With a swish and a flick, audiences were captured the world over. As a pop culture phenomenon that has swept across generations, people are still discovering the Wizarding World for the very first time every day and wondering how to watch the Harry Potter movies in order.
If you are among one of those novices, you’re in store for an incredible magical adventure. Or, if you are a seasoned Potter-head preparing for a movie marathon, this list will be the perfect complimentary guide on how to watch the Harry Potter movies in order.
About the World of Harry Potter
Before the film franchise captured the hearts of millions, the Golden Trio existed within the pages of a beloved book series. If you would like to learn more, you can read this article about the Harry Potter books in order. With at least 500 million copies sold, this young adult fantasy series by J.K. Rowling is the bestselling book series ever.
It also inspired an incredibly successful film franchise. The seven original Harry Potter books were adapted into eight feature-length films. Collectively, those eight films have grossed approximately $7.7 billion worldwide.
More than 20 years have passed since the debut of this franchise. However, the fervor with which fans demand and consume Harry Potter content still makes it one of the most popular fandoms.
So much so that not only did the mention of a textbook in the series inspire the publication of said textbook, but it also inspired a spin-off film series: Fantastic Beasts. Three films within this series have already been released, with five expected in total.
This ultimate guide will include the Fantastic Beasts films in the two ways to watch all the Harry Potter movies in order.
The Original Harry Potter Films
First, it is critical to begin with the original Harry Potter films. This is where the magic began. It is also where so many first saw a depiction of Hogwarts, where everyone will always be welcomed home.
Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson star as Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger respectively. The series also stars Richard Harris as Albus Dumbledore before, following his death, Michael Gambon took over the role. As well, Maggie Smith stars as Professor McGonagall, Alan Rickman stars as Professor Snape, and countless others star in the eight films.
The films introduce Harry as a young boy living in the cupboard under the stairs. An orphan, he has been raised by his aunt and uncle in an abusive household, where he has never felt loved. Then, in the wake of his eleventh birthday, a shocking discovery changes his entire life.
It comes in the form of hundreds of letters bearing his name, which his aunt and uncle try to keep from him. The letters confirm his acceptance to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
What ensues are Harry’s proceeding tumultuous years at Hogwarts were trouble always seems to find him, Ron, and Hermione. During this time Harry learns the truth about his parents’ death and why it marked him, quite literally, with a lightning bolt scar on his forehead. Their death subsequently marked him as The Chosen One; the only one capable of defeating the Dark Lord, Lord Voldemort.
The darkness slowly builds throughout the films, both in terms of plot and cinematography, before it culminates in one final epic battle. The final installment had book-readers and movie-goers alike gasping — whether from the changes or the climax — as Harry fulfills the prophecy in the final battle.
The Fantastic Beasts Films
Next, we can look at the spin-off series: Fantastic Beasts. This franchise began as a textbook used by Harry for his Care of Magical Creatures class at Hogwarts. The textbook, which bears the same name, was written by Newt Scamander.
Following its mention in the Harry Potter series it became its own book in 2001. Then 15 years later, it made its way onto the big screen as a film franchise.
Unlike the original films which take place in Great Britain, Fantastic Beasts opens in New York City. It is also a prequel to the original films taking place some 80 years in the past in 1926. Newt, a Brit, travels with many of the creatures in the textbook which would later be added to Harry’s curriculum.
The project saw David Yates, who directed the final four original Harry Potter films, return to the Wizarding World as the director for Fantastic Beasts. Eddie Redmayne stars as the shy, socially awkward magizoologist Newt Scamander. The first film also stars Katherine Waterston as Porpentina “Tina” Goldstein, Dan Foulger as Jacob Kowalski, Alison Sudol as Queenie Goldstein, and Ezra Miller as Credence Barebone.
When he arrives in New York trouble swiftly befalls Newt. That’s because one of the creatures he keeps in his suitcase, thanks to an Undetectable Extension Charm, escapes. He now must traverse the city and bring it back under his care before harm occurs to it, or the city.
Newt quickly gains the attention of Tina Goldstein, an employee with the Magical Congress of the United States of America, following his use of magic in front of a No-Maj, or non-magical being. For the rest of the first film the No-Maj, Jacob Kowalski, accompanies Newt in his pursuit.
The Fantastic Beasts series is ongoing with two more films expected.
#1 – Harry Potter Movies in Order of Release
Now that you know the basic premise and highlights for each series, it’s time to dive into how you should watch the Harry Potter films in order. If you have yet to depart from Platform 9 ¾, watching the Harry Potter movies in order of release is the recommended order.
