In the books, many of Voldemort's Death Eaters, such as Lucius Malfoy, avoided imprisonment after the first Wizarding War by claiming that they were acting under the influence of the Imperius Curse. The film version of Goblet of Fire has Mad Eye Moody succinctly explaining the dilemma.

"Scores of witches and wizards have claimed that they only did You-Know-Who's bidding under the influence of the Imperius Curse. But here's the rub: how do we sort out the liars?"

However, this makes no sense in the film because those under the Imperius Curse have a blank look with obviously wrong eyes.

Viktor Krum under the Imperius Curse in *Goblet of Fire*

And in Deathly Hallows, Part I, a goblin has a dopey, blank face after being under the Imperius Curse.

enter image description here

So if people under the Imperius Curse have a blank look, why is there doubt that they were under it?

I'd like an answer that respects film continuity (rather than just being "the films are terrible").

  • 6
    I have no evidence of this, but I suspect that the blank look is only when the person controlling them hasn’t ordered them to “act normally.”
    – Adamant
    Commented May 29, 2017 at 20:26
  • 8
    If people were suspicious every time someone had a blank look, they would get the impression that the whole Ministerium of Magic was under the Imperius Curse. But then again, they were probably right, especially in Deathly Hallows.
    – Narusan
    Commented May 29, 2017 at 20:30
  • 12
    Out-of-Universe: The director needed a mechanic to show the audience that the person was controlled by someone else. While it is revealed in the book later on, the film can't waste to much time on that. An appropriate method seemed to be changing the eye-colour to make them blank. Although I can't remember where, I'm very certain that I have seen this symbolism of blank eyes being used to depict someone not capable of controlling their actions/being controlled by somebody else before. But again, this is out-of-universe. If someone is willing to expand this and making it to an answer, feel
    – Narusan
    Commented May 29, 2017 at 21:09
  • 2
    To add to Narusan's comment: the in-universe answer might be that they don't really go blank like that, and it's something only the audience can "see". That sort of thing is not unheard-of; for example, in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Naked Now", the audience hears a sound effect whenever someone gets infected.
    – ruakh
    Commented May 29, 2017 at 22:54
  • 1
    Unless the people are caught red-handed doing Voldemort's bidding, an argument could be made that they were under the influence of this curse when they did whatever they were accused of, but that the spell was somehow broken before they were caught.
    – Steve-O
    Commented May 29, 2017 at 23:27

4 Answers 4


As we are focusing just on the movies here, the answer is obvious.


The 2 people were not under the imperious curse. That's just an assumption the viewer jumps to having seen the unforgivables performed earlier.

HARRY: No stop! He's bewitched Cedric. They struggle.

CEDRIC: Get off me!

HARRY: He's bewitched!

Note that it doesn't imply or mention the Imperious curse at all. I'm not sure what was used on the Goblin but its possible it was Confundus charm (like in the books). In fact the only 100% guaranteed use of Imperious I remember in the films is with the spider in class, (and that spider looked exactly the same: perfectly normal). So as an In-universe answer no humans were under Imperious curse in the film at all: they were all probably under a different curse. NOTE: this explanation only works for the films but the question specifically limits to just the films.

Out of Universe

There had to be a way to show the viewer the person was under someone else's control. The eyes are the easiest way to do this as others have pointed out already.


I see no evidence in the films to suggest the Imperious Curse changes some-ones physical appearance. Therefor while its implied to the viewer after the class demo, it was never once confirmed other than the viewer assuming that's the curse controlling them, (we never see the curse used on those with milky eyes: so we don't know for sure what curse was used). If there is only truly the spider which we see onscreen then its safe to assume that the Imperious Cure doesn't create a blank look or milky eyes: and anyone under that curse looks perfectly normal. The books are harder to explain away though.

Its been a while since I've seen the films so I could be mistaken on some details please feel free to point them out.

