The film stars Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter, alongside Rupert Grint and Emma Watson as Harry's best friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. It is the sequel to Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and is followed by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1. Filming began on 24 September 2007, leading to the film's worldwide cinematic release on 15 July 2009, one day short of the fourth anniversary of the corresponding novel's release. The film was simultaneously released in regular cinemas and IMAX 3D everywhere except North America, where its IMAX release was delayed for two weeks.
The film was nominated at the 82nd Academy Awards for Best Cinematography and the 63rd British Academy Film Awards for Best Special Visual Effects and Best Production Design. Half-Blood Prince remains one of the most positively reviewed films in the series among film critics; at the time of its release, it became the third-highest-rated Harry Potter film on review aggregators Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. Critics praised the film's "emotionally satisfying" story, Yates' direction, cinematography, performances from Radcliffe, Grint, Watson, Felton, Gambon and Broadbent, the visuals, and Nicholas Hooper's musical score.
Lord Voldemort is tightening his grip on both the wizarding and Muggle worlds, kidnapping Ollivander from Diagon Alley and destroying the Millennium Bridge. After the Malfoy family is disgraced when Lucius is apprehended and sent to Azkaban for his involvement with the Death Eaters, Voldemort chooses Draco to carry out a secret mission at Hogwarts. Bellatrix Lestrange and Narcissa Malfoy, Draco's mother, seek help from Severus Snape, who claims to have been acting as a mole within the Order of the Phoenix all along. Snape makes an Unbreakable Vow with Narcissa to protect Draco and fulfill the assignment if he fails.
Harry accompanies Albus Dumbledore from Surbiton to the village of Budleigh Babberton to visit former Potions professor Horace Slughorn. Professor Slughorn has been in hiding but agrees to return to teach at Hogwarts. Dumbledore then takes Harry to The Burrow, where Harry reunites with his best friends, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. When the three go visit Fred and George Weasley's new joke shop at Diagon Alley, they see Draco entering Knockturn Alley with a group of Death Eaters including Fenrir Greyback. Harry believes Voldemort has made Draco a Death Eater, but Ron and Hermione are skeptical. On the Hogwarts Express, Harry hides in the Slytherin carriage using his Invisibility Cloak. Harry is spotted by Malfoy, who petrifies him and breaks his nose. Harry is found and saved by Luna Lovegood.
At Hogwarts, Harry and Ron borrow textbooks for Slughorn's Potions class, and Harry is stuck with a copy that turns out to be filled with helpful notes and spells left by the "Half-Blood Prince". Harry uses the book to excel in the class and impresses Slughorn, winning a vial of Liquid Luck. Ron becomes Keeper of the Gryffindor Quidditch team and forms a romantic relationship with Lavender Brown, upsetting Hermione. Harry consoles Hermione and reveals that he now has feelings for Ron's younger sister, Ginny Weasley.
Harry spends the Christmas holidays with the Weasleys. On Christmas Eve, Harry discusses his suspicions about Draco to the Order of the Phoenix. Harry's suspicions are dismissed by the Order, but later on Arthur Weasley tells Harry privately that the Malfoys may have been interested in a Vanishing Cabinet. Bellatrix and Greyback attack the Burrow and burn it down, drawing Harry into a battle before the Order arrive and fight them off. At Hogwarts, Dumbledore reveals to Harry that Slughorn possesses a memory of Voldemort that Dumbledore needs desperately. Slughorn gave Dumbledore the memory, but it was an altered version that made it appear that Slughorn didn't know anything. Dumbledore shows Harry the altered memory and asks him to confront Slughorn and retrieve the real one, but when Harry brings it up Slughorn gets angry and refuses to talk any more about it. After Ron accidentally ingests a love potion, Harry brings him to Slughorn for a cure and to smooth over their argument from earlier. After curing Ron, the trio celebrate with mead that Slughorn had intended to gift to Dumbledore. The mead poisons Ron, and Harry is forced to save his life after Slughorn hesitates. Ron murmurs Hermione's name while recovering in the infirmary, causing Lavender to end their relationship. Harry confronts Draco about the poisoned mead and a cursed necklace, and the two duel. Harry uses a curse from the Half-Blood Prince's potion book to severely injure Malfoy, who is rescued and healed by Professor Snape. Fearing the potion book may be filled with more Dark Magic, Ginny and Harry hide it in the Room of Requirement and share their first kiss.
