Film / Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Arthur Weasley: Harry, I want you to swear to me that whatever you might hear, you won't go looking for Black.
Harry: Mr. Weasley, why would I go looking for someone who wants to kill me?

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is the third Harry Potter film, released in 2004 and directed by Alfonso Cuarón.

Sirius Black, a mass murderer believed to have been a supporter of Voldemort, has escaped from Azkaban, the wizarding prison, and is allegedly out to kill Harry. In response, the Ministry of Magic sends Dementors, a race of dreadful creatures, to guard Hogwarts and their powers seem to affect Harry especially.

What differentiates POA from the first two movies is that it develops a highly divergent path from the book, taking a more unique and character-driven approach, while the first two movies (both directed by Chris Columbus) were notably undeviating when compared to the original books. Prisoner can be easily be seen as the most controversial film in the series, but it opened to mass critical success and is highly seen as the most important and pivotal Potter film, as future films took similar risks to abandon a linear perspective in favor of more cinematic elements.

Came out one year after Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix hit bookshelves.

Followed by Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Tropes exclusive to this film:

  • Abandoned Playground: The first indications of the Knight Bus' arrival include swings that start moving softly, as does a merry-go-round and a seesaw. The effect is excellently eerie.
  • Adaptation Expansion: Hermione is shown popping up seemingly out of nowhere during lessons, reflecting how she's using the Time Turner. In the book Ron merely wondered how she was getting to all her classes and it wasn't explained until the climax.
  • Adaptational Heroism: In the book Snape was unconscious throughout Lupin's transformation and Pettigrew's escape. In the film, he comes boiling up out of the Whomping Willow after having woken up in the shack, just in time to come face to face with a transformed werewolf - and immediately puts himself between the beast and his students.
  • Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole:
    • In the book Lupin warns Harry that Sirius could use the map to find him. It's eventually revealed that he knows this because they helped write it. The movie doesn't reveal this, rendering this warning kind of moot. Likewise the identities of Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs aren't stated (but are at least implied).
    • A smaller case: Lupin stops Harry from facing the boggart in class because he fears it would turn into Lord Voldemort. In the book he jumps in front of Harry before he can face it. In the movie however the boggart clearly turns into a Dementor. The odd thing is that Lupin uses the Voldemort excuse when explaining it later.
    • Otherwise subverted with werewolves. In the book Snape asks students how to distinguish between a werewolf and a true wolf (and werewolves look like normal wolves in this case). In the film the werewolf looks more like a traditional man-wolf hybrid. So Snape's question instead becomes how to tell between a werewolf and animagus.
    • Inverted when it comes to the Time Turner. Harry discovers who really cast the Patronus through a sudden eureka moment in the book. However the movie foreshadows that the future selves influence past events.
    • Harry practicing Lumos Maxima in his bedroom has no repercussions for him whatsoever despite the film establishing shortly afterwards that underage wizards aren't allowed to cast spells in the muggle world.
  • Bad "Bad Acting": Harry when telling Aunt Marge about his "experience" at St. Brutus's.
  • Baleful Polymorph: Remus Lupin; understandable, as he is a werewolf. Even worse when he's forgotten his Wolfsbane potion as it causes him to lose his mind as well.
  • Balloon Belly: Aunt Marge. Good lord.
    • Popping Buttons: The intensity of which, on its own merits, justifies this scene being committed to film. Just ask Dudley, who gets hit with buttons three times and is knocked out.
  • Big "SHUT UP!": Harry says this twice to Aunt Marge at the kitchen table.
  • Body Horror: Lupin's painful transformation into a werewolf.
    • Marge watching herself inflate into a blimp due to Harry's magic also counts.
  • Brick Joke: While riding the Knight Bus, the shrunken head warns Harry that "If you order the pea soup, be sure to eat it before it eats you." Later, while talking with Fudge, he offers Harry some pea soup, which Harry adamantly refuses.
  • Call-Forward: After Harry falls off his broom, the Weasley twins comment on how high he fell and say to Ron "We'll walk you off the Astronomy Tower and see how you come out looking", unintentionally foreshadowing how/where Dumbledore dies in The Half-Blood Prince.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Ron has one which segues right into a Waking Non Sequitur, in which he begins talking about spiders that wanted him to tap dance.
