The Harry Potter movie franchise is one of the most successful in the history of Hollywood production. But growing up as a Lord of the Rings fan, I always saw J.K. Rowling’s series as a cheap-Gandalf hocus pocus fantasy world that my baby brother enjoyed.

In other words, I thought Harry Potter was a kid’s thing.

But after visiting Universal Studios’ Wizarding World of Harry Potter late last year, I decided to give the series a chance by watching all eight movies, back to back.

And boy oh boy, I don’t think I’ve ever been more wrong about a movie franchise in my life.

In November 2014, I was let go from a sports writing gig. I’ve previously talked about how this was a wrong career change for me, but during a break before starting a better gig, I had a couple weeks of time to kill.

Coincidentally, my parents had been planning for months to visit Universal Studios, which is just a short drive from Jacksonville, Florida. The park had just opened the second phase of Harry Potter World and my mom, already being a super fan herself (she may or may not have a collection of wands on display at her house), had a trip planned and mapped out for months.

My dad called me the Friday afternoon before they left: “Since you’re not covering college football this weekend, want to talk your brother into driving down to Orlando with you to join us Universal?”

I didn’t hesitate for a nanosecond.

“Shit yeah, I’ll pack my bag now!”

I hurried to hang up and call my brother, who hates anything spontaneous.

After some mild convincing, we were on the road less than three hours later to visit a place called Hogwarts, a place I knew nothing about.

“You really shouldn’t even be going to this place,” my brother said as we made our way to a city I knew more for Mickey Mouse than Harry Potter. “You won’t have the same appreciation for it as a real fan.”

You see, my brother has read all the books and watched the movies multiple times. He couldn’t fathom how I could appreciate a place I seemingly knew nothing about.

I didn’t care. I just wanted to get out of the house and visit an amusement park.

The castle, the rides, the fans walking around in Hogwarts capes, drinking Butter Beer, children flicking their pretend wands at each other casting spells, eating in the Great Hall, taking the train and every other aspect of the park… it all fascinated me.

It was this extreme level of detail that made me realize I needed to watch the movies sooner rather than later.

So that’s what I did. After I got back, I borrowed the movies from my parents, settled in with a nice comfy spot on my couch, and binge-watched all of the Harry Potter movies in a row.

I started watching with one movie per night. But once I got to The Goblet of Fire, my anticipation couldn’t stand it and I continued to watch back-to-back, all day long until the wee hours of the morning.

I finished The Deathly Hallows: Part II at 11am in the morning the day before Thanksgiving and I’ve been hooked ever since.

Almost a year later, I’ve watched all of the movies at least a dozen times, listened to the audio books and I’d be remiss if I didn’t share some of my favorite moments from the series.

Sure, it’s years later after most people have been all aboard Hogwarts Express, but let me live.

Dumbledore rivals Gandalf

For those that know me, you know this is a very strong statement to make. Hell, I even dressed up as Gandalf for the final Hobbit movie just last Christmas.

While Gandalf will always be bae in my eyes, Dumbledore and his vision will forever take the No. 2 spot in my heart.

It’s not just his vast amount of knowledge, sense of humor, and wisdom to strategize against the greatest dark wizard of all time. It was also his constant trust in hope and love that makes Dumbledore stand out among the franchise.

Harry Potter movies did it better than the rest

For geeks who love Star Wars or the Tolkien franchise of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, the original series of three movies remain untouchable. The prequels, however, have left much to be desired. In fact, you could make a case those series were irreparability damaged.

Because Harry Potter went in a natural movie release order of Part 1 through Part 8, rather than starting in the middle and going back, they let fans fully embark on the journey instead of creating movies that won’t live up to the climax.

Star Wars has a chance to right those wrongs, but other franchises can’t say the same.

J.K. Rowling is badass

Besides creating an entire fantasy series that is as in-depth and detail oriented as they come, the 50-year-old self-made billionaire stands up for social rights and injustices while continually releases new information and further expands on the entire universe. She’s also not afraid to voice her opinion on the wonderful world of Twitter.

Rowling created a fantasy series that is constantly evolving with the level of detail and sub culture of what Wiki pages were made for. Best of all, she’s not finished. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is currently in pre-production and takes place 70 years prior to Harry Potter’s time at Hogwarts. Therefore unlike other fantasy franchises, we still have much more to look forward to.

The audio books are on point

While I read hundreds of articles on the internet daily, my attention span for books is nonexistent. So going back and reading the Harry Potter books is unrealistic. But the audio books, however, are where I find the joy in Rowling’s words and level of detail.

Should you choose to download them all at once, look no further than Pottermore which holds the complete series read by James Dale.

If you don’t know who Jim Dale is, below is just a sample. You can thank me later.

Emma Watson is the ultimate girl crush

Emma Watson. Ahhhh. What can I say about her that hasn’t already been said?

Before I ever watched the movies, Watson was a role model for me simple because of the way she carried herself off-camera, her decision to study at an Ivy League school, and her campaign for the movement, HeForShe.

She’s one of the few childhood actors to turn out nearly identical as her character Hermione whether she’s at home or in public. And because I love the romance between her and Ron, I just hope one day they start dating in real life to fulfill my own selfish desires.

While other stars within the Harry Potter series haven’t made many movies outside of the iconic franchise, Watson has just wrapped on another perfect character to play, Belle, from the movie adaptation of Beauty and the Beast.