The end of Harry Potter marked not just a farewell to one of the most beloved franchises in history but the legit end of an era. For that reason, Warner Bros. decided to split Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows into two separate films in service of telling the whole story — and doubling their profits of course. Luckily, finale director David Yates brought the franchise home with a bang in Deathly Hallows Part 2, but that’s only because he set the finale up so well with Deathly Hallows Part 1.
Equal parts brooding character study, rambling road movie, and treatise against fascist bureaucracy, Deathly Hallows Part 1 unfolds with a propulsive immediacy unseen in any prior Potter film, mostly because it’s set almost entirely outside the grounds of Hogwarts. In fact, Harry, Hermione, and Ron spend much of the film completely isolated from the allies who have backed them up in every film prior.
As such, Deathly Hallows Part 1‘s emotional crux lay squarely on the shoulders of Radcliffe, Watson, and Grint, who step up to deliver their strongest performances of the series. In turn, Yates and his team deliver the series’ most stylish film, shooting in lavish, isolated locations, utilizing breathtaking visual effects, and delivering the most memorable sequence of the entire franchise with a jaw-dropping, animated account of the titular artifacts. Though Deathly Hallows Part 1 spelled the beginning of the end for the storied franchise, it stands as the crowning achievement in the adaptation of Rowling’s magical mystery world. One that continues to thrill on repeat viewings.