Harry Potter is a series beloved by the world. There are eight Harry Potter movies in chronological order, the events of which follow the exact sequence as the release dates of the films.
However, there is the spin-off series of films, known as Fantastic Beasts, which is sort of a prequel to the original franchise. They focus only on Harry Potter’s story.
There are seven Harry Potter books in all. Rowling wrote them between 1997 and 2007. Each book has been met with acclaim and is loved by millions around the world. Fans of Harry Potter, known as Potterheads, are adept at recalling the names of numerous magical objects and unique characters, as well as casting spells that Rowling mentions in the books.
The original Harry Potter movies, which mostly stay true to the books, have helped make the Potter fandom expand manifold, inspiring everything from theme parks to merchandise based on the characters of the wizarding world that Rowling created.
What is more interesting is that fans of the movies found themselves ageing with the characters as the instalments hit the screens. This is because the three central characters in the film — Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley — were actually about 10 or 11 years old at the time the first film was released in 2001 and were grown-ups by the time of the last one in 2011. This progression in the age of the actors in keeping with the progress of the storyline made the film series more relatable to audiences.
As for the Fantastic Beasts films, they are so far not directly connected to the events of the Harry Potter films. Since only three of the originally five planned instalments have been released, it is to be seen if the saga connects to the story of the boy wizard in later films.
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How to watch the Harry Potter movies in the order of release
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone — 16 November 2001
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets — 15 November 2002
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban — 4 June 2004
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire — 18 November 2005
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix — 11 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
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore — 15 April 2022
Here are all the Harry Potter movies in chronological order
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)
The Harry Potter movie list begins with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them even though its protagonist, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), has no direct connection to the boy wizard in the franchise. This is because the film is set several decades before the first Harry Potter film hit the theatres.
Scamander is a magizoologist — a wizard who is an expert in handling fantastical creatures. In the Potterverse, he is the author of the book titled Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Therefore, the makers thought it best to keep the same title for the film.
Scamander first appears as a mere name in a scene from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004). Harry with Fred and George Weasley see the words “Newt Scamander” appear on the magical Marauder’s Map, which shows the exact location of anyone in Hogwarts.
It indicates that Scamander was present in the wizardry school when Harry was studying magic. Though, of course, he would be an elderly man based on the timeline of the films. Scamander, however, does not make an appearance anywhere in the eight Harry Potter films.
This makes Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them the first on-screen appearance of Scamander. The story is set in 1926 and sees Scamander travelling to New York, where he meets and befriends a ‘no-maj’ (American for Muggle, or humans who don’t know magic) by the name of Jacob (Dan Fogler). Soon, Scamander, Jacob and Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), a witch, find themselves in the middle of a dangerous conspiracy that threatens the magical and human worlds.
As they dig further, with help from Tina’s sister Queenie (Alison Sudol), they find that the director of magical security, Percival Graves (Colin Farrell), maybe more than what he appears.
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Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018)
A follow-up to the first Fantastic Beasts movie, events in The Crimes of Grindelwald lay the groundwork for an eventual showdown between two of the most important Harry Potter movie characters — Gellert Grindelwald and Albus Dumbledore.
Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) is a dark wizard, more powerful than anyone of his time. Set on ruling the world of humans with pure-blood wizards, he convinces and even threatens other magicians to join his nefarious cause. Standing in his way is a young Dumbledore (Jude Law), who, along with his former student Scamander, takes it upon himself to bring an end to Grindelwald’s tyranny.
The first time that Potterheads saw Grindelwald was in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1, where a younger version of the character is played by Jamie Campbell Bower while a much older version is essayed by Michael Byrne. Bower also played the younger Grindelwald in The Crimes of Grindelwald, making him the only actor to have appeared in both the Harry Potter and the Fantastic Beasts film series.
However, chronologically, Grindelwald made his first appearance, albeit briefly, in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Therefore, Crimes of Grindelwald is the first where the powerful dark wizard appears in person as the main antagonist.
Besides him, the film also marks the first chronological appearance of Dumbledore. As one of the most pivotal characters in Rowling’s wizarding world, Dumbledore is best known for being the mentor to Harry. Through this film, Dumbledore’s backstory and his relationship with Grindelwald are explored at a much deeper level as well.
Among the other notable first appearances is that of the character Nagini (Claudia Kim). Although Potter fans best remember her as one of the most powerful servitors of Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) who kills anyone she is asked to, they get to learn about the tragic truth behind Nagini’s snake form in Crimes of Grindelwald.
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore (2022)
The most recent film by release date in Rowling’s saga, The Secrets of Dumbledore didn’t perform as expected at the box office or with critics. Depp was replaced with Swedish actor Mads Mikkelsen in the character of Gellert Grindelwald. All other major characters and actors playing them reprised their roles in the third instalment of the Fantastic Beasts trilogy.
Set in the early 1930s, the film follows Grindelwald’s attempt at becoming the leader of all wizards of the world. His motive is to wage a war against humans and subjugate their world.
As Grindelwald builds his powerful army, Dumbledore decides to send Scamander and his trusted companions on a dangerous mission to expose Grindelwald’s truth before the magical world.
Yet, as things collapse, Dumbledore has to take on Grindelwald himself despite the blood pact that binds them from attacking each other. He finds help in the form of his brother, Aberforth Dumbledore (Richard Coyle).