  • Conviction by Contradiction: With Fidelius Charm being cut out Peter being the one who betrayed Potters comes of like this since the only thing that "proved" his guilt was that he faked his death and was pretending to be a rat for twelve years.
  • Cut To The Funny: After Harry arrives to the Leaky Cauldron, Cornelius Fudge gives a long talk about how they caught Aunt Marge and deleted her memory after Harry accidentally blew her up. During this, instead of Fudge's face, we see Tom the Barkeep offer Harry some disgusting-looking pea-soup and bread.
  • Darker and Edgier: Goes along with the aging of the characters and thus the target audience along with them. Marks a distinct turning point for the film franchise, where everything from the music to the cinematography to Hogwarts' very architecture has taken a turn for the complex and the noir.
  • Denser and Wackier: At the same time, besides being a Breather Episode, the film's tone shifts to more overt Tim Burton-style quirkiness in its comedic moments. Even the ominous scenes have swapped the previous Voldemort-centered mood for more generic scares, such as werewolves, the Grim, or Dementors.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: While Aunt Marge's treatment of Harry was quite rude, and deserving of harsh correction, the body horror of her transformation seems out of line with her actual transgressions and suggests that magic be used to silence someone whose words you don't want to hear.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Doesn't even begin to describe the Knight Bus. "It's gonna be a bumpy ride!"
  • Dropped Glasses: Harry during the Whomping Willow scene. We even get to see through his perspective (it looks awfully blurry).
  • Epic Rocking: The soundtrack ends with the 12-minute "Mischief Managed".
  • Fake Kill Scare: At one point, they hear what they think is Buckbeak being executed. It turns out to be the executioner slicing a pumpkin with his axe after he finds out Buckbeak escaped.
  • Flat "What.": Harry does this when Hagrid tells him that he can ride Buckbeak.
  • Fly-at-the-Camera Ending: Harry, on his Firebolt. Not only that, but just as Harry's about to fly into the camera, a freeze-frame occurs that smushes his face all over the screen. Hard not to be startled by. Provides the page image.
    • The same smudge effect is used when someone is receiving a Dementor's Kiss.
  • Foreshadowing: Near the beginning of the film, there's a Freeze-Frame Bonus where you see a wizard in the Leaky Cauldron is seen reading A Brief History of Time. The last act is based heavily around time travel.
    • Lupin teaching Harry's class how to deal with the Boggart, a magical creature that is warded off with the combination of a spell and positive thoughts, foreshadowing him teaching Harry how to deal with Dementors.
    • In this class, we learn that the Boggart can take on the form of a person's greatest fear. When Lupin pushes himself in front of Harry to protect him from the Boggart-as-Dementor, the boggart turns into a full moon. Why a full moon? Hmmmm...
    • In the very next scene in the movie, Snape has to cover Lupin's class (because Lupin is "unable to teach at the moment" and he jumps ahead a few chapters to do a lesson on werewolves. He then finds an excuse to assign the entire class (or maybe it's just Gryffindor) to write up a report on werewolves, focusing on recognizing them, due the next day.
    • One extremely subtle one — the silent executioner, Walden MacNair, grins at Harry when he walks past him. Goblet of Fire (the book, anyway) will reveal that he's a Death Eater.
  • Forgot About His Powers: Harry and Hermione apparently forgot that Freezing Charm exists, especially ridiculous for the latter who used it to freeze an entire army of pixies in the previous movie. Lupin didn't forget and immediately use it to freeze the Whomping Willow so he can enter the secret passage to Shrieking Shack.
  • Freeze-Frame Ending: The film ends with a freeze-frame of Harry flying towards the camera on his brand-new Firebolt broomstick.
  • Funny Background Event: When Harry and Hermione are going back in time in the infirmary, one can see somebody getting completely wrapped in bandages from the waist up.
  • Genius Book Club: Played for Laughs with a sight gag in the Leaky Cauldron, where an anonymous wizard (one who clearly has questions about living in a fantasy universe) is reading A Brief History of Time.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: A sharp eye during the credits might catch something interesting.
  • Glass-Shattering Sound: The Fat Lady attempts this, but has to resort to breaking the glass on her frame.