Harry decides to use his Liquid Luck potion to convince Slughorn to give up the memory Dumbledore needs. Harry views the memory with Dumbledore and learns that Voldemort wanted information for creating Horcruxes, magical objects that could contain pieces of a wizard's soul and save them from death. Dumbledore concludes that Voldemort successfully created seven Horcruxes, two of which have already been destroyed: Tom Riddle's diary and Marvolo Gaunt's ring. Harry and Dumbledore travel to a seaside cave where Harry aids Dumbledore in drinking a potion that hides another Horcrux, Slytherin's locket. A weakened Dumbledore defends them from Inferi and apparates back to Hogwarts. Bellatrix, Greyback, and more Death Eaters enter Hogwarts with Draco's help through the vanishing cabinet in the Room of Requirement that Draco managed to connect to the one he had been working on in Knockturn Alley.
Dumbledore instructs Harry to hide and not to interfere no matter what happens. Draco arrives and disarms Dumbledore revealing that he has been chosen by Voldemort to kill the headmaster. When Draco is unable to bring himself to do it, Snape casts the killing curse instead. An enraged Harry confronts Snape, who reveals that he is the Half-Blood Prince. Harry returns to the school to find the staff and students mourning Dumbledore. Harry later reveals to Ron and Hermione that the locket Horcrux was a fake. The locket contains a message from "R.A.B.", stating that he has stolen the real Horcrux with the intent of destroying it. Rather than returning for final year at Hogwarts, the three decide to finish Dumbledore's plan and hunt down the remaining Horcruxes.Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter
Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley, one of Harry's two best friends.
Emma Watson as Hermione Granger, one of Harry's two best friends.
Michael Gambon as Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts.
Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange, one of Voldemort's principal Death Eaters and Draco Malfoy's aunt.
Jim Broadbent as Horace Slughorn, the newly appointed Potions master who held the position before.
Robbie Coltrane as Rubeus Hagrid, the Hogwarts gamekeeper and Care of Magical Creatures teacher at Hogwarts.
Warwick Davis as Filius Flitwick, the Charms master and head of Ravenclaw.
Tom Felton as Draco Malfoy, Harry's rival and recipient of Voldemort's secret mission.
Alan Rickman as Severus Snape, the former Potions master, current Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher and head of Slytherin.
Maggie Smith as Minerva McGonagall, the Hogwarts Transfiguration teacher, deputy headmistress and head of Gryffindor.
Timothy Spall as Peter Pettigrew, the Death Eater who betrayed Harry's parents to Voldemort. Pettigrew has no lines in this film, but appears as a servant at Snape's house.
David Thewlis as Remus Lupin, a member of the Order of the Phoenix and Harry's ex-Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher.
Julie Walters as Molly Weasley, the Weasley matriarch and a mother figure to Harry.
Before David Yates was officially chosen to direct the film, many directors had expressed an interest in taking the helm. Alfonso Cuarón, the director of the third film, stated he "would love to have the opportunity" to return. Goblet of Fire director Mike Newell declined a spot to direct the fifth film, and was not approached for this one. Guillermo del Toro turned down the chance to direct the film in order to direct Hellboy II: The Golden Army. Terry Gilliam was Rowling's personal choice to direct Philosopher's Stone. When asked whether he would consider directing a later film, Gilliam said, "Warner Bros. had their chance the first time around, and they blew it."
In an interview with Dark Horizons, Yates said that "I was still working on Order of the Phoenix when they asked me to do Half-Blood Prince. So they were really delighted with the material that they were seeing while we were in post-production, and the conversations happened before the movie was released, because I had to start pre-production on it while Order of the Phoenix was being promoted. It was just something they see in the work that they really liked, and responded to." Yates described Half-Blood Prince as being "a cross between the chills of Prisoner of Azkaban and the fantastical adventure of Goblet of Fire."
