A classic tale always features the so-called “hero’s journey” storyline. This means we viewers follow the story of one main character as it unfolds. And we always hope he or she succeeds in this journey. The story gets more interesting if the identified “hero” is someone who’s reluctant to be identified as such. Yes, we’re talking about the “underdog.”
An underdog is someone who seems to have no luck in life at first, or appears very average, but his or her actions, convictions, and adventures lead towards a heroic journey later on. And who better to represent this character than Harry Potter! From all of the movies involving Harry Potter’s character, we witness this little orphan boy grow up and discover his hidden magic abilities. Even if he doubts himself, we cheer him on as he discovers his inner strengths.
As his story unfolds, we viewers also go deeper into their cinematic mythology and folklore. And we later declare ourselves as residents of “Potterverse” – or Harry Potter’s wonderful universe. So if you like the underdog hero’s journey storyline while being immersed in a fantastic world of quirky characters and imaginative places, then check out these other movies like Harry Potter.
1.Star Wars series
Star Wars is definitely one of the other successful movies like Harry Potter, which also sold us into believing a fantastic universe that existed in the realms of space. What could make for a better underdog than an orphan boy who doesn’t know much about his own personal history, much less where his life is going? That’s practically the life of Luke Skywalker.
With the original film debuting in 1977, Star Wars immediately gained a cult following as viewers saw what life is like in a galaxy far, far away. Visionary George Lucas showed us that every small detail of this universe matters, from the type of androids and their jobs, the different planets and the cultures inhabiting them, to the kinds of flying space crafts and what these can do. Soon, you have generations mouthing off famous quotes from this movie!
We can consider the Star Wars saga as a multi-generational event, since the originals were popular in the 1970s-1980s. We then saw the prequel trilogy narrating the history of Luke’s parents in the 1990s. And today during the 2010s, we see current updates of where these beloved characters are in their ever-evolving universe.
And if you’ll notice, most underdog stories always have a hopeful ending for the hero. In Luke’s case, he becomes part of the Rebel Alliance that fights off the greatest evil villain in their universe – Darth Vader. Of course, as we watched the second and third films in the original trilogy, we’ll learn who Darth is to Luke. We’ll also discover Luke’s real placement in this Star Wars universe as prepared by the prequels. And we’ll also see what his pivotal role is for the newer films coming out this decade.
So just like Harry Potter, Luke Skywalker found his inner strength, and faced his own personal demons. Like the wizard boy, the space boy also had his group of reliable allies, and a bunch of sworn enemies. And they both grew up to save their own universes.
So go check it out to see more parallelisms!
2.Lord of The Rings series
Have you noticed that most of these movies like Harry Potter also reflect the same underdog element, plus they’re part of a series as well? From Star Wars, we now check out another such series: the Lord of the Rings trilogy, or LOTR for Tolkien fans.
LOTR starts with Fellowship of the Ring, where we discover that there’s a place called Middle Earth, and it has different types of fantastic areas and odd-to-cute creatures as residents. However, it’s in danger of being destroyed. If that one powerful ring won’t be returned to its original place of manufacture, then all hell kinda breaks loose!
Such a heavy storyline to go through, right? But wait ‘til you discover whose dubious duty it is to return the ring to its place of origin – a tiny creature called the Hobbit, who has never traveled outside of his comfy home. But with the help of more robust and magical characters who pledge to help with the journey, the little underdog becomes a hopeful hero here. That, in a nutshell, is what Frodo Baggins the hobbit undergoes in this fantastic trilogy.
Like Harry Potter, Frodo Baggins develops unlikely friendships with strange creatures he only thought existed in storybooks. And both Frodo and Harry witness mysteries and magic that previously sound like tall tales you tell children before they go to sleep. Yet aside from happy experiences, both also experience the utmost of horrors, as they go deeper into their missions in their lives.
The LOTR stories came from the very vivid imagination of author JRR Tolkien. It’s so vivid that Middle Earth even had a definitive mapping of the various places and cultures. Plus, certain races in the story had their own language to boot! Now that’s really diverse. And the cinematic reimagining was expertly helmed by director Peter Jackson.
It’s a good feeling to cheer on the good guys and gals while watching a movie. You’ll definitely feel a great high when you cheer on our cinematic underdogs here who succeed in their small and big life hurdles. So go watch this now!
3.Back to the Future trilogy
A more “realistic” take on the underdog story with a fantastic universe is the Back to the Future or BTTF trilogy. For those of you who watched this growing up in the 1980s-1990s, it’s a sure bet that kids during 1985 were totally immersed in the sci-fi tales that Marty McFly features in.
BTTF features a more grounded take on the underdog story with its soon-to-be hero, Marty McFly. In the first film of the trilogy, director Robert Zemeckis introduces us to a 1980s slacker kid who seems to have not much luck in his school and home life. With the accidental help of his mad scientist neighbor-friend, Doc Brown, Marty rides a car-turned-time machine and travels back in time.
Now the story seems a happy one so far, but wait ‘til you discover where Marty travels back to: his own home in the 1950s, back when his parents were still teenagers – his age! The first film features how he tries to rewrite his whole underdog family’s history so they could have a chance at a better life. But he actually doesn’t know he’s doing that! So imagine that ride back, huh?