  • Got Volunteered: When Hagrid asks who in the class wants to ride Buckbeak, everyone but Harry takes a step backwards.
  • Homoerotic Subtext: Intentionally invoked with Sirius and Lupin, according to Alfonso Cuarón. Apparently, the director thought that Lupin was a "gay junkie".
  • Iconic Outfit: Hermione's pink hooded sweater and Harry's blue shirt.
  • "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: Sirius invokes this to stave off Remus's transformation. It doesn't work.
  • Iris Out: Used frequently.
  • Jump Scare:
  • The Last of These Is Not Like the Others: During the first night back at Hogwarts, the Gryffindor third-year boys eat different candies that have them emulate animals; Seamus gets a monkey, Neville an elephant and Ron gets a lion. When Harry gets one, he has steam coming out of his ears.
  • Like an Old Married Couple: Lupin and Sirius start arguing, even with Snape pressing his wand into Sirius' neck. Snape even lampshades it.
    Lupin: Severus, don't be a fool.
    Sirius: He can't help it, it's bound to be a habit by now.
    Lupin: Sirius, be quiet!
    Sirius: Be quiet yourself, Remus!
    Snape: Oh listen to you two, quarreling like an old married couple.
  • Midflight Water Touching: When Harry flies around Hogwarts on the back of Buckbeak, the hippogriff flies close to the Hogwarts' lake and touches the water with one of its talons.
  • The Oner: As a staple of Alfonso Cuarón, the film contains several of these.
  • Pet the Dog: When Snape realizes there's an angry werewolf standing behind him, the first thing he does is to push three students he loathes behind himself to protect them.
  • Precision F-Strike: In Aunt Marge's scene, she uses the word "bitch", albeit as a term for a female dog. The intent, however, is very much there. Using the metaphor of dogs breeding was just a convenient way for her to call Harry's mother that.
  • Prompting Nudge: Ron has to nudge Harry during the Hippogriff lesson in order for him to go forward as Hagrid had asked.
  • Scooby Stack: The trio do this on their way out of Hagrid's hut when Fudge, Dumbledore, and the executioner arrive.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Harry spells this out to the Dursleys after Vernon has the nerve to demand he restore Marge to normal after the relentless verbal abuse he had been dealt by her earlier, and takes his leave back to school alone.
  • Sequel Escalation: As with the book, averted; this is the only entry without some form of Voldemort, the antagonist is actually not after Harry at all, and the climax doesn't involve a heavy action sequence coming off the titular Chamber of Secrets scene in the previous movie.
  • Shout-Out: To Shakespeare: Two to Macbeth:
    • The song "Double Trouble" is composed of lines from the Three Witches' chant.
    • The film's tagline in the poster pictured above is a direct quote from one of the Witches.
  • Shrunken Head: The film has a number of talking shrunken heads, most prominently the one on the Knight Bus that speaks instead of Ernie, the bus driver. They are mostly wise-cracking Plucky Comic Relief characters, although they also provide some exposition. They don't appear in the book, though J.K. Rowling has said she wishes she'd thought of it.
  • The Snack Is More Interesting: While Harry interacts with Buckbeak the hippogriff, Draco Malfoy casually munches on an apple to show his contempt with the proceedings.
  • Snow Means Love: Adds an Innocent Innuendo to a snowy, wintry scene between Ron and Hermione.
    Hermione: Do you want to get closer?
    Ron: Huh?!
    Hermione: To the Shrieking Shack?
    Ron: No, I'm good.
  • Stab the Salad: When the execution of Buckbeak is thwarted, the executioner chops a pumpkin in frustration.
  • Suddenly SHOUTING!:
    Harry: [while crying] "He was their friend.... but, he betrayed them." [beat] "HE WAS THEIR FRIEND!"
  • That Poor Car: When the Knight Bus arrives at the Leaky Cauldron, it is unable to completely stop and while it decelerates it nudges into a car, sounding its alarm. It apparently belongs to Tom, who shuts off the alarm.
  • That Poor Cat: Directly after the Knight Bus leaves after dropping off Harry at the Leaky Cauldron.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Dudley is taking the sight of his own aunt blowing up into a balloon much too calmly and focuses more on dinner and the TV when she floats off. True, it's clear he isn't exactly fond of his aunt, but still.
  • Waking Non Sequitur: See Catapult Nightmare.
  • Weirdness Censor: When Marge is being blown up, she doesn't react as if what is happening to her is impossible. It is more "Help me, Vernon!" than "What is happening to me!"
  • Wolf Man: Unlike the book where Lupin's werewolf form looks almost like a normal wolf, in this film he has a generally humanoid shape with wolf-like snout and ears, clawed hands and digitigrade feet.