Universal acclaim - based on 40 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 36 out of 40
  2. Negative: 0 out of 40
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  1. 88
    Is Prisoner of Azkaban as good as the first two films? Not quite. It doesn't have that sense of joyously leaping through a clockwork plot, and it needs to explain more than it should. But the world of Harry Potter remains delightful, amusing and sophisticated.
  2. 75
    Although Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban stands well enough on its own, it has a "middle chapter" feeling. In other words, there's no real beginning or ending. Little is resolved and the film's climax is low-key.
  3. 88
    Not only is this dazzler by far the best and most thrilling of the three Harry Potter movies to date, it's a film that can stand on its own even if you never heard of author J.K. Rowling and her young wizard hero.
  4. 88
    This movie belongs to its young stars, who have grown immensely as actors since they were first ideally cast by Chris Columbus, the hack who directed the first two movies.
  5. Shot in spooky gradations of silver and shadow, The Prisoner of Azkaban is the first movie in the series with fear and wonder in its bones, and genuine fun, too.
  6. A different kind of Harry Potter movie, a better kind... It's where this fantasy series has wanted to go all along.
  7. 60
    Cuaron lets his enthusiasms show.
  8. The most powerfully entrancing children's film in years. Of course, a true kid's classic is just as magical for adults.
  9. From its restlessly moving camera work to its heartfelt acting by a splendid cast, "Azkaban" is a horror movie for mature kids.
  10. The right word for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is wondersful -- as in full of wonders, great and small.
  11. Azkaban breaks free of all these shackles in its final hour. Working with the persuasive Thewlis and Oldman, able to focus his gifts on what's distinctive, dramatic and surprising about the story, Cuarón creates on screen the heartfelt magic that has enthralled so many on the page.
  12. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    Who would think Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban could be an art film? Thanks to director Alfonso Cuaron, a dazzling storyteller with a keen eye for whimsical detail, the third film in the Potter franchise is a visual delight.
  13. 88
    [Cuaron]'s a visionary and crafty storyteller who rewards your patience, not with twists in the plot, though the movie has its share, but with pure feeling. Deploying wit, grace, and artistry, he's whisked a kid flick into adolescence.
  14. In the end, Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban offers what neither of its predecessors, for all their wand-waving and witch-brooms, had: real magic.
  15. Reviewed by: David Edelstein
    In Cuarón's hands, the world of Harry Potter doesn't feel like a synthetic movie theme park anymore. It's almost real, Hogwarts and all.
  16. 75
    Here, finally, is a Harry Potter picture that lives up to its potential -- that, plainly, LIVES.
  17. 70
    With shades of Carrie, Harry's magical powers and adolescent angst make a combustible fusion, taking on frightening, vengeful implications that Cuarón honors by refusing to airbrush the shadowy regions of fantasy.
  18. 100
    One of the greatest fantasy films of all time.
  19. 90
    Like the first two movies, this is loaded with computer-generated imagery, but for the first time there's a sense of dramatic proportion balancing the spectacle and the story line.
  20. In an era when most scripts are written by committees of monkeys, hearing one man's intelligent voice is an almost forgotten pleasure.
  21. 40
    Put delicately, this is one long sit, made all the more so by a turgid story, a dour visual palette and uninspiring action.
  22. From my doddering perspective - rheumy with a view - Volume 3 puts plenty of cinema into the picture but leeches all the charm out of the tale.
  23. Potter 3 is, in its heart of hearts, a teenage angst movie...Cuaron has done a masterful job of bringing off this shift in the Potter paradigm without disrupting any disruption in the established style of the series and without any pandering concessions to the teen-movie genre.
  24. This film may disappoint some dogmatic Old Hogwartsians: a few plot points have been sacrificed, and Mr. Cuarón does not seem to care much for Quidditch. But it more than compensates for these lapses with its emotional force and visual panache.
  25. 100
    The Prisoner of Azkaban is to Harry Potter what that other No. 3, "Goldfinger," was to James Bond: the movie that takes the invention and gamesmanship of the series to a whole new giddy peak.
  26. An entrancing experience for Potter fans. It's a carefully crafted, dreamy immersion in a world that feels snugly familiar even when evil intrudes.
  27. Reviewed by: Richard Corliss
    Enjoy the savory witches' brew that Cuaron has cooked up in his Harry pot. For on its own terms, this one is truly wizard.
  28. 90
    The best of the Harry Potter films so far, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is also hands down the scariest, and the deepest.
  29. A mild upkick in pacing and texture can be credited to director Alfonso Cuarón (more Little Princess than Y Tu Mamá), who avoids Chris Columbus's mastodon-like setups and knows a bit more about whipping up atmospherics.
  30. A deeper, darker, visually arresting and more emotionally satisfying adaptation of the J.K. Rowling literary phenomenon, achieving the neat trick of remaining faithful to the spirit of the book while at the same time being true to its cinematic self.
  31. In the Harry Potter film series thus far, The Sorcerer's Stone remains the strongest, perhaps because the first look at any rich new world is almost always going to be more groundbreaking than its sequels. But Prisoner of Azkaban is a worthy and stylistically different follow-up, where Chamber of Secrets often felt like an unimaginative retread.
  32. It helps that J.K. Rowling’s third book in the series is full of spooky stuff that translates beautifully to screen.
  33. 88
    With Cuaron leading the way, Harry has burst from the printed page to soar on-screen.
  34. 50
    If my moviegoing experience was magical in any way, it was only in that I once or twice nodded off for a spell.
  35. Reviewed by: Susannah Gora
    Soars gloriously into fluency and magic.
  36. Reviewed by: Colin Kennedy
    Azkaban contains both the longest denouement and the most rousing finish of any of the books, and Cuarón wisely whips through the 'ah-hahs' so that the clever climax, complete with the series' best SFX, can enjoy its moment in the moonlight.
  37. Reviewed by: Karen Karbo
    Much has been made about the fact that the world's most popular fictional children are growing up and straight into that horror-filled no man's land of the human life span, puberty.
  38. Reviewed by: Sean Smith
    The result is a film that's really moving--and really moves.
  39. Reviewed by: Brian Lowry
    Visually dazzling and considerably darker than the prior incarnations, the story suffers from a slightly disjointed feel that will prove less accessible to those not intimately familiar with every corner of author J.K. Rowling's world.
  40. Reviewed by: Nicole Arthur
    It's not perfect, or even close, but it delivers on the promise of J.K. Rowling's novels to a far greater extent.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 785 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Negative: 73 out of 362
  1. Aug 16, 2010
    Might be the best of the series. It's certainly the most impressive visually, as Hogwarts, which sometimes felt as thrilling as a funeral homeMight be the best of the series. It's certainly the most impressive visually, as Hogwarts, which sometimes felt as thrilling as a funeral home during Columbus' films, comes vividly alive in the third film. Sirius Black is such an intoxicating and great character, he really ties the movie together greatly. This was arguably Rowling's peak in the series. Full Review »
  2. Sep 23, 2011
    Finally, a harry potter movie that starts childlike and ends with maturity! Bravo Alfonso Cuaron!
  3. Dec 17, 2011
    With strong performances stand out Emma Watson, thrills, a great score, great emotional depth, and dazzling visuals make this one of the bestWith strong performances stand out Emma Watson, thrills, a great score, great emotional depth, and dazzling visuals make this one of the best of the potters. I give this film 90% of a good movie. Full Review »