The ‘Harry Potter 20-Year Reunion’: A creative take on the nostalgia genre

February 4, 2022 — by Kavita Sundaram and Derek Hsu
Photo by Avani Kongetira
Two superfans distinguish their expectations and takeaways from a greatly anticipated reunion

No one could out-Potter this Hufflepuff-Ravenclaw duo. As the most invested Harry Potter fans in existence, we have consumed every piece of Harry Potter media humanly possible. 

So, naturally, upon seeing the announcement of “Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts,” no words could describe how beyond ecstatic we were.

 While the first film in the franchise was released three years before we were born (“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” debuted in 2001), the series continues to be a source of  childhood nostalgia. 

With that being said, we had high hopes for the reunion, and the final product certainly didn’t disappoint.  

The “Harry Potter 20-Year Reunion,” released on HBO Max in January, covered the complexities of making of the film series. 

The two-hour documentary opens at the iconic set of Hogwarts, in Oxford University, immediately immersing us into the magical realm of our childhood. It was the perfect setting for a warm blanket (or an invisibility cloak) and cozy fireplace with the family. We saw heartwarming reunions on-screen, including many conversations between Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson.

The documentary is split into chapters, which extensively cover the director Chris Columbus’ vision, practical effects and casting decisions in each successive installment of the franchise. Its main focus, however, is the synergy and growth of the iconic trio of main characters:  Harry Potter, Hermoine Granger and Ronald Weasley. 

Radcliffe, Watson and Grint spoke about their time on set and how they evolved throughout the series. From their audition tapes and set videos in 2001 to clips of behind-the-scenes interactions, gaining a glimpse of the actors’ overflowing joy and eternal family-like bonds was especially comforting.  

Although we enjoyed watching the actors interact on screen, we wished the interview-like discussions could be in larger groups, highlighting other actors who agreed to revisit this surreal part of their lives. 

There were a few moments that showcased new information, such as Watson revealing she considered leaving the franchise after “The Order of the Phoenix” in 2007. Though most of the details from the reunion were familiar to super-fans like us, it was still a fun experience.

Viewers get an inside scoop of Watson’s crush on Tom Felton, who played Draco Malfoy, and how they have remained friends to this day. Helena Bonham Carter, who played Bellatrix Lestrange, teased Radcliffe about his love letter to her, and it was endearing to see how these actors reflected upon their embarrassing moments. 

One of our favorite moments in the documentary occurs when the cast fools Richard Harris, Dumbledore’s actor, into believing a prop bird is a real phoenix.  Another heart-warming instance occurs when Rupert Grint confesses his love for Emma Watson — as a friend, of course. 

While it’s tragic to know that there will not be any new Harry Potter films in the future, watching specials like the “Harry Potter 20th Anniversary” help keep the beloved series alive and celebrated.