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The 7 Most Controversial Changes in the Harry Potter Movies

Even the greatest book to movie adaptations are often controversial among diehard fans, and Harry Potter is no exception.

The sense of community that Harry Potter ignites in fans around the world can be hard to describe, but for decades this seminal series has united its devotees. To this day, there are few fictional series that could convince groups of dedicated fans to dress as their favorite characters, wield makeshift wands, and line up outside of their local bookstores for hours (or even days) in anticipation of the release of a new installment—but Harry Potter did so with ease. Fans are incredibly loyal to the boy wizard and the brilliantly talented author who brought him to life, but that also makes them rather protective of their magical world.

Unsurprisingly, then, when the powers that be decided to turn those beloved books into movies, fans were bound to have opinions. 

RELATED: 16 Books Like Harry Potter

When the Harry Potter film installments began hitting theaters in 2001, most Potterheads embraced them, praising the nearly flawless casting decisions and the stunning visual effects. For the most part, the films succeeded spectacularly in capturing the feeling, look, and essence of the magical world, truly transporting fans to a place of incredible fantasy. Some of the movies’ choices, however, were not so successful—and long-time Rowling fans are not quick to forget.

While it is undeniably difficult to transform a 700-or-so-page novel into a reasonably paced film, there were certain changes made in translating Harry Potter from page to screen that left Potterheads saddened, disappointed, and even angry. A new Harry Potter film hasn’t graced movie theaters for seven long years (the disappointing Fantastic Beasts franchise aside), and yet fans are still vocal about their hate for some of these changes. 

We’ve rounded up a few of the most egregious changes made from the books to the Harry Potter movies below, but we urge you to air any of your further grievances in the comments. We will not be accepting Howlers at this time. 

RELATED: All Seven Harry Potter Books, Ranked 

1. Harry's Eyes Vs. His Mother's Eyes

Harry Potter movies
  • Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

Without having to try very hard, one can quickly find at least a passing reference to Harry’s eyes while glossing through the seven Potter novels. Various characters constantly mention Harry’s “bright green” eyes or remind him that although he looks like his father, he “has his mother’s eyes.” The point is further hammered home by the fact that Snape, who has had a lifelong but unrequited love for Harry’s mother Lily, can still see her in Harry’s eyes, choosing to stare into them at the moment of his death. 

It’s understandable, then, that Potterheads were amused but annoyed by the fact that the actors playing Harry and young Lily do not, in fact, have the same color eyes. Daniel Radcliffe’s are naturally blue (he proved allergic to colored contacts, making the switch to green impossible) while Ellie Darcy-Alden (who plays young Lily) has deep brown eyes. While color isn’t necessarily the only thing that determines eye similarity, it’s clearly hard for fans to get past this oversight.

2. Peeves

Rik Mayall
  • The late actor Rik Mayall, whose portrayal of Peeves was cut from the first film. 

  • Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Yes, the antics of the Hogwarts poltergeist Peeves may have been annoying and frivolous in the books, but they were endearingly annoying and frivolous. It’s not entirely surprising that the filmmakers chose to keep the pesky Peeves out of their big screen installments as he rarely proved essential to the plot, but his absence is sorely missed by Potterheads all the same. 

RELATED: 8 Harry Potter Audiobooks That Will Transport You to Hogwarts 

In the books, Peeves is a welcome dose of comic relief during darker moments at Hogwarts, and his loyalty to Fred and George during their final brilliant escape will not soon be forgotten.

3. The Marauders

Harry Potter movies
  • Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

While some of the changes made between the books and movies are large and overarching, others are small and less noticeable at first glance (but still manage to royally piss off fans). 

One of those comes during the Prisoner of Azkaban, a film that already takes great liberties in its retelling of Rowling’s story. In this film, Harry discovers the Marauder’s Map—a clever magical device that allows him to see where anyone is on the castle grounds at all times. The map also allows Harry to see the entrances to secret passageways. 

Simultaneously, Harry is on the run from the perceived threat of Sirius Black, only to find out that the escaped convict was actually one of his father’s close friends, and Harry’s protective godfather. Where the movie fails, however, is in its lack of connection between the Marauders, Sirius, and Harry’s father James. 

