The end of 2021 marked a major milestone for one of the most beloved franchises in all of pop culture – the 20th anniversary of the Harry Potter films. While the very first Harry Potter book was released in 1997, it didn’t take long for Hollywood to adapt this imaginative tale about a young boy who travels to an appropriately magical school to become a wizard. Along the way, he must conquer his past, overcome evil, and learn the power of friendship. After the first film’s massive success, the series saw a total of seven additional sequels, cementing a legacy as one of the most adored franchises in cinematic history.
Now, 20 years later, the cast of this stunning series is back and all grown up, reuniting at Hogwarts to reflect on their experiences and the filmmaking process. As a total love letter to fans of the franchise, Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts is full of humorous moments, neat trivia, and emotional reunions. However, does it have any value beyond fan service? Let’s find out if this reunion special is worth watching or, better, left skipped.
Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts Review
When dealing with any anniversary/reunion special, it’s important to know what you’re getting into. In short, Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts is structured as a series of interviews, all set within the nostalgic sets of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Tons of cast members have returned to share their memories, including Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid), Helena Bonham Carter (Bellatrix Lestrange), Gary Oldman (Sirius Black), Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy), and more. However, everyone is split up for most of the reunion, with the special segmented in small sections containing a handful of cast members at a time. This provides ample moments of emotional reunion, as longtime friends and colleagues meet up many years after the final film.
Of course, the primary focus is on the three stars of the Harry Potter films, including Emma Watson (Hermione Granger), Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley), and of course, Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter). Seeing how the Harry Potter franchise kicked off when these actors were no more than children, the look back down memory lane acts as an overall reflection on the actors’ growth as both professionals and people, echoing a sort of coming-of-age story. Throughout the reunion, the trio shares their favorite moments of production, emotional highs and lows of the projects, and some touching stories of camaraderie on set.
In addition to catching up with all the cast members, Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts also offers a detailed look at the progression of the series, with many of the films’ directors showing up to chat. Chris Columbus, director of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, shows up to regale us with stories of the tumultuous franchise beginnings, where he acted as both babysitter and creative kingpin.
Other directors such as Alfonso Cuaron and David Yates pop up to provide their thoughts on making their respective movies, often going into detail on how they helped bring the source material to the screen. While the human element gets far more attention than the filmmaking, there are plenty of behind-the-scenes tidbits that should satisfy interested fans.
Our Verdict on Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts
While many reunion specials fail to live up to expectations, Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts defies the odds and is a wonderful watch. Of course, fans of the franchise will have far more fun watching this nostalgic trip through two decades of film history. The sets are beautiful to behold, the interviews and reunions are heartwarming, and if you’re a big fan, emotions will certainly run high.
It’s hard to deny that an air of sadness lingers over the production, with the anniversary special occasionally feeling like a send-off more than a celebration. Either way, we had a great time seeing this amazing cast back in Hogwarts, happily recalling their efforts in creating one of the most celebrated movie franchises of all time. If you have any fond memories of the Harry Potter film franchise, you might be surprised at just how nostalgic this reunion will make you feel.
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