Movie review of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2023)

Movie review of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (1)

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Not recommended under 11, PG to 15 (Violence; scary scenes)















Movie review of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2)

This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  • a review of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 6 June 2004.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 11 Not recommended due to violence and scary scenes
Children 11-14 parental guidance recommended due to violence and scary scenes
Children 15 and over OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie:Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Consumer advice lines:Horror elements
Length:141 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

  • a synopsis of the story
  • themes
  • use of violence
  • material that may scare or disturb children
  • product placement
  • sexual references
  • nudity and sexual activity
  • use of substances
  • coarse language
  • the movie’s message

A synopsis of the story

Sirius Black, the notorious murderer has somehowevaded the Dementors (vicious, spirit type creatures) and escaped from theimpenetrable Azkaban Prison. Mr. Weasley, from the Ministry of Magic warnsHarry that he is in serious danger as Sirius is headed for Hogwarts to findhim. It’s believed that it was Sirius Black (Harry’s Godfather) who betrayedHarry’s parents to Voldemort which led to their death.

While the students are on their way to Hogwartson the train, it suddenly comes to a stop and all the lights go out. The windowpanes freeze over and a Dementor enters Harry’s carriage and tries to drag himaway, causing him to faint. He might have succeeded but for Professor Lupin,the Defence of the Dark Arts teacher, who overcomes the Dementor with his wand.At Hogwarts, Dumbledore explains that Dementors are guarding the grounds toprevent Sirius Black from entering. He warns the students to keep well away.

Dumbledore and the teachers try to keep theschool operating normally and Lupin starts to teach the young wizards andwitches about boggarts. Boggarts are figments of the imagination that appear tostudents in the form of their most feared object. To combat them, studentslearn to yell out ‘ridiculous’ and the boggart changes into something funny.The Divination teacher Professor Trelawney fears for Harry and predictsdisastrous events for him. Hagrid, the giant groundskeeper tries to teach thestudents how to befriend a hippogriff. Harry succeeds with Buckbeak but whenMalfoy, a particularly nasty student whose father has unfortunately got greatinfluence in running the school, tries, Buckbeak rears up and kicks him in theshoulder. Malfoy immediately seeks the dismissal of Hagrid but has to besatisfied with the execution of Buckbeak.

Harry and his two friends, Ron and Hermione, tryto console Hagrid but are very upset themselves. On their way back fromHagrid’s house a wolf runs at them grabbing Ron by the ankle and dragging himinto a hole beneath the Whomping Willow tree. Harry and Hermione try to enterthe hole but the tree does its best to keep them out beating them back with itsbranches and sending Hermione flying. They eventually enter to find Ron unableto move with a broken leg. He tries to warn them that it’s a trap but he is toolate and Sirius is there waiting for them. Harry runs at Sirius and nearlychokes him but is prevented by the arrival of Lupin.

Harry then learns from Sirius that it was not hebut Peter Pettigrew who betrayed Harry’s parents. It was thought that PeterPettigrew had also been killed but has in fact been living as Ron’s pet ratScabbers for the past twelve years. Sirius makes Scabbers turn back into Peterand confess his crimes. Things start to turn nasty when at midnight Lupin turnsinto a werewolf, Peter turns back into a rat and runs away and Sirius alsoturns into a wolf. Sirius and Lupin fight and get injured and when Sirius turnsback into himself he has an injured shoulder and is unable to fight off theDementors who are waiting for him. Harry however, who has been taking privatelessons from Lupin on how to defend himself against the Dementors, manages tooverpower them thinking that it is in fact his father casting the spell. Harryis overcome by his efforts and Sirius appears dead but they are both taken backto Hogwarts where Sirius is locked in the tower awaiting return to Azkaban.Dumbledore has a plan however which he explains to Hermione hoping to save thelife of more than one innocent victim.


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

The supernatural

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There are many violent scenes in thismovie, including:

  • Buckbeak rears up at Malfoy and kicks him inthe shoulder.
  • During the Quidditch match, one of theplayers is struck by lightening and falls to the ground. Harry is breathed onby a Dementor and also falls to the ground.
  • While Harry is in his invisibility cloak hebeats up Malfoy and his two mates for harassing Hermione and Ron.
  • Hermione threatens Malfoy with her wandthen punches him—this is seen as heroic by Ron and Harry.
  • The wolf rushes at Harry, Ron and Hermione,dragging Ron into the hole in the Whomping Willow tree.
  • The Whomping Willow tree attacks Harry andHermione, beating them violently with its branches and lifting Hermione up andswinging her round, sending her flying.
  • Harry attacks Sirius and nearly chokes him.
  • Harry attacks Snape and knocks him out.
  • Buckbeak kicks the werewolf sending himflying.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

Children in this age group would be scaredby the horror and supernatural events in this movie and by the violent sceneslisted above. The following would also scare children in this age group:

