It is typical for movies made from books to have to make some slight changes due to time constraints, budgeting issues, or even due to the direction that the producers or film directors wish to take the story. While this can happen and the movie still is excellent–like the Harry Potter series is–it is pretty sad to see key plot points or character arcs be cut from the final product. For this Top 10, we will explore what is in our opinion the ten biggest differences between the Harry Potter films and books. Despite these key scenes and characters ultimately being cut, we still believe that the filmmakers were able to truly capture all the magic of the Harry Potter universe.
10: The Animagus Rita Skeeter
An important aspect of Rita Skeeter as a character and her story arc was left entirely out of the movies. The real answer to the question of how the reporter for the Daily Prophet Rita Skeeter was able to get her exclusive scoops will elude those that have only seen the Harry Potter movies and have never read the books.
Rita Skeeter is what is known in the Harry Potter universe as an Animagus. An Animagus is a witch or wizard that has mastered the ability to transform themselves into an animal or creature. An Animagus usually has to take a test and become licensed by the Ministry of Magic. Some well known Animagii include Professor Minerva McGonagall, Remus Lupin, Sirius Black, James Potter and Peter Pettigrew. Rita Skeeter’s Animagus form is a shiny emerald green beetle. She utilized this transformation to eavesdrop on the titular characters of Harry, Ron, and Hermione.
9: Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington’s Deathday Party
Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington–who is commonly called Nearly-Headless Nick–celebrated his 500th Deathday during the story in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. This important character development arc was completely absent in the film. One of the important aspects of Nearly-Headless Nick’s Deathday Party is that it allowed Harry Potter fans to date the events that happen in the Harry Potter universe. Based on his 500th Deathday Party and the year of his actual death (1492) we know that Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was set in 1992.
Many important ghost characters showed up to celebrate Nearly-Headless Nick’s party, such as the members of the Headless Hunt, Myrtle Warren, Peeves the Poltergeist, the Bloody Baron and the Grey Lady. Additionally, Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger were also guests at this party.
8: Hermione’s Potion Challenge
In the first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (also known as Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone), the central trio of characters each have a trial that they must pass to get to the Philosopher’s Stone. The first trial was the Three-Headed Dog, which was overcome through the help of all three characters. The second trial is to get past a Devil’s Snare plant. The third test is the one that is overcome by Harry Potter and is a Quidditch-oriented trial. The fourth trial is a game of Wizard’s Chess which is beaten by Ron Weasley. The fifth trial was to defeat a mountain troll, which was thankfully already beaten for them.
The sixth trial is the one that is missing from the film. This trial was a logic puzzle involving potions that was created by Professor Severus Snape. This trial room featured a table that was holding seven bottles of differing shapes and sizes. Three were poison, two contained nettle wine, one contained a potion to move forward safely, and the last contained a potion that allowed passage back to the previous room. To figure out which potion was which, Hermione had to work out a riddle. This entire room was sadly cut from the film.
7: Peeves the Poltergeist
Peeves the Poltergeist is a poltergeist.; a poltergeist that gets on people’s nerves. A poltergeist that gets on people’s nerves and is named Peeves. That basically sums up the character. The character was actually pretty important during some of the conflicts at Hogwarts. In 1995, Peeves the Poltergeist–along with most of the Hogwarts residents–opposed Dolores Umbridge, the High Inquisitor, and her regime. Peeves pranked her until she was kicked out of the school at the end of the school year. And, in 1998, Peeves courageously fought at the Battle of Hogwarts against Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters.
Despite the character’s importance in these conflicts and despite the numerous instances of comedic relief that the character brings to the stories, Peeves the Poltergeist was completely missing from all of the films. The character is never even mentioned. There was a scene filmed that included him in Sorcerer’s Stone (pictured above), but it ended up not making the final cut, effectively eliminating him from the film series. We can kind of see the reasoning behind cutting this character from the films, but we were still sad to not be able to witness his hilarious hijinks on the big screen.
6: The Battle of the Astronomy Tower
The Battle of the Astronomy Tower, which is also known as the Battle of the Lightning-Struck Tower, was a battle that took place during the Second Wizarding War. The action happened in the topmost tower of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the evening of 30 June 1997. Many parts leading up to the Battle of the Astronomy Tower and portions of the Battle of the Astronomy Tower itself was missing or altered in the film Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince despite the significant importance of it.
In the book, the Battle of the Astronomy Tower hinged on the fact that Lord Voldemort commanded Draco Malfoy to assassinate Professor Dumbledore. When Draco was unable to bring himself to kill Dumbledore in cold blood, Severus Snape stepped up and did what he had to do. Overall, the general feeling of this scene has a completely different feeling and weight to it in the film than it does in the book.
