As we all know, the #HarryPotter series has a reputation for its sarcastic characters, particularly Professor McGonagall and Severus Snape (both brilliantly portrayed by Dame Maggie Smith and Alan Rickman respectively), but Albus Dumbledore’s risible remarks are often overlooked, in favor of his inspirational messages. Which is a shame really, since apart from his amusing love of knitting patterns and his snacking on confectionery (sherbert lemon, anyone?) Dumbledore tends to serve up some of the best and most sensational sass in the saga.
So let's take a look at the best Dumbledore quotes in both the books and the movies, in anticipation of seeing him on our screens once again in the sequel to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them!
15. Dumbledore Grabs the Popcorn - The Prisoner of Azkaban
This one isn't actually a quip, but it's still so funny that I thought it really needed to be included. Picture the scene: it's the end of The Prisoner of Azkaban. Harry and Hermione have just returned from saving Buckbeak, and Sirius Black has managed to escape arrest a few pages earlier - but no one else knows that just yet! Severus Snape, the dire and bitter enemy of Sirius from their days at school is happily set to take the credit for the latter's arrest.
Indeed, he is looking forward to several accolades and a boost to his reputation. So when he discovers that Black has escaped, and correctly deduces that Harry has helped Black, he doesn't take it too well.
"HE DIDN'T DISAPPARATE!" Snape roared, now very close at hand. "YOU CAN'T APPARATE OR DISAPPARATE INSIDE THIS CASTLE! THIS -- HAS--SOMETHING -- TO -- DO -- WITH -- POTTER!"
“Severus – be reasonable – Harry has been locked up—”
This section goes on to elaborate on Snape's rage, but the part that makes this scene so amusing is the description of Dumbledore in all that commotion:
"Dumbledore alone looked calm. Indeed, he looked as though he was quite enjoying himself.”
Indeed, Dumbledore is usually depicted as a serene presence in the novels. But whilst Snape screams at Harry, unable to prove any of his accusations, Dumbledore was complicit in the whole thing, meaning that at this point the wily headmaster is effectively sticking around to just enjoy the drama.
14. His First Speech - The Philosopher's Stone
"...Finally, I must tell you that this year, the third-floor corridor on the right-hand side is out of bounds to everyone who does not wish to die a very painful death."
From his introduction in the first chapter of The Philosopher's Stone, we knew that Dumbledore was going to be an interesting character. Kind, enigmatic and powerful, he epitomizes the mentor/old wizard archetype. We see these qualities again when Harry enters Hogwarts.
In his first speech, Dumbledore gives out the start of term notices, and casually slips in a warning about the rather large health hazard on the third floor corridor. Both the book, and the late, great Richard Harris solidly deliver the quintessential qualities of Dumbledore: whimsical, knowledgeable but with a darker truth lurking behind.
13. Fawkes the Phoenix's Burning Day - The Chamber of Secrets
A lot of what makes Harry Potter so successful is that its central character is a fish out of water, thrust into a world where wonderful and weird things occur everyday. But after a while, the most unusual things must become a little bit ordinary. Dumbledore displays this apathy to the extraordinary perfectly when Harry first claps eyes on his pet phoenix, Fawkes, who after several seconds bursts into flames...
The office door opened. Dumbledore came in, looking very somber.
"Professor," Harry gasped. "Your bird - I couldn't do anything - he just caught fire--"
To Harry's astonishment, Dumbledore smiled.
"About time, too," he said. "He's been looking dreadful for days; I've been telling him to get a move on."
He chuckled at the stunned look on Harry's face.
Again, it's his complete nonchalance at the whole scenario which makes what Dumbledore says so funny. Similarly, when it was adapted Richard Harris perfectly recreated the comic timing of the scene.
12. After Harry's Battle with Quirrell - The Philosopher's Stone
“What happened down in the dungeons between you and Professor Quirrell is a complete secret...so, naturally the whole school knows.”
