20 Years of ‘Harry Potter’: 10 Ways the Movies Differ From the Books


This week we are celebrating 20 years of Harry Potter onscreen, and what better way to do that than to take a look at how what we watched differed from what we read.

It’s common knowledge that film adaptations of books aren’t able to include every detail from the book, and Harry Potter is no exception to this rule. In fact, over the course of eight movies there are a lot of ways that they’re not totally true to the books. So here are 10 ways we’ve noticed that the films differed from the books.

1. Peeves

Wizarding World Digital

A favorite character from the books, Peeves the poltergeist was completely omitted from the films. A poltergeist is essentially a ghost with the power to move objects, and Peeves uses this ability to cause chaos all over Hogwarts. In the books he acts as both comic relief, a minor plot device, and a foil for multiple characters. From making noise and drawing attention to Harry when he’s under the invisibility cloak to assisting Fred and George in their escape, Peeves adds a lot to the story. However, since none of his moments were essential to plotlines he was left out of the films, much to the disappointment of many fans.

2. Ghosts

Wizarding World Digital

Not only was Peeves completely ignored, but the movies also cut out a lot of the storylines involving the ghosts from the books. Some of the most notable examples of this include how, in the second book, Harry befriends the Griffyndor house ghost Nearly Headless Nick and due to this friendship (and his fame even among the dead), Harry is invited to Nick’s Death-day party. The scene is a great one that not only gives more information about Nick’s past, but introduced the Headless Hunt: a group of beheaded ghosts who act as an exclusive club that Nick’s nearly headless status prevents him from joining.

More notable is the choice to not tell the full backstory of the Ravenclaw ghost, The Grey Lady. The films do acknowledge that she is Helena Ravenclaw (daughter of founder Rowena Ravenclaw) but fail to explain exactly what happened between mother and daughter. In the books, it is explained that Helena was jealous of her mother, so she stole her mother’s diadem and ran away to Albania. When Rowena was on her death bed, she sent a man, who is now the Slytherin ghost The Bloody Baron, off to find Helena and bring her back. Unfortunately the Baron was in love with Helena while she had no interest in him. So when he found her and she refused to come with him, he murdered her then immediately killed himself.

3. Harry’s Eyes

In the books there is a lot of emphasis on how much Harry looks like his father but has his mother’s green eyes. Unfortunately Daniel Radcliffe, who has blue eyes, was allergic to the colored contacts, leaving Harry without his signature green eyes. While this may seem like a minor change, it became problematic to the storyline in the eighth movie when the last thing Snape asks is for Harry to look at him and says, “you have your mother’s eyes.” Granted, it is a bit less troublesome given that the actresses who played Lily Potter over the years had inconsistent eye colors.

4. Dumbledore

Warner Bros.

This one is a bit complicated, because Dumbledore was played by two different actors over the course of the films. Richard Harris filled the role first, but after he passed away the role was taken over by Michael Gambon. Fans are generally split on which version of the character they prefer; however, if we are working solely through the lens of what the books said, Gambon had a tendency to play Dumbledore much more harshly and less outlandish than as described in the book.

The most obvious example of this is in the Goblet of Fire when Dumbledore asks Harry if he put his name in the cup. You know the moment I’m talking about. The one where the book says Dumbledore calmly asks Harry if he put his name in the cup and instead Michael Gambon decided that Dumbledore would aggressively question Harry while pushing him against the table. This moment is completely opposite to his character in the book, and has been a source of a lot of contention among fans.

5. Hermione’s Mudblood Scar

Warner Bros.

One feature of the films that was not in the books, but has seen a lot of success with fans, was the expansion of Bellatrix Lestrange’s torture of Hermione. In the books, the torture is quite graphic, including lots of screaming and Bellatrix dropping a chandelier on Hermione. The movie omitted the chandelier and instead opted to have Bellatrix carve the racial slur “Mudblood” into Hermione’s arm instead. This acted as a nice callback to the earlier films when Umbridge had Harry scar himself by writing lines in detention, as well as a unique way to leave Hermione with a very physical reminder of the war.

6. Fenrir Greyback

Wizarding World Digital

In the books, Fenrir Greyback is the Wizarding World’s most well-known and feared werewolf, and he plays a fairly significant role in the story. However, the movies only mention him once or twice in passing as part of Voldemort’s army. This meant events with Greyback like the mauling of Bill Weasley during the battle at the end of Half-Blood Prince, or his attack on Lavender Brown in The Deathly Hallows were completely missing from the films. More notably though, this choice left the films without any background on Lupin, including how and why he became a werewolf.

7. S.P.E.W.

Wizarding World Digital

With the exception of Dobby, the films largely ignored house elves. So, naturally, Hermione’s well meaning but completely misguided efforts to free the house elves was ignored as well. The Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare a.k.a. S.P.E.W. was Hermione’s pet project throughout Goblet of Fire, one that did not earn her points with the house elves or her peers. While this was never a major plot point, it spoke to Hermione’s character and made for some nice lighthearted moments in an otherwise very heavy storyline.

8. The Gaunt Family History

The films tell viewers very little about Voldemort’s history as Tom Riddle beyond his school years and some minor mentions his Hogwarts job application. Most notably they ignore much of the history of his mother and her family: the Gaunts. The books explain that the Gaunt family is one of the pureblood sacred 28 wizarding families, descended from the legendary Peverell brothers same as the Potters; thus the reason that their family ring has the resurrections stone set in it. The films also ignore the fact that Voldemort’s uncle was in Azkaban for killing muggles and Dumbledore actually visited him there once.

9. Harry Funding Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes

Warner Bros.

Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes is the joke shop that the Weasley twins open after their escape from Hogwarts. The shop is featured in the films,. However, they never explain exactly how it came to be. In the books, the twins had been planning the shop for years, but it was Harry and his Triwizard tournament winnings that provided the capital for the boys to actually start the shop. This made Harry a sort of silent partner in the business and explains why the twins are willing to give him free merchandise when they don’t hesitate to charge (or even overcharge, as is the case in the films) their own brother.

10. Quidditch Ban

The final entry on this list stems from The Order of the Phoenix, a movie that featured almost no quidditch onscreen. This is a big contrast from the book where quidditch was central to the story, particularly as an incident on the Quidditch pitch led Umbridge to ban Fred, George, and Harry from Quidditch for life and confiscate their brooms. This impacted other storylines within the book, including Fred and George’s epic escape, and really served to demonstrate just how much Umbridge abuses her power right from the get go.

While there are so many more moments, both big and small, that the films differed from the books, these are 10 the stood out to us. Let us know if we missed any of the differences that stood out to you, and stop by all week for more Harry Potter anniversary articles.

LeeAnn is children's librarian who joined Nerds and Beyond in 2020 as a way to stretch her writing skills and connect with others who have the same pop culture passions as she does. She loves music, reading (obviously), and any TV show that can grab and hold her attention. Currently some of her favorite things to nerd out over include Supernatural, Prodigal Son, Louden Swain and Percy Jackson (books, theater, or upcoming show - lets leave the movies out of it).

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