It’s hard to believe that it’s been a year since the last Harry Potter movie was released in theaters. Not only that, but it’s been five years since the last book came out. And one more thing…it’s been fifteen years since the very first book was published.
So even though Harry has been out of our lives for a year (or five years if you’re one who only cares about the books), he’s been a part of our lives for fifteen years. There have been amazing moments in the books and movies (and unlike some people, I am a true fan of both), and I’m here today to bring the top 13 things about Harry Potter.
13. Harry Gets His Wand (Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone)
When Harry finds out that he’s a wizard, he’s a bit confused and overwhelmed, and the whole idea of being a wizard after enduring 11 years of torture from his extended family still seems so farfetched to him, even as he walks through Diagon Alley with friend / mentor / half-giant Hadrid. But then he goes into Ollivander’s Wand Shop and everything falls into place.
There’s the moment where after a few unsuccessful tries at different wands when Ollivander suddenly knows…he knows exactly which wand is meant for Harry, and when Harry holds that 11” wand made of holly with the core of a Phoenix feather, we ALL know.
“I think we must expect great things from you, Mr. Potter…. After all, He-Who-Must- Not-Be-Named did great things — terrible, yes, but great.”
12. The Unexpected Ally (Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix / Deathly Hallows)
I’m lumping three different moments into this one because they’re all sort of related. In Order of the Phoenix there’s a moment where Harry’s aunt and uncle – Vernon and Petunia – are about to throw Harry out of the house because he’s being an annoying magical teenager until Petunia receives a howler (a very loud letter) from Dumbledore. And suddenly Petunia won’t let Harry leave.
“Remember my last, Petunia.”
We’re pretty sure the letter was meant to remind Petunia about the last letter that Dumbledore sent her, which was attached to baby Harry when he was left on her doorstep, telling her that she must raise him as her own. We also get the feeling that maybe evil Aunt Petunia cares for Harry a little more than we’re meant to think.
And then there’s the moment (also, like above, not in the movies) in Deathly Hallows where Harry is leaving his home for the last time before going off and looking for horcruxes and evil dark lords. Vernon and Petunia get in the car without really saying goodbye (though in the movie we do get a shot of Petunia sitting in the car looking rather torn), but suddenly Dudley – the boy who’s harassed Harry his whole life – walks over and shakes his hand, thanking him for saving his life from the Dementors two years ago. It’s a touching moment when you realize that Dudley really sees Harry as a brother, not just a punching bag.
“I don’t think you’re a waste of space.”
Finally there’s a small moment towards the end of Deathly Hallows after Voldemort’s and Harry’s duel when everyone thinks that Harry has died. He’s lying on the ground, and when Draco’s mom Narcissa walks over to him, Voldemort asks her if he’s dead. Narcissa bends down, sees that Harry is in fact alive, and instead of calling him out, she quietly asks him if Draco is all right. While this doesn’t fully prove that Narcissa cares for Harry, it proves that she’s a mom and that her son is the most important thing in the world to her and that she’d rather have the peace of mind that her son is alive than Harry dead.
“Is Draco alive? Is he in the castle?” The whisper was barely audible, her lips were an inch from his car, her head bent so low that her long hair shielded his face.
11. Harry and Lupin (Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban)
Harry meets Remus Lupin at the start of his third year when Lupin becomes the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. He soon finds out that Lupin was a close friend of his dad’s, and because of that Harry suddenly sees Professor Lupin as someone he can trust and confide in even more so than Dumbledore, as the first adult he’s been able to truly trust outside of Hagrid.
He develops a bond with Lupin that seems to connect him to his deceased father, a bond we don’t see again until he meets Sirius. And the scenes that reflect this both in the book and the movie show us just how much Harry needs a father figure in his life. Plus Lupin is the one who taught him “Expelliarmus!”, which proves to be one of the most useful spells Harry will use.
