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Harry Potter: Ranking Each Defense Against The Dark Arts Teacher Based On What They Actually Taught Harry

Harry Potter had some engaging Defense Against the Dark Arts professors – let’s talk about them. 

For those who know me and those who don’t, I’m a big fan of Harry Potter. I grew up watching some of the best fantasy movies, but Harry Potter always stood out as one of the best. 

Years later, I’ll happily rank the Harry Potter movies, rewatch them all I want, and re-read the books whenever I feel down. I love this world, all the creatures that inhabit it, and the characters (of course), as well as the Defense against the Dark Arts teachers, even when some are… less than adequate. 

Today, I will be ranking every Defense Against the Dark Arts instructor (known as DADA) that Harry has had based on what they taught him. This is any teacher Harry personally experienced, so let’s get into it. 

Kenneth Branagh in Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

6. Gilderoy Lockhart – Adults Can Lie, Even In Print

Truthfully, I struggled to come up with anything for this man. Gilderoy Lockhart is a walking red flag for being a professor, which works out, considering he was never really one. He made up all of his stories in his books and was a fraud – and even willing to wipe the children’s minds to protect that legacy. 

The only perfect thing about Lockhart is that Kenneth Branagh portrayed him wonderfully, and I stand by that excellent performance. Other than that, Lockhart is probably the worst form of teacher you can get because he doesn’t teach anything. 

However, the one thing Lockhart does teach is more of a personal lesson rather than a practical one – that adults can lie. During Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Lockhart was Harry’s DADA teacher during his second year

Lockhart may rank last as a Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, but he did provide a valuable lesson: while some adults can be helpful, others will lie to get their way and succeed in life, even lying about what they know to become an adored celebrity. Lockhart’s ending was the perfect way to close out his story, but at least he taught Harry something before his mind-wiping spell backfired on him. 

Dumbledore's Army getting exposed in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

5. Dolores Umbridge – Her Affinity For Knowledge Instead Of Practical Defense

God, Dolores. Out of all the Harry Potter antagonists, she’s the one that most people hate even more than Voldemort. 

I give it up to Imelda Staunton’s great performance as Dolores as to why we all hate her so much. I can’t watch The Crown Season 6 (as well as Season 5) without even thinking of her. Either way, Dolores could have been a better DADA instructor, too. She was more of a spy for the ministry than anything, assigned to teach kids about the practicalities of DADA and provide books rather than actual defensive magic techniques. 

But I will give Umbridge that while she was a spy and a pretty terrible person, she had an affinity for knowledge that most professors didn’t have when it came to her books and her ability to speak. I think her cleverness inspired Harry in more ways than one, which ultimately led him and Hermione to trick her not long after. 

Quirrell in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

4.  Quirinus Quirrell – The Importance Of The Philosopher’s Stone

Quirrell is another case where, in my opinion, I don’t know him well enough to be a good DADA instructor. In both the book and movie, he’s more of a background character in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone until the end, where it’s revealed that he’s let Voldemort take space in the back of his head. 

But Quirrell taught Harry two critical lessons from that moment – A) a reason to learn the importance of the Sorcerer’s Stone (that it can give someone the chance to be immortal) and how he needs to keep it from both Quirrell and Voldemort and B) that the return of Voldemort is very real and vital. This altercation sets Harry on the path to facing Voldemort all those years later. 

Alan Rickman as Severus Snape right after he tells students to turn to page 394 in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

3. Severus Snape – Occlumency

Sometimes, I forget that Severus Snape had tenure as the DADA professor in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. While he took over the role as a substitute briefly for a class in the third book and movie, he officially became the professor in the sixth installment. Even so, Snape taught Harry something he hadn’t learned in classes – instead, it was after classes, but very important for defense against the dark arts.

Snape’s important lesson to Harry was Occlumency, the ability to shield his mind against Legilimency (the ability to enter someone else’s mind — a power Voldemort has). This took place in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and it honestly helped Harry a decent amount when Voldemort was entering his mind pretty consistently in his dreams. The lessons only went on until Harry accidentally got a peek into Snape’s mind, but they were still valuable. 

Either way, Snape will live in our hearts forever, and his character is one of Alan Rickman’s best roles

Brendan Gleeson as Mad-Eye Moody in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

2. Bartemius Crouch Jr./Alastor “Mad-Eye” Moody – The Unforgivable Curses

Okay, this is a bit tricky because, technically, Mad-Eye Moody wasn’t the real DADA professor during Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. It was Barty Crouch, who used Polyjuice Potion to take on the appearance of Mad-Eye. But either way, the man did teach Harry – and everyone else – probably three of the most significant curses you could know. 

The Unforgivable Curses – Imperius Curse, Cruciatus Curse, and Avada Kedavra (the Killing Curse) – were used several times throughout the series, either through the main characters or side ones, especially in battle. And while they are unforgivable, these lessons proved to be important to Harry and some of the other students. 

David Thewlis in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

1. Remus Lupin – The Patronus Charm

The best Defense Against the Dark Arts professor has to be Remus Lupin – a character from Harry Potter who deserved more screen time than he was given. Come on, he taught Harry the Patronus Charm in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. How can I not have him up here?

Lupin (as well as Sirius Black) were sources of comfort for Harry. He was a kind man with a dark past and had his own set of issues to dig through and deal with (a werewolf-sized issue). But despite all of that, he still made time to teach Harry so much, including the Patronus Charm – a charm that Harry has used so many times to save himself throughout the series when Dementors came to ruin his day. 

Heck, if Harry hadn’t known that charm at the end of the third book, he and his godfather would have died in that lake. For that alone, Lupin gets the top spot, for sure. 

In the upcoming Harry Potter Max TV show, maybe we’ll get the chance to see the DADA professors teach more than we did in the movies. If that’s the case, I can always make a new list. But for now, these professors certainly left an impact, for better or worse. But the lesson I learned from this is never to take up the Defense Against the Dark Arts position at Hogwarts – it never quite ends well. 

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