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Novel and Film Differences in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Published November 28, 2004 in MOVIE RANT
By Ryan Parsons | Buy the Poster from AllPosters by clicking on the image, some quotes taken directly from JK Rowling's Harry Potter series.
Your ultimate guide to differences between film and novel.
Any of you who have read my Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Review, know that I was pretty bummed with the lack of some details that should have been applied to the screenplay. This bothers me the most because the magic behind Rowling's books are her attention to the little details. Little bits of information you may not find important in one book and then later discover that this little detail meant all the world to the Potter story. So, here is a list of details that you should HAVE to know for the future Potter stories.

Differences Between Book and Movie in Prisoner of Azkaban

Before I start, I have to say that this article is extremely SPOILER dense. If you have not read the Prisoner book or watched the film, you should NOT read this article. If you have seen the film and planned on reading the books, you should NOT read this article. However, if you know you will never read the Potter books [which is a bummer], and continue to stick with the movies, you SHOULD read this article.

Here is the ultimate guide to things you MUST know for the Potter story [details in order of when the book states them:

The First Quidditch Game

Even though the movie does not necessarily state it, Gryffindor played Hufflepuff instead of their usual contender, Slytherin. The movie shows Harry fall off of his broom due to the dementors that arrive at the game, which is the same for the book. In the film, we later find Harry in the hospital with a broken broom and a story how nobody blames him for the team's loss to Hufflepuff.

However, the significance of this event was very important [more so than the film conveys]. This is Oliver Wood's last year to have a chance to win the Quidditch Cup, and, according to Wood, the latest Gryffindor team was the best he's ever played with. While Harry is not allowed to leave Hogwart grounds, Professor McGonagall allows concessions to Potter as she enjoys Quidditch and would also like to see her house win the Cup again.

The match leaves Harry without a broom in both the book and movie.

This game also introduces Cedric Diggory, a very nice fifth year wizard who is the key player for Hufflepuff. Cedric becomes a very important character in later books.

The Werewolf Essay

In the film, just like the book, Professor Snape substitute teaches for Lupin while he is out 'sick.' During this time, Snape makes the class jump ahead of schedule to learn about werewolves and how to spot them. However, the film never discusses the outcome of this essay.

In the book, Lupin is able to return for the next class. He hears about Snape's homework assignment and immediately cancels it. Everybody is excited except for Hermione, who has alredy written the essay. This is why she, and only she, is the only student who figures out that Lupin is a werewolf; a fact she keeps secret, as she likes Lupin as her teacher.

Potter Sneaks to Hogsmeade

In the film, Potter goes to Hogsmeade under his invisibility cloak. There he discovers that Sirius is his godfather by listening in on a conversation between Professor McGonagall and Cornelius Fudge. In the film, Harry hears this news alone.

In the book, Harry Potter goes to Hogsmeade [the first time] without his invisibility cloak. He is forced to hide under a table that Ron and Hermione are sitting at when Fudge, McGonagall, Hagrid, Flitwick and Rosmerta enter the inn of the Three Broomsticks. The group of teachers sit right next to Ron, Hermione, and Harry; with the only cover being a plant that separates the two tables. At this point, all three of the kids are allowed to listen in on what the teachers and Fudge are saying.

During this conversation Harry learns that his father, James Potter, and Sirius Black were so close that they were like brothers. The two are even compared to Fred and George Weasley. Harry also learns that Black was James Potter's best man for his wedding to Lily [Harry's mom]. The conversation continues and we learn that the Potter's were tipped off that Voldemort was after them. In an attempt to hide from Voldemort, Dumbledore helped the Potter's to do the Fidelius Charm. The charm allows a person to remain hidden from all who look for them. However, for the charm to work, the Potter's had to choose a Secret-Keeper. Their chosen Keeper being Sirius Black, who was suspected to telling this secret to Voldemort. A great point made in the book is James extreme trust of Sirius. Dumbledore volunteered to be the Secret-Keeper for the Potter's, but James refused and said that Black would die before telling where the Potter's were. A trust that was broken? Furthermore, Dumbledore remained skeptical as he suspected that some one close to the Potter's was Voldemort's spy.

We then learn that Hagrid met Sirius immediately after the Potter's demise. When Hagrid went to investigate the Potter hideaway, he encountered Black who insisted on taking Harry Potter to further protection on his flying motorbike. He also mentions that Black was white and shaking; an assumption of Black's worries and guilt about Voldemort's demise by Harry. Black asks for Potter, but Hagrid refused and said he had to take Potter to Dumbledore. Black gives his motorbike to Hagrid so he can have a quick journey. The conversation [between the teachers and Fudge] continues with what-if statements about what Black would have done to Harry if he had gotten his hands on him.

