My Top 10 Harry Potter Characters

Can you believe that Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone just turned TWENTY years old? That’s right! Its original publication date is June 26, 1997 in the United Kingdom. It wasn’t released in the United States—under the name Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone because that sounded cooler and because we Americans think of philosophers very differently than the Brits, I presume—until September 1, 1998.

I didn’t start reading the series until the 2000-2001 school year, at the urging of my then-wife. I hadn’t even heard of them until she started reading it. Fortunately, this was the first year of the daily fifteen-minute silent reading period at the high school where I teach, so I had the opportunity and the means. All I needed was the motive.

After the first few chapters, I was hooked. Over the remainder of that school year, I completed Sorcerer’s Stone, Chamber of Secrets, Prisoner of Azkaban, and Goblet of Fire (which had just been released during the previous summer). Then, like every other Potter fan, I had to wait the years between releases for Order of the Phoenix, Half-Blood Prince, and Deathly Hallows. I have yet to read Cursed Child, but it’s on my to-read list.

In celebration of the twentieth anniversary of the book’s release, I’m dedicating this month’s Top 10 list to Harry Potter. I won’t be ranking the books or movies since there aren’t ten of them yet—those may become future lists—but instead, I’m ranking my favorite characters from the Harry Potter universe. I’d like to say these rankings are based on the books, but I’d be lying if I said that their portrayals in the movies by certain actors and actresses didn’t influence the rankings a bit—in both positive or negative ways. Also, the characters on this list come from many different affiliations (various houses at Hogwarts, professors vs. students, good vs. evil, and so on).

However, I am openly choosing NOT to rank the threesome of Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger.

They’re simply unrankable because they’re the three main characters, and they’re all awesome.

And finally, Voldermort—I mean, He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named—isn’t named on this list because, well, because he shall not be named.

SPOILERS WILL BE AHEAD! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

 

#10 – Minerva McGonagall

If you come to her Transfiguration class late but don’t see her there, you’re still in trouble. That tabby cat in the front of class? Yeah, that’s her in her Animagus form. Professor McGonagall is the stern and strict head of Gryffindor House. Being a Gryffindor, you know she’s loyal and brave. How loyal? When Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy get into a broom chase in their first-year class with Madame Hooch, Professor McGonagall nabs Harry but doesn’t bring him to the Headmaster; she brings him to Oliver Wood, captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team so Harry can become their next seeker. How brave? In Deathly Hallows, she ultimately becomes Headmistress of Hogwarts during the final battle and defends it as best she can. She’s the kindly grandmother figure you don’t want to mess with, and no one in the world other than Dame Maggie Smith could have played her in the movies.

 

#9 – Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore

This list wouldn’t be right without having the great Hogwarts Headmaster with the totally awesome middle names (Brian! HA!). He was Harry’s biggest mentor and protector before his unfortunate death in Half-Blood Prince. If he’s that important to Harry, Hogwarts, the Wizarding World, and the series as a whole, then why is he so low down this list? In both Order of the Phoenix and Deathly Hallows, Harry grows angry with the late Dumbledore for all he’s withheld from Harry over the years. Beyond that, how many times in the series has Dumbledore asked Harry to do things that are dangerous? Not so many in the early books where Dumbledore got him out of a few predicaments—explaining how the Mirror of Erised worked in Sorcerer’s Stone, and having the phoenix Fawkes save Harry in The Chamber of Secrets. But as Harry got older and Voldemort came back, he was asked to get “collected” by Professor Slughorn and later make sure Dumbledore drank all that icky stuff—both in Half-Blood Prince. Sure, the motive was to defeat Voldemort, but Harry was just a child. Was Dumbledore using him? That’s an interesting debate for another day, but the motives are clearly summed up in this Goblet of Fire quote: “We’re in a time when we must choose between what is right and what is easy.” He always chose right, even when it was hard. In the first two films, the late Richard Harris was calm and grandfatherly in the role, but Michael Gambon takes it from there and shows not only Dumbledore’s kindness, but his strength and machinations in the ensuing battle.

