Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Alan Rickman, Gary Oldman
Running Time: 2hr 22min
Year 3 of Hogwarts gets off to a shaky start for The Boy Who Lived. After Harry loses his temper with the Dursleys, he gets picked up by the Knight Bus. He reunites with Ron and Hermione and learns that Sirius Black, a dangerous dark wizard who murdered his parents, has escaped Azkaban and is coming for Harry.
En route to Hogwarts, Dementors board the train, and Harry is attacked, but saved by Professor Lupin, the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. Meanwhile, Hagrid has become the Care of Magical Creatures teacher and takes a lesson where he introduces the students to hippogriff Buckbeak. Draco Malfoy provokes the beast before feigning injury, and Buckbeak is sentenced to death.
Harry is attacked again by Dementors during a Quidditch match, and Lupin starts to train him privately to use the anti-dementor Patronus Charm. The trio witness Buckbeak’s execution, before Ron’s pet rat, Scabbers, bites Ron, and, runs away. Chasing him, Ron is dragged into a hole beneath the Whomping Willow by a large dog that suddenly appears. Harry and Hermione follow and emerge in the Shrieking Shack, where they find Ron, Scabbers, and Sirius Black.
Lupin arrives and greets Black as an old friend, and it is revealed that Black was framed for their death by a former friend Peter Pettigrew. Pettigrew has actually been disguised as Scabbers the whole time and is the true guilty party. Instead of killing him it is agreed that they will hand him over to the Dementors. As they leave, Lupin transforms into a werewolf and battles Sirius, while Pettigrew escapes. Black is captured by the Dementors, but a figure saves him with a Patronus.
Using a Time Turner, Harry and Hermione go back in time, save Buckbeak from execution, and Harry realizes it was himself who saved Sirius. He does it again, they save Sirius and fly back to Hogwarts on the back of Buckbeak.
Something wicked this way comes! It’s Harry’s third year at Hogwarts, and things are getting spooky! This is the moment that Harry Potter changed from being a favorite among pre-teens to becoming a global phenomenon. This was the book that really showed J.K. Rowling meant business, and the film did the same. Taking a darker and more adult tone than its predecessors, in many ways, this is where the real Harry Potter truly begins.
Alfonso Cuarón helms the third installment, and he changes the way we view Harry Potter as a franchise. Giving the world of Harry Potter a real sense of danger and darkness, Cuarón helped to usher in the modern blockbuster. Prisoner of Azkaban didn’t just change the way Harry Potter films would come to the screen, it transformed the way ALL book to film adaptations would go. The installment single-handedly changed the face of young adult cinema!
This dark, nuanced, and emotionally charged offering is an absolute highlight of the series. Much like the book, it is generally either people’s favorite or their least favorite. And we can see why the movie might be very divisive to a lot of viewers, but, it’s impossible to deny its impact and influence. The narrative complexity to come is certainly hinted at here, and the way the film is shot is stunning – this is a truly gorgeous looking flick. Wide-angle lenses, beautiful scenery, and sprawling scenes really bring Hogwarts to life in ways we’ve never seen before.
By darkening the movie, blanketing it with an ominous sense of foreboding, and focusing on the raw emotion, Cuarón presents a genre masterpiece. Azkaban contains the most important and longest denouement of the series, and Cuarón handles it masterfully. This is the boldest installment of the bunch, and its director emerges as the star of the piece.