Just as in the film, Harry then learns about Peter Pettigrew, a fat little boy who worshipped James and Sirius. The teachers claim that Pettigrew seeked Black out for revenge and was blown to bits with the only thing left of him being a finger.

The final note on this conversation was Fudge stating that Sirius Black was NOT mad, even after all those years in Azkaban. Fudge recently visited Black and gave him the current newspaper for reading. It is later mentioned, in the book, that Black was able to keep his sanity only because he knew he was innocent.

*The main reason the Ministry believed Black escaped to finish the job on Harry was that, while asleep, Black murmured 'he's at Hogwarts.' However, the book and film show that the Weasley's were front page of the newspaper because of their trip to Egypt. This was the same paper handed to Sirius. On this paper was a picture of Ron and Scabbers, Sirius recognized Scabbers immediately as Peter Pettigrew and knew he had to break out of Azkaban to exact his revenge and protect Harry.

The Firebolt

In the Prisoner film, Potter receives the Firebolt from Sirius at the end of the movie. This is completely different than in the book. Harry receives his Firebolt soon after he breaks his Nimbus. He gets it as a gift for the holidays and has no idea who it is from. Harry gets excited and thinks that his house will once again have a chance of winning the Quidditch Cup. However, Hermione gets suspicious and reports the gift to Professor McGonagall. McGonagall takes the broom from Harry to inspect it for jinx's. *This makes Harry angry at Hermione, who is already hated by Ron [discussed later].

Harry gets the Firebolt back just before their Quidditch match versus Ravenclaw. Gryffindor wins this match, but with some minor events along the way.

*Harry does not discover that the broom was from Sirius till the end of the book when Sirius writes to Harry saying the Firebolt was a gift to cover thirteen missed birthdays.

Gryffindor vs. Ravenclaw.. Patronus

After the match verse Hufflepuff, Potter started taking Patronus lessons with Professor Lupin; he did so for himself and the request of Wood who knew he could not afford Harry falling off of his broom again. During the lessons, Harry was able to achieve only a wisp of the Patronus; which was still pretty good considering that it is a very advanced spell. An ordinary Patronus spell spits out some type of animal protector that is extremely powerful as it chases away danger.

During the match, Harry thinks he sees dementors down on the Quidditch field. While chasing the snitch, Harry fires a Patronus down at this group and then grabs the snitch to win the match. Harry later finds out that the dementors were not dementors at all, they were some Slytherins, including Malfoy, who were hoping to scare Harry into falling off of his broom. Harry, instead, scared the Slytherins as he unknowingly shot a real patronus. A patronus that Dumbledore immediately recognizes. *Explained later.

On another important note: this match introduces Cho Chang, the Ravenclaw seeker, an attractive girl who Potter will later have relations with.

Harry Has Pictures of Sirius Black

Just a small bit of information that was interesting to the book, and not mentioned in the movie. Harry has a whole photo album of his parents. However, he did not realize that a lot of the pictures he had of his parents, also had Sirius Black in them. Harry notices that Black is a good looking guy [much different than how he looks in the recent papers], and a really friendly looking guy as well.

Harry was finally starting to put two and two together.

Everybody Hates Hermione

This is almost a constant theme through the entire Prisoner of Azkaban book. While the film only shows Ron upset with Hermione, the book has both the boys hate Hermione for some period of time. Their relationship with Hermione gets so bad that Hagrid calls the boys down to his hut to discuss how Hermione always cries to him about her failing relationship with Harry and Ron. This relationship really does not heal till near the end of the book.

Also, the film makes an attempt to show that there may be some type of love interest between Ron and Hermione; which is true. While the book shows a lot of hate between the two, there are also some compassionate moments where their relationship becomes more love-hate.

Crookshanks Is More Important Than You Know

In the movie, Crookshanks [Hermione's cat] constantly goes after Scabbers [Ron's rat]. This is one of the main reasons Ron and Hermione do not get along during the Azkaban book and film. However, the movie makes it seem that Crookshanks goes after Scabbers just because Crookshanks is a cat and that is the natural thing for cats to do. In the book, Harry awakes early one morning, as he can't sleep due to his upcoming Quidditch match versus Slytherin. He looks out his bedroom window and notices that Crookshanks is free and wandering around Hogwarts grounds. Harry continues to watch and realizes that Crookshanks has befriended the big, black, dog that he has taken to be the Grim. Crookshanks seems to be hanging out, and conspiring, with this animal.

