No, the movie’s not always worse than the book. The Harry Potter series, which continues Friday with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, has proved that over and over. Here are the five coolest moments when the movies diverged from the books.
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1. Harry Potter, Nick Cave fan
Not all Harry Potter movie music is brewed from strains of John Williams—the soundtrack for the series’ seventh film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, includes Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ “O Children,” which plays while Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and Hermione (Emma Watson) awkwardly dance together in a tent. It’s a poignant moment that was dreamed up by screenwriter Steve Kloves. On the run from Voldemort’s totalitarian government, Harry and Hermione become aimless fugitives, bitterly trekking through the wilderness. Yet as “O Children” crackles out of a radio, Harry glumly extends a hand to his friend and they begin to move to the music. It’s a surprising scene, mainly because Harry is better known for brooding than cutting a rug. But it’s also unexpectedly moving to watch Harry and Hermione twirl about that gloomy tent, even as their world crumbles.
Voldemort’s wardrobe malfunction.
Director David Yates’ take on Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is replete with freaky hallucinogenic images, none creepier than the sight of Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) showing up at King’s Cross dressed in a black business suit. A manifestation of Harry’s fear of his noseless nemesis, the banal costume brilliantly demystified the Dark Lord. The sight of Voldemort in a sea of commuters, like a deformed CEO heading to the office, made Fiennes’ fantastical villain seem frighteningly ordinary. The idea that he could pop out of a crowd in a location as ordinary as a train station helped make the series’ depiction of evil feel chillingly close to home.
Daddy issues: Cured!
The troublemaking Amos Diggory remains one of J.K. Rowling’s most cantankerous creations—he even showed up in the recent play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child to blame Harry for the death of his son, Cedric (played in the movie Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by a pre-Twilight Robert Pattinson). Yet as portrayed in the film by Doctor Who veteran Jeff Rawle, Diggory is a steadfast Potter ally who movingly treats both his son and Harry with compassion, even though they’re rivals. And when Diggory sees Cedric’s dead body after he’s been slaughtered on Voldemort’s orders, Rawle lets out a piercing, Oscar-worthy wail, making you feel the anguish of a man who’s lost what’s most precious to him.
Hermione Granger, mind-sweeper
A number of iconic Harry Potter book moments are missing from the films, from several cupboards’ worth of Dursley antics to that creepy chapter about the tank full of brains that you probably tried to forget. But Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 did resurrect one scene that happened off-page in the novels—Hermione wiping her existence from the minds of her parents (Ian Kelly and Michelle Fairley) to protect them from Voldemort. It’s a moment of quiet horror—as Hermione casts the spell, we watch her face eerily vanish from her parents’ family photos. Watson plays the scene with a quavering, heartbreaking intensity, making the moment her own. Its inclusion feels like an acknowledgment that she had long since outstripped many of her talented co-stars.
A special-edition hippogriff
If there’s any director to whom the Harry Potter films owe their success, it’s Alfonso Cuarón. After Chris Columbus got the series off to a syrupy, tedious start with The Sorcerer’s Stone and The Chamber of Secrets, Cuarón took over and infused the third film, The Prisoner of Azkaban, with something different: genuine emotion and visual wonders. Twelve years after its release, the film remains a hauntingly poetic adventure that peaks during Harry’s flight atop Buckbeak the hippogriff (that’s a winged horse with a bird’s head). In the book, the flight is brief and Harry spends a part of it mentally whining about how uncomfortable it is to ride on the back of the feathery beast; in the film, Harry rides Buckbeack in a soaring arc above the spires of Hogwarts Castle and over the surface of a silvery lake, spreading his arms wide with a whoop of joy. It’s a moment of true euphoria in a series that ultimately grew brutal and tortured, a moment when the Boy Who Lived looks not only alive, but happy.
Related: WW’s 2004 Prisoner of Azkaban Review