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Film / Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

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"Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, when one only remembers to turn on the light."
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 wraith-like creatures, to guard Hogwarts. But the Dementors are not particularly choosy about who they seek to capture or debilitate, and they seem to have an unusual attraction (and reaction) with Harry in particular.

The film's defining characteristics are its darker tone, both in terms of subject matter and cinematography, and its being the series' first distinctly pragmatic adaptation, taking a more character-driven approach that deviated from the events of the book. Both of these distinguished it noticeably from the light, faithful approach of the first two movies (both directed by Chris Columbus).


While it can be seen as the most controversial film in the series for this reason, it opened to mass critical success and is highly seen as an apex for the series not only in terms of quality but influence, 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.


Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban contains examples of:

  • 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.
  • Adapted Out:
    • Sir Cadogan never appears, and as such his role of replacing the Fat Lady as Gryffindor's portrait is only shown as a deleted scene. He does appear in the video game, though.
    • Due to Quidditch being mostly written out, Cho Chang does not appear until the next film.
    • The feeble, elderly member from the Committee for the Disposal of Dangerous Creature never appears.
  • Adaptation Expansion: In the film, Hermione is shown popping up seemingly out of nowhere during lessons, reflecting how she's using the Time-Turner. This doesn't happen in the book, where Ron merely wonders how she is getting to all her classes and it isn't explained until the climax.
  • Adaptational Badass: In the books, Harry needs Ron and Hermione’s help to subdue Sirius Black. Here, it’s just him and he uses much less effort. Later in the scene, he performs a fully-fledged Expelliarmus on Snape using Hermione’s wand, a feat that would be much more difficult using a wand that hadn’t chosen him, and was only accomplished in the book by Harry, Ron and Hermione using Expelliarmus on Snape simultaneously.
  • Adaptational Explanation: In the book, Harry realizing that the patronus that saved them all was his own comes as a random Eureka Moment. The film adds a few more scenes of future Harry and Hermione influencing past events (like Hermione throwing the rocks into Hagrid's hut to warn their past selves, and howling to distract Lupin in his werewolf form), so there is a solid basis for Harry's realization.
  • Adaptational Heroism: We don't get the scene of Snape forcing Neville to feed a faulty potion to his toad, with Snape gleefully saying if Neville got it wrong then Trevor would die. In the book, Snape had been unconscious because of the spell cast by Hermione, Ron, and Harry and had to be suspended in mid-air by magic to be brought out of the Shrieking Shack. He was not there to protect Hermione, Ron, and Harry when Lupin transformed into a werewolf, but in the film, Snape was left behind, but suddenly regained consciousness to protect Harry, Ron, and Hermione from Lupin. In the book, Snape regains consciousness only after Sirius, Hermione, and Harry become unconscious because of the Dementors.
  • Adaptational Jerkass: The scene where Ron defends Hermione after Snape refers to her as an "insufferable know-it-all" is replaced with him agreeing with the professor.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: Snape tells Dumbledore that Harry needs to know the truth about Sirius Black. Snape in the book was perfectly fine with keeping Harry in the dark. And if anything, he always criticizes Dumbledore for telling Harry anything because he doesn't think he's capable, competent or anyone special, and he outright resents Dumbledore for giving Harry private lessons and telling him stuff that he doesn't tell Snape. Also, when he realizes there's an angry werewolf standing behind him, the first thing he does is to push Harry, Ron and Hermione, three students he loathes, behind himself to protect them. In the book, he was knocked out for the entire events. Likewise, the entire sequence earlier in the book where Snape sadistically tries to test Neville's dodgy potion on the boy's pet toad is removed.
  • Adaptational Wimp: The following text appears in the book, after Harry and Hermione find Ron and Sirius in the Shrieking Shack: Ron spoke to Black. "If you want to kill Harry, you'll have to kill us too!" he said fiercely, though the effort of standing upright was draining him of more colour, and he swayed slightly as he spoke. In the film, the line was spoken by Hermione while Ron remained in the corner and did not say or do anything.
  • Adaptation Explanation Extrication: Has its own page.
  • Adaptation Induced Plothole: Has its own page.
  • Adapted Out: Because most of the Quidditch season is never shown, Cho is not introduced. When she first appears in the next film, it's a Remember the New Guy? introduction.
  • Almost Holding Hands: Hermione and Ron touch hands in fear when first introduced to Buckbeak, but soon pull apart.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Cuarón and David Thewlis were both under the impression that Lupin was gay and worked it into crafting the latter's performance. Cuarón specifically told him to play Lupin as a "gay junkie".