As you know, we later find out that this big black dog is Sirius Black [in both the film and book]. But, if you only watched the movie, you didn't know that it was Sirius who was telling Crookshanks to attack Scabbers and bring him back to him. Crookshanks was attacking Scabbers as a favor to Sirius Black, not as a cat reflex. Crookshanks is an extremely intelligent cat who was able to see through Scabbers disguise. And, as in the book and film, Scabbers is really Peter Pettigrew, the real Secret-Keeper and murderer of the Potter family.

Crookshanks later shows Hermione and Harry how to tame the Whomping Willow as he leads the two down into the tunnel towards the Shrieking Shack. While in the Shack, Harry and Sirius get into a fistfight, Crookshanks bites Harry to protect Black. Crookshanks was also the one responsible for stealing the Gryffindor passwords for Sirius from Neville. To top it off, Crookshanks was also the one who retrieved the gold Black used to purchase the Firebolt with.

Gryffindor Wins the Quidditch Cup

Just a minor detail. It seems that Alfonso Cuarón was not all that in to having too much Quidditch in his film. Prisoner of Azkaban is the first time Gryffindor wins the Cup in over seven years. A pretty important feat that puts Professor McGonagall in tears.

The Marauder's Map

During the encounter between Lupin, Sirius, Harry, Ron, and Hermione in the Shrieking Shack, the kids learn that Lupin is one of the creators of the map; he is Moony. The names on the map are nicknames to the people who created it. The people who created the map were: Lupin, James Potter, Sirius Black, and Peter Pettigrew. However, the movie only shows that Professor Lupin knew how to use it, not that he was actually one of the map's creators.

Un-Registered Animagi

I thought this was a wonderful addition to the Potter story and fully explained why Black was able to escape from Azkaban and stay hidden from authorities. The story behind this also shows just how close these friends were [Lupin, Sirius, James Potter, and Pettigrew] and the risks they took to take care of one another.

Lupin tells the story about how he had been bitten by a werewolf when he was very young. He did not believe Hogwarts was going to accept him as a student, but they did under the conditions laid down by Dumbledore. Every full moon, the teachers would sneak Lupin out of Hogwarts through a hidden path underneath the Whomping Willow. The Willow was actually planted because of Lupin in order to protect his identity. They would hide Lupin in a built shack where he would remain isolated, causing him to only hurt himself. The screams heard from this shack, created by Lupin, earned it the title 'the Shrieking Shack.' Lupin was good friends with James Potter, Sirius, and Peter. Because of this, they started to catch on and learn what was wrong with their dear friend. The only solution thought of by these friends was that each had to learn how to transfigure into an animal. However, this was extremely difficult magic that required the guidance and acknowledgement of the Ministry of Magic [it is also very dangerous]. Being rebellious, the group of school friends went on their own to learn how to do it. After some time, they were all Animagi and able to hang out with their friend Lupin; even when Lupin was a werewolf. As werewolves can be friends with other animals, its people they uncontrollably attack.

The key point here is that Sirius was able to become a dog, James Potter a stag, and Peter Pettigrew a rat. This is also why Harry Potter shoots out a stag as his Patronus. Harry has much of his father in him, therefore causing him to fire out a stag [which his father could become] as his protector.

Since the gang never became registered Animagi, it was easy for Pettigrew to disappear and frame Black for his, and the Potters', murder. Nobody knew to look for Peter as a rat. Also, Black later used his hidden abilities to sneak out of Azkaban and hide from authorities; who had no idea that Black can transfigure into a dog.

In the end, this story strengthens the bond of friendship between Lupin, Sirius, James Potter, and even Peter [till he turned]. Harry can only learn of his parents through stories such as this. Black continues to use his unknown ability to become a dog in future books.

*It is said that James Potter saved Professor Snape's life. During the Shrieking Shack scene, we learn that Snape was a nosy student who was very jealous of James and his friends. Snape always tried to get the group expelled and tried to discover what secret Lupin was hiding. As a joke, Sirius Black [as a student] told Snape how to get into the Whomping Willow to find Lupin. However, if Snape succeeded in getting into the Whomping Willow, Lupin [as a werewolf] would have killed him. Sirius told James Potter of the joke causing James to catch up to Snape and prevent him from approaching Lupin in the Shrieking Shack. However, Snape did see the werewolf and, from then on, knew what Lupin was. A secret that Snape promised Dumbledore he would keep. James Potter risked his life to save Snape as he had to grab Snape out of the tunnel as a human.