This is the best way to be introduced to the magical world as it is the original introduction. In viewing the films for the first time in this order you will have the best experience. This is because you will be experiencing the Wizarding World for the first time right alongside Harry.
Due to his muggle upbringing, everything Harry experiences in the first film is brand new. This creates for an enjoyable, heart-warming viewing experience. With such an ambience it’s no wonder so many fans find these first few films in particular so comforting and nostalgic.
Only after you watch the first eight films should you then watch the available Fantastic Beasts movies. These films expand upon the universe; therefore, knowledge from the existing Harry Potter films is beneficial. However, prepare yourself for a few continuity and lore errors between the two series.
Original Harry Potter Films
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011)
Fantastic Beasts Films
- Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)
- Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018)
- Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore (2022)
#2 – Harry Potter Movies in Chronological Order
However, if you’re already a super fan and can recite the movies without hesitation, then there is a second viewing order to suggest. That is, of course, watching the Harry Potter movies in chronological order.
Watching the movies in this order will place the Fantastic Beasts movies first. These films take place in the first half of the twentieth-century, while the original Harry Potter movies take place in the 1990s. Therefore, it’s a relatively straight-forward amalgamation of the two series with each maintaining their own chronological timeline.
But again, this is only for fans who have already watched the films and are looking for a new way to begin their Harry Potter movie marathon. The Fantastic Beasts movies, while they differ from the original series in some instances, still expand upon the universe that was introduced with the original Harry Potter movies.
While you can watch Fantastic Beasts on its own without any previous Harry Potter knowledge, you will lose some of the intricacies and Easter eggs. For the best possible experience, you should begin with the original films for your first viewing.
- Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
- Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
- Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
More Harry Potter Viewing Material
If those 11, eventually 13, movies aren’t enough for you, there is even more Harry Potter viewing content available. However, the below content has varying degrees of accessibility.
In 2016 the universe expanded even further with the introduction of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. This is a sequel to the original Harry Potter books, in the form of a screenplay. While it has received controversy about its status within the world, it is officially canon; the play takes place in August 2020 as, spoiler alert, Harry’s youngest child sets off for Hogwarts.
Secondly, for fans who have been packing their trunks to Hogwarts alongside Harry since the very beginning, it’s hard to believe 20 years have passed since the first film. That is, however, just the case and is the inspiration of the latest addition to the original Harry Potter series: Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts.
This special shows actors from the original films back on screen together amidst set pieces and original props. If you’ve been a fan from the start, get your Kleenex ready. This special will tug at your heartstrings with an overload of nostalgia and emotion.
A Summary of the Harry Potter Movies in Order
If you’re embarking on the adventure of watching the Harry Potter movies in order for the very first time, your journey should begin with the original films. That is why this section will take a closer look at each of those original movies.
However, if you’ve managed to avoid spoilers so far, read the following summaries with caution. They will contain spoilers for previous movies as the series progresses.
1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
This is the movie that began it all. First, Harry Potter receives his acceptance letter to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. On the train there he befriends Ron Weasley and they meet Hermione Granger for the first time.
Then, amidst the magical lessons and learning how to play Quidditch, Harry also learns more of an evil wizard who nearly came to power during the Second Wizarding War: Lord Voldemort. Within Hogwarts the professors have hidden away a lucrative stone that Lord Voldemort seeks.
Before the end of the movie it will rest on the shoulders of Harry, Ron, and Hermione, only eleven years old, to ensure that the stone does not end up in his possession.
Chris Columbus is the director for this first installment.
2. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
The magic begins again for Harry’s second year at Hogwarts, but this movie opens with an ominous premonition. Dobby, a house-elf, surprises Harry at the end of his summer holidays and warns him not to return to Hogwarts. But staying away from the only home he’s ever known isn’t an option for Harry, who is desperate to see his friends once more.
Disaster, however, does strike at Hogwarts.
First, Harry begins hearing voices that no one else can hear. Meanwhile, muggle-born students are being attacked and an ancient creature is rumoured to be on the prowl. With his unique ability Harry bears the brunt of the blame and must fight to not only prove his innocence, but save the victims from peril.
Chris Columbus also directed the second installment in the franchise.
3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
As Harry, Ron, and Hermione enter their third year at Hogwarts there is a significant tonal shift in the cinematography and ambience of the movies. As the cast and audience grow up, the movies become more serious. This movie also had a new director at the helm: Alfonso Cuarón.
This movie begins with Harry accidently performing magic on his aunt, who was insulting his parents. Fearing the consequences of using magic underage and outside the protective walls of Hogwarts, Harry runs away. But he doesn’t get far before he takes the Knight Bus to Diagon Alley, where he spends the rest of his summer holidays and learns he won’t face consequences for his use of magic.
