This blog post isn’t going to be ripping apart the movie companies or directors. I’m not about to get upset over eye colour or dress design. No hate to those who find those changes jarring, but this is going to be about the scenes and characters that I was looking forward to seeing on the big screen and never got. I’m also not going to pretend like all of the things on this list are the biggest deal ever, the kind of changes that break canon or ruin continuity. But I hold them close to my heart for one reason or another. It’s a long list, so let’s get into it.
Norbert the Norwegian Ridgeback
I love Hagrid to death. He is arguably my favourite character in the entire series, and one of the few that I would have never recovered from if they died in the final book. He is Harry’s true father figure, being there for him from before he even attended school to his first death to his life beyond Hogwarts. He is such a hero. I have an affection for Hagrid similar to my affection for Samwise in Lord of The Rings: he is the real hero. So whenever Hagrid’s plotlines are sidelined or ignored, I take it pretty personally. In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Hagrid’s brief stint as the mother of dragons is very underplayed in the movie. If you just saw the film, you’d think that Hagrid had Norbert’s egg for while, then had Norbert for a day after he hatched, and then Dumbledore stepped in and sent him away. Tragic.
In the book, Hagrid manages to keep Norbert under wraps for a while, until they’re a toddler-sized dragon. In fact, Norbert is setting Hagrid’s bed on fire by the time he is sent to a more appropriate habitat. It’s actually Harry who comes up with the idea of sending Norbert to live in Romania, specifically with Ron’s brother Charlie. Film Dumbledore just seemed to thing Romania was a good idea for some other reason since Charlie doesn’t have a role yet. I love the idea of Harry and Hermione going on this midnight caper to smuggle an illegal dragon out of Hogwarts. Not to mention that this adventure ends in Hermione singing about their victory and doing a little jig moments before getting caught and given detention. Never cut a jig!
The Sorting Hat’s Hot New Singles
Something that was removed from all of the movies equally was the song the Sorting Hat would sing to everyone at the sorting of the first years. I understand that this isn’t the biggest plot point and would have just meant getting someone with a good singing voice for the hat and animating more speaking from it as well. But they were such interesting things. They were always about what was going to happen in the book and really set the mood for that school year. They also matched the overall thematic arc of the novels. The first was an introduction of Hogwarts, a brief history, and a summary of all the houses. The last one is a darker tale about how the founders of the school fell apart from each other over opinions on blood purity and included a warning to not become divided as a society as the founders were divided.
Oh you may not think I’m pretty,
But don’t judge on what you see,
I’ll eat myself if you can find
A smarter hat than me.
You can keep your bowlers black,
Your top hats sleek and tall,
For I’m the Hogwarts Sorting Hat
And I can cap them all.
There’s nothing hidden in your head
The Sorting Hat can’t see,
So try me on and I will tell you
Where you ought to be.
So put me on! Don’t be afraid!
And don’t get in a flap!
You’re in safe hands (though I have none)
For I’m a Thinking Cap!
1991 Sorting Hat song
Take That, Voldemort!
This is a very small detail and one that wouldn’t be appreciated by anyone watching the Philosopher’s Stone who didn’t read the book. But during the winter of Harry’s first year, Fred and George keep themselves busy with pranks, including jinxing some snowballs to follow Quirrell around and bounce off the back of his turban. A pretty ridiculous joke to begin with, but once you learn that the back of Quirrell’s head is the front of Voldemort’s face? Priceless.
Arthur Weasley Will Punch A Classist
In the Chamber of Secrets, there is a tense moment between Arthur Weasley and Lucious Malfoy. In the film, Malfoy makes his usual rude comments and then glares at Arthur for a hot minute, before Arthur breaks the stare and ushers the children out of the store. Of course, Arthur takes the high road and is the bigger man. Except for the fact that in the book, he actually just slugs Malfoy across the face and causes a brawl to break out in the middle of the shop. Even though it’s pretty immature of him, I like this version of the scene better. This is an Arthur who is sick and tired of being put down and embarrassed in front of his children. He knows he works damn hard for his family and Malfoy has no right to stick his nose into the private financial situation of another family. FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT!
Happy Deathday, Nick!
I find that the early Harry Potter movies tended to cut out entire scenes that didn’t have a huge amount of plot in them in favour of being more accurate to the scenes they had. The later movies tended to take the plot points, mix em up, and change the scenes to be more cinematic or quick. I preferred the early technique since it meant I got a lot more direct quotes from the dialogue I had inadvertently memorized, but it often meant cutting out very interesting scenes. One of the more tragic in my opinion was the removal of Nearly Headless Nick’s deathday party. In fact, the ghosts were constantly looked over when it came to the movies. Not only was the Bloody Baron was a goofy pirate looking character instead of the scariest ghoul out there, but the erasure of Peeves is all the evidence I have to give.
