It’s hard to overestimate the impact that Harry Potter had on movie culture: we’d never seen a level of quality established and maintained for a single franchise of that length before. (Even James Bond had to deal with a couple of stinkers in the same period of time.) Without The Boy Who Lived — and more importantly, without the reliably solid bar for quality his movies set — our current movie landscape would likely look very different.
Two of the better entries in the Harry Potter franchise opened on this day. The first, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, set Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and his pals against the obsequious Delores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton, never better), embodying every Owellian high school teacher you ever had in one infernally smiling package. The second, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, brought the saga to a richly satisfying conclusion as Harry finally faced down his nemesis, Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes). (It also contains one of the saga’s most heart-wrenching moments as we finally learn the true motives between Alan Rickman’s Severus Snape.) Both films were directed by David Yates, who helmed the last four films in the cycle and brought a sure and steady hand that the saga benefited from immeasurably. Order of the Phoenix opened today in 2007; Deathly Hallows, Part 2 opened today in 2011.