Twenty years ago, Bloomsbury published J.K. Rowling’s debut novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the first installment in a saga that would go on to span seven books, eight movies, and numerous spinoffs and extensions—in the process, becoming one of the defining stories of a generation. Since Dumbledore isn’t here to help us pull any celebratory crackers, we’re marking the occasion by toasting Rowling’s magical creation and the two decades of euphoria that it’s brought us. We solemnly swear that we are up to no good.
Thanks to Harry Potter Weekends on Freeform, which seemingly happen on a bimonthly basis, in the past five years I have probably logged more time watching the Harry Potter series than doing all forms of physical labor. After the 23rd viewing of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, you start to watch the movie differently. Whether or not this boy will defeat Tom Riddle/Voldemort, who is trying to kill him through a diary (ugh, classic Tom), becomes less important — because you know he will. So you start to pay attention to much more trivial things, like the wizard food and the spell names. Also, the haircuts.
The haircuts in the Harry Potter series are a wonderful, rich text for a couple of reasons: (1) These are movies about a world of wizardry, so naturally it’s filled with unusual, weird, and goofy hairstyles; and (2) since there are eight films, it really is possible to track the growth and changes in a character from their hair alone. Look at Neville Longbottom. He’s a character who goes from being an absolute failure of a child to discovering his inner confidence and becoming a leader in the fight against Voldemort, and you could surmise most of that from comparing these two looks:
With haircuts playing an important role in the Harry Potter universe, it feels necessary to determine once and for all which haircuts stand above the rest.
Heading into this endeavor, I felt extremely confident — like I said, I’ve been watching these movies solely for follicular reasons for a long time now — but then it occurred to me that there isn’t a good model for rating haircuts. You can’t just go around pointing at screengrabs and saying “this is good” or “this looks dumb” — it’s more complicated than that. For one, these characters are from a world that for wildly specific reasons is caught between Victorian Era and present-day fashion, so it doesn’t seem fair to judge them against my own preconceptions of good and bad style. Beyond that, the aesthetic appeal of a Harry Potter haircut isn’t as important as its utility as a character trait. A good haircut in these movies informs and complements a character while also just looking cool. In order to have some kind of guide, I asked myself the following questions:
- How well does the haircut fit the character? How well does it fit their lifestyle? These two questions were inspired by an insightful beauty.about.com article, which was very helpful. A good Harry Potter ’do should speak for a character and also make sense from a maintenance standpoint.
- How ridiculous does it look? This is a bit complicated because certain characters in Harry Potter have more reason to look ridiculous than others, and so this question ties back to the first one. For characters who seem like they ought to look ridiculous, a crazy haircut was a plus — but for characters with more even-keeled temperaments, it was not.
- What were the romantic benefits? Attracting other people is why we get haircuts, right? So I took into account how romantically successful a character was when they had a given haircut. I did not do this for the first couple of movies, when Harry and Co. are 11 years old, because that would be creepy.
- Would someone in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, steal this look? Not that anyone at Hogwarts was trying to start trends or anything, but I think it’s fair to say that any haircut that garners a “yes” from this question must be transcendent.
OK, let’s get to the list.
20. Rita Skeeter in ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire’
Goblet of Fire features, by far, the worst haircuts for the core cast — like Harry, baby, what is you doing??? — but also some of the best secondary character hairstyles in the series. Rita Skeeter’s tightly wound, golden-blonde curls are perfect for her. They really scream “annoying gossip columnist.”
19. Harry Potter in ‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix’
This is the best Daniel Radcliffe looked in the entire Harry Potter series. His hair is messy, as it should be, but in a cool “I’m doing this on purpose” way. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Harry had this cut at the same time that he finally managed to make out with Cho Chang. (Even though I have some problems with that whole situation. Cho was mourning the death of her boyfriend, and Harry was like, “Oh yeah, totally sad, maybe we should kiss about it.”)
18. Horace Slughorn in ‘Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince’
Slughorn is a frazzled, borderline-senile man who hides in sofa chairs and has a somewhat creepy affinity for talented young wizards, and this unkempt haircut captures that personality perfectly.
