close [×]

Dear Flixster Community,

After seven fabulous years with you all, we are sorry to let you know that we're going to be retiring the Flixster Community site on September 30, 2014. Please note that you can still access your ratings, reviews, and quizzes on Flixster and Rotten Tomatoes using your same login. We have had so much fun building this community with you.

Thanks for all the memories,

Get movie widget Recommend it Add to Favorites

Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane ... see more see more... , Alan Rickman , Richard Harris , Richard Griffiths , Ian Hart , John Hurt , Warwick Davis , Fiona Shaw , John Cleese , Julie Walters , Sean Biggerstaff , ZoŽ Wanamaker , Tom Felton , Harry Melling , Matthew Lewis , David Bradley , Bonnie Wright , James Phelps , Oliver Phelps , Chris Rankin , Devon Murray , Verne Troyer

The best-selling novel by J.K. Rowling (titled Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in England, as was this film adaptation) becomes this hotly anticipated fantasy adventure from Chris Columbus, t... read more read more...he winner of a high-stakes search for a director to bring the first in a hoped-for franchise of Potter films to the screen by Warner Bros. Upon his 11th birthday, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), who lives in misery with an aunt and uncle that don't want him, learns from a giant named Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) that he is the orphaned son of powerful wizards. Harry is offered a place at prestigious Hogwarts, a boarding school for wizards that exists in a realm of magic and fantasy outside the dreary existence of normal humans or "Muggles." At Hogwarts, Harry quickly makes new friends and begins piecing together the mystery of his parents' deaths, which appear not to have been accidental after all. The film features alternate-version scenes for every mention of the titular rock. Richard Harris, Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, John Cleese, and Fiona Shaw co-star. ~ Karl Williams, Rovi

Flixster Users

82% liked it

1,147,689 ratings


80% liked it

191 critics

PG, 2 hr. 32 min.

Directed by: Chris Columbus

Release Date: November 16, 2001

Invite friends to see

DVD Release Date: May 28, 2002

Stats: 58,566 reviews

Your Rating

clear rating

Flixster Reviews (58,566)

  • June 2, 2014
    When a film series has achieved international recognition and enjoyed enormous commercial success, it becomes very easy to believe that its eventual standard was replicated throughout its history. The appeal of Star Wars, Indiana Jones and James Bond is so widely spread throughou... read moret our culture that the individual films begin to blend into a single entity; the notion of Star Wars as a very good thing makes us forget the shortcomings of the individual films.

    As with each of these examples, it simply isn't the case that the Harry Potter series has always been of the highest quality. For all the praise it has garnered, especially for its impact on the British film industry, the series had a very shaky start. Watching The Philosopher's Stone now, there are times when it is hard to believe that we ever got as far as the seventh book being split into two lucrative parts. While it comes with the very best intentions, it is decidedly ill-disciplined and unengaging compared to later instalments.

    The roots of this problem lie in the choice of director. J. K. Rowling's original choice had been Terry Gilliam, who was then coming off the back of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Gilliam's vision for the film was ambitious and every bit as fantastical as his work on Brazil, but the studio opted for Chris Columbus following the director's two-hour pitch to executives. Columbus' track record with family-friendly hits like Home Alone and Mrs. Doubtfire went down much easier than Gilliam's history of quarelling with studios and his multiple (but undeserved) box office failures.

    This decision, taken before any of the film had been shot, shapes the entirety of both The Philosopher's Stone and its sequel. It's the classic example of a studio playing it safe, putting a potentially lucrative property in a safe pair of hands, who will in turn deliver something which will offend the least amount of people and thereby create the widest possible market. Columbus' directorial style is an accountants' dream, and the worst nightmare of anyone who cares about proper fantasy filmmaking.

    In my review of Percy Jackson & the Lightning Thief, I spoke about Columbus' conservative approach to the source material and how this hurt the finished project. In both cases, he opted to stay extremely faithful to the original novels, personally going through the script with Rowling to ensure that all the minor details were intact. While attention to detail is always welcome, with Columbus it manifests itself in literally putting the page on screen, in a manner which makes the whole experience much less cinematic than it could have been.