“The very first time I saw you Harry, I recognized you immediately. Not by your scar, by your eyes. They’re your mother; Lily’s. Yes, I knew her. You mother was there for me at a time when no one else was. Not only was she a singularly gifted witch, she was also an uncommonly kind woman. She had a way of seeing the beauty in others, even, and perhaps most especially, when that person couldn’t see it in themselves. Your father, James, however, had a certain, shall we say, talent for trouble. A talent, rumor has it, he passed onto you. You’re more like them then you know, Harry. In time you’ll come to see just how much.”
10. Harry and Hermione Dance (Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows)
This small scene doesn’t appear in the books, and was simply added into the first Deathly Hallow movie as a tension breaker. But’s so much more than a way to break the tension. Harry and Hermione are on the run, hiding, and Ron has left them after a rather large argument between him and Harry. Hermione is depressed because she loves Ron, and Harry is frustrated – not only because his best friend is gone, but because he doesn’t know where to look next for those damn horcruxes.
The radio is playing music, and suddenly Harry, seeing how miserable Hermione is, gets up and makes Hermione dance with him. She’s reluctant, but she joins in and they end up laughing, and yes, for a moment you think that maybe there’s someone else between the two of them, but you quickly realize that there’s not. Harry and Hermione are best friends, they’ve been through a lot of crappy stuff together, and they’re going to stick together even though this. But the absence of Ron is so overwhelming in this scene, and you can see it on both their faces. It’s a scene that’s both uplifting and heartbreaking (as is everything about Harry Potter, but whatever).
9. The Yule Ball (Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire)
What I love so much about this movie isn’t the fact that there’s a huge tournament going on at the school, or that Voldemort is back. It’s that this movie captures what it’s like to start growing up, what it’s like to suddenly be teenagers and have complicated feelings about other people. And what better way to experience all of that than at a dance! The Yule Ball showcases teenagers at their best – the dancing, the swooning, the crying – and makes you realize that it doesn’t matter whether you’re a witch or wizard or muggle. You still all go through the same ups and downs as any other 14-year-old.
“The Yule Ball is of course a chance for us all to – er – let our hair down.”
8. Harry Rides Buckbeak (Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban)
Things start to change in Harry’s world once he starts his third year. He’s used to his magic ability now – the wizarding world isn’t a novelty anymore. He’s becoming a little more confident in himself. But he’s still a 13-year-old boy, and things are still confusing. He hates his aunt and uncle enough to walk out on them and catch a ride on the Knight Bus. He hates the fact that he passes out every time a Dementor comes around. He hates that he doesn’t have an adult figure to confide in. And he hates Draco Malfoy more than ever.
When Harry has the opportunity to ride the new hippogriff at school Buckbeak, he’s a little apprehensive. But as soon as he lifts off he suddenly feels absolute freedom. For those few minutes, all of his problems disappear and he’s able to just enjoy life the way he knows he’ll never really be able to do. It’s a liberating moment for him and for us as well, because all we want is for him to feel truly free.
7. Cedric Dies (Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire)
If Prisoner of Azkaban is considered the one where things began to change, then Goblet of Fire is the one where shiz gets real. The Triwizard Tournament is a huge event. Students coming to visit from other wizarding schools is a huge deal. And the fact that freaking He Who Must Not Be Named has come back is pretty much the end of the world.
And then we meet Cedric. Sweet, honest, loyal Cedric Diggory, the boy from Hufflepuff who only want to play fair in a tournament rife with danger. And when he and Harry decide to call it a tie and grab the Triwizard Cup at the end of The Maze together, we think, “Oh, what a great boy, that Cedric Diggory. I’m really glad they’re both going to win.”
And then they’re swept off to a cemetery by means of a portkey where they run into Wormtail and a fetus-looking Voldemort, who orders Wormtail to do his worst.
“Kill the spare.”
And Cedric dies.
