This list contains discussions of extreme violence.
The Harry Potter movies faced tricky decisions about what book elements to incorporate or let go of, and some dark scenes surprisingly made the cut. Naturally, the filmmakers had to decide what scenes were most important to the story, since not everything from the source material is going to fit into an average-length movie. HBO’s Harry Potter reboot is set to be a more faithful adaptation, with time to explore some minor plot points known only to the readers. Still, there are quite a few scenes that could have been removed from the entirety yet, thankfully, were kept.
The Harry Potter TV show will face similar challenges to the Harry Potter movies regarding what to use and not to use from the books. The movies were aimed at an overall younger audience with the goal of nothing worse than a PG-13 rating. Certain scenes were darker in the Harry Potter books and were watered down, so they would not be so disturbing when appearing on-screen. That said, there are some scary and intense scenes in the Harry Potter movies that were relatively close to the source material.
A silent woman who separates the heroes and heads one of them into her lair already sounds like something from a horror movie. As if that was not enough, Bathilda Bagshot turns into Voldemort’s snake-like Nagini and tries to strangle Harry, with plenty of jump scares, all happening in the decrepit setting of the real, deceased, Bathilda’s house. Surprisingly, this scene was quite close to the source material when it could have been toned down, or replaced with an alternate conflict.
Moments that risked haunting viewers appeared as early as the first Harry Potter film. Sorcerer’s Stone kept the creepy scene of a faceless Voldemort in a hooded cloak, drinking a unicorn’s blood, witnessed by Harry. It is an act with lethal implications in the Wizarding World. The centaur Firenze tells Harry, “It is a terrible crime to slay a unicorn. […] from the moment the blood touches your lips, you will live a half-life, a cursed life.”
While it was only a brief shot in the final installment, Harry’s classmate Lavender dies by being mauled by the malicious werewolf Fenrir Greyback. It is not completely clear if she died in the book or was just seriously injured, but her body appears lifeless in the movie. It is one of the more violent deaths in comparison to the oft-used Avada Kedavra spell, where audiences only see a brief flash of light.
Harry’s quidditch teammate Katie came into contact with a cursed necklace that nearly killed her. While it is only alluded to briefly in the movie, she was also under the Imperius curse and was being commanded to take the necklace to Dumbledore. In addition to showing the scene of Katie screaming when the curse took effect, the movie did not skip over the darkest details. This includes Professor Snape telling the others that Katie is “lucky to be alive,” or Katie being out of school for months while she recovered from such a serious spell.
It would not have been easy to remove the graveyard scene from Goblet of Fire since most of the plot depends on it. Still, it is one of the scariest scenes of the series, where 14-year-old Harry is tortured and narrowly escapes with his life. Goblet of Fire is notably the first movie of the series to be rated PG-13, with the previous installments all being labeled PG. The fourth chapter of the Harry Potter saga is typically regarded as a turning point in the series, with the return of a living Voldemort as a harbinger of the war that will be the focus of the remainder of the saga.
It is now widely recognized that the dementors are a metaphor for depression. As such, the dementors were a logistically complicated concept. The writers and design teams had to figure out how to visually represent depression and have the characters describe their feelings of despair. The already sinister scene on the Hogwarts Express when they first appear would have been even more so if other characters’ reactions had been featured.
Harry used a harmful curse on Draco Malfoy that slashed him across his body, as though he were attacked by a sword. Malfoy is aided by Snape, who invented the curse himself and can heal Malfoy’s wounds. Harry did not know what the curse would do, having only read the spell’s name in the Half-Blood Prince’s old potions book. However, it is a moment that challenges the viewers’ assumptions of Harry’s heroism by showing him using violent magic.
In a purgatory that appears to Harry as a ghostly King’s Cross station, he stumbles upon a dying piece of Voldemort’s soul that is depicted as a bloody baby-like being. The movie could have replaced it with something more palatable, especially since in this case the visual representation of the former Horcrux could have easily been something else. However, Deathly Hallows: Part 2 did not shy away from it and featured the haunting piece of Voldemort’s soul at King’s Cross.
When Harry and Dumbledore go to retrieve what they believe is a Horcrux in Half-Blood Prince, they are attacked by a host of Inferi, reanimated corpses enchanted to do a dark wizard’s bidding. The cave sequence is already one of the spookiest parts of the series, as Harry and Dumbledore fight against harmful obstacles to take a piece of Voldemort’s soul. That said, the characters being ambushed by an army of dead bodies is the most disturbing part.
Because Harry Potter‘s Dolores Umbridge was backed by the Ministry of Magic and given the power to do whatever she wanted as a teacher at Hogwarts, her detentions where students are forced to write lines that are magically carved into the backs of their hands are essentially government-sanctioned torture of minors. Harry, determined not to “give Umbridge the satisfaction” and quite frankly, having faced much worse, says nothing. However, this was probably more traumatizing for other students, not to mention the viewers, and was very faithful to how it plays out in the books.
Bellatrix Lestrange tortures Hermione in the final act of Deathly Hallows Part 1demanding to know how she, Harry, and Ron acquired the Sword of Gryffindor. Parts of this scene were removed, so the movie would not be rated R, and it was reportedly arduous for both Helena Bonham Carter and Emma Watson to film. Scenes such as this in the later Harry Potter movies starkly contrast with the relatively cheerful tone of the series’ beginning. Bellatrix torturing Hermione is not only the darkest moment of Deathly Hallows: Part 1 but also the most disturbing sequence in the entire franchise.