Rather than being a curmudgeonly senior citizen, Dumbledore certainly has a genial and anarchic streak, which he commonly displays against the Ministry of Magic (more on them later). But here, his amiable acceptance of the way schools and gossip work, shows an understanding and perceptive side to the venerable headmaster.
11. Always the Gentleman - The Goblet of Fire
Many of the subplots in the Harry Potter series had to be jettisoned to accommodate a movie's run time, as well as hone in on the main characters. Fans understand this, yet we still lament that many of our favorite character moments didn't make the final cut. One of these is in The Goblet of Fire where, following his refusal to an interview, journalist Rita Skeeter guns for Harry's friends.
Hagrid's previously unknown half-giant heritage gets aired to the public, which doesn't go down very well with the populace since giants are hated by wizards, and considered brutal savages. Hagrid falls into a depression and isolates himself from his friends, until an ad-hoc intervention is held by Ron, Harry, Hermione and Dumbledore:
“Of course we still want to know you!” Harry said, staring at Hagrid. “You don’t think anything that Skeeter cow — sorry, Professor,” he added quickly, looking at Dumbledore.
“I have gone temporarily deaf and haven’t any idea what you said, Harry,” said Dumbledore, twiddling his thumbs and staring at the ceiling.
Dumbledore's renowned for his politeness and courtesy, and as headmaster, he ought to reprimand his students for insults and language. However, by remaining as polite and friendly as ever and refusing to reprimand or contradict his student, Dumbledore quietly demonstrates his own contempt for Skeeter by saying nothing at all, the sly dog.
10. On Professor Trelawney's Predictions - The Prisoner of Azkaban
This part wasn't shown in the film version of The Prisoner of Azkaban, which is a massive shame really. The scene in question alludes to the intricately plotted connection between Harry and Voldemort, which the films didn't fully pin down. In the books, the seer Professor Trelawney predicted their antagonism before it even began, and in The Prisoner of Azkaban, she makes another forecast which Harry relays to Dumbledore as soon as he is able to...
“Was it — was she making a real prediction?
Dumbledore looked mildly impressed.
“Do you know, Harry, I think she might have been,” he said thoughtfully. “Who’d have thought it? That brings her total of real predictions up to two. I should offer her a pay raise. . . .”
Again, the humor comes from the mellow way that Dumbledore accepts the news, which Harry finds to be highly troubling. Readers and viewers of the whole series will no doubt realize that Dumbledore is also trying to shift the focus away from the particulars of prophecies for a very significant reason...
9. The Lightning Struck Tower - The Half Blood Prince
This one is probably from one of the saddest and heart wrenching scenes in the series; trying to claim one of Lord Voldemort's horcruxes, Dumbledore drinks a potion which forces him to relive his worst memories and fears, after which he and Harry return to Hogwarts to find a most unwelcome scene.
Severely weakened by his cursed hand and Voldemort's concoction, Draco Malfoy disarms Dumbledore. In the film, Malfoy's schemes are a tad simplified, but in the book he slowly reveals how he has plotted to kill Dumbledore throughout the whole year, using a cursed Madam Rosmerta to assist him:
"That's right," said Malfoy. "But she said you were just going for a drink, you'd be back...”
"Well, I certainly did have a drink.... and I came back... after a fashion,"
The fact that Dumbledore still retains his humor in this time of mortal peril serves to show just how cool of a character he is. A bittersweet moment in a scene of sadness...excuse me, I've just got something in my eye...
8. Aberforth and the Goats - The Goblet of Fire
Harry Potter has been embraced by adults and children alike. Why? Because everyone can appreciate something from it, whether it's the good morals, thrilling adventure or the humor. In the aforementioned intervention at Hagrid's Hut, Dumbledore discusses his brother's brush with infamy and...well, I'll let you read it for yourself...