  • Answer Cut: Doubles as a Rewatch Bonus; Harry asks Mr. Weasley why he would look for someone that wants to kill him and the film cuts to Mrs. Weasley moving through a crowd trying to find Ron so she can hand over Scabbers. The frame after the cut is centered on Scabbers, someone that wants to kill Harry's parents and someone who Harry will look for later to return to his owner, Ron.
  • Avian Flute: At one point, we start following a small bird as it flies around the Hogwarts grounds, accompanied by a very fast flute piece (starting at 1:50) that highlights its flight until it meets an unfortunate end at the Whomping Willow.
  • Baleful Polymorph: Remus Lupin is a werewolf. Should he forget to drink his Wolfsbane potion, he loses his mind upon transforming and becomes a feral, highly aggressive beast.
  • Balloon Belly: Harry subconsciously casts a spell that inflates Aunt Marge after he's had enough of her insulting his mother.
  • Big "SHUT UP!": Harry says this twice to Aunt Marge at the kitchen table after she calls his mother a "bitch".
  • Big, Thin, Short Trio: The Slytherin bullies in this film are Crabbe (big), Pike (thin) and Malfoy (short).
  • Body Horror:
    • Lupin undergoes a painful transformation into a werewolf at the night of the full moon.
    • Marge is inflated into a blimp by Harry's magic.
  • 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 later in the series, how/where Dumbledore dies in then yet-to-be-published The Half-Blood Prince.
  • The Cameo:
  • Camera Abuse: The Whomping Willow shakes off snow and frost during the transition to spring, and wet stuff slides down the camera lens in response.
  • Canon Foreigner:
    • The film makers added Shrunken heads that have the ability to talk, probably to add humour. So far these creatures have been unique to this film only. In an interview on the DVD release, J. K. Rowling said the addition of the shrunken heads had her full support, and she only wished she'd thought of them herself.
    • The Hogwarts choir doesn't exist in the book and Alfonso Cuarón only added it for the film, however, it was later mentioned in the sixth film as well (in the scene in which Professor Flitwick uses "emergency choir practice" as an excuse to escape a conversation with Professor Slughorn).
    • The part of Bem was created solely for the film, he explains to Seamus Finnigan what the Grim is and also expresses his concern over the Dementors effectiveness at catching Sirius.
  • 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.
    Harry: [completely deadpan] You tell those spiders, Ron.
    Ron: Okay, I'll tell them... [passes out]
  • Catch a Falling Star: After Harry falls off his broom, Dumbledore saves him by casting the spell Arresto Momentum, which, doing Exactly What It Says on the Tin, slowed him down.
  • Chaos Architecture: Hogwarts has a drastically different layout—both inside and outside—than how it appears in previous films, and most of it stays this way for the remainder of the series. In-universe, this can be handwaved by the magical properties of not only the school, but its inhabitants. Out-of-universe, the director was interested in making creative changes that he hoped would have a lasting impact on the series.
  • 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 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.
  • Decomposite Character: While the book has Peeves describe Sirius Black's attack on the Fat Lady's portrait after learning about this from her when he saw her in a portrait on the fourth floor, in the film it was the Fat Lady herself that described the attack from a nearby portrait.
  • Demoted to Extra: Cedric Diggory, the Hufflepuff Seeker, is present in the film, but only in a cameo and is never referred to by name. He gets a proper introduction in the next film, where he has a much more integral role.
  • 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.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Hermoine channels a fundamental Gryffindor trait, her future self emulating a werewolf howl to draw the out-of-control Lupin away from Harry's past self. Harry's future self tries to stop her, questioning exactly what she's doing, when Hermoine matter-of-factly states she's saving his life. Harry thanks her, then immediately notes this means out-of-control werewolf Lupin is headed straight for them.
    Hermoine: Yeah, didn't think about that. Run!
  • Drives Like Crazy: The Knight Bus is a magical vehicle that can shapeshift and contort to quickly get through traffic, enabling the driver to perform otherwise careless maneuvers at high speed.
  • Dropped Glasses: Harry loses his glasses in the scene where he and Hermione try to evade the Whomping Willow. 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, the heroes 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. Provides the page image.
  • For Doom the Bell Tolls: A set of tubular bells is heard when Sirius Black appears in the flesh for the first time.
  • 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.
    • During the Care of Magical Creatures Class, when Hermione runs up to tell Hagrid to take Malfoy up to the hospital wing, her Time Turner can clearly be seen around her neck.
    • 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.
    • 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. This is the most obvious hint at his true nature as a werewolf.
    • 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 will reveal that he's a Death Eater.
    • During the first Divination class, Ron's prediction for Harry is that "You're gonna suffer, but you're gonna be happy about it." How does Harry deal with the Dementors at the climax? Using the Patronus Charm, a spell that needs happy thoughts.