However, there is an even greater threat to Harry looming. Sirius Black, convicted criminal and accused supporter of Voldemort, has escaped from Azkaban and allegedly is hunting Harry to avenge the Dark Lord.
The Minister of Magic assigns Dementors, the creatures which guard the wizarding prison, to Hogwarts for the protection of the students. Unfortunately, their presence has a crippling effect on Harry. Dementors can draw forth a person’s worst memories; for Harry this means his subconscious drags up memories of the night his parents died.
With a rift between Hermione and Ron dividing the trio, Harry leans on the new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor for support during this troublesome year. But by the end of the film, Harry will come face-to-face with Sirius Black alongside Ron and Hermione. He will also face shocking discoveries about his parents and the night they died.
4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
The fourth film featured another change in director, this time to Mike Newell. This movie opens with the Quidditch World Cup Final, which Harry is attending with Hermione Granger and almost all of the Weasley clan. However, the festivities do not last for long when Death Eaters, followers of Lord Voldemort, storm the grounds and blazon their symbol, the Dark Mark, across the sky.
With the magical community still in shock, Harry returns to Hogwarts, which is hosting the Triwizard Tournament. Students from Beauxbatons Academy of Magic and Durmstrang Institute travel to Hogwarts to compete against a chosen champion from each school.
Only those older than 17 may put their name forward to compete and represent their school. But as Dumbledore draws names from the Goblet of Fire a fourth name is given up. On the slip of paper is fourteen-year-old Harry Potter’s name.
Begrudgingly, he must go through with the Tournament and face three increasingly difficult tasks. The Tournament then culminates in a truly extraordinary display of evil that will change the course of the Wizarding World.
5. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
This is the first film in the franchise that had David Yates at the helm as director. He would continue to direct the next three movies in the original Harry Potter series and return for the Fantastic Beasts spin-off.
As Harry begins his fifth year at Hogwarts, change is in the air. But his warning that Lord Voldemort has returned is not being taken seriously by anyone other than Dumbledore and the rest of the Order.
The Ministry of Magic is adamant the threat is not real. However, they appoint a new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, Dolores Umbridge, to spy and cast doubt on Dumbledore. But she is also a cruel and inadequate professor, so Harry creates Dumbledore’s Army to prepare his fellow students against a rising tide of evil.
To complicate matters even further, Harry begins having dreams concerning Lord Voldemort which he cannot explain.
6. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
The sixth movie is based on the penultimate book and events are really beginning to reach a crescendo. Despite this, the team manages to inject a surprising amount of humor into the film.
In this movie the presence of the Death Eaters becomes ever more apparent with attacks on the Wizarding and Muggle world alike. Even at Hogwarts, not all is what it seems. As Harry begins his sixth year of classes he begins to excel at Potions after discovering a textbook that was property of the “Half-Blood Prince.”
Meanwhile, Dumbledore is insistent on preparing Harry for the prophesied final battle. Harry learns more about Voldemort’s background in this installment, but some secrets remain hidden in this race against time.
Despite injections of humour and teenage romance, Hogwarts will never be the same following this film’s conclusion.
7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
The penultimate film is the first time a Harry Potter book was split into two for its adaptation. This installment is largely the lead-up to the final battle which must take place between Lord Voldemort and Harry Potter.
Following the conclusion of the last film Voldemort is now in control of the Ministry of Magic and Hogwarts. With the school under his control and warrants out for their capture the trio must escape and go to ground.
But to have any chance at defeating Voldemort, they must first destroy his source of immortality: The Horcruxes. Now more than ever they must rely on one another during this mission.
Their friendship will be tested like never before as they evade capture and inch towards the final battle.
8. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
The final movie in the original series brings with it an exhilarating conclusion. Harry, Ron, and Hermione race to find the final Horcruxes in time as the situation at Hogwarts worsens. The fate of the Wizarding World hangs in the balance and depends on their success.
But as their search drags on, Voldemort discovers their mission to destroy his Horcruxes. It makes their search for the final ones all the more difficult.
Then, coming full circle to end where it all began, the battle ravages the halls of Hogwarts. Within the walls that became his home Harry must battle and outwit Lord Voldemort, for neither can live while the other survives.
Final thoughts on the Harry Potter movies in order
Now you’re all set to begin your Harry Potter movie marathon with whichever viewing order best fits your experience. These films have become beloved classics and iconic pillars within modern pop culture. So, get your chocolate frogs and butterbeer ready for a magical journey.
Looking for more movies in order?
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