Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is a 2004 fantasy film directed by Alfonso Cuarón and distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures.[1] It is based on the novel of the same name by J. K. Rowling. The film, which is the third instalment in the Harry Potter film series, was written by Steve Kloves and produced by Chris Columbus, David Heyman, and Mark Radcliffe. The story follows Harry Potter's third year at Hogwarts as he is informed that a prisoner named Sirius Black has escaped from Azkaban and wants to murder him. The film stars Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter, alongside Rupert Grint and Emma Watson as Harry's best friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. It is the sequel to Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and is followed by Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

The film was released on 31 May 2004 in the United Kingdom and on 4 June 2004 in North America, as the first Harry Potter film released into IMAX theatres and to be using IMAX Technology. It is also the last Harry Potter film to be released on VHS as well as the last film until Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince to be rated PG in North America. The film was nominated for two Academy AwardsOriginal Music Score and Visual Effects—at the 77th Academy Awards in 2005.

While Prisoner of Azkaban grossed a total of $796.6 million worldwide, its box office performance ranks as the lowest-grossing in the series. Nonetheless, it currently stands as the thirty-ninth highest-grossing film of all-time.


Now thirteen years old, Harry Potter has been spending the summer at Privet Drive, absorbing most of his time studying new spells. When Uncle Vernon's sister, Marge, comes for a visit and infuriates Harry by insulting his parents, he loses his temper and accidentally causes her to inflate and fly away. Harry then threatens to curse Vernon when he tries to discipline him but flees, fed up with his life at Privet Drive. Shortly after seeing a large black dog watching him, the Knight Bus appears and delivers Harry to the Leaky Cauldron, where Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge tells him he will not be arrested for the use of magic on his aunt. After reuniting with Ron and Hermione, Harry learns that Sirius Black, a convicted supporter of Lord Voldemort, has escaped Azkaban prison and is likely intending to kill Harry.

Harry, Ron and Hermione head back to school on the Hogwarts Express. They unknowingly share a compartment with the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, Remus Lupin, who is sleeping. When the train abruptly stops, Dementors board, searching for Black because Harry mentioned his name. One of the Dementors enters their compartment, prompting Harry to pass out whilst under the impression of a woman screaming. At this time, Lupin awakens and repels the Dementor with a Patronus Charm.

At Hogwarts, Albus Dumbledore informs students that the Dementors will be guarding the school while Black is at large. Professor Lupin is introduced, and Hagrid is announced as the new Care of Magical Creatures teacher. Lupin's lessons prove enjoyable; he focuses on practice, not just theory, and encourages less confident students such as Neville when he faces a boggart in the form of his worst fear, Professor Snape. However, Hagrid's first class goes awry when Draco Malfoy deliberately provokes the Hippogriff, Buckbeak, who then attacks him. Draco's father Lucius Malfoy has Buckbeak sentenced to death.

Later the trio find a crowd at the door to their dormitory and The Fat Lady missing from her portrait. She is located in a different picture, and she tells Dumbledore that Black has entered the castle. Filch, Lupin and Snape secure and search the castle, but they find no one. As the Gryffindor dormitory has been compromised, the students sleep in the Great Hall which allows Harry to overhear an argument between Snape and Dumbledore about Lupin's suspected role.

During a stormy Quidditch match, several Dementors approach and overpower Harry, causing him to fall off his broomstick, which is then destroyed by the Whomping Willow. Lupin secretly teaches Harry to defend himself against Dementors using the Patronus charm. As Harry lacks parental permission to visit Hogsmeade, Fred and George (who intercept him despite his invisible cloak due to his footprints in the snow) give him their Marauder's Map, a magical document showing every person's location within Hogwarts, as well as secret passageways in and out of the school castle. At Hogsmeade, Harry notices Fudge and Madam Rosmerta, discussing Black. He follows them after he hears them mentioning his name and overhears that Black is his godfather and was his parents' best friend. Black was accused of divulging the Potters' secret whereabouts to Voldemort and murdering their mutual friend Peter Pettigrew by blowing him up. Out of anger, Harry vows to avenge his parents and kill Black.

Late at night, Harry is reading the Marauder's Map when he notices Peter Pettigrew's name on it. He exits the dormitory and follows Pettigrew on the map but is unable to see him anywhere. He instead sees Snape on the map but fails to avoid him. Snape initially confiscates the map but hands it over to Lupin who arrives to take Harry to his classroom, keeping the map and admonishing Harry for wandering the castle while Black is at large. Before leaving, Harry mentions to Lupin seeing Pettigrew on the map, leaving Lupin astonished.

