Secondly, and maybe more important for the post I'm about to write, is that while watching all these movies it is washing over me that pretty much every major British actor is a Hogwarts professor. I would bet that the Hogwarts professors collectively represent the most impressive assemblage of talent ever. Add in other miscellaneous grown-ups in the Harry Potter movies, and I'm sure of it.
Now, this is not a piece of insight that has gone unnoticed by others. So what can I add to the blogosphere on this point? You guessed it. I just really can't help myself when it comes to ranking things, so here I go with The very best Hogwarts professors as portrayed by the very best British actors.
1. Alan Rickman as Severus Snape. Not only is he amazingly funny and sexy and entertaining in this role, but he just really "gets" the character of Snape. Rickman has embodied the evilness and pain so thoroughly I can hardly remember the way I imagined this character in my mind before Rickman took it over. He is and will always be Snape.
2. Jim Broadbent as Horace Slughorn. Mesmerizing. I can't seem to tear my eyes from Slughorn anytime he is onscreen -- which is, unfortunately far too seldom. His performance is touching and funny, charming and vulnerable; its not even that he makes Slughorn likeable, but just so damned compelling. He makes me love Slughorn in a way I never thought I would.
3. Maggie Smith as Minerva McGonagal. She has it all. Great accent. Distance. Harshness masking a deep level of care. Brusk and brilliant, McGonagal has to be one of the best Harry Potter characters ever. And Smith is, as always, just flawless in her acting.
5. Richard Harris as Dumbledore I. By far the better of the two Dumbledores, Harris has the lightness and wisdom down in this fleeting flitting sort of role. I don't think the physical requirements of Dumbledore are really possible for a human actor -- old and frail but light and sprightly, long and skinny, quick and sharp. Harris comes as close as you can get.
6. Emma Thompson as Sybill Trelawney. This is one of those rare cases when an actor makes the role better on screen than it ever was in the book. Emma Thompson is perfection as a sparkly, huge-eyed, nervous mystic. She is brilliant.
7. Robbie Coltrane as Hagrid. Coltrane's best contribution to Hagrid is his voice. I hear him every time I think of Hagrid or read Rowling's words. Coltrane has the innocent monster thing in droves. Hagrid is one of the best things about Harry Potter and seeing him brought to life so well is priceless.
8. Brendan Gleeson as Mad Eye Moody. Mad Eye is a very strange sort of fellow. Not exactly cool, not exactly likeable, definitely scary and hard to understand. Gleeson manages to bring all of that to the forefront and deal well with the duality of not even really being Mad Eye, but an impostor. His performance is funny and powerful. Excellent.
9. Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge. It is hard to even write the word "Umbridge" without a shudder. So much evil and cruelty packed into one tiny little sugarcoated body. Staunton is perfectly hateable.
10. Kenneth Branagh as Gilderoy Lockhart. Branagh's take on Lockhart was not what I was expecting; I had something totally different in mind when I read the book. His idea was better. Much better. Such smarmyness. Such glibness. So smooth and ridiculous. Exceptionally well done!
11. Michael Gambon as Dumbledore II. I am a big fan of Michael Gambon. Just not a big fan of him as Dumbledore. That said, his performances in these movies are wonderful. They just don't convey "Dumbledore" to me. Still, they do convey a very impressive wizard who I have actually come to like a great deal anyway (if that makes sense).
12. Warwick Davis as Filius Flitwick. The movie-makers did a strange thing to Warwick Davis & Flitwick -- they made him old; then they made him young. They even made him a choir director. Davis is exceptional because in all of these different iterations he is good! and enjoyable to watch.
13. Gemma Jones as Madam Pomfrey. Great actress! Pretty minimal role. Poppy never really gets to shine in the movies, though Gemma is so lovely and engaging, when she is around she always sparkles.
14. Zoe Wanamaker as Madam Hooch. Even these really small parts like Hooch and Sprout get great performances in the movies. Wanamaker is exactly how I pictured Madam Hooch. She embodies butch gym teacher -- I guess that exists even in the wizarding world.
15. Miriam Margolyes as Professor Sprout. And finally Professor Sprout. Not a whole lot for Margolyes to do; but glad she is here to round out the team.