Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban



Fantastic, but kids are older, themes are darker.
Parents recommendPopular with kids
  • Review Date: November 21, 2004
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Release Year: 2004
  • Running Time: 141 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Conquering fear is a huge theme here. Friendship, love, bravery, and loyalty are always major themes in the series. So is the idea of making good choices.

Positive role models

Diverse cast and strong female characters.


Scary images for a PG-rated film. Children are in peril, often at the hands of magical creatures: Dementors (black-robed floating beings that suck the happiness out of people) attack Harry and others, making Harry hear the sound of his mother dying as he passes out; they almost administer "the kiss of death," extracting a character's soul through his mouth. A hippogriff (eagle-horse mix) is provoked and strikes a student; the same creature is executed by a hatchet (heard, not shown). A boggart in a class demonstration changes shape to match what students are most afraid of (and kids learn to fight their fears with laughter). A large dog breaks Ron's leg. Adult characters threaten to kill another. A werewolf chases Harry and Hermione. Harry believes he is marked for death and stalked by a murderer most of the school year.


Some mild flirtations between Ron and Hermione.


A few "bloody hells" and a "damn."


While the candy mentioned wasn't originally real, it is now: Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans, Chocolate Frogs, Jelly Slugs, and more. And then there are the action figures, Lego playsets, wands, Band Aids... you name it.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Butterbeer is introduced (a magical-world drink with a pinch of alcohol) and the kids go to a pub in Hogsmeade.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this third movie in the fantastic Harry Potter series is growing up with the Hogwarts crew; the themes are darker, the peril is more intense, and the images of some magical creatures are grotesque and Halloween-ish. For most of the school year, Harry believes he is marked for death and stalked by an escaped prisoner. He also battles a creature of kids' worst nightmares: the Dementors are black-robed floating beings that suck out happiness and feed on your worst fears, which is why Harry hears the sound of his mother's last scream when he sees them. While this can be tough for young and sensitive viewers, the bright spot is the Boggart lesson in Defense Against the Dark Arts. Boggarts can turn into what a person fears most, but the kids learn to yell "Ridiculous!" and turn it into something to laugh at.

What's the story?

When his relatives the Dursleys get to be too much for 13-year old rebellious wizard Harry Potter, he packs up and leaves. Soon he is back at Hogwarts school for his second year. Scary creatures called Dementors, guards at the wizard prison of Azkaban, are lurking about the school grounds in search of the first-ever escaped prisoner, Sirius Black, who betrayed Harry's parents to Voldemort and may be on his way to Hogwarts to kill Harry. The new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Professor Lupin (David Thewlis), befriends Harry, while Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) is now teaching the Care of Magical Creatures class, introducing the students to a hippogriff (a sort of flying bird/horse). Meanwhile the fortune-telling Divination teacher, Sybil Trelawney (Emma Thompson), predicts danger is very near. When the hippogriff injures Harry's adversary, Draco Malfoy, it gives ammunition to those who oppose the headmaster, Professor Dumbledore (Michael Gambon). The hippogriff is sentenced to death. The Azkaban guards, called Dementors, have come to Hogwarts looking for Black, and every time Harry sees them, he faints. They dissolve any happy thoughts of people in their path, and Harry, who has known greater sadness than anyone else in his class, is the most vulnerable. Harry has to find a way to save the hippogriff and protect himself from Black, the Dementors, and even one of his teachers who has a dangerous secret. His friend Hermione has a secret, too -- how is she getting to all her extra classes? The answer is the extra help Harry needs to save lives.

Is it any good?


Harry Potter is 13 in this third movie based on the globally popular series of books by J.K. Rowling, and the movie itself seems to be entering adolescence, with its darker themes, darker images, and darker emotions.

The first two movies were competently directed by Chris Columbus, with brilliant production design and meticulous attention to detail, making sure that the books' passionate fans were happy -- but playing it safe.

For the third, Columbus stayed on as a producer, but there is a new director, Alfonso Cuaron, whose previous work has demonstrated ferocious visual flair (Great Expectations) and great sensitivity in working with and portraying children (A Little Princess) and teens (Y Tu Mama Tambien). He has kept the best of the first Potter films and enriched it with his own splendid vision, meshing perfectly with the tone of the story and the increasing complexity of the themes and characters.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about Dumbledore's statement that people can bring light to even the darkest moments. What can you learn from the way Harry and his friends learn to defeat the Boggarts? The Dementors?

  • Older kids and teens could examine all of the Potter movies to see how different directors and cinematographers can take the same characters and settings and convey a different feeling. Notice how the colors and texture of the scenes and the movement of the camera help to create the mood and tell the story.

Movie details

Theatrical release date:June 8, 2004
DVD release date:November 23, 2004
Cast:Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint
Director:Alfonso Cuaron
Studio:Warner Bros.
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Adventures, Book characters, Friendship, Great boy role models, Great girl role models, Monsters, ghosts, and vampires
Character strengths:Courage, Perseverance, Teamwork
Run time:141 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:frightening moments, creature violence and mild language

This review of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was written by

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Parent of a 8 year old Written bysbg2010 October 21, 2010

Scary for younger kids

As a reader of the Harry Potter books and as a parent, I really enjoyed the movie. However my 8 year old son was really scared by this movie. He is a little sensitive to scary material. I think he could have handled the same material in the book but in the movie it's much more real and graphic. He cited the "possessed" voice of one of the characters and the werewolf transformation. Even though I used the "violent" icon, I really mean it's scary more so than violent. I also think the first two movies were not as scary.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Great messages
Great role models
Parent of a 7 year old Written byDad42 January 27, 2011

Nightmares for the young audience

Although rated PD here, this is really not suitable for kids under 9/10, much too scary - it frightened my daughter aged 7 and we had to switch off, I had to spend a good deal of time calming her fears. She had loved the first two movies in the series which were not a challenge to her.
Kid, 10 years old April 28, 2011
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models


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