 

#8 – Bellatrix Lestrange

She didn’t appear until Order of the Phoenix when she broke out of Azkaban prison along with a bunch of other Voldemort supporters. But in those three final books, no one epitomized bat-shit crazy the way Bellatrix did—and Helena Bonham Carter completely exuded that in her performance in the movies. She’s the sister of Narcissa Malfoy (Draco’s mother) and generally wreaks havoc wherever she goes. She has murdered more than a few minor characters and even some beloved major characters. In fact—big spoiler alert here—she’s at least partially responsible for the death of the next character, she’s directly responsible for the death of the character after that, and she’s responsible for bad things concerning the character after that. Okay, the true Potter fans know who my next two people are. Bellatrix is a pure-blood witch, and like many of Voldemort’s Death Eaters, she abhors the mixing of true wizarding blood with dirty Muggle blood. She’s evil and crazy—a deadly combination—but she meets her end in the Battle of Hogwarts in Deathly Hallows thanks to someone honorable further down the post.

 

#7 – Sirius Black

I know I might get some backlash for Sirius being this low down the list, as he’s an extremely popular character. Look, I get it—he’s a great character, and he deserves placement in any Harry Potter Top 10 Character list. Seriously, the differences between my #4 & #7 are so minute that I could have easily picked them at random—and how do you know I didn’t? Anyway, Sirius Black is the titular character in the third book, Prisoner of Azkaban, and Rowling does a great job slowly revealing his backstory in that book. He has escaped from Azkaban, being sentenced for betraying Harry’s parents to Voldemort. The book sets things up that Black—or a big black dog—is out to get Harry Potter. Seriously, I don’t know how I didn’t put that together: Sirius is the dog star, so Sirius Black equates to black dog. But there’s a great twist in the book: he’s after the real rat who betrayed him. Then we learn wonderful things about him: he was besties with Harry’s dad and is Harry’s godfather! And we learn unexpected things about him: he’s cousins with Bellatrix! He uses his mother’s old home to house the Order of the Phoenix, but in that story, he tragically dies when he passes through the Veil. It was devastating in the book, and Gary Oldman’s performance in the movie when Bellatrix shot him with the killing curse first makes it even sadder.

 

#6 – Dobby

When the Chamber of Secrets movie came out in 2002, fully CGI characters were really starting to appear in movies. For every successful one (Gollum from The Lord of the Rings), there was an unsuccessful one (Jar Jar Binks from The Phantom Menace). Dobby definitely qualifies as one of the successful ones. However, I wasn’t so much of a fan when he was first introduced in the book. I’ll admit that I found him silly and annoying, particularly how everything he did under the guise of saving Harry Potter ended up hurting him more. Even though Dobby was doing the right thing all along, I didn’t appreciate him until seeing how perfectly he was rendered and voiced in the movies. That moment at the end of Chamber of Secrets when he finds the sock in the book that Lucius Malfoy gives him is awesome, how he rises up now that he’s free. And his character continues to rise up and grow and turn into a real hero. Yes, a hero, and that’s why he belongs on this list. His death in Deathly Hallows absolutely wrecked me, both in the book (which wasn’t available yet when the Chamber of Secrets movie premiered) and in the later movie. Perhaps even more so in the movie because it came at the end of the first part of Deathly Hallows. He died a hero, died saving Harry and others, and died at the hands of Bellatrix Lestrange. Damn her!

 

#5 – Neville Longbottom

Who knew back in the Sorcerer’s Stone movie that dorky little Matthew Lewis would grow into the biggest heartthrob of the Harry Potter gang? Forget the physical growth, Neville underwent a tremendous character growth. While Harry, Hermione, and Ron are out hunting horcruxes, Neville’s holding down the fort at Hogwarts by keeping Dumbledore’s Army going and being part of the resistance while Snape served as headmaster. And in the Battle of Hogwarts, Neville is responsible for destroying a horcrux—and not just any old horcrux, but Voldemort’s pet snake Nagini, the horcrux that can attack others. In fact, since no character destroys more than one of Voldemort’s horcruxes, Neville is Harry’s equal here. As revealed in Order of the Phoenix, Professor Sybill Trelawney prophesized about the child born that would defeat Voldemort, but that prophecy could have been interpreted to mean either Harry or Neville. While Voldemort went after Harry and his parents, a gang of Death Eaters led by—guess who?—Bellatrix Lestrange tortured Neville’s parents until their brains were pretty much fried. A sad and unfortunate upbringing led to him ultimately becoming a hero, and I respect him for that.

