I’m a big fan of the Harry Potter franchise. I’ve watched all the movies multiple times, re-read the books over and over again, and even have my own wand (the elder wand of course, because who wants a minor character’s wand anyway). Naturally, the music of all eight films was debated by the fans and some started ranking their favorite tracks. And now I’m adding my opinion to that list.
I’ll rank individual pieces along with a few honorable mentions. For each selection, the title of the film and composer will be next to the title of the track. The only song I’ve exempted is Hedwig’s Theme, because franchise and theme have become inseparable. However, that doesn’t exclude any variations of the theme. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is also absent, since it wasn’t part of the main series. Honorable mentions first.
Another Story/Professor Umbridge- Order of the Phoenix, Nicolas Hooper
Statues- Deathly Hallows Part 2, Alexandre Desplat
Snape to Malfoy Manor/At the Burrow- Deathly Hallows Part 1, Alexandre Desplat
Potter Waltz- Goblet of Fire, Patrick Doyle
Now onto the main list!
Dumbledore’s Army- Order of the Phoenix, Nicolas Hooper
This is one of Hooper’s tracks that works within the scope of both the movie and the scene it features in. I always imagine I’m watching students move about the halls of Hogwarts during a normal day whenever I hear this track. Hooper may have had more forgettable tracks than memorable ones, but this is one of his better moments.
Buckbeak’s Flight- Prisoner of Azkaban, John Williams
Williams is one of those composers that can make any scene sound epic and this is another example of that talent. It’s just a scene of Harry riding on a flying Hippogriff and ripping off Titanic in the process. As good as it works in the film, the track’s wonderful to listen to on its own. Tracks like this are a great example of a great score.
Obliviate- Deathly Hallows Part 1, Alexandre Desplat
I had no clue who Desplat was when he scored the series seventh film. However, when I first heard this wonderful track I knew we had the right composer. Despite not including Hedwig’s Theme, it’s still a great way to start off the darkest films in the series.
The Story Continues- Goblet of Fire, Patrick Doyle
Patrick Doyle’s a very underrated composer and so is his score for the series fourth film. This is the only opening that uses Hedwig’s Theme in such a unique way, and it works perfectly with the setting and overall story. Goblet of Fire may have had its weaker moments, but its score was definitely a highlight.
A Window to the Past- Prisoner of Azkaban, John Williams
Of all the themes that were ignored in the series, this one is perhaps the best. I have no idea why none of the other composers couldn’t put this simple and wonderful piece in a scene. It’s just a recorder with some backing harp and orchestra. However the tune Williams crafted fits so well into the Wizarding World that leaving it aside was one of the worst decisions made by Doyle, Hooper, and Desplat. Perhaps the title, however, makes sense. When you hear it, you think the earlier films and therefore the past.
The Mirror of Erised- Philosopher’s/Sorcerer’s Stone, John Williams
A simple, sad tune, this track is only available mixed with the track that comes right before it, “The Restricted Section”. It’s a pivotal moment in both book and film, as Harry realizes what his true desire is. The mirror later plays a role in Deathly Hallows, well, the book anyway.
Harry in Winter- Goblet of Fire, Patrick Doyle
This is the one of only a few pieces I regret not being able to play in my high school orchestra. It’s sad but at the same time uplifting, sort of a post-rejection song. Ironically, its played right after a rejection occurs in the film! However, this track just- well, it’s Doyle’s best track he composed for the film, and always a joy to listen to.
A Change of Season- Philosopher’s/Sorcerer’s Stone, John Williams
It’s a short little piece but one that captures the tone of the first films and books almost perfectly. Back then it wasn’t about dark themes or fighting Voldemort, it was about the thrill of discovering magic. This one makes you feel those same magical feels all over again.
Lily’s Theme- Deathly Hallows Part 2, Alexandre Desplat
Leading up to the release of Part 2, I wondered how Desplat would score the opening. This would be difficult as I realized depending how the opening was done Hedwig’s theme may or may not be absent. When I heard this piece for the first time, I loved it. As I saw the movie again and again, it only got better. Mixed with the imagery in the scenes it plays over, Lily’s Theme is Desplat’s best track from his work on the series, and I grin every time I hear it. Yes, Hedwig’s theme is absent from the opening titles- a series first- but you didn’t need it. What a way to start the final film.
Leaving Hogwarts- Philosopher’s/Sorcerer’s Stone and Deathly Hallows Part 2, John Williams
I’ll be honest: this is one of a select few pieces of music that make tears well up in my eyes. And I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s the notes used or when the piece occurs. Regardless, this is the best piece of music ever composed for the franchise. If there’s a second best theme behind Hedwig’s theme my vote would be this. And it’s reappearance in Part 2 was only fitting to close out the series altogether.