For over twenty years now, the Harry Potter films have gifted fans with some of the greatest movie moments of all time. Kids and adults alike have reveled in the chance to see the most famous wizard of all time hold his first wand, battle the basilisk, and produce a Patronus with that chill-inducing cry, “Expecto Patronum!” It’s impossible not to feel as cheerful as the Gryffindors when Dumbledore awards his last-minute House points in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and equally difficult not to break down when a certain house elf meets a tragic end in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One.
The films have been a blessing in the lives of Harry Potter fans everywhere as well as the actors who starred in them. But just like many of the characters in J.K. Rowling’s famed book series, a great number of those actors have left us far too soon. Losing them has felt like losing members of our own extended families, especially for the viewers who grew up watching them bring characters like Albus Dumbledore, Vernon Dursley, and Severus Snape to life. As hard as it’s been to say goodbye to these talented artists, we’re able to take at least a little comfort in the screen performances and legacies they’ve left behind.
Here are some of the notable actors from the Harry Potter films who are no longer with us.
Richard Harris (Albus Dumbledore)
The first actor from the HP family to pass away, breaking the hearts of fans everywhere, was Richard Harris. His untimely passing in 2002 after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease meant that he couldn’t reprise his role as the beloved Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts and mentor to young Harry, in future films. Harris wasn’t just an actor playing a role in the first two Potters — he was Dumbledore, the same way Daniel Radcliffe actualized Harry and Robbie Coltrane embodied Hagrid. His passing led Michael Gambon to replace him in the role, but fans have largely agreed that there was something singularly magical about Harris’s initial portrayal of the character.
Elizabeth Spriggs (The Fat Lady)
Richard Harris wasn’t the only actor who was replaced in the HP films. English character actress Elizabeth Spriggs, who played the Fat Lady in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, passed away in 2008 at the age of 78. She was still alive when it came time to film 2004’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, but director Alfonso Cuarón decided to replace her with the more comedic Dawn French instead. Spriggs only had one line in the first film ⏤ ”Password?” — but fans of Sense and Sensibility and Spriggs’ stage work no doubt appreciated her cameo nonetheless.
Robert Knox (Marcus Belby)
One of the more tragic deaths to hit the HP family came when Robert Knox was stabbed to death outside a bar in London in 2008 after trying to protect his brother from a fight that had broken out. Knox was only 18 when he died and never got to see the scenes he filmed for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. He played Marcus Belby in the film, a Ravenclaw one year older than Harry who was a fellow member of Horace Slughorn’s Slug Club. The cast of Prince wore white ribbons at the film’s premiere to pay tribute to their slain friend, and twelve years after Knox’s death, a documentary was made to commemorate his life and raise awareness about knife crime.
Eric Sykes (Frank Bryce)
Frank Bryce’s murder at the beginning of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire marks a clear departure from the more lighthearted tone of the first three books, offering readers and viewers alike a hint that things are about to get a whole lot darker in HP world. Bryce is the Riddle family’s gardener and was played by Eric Sykes in the fourth film. Even though he was only on screen for a few minutes, his presence showed just how powerful Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) was becoming — enough to inflict his own killing curse on the poor guy, who was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sykes died peacefully in his home in 2012 at the age of 89.
Richard Griffiths (Vernon Dursley)
As much as fans collectively hated Uncle Vernon as a character, they were devastated to learn of Richard Griffiths’ passing in 2013. His portrayal of Vernon Dursley was pitch-perfect and provided plenty of hilarious moments to illustrate the strained dynamic between himself and his magical nephew. Griffiths was a celebrated English actor of stage and screen with nearly four decades of acting credits under his belt and was also the winner of numerous awards for his work including a Tony for The History Boys. He passed away at age 65 from complications following heart surgery.
Dave Legeno (Fenrir Greyback)
Another tragic HP death came in 2014 when Dave Legeno, who played Fenrir Greyback in the last three Potter films, was found dead in Death Valley in 2014. He’d been hiking in the area, which is known for reaching temperatures of up to 120 degrees and passed away from heat-related issues. His portrayal of Greyback, a vicious werewolf with a love for attacking people and turning them into werewolves for sport, was appropriately chilling, and his stellar hair and makeup made the actor nearly unrecognizable in the role. Prior to his death, he’d also appeared in a variety of other notable films, among them Batman Begins, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, and Snow White and the Huntsman.