Peter Pettigrew Admits Following Voldemort

During the scene in the Shrieking Shack, Peter finally admits that it was he as the spy for Voldemort and that it was he who told Voldemort where to find James, Lily, and Harry Potter. Peter did not only go into hiding to help frame Black, but he also feared Voldemort and Voldemort supporters that were still loose. Voldemort supporters saw Peter as a spy for the other side, considering he was the one who sent Voldemort to confront the Potter's; the same place Voldemort lost his power. Therefore, Peter continued to lay low until his master's return.

Harry, Sirius, AND Hermione Almost Die from the Dementors

During this scene in the film, Harry tries to protect Black from the dementors all by himself. In the book, Harry asks Hermione to help him create a Patronus. Soon after his request, he feels Hermione faint and realizes that he is alone and must fight to save all of them.

When Harry later goes back in time, he returns to where the dementors attacked and creates a Patronus by himself. Hermione does not show up until after he successfully creates one. Hermione gets angry with Harry, stating that he is changing time [a big no no]. In retort, Harry claims he just saved their lives.

Harry and Hermione Confronted by Snape

After Harry and Hermione successfully save Buckbeak and release Sirius Black, they return to their beds in the hospital while nobody noticed they were missing. Soon after, Snape comes busting in, flaming mad, accusing Potter of doing something to have helped Sirius escape. Fudge, who had first considered Snape for the Order of Merlin, looked at Dumbledore and mentioned that he should keep a close eye on his professor [Snape]. A great revenge on the most hated teacher.

Peter Pettigrew is Debted to Harry

In the wizarding world, when you save another wizard they owe you a life-debt that binds them to you. Dumbledore mentions that Peter now owes Harry a life-debt, which should really piss Voldemort off. Dumbledore goes on to say that it is important that Peter survived as he may work for their cause in the future.

Minor Details

Ron did not hurt his leg from being bitten from the dog [Sirius] as the film suggests. In the book, Ron is bitten on the arm and, in an attempt to prevent himself from being pulled into the Whomping Willow, Ron wraps his leg around one of the tree's roots. Sirius pulls on Ron so hard that, with a large crack, his leg breaks.

In the film, we hear Hermione say, 'If you want to kill Harry, you'll have to kill us too!' However, the real person who says this line [in the book] is Ron, a sign that he may be braver than the story has allowed.

There is a scene in the film where Potter attacks Snape by trying to disarm him through use of the 'expelliarmus' spell. You see Snape get hit by a bolt and thrown into a bed; unconscious. In the book, Snape is knocked unconscious as he is thrown against a wall accidently. At the same moment, both Harry and Hermione use the 'expelliarmus' spell on Snape, and it is said that Hermione's spell was more powerful; causing Snape to be knocked back instead of just disarmed.

Black blames himself for the Potters' deaths. He admits that they asked him to be a Secret-Keeper and suggested that Peter Pettigrew should do it.

In the Prisoner of Azkaban film, Black tells Potter he is his godfather and that Potter can come live with him. In the film, Potter is unable to answer. However, the book has Potter excitedly agree to come live with Black.

Prongs, one of the creators of the Marauder's Map, was James Potter's nickname.

In the film, we see Professor Lupin tell Potter that he 'made all the difference in the world,' after Potter claimed that he did not make any difference with the actions he took. In the book, it is Dumbledore who tells him this.

We learn of the Quidditch World Cup during the train ride out of Hogwarts, a Cup that is very important for the next book.

At the very end of the book, Harry receives a letter, carried by a young owl, from Sirius. In the letter Sirius tells Harry how he is safe and that the Firebolt was a gift from him. He also states that the carrier owl is a gift to Ron Weasley as he no longer has a rat. In one of the most touching moments of the book, Ron takes the owl and offers it over to Crookshanks to have a sniff [a cat he had continuously hated and distrusted for the entire book]. The act shows final acceptance by Ron for Hermione's cat, and it is the final mend to Ron and Hermione's relationship.


Hope I didn't miss any other important elements. If I did, let me know. Remember, this article is for those who refuse to read the books and will only watch the movies. The missing details may become a larger problem with the next Potter films as the books have been growing much longer each time; too long for a film to take it all in. Pass it on.

*I am not attempting to bash the film for missing the details. It is just important to know these little details if you are too lazy to read the book.
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Ryan Parsons
Sources: Buy the Poster from AllPosters by clicking on the image, some quotes taken directly from JK Rowling's Harry Potter series.

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