After a class of Divination, Professor Trelawney enters a trance and predicts that the Dark Lord's servant will return that night. Later, Harry, Ron, and Hermione visit Hagrid to console him over Buckbeak's impending execution. While there, they discover Scabbers, Ron's missing rat. Fudge, Dumbledore, and an executioner arrive at Hagrid's to carry out Buckbeak's execution, and the three students hurry away to avoid being discovered. Scabbers suddenly bites Ron, escaping, and as the trio chase him a large dog appears and drags both Ron and Scabbers into a hole at the Whomping Willow's base. Harry and Hermione are attacked by the tree but also manage to enter the underground passage to the Shrieking Shack.

There they discover that the dog is actually Sirius Black, who is an Animagus. Harry attacks Black, but Lupin arrives and disarms Harry. After exchanging a few cryptic words with Black, Lupin then embraces him as an old friend. When confronted by Hermione, Lupin admits to being a werewolf, and he and Black begin to explain that Black is innocent. Professor Snape bursts in, intending to hand over Black to the Dementors, but Harry, having doubts, knocks him out with a spell. Lupin and Black explain that Scabbers is actually Peter Pettigrew, an Animagus who committed the crime for which Black was convicted.

Lupin and Black force Pettigrew back into his human form preparing to kill him, but Harry intervenes saying that his father would not have wanted his two best friends to become killers. Pettigrew is instead to be turned over to the Dementors. As the group heads to the castle, the full moon rises; Lupin transforms into a werewolf, and Pettigrew manages to escape in the confusion. Lupin and Black fight in their animal forms, until Lupin is distracted by another animal's howls. Dementors attack Black and Harry. As Dementors are preparing to suck out their souls and perform the Dementor's Kiss, Harry sees a distant figure cast a powerful stag-shaped Patronus that scatters the Dementors and sends them away. Harry believes the mysterious figure is his dead father.

Harry passes out from the trauma, and awakens to find he is in Hogwarts and Sirius has been captured. Acting on advice from Dumbledore, Hermione reveals that she possesses a time-turner that she has used all year to take multiple classes simultaneously. She and Harry travel back in time three hours, watching themselves repeat that night's events. They free Buckbeak and return to the Whomping Willow. As the Dementors overpower Black and his earlier self, Harry realises that he himself was the one to cast the Patronus and rushes to do so. Harry and Hermione then rescue Black, who escapes on Buckbeak, commenting that they are both now fugitives. Lupin resigns the next day, knowing that parents will object to a werewolf teaching their children. Shortly after, Black anonymously sends Harry a Firebolt, the fastest racing broom ever made.




With Prisoner of Azkaban, production of the Harry Potter films switched to an eighteen-month cycle, which producer David Heyman explained was "to give each [film] the time it required."[3] Chris Columbus, the director of the previous two films, decided not to return and helm the third instalment as he "hadn't seen [his] own kids for supper in the week for about two and a half years."[13] Even so, he remained on as a producer alongside Heyman.[14] Guillermo del Toro was approached to direct, but considered the film "so bright and happy and full of light, that [he] wasn't interested."[15] Marc Forster turned down the film because he had made Finding Neverland and did not want to direct child actors again. Warner Bros. then composed a three-name short list for Columbus's replacement, which comprised Callie Khouri, Kenneth Branagh (who played Gilderoy Lockhart in Chamber of Secrets) and eventual selection Alfonso Cuarón.[16] Cuarón was initially nervous about accepting as he had not read any of the books, or seen the films. After reading the series, he changed his mind and signed on to direct,[17] as he had immediately connected to the story.[14] Cuarón's appointment pleased J. K. Rowling who loved his film Y tu mamá también and was impressed with his adaptation of A Little Princess.[18] Heyman found that "tonally and stylistically, [Cuarón] was the perfect fit."[3] As his first exercise with the actors who portray the central trio, Cuarón assigned Radcliffe, Grint and Watson to write an autobiographical essay about their character, written in the first person, spanning birth to the discovery of the magical world, and including the character's emotional experience. Of Rupert Grint's essay, Cuarón recalls, "Rupert didn't deliver the essay. When I questioned why he didn't do it, he said, 'I'm Ron; Ron wouldn't do it.' So I said, 'Okay, you do understand your character.' That was the most important piece of acting work that we did on Prisoner of Azkaban, because it was very clear that everything they put in those essays was going to be the pillars they were going to hold on to for the rest of the process."[5][19]


File:Loch Shiel - Glenfinnan bay (Scotland).jpg

Principal photography began on 24 February 2003,[4] at Leavesden Film Studios, and concluded in October 2003.[20]

Some sets for the film were built in Glen Coe, Scotland, near the Clachaig Inn. The indoor sets, including ones built for the previous two films, are mainly in Leavesden Film Studios. The Hogwarts Lake was filmed from Loch Shiel, Loch Eilt and Loch Morar in the Scottish Highlands. Incidentally, the train bridge, which was also featured in the Chamber of Secrets, is opposite Loch Shiel and was used to film the sequences when the Dementor boarded the train. A small section of the triple-decker bus scene, where it weaves in between traffic, was filmed in North London's Palmers Green. Some parts were also filmed in and around Borough Market and Lambeth Bridge in London.