17. Bill Weasley in ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1’
Bill Weasley (who is played by Domhnall Gleeson, whom I love in everything) is pretty cool. I mean, here’s a fact about Bill Weasley: “During the Battle of the Astronomy Tower, Bill was severely injured by the werewolf Fenrir Greyback. Although he wasn’t turned into a werewolf, he did develop some wolfish tendencies, such as a liking for very rare steaks.” I wish so badly I could go to a restaurant and tell them to cook my steak for 30 seconds, just so I could tell the waiter who warns me about the dangers of rare meat: “No, it’s chill — I was bit by a werewolf.” Anyways, Bill is awesome and his shiny, flowing red hair is too — so much so that he was able to land Fleur Delacour, by all accounts the most fetching, talented witch in the HP universe.
16. Viktor Krum in ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire’
A spartan haircut for a spartan guy. Krum really pulls this off, and it fits his rigid character and his lifestyle as a quidditch superstar. Plus, the ladies love it — Hermione agrees to go to the Yule Ball with him, and during the entire Triwizard Tournament, girls chase him like he’s Justin Bieber.
15. Cedric Diggory in ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire’
Played by a pre-vampire Robert Pattinson, Cedric Diggory is more or less a perfect human. Not only is he the wizarding equivalent of a star high school quarterback, he’s also extremely nice and respectful to adults and to his less popular peers. He’s like Freddie Prinze Jr. in She’s All That, minus the misogyny. So this haircut — which somehow stays in place even when Cedric nods — is spot on. It screams “upstanding gentleman.” On a related note: It’s hilarious to me that Harry Potter thought he ever had a shot with Cho Chang while this guy was still breathing.
14. Gilderoy Lockhart in ‘Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets’
What a smarmy piece of garbage, and what a smarmy haircut. Gilderoy Lockhart is the most punchable character in the HP universe, and his hair plays a big part in making that distinction.
13. Dolores Umbridge in ‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix’
Next to Voldemort, Dolores Umbridge may be the most evil character in Harry Potter. She’s rude to centaurs, she’s a Voldemort truther, and oh yeah, she LITERALLY TORTURES STUDENTS. Which is why her haircut is so great — it’s so hateable! It’s annoyingly perfect, snobbish, and self-righteous, just like Umbridge. You could put that haircut on Dumbledore, and he’d immediately become a tightly wound villain.
12. Peter Pettigrew in ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’
Even if you knew absolutely nothing about Harry Potter — if the waning minutes of Prisoner of Azkaban were the first you had ever seen from the series — you could take one look at Peter Pettigrew and guess that the character had spent the last 12 years pretending to be a rat. That’s a sign of a good, useful Harry Potter haircut.
11. Professor Trelawney in ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’
A frizzy, out-of-control mane for an unpredictable, bizarre master of divination who delivers one of the most sincerely haunting moments in the Harry Potter series? Yes, this haircut is perfect for Trelawney. (Also, god bless Emma Thompson.) Trelawney’s hair gets tamer and less ridiculous as the movies go on, which is a real shame — the Azkaban haircut is ideal for the character.
10. Albus Dumbledore in ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’
In general, I prefer Michael Gambon’s Dumbledore, but Richard Harris’s had better hair. It’s an iconic look, one that in the first film has the power alone to transport you to this fantastical world. The utter abundance of it is in line with the character, and its pure white color gives off friendlier vibes. Dumbledore in the later movies had some dark flecks in his hair and beard, and it kind of looked like someone had used them as a mop to clean up a New York City street. This is better than that.
9. Xenophilius Lovegood in ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1’
Xenophilius Lovegood (Rhys Ifans) has incredible hair — superficially speaking, it may be my favorite haircut in all of Harry Potter, and if he were to put it up in a man bun it’d be the signature haircut of Williamsburg residents. But it also suits his personality and lifestyle as a free-spirited, political writer. There’s one singular hair moment that clinches Xeno’s inclusion on this list. When Harry, Ron, and Hermione visit his home to ask about the Deathly Hallows, he leans over a piece of paper to jot down a visual explanation, and in the middle of doing so he looks up and brushes his hair ever so slightly away from his mouth.
It’s oddly entrancing and extremely memorable. I can’t really explain why, but I do know that lesser hair would not have achieved the same effect.
