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The lowdown on Harry Potter’s Defense Against the Dark Arts professors

It might surprise you (it certainly did me) to discover that on Thursday, a full 10 years will have passed since the release of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2,” the final Harry Potter film.

Now, as any fan knows, defeating the Dark Lord was always going to require a great deal of knowledge in the area of Defense Against the Dark Arts. But, unfortunately for the students of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, competent Defense Against the Dark Arts teachers were always curiously few and far between.

With that scarcity in mind, here is a reference list of (1) the few who taught the class well, (2) the many who taught it poorly and (3) several who, barring various limiting circumstances, should’ve taught it.

The Good

Remus Lupin

In “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” professor R.J. Lupin (David Thewlis) takes up the post, beginning the first and only year in which Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and his friends are gifted with a defense teacher who is both kind and competent. Of course, Lupin was forced to miss a few class days every month around the full moon, but the days he was able to spend teaching made all the difference.

Severus Snape

In “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” after years of applying, Dumbledore finally gives Snape (Alan Rickman) the chance to teach defense. Indubitably a master of the subject, Snape was an excellent choice for the role. Unfortunately, he was also the only teacher (other than the dreaded Dolores Umbridge) who could’ve made Harry hate what was usually his favorite class.

Barty Crouch Jr.

In “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” unrepentant Death Eater and escaped Azkaban inmate Barty Crouch Jr. (David Tennant) lands the defense post disguised as the auror Mad-Eye Moody (Brendan Gleeson). Despite his nefarious intentions, Crouch makes a surprising addition to the list of decent defense teachers. Sure, he spends the majority of the school year plotting to kidnap Harry and hand him over to Voldemort, but setting all of that aside, Crouch actually managed to teach his students a fair bit about the dangers of the dark arts.

Harry Potter

After Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton) makes it her personal mission to ensure that no student at Hogwarts learns any more practical defense magic, Harry rises to the challenge and resolves to teach the class himself in secret. So, while he never formally has the title of Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Harry taught the class in every other sense. Fun fact: Harry’s birthday is July 31, 1980, so he’s about to turn 41!

The Bad

Gilderoy Lockhart

In “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” noted celebrity wizard Gilderoy Lockhart (Kenneth Branagh) makes his way to Hogwarts on the tails of a never-ending ego trip. Despite the mountains of magical memoirs penned in his name, Lockhart is all but incapable of defensive spells. And yet, no one is more convinced of his greatness than he is himself. This leads to one of the most satisfying scenes in the entire Harry Potter film series: the dueling club demonstration in which Snape absolutely decks Lockhart with a single spell.

Quirinus Quirrell

In “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” professor Quirinus Quirrell (Ian Hart), Harry’s first Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, is unique in that, inadvertently or not, he is also the first teacher to try to kill him. And from what I can recall, the rest of his teaching was unremarkable.

Dolores Umbridge

In “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” Umbridge – a sickly-sweet, unfailingly pink-clad toad of a woman – comes to Hogwarts at the discretion of the Minister of Magic. Originally hired to fill the defense position, Umbridge gradually gains control over every aspect of the school. Rather than teaching the students how to defend themselves, Umbridge becomes the threat herself, inciting fear and exacting “medieval” forms of punishment for the smallest infractions. In other words, she is the worst.

Amycus and Alecto Carrow

In “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 and 2,” Death Eaters Amycus and Alecto Carrow teach “dark arts,” that is, the opposite of Defense Against the Dark Arts, so they don’t even belong on this list.

The What-ifs

Sirius Black

A notably gifted wizard duelist and creative problem-solver, Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) would’ve made a top-notch defense teacher. And although he may have lacked the necessary organizational skills for teaching, his charisma probably could have made up the difference.

Nymphadora Tonks

With years of auror training behind her, that is, years training in magical law enforcement and experience serving in Dumbledore’s Order of the Phoenix, Tonks (Natalia Tena) would’ve brought a wealth of firsthand knowledge to the role to rival most other candidates. Add to that her personality and enthusiasm, and you’ve got the best woman for the job.

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