally impactful moments as battle lines are drawn in the final installments. She also gets the absolute line of the series in the finale. You know the one.
Walters gives everything to her performance, capable of enlivening scenes with a withering glance or an ice-cold line reading. I don’t think there’s a child alive who could stand up to the intensity of the furious Howler she sends to Ron at the beginning of Chamber of Secrets, given the icing on the cake by how quickly she swerves into sweetly congratulating Ginny on becoming a Gryffindor.
A genius performance, translating one of the novels’ great characters into a memorable screen creation in her own right.
6. Dolores Umbridge
Voldemort might be the undisputed Big Bad of the Potter universe, but there’s something genuinely chilling about the more mundane evil of Dolores Umbridge. She’s a great villain on the page, but in the hands of Imelda Staunton, the movie incarnation of the loathsome politician is even more terrifying.
The distrust of political figures runs through the Potter stories, and Umbridge feels like the endgame of that idea – the embodiment of a government over-stretching and interfering where it isn’t wanted.
The contrast between Staunton’s comedically sweet appearance – and the frankly exceptional amount of pink in her office – and her psychopathic tendencies are drawn with incredible flair by the actor, along with director David Yates. This is a woman who loves torture more than she loves just about anything else – a sadistic monster who doesn’t even seem to have as many career and life goals as the Dark Lord. She’s just evil for the hell of it.
5. Remus Lupin
Sirius Black might be the closest thing to a father Harry knew, but Remus Lupin would certainly be a close second. The best of the Defense Against the Dark Arts teachers depicted in the series – though the films don’t really have room for his pedagogical brilliance – Lupin is quite simply a top bloke across the board. He’s the sensible ego to the rampaging id represented by Sirius.
Introduced in one of the best movies of the series, Prisoner of Azkaban, David Thewlis is perfectly cast as a slightly mousy, shy figure who always knows the right thing to do. He’s a moral focal point for the Order and a mediating voice for Harry when he’s at his most vengeful or rage-fueled.
Significantly, it’s Lupin who tries to hold Harry back from running after Bellatrix Lestrange following Sirius’s murder. In a franchise full of chaos and grief, sometimes you need a nice fella who knows when to hand out a bar of chocolate.
4. Sirius Black
Several of the most joyful moments of the Potter franchise involve Sirius Black, as played in the movies by Gary Oldman. There’s a brief moment in which Harry and Sirius leave the Shrieking Shack at the conclusion of Prisoner of Azkaban, ready to clear his name and start a life together finally.
Secondly, there’s his reunion with Harry at the beginning of Order of the Phoenix when his godson arrives at the titular group’s Grimmauld Place headquarters. Sirius was the closest thing Harry had to a father in his teenage years and, for the youngster, provided one of few concrete links to his dad.
Oldman gets the chance to deliver performances of real variety as Sirius, providing unhinged, cackling madness in Azkaban and then channeling a sort of avuncular cool uncle in his Order of the Phoenix appearance. His death in the latter movie feels like one of the most unjust and brutal moments in the series – a sucker punch of loss that powers Harry onwards for the rest of the series.
3. Lord Voldemort
Occasionally, nuance is overrated. Sometimes what you want from one of the best movie villains is a skeleton-cum-man with a ludicrous pantomime voice and a long, black cloak.
From the moment Ralph Fiennes first arrives in the franchise as Voldemort, emerging from a cauldron as part of the dark ritual in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the star gives it both thespian barrels. Everything about Fiennes’ performance is peak villainy, with several of his more ridiculous moments – including that macabre chuckle – achieving viral infamy.
He leans into the inhuman aspects of the character, and although the depiction of his death is one of the movie’s biggest adaptation missteps – a TED Talk for another time – that does nothing to minimize the power of Fiennes’ take on He Who Must Not Be Named.
2. Severus Snape
There’s no doubt that Severus Snape is the most complex character in the Potter universe and, with the help of Alan Rickman’s virtuoso acting performance, that nuance carries over onto the big screen.
The character is fascinating as a slithering villain but also works as a sympathetic and ultimately tragic figure responsible for ensuring every Potter fan bursts into tears any time they hear the word “always“.
Plenty of traditional Potter villains appear further down this list, but Snape is a prime example of storytelling at its best. As the ultimate example of a murky man used to moving in the shadows and walking the line of loyalties, he’s about as fascinating as a character can be. And we’ll love the late Mr Rickman forever. Or, as he might have said, “always”.
1. Hermione Granger
Hermione is the best character in the entire series, regardless of whose name is on the front of the books and DVD covers. She is, let’s face it, the glue holding the franchise together. While Harry stumbles his way through things and somehow gets all of the credit, and Ron similarly blunders but without achievement – poor Ron – Hermione just gets the job done.
It helps that Emma Watson’s performances matured brilliantly as one of the best fantasy series continued. While the early films showcase her as a sort of generic, precocious youngster, she ultimately introduces some real nuance.
The scene in the Deathly Hallows movie in which she has to quietly erase her parents’ memories of her in order to protect them is one of the most powerful in the entire franchise. That’s down to Watson and down to the genius of the series’ greatest character. We certainly think Hermione overshadows Harry Potter in the movies.
If you need more magical goodness in your life, check out our picks for the best Harry Potter spells, learn why we’re still angry about the Harry Potter finale, and look at why the most heart-breaking Harry Potter scene didn’t make the movies.
Finally, we’ve also got a guide breaking down everything we know about hypothetical new movies as we look at the news around the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child movie release date.
The creator of the Harry Potter series, JK Rowling, has made a number of transphobic remarks on social media in recent years. If you’d like to learn more about transgender equality or lend your support, here are two charities we encourage you to visit: the National Center for Transgender Equality in the US and Mermaids in the UK.