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Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Let The Magic Begin. 

Year: 2001 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 (Scope) 
Certificate: BBFC PG Cert – Parental guidance 
Subtitles: This film is not expected to be subtitled, though this cannot be guaranteed. 
Directed by Chris Columbus 
Starring: Richard Harris, Maggie Smith, Daniel Radcliffe  
An image from Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

The Harry Potter phenomenon is somwidespread now that you'd have to be an illiterate hermit to have not noticed it. The first four books have spawned sweets and stationary, toys and T-shirts. And, of course, the inevitable film.

You could be forgiven for being a bit cynical about the cinematic endeavour that is Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, being as it is a very faithful adaptation of the first novel. It follows Harry from his Cinderella-like existence in the Dursley household with his aunt and uncle, and his odious cousin Dudley through his first year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. There is a thriller-lite plot, the first instalment in Harry's battle against dark wizard Lord Voldemort, a.k.a. He Who Must Not Be Named, who killed his parents and is plotting to take over the world, as bad guys usually do. The real joy of the movie, though, is the exploration of the magical world, from the wand shops and goblin bank in Diagon Alley, to the gothic castle of Hogwarts with its Quidditch pitch and ever-changing staircases.

Author J.K. Rowling has created a fairy-tale world that manages to blur the distinction between novelty and tradition, and - as the novels' readership has proved - between adult and child. Films like Toy Story and Shrek have proved that 'kid's films' aren't just for kids, and Harry Potter is no exception. The supporting characters are played by some of the best actors Britain has to offer, including Maggie Smith and John Cleese, but best of all is Robbie Coltrane's giant gamekeper, Hagrid, brought to life with peerless comic timing. The younger actors playing Harry and his friends (Daniel Radcliffe et al.) turn in perfectly competent performers despite their relative inexperience, carrying the film better than might be expected.

With its endless merchandise and media hype, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone may well be a textbook-worthy example of the ideal blockbuster, but it's an extremely good one. A magical treat for a fan of the books and anyone willing to put aside their cynicism.

Carmel Snow

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Screenings of this film:

2001/2002 Spring Term (35mm)
2001/2002 Spring Term (35mm)
2001/2002 Spring Term (35mm)
2013/2014 Autumn Term (digital)
2021/2022 Spring Term (digital)