There’s something incredibly cozy about Harry Potter whenever it passes through the winter, from the frosted windows of the Hogwarts Express to the roaring fire of the Gryffindor common room, and the snow-capped towers of the school to the Dickensian village of Hogsmeade.
As the series goes on, however, things become far less festive and magic and more bleak and tragic. But even so, there are a number of films in both the Harry Potter series and the Fantastic Beasts series that make for great viewing during the Holidays.
So, grab a butterbeer and a chocolate frog, because here are the best Wizarding World movies to watch over the festive period!
1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001) is the first entry in the series, in which a young Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) is sent his letter of invitation to the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, despite having no prior knowledge of the Wizarding World. However, once he meets a friendly “half-giant” known as Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane), so begins his magical adventure.
Harry finds himself in a pub called the Leaky Cauldron, and then in cobblestoned wizarding area Diagon Alley, where he purchases his first wand from Garrick Ollivander (John Hurt) and his Snowy Owl Hedwig, before venturing deep into the winding vaults beneath Gringotts, a multi-storied, marbled bank run by Goblins, to collect some gold left to him by his late parents.
And then, of course, it’s onto King’s Cross Station, where Harry catches the Hogwarts Express steam train at Platform 9¾. Once inside the enormous castle that is Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Harry is left slack-jawed by all the magic — moving staircases, living portraits, ghosts, wands, spells, brooms, fantastic beasts, Quidditch, and so much more.
Directed by Chris Columbus, who helmed Home Alone (1990) and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992), Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is a Christmas classic in its own right. The score by legendary composer John Williams is remarkable (who also composed the music for the two Home Alone movies), and went on to become yet another iconic masterpiece.
2. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002) finds Harry in his second year at Hogwarts, having already met Lord Voldemort (Richard Bremmer), who had attached himself to the body of Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher Professor Quirrell (Ian Hart). But this year, Harry faces a new threat in the form of a diary whose previous owner was a student called Tom Riddle.
With his best friends Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) at his side, Harry investigates a place rumored to exist within the castle known as the Chamber of Secrets, while also trying to understand why he can speak Parseltongue — the ability to communicate with snakes, a rare Slytherin trait.
Along the way, Harry meets a new ally in Dobby the House Elf (Toby Jones), but he encounters some new foes too. There’s former-Death Eater Lucius Malfoy (Jason Isaacs) — father of Slytherin-bully Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) — and, of course, Tom Riddle (Christian Coulson), who we come to learn is the soul of Lord Voldemort previously hidden in the pages of the diary.
With Chris Columbus back in the director’s chair, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is very much an extension of the first film — though somewhat darker, it has the same tone and overall feel of its predecessor. As such, it makes for perfect viewing over the Holidays, and the score, which is very reminiscent of Home Alone, is once again incredibly festive.
3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004), the Hogwarts Express turns ice-cold as a Dementor — a guard from Azkaban Prison — arrives on board to search for an escaped convict. Once we finally make it to Hogwarts, though, we’re treated to festive choir-song, “Something Wicked This Way Comes”. But Harry must be on the look-out for Sirius Black (Gary Oldman).
Black has escaped from Azkaban, as it is said that he previously worked for Lord Voldemort and is the one responsible for the deaths of Harry’s parents, James Potter (Adrian John Rawlins) and Lily Potter (Geraldine Somerville). But, as is the case with Harry Potter, there’s a lot more than meets the eye, and Harry’s third year at Hogwarts is going to be just as dangerous as his first two.
Directed by Alfonso Cuarón, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban serves as a sort of “restructuring” where the rest of the series is concerned, as it sees the relocation of things such as Hagrid’s Hut and the Whomping Willow. And, following the tragic passing of the original Albus Dumbledore Richard Harris, Michael Gambon steps in as the new Hogwarts headmaster.
It’s also fair to say that the film is a rather stylish affair, and it has a different overall feel to the first two films. What’s particularly festive about Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, though, is that it’s the first time we’re introduced to the snowy Hogsmeade Village. But, just like The Nightmare Before Christmas (1994), it makes an equally perfect Halloween movie.
4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) finds Harry Potter’s name mysteriously thrown into the titular cup, which means that he must take part in the Triwizard Tournament, a series of dangerous trials to which he is bound by magic. But Harry isn’t alone, as he befriends fellow students Cedric Diggory (Robert Pattison) and Fleur Delacour (Clémence Poésy).
But having allies in the tournament offers very little comfort, especially when Harry is forced to come face to face with the Merpeople of the Great Lake, a Hungarian Horntail dragon, and a deadly maze that bewitches its inhabitants, turning them against one another (and these problems don’t even include Moaning Myrtle and an equally-moaning Ron Weasley!).
On first glance, one might think that Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is one of the darker films in the Harry Potter series. And you’d be right for thinking such a thing — after all, what’s so festive about the deadly Triwizard Tournament? Or seeing our favorite characters, such as Harry, Ron, and Hermione, falling prey to the trials and tribulations of adolescence?
But the truth is that there are plenty of festive elements in this film, despite the fact that the brutal third act — in which Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) finally returns — sets the stage for the rest of the Harry Potter series. There’s the iconic Yule Ball, for starters, and not to mention Patrick Doyle’s stunning score that accompanies the film’s festive period.
5. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016) is the first of three installments in the Fantastic Beasts series, which takes place several decades before the Harry Potter films. It follows British Magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) as he arrives in 1926 New York City with a case full of magical creatures (a magical extension charm, of course).
But once there, Newt’s case is accidentally opened by No-Maj Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), and so the pair must team up and enlist the help of Auror Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) and her sister Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol) to round up the beasts before it’s too late. Meanwhile, something dark and sinister is at work in the Wizarding World.
With the recent news that Warner Bros. is reportedly scrapping the Harry Potter spin-off series, the mere mention of a Fantastic Beasts movie these days might be a bit of a sore subject for fans. However, there’s no escaping the fact that the first entry in the series is perhaps the most Christmassy installment in the wider Wizarding World franchise.
The film’s snowy, wintry Manhattan setting gives fans something they’ve not really had since those first three Harry Potter installments — complete coziness. The score by James Newton Howard also has echoes of gothic Christmas movie Edward Scissorhands (1990). Oddly enough, though, this is probably one franchise Johnny Depp should have steered clear of!
Will you be watching any of these films over the Holidays? Let us know in the comments down below!