For millions of people all over the world, the approach of midnight on July 15 brought with it a gut-wrenching mix of excitement and heartache. "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2" was set to open all over the world, and as fans lined up outside movie theaters -- some in costume as their favorite character -- we realized that this was it. The joy of seeing the final installment of the most successful film franchise in history was tempered with the sadness that we'd never get to do this again. This truly great thing that had been, from first book to final film, a part of our lives for well over a decade had reached its end. For an entire generation, the film's release was like turning the final page on our childhoods.
"Deathly Hallows, Part 2" wasn't just a movie; it was the event of the summer. And the bittersweet moment is also MTV News' #8 [article id="1676177"]Top Newsmaker of 2011[/article], because it made headlines and marked the end of an era.
The stars of the film definitely seemed to understand just how [article id="1667373"]close to fans' hearts the franchise had become[/article]. It had, after all, touched them too. Asked if there'd be tears upon the film's release, [article id="1665319"]Emma Watson cheekily told MTV News[/article] at the MTV Movie Awards, "Maybe a few. Maybe one or two, just little ones."
The film set [article id="1667382"]box-office records[/article] for the biggest first day ($92.1 million) and largest opening weekend, both domestically ($168.5 million) and worldwide ($314 million), ever and received the [article id="1666917"]best reviews[/article] of any film in the franchise. The praise wasn't contained to critics and fans: Even the stars of the film were in awe of the final product. "I was a wreck because of the film itself," [article id="1667113"]Daniel Radcliffe told MTV News[/article] at the film's New York premiere. "You've got to have a heart of stone to not find part of it -- especially Alan Rickman's performance -- heartbreaking, so yeah, I've done my fair share of crying already. ... I think that we proved in doing 'Potter' that you can bring integrity and perpetual growth to a franchise."
Fans' devotion to the books, films and characters created by J.K. Rowling was manifest in the enthusiastic response to our [article id="1665923"]"Harry Potter" World Cup[/article], MTV News' month-long, March Madness-style tournament to find out which character was the fan favorite. More than 7.4 million votes were cast in the competition, resulting in a final face-off between Ron Weasley and [article id="1667081"]Professor Severus Snape[/article]. In the end, the compellingly complex Snape took the title, and star [article id="1667099"]Alan Rickman thanked fans[/article] at the film's New York premiere, telling MTV News that Snape's victory was "a vote for ambiguity and things where you don't quite know how they're going to turn out." He continued, "Also, it's [Snape's] values that you can't talk about without ruining the film, but things like courage and determination and loyalty and love, actually."
The success of the series itself could be seen as a celebration of those same things. On the surface, the [article id="1667312"]"Harry Potter" films[/article] are fantasies about a boy wizard and his underdog friends navigating a magical universe in which evil lurks in the shadows. But above all, the "Potter" books and films champion courage, determination and loyalty in the face of great adversity and are premised on the notion that love ultimately conquers all. We can think of no better message for a film series to impart on a generation of young people facing a real world mired in conflict and economic turmoil.
It's sad that there's no more "Potter" to look forward to, but the magic created by Rowling; directors Chris Columbus, Alfonso Cuarón, Mike Newell and especially David Yates (who helmed the final four films); screenwriter Steven Kloves; and stars Radcliffe, Watson and Rupert Grint will live on to do great things -- much like the Boy Who Lived himself.
MTV continues our Best of 2011 coverage by looking back at the biggest pop-culture stories of the year. As we count down the newsmakers that mattered to you most, also check out our top [article id="1675981"]Artists[/article], [article id="1675921"]Songs[/article], [article id="1675822"]Live Performances[/article] and [article id="1675726"]EDM Artists[/article] of 2011.