    There is evidence of this throughout The Philosopher's Stone, particularly in the many long scenes with our three main characters in the corridors of Hogwarts. These scenes feel for all the world like the actors were reading their lines directly from the book, without the adjustments being made for the visual language of cinema. Not only are these scenes a lot longer and more expository than they need to be, but they give the sense of a film crew fighting against the material; the camera chases after the story, rather than grabbing it by the scruff of the neck like a proper adaptation would.

    Because the talky scenes feel so much like readings from the novel, the film doesn't flow especially well. All the more action-based scenes, like the quidditch match, the broomstick lessons or the wizard's chess scene near the end, feel like set-pieces which have wandered into what otherwise resembles a recital rather than a film. And because the dialogue is often flat, these scenes don't carry the weight they they need to carry; rather than building up to, say, the chess game, it comes out of nowhere and feels like a distraction.

    By attempting to cram in every last detail of the book, Columbus has committed the ironic sin of gradually alienating a mainstream audience. While fans of the book may be impressed by how faithfully certain scenes are replicated, this approach results in a film which is altogether too long and too leisurely paced. With The Lord of the Rings, Peter Jackson sought to be as faithful as possible to J. R. R. Tolkien's work while acknowledging the need to keep the plot moving and make changes to keep casual fans interested. Columbus has neither the skill nor seemingly the desire to pull this off, appearing to settle for dramatic longeurs to avoid upsetting fans of the book.

    One could argue that this film has to be slower than those that followed it, because it has to introduce and explain so many different aspects of the world of wizards. But at the time of its release, there was never a guarantee that the series would run its course: not all the books had been written, and the studio took a big chance on the three young actors - probably the biggest chance they took on the whole production. The Fellowship of the Ring may be the gentlest instalment in Jackson's trilogy, and it does have to set up a lot of things, but it's still a rivetting thrill ride whose dynamism pulls all its interesting ideas and themes to the fore.

    Columbus' conservatism is also present in the visual sensibility. When pitching the film, he claimed that he wanted to make the scenes in the muggle world "bleak and dreary" while those in the wizard world would be "steeped in colour, mood and detail." He referenced David Lean's work on Great Expectations and Oliver Twist in his chosen cinematography, while comparing the colour palettes to those in Oliver! and The Godfather.

    The thing is, you would never garner any of this from actually watching The Philosopher's Stone. The scenes in the muggle world look like a dodgy American take on what a typical British household might look like: for all the charm of the late Richard Griffiths, it still feels too chocolate-box to cut the mustard. While the film does have a loosely Dickensian feel, it is not the Dickens of Lean, with its bleak shadows, striking expressionist angles and emphasis on social inequality. It is instead the Dickens of many American versions of A Christmas Carol, in which all the edges have been taken off and even the least fortunate people look like they've been well-fed for years.

    This overly cosy sensibility means that many of the darker or more gruesome qualities in the story aren't allowed to have that great an impact. Some of the CG effects are pretty good, such as the sorting hat or putting the face of Voldemort on the back of Professor Quirrell's head. But when they're being presented in the context of scenes filled with warm candles and goofy jokes, they either feel like bizarre intrusions or come across as silly and unthreatening. The film plays up the sentimental aspects of the book far too much, especially in the mirror scene with Voldemort and the bedside chat between Harry and Dumbledore.

    In the midst of all this disappointing mediocrity, there are a number of aspects to The Philosopher's Stone which are enjoyable, either on their own terms or within the context of the overall story. The series' biggest asset from the beginning has been its cast, with each of the three main child actors finding their feet reasonably quickly. There are some obstacles in their way, with Hermione being far more irritating than she is in the later films, but the actors feel settled in their parts and at home in front of the camera.

    The adult cast are equally appealing, for a variety of different reasons. Alan Rickman was simply born to play Severus Snape: resisting the urge to turn in another Hollywood villain performance, he instead uses his unusual delivery to keep surprising you about the character. Richard Harris is very capable as Dumbledore, as is John Hurt as Mr. Ollivander: while both parts are essentially exposition with extra dollops of whimsy, both actors manage to bring some kind of weight to their dialogue. The only weak link in the adult cast is Ian Hart: while his Quirrell is convincing (if annoying), he simply isn't intimidating enough as Voldemort.

    The film is also pretty funny, perhaps because we have such a strong bond with the cast in the the first place. The running gags about Hagrid breaking things and telling people things he shouldn't have done are funny throughout, as are all the bad things that befall Neville Longbottom over the course of the story. The humour is played very broadly, with much of it being set up a little too obviously, but for the most part it still feels genuine in its delivery.

    Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is a mediocre first offering in the then-fledgling franchise. Despite having a strong cast and quite a lot of entertaining humour, it's ultimately far too cautious and literal an adaptation to pass muster as a properly cinematic outing. Its flaws become all the more painfully obvious as the series grows and develops, making all its decisions to play safe seem utterly ridiculous in hindsight. While not the worst instalment in the series, it's hardly the start that we wanted or deserved.
  • March 3, 2013
    Though it may be a little overtly child-oriented for adult audiences, this is still a beautifully designed world full of wonder and a great start to a series. Full review later.
  • January 18, 2013
    Ah, the first film adaptation of the beloved Harry Potter series.

    Harry Potter is an 11-year-old boy who comes to find out that he is a wizard. He lives with his uncaring Muggle (non magic) aunt, uncle, and cousin since his parents died when he was a baby. They were murdered by ... read morea dark and powerful evil wizard named Lord Voldemort. Harry would be dead too, but was miraculously saved, making him something of a legend.

    Upon learning of his guarded magic roots, Harry gets enrolled in Hogwarts- a British school for witches and wizards. While there he learns to come into his own, meet people that are actually good to him, and learn more of his dark past.

    Looking back, I don't know if it was a good idea to have Chris Columbus direct this, as he does have a reputation for being something of a hack, albeit a decent one. I think his direction is okay here. Yeah, retrospectively it could have been better, but it could also have been much worse. At least with him at the helm we get a good amount of whimsy to go along with a bit of menace, and that's a good thing, as the book was likewise not too heavy on the darker stuff (though that sure changed as time went on).

    Many liberties are taken, which is weird since the book is quite short, and the film is two and a half hours. It does get the point across decently enough though, and also works as a piece for those unfamiliar with the source material.

    John Williams provides great music, there's wonderful art direction and set design, and there's some nifty set pieces too. Featuring an all-British cast, this film is impeccably cast, and the performances are good too. Finding decent child actors is hard, but they really scored here.

    My enjoyment of this movie has waned over time, but it's still not a terrible piece of work by any means, so check it out.
  • December 19, 2012
    I'm taking a look back at the Harry Potter series with as unbiased of eyes as I possibly can being a massive fan of the books and films. Sorcerer's Stone starts the series off well with a great cast of newcomers and veterans stepping into roles that would shape some of their live... read mores for the next decade. Christopher Columbus' direction leaves a little to be desired, but the atmosphere, set design, costumes, special effects, and music supplant themselves at almost instant classic status and would be excellent for years to come. The film itself is a little too slavish of all the details in the book and therefore the pacing gets hurt at times and it is a little long, but the magic is there and in full force and the tone is just right: not too dark and not too childish. We all know how dark the series gets by the end, so it is a little nice to get back and see how everything started. Overall, it's probably one of the least interesting in the series in terms of film making, but it is one of the most well liked entries in the series and sold the most tickets of them all, making it a pretty darn successful kick-off of the franchise.
  • fb1442511448
    August 11, 2012
    Chris Columbus makes a magical bound from this first installment. 'Sorcerer's Stone' will leave its fans satisfied from the accurate direction as well as leave moviegoers a sensational feel. The film's young cast provide a charismatic charm that even modern-day stars could not po... read moressess. 4.5/5
  • fb100000293612769
    May 28, 2012
    It is flawed for sure, but the loyalty to the text, Williams' magical score, and the beautiful message of friendship and a mother's love make it an iconic film that will be remembered for its cultural significance.
  • February 10, 2012
    Based on the novel of the same name by rags-to-riches author J.K. Rowling, HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE was just the beginning of a cinematic legacy. It is a fantasy film for the entire family, twisting both clich√ (C)d aspects of magic (i.e. magic wand becomes simply wa... read morend; various spells, charms, and curses are created rather than a corny "Abracadabra!") and Greek mythology into its own characters (i.e. Fluffy the Three-Headed Dog, though he went by a different name in mythology), and it goes far enough to even create its own magical sport.