Roger Lloyd Pack (Barty Crouch Senior)
One of the most important subplots in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is the relationship between Barty Crouch Senior, an employee of the Ministry of Magic, and his troubled son, Barty Crouch Junior, who many believe was driven to become a Death Eater by his very own father. The tension between them informs many of the book and film’s plot twists, which viewers have a front-row seat to when Harry’s name is mysteriously drawn from the Goblet of Fire and he’s entered into the Triwizard Tournament. Barty Crouch Senior was played by versatile English actor Roger Lloyd Pack in the fourth film, who passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2014. His son was played by David Tennant, best known for portraying the Doctor in Dr. Who and Kilgrave in Jessica Jones.
Alan Rickman (Severus Snape)
Perhaps the most emotional loss HP fans have endured following the franchises’ success has been that of Alan Rickman, who died suddenly in 2016 at the age of 69. Like fellow Potter castmate Roger Lloyd Pack, Rickman passed away from pancreatic cancer after only telling close friends and family that he was terminally ill. His casting as Severus Snape is often hailed as the best in the entire Potter franchise.
Snape’s simultaneous hatred of Harry and protection of him over the course of the eight films made him one of the most multifaceted characters in J.K. Rowling’s universe, and Rickman explored every shade of the Potions Master with the depth that only a true master could. His death was felt by all who adore the films, especially since many of them had yet to recover from Snape’s equally heartbreaking death in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part Two.
Hazel Douglas (Bathilda Bagshot)
One of the creepiest performances in the HP films comes in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One when Harry and Hermione travel to Godric’s Hollow to destroy one of Voldemort’s Horcruxes and meet Bathilda Bagshot, the author of their school textbook A History of Magic. Bagshot doesn’t say anything in the scene, an oddity that only makes sense when it’s revealed that she’s not Bagshot at all, but Voldemort’s snake Nagini in disguise. Hazel Douglas brought Bagshot to life in the film, and even though she didn’t speak a word, she succeeded in adding great dramatic tension to a film that already had audiences on the edges of their seats. Douglas passed away in 2016 at the age of 92.
John Hurt (Ollivander)
One of the single greatest scenes in the entire eight-film series occurs when Harry steps into Ollivander’s wand shop to buy his first wand. Fans of the book knew just how important this scene was, as Harry’s wand was the tool that would ultimately allow him to practice magic at Hogwarts, but they weren’t necessarily prepared for John Hurt’s master class in the role of Ollivander.
In a single scene, he manages to encapsulate his character’s wisdom, sense of humor, and dark foreboding when he realizes that the perfect wand for Harry happens to be the brother of Voldemort’s. His monologue to Harry is now the stuff of legend, and when the actor passed away in 2017 at the age of 77, it became etched into the hearts of fans as the one he would be remembered by. Like Alan Rickman and Roger Lloyd Pack, Hurt passed away from pancreatic cancer.
Robert Hardy (Cornelius Fudge)
Another thoroughly unlikable character in both the HP books and films is Cornelius Fudge, the inept Minister of Magic. It’s hard to know whether he’s a good wizard or a dark one for most of the books, and in the film, he was brought to similarly confusing life by Robert Hardy, an English character actor with a miles-long resume. In addition to being a respected actor, Hardy was a longbow specialist and even wrote two books about medieval military archery. His last days were spent in a London retirement home for actors, where he died in 2017 at the age of 91.
Verne Troyer (Griphook)
“It’s not Hogwarts without you, Hagrid,” Harry says at the end of Chamber of Secrets, and as Hagrid explains to Harry in Sorcerer’s Stone, it’s not Gringotts without goblins. Harry quickly learns that it would be foolish to try and steal something from an establishment guarded by stern, pointy-eared goblins, which is why it’s a surprise when you-know-what is later stolen from vault you-know-which. The first goblin Harry meets at the bank is Griphook, played by Verne Troyer, who makes sure that Harry has the key he needs before allowing him and Hagrid to go far underground to the vaults below. Troyer, who is best known for playing Mini-Me in the Austin Powers films, died in 2018 from an alcohol overdose, which was later ruled a suicide.
Helen McCrory (Narcissa Malfoy)
The death of Helen McCrory in April of 2021 shocked HP fans around the world. Many were unaware that she was battling cancer and were even more surprised that she was only 52 when she passed. Over the course of her impressive career, she acted in some of the biggest stage plays and films of all time, most recently lending her voice to Stelmaria in His Dark Materials and playing the role of Aunt Polly on Peaky Blinders. HP fans will forever remember her as Narcissa Malfoy, Draco’s seemingly evil mother who went on to reveal some unexpected and revelatory humanity in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part Two. McCrory is survived by her husband, Damian Lewis, who is best known for his roles in Homeland and Billions.