 

#4 – Dolores Umbridge

What makes Umbridge so memorable is that she’s one of those characters that everyone hates. I mean literally everyone. Doesn’t matter if you’re good, evil, or neutral, or if you’re a student or a teacher—you hate Dolores Umbridge. Even Snape rolled his eyes at her! Because the Ministry of Magic either didn’t believe or didn’t want to acknowledge Harry’s claim that Voldemort had returned at the end of Goblet of Fire, they installed her as the new Defense against the Dark Arts teacher. While at Hogwarts, she didn’t teach them anything useful to defeat dark lords (that they were denying had returned), prompting Harry to form “Dumbledore’s Army” where he’d train his fellow students to defend themselves. Meanwhile, Umbridge usurps Dumbledore’s Headmaster position and starts posting many fascist rules. She was a detestable character in the book, and Imelda Staunton’s performance in the movies is gleefully detestable as she takes joy in punishing Harry. She meets a self-inflicted fate in the Forbidden Forest when she runs afoul of a bunch of centaurs. She ticked off everyone in her path and didn’t care about it. It’s not like she was Voldemort evil, and that made her such a unique and memorable character in the series.

 

#3 – Luna Lovegood

It’s hard for me to think back to when I first read passages with Luna in Order of the Phoenix. I don’t know if she stood out to me on the page, but Evanna Lynch’s performance in that movie and the ones that follow take the words on the page to a completely new level. Often teased and called “Loony” Lovegood for her odd behavior and beliefs, Luna is a Ravenclaw student in the same class as Ginny Weasley, one year behind Harry, Hermione, and Ron. Harry first meets her when they walk with the winged horse-like Thestrals that lead the carriages from the train to Hogwarts. Only those who have seen and accept death see the Thestrals, so Harry can see them. So does Luna, who seems to be able to “see” a lot that others either can’t or don’t want to. Ravenclaws are wise, intuitive, and often think outside the box, and Luna proved to be an exemplary member of the house. She joins Dumbledore’s Army, and fights alongside Harry, Hermione, Ron, Ginny, and Neville in the Ministry of Magic. She completes the core bunch of six students at that point, and she’s clearly the most unique of that bunch. She holds a special place in the Tarsi family, as one of my daughters—who was sorted into Ravenclaw (as was I) over at the Pottermore site—kinda looks like Luna in the movies. She also kinda acts like Luna, in the adorable space-cadet kind of way.

 

#2 – Severus Snape

As soon as I started reading the books, I immediately imagined Alan Rickman in this role. Apparently, J.K. Rowling had him on her wish-list for actors in the movies, and she supposedly gave him one little tidbit of information to help inform his performance throughout the series. Little did the reader know that Snape would turn out to be the most complex, tragic, heroic character in the entire series! There were so many times, especially in the early books, that the reader was led to believe that Snape was out to get Harry. He was a former Death Eater, for Pete’s sake! In Sorcerer’s Stone, Hermione stopped Snape from putting a spell on Harry during a Quidditch game, but Snape was actually trying to protect Harry from Professor Quirrell’s spell! There are several other times throughout the series where Snape protects Harry despite his obvious disdain for doing so. Hating every moment of it, Snape teaches Harry—or tries to teach him—Occlumency to close Voldemort out of his mind. But in Deathly Hallows, when we finally learn everything Snape has had to endure and the reason he did, he instantly becomes the most sympathetic and tragic character. In short, he loved Harry’s mother, and he wept with her in his arms after Voldemort killed her. Dumbledore used this to get Snape to switch sides, but play double agent. Imagine the pain Snape had to endure seeing Harry, who had his mother’s eyes? The constant reminder of a love he lost? Not only did he protect Harry, but he protected Draco Malfoy from fully losing himself to Voldemort by killing Dumbldore—something Dumbledore knew was going to happen and allowed it! Hey, you were warned about spoilers. Go read the books if you haven’t! I could write pages and pages about Snape, because he’s an amazing character not just in the Harry Potter series, but in all of literature.