One of the most special connections to be made in the books is when Harry discovers that the Marauders were actually his father and his father's friends. Their back story, and the relationship between the werewolf Remus Lupin and the traitor Peter Pettigrew, are all more powerful when you put the pieces together. Instead, the film leaves out one important piece that wouldn’t take long to explain but has a profound impact on the entire film’s meaning.

4. Quidditch

Harry Potter movies
  • Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

In the books, Quidditch is the fun, entertaining sport that helps keep things light during especially dark times and serves to remind us that these books are about kids who just want to celebrate fierce team pride (whenever they’re not saving wizardkind.) 

In the films, however, Quidditch takes much more of a back seat. We’re only privy to a few important games, and the action of Goblet of Fire’s all-important World Cup is almost entirely glossed over. Most egregiously, however, is the total omission of Quidditch from the fifth film, The Order of the Phoenix

RELATED: 15 Harry Potter Quotes to Live Your Life By 

Although it’s understandable that the series’ longest book would need to trim some fat in order to make room for the most important events, true Potter fans were more than irked to see Ron’s Keeper storyline simply shoved into the next film. 

5. The Kiss

Harry Potter movies
  • Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

Potterheads who also happen to be hopeless romantics will no doubt remember the epic kiss that finally manifested (after months or years of flirting) between Ginny and Harry in The Half-Blood Prince book

After a glorious Quidditch win against Slytherin, their first moment of passion comes out of a feeling of pure bliss. The Gryffindor common room erupts in celebration and Harry and Ginny can’t help themselves as they lock lips in front of everyone, setting off a romance that will prove to be equally as explosive. 

RELATED: 8 Urban Fantasy Books With Magical Romance 

It’s therefore incredibly disappointing that the film chose to play out this kiss so differently, stripping it of its joy and passion and making it something quiet and secret. Rather than being a moment of intense happiness, the kiss between Harry and Ginny in the Room of Requirement feels awkward, out of place and a little sad—we don’t feel the connection between them that we should, and the change of setting and circumstance make the moment feel incredibly forced.

6. The End of The Half-Blood Prince

Harry Potter movies
  • Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

Harry Potter book fans are bound to remember the shock they felt at the end of the franchise’s sixth film. After witnessing Harry and Dumbledore go through the ordeal of a lifetime in Voldemort’s cave, they were (understandably) expecting to watch a fierce battle ensue at Hogwarts, pulling in all of their favorite characters and pitting them against some of the magical world’s most frightening Death Eaters. 

Instead, fans saw an extremely abbreviated version of this epic battle play out on screen—one that didn’t involve the intricate fight scenes between Ginny, Neville, Luna, and the Death Eaters. Snape killed Dumbledore and ran, leaving the rest of the scene more or less in the dust. Furthermore, the sixth film failed to depict Dumbledore’s incredibly moving memorial, leaving fans without the closure the book provided after Albus’ shocking and tragic death. 

Producer David Heyman argues that the team chose to leave out the Half-Blood Prince battle in order to avoid repetition with the final battle of Hogwarts in Deathly Hallows, and that they wanted to come up with the “right” ending for the film they’d made, but few true fans will ever be satisfied with this turn of events.

7. The Final Battle

Harry Potter movies
  • Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

Just as the changes to the Half-Blood Prince battle are incredibly divisive, so too are the choices made in the final battle of Hogwarts in Deathly Hallows: Part 2. While there are plenty of small changes to nitpick, the most damaging for Potterheads was certainly the confrontation between Harry and Voldemort in the end. 

While the book shows the boy wizard and his ultimate foe having a final conversation in the Great Hall in front of everyone, the film featured a strange battle dance that fans tend to hate. Harry and Voldemort battled alone, apparating around the school, flying inexplicably and ... jumping off the side of the castle in a strange embrace? When Harry kills him once and for all, Voldemort weirdly disintegrates into thin air, his skin floating away like tissue paper. 

And while their face-off is epic and suspenseful, it is not at all true to the books. It’s important to readers that in the end, Voldemort’s greatest fear comes true: He dies a normal, human, and mundane death. He falls to the ground like any other forgotten body, rather than bursting into the ether in one last explosion of glory. The film certainly made this vital battle feel more cinematic and visually beautiful, but it became something the books never wanted it to be.


…“he asked calmly.”

Featured still via Warner Bros.

Published on 24 Jul 2018

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