In Harry Potter Movies, Snape Kills Dumbledore for a Very Wrong Reason
Just like in the books, Severus Snape kills Albus Dumbledore in the movies — but somehow, the reason for that is twisted and changed beyond recognition.
- In the Harry Potter books, Dumbledore appeals to Snape’s compassion when asking the latter to kill him.
- In the movies, both the Headmaster and his double agent are motivated by pragmatic approaches.
- The movie version flattens Dumbledore and Snape as characters and oversimplifies the story.
The Hogwarts Headmaster knew that his time would come soon and wanted to die by the hand of his Potions Master. Convincing Severus Snape was a tough call, but Dumbledore did it just right… Except that if he used the same reasoning as in the movies, the book Snape would have never agreed to murder his elder colleague.
How Did the Reasoning for Dumbledore’s Death Change?
In a flashback scene in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, we learn the truth behind Snape’s murder of Dumbledore. The fact that it was a set-up orchestrated by the Headmaster himself doesn’t change from the book to the movie; the reasoning Dumbledore used to convince Snape to help, however, does.
Here’s what the Headmaster told his Potions Master in the book version.
“I would not have [Draco's soul] ripped apart on my account. <...> You alone know whether it will harm your soul to help an old man avoid pain and humiliation. I ask this one great favor of you, Severus, because death is coming for me,” the Book Dumbledore says.
And here’s how he convinces Snape to kill him in the movie version.
“You must be the one to kill me, Severus. It is the only way. Only then will the Dark Lord trust you completely,” claims the Movie Dumbledore.
The difference between these two approaches is massive. But why is it even there?
Why Did the Movies Change Dumbledore’s Reasoning?
There are two primary reasons for changing the dialogue between Dumbledore and Snape about the former’s death in the movie: screen time and characterization.
First, there wasn’t much time to feature the book version of the dialogue. It’s not just the speech itself: it’s also the solid screen time to show that Dumbledore truly cared about Draco’s soul and attempted to save him. The books could afford all those scenes, but the movies couldn’t, so this pragmatic approach was chosen, instead.
Second, on the topic of being pragmatic, it helped cement Dumbledore and Snape’s characters. The movie version of the dialogue shows the Hogwarts Headmaster as a diehard pragmatic even when it comes to his own death — and it also gives blatant and concrete proof that Snape was aligned with Dumbledore all along.
Why Is the Movie Explanation Worse Than the Book’s?
While the reasons behind the changes are understandable, we still think that was a poor choice. In the Harry Potter books, Dumbledore and Snape appear more humane and genuine than ever in their private talks including this dialogue.
The book version shows how much Albus Dumbledore cared for his students as well as how pragmatic he is about his own demise. It also reveals that, despite his cold mask, Severus Snape, too, was compassionate and willing to do unsavory things to save both Draco and his Headmaster from a fate worse than death.
In the movies, however, both their characters are flattened and simplified. The only reason for Dumbledore to come up with his plan is to cement Snape’s position in Voldemort’s court. The only reason for Snape to agree is that he’s a good little spy. The original is much more complex and nuanced, more…life-like, in many ways.