Emma Watson considered not returning for the film, but eventually decided that, "the pluses outweighed the minuses," and could not bear to see anyone else play Hermione. Composer Nicholas Hooper returned from the last film; he included a reworking of John Williams's Hedwig's Theme, which has recurred in all scores. Also maintained were costume designer Jany Temime, visual effects supervisor Tim Burke, creature and make-up effects designer Nick Dudman, and special effects supervisor John Richardson from the third film.
Yates and Heyman have noted that some of the events of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows influenced the script of Half-Blood Prince.
Christian Coulson, who played the young Tom Riddle in Chamber of Secrets, expressed an interest in returning in the role for flashback sequences; Yates responded that Coulson was too old, nearing 30, to be playing the role. Jamie Campbell Bower, who appeared in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, previously noted that he had his "fingers crossed" he would be cast as a young Riddle. (Bower was, however, later cast as the teenage Gellert Grindelwald in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1.) Thomas James Longley was the original choice to take on the role but Riddle was ultimately played by Hero Fiennes-Tiffin as a child and Frank Dillane as a teenager.
Helen McCrory appears as Narcissa Malfoy, Draco's mother and younger sister of Bellatrix. McCrory was originally cast as Bellatrix in Order of the Phoenix, but had to drop out due to pregnancy. Naomi Watts was previously reported as having accepted the role, only for it to be denied by her agency.
Both Clémence Poésy, who has played Fleur Delacour, and Chris Rankin, who has played Percy Weasley, were interested in returning, but did not appear in the film. After Bill Nighy expressed an interest in appearing, Yates confirmed that Nighy would be his first choice for the role of Minister for Magic Rufus Scrimgeour. Scrimgeour's character was ultimately cut from the film, but Nighy appeared in his role in Deathly Hallows.
Stuart Craig, the production designer of the first five films, stayed on to design all the sets in Half-Blood Prince. Several new sets are introduced, including Tom Riddle's Orphanage, Astronomy Tower and the Cave. Craig noted that the film used several CGI sets, noticeably the interior of the Cave where Harry and Dumbledore both go to hunt Horcruxes. The exterior of the cave scene was filmed at the Cliffs of Moher in the west of Ireland, the only location to be filmed outside of the United Kingdom throughout the film series. The interior of the cave is made up of geometric crystal formations. Craig noted "Apart from the point at which Harry and Dumbledore first arrive and the island formation on which everything inside the cave happens, the set is entirely virtual, designed in the computer. We'd had our first totally virtual set on the last film, so we approached this one with a bit more confidence."
Before filming began, there was belief that filming might move from the UK, where all previous films were shot. The crew also scouted around Cape Wrath in Scotland, for use in the cave scene. Filming returned to Glen Coe and Glenfinnan, both which have appeared in the previous films, to preserve the continuity of the landscape.
Following a week of rehearsals, principal photography began on 24 September 2007 and ended on 17 May 2008. Though Radcliffe, Gambon and Broadbent started shooting in late September 2007, some other cast members started much later: Grint did not begin until November 2007, Watson did not begin until December 2007, Rickman until January 2008, and Bonham Carter until February 2008.
On the weekend of 6 October 2007, the crew shot scenes involving the Hogwarts Express in the misty and dewy environment of Fort William, Scotland. A series of night scenes were filmed in the village of Lacock and the cloisters at Lacock Abbey for three nights starting 25 October 2007. Filming took place from 5 pm to 5 am daily, and residents of the street were asked to black out their windows with dark blinds. On set reports indicated that the main scene filmed was Harry and Dumbledore's visit to Slughorn's house. Further filming took place in Surbiton railway station in October 2007, Gloucester Cathedral, where the first and second films were shot, in February 2008, and at the Millennium Bridge in London in March 2008.