This is the first death that occurs in J.K. Rowling’s books (outside of Harry’s parents, of course, which we only see through memories), and it was a huge deal at the time. Someone gets murdered in a kids book??? But you know what? It had to happen. It’s Voldemort, for Pete’s sake. This is what he does. As depressing as it was, Cedric had to die, if only to prove that Voldemort must be defeated at all costs.
“Remember Cedric Diggory”
6. A Young Tom Riddle (Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince)
We first meet Tom Riddle in Chamber of Secrets as a 16-year-old memory from an old diary who reveals himself to Harry and Ginny as a way of trying to defeat Harry again. It’s a great introduction to Tom Riddle, who will later become Voldemort, but it doesn’t come close to the young Tom Riddle we meet in Half-Blood Prince.
In a memory collected from Dumbledore’s pensieve, we see Dumbledore meet Tom Riddle for the first time at the orphanage in which he grew up. He’s 11 years old and – just like Harry – is unaware that he’s a wizard, though he knows there is something different about him. He’s done some bad things at school, but he’s still innocent. We know he grows up to be The Dark Lord, but for those fleeting moments at the orphanage you want to believe that he’ll turn out differently.
“I can make animals do what I want without training them. I can make bad things happen to people who are mean to me. I can make them hurt.”
5. Snape’s Memory (Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix)
Because they’ve discovered a connection between Harry’s and Voldemort’s minds, Professor Snape has been asked to give Harry lessons in Occlumency, which will protect Harry from Voldemort reading his mind. Harry fails miserably at first, and Snape keeps on harassing him and belittling him until suddenly Harry gets angry and fights back and finds a way to get into Snape’s mind.
We’re suddenly watching Snape’s memories of Harry’s father James, along with his friends Sirius and Lupin, and how they made fun of Snape as a teenager at Hogwarts, and how they would play tricks on him, including the trick that almost killed Snape. We get a tiny piece of backstory on Snape that we never imagined, as well as insight to James and how Harry feels about him. Snape is suddenly fleshed out, and Harry becomes more confused and angry than ever.
“Suddenly Harry’s mind was teeming with memories that were not his — a hook-nosed man was shouting at a cowering woman, while a small dark-haired boy cried in a corner…. A greasy-haired teenager sat alone in a dark bedroom, pointing his wand at the ceiling, shooting down flies…. A girl was laughing as a scrawny boy tried to mount a bucking broomstick.”
4. The Epilogue (Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows)
A lot of people are split on how they feel about the epilogue of Deathly Hallows, about whether they felt it was necessary or not. Well, I can’t imagine NOT wanting to know how things end up for Harry, Ron, and Hermione, and while we won’t know everything, the epilogue gives us a tiny snippet at the future lives of our beloved threesome.
We see Harry and Ginny, happily married with their children on the first day of Hogwarts for their son Albus Severus, we see Ron and Hermione with their children, and we even see Draco acknowledge Harry at the train station, as they have an understanding now. Albus is scared to leave, and it’s not until Harry explains to him why he was named after Severus Snape (aka SNAPE), you really get to see how far Harry has come in his life.
“What if I’m in Slytherin?” The whisper was for his father alone, and Harry knew that only the moment of departure could have forced Albus to reveal how great and sincere that fear was. Harry crouched down so that Albus’s face was slightly above his own. Alone of Harry’s three children, Albus had inherited Lily’s eyes. “Albus Severus,” Harry said quietly, so that nobody but Ginny could hear, and she was tactful enough to pretend to be waving to Rose, who was now on the train, “you were named for two headmasters of Hogwarts. One of them was a Slytherin and he was probably the bravest man I ever knew.”
3. Harry and Ron’s Argument (Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows)
After finding the cursed necklace – a horcrux which they must destroy – Ron holds on to it for safe keeping. But because this necklace is cursed, it drives its owner slowly mad. Suddenly it takes over Ron, who becomes angry at Harry for leading them on this pointless journey to find the other horcruxes. All Ron cares about is making sure that his family is dead, and he accuses Harry of not understanding that because his family is already dead.
