Harry Potter Films - What Order to Watch
Plan the Perfect Potter Marathon
With the Wizarding World making a comeback this year with the third Fantastic Beasts instalment (The Secrets of Dumbledore) and the long-awaited RPG video game Hogwarts Legacy, I thought now would be a great time to look back on the franchise.
Although Harry Potter had reached its cinematic end when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 wrapped up the boy wizard’s story in 2011, the universe expanded through stage and screen. With an eighth story written for the West End and Broadway by Jack Thorne - Harry Potter & the Cursed Child - the Fantastic Beasts saga explores what happened before the Boy Who Lived was born when a different dark wizard reigned terror.
With the films’ timeline suddenly not so straight-forward and the imaginative titles of these movies perhaps starting to blend in your head, it's definitely time to offer up a guide on how to tackle all the films in this sprawling fantasy series.
Harry Potter Movies in Order of Release Date
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - 16 November 2001
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - 3 November 2002
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - 31 May 2004
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - 18 November 2005
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - 12 July 2007
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - 15 July 2009
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 - 19 November 2010
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 - 15 July 2011
- Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them - 18 November 2016
- Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald - 16 November 2018
- Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts - 1 January 2022
- Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore - 8 April 2022
Harry Potter Movies in Chronological Order of Events
1. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)
Set in 1926, roughly seven decades prior to Harry Potter beginning his education at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the first Fantastic Beasts movie focuses on the New York adventures of Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), a British wizard and Ministry of Magic employee who finds himself embroiled in an insidious scheme involving the Magical Congress of the United States and a powerful wizard named Gellert Grindelwald (revealed late in the film to be Johnny Depp), who believes wizards should reign over non-magical humans.
2. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
A few months after the events of the first Fantastic Beasts, Newt is back in England, but he’s soon tasked by the by Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law), who will one day look over Harry as the Headmaster of Hogwarts, to track down Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller), a troubled young wizard who is also being sought out by a recently escaped Grindelwald. In addition to Dumbledore, The Crimes of Grindelwald introduces other characters who will later play a significant role in the Harry Potter films, including a young Minerva McGonagall and Nagini, a circus performer whose blood curse will permanently transform her into a giant snake.
3. Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore (2022)
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore is released in cinemas this April. The war between pure-bloods and muggles, as engineered by the evil Grindelwald (now being played by Mads Mikkelsen) steps up a gear in the spectacular-looking movie, which forges even more intriguing and nostalgic connections with the events of the Harry Potter series.
Magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is once more forced to rely on his former Hogwarts teacher and close ally Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) for assistance in the brewing conflict. However the events play out, we're thrilled to be back in this world as the series cross-pollinates recognisable Harry Potter iconography and dramatisations of key battles between main characters.
Steve Kloves (who penned seven of the original Harry Potter screenplays) returns to co-write this script with J.K. Rowling. There are expected to be two more films, which will complete the planned five-part series.
4. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001)
At this point we jump ahead over a half-century to 1991 and begin the main series, which will track the orphan Harry Potter’s yearly adventures at Hogwarts as he battles against various dark forces, including the evil wizard Lord Voldemort.
As a baby, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) survived an attack by Voldemort that backfired on the dark lord, disembodying him, and claimed the lives of Harry’s parents. Harry has been raised by his aunt and uncle in the years since, oblivious to the magical world around him. That all changes with the arrival of a mysterious owl bringing exciting news: Harry is a wizard and he has been accepted into Hogwarts to begin his magical training. Upon entering the school, he meets his new best friends, Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), and immediately draws the ire of his potions master, the mysterious Severus Snape (Alan Rickman). As the Hogwarts Headmaster, Dumbledore (then played by Richard Harris) keeps an eye on everyone, while Harry and his buddies attempt to solve a mystery involving a giant three-headed dog and the magical Philosopher’s Stone.
5. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)
It’s Harry’s second year at Hogwarts in 1992, and the school has a problem – something or someone is freezing the students into a petrified state. These attacks seem to be related to the titular Chamber of Secrets, a secret room supposedly hidden in Hogwarts that could purge the school of students not born to wizard parents (discriminatorily called “mudbloods” in the Wizarding World). It’s up to Harry to set things right, but to do so, he’ll need to unlock the secrets of an enchanted diary that was written by a former student named Tom Riddle.
6. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2003)
Year three takes us to 1993. With Alfonso Cuarón coming on board to direct the third adaptation (taking over from Chris Columbus, this is notably where the films get much darker and more mature as the main trio reach adolescence.
Sirius Black (Gary Oldman), who has been locked up in Azkaban for supporting Voldemort, has escaped, setting the wizarding community on edge. The school is locked down and surrounded by Dementors, ghostly, grim reaper-like figures tasked with returning Black to the prison. But all is not what it seems, and with an assist from his new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher Remy Lupin (David Thewlis), Harry begins unravelling secrets that will extend his network of allies for the battles to come.
Harris sadly died before the filming of this movie, and Dumbledore was played by Michael Gambon for the rest of the series’ run.
7. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)
In 1994, it's the Fourth Year of Harry's magical education. Director Mike Newell delves deeper into the darker themes of this adaptation. Harry is quite content sitting on the side-lines for the Triwizard Tournament, a series of challenges pitting the best student from Hogwarts (which turns out to be Robert Pattinson!) against the champions of several other wizarding schools. Only students above the age of seventeen are eligible, but when his name is pulled from the magical goblet that dictates the contestants, Harry finds himself forced to participate.
Meanwhile, everyone’s hormones are raging and finding a date to the Yule Ball becomes a particular source of consternation - almost as much as surviving the three tasks. During all this, Harry’s greatest fears come true - Voldemort, formerly known as Tom Riddle, fully returns to the flesh, ready to get his revenge on Harry. Ralph Fiennes fully embraces the role, whose take on the character has a particularly sinister and Shakespearean stage presence.
8. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)
Voldemort is back, and everyone is on their guard. Everyone, that is, except for the Ministry of Magic, who sends the sadistic Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton), one of the series’ most detestable villains, to Hogwarts to make sure everyone is keeping their head down and not spreading any "fake news".
Harry, Ron, and Hermione know better though, and they create Dumbledore’s Army, a group of students who band together to train in secret for the battles ahead. Phoenix is the first in the series to be directed by David Yates, who would go on to direct every Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts film made since.
Note: Although this book is set during 1995 and the films had thus far done a good job at not committing to a time period, there is a scene where Harry uses an Oyster card (a card to pay for public transport in England) and this gives the film a slightly more modern feel compared the others.
9. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)
In Harry’s sixth year at Hogwarts during 1996, Voldemort’s followers, also known as Death Eaters, have openly declared war on the Wizarding World in an attempt to consolidate power. Harry worries that his bitter school rival Draco (Tom Felton) has gone full Death Eater and learns that Voldemort cannot be killed so long as pieces of his soul survive in six Horcruxes – enchanted objects that will become pivotal to the final plot.
This is also the film where the final romantic pairings are officially confirmed - albeit rather hastily in this script.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 (2010) & Part 2 (2011)
The timeline of Deathly Hallows is quite possibly the longest, with the main action happening through 1997-1998 and the epilogue concluding in 2017.
Warner Bros. split the final book of J.K. Rowling’s epic fantasy series into two movies. In Part 1, Harry, Ron, and Hermione have bailed on their final year of wizarding school to go on a quest to find and destroy all remaining Horcruxes. They manage to track one down but learn that to destroy it, they will also need to locate the powerful Sword of Gryffindor.
Then there’s also the matter of the Deathly Hallows themselves, three magical items that would allow the wizard who possesses them to master death. These final films are where we see the loss of more beloved characters, more danger and the trio's relationships tested. The film ends in an ominous cliff-hanger that sets the stage for the final instalment.
In the series’ grand finale, which picks up immediately after Deathly Hallows – Part 1 ends, we learn the truth about Snape (he’s not such a bad guy after all!) and the forces of good and evil collide for an epic battle at Hogwarts. Everyone gets a chance to shine, from Harry, Ron, and Hermione down to fan-favourite supporting characters like Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis) and Molly Weasley (Julie Walters).
Is Voldemort finally defeated for good this time? You’ll have to watch to find out! There are still a few weeks to have a catch-up before the third fantastic Beasts movie hits cinema screens.