  • 1
    Imperio was also used in the bank; the difference in the film is that Ron also does it whereas in the book only Harry does (he casts it on the goblin as well as Travers). Not in the film either is McGonagall using it on one of the Carrow siblings (just after Harry cast Crucio on the brother).
    – Pryftan
    Commented Aug 10, 2018 at 23:12
  • 2
    Hey, you try to fit a spider with white contact lenses!
    – RDFozz
    Commented Sep 12, 2018 at 21:18
  • 1
    @Pryftan You’re very right about that - it definitely was the Imperius Curse that was used in Gringotts, including in the movie.
    – Obsidia
    Commented Sep 12, 2018 at 23:18
  • 1
    @JanusBahsJacquet no he doesn't, here's a you tube link youtu.be/LjcCstYDDlo for that scene - the movies left it out of the confession, if you want to continue this I'm happy to in chat
    – Matt
    Commented Sep 13, 2018 at 17:12
  • 1
    @Pryftan You’re welcome. Sorry to hear that about your family, girlfriend and life in general though. Hopefully things will improve for you soon. :) Yes, in the book Harry’s the only one who uses the Imperius Curse in Gringotts, and he Confunds the guards before that. The movie does differ from the book somewhat, just not in the use of the Imperius Curse.
    – Obsidia
    Commented Sep 20, 2018 at 21:51

The Imperius Curse can cause a blank look - but doesn’t always.

Someone under the Imperius Curse looking blank doesn’t contradict the books at all - it’s shown to be possible. In the books, there are cases where being Imperiused causes a blank look. When Harry uses the Imperius Curse on Travers and Bogrod, they both end up looking blank.

“They’re Imperiused,’ he added, in response to Hermione and Ron’s confused queries about Travers and Bogrod, who were both now standing there looking blank. ‘I don’t think I did it strongly enough, I don’t know …”
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 26 (Gringotts)

In the movie, Harry also uses Imperio, as he had in the book, and it causes the same blank look.

None see Harry’s hand slip from the cloak, his wand pointed at Bogrod.


The door glides shut. The wind dies. Bogrod blinks.

Very well, Madam Lestrange. If you will follow me.
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

This is likely because the Imperius Curse was performed poorly, but it can cause a blank look. A well-executed Imperius Curse doesn’t seem to have any external evidence, since Dumbledore (a very powerful wizard) was unable to tell that Madame Rosmerta was under it.

Krum and the goblin were likely under less-well-cast Imperius Curses, giving them both an obvious blank look. The goblin looked blank in the book as well as the movie, and Harry certainly wasn’t experienced in casting Unforgivable Curses, so that’s consistent across both. We also know for sure that the spell used on the goblin in the movie was in fact Imperio, since we hear it cast. In the book, Barty Crouch Jr. says he Imperiused Krum, which is still consistent with the spell he used in the movie, if he did it hastily or didn’t cast it well enough where it was unnoticeable. Krum isn’t mentioned as looking blank in the book, but it is possible for him to look that way under the Imperius Curse.

