In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Harry and his classmates are stunned to discover their new home, a sprawling, magnificent castle called Hogwarts. Here is the exact moment as it happened in the first film, and why it was so important.

The darkness

By the time the Hogwarts Express reaches the school, it is pitch black – and the students must cross the lake by boats to reach the castle. Lit up by only lanterns guiding the way, Hogwarts suddenly looms into shot, providing its own light beaming through the castle windows. Dumbledore once famously spoke of “finding light in the darkness” – and this truly was the moment where Harry was taken away from the darkness of the Dursleys and found light with his new friends in the wizarding world.

The music

John Williams’s unforgettable score for the Harry Potter films rests in the memories of so many Wizarding World fans of different generations, and it is never played to such perfection as it is here. It could only be the soaring strings of Hedwig’s Theme that would befit introducing us to the grandeur of the castle. Hedwig’s Theme would go on to become the leitmotif that is heard across all eight Harry Potter films, always waiting in the wings to truly bring the wizarding world to life. Producer David Heyman has described the score as “majestic” and says he remembered thinking, “this is it”. It really was!

The castle

Then there’s Hogwarts itself. Towering above the lake against the backdrop of a mystical moonlit sky, our first introduction to Harry’s new home is unforgettable. There is something quite overwhelming and gothic about this building’s silhouette, bursting with turrets, towers and grand, fortified walls, which makes the nervous first years look even tinier looking up at it. The lights pouring through the windows create a sense of mystique immediately, leading us viewers to wonder exactly what is going on in there.

The spectacle of Hogwarts was created via various techniques by the filmmakers, usually involving models. According to Harry Potter: Page to Screen, production designer Stuart Craig’s designs for Hogwarts were designed as “a huge physical miniature, which was designed for filming on, and which occupied one of the big soundstages at Shepperton.”...

“The model was approximately eighty feet in diameter and used for many of the shots of Hogwarts seen in the original film”, the book adds.

The reaction

As Ron Weasley says, “wicked”. Because what else is there to say? The looks on the faces of the Hogwarts students truly says it all – with the likes of Hermione, Seamus, Dean, Harry and Ron all gazing up at their new home in awe.

There is even a low angle shot of the castle as the students draw closer, making Hogwarts seem even more grand, even a little scary! In fact, there are quite a number of low angle shots used as the students enter Hogwarts, and a humble Neville looks up at Professor McGonagall slightly embarrassed after collecting his unruly toad, Trevor. After all, it’s a very overwhelming thing – going to Hogwarts!

Join us for more moments of movie magic at our hub, celebrating 20 iconic scenes from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.