The Honeydukes set in this film is a redress of the set of Flourish & Blotts that was seen in Chamber of Secrets, which, in turn, was a redress of the Ollivanders set from the first film.

Rowling allowed Cuarón to make minor changes to the book, on the condition that he stuck to the book's spirit.[17] She allowed him to place a sundial on Hogwarts' grounds, but rejected a graveyard, as that would play an important part in the then unreleased sixth book.[17] Rowling said she "got goosebumps" when she saw several moments in the film, as they inadvertently referred to events in the final two books, she stated "people are going to look back on the film and think that those were put in deliberately as clues."[18] When filming concluded, Cuarón found that it had "been the two sweetest years of my life," and expressed his interest in directing one of the sequels.[17]


Cuarón originally wanted to move away from CGI toward puppetry. He hired master underwater puppeteer Basil Twist to help, using puppets to study the potential movement of the Dementors.[3] Once it became apparent that puppetry would be too expensive and unable to portray the specific elements of the Dementors, Cuarón turned to CGI; however, he and his team did use footage of Dementor puppets underwater as a basis for the flowing movements of the computer-generated Dementors.

The Knight Bus segment when Harry is being taken to The Leaky Cauldron uses the technique known as bullet time, popularised in The Matrix series of films. This segment takes humorous advantage of the magic quality of the Harry Potter world by having the Muggle world go into bullet time while inside the Knight Bus, Harry, Stan Shunpike and Ernie Prang (and the talking shrunken head) keep moving in real time.


Main article: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (soundtrack)

The Academy Award-nominated score was the third and final score in the series to be composed and conducted by John Williams. It was released on CD on 25 May 2004. In general, this film's music is not as bright as that of the previous films, with distinct medieval influences in the instrumentation. One of the new themes, "Double Trouble," was written during production so that a children's choir could perform it in Hogwarts's Great Hall in one of the film's earlier scenes. The lyrics of "Double Trouble" are from a ritual performed by the Weïrd Sisters in Act 4, Scene 1 of Shakespeare's Macbeth.[21] The film's trailer prominently features the cues "Anticipation" and "Progeny" by Brand X Music, a trailer music band.

Differences from the bookEdit

Prisoner of Azkaban was, at the time of publication, the series' longest book. The increasing plot complexity necessitated a looser adaptation of the book's finer plot lines and back-story. The film opens with Harry using magic to light his wand in short bursts, whereas in the same scene in the book, he uses a flashlight, as performing magic is illegal for wizards under the age of seventeen. Also in the book, there is no shrunken head in the Knight Bus, while in the film, a rude shrunken head talks through most of the Knight Bus scene. The connection between Harry's parents and the Marauder's Map is only briefly mentioned,[22] as is Remus Lupin's association to both the map and James Potter.[23] Additionally, it was never mentioned who the Marauders were or who the nicknames (Mooney, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs) belonged to. Some exposition was removed for dramatic effect: both the Shrieking Shack and Scabbers the rat are mentioned only very briefly in the film, while they receive a more thorough coverage in the novel.[22] Most of Sirius Black's back story is also cut, with no mention of the manner of his escape from Azkaban.[23]

On account of pace and time considerations, the film glosses over detailed descriptions of magical education. Only one Hippogriff, Buckbeak, is seen, and only Malfoy and Harry are seen interacting with the Hippogriff during Care of Magical Creatures lessons, and most other lessons, including all of Snape's potions classes, were cut from the film.[22] The Fidelius Charm's complicated description is removed entirely from the film, with no explanation given of exactly how Black "betrayed" the Potters to Lord Voldemort. Many of this scene's lines are redistributed amongst Cornelius Fudge and Minerva McGonagall; in compensation, McGonagall's exposition of the Animagus transformation is instead given by Snape.[22]

In the film, where Harry and Hermione have travelled back in time and are hiding outside of Hagrid's hut, it is heavily implied that Dumbledore somehow knows that they are there, as he distracts the other characters at key moments or slows down the proceedings (such as by suggesting that he sign Buckbeak's execution order as well, then after Fudge agrees he says it will take some time as he has an extremely long name), which allows Harry and Hermione time to free Buckbeak unseen. In the book, Dumbledore merely comments that the executioner must sign the order, right before he is about to leave the cabin to execute Buckbeak.