Due to cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel's use of de-focussing and soft wipes in the digital grade, Warner Bros. asked director David Yates to add more colours to the film. Yates didn't want to lose the "very European look" of the film, but after retouching the picture, he said, "It's not what you wanted, but we're happy with it." After five minutes of watching the film, the studio were pleased with the changes. In an interview with Total Film, Yates said that "the choice of angles, the extreme close-ups, [and] the pacing of the scenes" made the film "incredibly rich". The palette and lighting was heavily inspired by the Dutch painter Rembrandt. Half-Blood Prince is the only film in the series to be nominated for the Best Cinematography accolade at the Academy Awards.
One of the major challenges for Delbonnel was lighting the film. In an interview with the Academy, he said, "Some of the sets are there since the very first Potter. How could I light them in a different way? This question brought another one based on the series itself... I thought it would be interesting to have those very intimate stories amidst this very dark mood. As if the school was a dark character. That's when I suggested to go for this (again) dark moody variations of greys. Fortunately David Yates, and the producers liked the idea." In reference to the cave scene Delbonnel said, "I wanted to have some kind of 'dynamism' with the light. I thought it could be interesting and more dramatic if the light was floating, circling above the characters faces: sometimes lighting them, sometimes hiding them in a very random and unpredictable way."
Tim Burke and Tim Alexander were the visual effects supervisors for the film. Tim Alexander said that completing the Inferi-attack scene took several months. He said, "It's certainly much bolder and scarier than we imagined that they'd ever go in a 'Potter' movie. Director David Yates was cautious of not making this into a zombie movie, so we were constantly trying to figure out how not to make these dead people coming up look like zombies. A lot of it came down to their movement – they don't move fast, but they don't move really slow or groan and moan. We ended up going with a very realistic style." He also noted that Inferi are skinnier than zombies, waterlogged and grey.
About Dumbledore's ring of fire, he noted that the effect would look as if someone sprayed propane and then lit it. He added, "We did a lot of research on molten volcanoes, which have a lot of heat going on but no actual flames, and collected a bunch of other references, including flares that burn underwater, and showed them to the Potter folks." The visual effects team emulated these six fire parameters: heat ripples, smoke, buoyancy, viscosity, opacity, and brightness. Since the whole fire scene was very time consuming, computer graphics artist Chris Horvath spent eight months finding a faster way to conjure flames.
The opening scenes of the Death Eaters' attack on Diagon Alley and London was created by Double Negative, led by VFX Supervisor Paul Franklin. Double Negative spent six months surveying and documenting the environment around the River Thames and Trafalgar Square to create the swooping views of the city. Double Negative also contributed the Pensieve sequences, developing complex directed fluid simulations to realise the swirling world of memory and the past.
The film's score was composed by Nicholas Hooper, who also composed the music for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. The soundtrack was released on an Audio CD format on 14 July 2009, a day before the film was released in cinemas.
The album debuted at number twenty-nine on the Billboard 200 chart, thus making it the highest-charting soundtrack among all the six movie soundtracks released. It was nominated for the 2010 Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack Album For Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media.
While at the middle of the series in length, the film Half-Blood Prince did add or change events in the literary canon. The book begins with a scene involving the Muggle Prime Minister. Yates and his crew debated over this scene, as well as the character Rufus Scrimgeour, but gave up the beginning of the movie to events described but not seen in the book. Yates thought it would give the audience a feel for what the Death Eaters were doing if they showed the collapse of the Millennium Bridge rather than describe it. As with Goblet of Fire, the Dursleys were cut, which Steve Kloves did to "break the pattern". Further background of Tom Riddle was removed, such as the Gaunts because they felt it more important to concentrate on Riddle as a young boy, and an additional action scene at the Burrow was added to keep with the tone of the franchise. Yates felt that they needed "an injection of jeopardy and danger" and that without it there was too much comedy and lightness. A small battle scene at Hogwarts which happened during the end of the book was cut; Heyman commented that it was removed to "[avoid] repetition" with the forthcoming adaptation of the Battle of Hogwarts in Deathly Hallows. Dumbledore's funeral was removed as it was believed it did not fit with the rest of the film.