 

Before I get to MY FAVORITE HARRY POTTER CHARACTER, here are seven (number of books, years at Hogwarts, and horcruxes) Honorable Mentions:

Sybill Trelawney – Does she have reliable divination abilities? Or is she simply scatterbrained? She works both ways, and that’s why I like her.

Fred & George Weasley – The twin pranksters, who leave Hogwarts with a bang and awesomely torment Umbridge in the process. But sadly, RIP Fred, in the Battle of Hogwarts.

Rubeus Hagrid – Sensitive and loyal, you gotta love the big lug. Even if he is friends with a huge spider.

Susan Bones – Okay, this one is a shout-out to my daughters. Who is Susan Bones, you ask? She’s one of the first of Harry’s classmates sorted in Sorcerer’s Stone (into Hufflepuff). One of my daughters had that Harry Potter electronic 20 Questions game that tries to figure out what you’re thinking. I don’t remember who she was thinking, but after ten questions, it proclaimed Susan Bones was the answer. Why on Earth would (a) someone think of Susan Bones, and (b) the game jump to her as a first guess? Ever since then, she’s been our in-joke favorite character.

Molly Weasley – “Not my daughter, you bitch!” ‘Nuff said.

Nymphadora Tonks – Such a good-hearted, wild-haired, playful, free-spirited, loyal member of the Order. But it shocked me a bit when she coupled up with my favorite Harry Potter character…

 

#1 – REMUS LUPIN

Yes, Snape is the most complex, heroic, sympathetic, tragic character in the Harry Potter series. I’ll even concede that he’s the BEST conceived and executed character in the entire Potterverse, even above Harry, Hermione, and Ron. But this isn’t a list about who’s the best; it’s a list about who’s my favorite, and that title goes to Professor Lupin. First off, he was the first legitimate Defense against the Dark Arts teacher in the series, having followed a Voldemort vessel and a vain fraud. Also, he was the first teacher to act like a true friend and ally of Harry, rather than just a teacher or mentor. He even encourages some of Harry’s mischief in the book, especially when he recognizes the Marauder’s Map of Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs. He’s the Moony of that group, named such because he’s a werewolf—something I’m ashamed to say I didn’t pick up on with the word lupine being an adjective meaning wolf-like. Oh, and in Roman legend, Remus, one of the founders of Rome, was raised by wolves. Even though he was a werewolf, he openly showed everyone his fear during the Boggart lesson, thus making him very human. He played a significant role in the series after that, and I was sad learning he died in the Battle of Hogwarts, but at least he was beside Tonks when it happened. When I first saw pictures of David Thewlis cast as Professor Lupin in Prisoner of Azkaban, it didn’t work for me. Here’s my favorite character in that book—and in the Potter universe—and for the first time in the movie series, the actor didn’t match my mental image of the character from when I read the book. Then I saw his performance in the movie, and I was completely won over. He so perfectly captures the essence of the character: kind, wise, loyal, but worn down from time spent as a werewolf. The choice to perform him as more world-weary was an unexpected delight to me, and he will remain my favorite.

 

Agree? Disagree? Get a hat, and sort it out!

Comments

  1. Interesting list! I agree with most of your choices, but not necessarily the order. I was happy to see the Dobby made the list though. And I was surprised to see the Myrtle didn’t get an honorable mention, but with SO MANY incredibly memorable characters to sort down to ten + seven, how do you even start?? Well done. (#Snapeisnumberone)

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