The second film in the series also features Marty. But this time, Doc Brown takes him to the future, where Marty’s future son will figure into huge trouble. Again, without knowing it, Marty rides to the future and alters some courses of people’s lives – especially his own, and his family’s as well! But it’s not such a good journey back, this time. Discover how Marty untangles his own time traveling mess!
Now the third film faces an altered underdog story, this time featuring Doc Brown traveling back to the 1800s, during the wild wild west! And Marty returns to a time when his town is still being established. But it’s Doc Brown who seems to need help in overcoming being an underdog of sorts in this ancient time. Will the two underdog friends pull it, this time?
The storylines, dialogues, and characters make this ‘80s film a very timeless one. So go check it out!
4.Percy Jackson films
Greek mythology has always been an inspiration for American literature and cinema when developing underdog narratives with a hero’s journey. Percy Jackson exemplifies this narrative fusion. This series starts with Percy Jackson and The Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010) and continues with Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (2013).
In this modern retelling of Greek mythological storylines and characterizations, we discover that the Greek gods had children with mortals. So there’s a whole generation of teens out there who feel abandoned by their godly parent as they struggle with their mortal parent. Percy Jackson – son of Poseidon – is one of such kids. As one of those movies like Harry Potter, Percy’s adventures start with not knowing his true identity – until he accidentally discovers it.
As a teen, Percy feels like a nobody. Add the fact that this underdog seems to suffer from dyslexia, making learning hard for him. But as he soon finds out, his friends – and people around him who care for him – are actually Greek mythological creatures who were sent to protect him. Of course, being half-gods and half-mortals, Percy and his kind will soon discover their hidden talents and powers – and they’ll need it to battle enemies later on within their world!
The first film in this series involves a New York-based Percy and his journey to join a special camp for children like him. This is where he trains and discovers friends – and enemies. Soon, he is wrongfully accused by Zeus himself as the thief who stole the great Greek god’s lighting bolt. This first film has Percy working on clearing his name.
The second film in the series involves Percy going on a sea adventure with his fellow demigod friends. Their objective is to retrieve the famed Golden Fleece so they can use it to fix their endangered camp. In both films, we see how Percy harnesses his persona as a true son of the God of the Sea.
It’s a shame to miss this if you’re a huge fan of Greek mythology. Check it out to see how exciting it is!
5.Hunger Games trilogy
Dystopian storylines are also rich in underdog types of characters, and the Hunger Games series is a glaring example of this. Imagine a bleak world separated by class and power struggle. Imagine that world divided into industry-based districts, mired in poverty, and ruled by tyrannical leaders from the rich and elite. Now imagine a teenage girl growing up victimized by such classist separations. That’s Katniss Everdeen’s life in a nutshell.
Based on the novel series by Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games trilogy starts with introducing us to a dark and uneven world. The ruling class conducts a yearly Hunger Games competition featuring representatives of the different lower class districts. And these games pit these district underdogs against each other, in a fight to the death! Yep, they kill each other here. The lone survivor wins the games, rises out of poverty, and his or her district is also given supplies/benefits with their representative’s win.
Such a dark and skewed rule for a game, right? But that’s the world Katniss was born in. In the first film, she discovers how the participants in the games connive with each other or betray each other, just to advance in the game. And hey, advancing in the game means not getting killed! So yeah, one just does anything imaginable to survive. Oh, and did we mention that all of these games are televised live, as it happens? Hello, Big Brother!
It’s interesting to see just how the underdog Katniss, along with the peers she will eventually team up with, will survive the first story about the games. The second film will give us the answers to their survival, as it will also surprise us with a rebellion forming within the districts. The third and final installment of the film bravely shows us what such underdogs could do, and where they could take things if pushed to the edge.
Yes, these films are edge-of-your-seat adventures, and Jennifer Lawrence carries the story well as Katniss. So go check it out and see how our female underdog heroically performs!
Talk about segregation of the underdog species, go see the Divergent series. Yet another dystopian tale, we find a handful of underdogs here who become heroes later on. But the lead underdog here is named Tris Prior.
As part of our countdown of movies like Harry Potter, Divergent also has several movies in its franchise. Three of them already became films: Divergent (2014), Insurgent (2015), and Allegiant (2016). The last in the series, Ascendant, is still in the works as of this writing.
But the first three films in the series have already garnered a huge fan base. This is evident in how fans would declare how they belong in the various factions created in the story. This is how you’ll know that the Divergent universe has successfully gotten people to immerse in its fiction.
Basically, Divergent is about psychologically testing people when they reach 16 years old. Depending on the results, they are determined as to which faction they are best suited in life. But they also undergo a ceremony where they are free to pursue a faction of their choosing. There’s the peace-loving Amity, the intelligent Erudite, the brave Dauntless, the honest Candor, and the selfless Abnegation where Tris was born into.
Within these controlled factions, there seems to be a handful of individuals who fall through the cracks. And that serious crack is taken seriously by their society’s leader, for the crack in the system is unacceptable to their society – because these individuals can’t be controlled. And they call that crack the “Divergent.” So of course, guess what: our underdog Tris happens to be one!
The first film shows us how Tris negotiates being “diagnosed” as a Divergent, and how she survives this hidden identity. Insurgent sees how Tris and her fellow underdogs turn into rebels and fight the powers that be. Allegiant follows our heroine as she discovers and meets the people responsible for creating their world order.
We’re sure the last installment would be as equally energetic and exciting as the first three. So go check them out before the last one arrives!