    Okay, so we have to give most, if not all of the credit for such brilliance to Rowling for spending years of her life creating such decent entertainment. But people who read "Sorcerer's Stone" (the book) when it first came out in 1997 (1998 in North America) were anticipating the book adapted for the screen. And in 2001, they got it. Maybe the characters weren't as imagined, but it was astounding for fans to see the dazzling visuals of Quidditch (the sport played on broomsticks), mountain trolls, Norwegian Ridgeback dragons, and spells. And it still is.

    If you saw 1990's HOME ALONE, you know that Chris Columbus has some pretty good experience with family movies (though the humorous aspect of HOME ALONE was mostly because of the scripting by John Hughes). After Steven Spielberg was turned down for a directing role (he wanted to make this into an animated film--just imagine how terrible that would have been), Columbus was confirmed. He made this first film a work of art, with just as much magic and creepiness that the author intended.
  • January 17, 2012
    Gets the party started. Good enough for me.
  • November 10, 2011
    A smart fantastic start to an ptherwise average franchise only really for action or potter fans.
  • October 30, 2011
    One of the best start's to a phenomenon ever recorded, my second favorite in the series, and a start to one of the most successful franchises ever created.

Critic Reviews

Anthony Lane
November 27, 2013
Anthony Lane, New Yorker

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is, despite its trickery, that plainest and least surprising of artifacts: the work of art that is exactly the sum of its parts, neither more nor less. Full Review

Todd McCarthy
March 5, 2008
Todd McCarthy, Variety

A near-perfect commercial and cultural commodity. Full Review

Jonathan Rosenbaum
March 5, 2008
Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader

I hear the J.K. Rowling books are great, and on the basis of this 2001 movie I'm ready to believe it. Full Review

February 9, 2006
Time Out

What a feast for children! Long, and engrossing. Kids will love it! Wizard! Full Review

Robert Denerstein
August 9, 2002
Robert Denerstein, Denver Rocky Mountain News

It offers more delights than disappointments -- and that qualifies as one of the year's great reliefs.

Peter Rainer
January 22, 2002
Peter Rainer, New York Magazine/Vulture

The filmmakers want to show us a magical world that is, at the same time, wholly believable. They want to create matter-of-fact miracles, but what they end up with is mostly just plain matter-of-fact. Full Review

Richard Roeper
November 27, 2001
Richard Roeper, Ebert & Roeper

[A] complete triumph... Full Review

Rita Kempley
November 24, 2001
Rita Kempley, Washington Post

You can't expect perfection from muggles. Full Review

Andrew O'Hehir
November 18, 2001
Andrew O'Hehir,

Professional entertainment with just enough human moments to squeak by. Full Review

Peter Howell
November 16, 2001
Peter Howell, Toronto Star

I doubt that most Harry Potter fans will mind a film that attends to their wishes so splendidly. Full Review

Critic ratings and reviews powered by

Fresh (60% or more critics rated the movie positively)

Rotten (59% or fewer critics rated the movie positively)

More Like This

Click a thumb to vote on that suggestion, or add your own suggestions.

  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
    Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (86%)
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
    Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (93%)
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
    Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (92%)
  • Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones 3D
    Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones ... (100%)


    • Hagrid: You're a wizard harry.
    • Dudley Dursley: I'm not Harry.
    • Harry Potter: [appearing from behind a wall] I am.
    • Hagrid: Well of course you are.
    • Neville Longbottom: You're sneaking out aren't you? You'll get Gryffindor into trouble again.
    • Hermione Granger: What is it?
    • Harry Potter: He's going to sacrifice himself!
    • Hermione Granger: No you can't, there must be another way!
    • Ron Weasley: Do you want to stop Snape from stealing the stone or not?
    • Severus Snape: Clearly Potter, fame isn't everything is it?
    • Draco Malfoy: You think my name's funny do you? No need to tell me who you are. Red hair and a hand-me-down robe? You must be a Weasley.

Harry Potter and ... : Watch Free on TV

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone Trivia

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's S... Trivia

  • What was the ORIGINAL name of the first Harry Potter movie "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone"? Which was released in London June 26 1997?  Answer »
  • "There is no such thing as good or evil, there is only power and those too weak to seek it!". Is said in which Harry Potter movie?  Answer »
  • In Which Harry Potter Movie did Harry, Ron and Hermione get caught up in the Devi's Snare?  Answer »
  • In Harry Potter and the sorcerer's stone, What was the elixir of life?  Answer »

Recent Lists

Most Popular Skin