The film marks the first appearance in chronological order of Aberforth. By release, the character is first played, though briefly, by Jim McManus in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007) and then appears in a more extended role in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, where he is played by Ciarán Hinds.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)
The who’s who of every Harry Potter movie cast finds mention in this first film by release in the franchise. This is where fans get to meet the three protagonists of the franchise — Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint).
Except for Grindelwald (Richard Harris), many other significant characters in the Potter universe make their first appearances in this film. Among them are Minerva McGonagall (Maggie Smith), Rubeus Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane), Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) and Severus Snape (Alan Rickman).
The film, which is also known as Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in the UK market, follows Harry’s first steps in the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry alongside Hermione and Ron.
While at school, Harry learns about the mysterious deaths of his parents, who were themselves powerful wizards, and faces the most dangerous evil force in the wizarding world — ‘He Who Must Not Be Named’ (Richard Bremmer).
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)
The second Harry Potter movie, which is also the longest by runtime in the entire series, follows Harry, Hermione and Ron learning spells and facing an unknown threat which is haunting muggle-born students within the walls of Hogwarts. Soon, Harry realises that Tom Marvolo Riddle (Christian Coulson) may be harbouring a secret that no one is aware of.
The film has almost all the major characters from the previous instalment and introduces Ginny (Bonnie Wright), Ron’s sister. Interestingly, Eddie Redmayne had auditioned for the role of Riddle, who is hailed as one of the most phenomenal antagonists in the Harry Potter series.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
The only Harry Potter film directed by the illustrious Alfonso Cuarón, Prisoner of Azkaban has a rating of 90 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and is the second-highest-rated film in the franchise. In 2011, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 surpassed it to become the highest-rated Harry Potter film.
Set in the third year of Harry’s wizardry education at Hogwarts, Prisoner of Azkaban follows the boy wizard and his friends as they learn of a new threat in the form of an escaped deranged killer Sirius Black (Gary Oldman). As Harry learns Sirius is out to kill him, he finds a saviour in a mysterious teacher named Remus Lupin (David Thewlis).
This is the first Harry Potter film in which Michael Gambon plays Albus Dumbledore following the death of Richard Harris. Gambon would go on to essay the iconic character of all subsequent films in the franchise.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)
The Triwizard Tournament between three major wizardry schools is being held at Hogwarts, but Harry cannot participate because he is underage. Cedric Diggory (Robert Pattinson), the finest student at Hogwarts, is selected by the magical Goblet of Fire to represent the school. However, it mysteriously picks Harry as the fourth participant despite the tournament’s limit of three.
As the tournament progresses, Harry finds himself in increasingly dangerous situations which unfold with the return of Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes). This is the first film in which Voldemort gets his actual and complete physical appearance. He had appeared in a ghostly form and as Tom Riddle in previous films.
Goblet of Fire was a massive success upon release and is one of the three most critically acclaimed films in the original series.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)
Harry, Hermione and Ron begin their fifth year at Hogwarts, and everything seems to go well at the school.
However, when Cornelius Fudge, the Minister of Magic, sends the ruthless Dolores Umbridge as the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts, it causes tremendous tension at the school. Dumbledore finds himself caught in a conspiracy and Harry joins the Order of the Phoenix, a group of wizards that form an army of Dumbledore.
While all major characters, including Lord Voldemort, reprise their respective roles, the film introduces the death eater Bellatrix Lestrange. Played by Helena Bonham Carter, the negative character is one of the greatest in the wizarding world.
Order of the Phoenix is the first Harry Potter film directed by David Yates, who would go on to helm all the remaining films in the series, as well as the entire Fantastic Beasts series.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)
Following the events of the Order of the Phoenix, Death Eaters launch a direct attack on Hogwarts. Harry, Hermione and Ron realise they are in grave danger, especially from Draco Malfoy who is aiding the Death Eaters, and learn about how six Horcruxes hold the key to Lord Voldemort’s defeat. However, tragedy strikes Hogwarts in a way that changes the lives of the students forever.
The film is darker than the previous instalments as the story brings to focus more on the evil forces led by Lord Voldemort and paves the way to the eventual showdown in the Potterverse. Fans also like the natural character developments in the story, as the main characters find love.
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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 (2010)
The 2007 book of the same name was divided into two Harry Potter movies.
Part 1 sees Harry, Hermione and Ron on their quest to destroy all the Horcruxes that hold parts of Lord Voldemort’s soul. They have placed their seventh year at Hogwarts on hold and have no one to seek guidance from.
All alone on their mission, they are also threatened by the conspiracies of the dark forces bent on separating them. However, their persistence uncovers the secret behind the three most powerful objects in the wizarding world, which are together called the Deathly Hallows.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 (2011)
The last Harry Potter movie, Part 2 is all about the showdown between Harry and Lord Voldemort. Not only is the film the most critically acclaimed of all in the Harry Potter series, but is also the highest-grossing Harry Potter movie of all time.
Events in this film begin where the previous instalment ends. This marks a shift from other films, whose developments are set with a break and in each year of Harry’s education at Hogwarts.
Deathly Hallows – Part 2 follows Harry and his friends on their quest to destroy the Horcruxes. The looming danger in their lives has transformed them completely, and they are no longer the vulnerable children from the first film.
It eventually leads to the climax known as the Battle of Hogwarts, in which Harry faces Lord Voldemort. The film is also noteworthy for showing Harry, Hermione and Ron as grown-ups, years after the Battle of Hogwarts.