Why Voldemort’s Movie Design Change Made It Scarier

Voldemort looked like his literary counterpart in the Harry Potter movies, but Ralph Fiennes asked for a change that made him even scarier.

The dark wizard Voldemort had a particularly different visual design in the Harry Potter movies compared to the books, but one change made him a much scarier antagonist. Played by several actors, but most notably Ralph Fiennes, Voldemort is the ultimate antagonist of the main literary and cinematic storyline of the Harry Potter franchise, with its bigotry-fueled conquests and vendetta with the titular hero serving as the ultimate conflict. Fiennes requested that a specific change be made to the final version of Voldemort’s film, and that change made Voldemort much more unsettling, both visually and symbolically.


Voldemort, formerly known as Tom Riddle, was obsessed with preserving his life at all costs. While Riddle became the world’s most feared wizard, he nearly ensured immortality through the use of Horcruxes. Committing ruthless acts of murder, Riddle split his soul and bound the fragments to valuables, but the process had additional side effects. In addition to ravaging his esoteric self, Voldemort’s creation of Horcruxes also warped his physical appearance, turning him into a monstrous being whose fearsome appearance reflected his evilness.

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the Harry Potter the books describe Riddle’s gradual visual transformation as he becomes the infamous Lord Voldemort. Presumably the direct result of his Horcrux efforts, Riddle’s skin turned pale as death and his eyes red and bloodshot. It is believed to be what Voldemort looked like during the First Wizarding War. When his body was restored in Harry Potter’s fourth school year, Voldemort appeared even less human, with a mortal figure, slits instead of a nose, and red, reptilian eyes. Ralph Fiennes was originally set to match this appearance in the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Firebut he asked to keep his natural blue eyes in the final cut, a decision that proved beneficial.

With human eyes, Voldemort was a far scarier villain. While the book version of Voldemort gradually takes on a monstrous appearance to match the horror of his atrocities, the cinematic iteration retains an aspect of Riddle’s humanity even in his final form. Without contacts or CGI enhancements, Fiennes could express his emotions more as Voldemort, but there was an added benefit. The fact that Voldemort looks more like a monster than a man makes it all too easy to forget his origins. Having a corpse-like reptilian being with human eyes is much scarier, as you can see the man he once was under the horror, and Riddle was scarier as a human than as a monster .

Flashbacks of Voldemort in the book and film version of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince portray him on the path to becoming Voldemort. Among other things, flashbacks prove that a mundane human dark wizard is far more unsettling than a monster. Riddle’s unremarkable appearance concealed a murderous wickedness as he uncovered the secrets of the Horcruxes and remorselessly murdered people in his quest for immortality, and the retention of his human eyes as Voldemort reminded viewers of that.

Voldemort notably appeared at the end of Harry Potter at the Sorcerer’s Stone, though sharing a head with Professor Quirrell. The brief scenes of Voldemort in the film likely resembled his appearance during the First Wizarding War. Voldemort had chalky skin and red eyes, but lacked skeletal thinness and had a human nose. Juxtaposing Voldemort’s blue, human eyes with his inhuman appearance in most Harry Potter the movies, however, made him a far scarier villain than he otherwise would have been.

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