Warner Bros. has spent an estimated $155 million to market and distribute the film. The special edition two-disc DVD for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix contained two sneak peeks of the film, while the US edition included an additional clip. A 15-second teaser for the film was shown alongside the IMAX release of The Dark Knight. The first full-length US teaser trailer was released on 29 July on AOL's Moviefone website. An international teaser was released on 26 October and another teaser trailer was released. The US theatrical trailer was released on 14 November. Another trailer was screened on the Japanese TV station Fuji TV during a screening of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire on 18 January 2009. Scenes from the film were aired during ABC Family's Harry Potter marathon which took place 5–7 December 2008. On 5 February 2009, the first three promotional teaser posters were released, featuring Dumbledore and Harry. On 5 March and 16 April 2009, new trailers were released by Warner Bros.
Warner Bros and MSN ran an online Order of the Phoenix quiz, with the prize being a walk-on part in the Half-Blood Prince. As with the previous films, EA Games produced a video game based on the film. On 10 March 2009, it was announced that there would be a video game soundtrack, which was released on 17 March 2009. On 27 March six character posters were released: Harry, Dumbledore, Ron, Hermione, Draco, and Professor Snape. An English version of the international trailer and a Japanese version of the international trailer were released online 10 April. On 8 May, CW Channel aired 30-second TV Spot, which focused on the romantic side of the film. On 20 May, first clip from the film was released through The Ellen DeGeneres Show's official website, showing love-struck Ron. Another clip of the film, showing Dumbledore visiting Tom Riddle's Orphanage was released on 31 May 2009, at MTV Awards.
The film was released in the United Kingdom, United States, France, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Sweden, Canada, Australia, Taiwan, New Zealand, India, Brazil, Spain and Mexico on 15 July 2009. It was originally set to be released on 21 November 2008, but was pushed back by eight months to 17 July, despite being completed. Warner Bros. executive Alan F. Horn noted that the move was meant "to guarantee the studio a major summer blockbuster in 2009," with other films being delayed due to the 2007–2008 Writers Guild of America strike. The box-office success of summer WB films Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and The Dark Knight also motivated the decision. An unnamed rival studio executive told Entertainment Weekly that the move was to "stop next year's profits from looking seriously underwhelming after the phenomenal success of The Dark Knight," as "they don't need the money this year anymore." Dan Fellman, WB head of distribution, said that the studio had considered the date change for three to four weeks prior to the announcement, but gave it serious consideration a week before they came to their final decision. Three months before its release in July, the date was again changed by 2 days from 17 to 15 July, so it could open on a Wednesday like most tentpole summer movies.
The date change was met with a heavily negative reaction by Harry Potter fans, as the Los Angeles Times noted: "Petitions were circulating, rumors were flying and angry screeds were being posted on Internet sites within minutes of the Thursday announcement." The move was mocked by Entertainment Weekly which had Half-Blood Prince on the cover on its "Fall Preview Issue". Despite each being owned by Time Warner Inc., EW was unaware of the change until it was publicly announced by WB and noted that readers would now be in possession of a "Dewey Defeats Truman collectible". Several days after the announcement, Horn released a statement in response to the "large amount of disappointment" expressed by fans of the series. Following the date change, Half-Blood Prince's release slot was taken by Summit Entertainment's Twilight and Walt Disney Pictures' Bolt.
The sixth film was simultaneously released in regular cinemas and IMAX 3D everywhere but the United States, due to a conflicting agreement in which Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen was given a four-week window by itself in IMAX in that country. Therefore, the IMAX 3D version of the film was released on 29 July 2009 there. The film's opening sequence featuring the destruction of the Millennium Bridge was in 3D. The film had been chosen to be screened at the 2008 Royal Film Performance on 17 November, but was not shown. Cinema and Television Benevolent Fund chief executive Peter Hore noted he was "very disappointed" with Warner Bros' decision.
Advance ticket sales on Fandango.com for Half-Blood Prince surpassed advance ticket sales for Transformers 2 at the same point in sale cycles. It is also in MovieTickets.com's top 25 advance sellers of all time.
