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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, the first movie in the Harry Potter series, has some intense and scary moments. Harry Potter and friends -- who are only 11 years old here -- are in peril and get hurt, but not seriously, and most of the scares come from fantasy creatures. There's a flashback to the (bloodless) death of Harry's parents and discussion about how they died and the one who killed them.
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What's the story?
When HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE begins, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) is an orphan who lives with the awful Dursleys, his aunt, uncle, and cousin. On his 11th birthday, Harry receives a mysterious letter, but his uncle destroys it before he can read it. Letters keep coming, and the Dursleys panic and hide away on a remote island. But they're found by Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane), a huge, bearded man with a weakness for scary-looking creatures. It turns out that the letters were coming from Hogwarts, a boarding school for young witches and wizards, and Harry is expected for the fall term, so Hagrid whisks him off to begin his new life as a wizard in training. On the train to Hogwarts, Harry meets his future best friends, Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson). When school begins, things really get exciting, with classes in Potions and Defense Against the Dark Arts, a sport called Quidditch (a sort of flying soccer/basketball), a mysterious trap door guarded by a three-headed dog named Fluffy, and a baby dragon named Norbert. Throughout the year, Harry adjusts to his magical life and begins to come to grips with his famous status in the wizarding world and what he represents to the darker forces there. He also learns some important lessons about loyalty and courage.
Is it any good?
The start to the Harry Potter film series is filled with visual splendor, valiant heroes, spectacular special effects, and irresistible characters. It's only fair to say that it's truly magical. The settings manage to be sensationally imaginative and yet at the same time so clearly believable and lived-in that you'll think you could find them yourself, if you could just get to Platform 9 3/4. The adult actors are simply and completely perfect. Richard Harris turns in his all-time best performance as headmaster Albus Dumbledore, Maggie Smith (whose on-screen teaching roles extend from The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie to Sister Act) brings just the right tone of dry asperity to Professor McGonagall, and Robbie Coltrane is a half-giant with a heart to match as Hagrid. Alan Rickman provides shivers as potions master Professor Snape, and the brief glimpse of Julie Walters (an Oscar nominee for Billy Elliott) will make you glad you'll be seeing more of her in future movies. The kids are all just fine, though mostly just called upon to look either astonished or resolute.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is a terrific book and a terrific movie. Every family should enjoy them both.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the Harry Potter book series that inspired Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and the other movies. Do you like the books or movies better?
Which themes from the first in the series pop up again in later installments?
What do you think about Harry and his friends going away to school? Would you ever want to do something like that?
- In theaters: November 16, 2001
- On DVD or streaming: May 28, 2002
- Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint
- Director: Chris Columbus
- Studio: Fine Line Features
- Genre: Fantasy
- 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: 152 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some scary moments and mild language
- Last updated: September 4, 2020
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