Three Sets of Canon – Part 2: Movie Canon

This is the second part of my three-part series of why the Harry Potter universe has three set realities of canon. There is strict book canon, movie canon, and most recently, theater canon. This is, of course, my personal opinion on how I believe canon works. What I am trying to explain is how all the new Harry Potter content fits into existing canon, and how each has its own brand of canon.

Part 2: Movie Canon




hp movie posters


The Harry Potter movie series is, in my opinion, a great adaptation of the book series. They are still just an adaptation because the movies do not follow the same logic or timeline as the books, but being accepted and produced by J.K Rowling gives them their own canon in the wizarding world. These films have a separate reality from the books. The upcoming film trilogy, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, will also be classified as movie canon as opposed to book canon. Even though the screenplays of these films are being written by J.K Rowling herself, they are based off the companion textbook Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Another reason why Fantastic Beasts should not be accepted as book canon is because these movies already seem to be following the tropes and style of the Harry Potter movies. For example, Newt used the spell Lumos Maxima in the trailer. This spell is not canon in the Harry Potter books but was used in the Prisoner of Azkaban film. Another example of how it differs from the source is that in the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them textbook, it’s mentioned that Newt graduated Hogwarts, although trailers have suggested that he has been expelled in the films, which seems to solidify these films’ place in the movie canon.

The past eight movies in the Harry Potter franchise have some rules and plot points that are specific to only the movies and would be classified as movie canon only. These are not things that were left out but completely changed or added in the movies.

Examples of this would be:

  • The ages of Snape, Lily, James, Sirius, Remus, and Peter
  • Harry’s eyes being blue
  • Spells such as Lumos Maxima
  • Ron joining the Quidditch team in his sixth year
  • The random girl Harry has a crush on in the train station in Half-Blood Prince
  • The character Nigel
  • Neville having a crush on Luna Lovegood
  • Harry being able to hear and feel Horcruxes even in the absence of some of Voldemort’s childhood memories
  • Snape dying in the boat house
  • Goyle dying in the Room of Requirement
  • Voldemort hugging Draco (classic)
  • Voldemort molting away when he dies
  • James Potter being a Seeker
  • The shrunken head in Prisoner of Azkaban 
  • Padma Patil being in Gryffindor
  • Hagrid not being able to spell “Happy Birthday”

Even though there are so many differences, we as a fandom have still accepted these movies. The movie canon gave us our first adaptation of Harry Potter. It may have changed some of the minor plot details, but at the same time, it gave us a rich new way to view the story. As this canon expands in the next couple of years, I hope we can all see it as an exciting new chapter in the Harry Potter universe as a whole. I’m personally very excited for this expansion, and for whatever the future holds for movie canon in the wizarding world.

Be sure to check out Part 1 where I discuss book canon.

  • Iain Walker

    The problem with this is that the 8-movies series based on the novels are adaptations of the original works, not original works themselves. There’s no need to bring them into debates about canonicity at all. The Fantastic Beasts films, on the other hand, are original works, and the implication (as I understand it) is that plot-wise they’re meant to be in continuity with the books (even if they use the visual story-telling style of the films). In that case, whether we need a separate category of “movie canon” will really depend on how much the Fantastic Beasts films diverge from the books, since the screen adaptations of the novels aren’t really relevant. They’re not canon of any kind – they are adaptations of canon.

    Oh, and the “Newt was expelled” vs “Newt graduated from Hogwarts” thing is easily resolvable in a number of ways, as has been pointed out in previous discussions here. And Lumos Maxima is hardly a canon issue either – spell incantations in the books often take modifiers for different effects and/or targets, so a powered-up version of Lumos is quite consistent with the books, even if it’s never specifically mentioned by name.

    • Michelle Morris

      I actually totally agree with you. The movies, while somewhat entertaining, will never be any kind of canon for me personally.

  • Jasmine Weasley

    I don’t know about anyone else but there are some things that I just can not accept in the movies and will continue to deny forever. 1. Peter Bloody Pettigrew getting away with it with his life intact! 2. Grindelwald also staying alive. 3. Harry breaking the elder wand. 4. Voldemort molting away 5. Ginny Weasley and you know…THAT scene in GOF…also Peeves