I have been a Harry Potter fan since about five months after the film of this book came out, and when it first came out in the theatres, the only reasons I watched it were Alan Rickman and Richard Harris. I thought it was a good film, and I would likely have watched the second. But then I borrowed the books, and never looked back.
For me, this story, while not my favorite of the series, really is the beginning of it all. Its truly magical, and I don't think even JK Rowling truly knew what she had until the fervor started surrounding the books.
Starting with Harry's complete ignorance of the wizarding world and going straight through to his battle with Voldemort, the story never falters. These might be kids books, but she doesn't flinch in the least in giving us a real story that has depth and character that can't be denied.
The story itself is like no children's series before it. Most children's series before this focused on one rather small age group of readers, and once the child grew out of that group, they were no longer expected to be interested in the series any longer. And because of that, the stories throughout the series all had generally the same tone and reading level. Once you read one, you pretty much knew what to expect from the rest, even with the changes each subsequent story might make.
Not so with Harry Potter. In this series, Jo actually hoped that her readers would grow up with these books--literally. And each subsequent book not only got darker, but added more detail and richness to Harry's world as he grew older and more aware of what was going on around him. It's one of the things that makes these stories appeal not only to kids, but to adults as well. Even adults who have no children of their own, and haven't been children since long before these books began to be published.
Will likely always be one of my favorite series, flaws and all. A great beginning to a fabulous series.