Running 153 minutes (2 hours 33 minutes and 19 seconds) long, Half-Blood Prince is the third longest film in the series, behind Chamber of Secrets (161 minutes) and Goblet of Fire (157 minutes).
Like the previous films, a 1-Disc and 2-Disc Special Edition for the film was released on Blu-ray Disc with a Digital Copy and DVD on 7 December 2009 in the United Kingdom, and 8 December 2009 in the United States. The Blu-ray and DVD includes an 11-minute 38 second feature on the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter mini theme park which opened on 18 June 2010 at Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Florida. Also included are deleted scenes comprising 8 scenes with a running length of 6 minutes and 31 seconds, and a sneak peek of the next Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 (2010). The Blu-ray and DVD released in India, the Philippines, South Africa, Czech Republic and Israel on 16 November 2009, making them the first countries to get the Half Blood Prince DVD release before the UK and the US. The release date for Australia and New Zealand was 18 November and for Brazil and Chile, 19 November. The Blu-ray and 2-disc DVD editions in North America includes a digital copy of the film. In the United Kingdom, the DVD release became the fastest selling DVD of the year with an estimated 840,000 copies of the film sold in a few hours. In the US, the DVD made a strong debut at number one in both the DVD and Blu-Ray markets widely beating out any competition with sales of 4,199,622 copies. Worldwide DVD and Blu-ray sales of the film show that it is the fastest selling film of 2009.
On 14 June 2011, an Ultimate Edition was released simultaneously with the Ultimate Edition of the Order of the Phoenix film on both Blu-ray and DVD, containing new bonus features, documentaries, and collectables.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince broke the then-record for biggest midnight showings, making $22.8 million in 3,000 cinemas; The Twilight Saga: New Moon bested this with $26.3 million. Half-Blood Prince opened in the same Wednesday slot that Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix did in 2007, which grossed $12 million in midnight runs, on its way to $139.7 million in its five-day debut in the US. The film's box office run was over on 17 December 2009.
The film opened in 4,325 cinemas (rising to 4,455 three weeks later, becoming the largest number of cinemas until The Twilight Saga: Eclipse surpassed it with the 4,468 cinemas) and grossed $58.2 million on its opening day at the top of the United States and Canadian box office, the third-highest Wednesday opening of all time behind Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and The Twilight Saga: Eclipse. It is also the nineteenth-highest single-day gross of all time and the third-highest for a film in the Harry Potter franchise behind Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2's $91.1 million and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1, which made $61.1 million. It earned an additional $46 million overseas for a worldwide total of $104 million, breaking the record for highest single-day worldwide gross, previously held by The Dark Knight. By 20 July, the film had taken in $158.7 million in the US and $236 million from 85 other markets, for a worldwide tally of $394.7 million. This broke the record for biggest ever worldwide five-day opening, surpassing Spider-Man 3's $381 million; this makes the film the fastest to reach the $350 million mark in worldwide box office of all time. In the US, it surpassed all of its predecessors by a wide margin, achieving the sixth largest ever five-day opening in that country. The film held this record for two years until it was topped by Deathly Hallows – Part 2 ($483.2 million). In the UK, the film grossed £19.75 million (equivalent to about $38.13 million), the highest opening for both the series and releases of 2009. At the end of the film's US and Canadian box office run the total ticket sales of the film were $301,959,197, making it the third most successful film in the franchise, after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 and Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, as well as the third-highest-grossing film of 2009 in these regions behind Avatar and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. As with all of the previous films in the franchise, Half-Blood Prince proved to be extremely successful globally with an estimated non-US total gross of $632,457,290, totalling approximately $934,416,487 worldwide, making it the second-highest-grossing film of 2009, behind Avatar, and the 34th-highest-grossing film of all time, unadjusted for inflation. It is the fifth-highest-grossing film in the franchise, behind Philosopher's Stone, both parts of Deathly Hallows, and Order of the Phoenix.