I get why they made that choice. The plotlines with the ghosts don’t actually add much to the main plot. But to me, they add to the world as a whole and make it more alive and immersive. In the films, it’s almost a joke about how they have ghosts at the school and it’s just another quirk. In the books, Harry has a fairly good friendship with Nick, the Gryffindor house ghost and Peeves plays a role in many important scenes. They are their own characters with their own social circles and lives. It was interesting to learn that ghosts have undead clubs and extracurriculars, such as the Headless Hunt. They have almost a class system based on how you died and what kind of ghost you are. The Headless Hunt is very snooty about Nick not being entirely headless. They have parties and get-togethers and visit friend ghosts from out of town.
The Tickle Monster Strikes
During the showdown between Malfoy and Harry at the Duelling Club, Harry casts a charm with the word Rictusempra. Malfoy is knocked off his feet and goes flying across the stage. A pretty vicious spell to be casting in his second year. Also seems to be the same effect as the stunning spell, except longer and harder to say. In the books, this charm is simply known as the Tickling Charm. It causes the victim to feel the sensation of being tickled mercilessly as they collapse to the floor in giggles. A much more appropriate thing to be allowed to cast in a school-sanctioned duel! Also hilarious.
Ginny Weasley, You Old Romantic…
The Chamber of Secrets was a pretty silly year due to the eccentricities of Lockhart. Largely, they were kept in the movie, such as the pop quiz about himself and his abysmal healing skills. But the biggest and most ridiculous gesture was when Gilderoy hired a bunch of dwarves to dress up as cupid and give out singing Valentines. He also decorated the entire Great Hall with ridiculously garish hearts and flowers. But the dwarves! Can you imagine a pack of surly dwarves stomping through the halls and singing love songs? Not to mention what happens when the target doesn’t want to listen…
On his way to class, Harry is approached by one of these lovely helpers and is sung to without his consent. When he tries to flee, the dwarf tackles him around his knees, pins him to the floor by sitting on his chest, and belts out the horrifically embarrassing song anyways! Not only is he mortified, but Malfoy also implied pretty heavily that it was Ginny that wrote the poem, which caused her to run away in shame too. I know it’s the thought that counts, but I would have hoped Ginny would think that Harry doesn’t want more attention given to him!
“His eyes are as green as a fresh pickled toad,
His hair is as dark as a blackboard.
I wish he was mine, he’s truly divine,
the hero who conquered the Dark Lord.”
—Ginny’s poem about Harry
A Runaway’s Paradise
One of the big problems that movies have adapting books is how to showcase long periods of time passing. In a book, a paragraph can summarize what a couple weeks or months have been life, maybe touch on a few key events, and then get back to the present. In a movie, besides using a montage or voiceover, it’s difficult to show that. What I’m talking about here is in the Prisoner of Azkaban, after Harry runs away from the Dursleys, he spends the rest of his summer at the Leaky Cauldron. In the movie, it seems like it’s a day or two before the Weasleys and Hermione show up, and maybe one more day until they leave for school. But in the book, Harry spends several long weeks exploring Diagon Alley.
This is another example of something that has little bearing on the overall plotline, but I would have liked to see. He gets to explore all the shops that he’s never needed to go into for school supplies. He spends his afternoons eating sundaes at Florean Fortescue’s ice cream shops, listening to his stories. This scene would just be pleasant to watch and add more personality and life to the wizarding world. Not to mention, Florean turns out to be a pretty prolific rebel in the upcoming wizarding wars and is specifically targeted by the Death Eaters. He’s a character that doesn’t technically have a huge role in the events of the books, but huge fans miss his presence.
The Marauder’s Revenge
Another overlooked backstory is that of the Marauders. In the movies, we only learn about them what we need to know to keep the plot together. We don’t get the whole scene when Harry reads Snape’s memories to see him getting bullied. We never learn fully about the rivalry between James and Snape over Lily. In fact, I don’t think we even learn the whole story about the Marauder’s Map in The Prisoner of Azkaban. Not to mention the complete gutting of the hilarious scene in which Harry gets busted out of bed after curfew and Snape tries to figure out the significance of the parchment he has with him. The fact that the map insults Snape is kept in, but the very directed and personal nature of the insults is left out.
Mr Moony presents his compliments to Professor Snape and begs him to keep his abnormally large nose out of other people’s business.
