Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is the "most engaging installment in the boy wizard's ongoing adventures," said Rene Rodriguez in The Miami Herald. Directed by David Yates, this sixth film in the series "is the franchise's Empire Strikes Back—the episode in which the pace slows down a bit, the characters deepen and mature, the good guys take a big hit, and all hell is gearing up to break loose." (watch the trailer for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince)

"As the Harry Potter movies have ventured into darker, more mature territory," said Sonny Bunch in The Washington Times, "the series has greatly improved in one regard—the stories feel more epic, the tension more real." But with the Half-Blood Prince, "the filmmakers have tried to cram school-age mischief and lovelorn follies amidst tumultuous battles between good and evil," and it feels "a little tacked on."

This is "a familiar situation for genre fans," said Stephen Whitty in New Jersey's The Star-Ledger, "who are used to seeing the penultimate film in a series spend precious time preparing the way for the climax." But for casual viewers, the Half-Blood Prince may be disappointing: "The beginning is a bit rushed," the middle is "more emotional than magical," and the film "ends in—well, in the middle of things."