Summary

  • Michael Gambon made the role of Dumbledore his own, capturing the nuances of the character and delivering some of the franchise's most compelling performances.
  • Gambon's portrayal of Dumbledore showcased the character's quick thinking, willingness to break the rules, and trust in his students' abilities.
  • The intense and emotional scenes in which Dumbledore saves the day at Harry's hearing, fights Voldemort, and makes the ultimate sacrifice highlight Gambon's power and range as an actor.

Irish actor Michael Gambon has died at the age of 82, and he'll be forever remembered for his portrayal of Albus Dumbledore throughout the Harry Potter movies. Gambon first took on the role of Hogwarts' eccentric headmaster in 2004's Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, following on the heels of original Dumbledore actor Richard Harris. Harris portrayed Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, but he died in 2002 before finishing the series.

Despite having big shoes to fill, Gambon quickly made the role of Dumbledore his own. The transition between actors went smoothly in the third Harry Potter movie, and Gambon went on to give some of the franchise's most compelling performances. The actor captured all the nuances of his Harry Potter character, bringing Dumbledore to life with levity and charm, while doing justice to his more serious moments as well. Gambon stole the show in every Harry Potter scene he was in, but his greatest moments as Dumbledore highlighted why the character was so popular — and why Gambon was such a great fit to play him.

10 Dumbledore Gives Harry And Hermione A Helpful Hint

Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Dumbledore isn't one to choose following the rules over doing the right thing, and he's responsible for Harry and Hermione's successful attempt to save Sirius Black and Buckbeak at the end of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. When the distraught duo tells him of Sirius' innocence, he offers a perplexing but useful hint about what they should do. He talks about time and Sirius' whereabouts, telling them that if they succeed, "more than one innocent life may be spared." Hermione realizes he's talking about the Time Turner she's been using to get to class, and she and Harry travel several hours back to save Harry's godfather.

This Harry Potter scene proves that Gambon was the right choice to play Dumbledore, as he captures multiple aspects of the character's personality in one go. This moment highlights that Dumbledore is a quick thinker who can take control of almost any situation. It also shows that he's not afraid to break the rules when it's the right thing to do — and that he trusts his students, both with saving the day and solving the riddles he often speaks in.

9 "Harry, Did You Put Your Name In The Goblet Of Fire?"

Dumbledore yelling at Harry

One of Gambon's most memorable moments as Albus Dumbledore takes place in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and it sees the actor diverging from the source material. When Harry's name comes out of the Goblet of Fire, Gambon's Dumbledore reacts with a mixture of fear and anger. He grabs Harry and shouts, "Harry, did you put your name in the Goblet of Fire?"

Because Gamdon's delivery is so strong, this line has become something of a meme among Harry Potter fans. Dumbledore doesn't yell like this in the book, and he knows Harry isn't responsible — he practices Occlumency, after all — so this bit of dialogue is unique to Gambon's take on the character. As such, it's a line that continues to be associated with the actor.

8 Dumbledore's Speech At The End Of Goblet Of Fire

Michael Gambon as Albus Dumbledore giving a speech in Harry Potter.

Gambon leaves an impression multiple times during Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, as his speech at the end of the movie is emotionally stirring and well-acted. Following Cedric Diggory's death and Voldemort's return, Dumbledore addresses the students of Hogwarts. His words are heavy and sorrowful, but they relay the truth about Cedric and Voldemort — a truth the Ministry of Magic doesn't want Dumbledore to repeat.

The ending of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Firemarks a turning point in the Harry Potter series, as things get darker after Harry's fourth year at Hogwarts. Gambon's performance drives this tonal shift home. With his speech, he simultaneously captures the grief associated with Cedric's death and the need to embrace friendship and hope in the face of the coming darkness.

7 Dumbledore Saves The Day At Harry's Hearing

Harry and Dumbledore at Harry's trial in Harry Potter.

If there's one thing the Harry Potter movies make clear, it's that Dumbledore has a way with words. He also tends to be one step ahead of everyone else, and that proves true during Harry's hearing at the beginning of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Just as things look bleak for Harry, Dumbledore arrives to speak in his student's defense. He summons a witness and saves the day, enabling Harry to return to Hogwarts and continue practicing magic.

This scene is one of several that showcases why Dumbledore is one of the few people Voldemort fears. Although he often comes off as lighthearted and comical, Dumbledore can quickly become an intimidating force. He does so while speaking against the Ministry, proving that his influence goes far in the Wizarding World — even when the Ministry is publicly questioning his sanity. Gambon captures this side of Dumbledore impressively throughout Order of the Phoenix, continuously showcasing his range.

