Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone | Movie Summary, Recap, & Review
Dive back into the wizarding world and the Harry Potter series with a detailed summary, review, and more about the first novel by J. K. Rowling.
The first movie of the Harry Potter series marks an incredible start for the much-loved franchise. Some may label it as one of the weaker films in the Harry Potter series, but it remains enjoyable to watch, even today.
- The first Harry Potter movie laid the foundation for an expansive, beloved series.
- The music is phenomenal and truly enriches the wizarding world of Harry Potter.
- Misses some key features from the books.
- The plot is tailored to a younger audience, making adult rewatches more challenging than the rest of the series.
The Harry Potter book series by J. K. Rowling is known across the world. Rowling and her world became household names for many growing up in the early 2000s. Lets take a look at everything that happened in the movie adaptation that started it all, plus some differences between the books and movies that you might not know about, along with answers to the most frequently asked questions!
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone Summary & Recap
The Snake in the Zoo
Harry Potter is an orphan who is easily recognized by his peers because of a lightning-bolt scar on his forehead. After the death of Harry Potter's parents at the hands of the evil Lord Voldemort, Harry spends the next ten years growing up with the Dursley: his Aunt Petunia, her husband, Vernon, and their son, Dudley. Harry knows nothing about the magical world that is right under his nose. From the beginning, it’s apparent that his family neglects him and that his cousin is spoiled beyond belief.
While on a trip to the zoo, Harry ends up talking to a snake that was raised in captivity. Little does he know, he’s actually speaking Parseltongue (which we learn more about in the second movie). The moment his spoiled cousin, Dudley, sees this, he shoves Harry to the ground to get a better look at the snake.
Harry unintentionally uses magic for the first time and the glass disappears, causing his cousin to fall into the cage and allowing the snake to escape. When Dudley stands back up and tries to get out of the cage, the glass has reappeared.
Harry Gets a Letter
Harry finds a letter addressed to him in the mail, coincidentally after using magic for the first time. He makes the mistake of trying to open it in front of the Dursleys and his cousin snatches it out his hand. His aunt and uncle are horrified, but Harry has no idea why.
More and more letters, and owls, start to appear, but Uncle Vernon does everything he can to keep them away from Harry. That is, until it literally starts raining letters in the house. In a panic, Uncle Vernon takes them as far away as he can, to a rickety old hut on an island in the middle of nowhere.
Hagrid Saves the Day
At this hut, Harry watches Dudley’s watch strike midnight and he wishes himself a happy birthday. Seconds later, the door is broken down by a giant man named Hagrid. He gives Harry his letter and he is finally able to read it.
He learns that he is a wizard and has been invited to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry as he finally became of age (this is usually the age when wizards start discovering they have powers). Harry also learns that his aunt and uncle knew the truth of him being a wizard all along, and not only kept his identity a secret but the cause of his parents' death a secret as well.
When the half-giant, Hagrid, spots Dudley eating the cake he brought for Harry, he uses magic to give him a pig’s tail and then reveals he is strictly not allowed to use magic.
The magical school's groundskeeper takes Harry to Diagon Alley, a place located within the wizarding world where most students go to get all their school supplies, like books, robes, money, and wands. They go to a place called Gringotts, the wizarding bank, where Hagrid goes to vault 713 to get a secret item for the headmaster.
Harry then goes to Ollivander’s wand shop, where after a few tries, he finds the perfect wand, as the wand chose him. Ollivander reveals that Harry and Voldemort’s wands have twin cores, meaning they share a tailfeather from the same phoenix and are connected.
Hagrid gives Harry an owl, which he names Hedwig, as a birthday gift. After shopping, Hagrid reveals more about the dark sorcerer that murdered his parents and left a scar on his forehead.
Arriving at Platform 9 3/4
Hagrid leaves Harry at Kings Cross Station to find platform 9 3/4 on his own. After overhearing a woman mention the word “muggle”, Harry asks her for help. This is his first interaction with the Weasley family and he runs through the pillar between platforms 9 and 10, which leads him to the magical train.
On the train to Hogwarts, Harry meets both Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, who later end up being his closest friends throughout the entire franchise.
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
When the students arrive at Hogsmeade Station, Hagrid leads them to the docks. The first years take the boats to reach the school and they get their first look at the castle from the Black Lake. It is a magical moment for everyone, students and viewers alike.
Professor McGonagall leads the students to the sorting hat ceremony where each student is sorted into their houses based on what kind of person they each are. The trio are all sorted into Gryffindor, while the boy they met on the staircase, Malfoy, is quickly sorted into Slytherin. During the opening speech, the headmaster, Albus Dumbledore, warns students that the third floor corridor is strictly forbidden, and any who venture there will die painfully.
Harry starts attending classes the next day, where he attends Professor McGonagall's class, the transfiguration teacher, head of Gryffindor house, and Deputy Headmistress, along with Professor Snape, the potion's teacher and head of Slytherin. Harry and Ron learn that the transfiguration teacher is an animagus, a witch that can shift into an animal. The potion's master gives Harry a hard time in his class, the first hint at the Professor’s grudge against his father.