  • Forgot About His Powers: Despite using the Freezing Charm in the previous film to defeat an entire army of pixies, Hermione seemingly forgets about it in this one, leading to her and Harry struggling to make it through the Whomping Willow. Lupin didn't forget and immediately use it to freeze the plant 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.
    • When Harry is walking the streets after leaving the Dursley home, Marge can be seen still floating around in the night sky yelling for help.
  • 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.
  • Glass Smack and Slide:
    • An unusual variant when Aunt Marge is blown up and floating away, she slides along the Dursleys' sun room ceiling.
    • Whenever the Knight Bus stops, Harry winds up slamming into the front window.
  • 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.
  • Hidden Depths: In the film, Dean is the one who identifies that a boggart is in the banging closet and not Hermione. Lupin praises him for answering the question correctly.
  • High-Up Ice-Up: Harry flies upward to escape the Dementors when they attack during a Quidditch game in a violent, winter thunderstorm. As Harry climbs higher and higher, ice forms on his hair, clothes, and broomstick while his face sustains multiple cuts from the rain becoming more icicle-like.
  • 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 make their debuts in this film.
  • "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 in scene transitions, to subtly highlight something important to the audience.
  • Irony: The students are taught that, to defend themselves against a Boggart, they must transform the monster into a source of laughter, so Parvati casts a spell that turns it into a giant Jack-in-the-Box. However, Harry is shown to be disturbed by the clown, as it reminds him of a Dementor. This enables the Boggart to transform into such a creature, which is far more dangerous than any of its previous forms.
  • 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.
  • Lighter and Softer: Not for the most part, but a minor example in regards to Harry's past. In the books, the happy memory he uses to create a Patronus while training with Lupin is finally leaving the Dursleys. In the film, he has a memory (albeit one he admits may not be real) of his parents talking to him as a baby.
  • 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.
  • Loophole Abuse: A Boggart can assume the form of a person's greatest fear, but can be easily defeated provided the wizard can think of something funny to transform the creature into. However, if the Boggart takes the form of a Dementor, it can drain the victim's happy memories, leaving them helpless against it. As Harry learns later in the film, the only way to counter the Boggart in this scenario is with the Patronus charm, which is much harder to master than the ordinary Boggart-banishing spell.
  • 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.
  • Musical Nod: Parvati's snake Boggart is accompanied by the snake theme from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Of course, both films were scored by John Williams.
  • Papa Wolf: When he realizes that Harry's boggart has turned into a Dementor, which Ridiculus can't repel, Lupin dives in front of Harry so that it will change shape. Later, due to Adapatation Induced Plothole, he doesn't acknowledge this and instead told Harry he thought Voldemort would appear.
  • 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.
  • The Quiet One: Dudley Dursley has no lines in this film, due to not having any lines in the script. However, only a bit of his voice can be heard when he laughs before Aunt Marge kisses him and when he grunts the first time and the second time after 2 of Aunt Marge's buttons fly off her shirt and hit him on the forehead those two different times.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Goyle has a smaller role in this, due to his actor breaking his arm and being unable to film certain scenes. Bronson Webb was cast as a Slytherin boy called Pike to fill Goyle's role for those scenes.
  • Revealing Continuity Lapse: Hermione using her Time-Turner to attend multiple classes at once is depicted by her appearing in classes between shots.
  • 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.
    • Lupin in his werewolf form also does this when confronted by Buckbeak. A werewolf is clearly no match for a pissed-off Hippogriff, and the werewolf wastes no time getting away from Buckbeak.
  • 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.
  • Took a Level in Kindness:
    • Downplayed, and only an isolated case, but Vernon is much more subdued in this film, even readily agreeing to sign a Hogwarts form if Harry behaves himself at dinner. It helps that he manages to look a saint next to his even more spiteful and downright cruel sister, Marge, and that he's clearly frightened of what Harry is capable of.
    • Snape compared to his book counterpart; when Lupin transforms into his wolf form, Snape immediately shields the heroes by putting himself in front of them.
  • 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.
    • When Marge comes out of the house and starts floating away into the sky, Petunia's response is... to wave slowly, as if Marge were merely driving away.
  • 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.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Neville confesses that Professor Snape is his worst fear, and Lupin smiles, saying that Snape scares everyone. He reassures Neville as the class is laughing, telling him a boggart helps you face your worst fear. Then he whispers to Neville a suggestion, and Neville is able to summon Snape in his grandmother's clothes.


Video Example(s):


The Time-Turner

Harry and Hermione go back in time three hours

How well does it match the trope?

4.64 (11 votes)

Example of:

Main / TimeTravel

Media sources:

Main / TimeTravel