So yes, my bingo square for “The Book Was Better” was indeed filled by a better book than a movie, but I tried to make it the fairest fight in the Harry Potter series; I wonder how much better the movies would have been with Alfonso Cuaron behind the camera for all of them.
The filmed sequences that stood out for me were Buckbeak’s execution, the first appearance of the Dementors, and the staging of the adventures with the Time Turner, but honestly, this is the only movie where I felt a sense of place in Hogwarts. In other films the staging felt like a play, with each room being self contained with no feeling of Hogwarts as a whole, improved appropriately in a film that introduces the marauders map.
Also in the movie’s favor, this seems to be the book where Rowling took a turn for the adverb. I noticed it was particularly bad in the reveal that Sirius betrayed the Potters, likely due to the need to clarify who was speaking in a multi-character discussion, but it was distracting. Cuaron streamlines quite a few plot points in the book (Harry sneaking into the pub to overhear the conversation about Sirius makes so much more sense with the invisibility cloak, for one) elegantly.
But there’s a reason we fell in love with Rowling’s books. And, while this came closest to capturing the magic of Hogwarts, the books are always going to win, because magic is all about what you don’t show. The effects (Buckbeak, the Knights Bus) look dated and hokey in a way that Rowling’s conjured images aren’t. It’s the fairest fight, but the book was indeed better.