While on the Grand Staircase, a staircase which changes positions on its own, the three friends end up on the third floor by accident. They try to turn around, but they see Filch's cat, Mrs. Norris. They run for the door at the end of the hall and Hermione uses alohomora to unlock it.
The moment the trio think they’re in the clear, they turn around to see a giant three headed dog ready to eat them and they flee. On the way back to their rooms, Hermione points out that the three-headed dog was put there intentionally as it was guarding a trap door.
On Halloween, Professor Flitwick teaches the students how to cast Wingardium Leviosa, the lifting charm. Hermione corrects Ron’s pronunciation of the spell and shows off her own skills, which Ron later mocks her for. She overhears him and spends the rest of her day crying in the bathroom.
At the Halloween Feast that evening, the Defense Against the Dark Art's teacher runs into the great hall and announces that a troll has escaped and is in the dungeon. Everyone panics, but Harry and Ron realize Hermione is in the bathroom, so they go looking for her only to see that the troll has found her first.
They battle the troll, and Ron successfully defeats it by using Wingardium Leviosa on the troll's club, and dropping it on his head. The teachers arrive, horrified to see that they had taken on the troll by themselves. The transfiguration teacher revokes some points from their house for disobeying orders to return to their common room, but then rewards a few point for their bravery. Harry also notices that Snape, the potions teacher, has a gash on his leg.
The Quidditch Match
Harry is gifted the Nimbus 2000, a magical broomstick, from the Deputy Headmistress as a gift to use during his very first Quidditch match against Slytherin. The game is played on broomsticks, which turns out to be very dangerous for Harry; his broom becomes cursed and he loses control of it. Harry's friends notice Snape staring at his broom while chanting, so they automatically assume he is the one responsible and head over to him.
Hermione, hidden behind Snape, casts a spell and sets his cloak on fire. This distraction causes Snape to panic, resulting in him accidentally knocking over a few of the teachers. The curse is broken and Harry is in control again, where the pursuit of the golden snitch begins. Harry flies dangerously close to the ground and ends up falling off his broom while trying to catch the snitch. It turns out Harry basically swallowed it, but it still counts as a catch and his quidditch team wins the game!
Detention in the Forbidden Forest
While at Hagrid’s Hut, the trio witness a dragon being born from an egg. Unfortunately, Malfoy follows them and tells the transfiguration professor about their late night trip. The professor gives all four of them detention, which they serve with the groundskeeper in the Forbidden Forest.
Hagrid explains that someone has been killing unicorns and they split up. Harry and Malfoy take Hagrid's dog, Fang, and venture off on their own where they discover a cloaked figure drinking the blood of a unicorn. Malfoy and Fang run off as it charges them and Harry falls over, only to be saved by a centaur. The centaur explains what the cloaked figure was and Harry learns that Voldemort is still alive.
The Race to the Sorcerer’s Stone
Harry, Ron, and Hermione discover that the three-headed dog is guarding a stone that can make someone immortal, the Sorcerer's Stone. They believe Snape is after it and rush to find the stone and to stop him.
The trio goes through multiple trials and challenges, such as falling into the Devil’s Snare plant which tries to kill them, as well as a trial with flying keys, which also try to kill Harry. The most dramatic portion of their pursuit involves a life-size wizard’s chess game where the three play as different pieces on the board. They end up winning and defeating the challenge, but Ron is injured due to his strategy of sacrificing his own piece that he was playing as, to win.
Hermione stays behind to help Ron and encourages Harry to continue on by himself. He does so and finds the Mirror of Erised, a mirror which shows the person's deepest desires, and, standing before it, Professor Quirrell.
The Final Battle
Harry ends up with the stone in his pocket, as those that pursue it without the intent of using it are the only ones who can obtain it. The Defense Against the Dark Art's teacher reveals that, all along, he has been a host for Voldemort. The professor unwraps his turban to reveal Voldemort's face on the back of his head.
When Harry refuses to hand over the stone, Voldemort commands his host to kill Harry. But Harry’s touch apparently is deadly to Quirrell (The reason is that Harry's mom sacrificed herself for her son, creating a spell preventing Voldemort from touching Harry) and it ends up turning the professor into nothing but sand. The spirit of Voldemort, however, manages to escape.
Harry and his friends successfully save the stone and Gryffindor wins the house cup! The school year comes to an end with Harry declaring that Hogwarts is his home.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone Review
CGI and Visuals | 7/10
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was released in 2001 and has amazing visuals for its time. There is no doubt that Hogwarts Castle is one of the most amazing scenes of the movie; it looks extremely life-like, even from a distance.
However, this was far before CGI was as developed as it is now, and before things like LED walls existed. There are often times when you can tell the background is a green screen and, if you haven’t seen the movie in a few years, some of the rough parts are glaringly obvious, especially the brick wall moving as Harry and Hagrid enter Diagon Alley.