“My own brother, Aberforth, was prosecuted for practicing inappropriate charms on a goat. It was all over the papers, but did Aberforth hide? No, he did not! He held his head high and went about his business as usual! Of course, I’m not entirely sure he can read, so that may not have been bravery. . ..”
JK Rowling has since admitted that you can read into Aberforth's charms on his goats on several different levels (steady on!), meaning that there's something for the everyone to enjoy in Dumbledore's anecdote, be it the antics of his brother, or his blissful ignorance.
7. The Sacking of Trelawney - The Order of the Phoenix
Dolores Umbridge is, without a doubt, one of the most hated characters in the saga. Vindictive and smug, The Order of the Phoenix details how she twists and uses her influence and bureaucracy to make life hell for her opponents, namely Harry and Dumbledore. Late in the book, all hope seems lost for Professor Trelawney after she is sacked by Umbridge in front of the whole school. However, help is at hand...
“You are quite right, of course, Professor Umbridge. As High Inquisitor you have every right to dismiss my teachers. You do not, however, have the authority to send them away from the castle. I am afraid,” he went on, with a courteous little bow, “that the power to do that still resides with the headmaster, and it is my wish that Professor Trelawney continue to live at Hogwarts.”
Making an emphatic entrance, Dumbledore undermines Umbridge's moment. Using the omissions of her decrees against her, Dumbledore curtails her cruelty and even installs the centaur Firenze in Trelawney's place, knowing full well that Umbridge hates half breeds. It's a brilliantly satisfying moment where Dumbledore uses his wits and intelligence to beat the ministry official at her own game.
6. Karma Comes to the Dursleys - The Half Blood Prince
Cruel and neglectful, the Dursleys are some of the most horrible yet comical characters in the Harry Potter series, who we didn't really get to see much of in the movies. Case in point: after years of abusing and generally mistreating Harry, Dumbledore finally gives them the verbal smack down that they deserve, shortly before whisking him on to recruit Horace Slughorn in The Half Blood Prince.
The fun begins as soon as Dumbledore enters Privet Drive:
“I don’t mean to be rude – “[Uncle Vernon] began, in a tone threatening rudeness in every syllable.
“-yet, sadly, accidental rudeness occurs alarmingly often”, Dumbledore finished the sentence gravely. “Best to say nothing at all, my dear man. Ah, and this must be Petunia...”
At home, Vernon rules the roost, and it's with fist-pumping glee that we see him being put in his place by Dumbledore. The antics of the glasses of mead are also a treat as well; if you haven't read the book, I'd really recommend that you do just for this chapter.
5. Gryffindor Wins The House Cup - The Philosopher's Stone
As we learned over the course of the series, whilst he was, undoubtedly, a great mentor to Harry, Dumbledore had a somewhat laissez-faire approach to being a headmaster. Running a school full of teenage witches and wizards was always going to be a difficult task, but there are definitely times when the headmaster makes himself unduly unpopular with some students.
Case in point: at the end of The Philosopher's Stone, Dumbledore decides to award Harry and his fellow Gryffindor students for their trouble against Quirrell and Voldemort. However, he only does this after letting the Slytherins believe they have won. Sure, he's ending their lengthy winning-streak, but the way the trolling is strung out is a tad harsh. It's still very funny though!
4. Calling Out Fudge's Nonsense - The Order of the Phoenix
The above GIF pretty much sums up how Harry, Dumbledore, and the fans feel all the way through The Order of the Phoenix. As the ignorance and injustices dealt by the Ministry of Magic grow throughout the novel, so do Dumbledore's levels of sass, which he aims in this scene, at Cornelius Fudge:
“In your admirable haste to ensure that the law is upheld, you appear, inadvertently I am sure, to have overlooked a few laws yourself.”
“Laws can be changed,” said Fudge savagely.
“Of course they can,” said Dumbledore, inclining his head. “And you certainly seem to be making many changes, Cornelius. Why, in the few short weeks since I was asked to leave the Wizengamot, it has already become the practice to hold a full criminal trial to deal with a simple matter of underage magic!”
