With Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them opening this weekend, we thought we’d delve into the Harry Potter franchise and curate a gallery of 25 perfect shots from the eight films released to-date, those that are more than just amazing framing and compositional beauties, rather those that help relate the story on deeper, more emotional and cognitive levels.
Now, as there are nearly 20 hours’ worth of this stuff, these aren’t the only perfect shots in the franchise, not by far, so feel free to add yours to the collection on Twitter with the hashtag #PotterShots. Who knows? We get enough of these and maybe even J.K. Rowling will weigh-in.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001) dir. Chris Columbus, D.o.P. John Seale
The first shot in this series should be iconic, and it is. Like most iconic images, Columbus and Seale kept it simple. The street name resonates familiarity with fans, while the addition of the owl and the tiny but bright moon in the background lets newcomers as well in on the magic atmosphere into which the film is entering.
So much foreshadowing for the franchise here: our three heroes banded together to defend their goodness in the face of authority, it having been impugned by one in the shadows.
You can’t find a better shot from the first film that captures the gravitas of Snape, framed here amidst Gothic architecture as he heads for the darkness at the corridor’s end, cape following like a flock of blackbirds.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002) dir. Chris Columbus, D.o.P. Roger Pratt
The Chamber of Secrets earns its name in this shot, which sees Harry stepping out of an architectural eye.
Note how the reflection on the wet floor makes almost a monster’s face of the background, heightening the dread.
One of the most magical shots of the entire franchise: epic, elegant, structural.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) dir. Alfonso Cuaron, D.o.P. Michael Seresin
Balance everywhere: light and shadow, subjects, the symmetrical paintings in the background, not to mention the narrative balances of teacher-student, good-perceived-evil, and innocence-experience.
In this shot Harry is learning that Sirius Black, Voldemort supporter, has escaped the Azkaban Prison with the supposed intent to murder Harry. The news is delivered to him in shadow, while the poster of his would-be killer is just in the light, a visual indicator of the virtual prison this news sets Harry in, and the dark wizard’s re-emergence into the free world.
This one of the Dementors descending is just gorgeous, hauntingly so, almost like a painting, and is a beautiful integration of CGI on a real setting.
After the defeat of the Dementors, Black and Harry both lie passed out in an almost yin yang posture, their hands just shy of touching, symbolizing the complete story of Harry’s past they tell, but only together.