  • 2
    @JAB Well sure you could say that. You could say a lot of things though. But personally I would take the last part of your comment and say that's the key: he only needed it to do the job; busy or not is irrelevant as he had a job to do and he did it well too.
    – Pryftan
    Commented Sep 12, 2018 at 17:32
  • 1
    @Pryftan That’s true - he wouldn’t want to let on to Harry exactly what was going on. The reason I think Dumbledore didn’t know is he seemed actually surprised when he realized that Rosmerta was under the Imperius Curse.
    – Obsidia
    Commented Sep 12, 2018 at 23:21
  • 1
    @Miss Bella Good point. I have this memory of that now. He didn't know that she was under the Imperius Curse did he? He knew that Draco had been ordered by Voldemort to kill him (Dumbledore) and so all the bad things that happened (Harry's recklessness and frankly stupidity in casting a curse marked 'For Enemies' notwithstanding) he knew Draco was behind it but he also relied on Severus to try and keep a watch on things too. But it makes sense what you say: if he didn't know about the Death Eaters why would he know about the Imperius Curse? Did Severus know about the DE's even? Perhaps not?
    – Pryftan
    Commented Sep 20, 2018 at 0:24
  • 1
    @Pryftan Yes, Dumbledore figures it out while talking to Draco about his attempts to kill him. “We all like appreciation for our own hard work, of course … but you must have had an accomplice, all the same … someone in Hogsmeade, someone who was able to slip Katie the – the – aaaah …’ Dumbledore closed his eyes again and nodded, as though he was about to fall asleep. ‘… of course … Rosmerta. How long has she been under the Imperius Curse?” - Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 27 (The Lightning-Struck Tower) Draco also says he didn’t tell Snape his plan to bring Death Eaters in.
    – Obsidia
    Commented Sep 20, 2018 at 17:15
  • 1
    @Miss Bella I remember that vaguely yes. As for something you noted in your answer: and Harry certainly wasn’t experienced in casting Unforgivable Curses Yes although in the end he still did all right and your mocking of him at the Ministry certainly helped him master Crucio as he demonstrates and even acknowledges you (a source of pride for you, maybe, if you knew) and your wisdom at Hogwarts! I feel the fact he did fine means the targets were rather susceptible to it. I imagine too that Harry couldn't Imperius his clone! :) If he could ignore Voldemort's Imperius then I’m sure of that...
    – Pryftan
    Commented Sep 20, 2018 at 22:05

Spoilers for Harry Potter Book 4 ahead!

In the 4th book after the reveal that Barty Crouch Jr. was Mad-Eye Moody all along, the reader can go back a few pages and re-read the Labyrinth scene and see what was done by Barty Crouch Jr. to help Harry Potter to win.

In films and especially movie theatres, it is not as easy to rewind the tape. Most of all, you'd have to convince everyone else there that doing so was a good idea.

Therefore, the filmmakers needed a method to show beforehand whether someone was under the Imperius curse or not.

Doing something with the eyes is a common symbolism to depict someone not capable of controlling their actions/being controlled by somebody else before. Zombies are the best example here, they are "not themselves" but controlled by the desire for human meat.

Just take a look at MJ before going Zombie and after in the Thriller music video and notice the change with the eyes.

Michael before going Zombie
Michael after going Zombie

  • 1
    I think this only partly answers the question. See this question, where the "strangely blank look" on Stan Shurpike's face was enough to identify him being under the spell. And on top of that, Harry notices this immediately, even though it is night and he is busy with other things :)
    – Philipp
    Commented May 30, 2017 at 7:38
  • 1
    @PhilippFlenker You're correct. I have edited my answer to remove the in-universe explanation. The conflict with the Stan Shurpike question still remains, as that was in the books, not in a movie. I'm trying to fix that too now.
    – Narusan
    Commented May 30, 2017 at 7:58
  • @PhilippFlenker Yes.. But it does rather complement the answers well. Of course Harry did recognise it and there might have been other examples too but since the question does refer to the films. I still would say the right answer is the one the questioner didn't want: The films are terrible. At least canonically it's the right answer... Sort of.
    – Pryftan
    Commented Sep 23, 2018 at 14:52

I like to give a short answer:

In the film adaptation of 'Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,

The Imperius Curse appears to give the victim's eyes a milky, glazed appearance which is not mentioned in the books and would decrease the curse's effectiveness, since it would be easily detectable. However, it's possible that this is a sign of a poorly or hastily performed curse, or one where the victim is actively resisting.

  • 1
    I don't think Barty Crouch Jr. would perform an Imperius Curse only poorly. Furthermore, your answer raises the question why no-one in the Ministerium of Magic was resisting the Imperius Curse, as there were no reported incidents of "blank faces".
    – Narusan
    Commented May 30, 2017 at 7:59
  • @Narusan Certainly not all the time. After all he successfully helped Harry master shaking it off to also shake off Voldemort's curse.
    – Pryftan
    Commented Sep 23, 2018 at 19:09

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.