Lots of this section was streamlined for the film so it loses some of its potency, but even so, you can sense just how satisfied Dumbledore is to call out the prejudices of Fudge's office. Oooh, that's some serious shade being thrown there!
3. The Epitome of Good - The Goblet of Fire
Type in "Harry Potter quotes" into Google, and chances are that lots of Dumbledore's utterances will feature in the results. Dumbledore is known for his highly inspirational and encouraging pieces of advice; he's a very intelligent chap after all. But Dumbledore's quips are the best when they demonstrate both his wit and wisdom simultaneously. Here, in his meeting with Hagrid, he becomes impatient when the latter bemoans that not everyone wants him to return to his teaching:
“Really, Hagrid, if you are holding out for universal popularity, I’m afraid you will be in this cabin for a very long time,” said Dumbledore, now peering sternly over his half-moon spectacles.
It's a brilliantly sassy response, highlighting the silliness of Hagrid's expectations, whilst cleverly underlining that regrettable yet universal truth: you simply can't please everyone.
2. "Come Quietly?" - The Order of the Phoenix
Ah yes...a personal favorite of mine. When Harry and his friends set up Dumbledore's Army to learn the magic that Umbridge is refusing to teach them, they don't yet realize the consequences which will occur. The club is soon made illegal, yet the trio and their friends persist until Umbridge roots them out, gleefully threatening their expulsion. However, Dumbledore takes the credit for their illegal actions, meaning that Cornelius Fudge and his aurors now have the grounds on which they can arrest the Headmaster. Yet Dumbledore, the most powerful wizard in the world, has other ideas on his mind...
“Well — it’s just that you seem to be laboring under the delusion that I am going to — what is the phrase? ‘Come quietly’ I am afraid I am not going to come quietly at all, Cornelius. I have absolutely no intention of being sent to Azkaban. I could break out, of course —but what a waste of time, and frankly, I can think of a whole host of things I would rather be doing.”
Oof, I think we can all agree that this picture below sums up everything here:
The above clip goes some way to showing Dumbledore's badassery, but in the books it gets even better.
“So,” sneered Fudge, recovering himself, “you intend to take on Dawlish, Shacklebolt, Dolores, and myself single-handed, do you, Dumbledore?”
“Merlin’s beard, no,” said Dumbledore, smiling. “Not unless you are foolish enough to force me to.”
And all of this happens before Fawkes swoops down and teleports them away in a blaze of fire. Dumbledore's got style indeed!
1. Lockhart, Please... The Chamber of Secrets
It really would have to be this wouldn't it? In some ways, it's ironic that this selection isn't described in the books, and it isn't even a verbal utterance from Dumbledore, but it still goes some way to showing just how important he is.
Arriving at the scene of the first attack in The Chamber of Secrets, Albus is visibly alarmed by the Heir of Slytherin's return, and sets to work sussing out what's going on. Then along comes Gilderoy Lockhart (a brilliantly cast Kenneth Branagh) who uses the opportunity to showboat, until Dumbledore puts him in his place...
The contrast between Lockhart's ramblings and Dumbledore's one movement speaks volumes, and just goes to show who really is in charge here. When the Headmaster is speaking, you sit up, stay quiet and pay attention; Dumbledore may be kind, but he is no exception to this rule. Plus, the looks on the faces of the other characters are amazing.
So there we have it! All of Albus Dumbledore's best quips together for our admiration...what a wise-ass of a wizard he is! With Jude Law set to play a younger incarnation of Dumbledore in the Fantastic Beasts series, his excellent, deadpan delivery of lines is sure to mean that we're in for a witty ride indeed!
Which is your favorite witticism of Dumbledore's? Or is there another Harry Potter character deserving of another article, dedicated to their wisecracks? Head to the comments and let me know!