  • the Dementors, which appear as faceless,hooded and cloaked creatures that fly and float around and have really long,bony, pointed fingers. Children would be very worried about the Dementorstrying to drag Harry, in particular, and Sirius out of their bodies.
  • Harry leaves home and is left sitting onthe street with his suitcase when strange things start to happen: the streetlight goes out, the playground equipment starts moving on its own and Harrysees a wolf with green eyes glaring at him. The wolf appears vicious and startsgrowling at Harry.
  • Harry gets picked up by a magic bus whichhas a talking and laughing skull hanging in the window.
  • The bus drives madly through the town whilethe bus conductor explains to Harry about Sirius Black the ‘murderer’.
  • The bus drops Harry off at the LeakyCauldron which is in a very scary ‘Dickensian’ part of town. Harry is met thereby a hunchback.
  • Harry tries to open the Monster Book ofMonsters which has moving yellow eyes and hairy claws holding it shut. When hegets it open, the book chases Harry around the room.
  • The Hogwarts train stops suddenly and allthe lights go out. The window panes freeze over and Ron sees something moving‘out there’. A Dementor enters the carriage and tries to drag Harry out of hisbody. Lupin casts a spell on the Dementor turning it away.
  • Dumbledore warns the students to keep awayfrom the Dementors who are “very vicious creatures”.
  • Ghosts often walk through the halls atHogwarts.
  • Professor Trelawney scares Harry by tellinghim he has “the grim”.
  • The Monster Book of Monsters attacksNeville.
  • The Hippogriff is a large bird likecreature with four legs, a large beak, eyes and wings of an eagle.
  • Ghosts on horses break windows in thedining hall and ride through the hall.
  • Neville’s boggart is Professor Snape whotransforms into his grandmother.
  • Professor Snape is a very dark,intimidating character.
  • Ron’s boggart is a giant tarantula whichruns towards him.
  • Another boggart is a giant cobra.
  • Harry’s boggart is a Dementor which Harryis unable to change. Lupin has to step in and transforms it into a balloon.
  • The moving and talking paintings on thewalls at Hogwarts have been slashed and the ‘Fat Lady’ is missing from herswhich implies that Sirius Black is inside the castle.
  • Snape tells the students about werewolvesand how they have no choice about turning into one during a full moon.
  • The Quidditch match is held during a reallybad storm and Harry sees a wolf in the sky. The Dementors chase Harry flying onhis broom and one opens its mouth revealing it to be full of blood. It breatheson Harry who then falls to the ground.
  • Lupin tells Harry that Dementors are “thefoulest creatures” who feed on a person’s every happy memory.
  • Talking skulls hang in the pub inHogsmeade.
  • Lupin teaches Harry the Patronus charm toward off the Dementors. Lupin lets out a Dementor (actually a boggart) out ofthe trunk for Harry to practice, but Harry’s overcome and faints. On the secondattempt Harry defeats the Dementor.
  • Harry sees Sirius Black in a crystal ballwhen he is suddenly grabbed by Professor Trelawney who’s possessed by a man andstarts speaking in a man’s voice. This scene is very scary.
  • The executioner dressed in black is shownpolishing a huge, curved executioner’s blade.
  • Hagrid has dead ferrets hanging in his yardto feed Buckbeak.
  • The executioner is shown swinging theblade.
  • Scabbers the rat transforms into agrovelling, filthy Peter Pettigrew.
  • Lupin changes into a werewolf. He burstsout of his clothes and growling and snarling, appears in much pain.
  • The werewolf howls at the moon, then growlsat Harry, Hermione and Ron, turning on them. Sirius turns into a wolf andfights Lupin off. The werewolf is huge and scary looking.
  • Sirius is lying injured on the ground;there is blood on his shoulder.
  • The Dementors arrive to take Sirius awayand try to drag him out of his body.
  • Harry casts the Patronus charm and managesto overcome the Dementors.
  • Sirius breathes ice and appears to havedied.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group would also be disturbed by the above-mentioned scenes

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Younger children in this age group couldstill be scared by the horror and supernatural events in this movie inparticular:

  • the Dementors
  • the Dementors trying to dragHarry and Sirius out of their bodies
  • Professor Trelawney possessedby a man and talking in a man’s voice.
  • Lupin turning into a werewolf.

Thirteen and overinfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Most children in this age group would understandthat this is a fantasy movie but some could still be disturbed by the horror,supernatural events and violence mentioned in the previous section.

Product placement

None of concern in the film, but plenty of associated merchandise being marketed to children

Sexual references

None of concern

Nudity and sexual activity

None of concern

Use of substances

There is some drinking of alcohol in theDursleys’ home, in the pub at Hogsmeade and by the Professors at Hogwarts.

Coarse language

Mild coarse language, such as "bloody hell"

In a nutshell

The theme of this movie is that good triumphsover evil, although Harry and Hermione do use violence to achieve their aims.Also the movie shows that sometimes people are erroneously convicted and shouldbe given a second chance.

Values parents may wish to encourageinclude:

  • friendship
  • courage.

Values parents may wish to discourageinclude:

  • violence as a way to solveconflict
  • hating one’s enemies.
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