6 Dumbledore Escapes Arrest With Fawkes

Dumbledore escapes with Fawkes in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Dumbledore and Harry's feud with the Ministry of Magic only gets worse as Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix continues, and it culminates in a scene that sees the Ministry attempting to arrest the Hogwarts headmaster. Gambon's character assures them that he won't "come quietly" and that he has "no intention of going to Azkaban." He then summons Fawkes, and he and the phoenix disappear in a fiery blast. Yet again, Gambon's performance highlights how powerful Dumbledore is compared to other wizards. It also proves how flashy the headmaster can be. As Kingsley Shacklebolt comically puts it, "Dumbledore's got style."

5 Dumbledore Vs. Voldemort

Dumbledore and Voldemort duel in Order of the Phoenix

Perhaps Gambon's most intimidating scene as Albus Dumbledore is at the end of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, when Dumbledore fights Voldemort at the Ministry of Magic. Voldemort is advancing on Harry when Dumbledore arrives, and Gambon's entrance conveys just how fearsome his character can be. This is further emphasized by the fact that Dumbledore holds his own against the dark wizard. Although he fails to fully defeat Voldemort, it's an impressive moment for the character. It also gives viewers a rare chance to see Gambon's character in action. It's definitely one of the actor's best scenes in the Harry Potter series.

4 Harry And Dumbledore Recruit Horace Slughorn

Dumbledore Harry Slughorns House

Gambon depicts Dumbledore's serious and authoritative side throughout Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, but he got to have fun with Dumbledore at the beginning of Half-Blood Prince. Harry and the headmaster visit former Hogwarts professor Horace Slughorn in the hopes of convincing him to return to the school. Although this is a seemingly important task, Dumbledore approaches it with levity. He leaves Harry to do most of the work, maintaining his upbeat and jovial attitude all the way through.

This scene also highlights that Dumbledore's power comes as much from his emotional intelligence as his magic. Not only does he sway Slughorn with flattery, but he uses the man's weaknesses against him. It's a fun scene from Dumbledore, especially amid all the darker moments Gambon's character has in the later Harry Potter movies.

3 Dumbledore Drinks The Potion Of Despair

Harry Potter - Michael Gambon as Albus Dumbledore in Horcrux Cave

Gambon's Dumbledore displays his fearsome nature multiple times before Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. However, the actor's performance at the ending of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince shows off a different side of the character. Gambon flexes his acting chops when Harry and Dumbledore seek out Voldemort's locket Horcrux. They're forced to fetch it from a cave, where it sits in a basin full of liquid. Dumbledore must drink the liquid so that Harry can retrieve the locket. Doing so makes the headmaster vulnerable in a way that's completely new.

When Dumbledore drinks the Potion of Despair, it brings up memories of his past — ones he'd rather not relive. In what may be his best performance of the entire series, Gambon conveys Dumbledore's grief and pain as he begs Harry to put him out of his misery. It's a harrowing scene, made all the more uncomfortable by the fact that viewers aren't used to seeing Dumbledore this way.

2 Dumbledore's Ultimate Sacrifice

Dumbledore's death scene in Half-Blood Prince

Unfortunately, Dumbledore's experience with the Potion of Despair isn't the only time he's vulnerable during Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. When he and Harry return to Hogwarts, they discover Death Eaters have breached the castle. Harry survives the encounter, but Dumbledore isn't so lucky. When Draco Malfoy corners him in the Astronomy Tower, he urges the boy to do the right thing. However, when Severus Snape and several other Death Eaters arrive, Dumbledore has no strength to fight them. Snape kills the headmaster, whose last words are, "Severus, please."

Of course, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows reveals that Dumbledore knew his death was near — and that he wanted Snape to kill him. This fact doesn't make his death in Half-Blood Prince any less tragic. Gambon takes the character out on a high note. His gentle advice to Draco highlights how much the headmaster cares about his students, while his fall from the tower is nearly as tear-inducing as the other characters' reactions to his fate.

1 Harry And Dumbledore Meet At King's Cross Station

Harry and Dumbledore in Kings Cross purgatory

Dumbledore's life may come to an end in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, but the headmaster makes a brief comeback in Deathly Hallows - Part 2. When Harry allows Voldemort to kill him — or more accurately, the Horcrux inside of him — he wakes up in a brightly lit version of King's Cross Station. He meets Dumbledore there, and the two share a touching scene together before Harry returns to the Battle of Hogwarts. Their conversation contains some of Dumbledore's wisest quotes from the entire Harry Potter series, including, "Of course it's happening inside your head, Harry. Why should that mean that it's not real?"

Gambon delivers Dumbledore's final lines in a heartfelt manner, with this scene at King's Cross Station capturing many of the themes present throughout the Harry Pottermovies. It's certainly one of the most memorable of the entire franchise, and it wraps things up nicely, even if Harry still needs to defeat Voldemort after.