In South Africa the film opened with the number one position grossing $789,176, it maintained a number one position during the second week too, with a total of $242,336. In Australia, as in most of the world, the film broke records with a debut of $11,492,142 and opening at number one, maintaining a second week at number one with a total of $5,278,096 (down 54%), and grossed a total of $24,208,243. In France the film debuted at $20,541,239 from 949 cinemas.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 84% based on 268 reviews, with an average rating of 7.2/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Dark, thrilling, and occasionally quite funny, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is also visually stunning and emotionally satisfying." On Metacritic, which assigns a normalised rating to reviews, the film has a score of 78 out of 100, based on 36 critics, indicating "generally favourable" reviews. The film scored an 87 from professional critics at the Broadcast Film Critics Association; it is the first Harry Potter film to receive a Critic's Choice certificate. On CinemaScore, audiences gave the film an average grade of "A-" on an A+ to F scale.
The first review of the film came three weeks before the official release. Paul Dergarabedian of Hollywood.com ranked the film with The Lord of the Rings film trilogy and called the film a "possible Oscar contender". He highly praised the performance of Sir Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman and Daniel Radcliffe. He commented, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is a tour-de-force that combines style and substance, special effects and heart and most importantly great performances from all of the actors young and not-so-young". Another early review came from the UK tabloid The Sun, whose anonymous reviewer called the film "masterful" and "very emotional". The reviewer praised David Yates' directing and called Jim Broadbent's portrayal of Horace Slughorn "perfect". Devin Faraci of Chud.com called the film not only the best Harry Potter film yet, but also one of the best films of the year.
Andrew Pulver of The Guardian wrote a positive review, and gave the film 3.5 out of 5 stars rating. Todd McCarthy of the trade magazine Variety said that the film is "dazzlingly well made" and "less fanciful than the previous entries". He praised Alan Rickman's performance and he described Helena Bonham Carter as "mesmerising" and Jim Broadbent as a "grand eccentric old professor". BBC News's Tim Masters praised the film's cinematography, visual effects, production design, improved acting and darker plotline. The Hollywood Reporter's Kirk Honeycutt noted that the film's first half is "jerky and explosive", but in the second half, the film finds better footing. He adds, "Composer Nicholas Hooper, cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel and designer Stuart Craig deliver a singularly muscular and vigorous chapter". Screen Daily called the film "[s]tunningly shot by Bruno Delbonnel in metallic hues leavened by buttery tones and the thumping beats of Nicholas Hooper's score bear little resemblance to the original and the overall effect is much less tween, much more grown-up".
Chris Tilly of IGN UK commented on the length of the film, saying "while on occasion it drags, the 153-minute run-time never feels too long, thanks in no small part to the astonishing visuals and (largely) marvellous performances," and goes on to say, "This is by far the best-looking of the Potter films thus far," commending the "beautiful" Quidditch match and the "stunning" finale. However, Dave Golder of SFX magazine found some aspects of the film to be a disappointment, largely due to the large number of opportunities the director and screenwriter had sacrificed to devote "huge swathes of the film to subplots of Harry and his chums' teenage romances," but nevertheless found the film to be a large enjoyment, praising the performances of Jim Broadbent and Alan Rickman.
David Stratton, of Margaret and David at the Movies, gave the film a 2.5 out of a possible 5 stars, remarking, "For non-readers [of the Harry Potter series] the films are now borderline incomprehensible", and that the film was "a little tedious" and "generally less interesting visually than its predecessors." He praised the cast, describing them as "consummate", adding Sir Michael Gambon "really makes Dumbledore an imposing character" and Jim Broadbent was "wonderful". Margaret Pomeranz, the co-host of the television show, gave the film 3 out of 5 stars.
At the time of its release, Rowling stated that Half-Blood Prince was her "favourite one" of the six film adaptations. Radcliffe, however, was critical of his own performance in the film, stating in an interview in 2014 that he was "just not very good in it", and calling it "hard to watch".
The film was nominated for BAFTA Awards in Production Design and Visual Effects, and was in the longlists for five other categories, including Best Supporting Actor for Alan Rickman. Bruno Delbonnel was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography at the 82nd Academy Awards. The film was also one of the final seven contenders for Best Visual Effects.