The embryonic romantic connection between Ron and Hermione is more prominent in the film than the book; in response to criticism of the first two films for sacrificing character development for mystery and adventure, the emotional development of all three lead characters is given more attention in the third film.[22] However, some critics and fans thought that the result was a murky plotline. That said, any mention of the beginnings of Harry's crush on Cho Chang is removed.[24] Harry's darker side is first glimpsed in this film, when Harry proclaims, "I hope he [Black] finds me. Because when he does, I'm going to be ready. When he does, I'm going to kill him!"[22] Also, Harry receives the Firebolt at the film's end, while in the book he receives it anonymously at Christmas and it is confiscated for a few weeks to be checked for possible jinxes by Professor Flitwick and Madam Hooch.



As with the series' previous instalments, Prisoner of Azkaban was a large merchandising opportunity.[25] The video game version, designed by EA UK, was released 25 May 2004 in North America and 29 May 2004 in Europe. Mattel released film tie-ins that included the Harry Potter Championship Quidditch board game and character action figures.[26] Lego also expanded on its previous merchandising for the first two films with the release of sets ranging from the Knight Bus to the Shrieking Shack.[27]

Theatrical releaseEdit

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban held its New York premiere at Radio City Music Hall on 23 May 2004,[28] followed by its London premiere at Leicester Square on 30 May 2004.[29] The film then opened in the United Kingdom on 31 May 2004 and on 4 June 2004 in the United States. It was the first film in the series to be released in both conventional and IMAX theatres.[30]


Box officeEdit

Upon release, the film broke the record for biggest single day in the United Kingdom's box office history making £5.3 million on a Monday.[31] It went on to break records both with and without previews making a stunning £23.9 million including previews[32] and £9.3 million excluding them.[33] The Prisoner of Azkaban currently has the highest-opening weekend at the U.K.'s box office. It went on to make a total of £45.6 million in the U.K.[34] The film made $93.7 million during its opening weekend in the United States and Canada at 3,855 theatres, achieving, at the time, the third biggest-opening weekend of all time.[35] This opening also broke Hulk's record ($62.1 million) for the highest-opening weekend for a film released in June.[35] The Prisoner of Azkaban held this record for five years until Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen topped it in 2009 with $108.9 million.[36]

The Prisoner of Azkaban made a total of $796.6 million worldwide,[1] which made it 2004's second highest-grossing film worldwide behind Shrek 2.[37] In the U.S. and Canada, it was only the year's sixth highest-grossing film, making $249.5 million.[38] Everywhere else in the world, however, it was the year's number one film, making $547 million compared to Shrek 2's $478.6 million.[39] Despite its successful box office run, Azkaban is currently the lowest-grossing Harry Potter film (all the other Harry Potter films have grossed more than US $875 million worldwide). Still, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is currently the thirty-ninth highest-grossing film in history.

Critical receptionEdit

Prisoner of Azkaban earned notable critical acclaim, garnering a 90% "Certified Fresh" approval rating at the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes with a consensus stating,"In Cuaron's hands, Azkaban has emotional depth to go along with the technical wizardry."[40] The film also received a score of 82 out of 100 at Metacritic, which signifies "universal acclaim."[41]

Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle lauded the film's more mature tone and said it was "darker, more complex, rooted in character."[42] The Hollywood Reporter called the film "a deeper, darker, visually arresting and more emotionally satisfying adaptation of the J.K. Rowling literary phenomenon," especially compared to the first two instalments.[43] Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave the film three-and-a-half out of four stars: "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."[44] Stephanie Zacharek of asserts it to be "one of the greatest fantasy films of all time."[45] Nicole Arthur of The Washington Post praised the film as "complex, frightening, [and] nuanced."[46] Roger Ebert gave the film three-and-a-half out of four stars, saying that the film was not quite as good as the first two, but still called it "delightful, amusing and sophisticated"[47] Claudia Puig from USA Today found the film to be "a visual delight," and added that "Cuaron is not afraid to make a darker film and tackle painful emotions."[48] while Richard Roeper called the film "a creative triumph."[49] Sean Smith from Newsweek said: "The Prisoner of Azkaban boasts a brand-new director and a bold new vision," he also called the film "moving," praising the performances by Radcliffe and Watson,[50] while Entertainment Weekly praised the film for being more mature than its predecessors.[51]

Rex Reed, of The New York Observer, pointed out some unnecessary stylistic changes, calling it "the silliest, as well as the most contrived – and confusing – of them all."


Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was nominated for Best Original Music Score (John Williams) and Best Visual Effects at the 77th Academy Awards held in 2005.[52] This was the second film in the series to be nominated for an Oscar.

The film also ranks at No. 471 in Empire magazine's 2008 list of the 500 greatest movies of all time.[53] IGN designated Prisoner of Azkaban as the fifth best fantasy film.[54] Additionally, Moviefone designated the film as the tenth best of the decade. In 2011, the film was voted Film of the Decade at the First Light Awards by children aged 5–15.[55]

American Film Institute recognition


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