Mr Prongs agrees with Mr Moony and would like to add that Professor Snape is an ugly git.
Mr Padfoot would like to register his astonishment that an idiot like that ever became a Professor.
Mr Wormtail bids Professor Snape good day, and advises him to wash his hair, the slime-ball.
The Crowning of King Weasley
Quidditch also got the raw end of the deal when it came to the movies. They kept in the scenes that were important to the plot, such as the dementor attack in POA and Harry’s arm incident in COS. But in the films, Quidditch is a much more important part of Harry’s social life. He even becomes captain, which is only touched on in the movies. While there is a bit of Ron’s rise to fame in the movies, especially his idolization by Lavender, they completely cut out the best part of that: the Weasley is Our King song!
Originally written to mock Ron’s poor skills as a Keeper, it was sung by the Slytherins to claim Ron as their king since his failures led directly to Slytherin’s wins. But after Ron gets his groove back, the Gryffindors appropriate the song to be about Ron’s epic skills and amazing saves. I hate how much Ron was ignored or had his plotlines steamrolled when it came to the movies. A lot of the emotional support and defence that Ron provides Harry is taken up by Hermione instead. This Quidditch related redemption arc was just one case. In the Philosopher’s Stone book, it was Ron who stayed calm and Hermione who panicked about the Devil’s Snare. In the Prisoner of Azkaban book, it’s Ron who stands up, even on his broken leg, and steps between Harry and Sirius, and later Harry and Snape. In the movie, Ron sits in the back whimpering while Hermione has her moment.
The list goes on. It’s extremely frustrating to me because it gives a different context to the events of Deathly Hallows. People who read the books know that Ron leaving was a huge break in his usual steadfast loyalty and proof of how broken the wizarding world had become. All three of them show weaknesses: Ron with his hopelessness, Harry with his pride, and Hermione losing control of the situation and floundering. In the movie, it is more of a romantically focused scene. You see Harry and Hermione smiling and complimenting each other and Ron pouting in the corner. What is supposed to be an emotionally important scene is more of a love triangle reaching its boiling point than three best friends falling apart after months of brutal living conditions and fear.
So Much For A Father Figure
In the movies, Sirius spends all of POA as a raging escaped convict, flees into the night on Buckbeak, and then doesn’t really come back into the story until they start using Grimmauld Place as a headquarters. He shows up only at his important plot moments to explain things to Harry when no one else can. In the books, Sirius spends the years between almost constantly in contact with Harry. They exchange letters about everything going on in Harry’s life and not just the big points. They talk about his feelings, how his school is going, Harry’s personal life. During the Goblet of Fire, he takes up hiding in a cave near Hogsmeade so Harry can visit and discuss what has been happening to Harry at school. He actually comes across as a father figure and reliable mentor for Harry, instead of a kooky uncle who pops out of the fireplace at opportune moments
SPEWing For Justice!
Hermione is a completely sound and logical person, completely driven by the evidence and information in front of her, right? Well, turns out in the books, she wasn’t always the flawless student and person she ends up being in the movies. We get a bit of her bleeding heart for house elves in the movies, but nothing even close to her dedication to it in the books. In the Goblet of Fire, Hermione goes all the way and starts the Society for the Protection of Elfish Warfare. Despite the recurring evidence that house elves do enjoy being subservient to humans and enjoy the loyalty involved. Of course, some of the wizarding families take advantage of this dedication and abuse their elves. Exhibit A: the Malfoys. But Hermione becomes bent on “saving” all house elves from what they consider to be their jobs. It is something I miss in the films because it showed that Hermione isn’t perfect, she isn’t completely acclimatized to wizarding culture, and sometimes being headstrong isn’t the way to be.
Nightmare on Privet Drive
One of the funniest scenes in all of the books is when Dumbledore comes to pick up Harry at Privet Drive in the Half-Blood Prince. I remember literally laughing myself to tears when I first read it. The absolute shock and fear radiating off the Dursleys clashing with Dumbledore’s casual small talk are so hilarious. The movies have always done the Dursleys wrong in my opinion though. In the films, they are more intimidating and oppressive as a force. Don’t get me wrong, they are horrible people who were abusive and selfish, but in the books, they are a comedic tool. They are impossibly ignorant and arrogant. Everything they do and say is laughable! Many of my favourite or most hilarious scenes from the books were the ones where the Dursleys thought they are successfully fighting off magic or that they are the more civilized people when they are all acting like manic lunatics!
So what aspects of the books were you disappointed to see ignored or replaced in the movies? How would you have done the adaptation if you were given the chance? Let me know in the comments!