8. Bellatrix Lestrange in ‘Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince’
Say what you want about her — sure, sure, sure, she tortured Neville’s parents and carved the word “Mudblood” into Hermione’s skin — but Bellatrix has just magnificent personal style. She really committed to the whole “deranged witch” thing and never looked back. And just so we’re clear, Half-Blood Prince is when Bellatrix is at her best, hair-wise. In Order of the Phoenix she hasn’t had the chance to really style, what with being a fugitive from Azkaban and whatnot, and in Deathly Hallows she’s a little too manicured, which doesn’t make sense for the character. Half-Blood Prince is the sweet spot.
7. Ron Weasley in ‘Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince’
Did you know that the alternate title of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was Harry Potter and the Much Cooler, Much More Popular Friend? OK, I made that up, but it could really be called that! Ron is the fucking man in this movie. (Ron’s boost in swagger happens because he thinks Harry gave him Felix Felicis — a.k.a. liquid luck — but actually, Harry just gave him a placebo and RON HAD IT IN HIM ALL ALONG.) He’s schooling Slytherin in quidditch; he’s wearing clothes that Harry Styles would wear; he has multiple girls fawning over him — Lavender Brown and Hermione, who is so busted up by her unrequited love that she uses magic to hurt Ron with little paper birds; and he’s rocking the best haircut he ever had in the entire series.
6. Harry Potter in ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’
The first iteration of Harry is the best encapsulation of the character in the series. Raggedy and lovable, unassuming yet brave. As the first film, Sorcerer’s Stone had the challenge of adapting these characters to the big screen in a way that satisfied the imaginations of the millions who read the books. And because the choices made in the first movie would impact the seven to come, the initial casting and styling of the actors carried even more weight. But thanks to this moptop, Daniel Radcliffe is Harry Potter.
5. Draco Malfoy in ‘Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets’
Young Draco has amazing hairstyles, ones that have been adopted by hipsters and young fascists the world over. But I’m singling out his look in Chamber of Secrets because it’s truly weird (in a good way). Like, his hair was not this sickly yellow in Sorcerer’s Stone — nor was it ever that color again. But it works for Draco, heightening his presence as a yuppie-wizard-bully and adding a certain magnetism to the character. He’s a real punk and you should hate him — and his haircut makes that extremely easy.
4. Lucius Malfoy in ‘Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets’
Lucius Malfoy is a despicable human being who was literally going to murder a 12-year-old in a school hallway in Chamber of Secrets, but my word does he have luscious locks. I don’t think I even need to say anything else — this is an elite haircut.
3. Voldemort in ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire’
So Voldemort doesn’t exactly choose this haircut — he did not go into a barber shop on Diagon Alley and say “Take it down to the skull, my guy” — it is just probably extremely difficult to grow hair when you are a fetus-y type thing who was resurrected in a cauldron full of bones and blood. But! I gotta be honest, this is the perfect look for He Who Must Not Be Named — and he’s clearly feeling it:
It’s sinister and scary, as Voldemort is; it’s repulsive, as Voldemort is; and it really goes with the whole no-nose thing Voldemort is rocking. Really bad guy, really good haircut.
2. Severus Snape in All ‘Harry Potter’ Films
Aside from getting slightly sleeker from Goblet of Fire onward, Snape’s hair doesn’t change much over the course of the series. And that’s a good thing — Snape’s chin-length bowl cut is his defining trait. It perfectly captures his droll personality, introvertedness, and his murky motivations. Without it, he would not be Snape. It is as important a haircut as any in the Harry Potter series.
1. Hermione Granger in ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’
In the first book, J.K. Rowling describes Hermione Granger as having “lots of bushy brown hair.” Movies 2 through 8 take some liberties with that description, but Sorcerer’s Stone nails it. Her hair is bushy to the point that you can barely see Emma Watson’s face in the midst of it. And it perfectly embodies the nerdy bookworm archetype — you can almost hear it correcting your pronunciation of “leviosa.” This version of Hermione, with this haircut, is how I will always picture the character in my mind. No Harry Potter haircut is better.
An earlier version of this story misstated Bellatrix Lestrange’s actions toward Neville’s parents. She tortured them but did not kill them.