The dialogue and the emotion between the two best friends is so strong and powerful that it’s almost hard to watch (or read). Here are two boys who have been together at Hogwarts from the beginning. They’ve been through deadly wizard’s chess games, a chamber of secrets, a Whomping Willow, and a werewolf attack together, and suddenly you feel this hate coming from Ron, when all you want them to do is hug and make up. Of course Ron gets angry enough to leave, which makes you realize how evil the power of the dark side can be. And we’re just left feeling empty inside.
“Well then, I’m sorry, but I don’t quite understand. What part of this isn’t living up to your expectations? Did you think we were gonna be staying in a five-star hotel? Finding a Horcrux every other day? You thought you’d be back with your mum by Christmas?”
“I just thought after all this time we would have actually achieved something! I thought you knew what you were doing! I thought Dumbledore would’ve told you something worthwhile! I thought you had a plan!”
“I told you everything Dumbledore told me! And in case you haven’t noticed, we have found a Horcrux already.”
“Yeah and we’re about as close to getting rid of it as we are to finding the rest of them, aren’t we? You know why I listen to that radio every night? To make sure I don’t hear Ginny’s name. Or Fred, or George, or Mum—“
“What, you think I’m not listening too? You think I don’t know how this feels?!”
“No, you don’t know how it feels! Your parents are dead! You have no family!”
2. Dumbledore Dies (Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince)
Obviously this is a huge moment in the books and movies. Dumbledore is the most important person in Harry’s life, and when he sees Dumbledore dies by Snape’s wand, his world comes crashing down. It’s a majorly depressing scene in the book, and made even more depressing on film as everyone at Hogwarts holds their lit wands up to light up the sky for their fallen Headmaster.
It’s not fair – everyone he has loved – his parents, Sirius, and Dumbledore – has left him, and now he’s out for blood. He’s determined to do what he can to finish what Dumbledore started and to finally defeat The Dark Lord. It was another one those “OMG HE DIES???”” moments that began with Cedric and continued on with Sirius and then multiple others in Deathly Hallows, but it’ll always be Dumbledore’s death that gets us the most.
Snape gazed for a moment at Dumbledore, and there was revulsion and hatred etched in the harsh lines of his face.
Snape raised his wand and pointed it directly at Dumbledore. “Avada Kedavra!”
1. Snape and Lily (Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows)
Omigosh, this scene. This scene nearly killed me in the book, and drove me to tears in the movie. Voldemort has just attacked Snape, and when Harry finds him he’s close to death. Snape montions for Harry to collect a tear from him, aka a memory, to put into the pensieve.
And then Snape dies.
But that’s not the sad part. When Harry drops the memory into Dumbledore’s pensieve, we see how Snape became friends with a young Lily Evans before she met James Potter. We see the two of them start Hogwarts together as best friends, we see them get sorted into different houses (Lily to Gryffindor, Snape to Slytherin), and we see them start to grow apart. Snape delves deeper into learning about dark arts, Lily meets James. But Snape never stops loving Lily, even when she marries James and has a baby boy named Harry.
Because of his love for Lily even after her death, Snape has promised to keep Harry safe even though he represents all that he hates. Everything that Snape has done over the past six years since Harry entered Hogwarts has been for him, all from his love for Lily. It’s the best scene in all seven books and eight movies, and it shows that Severus Snape is one of the best characters ever written.
“Have you grown to care for the boy, after all?”
“For him?” shouted Snape.
Dumbledore watched her fly away, and as her silvery glow faded he turned back to Snape, and his eyes were full of tears.
“After all this time?”
“Always,” said Snape.”
The Harry Potter series is one the biggest series of all time, and there’s a reason for that. For J.K. Rowling, the timing was perfect, and something about the books struck a chord with audiences everywhere. There are hundreds of books out there about witches and wizards, but none of them can come close to the characters, the stories, and the world that Rowling has created, and to her I owe so much. I will love these books forever.
And trying to pick out only 13 awesome moments of them was REALLY hard to do.