Storyline and Plot Development | 9/10
While Harry Potter is marketed as a children’s movie, it definitely has some darker themes beneath it, such as the murder of Lily and James Potter and the abusive home and family Harry grows up with. Harry is even forced to sleep in a cupboard under the stairs by the Dursley family. The movies and books do a great job at making the wizarding world feel rich and alive.
Watching the first movie again, you’ll notice how many elements present in the later movies were foreshadowed, such as Harry being a Parsalmouth and Hagrid being forbidden to use magic (Hagrid was expelled from Hogwarts years ago and due to never graduating Hogwarts, was not allowed to use magic).
The movie leads us to believe Professor Snape is the villain the entire time, due to his menacing demeanor, and the twist at the end that Snape was a good guy and not the bad guy is cleverly devised. The incorporation of magical games, like wizard’s chess and Quidditch, that are later used as major obstacles is also interesting, and really showcases the depth to this world we are introduced to.
Character Development | 8/10
Harry’s development as a character comes with his discovery of his past and his true identity. We get to see him long for his parents, a love he has never felt, but we also see him reject Voldemort later on when he offers to give that to Harry.
Ron and Hermione’s characters tend to grow because of each other. The latter comes across as a know it all, and the former an airhead, but they both prove that they are more than that. Ron is able to step up and not only save his friends from a troll, but make a huge sacrifice at the end. Hermione even dares to break the rules, like sneaking out at night and setting a teacher’s robes on fire, to protect her friends.
Sound and Music | 10/10
The music throughout the entire series is by far one of the most memorable parts. Even people who have never seen the movies automatically recognize the notes of Hedwig’s Theme by John Williams. The music brings the world of Hogwarts to life and establishes the tone of the movie.
The sound design is no different. The chatter in the Great Hall, the sound of turning pages in a quiet library, the roar of cheering fans in the stadium all add to the life and vividness of the wizarding world.
Reception and Impact 9/10
The movie was well received upon its initial release in 2001 as fans of the first novel fell in love with the world all over again. Of course, like any book-to-movie adaptation, many scenes were cut, much to the disappointment of readers, but even then there is no doubt that the start of one of the most popular franchises was a success.
Overall Score | 8/10
Book and Movie Differences
The Beginning of the Harry Potter Series
The beginning of the first book begins with a fly on the wall perspective as the story follows the life of the Dursleys, which eventually leads up to the arrival of Professor Dumbledore, McGonagall, Hagrid, and baby Harry. The movie, however, just jumps straight to Dumbledore turning out the street lights with his deluminator.
Peeves the Poltergeist
There are a number of ghosts introduced in the first movie, such as Nearly Headless Nick, but the most infamous ghost from the books is missing. Peeves, the Poltergeist who is known for wreaking havoc and constantly getting into trouble, is notably absent. Many readers were very disappointed when the movie was released and such an iconic character was missing.
Harry Meets Draco Malfoy in Diagon Alley
Harry meets Malfoy at Madam Malkin’s clothing store in Diagon Alley in the book rather than on the staircase before the Sorting Ceremony. But in both scenes, despite Harry not fully understanding the wizarding world just yet, he can still tell Malfoy is the “wrong sort” of wizard to be around.
Duel Between Harry and Malfoy
In the books, Malfoy challenges Harry to a duel. Harry receives his father's invisibility cloak as a Christmas gift, and the trio uses it to sneak out and meet Malfoy. The Slytherin tricks them, and instead of merely running into the changing staircase at random, they narrowly escape Filch, who almost catches them. As a result, they accidentally encounter Fluffy.
The Additional Trials
Each teacher set up a trial that a person had to overcome to retrieve the stone, but only a few of these are showcased in the movie. Among the missing trials is Professor Snape’s test, which serves as the trio’s initial clue that Snape might not be the villain.
One of the trials involved a row of deadly potions, and one of them had to choose the non-deadly potion and drink it. Hermione once again demonstrates her intelligence as she bravely selects the correct potion, allowing them all to progress.
Product collection: Harry Potter
What is the difference between Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone?+
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is the UK version. The US version changed it to Sorcerer’s Stone so its young audience could grasp the concept better.
What is the theme of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone?+
The end of the book shows the main character's act of humility, a theme that is carried across the book due to his humble upbringing, along with the trope of found family.
What is the setting of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone?+
The story unfolds in England from late 1991 to early 1992. Hogwarts, where a significant portion of the narrative occurs, is located in Scotland.
Who is the antagonist in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone?+
The primary antagonist of the movie is the dark wizard Voldemort, but in this movie he is using one of the teachers, Professor Quirrell, who acts as a host for Voldemort to commit his evil deeds.
Who directed Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone?+
Chris Columbus directed this movie, as well as the second one. The series would then go on to have a total of four different directors, including Alfonso Cuarón, Mike Newell, and David Yates.
How long is Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone?+
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is 152 minutes, or 2 hours and 32 minutes, and the book is 336 pages. long
What is the mirror in Harry Potter called?+
The magical mirror in Harry Potter is known as the Mirror of Erised. According to Albus Dumbledore, it displays the deepest, most desperate desire within a person's heart. "Erised" is "desire" spelled backward, a very fitting name for a mirror.