5: Professor Binns
Professor Cuthbert Binns is the ghostly History of Magic teacher in the Harry Potter books. During the 1991–1992 school year, Professor Binns taught his first-year students about a variety of well-known historical personalities such as Uric the Oddball and Emeric the Evil. During the following academic year, he told his second-year class the legend of the Chamber of Secrets, but only after every student in the class actually starting to pay attention to what he was saying, despite him initially stating the legend of the Chamber was completely unimportant. He continued to teach Harry Potter and his class for a further three years, until most–if not every one of his student–dropped History of Magic from their coursework.
Despite being a required class at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Professor Cuthbert Binns and his class are completely absent from the films, never even being mentioned. However, it is still part of the story on Pottermore. We fully understand why this was cut from the films, as his class was the most boring, but still.
S.P.E.W.–which stands for the Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare–was a civil rights group that was founded by Hermione Granger during her fourth year at Hogwarts. S.P.E.W. was created to promote the liberation and rights for House Elves in the wizarding world. House Elves are an enslaved caste who are basically happy as they are, despite being treated poorly by many wizarding families that own House Elves; which probably stems from the fact that many of these families are Pureblood fanatics. Hermione believes that all Elves should be freed and instead receive wages, pensions, sick leave and other worker benefits that a regular worker earns and has available to them. Ron and Harry are reluctantly recruited into helping promote her cause, as are the other characters at Hogwarts.
Despite being an excellent way to highlight Hermione’s convictions and being a good example of how Hermione’s character feels about pureblood politics in her story arc, S.P.E.W. is completely absent in the Harry Potter films. It is only because of her efforts to free the House Elves from that Hermione becomes interested in the Hogwarts kitchens, and it is because of this interest that she reaches the kitchens only to discover that both Dobby and Winky are now at Hogwarts. These two House Elves play important roles in the books, so S.P.E.W. is actually a fairly important part of the story. Like other omissions, it was included on Pottermore.
3: Nurse Poppy Pomfrey
Nurse Poppy Pomfrey is almost entirely absent in the films, despite being a significant character in the books’ stories. In any scene (except for one in Chamber of Secrets) featuring Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry’s student Hospital Wing, there is always an unnamed generic nurse in place of Nurse Pomfrey. This is a shame, as Nurse Pomfrey’s character holds such an important role in the stories and because her character is actually quite interesting.
Nurse Poppy Pomfrey fought in the Battle of Hogwarts–which was the final battle of the Second Wizarding War–during which she personally dispatched at least one Death Eater in a duel. Nurse Pomfrey was also seen after the battle treating the wounded and attending to the dead students and faculty members. Additionally, Nurse Pomfrey is the one that helps Harry to regrow the bones in his arm after a Quidditch / Professor Lockhart incident; she is the one that tends to the students that were petrified by the basilisk and; she was the one that tended to Harry Potter after his brush with the Dementors.
2: Dobby Differences
Dobby played an even more important role in the book Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets than he does in the film. Additionally, Dobby’s character isn’t the same in the films as he is in the books. For instance, when Dobby drops the pudding on a woman’s head (in the movie; he drops it on the floor in the book), Dobby gives Harry Potter a sly look as if he’s enjoying causing mischief. In the book, Dobby gives Harry Potter a sad, resigned look.
Other than the character differences, many of the important things that Dobby did were cut from the films. Dobby is the one that suggests that Harry use gillyweed for the section of the Triwizard Tournament that requires the contestants to search the lake; Dobby tells Harry about the Room of Requirement that can be used to hold the Dumbledore’s Army meetings and Dobby consistently appears whenever Harry needs him in the books.
1: Harry Potter’s Eyes, Hermione’s Teeth and Ron’s Usefulness
In the books, Harry Potter’s eyes were green. The actor that plays Harry Potter, Daniel Radcliffe, had an allergic reaction to the contact lenses and so the character in the films has blue eyes. Hermione’s teeth in the books are supposed to be large, buck teeth. The actress that played Hermione, Emma Watson, was unable to deliver her lines with the prosthetic teeth in, so they had to be abandoned.
And, finally, Ron Weasley’s character in the films is… basically useless. All of Ron Weasley’s defining traits and accomplishments in the books were given to Hermione’s character in the films. This makes Hermione’s character the penultimate helper to Harry Potter’s quest and academic career and relegates Ron’s character to just being comedic relief. This is the most egregious difference between the Harry Potter books and films in our opinion, as each of the three characters all had something to bring to the table in the books. Virtually every moment where Ron’s character jumps to Harry’s defense are omitted, when Draco calls Hermione a “mud-blood,” Ron is the first one to jump to her defense. Ron truly had a lot to offer to the group in the books; not so much in the films.