Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is a 2004 fantasy film directed by Alfonso Cuarón from a screenplay by Steve Kloves, based on the 1999 novel of the same name by J. K. Rowling. It is the sequel to Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002) and the third instalment in the Harry Potter film series. The film stars Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter, alongside Rupert Grint and Emma Watson as Harry's best friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger respectively. The film follows Harry's third year at Hogwarts and his quest to uncover the truth about his past, including the connection recently-escaped Azkaban prisoner Sirius Black has to Harry and his late parents.
With this film, the Harry Potter series switched to a longer eighteen-month production cycle. Cuarón was selected as director from a list that included Callie Khouri and Kenneth Branagh. The cast of previous instalments returned for the film, with the additions of Gary Oldman, David Thewlis, and Emma Thompson, among others. It was the first appearance of Michael Gambon as Professor Albus Dumbledore, due to Richard Harris's death in 2002. Principal photography began in February 2003 at Leavesden Film Studios. It was the first in the series to extensively use real-life locations, with sets built in Scotland and scenes shot in London. Filming concluded in November 2003.
The film was released on 31 May 2004 in the United Kingdom, and on 4 June 2004 in North America. It was the first Harry Potter film to use IMAX Technology and released into IMAX theatres. Prisoner of Azkaban grossed a total of $797.5 million worldwide, making it the second-highest-grossing film of 2004. Critics praised Cuarón's direction and the lead actors' performances. It is credited for marking a notable change in the franchise's tone and directorial style, and is often considered by critics and fans alike to be the best Harry Potter film. It was nominated for two Academy Awards, Best Original Music Score and Best Visual Effects, at the 77th Academy Awards in 2004. It was followed by Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in 2005.
Plot - After his second year at Hogwarts, Harry Potter spends another dissatisfying summer with the Dursleys. On his thirteenth birthday, Vernon's visiting sister Marge viciously insults Harry and his parents, and an angry Harry causes her to inflate and float away. Expecting to be expelled for using magic outside school, Harry flees with his belongings.
The Knight Bus takes Harry to the Leaky Cauldron, where Minister for Magic Cornelius Fudge assures Harry that he will not be punished. Reuniting with his best friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, Harry learns that Sirius Black, a convicted supporter of Lord Voldemort, has escaped Azkaban Prison and intends to kill him. During the journey to Hogwarts, the Hogwarts Express is boarded by Dementors, ghostly prison guards searching for Black. One enters Harry's compartment, causing him to faint, but new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher Remus Lupin repels it with a Patronus Charm. At Hogwarts, Headmaster Albus Dumbledore announces that Dementors will patrol the school until Black is captured.
Rubeus Hagrid is appointed Care of Magical Creatures teacher, but his first class goes awry when Draco Malfoy provokes a Hippogriff named Buckbeak into attacking him, and his father, Lucius, has Buckbeak sentenced to death. Returning to Gryffindor Tower, the students find the Fat Lady's portrait has been attacked, and the terrified Fat Lady warns Dumbledore that Black entered the castle. During a stormy Quidditch match, Dementors cause Harry to fall off his broomstick, which is destroyed by the Whomping Willow. He is caught trying to visit Hogsmeade by Fred and George, who give him The Marauder's Map.
Using the map, Harry sneaks into Hogsmeade and learns that Black is his godfather, but divulged the Potters' whereabouts to Voldemort and murdered their mutual friend Peter Pettigrew. Determined to ward off the Dementors, Harry convinces Lupin to teach him the Patronus Charm. After Divination class, he witnesses Professor Trelawney enter a trance and prophesies that the Dark Lord will return. Watching Buckbeak's execution, Ron's pet rat Scabbers bites him and escapes, but a large black dog drags them both into a hole at the base of the Whomping Willow. This leads the trio through an underground passage into the Shrieking Shack, where the dog is revealed to be Black, an Animagus who can transform into an animal.
Lupin appears, embracing Black as an old friend before revealing himself to be a werewolf. Snape arrives to apprehend Black, but is knocked out by Harry's Disarming spell. Lupin and Black reveal that Scabbers is actually the Animagus form of Pettigrew, who betrayed Harry's parents, faked his death and framed Black for his own crimes. Turning Pettigrew back into human form, the group heads back to the castle, but the full moon causes Lupin to transform and Pettigrew escapes. As Black fights off Lupin in their animal forms, Dementors attack Black and Harry, but an unseen figure casts a powerful Patronus. Harry falls unconscious, awakening in the infirmary with Dumbledore and Hermione.
Learning that Black has been captured and sentenced to the Dementor's Kiss, Harry and Hermione act on Dumbledore's advice and use Hermione's Time-Turner, which she was given to attend several classes at once, to go three hours back in time. They see themselves reliving the night's events, and set Buckbeak free from execution. Spotting the past Harry and Black being attacked by Dementors, Harry rescues them using a Patronus charm and realizes he was the unseen figure who saved them earlier. He and Hermione free Black, who flies away on Buckbeak, still a fugitive without proof of his innocence. Harry and Hermione return to the infirmary, rejoining their own timeline.
Exposed as a werewolf, Lupin resigns from teaching and returns the Marauder's Map to Harry. Black sends Harry a Firebolt broomstick, which he happily takes on a ride.