While the younger cast of the Harry Potter series may well have been works in progress, the adult roles were filled with pretty much every working actor in Britain with a familiar face. It was these actors who initially kept us coming back for more, without whom we may never have learnt to love the boy wizard and his chums. Below we run through our top fifteen of the adult performances across the eight films in alphabetical order. We tried to whittle it down with no success.
Alan Rickman as Severus Snape
We start with an actor whose performance has ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous, and often in the same film. As Harry’s most consistent antagonist Snape offered up an ambiguous character, often seeming to be more evil that he was. What makes Rickman’s performance legendary are his epic pauses and dangerously slow delivery, as if trying to get as much screen time as his brief dialogue will allow. In the final film Rickman delivers both his slowest speech and his most moving performance. There are few better in this list.
David Bradley as Argus Filch
It’s hard to believe that in the earlier films the major danger was being caught out of bed by Filch, a far cry from the fantastical battles the franchise concludes with. While often a menace to our heroes, Filch was ultimately a fun character bringing two of the biggest laughs in the finale and a warm nostalgic feeling with them.
Gary Oldman as Sirius Black
Not exactly helped by films attempting to fit complex plotting into a feature-length story, Oldman played a man who was at first a threat to Mr Potter, then provided the only sense of family he ever knew. Oldman’s presence was made all the more noticeable by his eventual absence and was mourned by children worldwide.
Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange
This is the role Helena Bonham Carter was born to play: a deranged witch dressed in gothic and dramatic robes. Always unsettling, convincingly evil and menacingly mad Carter was consistently engaging to watch. Her crowning achievement was the perfect imitation of Emma Watson in Deathly Hallows Part 2, a confident woman on the outside but a scared girl on the inside.
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge
With an adorable chuckle, Umbridge seems harmless at first, but we soon learn that a deplorable woman lies behind the perfect hair and horrific pink suits. Umbridge is the worst type of villain – one that doesn’t realise she is the bad guy, instead lead by prejudice and the belief that she is in the right. Staunton brings a brilliantly complex character to the screen and is the most chilling woman in a cardigan you’ll ever see.
Jason Isaacs as Lucius Malfoy
Lucius Malfoy is yet another character with more depth than is first apparent. As the films began Isaacs was mostly playing an arch-villain, and brilliantly so. Later on, as his young son was brought into proceedings and his comfortable life upset by the return of Voldemort, Isaacs turned Malfoy into a man under siege, constantly nervous and a haggard shell of his former self.
Jim Broadbent as Horace Slughorn
Jim Broadbent can do no wrong and his role as a celebrity seeking professor is no exception. An ultimately weak and cowardly character, Slughorn can essentially be blamed for a lot of Voldemort’s acts thanks to telling him a bit too much when he was a boy. Broadbent gets bonus points for entering the franchise as an armchair.
Julie Walters as Molly Weasley
While Harry seemed to collect father figures everywhere he went there was only one woman who he could look up to as a mother and that was Mrs Weasley. Always warm and welcoming, Walters is a comedic delight for the audience. One of the few characters with no flaws, just a hidden ferocity which flares up when one of her many children disobeys her or should someone else attack her offspring.
Kenneth Branagh as Gilderoy Lockhart
As a preening fool, Lockhart’s crimes are vanity and complete weakness of character. What gets Lockhart into our top fifteen is Kenneth Branagh’s marvellous turn as the showboating fool. He was the highlight of a mediocre instalment and brought laughs to two tired and restless bloggers in the early hours.
Maggie Smith as Minerva McGonagall
I had a teacher like Professor McGonagall at school; most of the time she was utterly terrifying but every now and again her soft side would show through. Dame Maggie Smith took a gamble in signing up for a children’s film franchise, and we’re very grateful. What would Hogwarts be without her?
Mark Williams as Arthur Weasley
Julie Walters may be the true head of the Weasley clan but her husband more than holds his own. Arthur Weasley is on the surface a bumbling fool with a fascination for muggles. When push comes to shove he will fight for his family no matter what. Mark Williams’ best moments came when verbally fighting with the far slicker Jason Isaacs. Suit you sir.
Michael Gambon as Albus Dumbledore
While it was sad to lose Richard Harris as Dumbledore there’s no denying that Michael Gambon brought a new energy to the role. He may have never settled on an accent but Gambon threw himself into the role of Harry’s headteacher and moral advisor with dignity and vitality.
Ralph Fiennes as Lord Voldemort
Every hero needs his villain and Ralph Fiennes provided the necessary conflict without reducing his role to that of a pantomime villain. Both grotesque and graceful, and with a unique technique with a wand, Fiennes’ Voldemort is a fully formed force of evil. The man once known as Tom Riddle has no redeeming features yet Fiennes manages to keep him grounded and at times quite vulnerable. Fiennes did the impossible and made an inhuman character human.
Robbie Coltrane as Rubeus Hagrid
If there was a heart to these films then it was Robbie Coltrane as Hagrid. The gentle giant befriended Harry and became a much-needed safe haven and source of information. Sadly sidelined during the later films Hagrid did get a sombre look-in towards the end and will remain my favourite gentle giant.
Warwick Davis as Griphook/Filius Flitwick
Warwick Davis has taken on a variety of guises across the films, two of them the same professor with a completely different appearance. Davis played more than just stock dwarf-sized character bringing a charm to Flitwick and in the final film showing a completely different side as the devious Griphook. I hope Verne Troyer didn’t mind being usurped by someone who already had a role.
Have you ever seen such a fine ensemble cast? We just need Stephen Fry thrown in and it’s perfect.