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Based on the beloved J.K. Rowling fantasy children’s series, the groundbreaking and critically acclaimed Harry Potter film franchise follows the titular character who on his eleventh birthday discovers he’s a wizard, and is subsequently whisked away to the magical and magnificent Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. While there, he makes loyal lifelong friends in the endearing Ron Weasley and book-savvy Hermione Granger, and develops an exceptional bond with Headmaster Albus Dumbledore. The young boy embarks on an unforgettable quest to overcome his arch enemy Lord Voldemort, an evil wizard who murdered his parents and left him with a famous lightning-bolt scar on his forehead.

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The series consists of eight movies that were released over the course of a decade between 2001 and 2011, and went on to become the fourth highest grossing film series of all time, with $7.7 billion in worldwide receipts. Harry Potter launched the careers of the franchise’s remarkable cast, including its leads Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson, and spawned the spin-off prequel series beginning with 2016’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, marking the beginning of the Wizarding World shared media.

The latest installment of the prequel series, Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, stars Jude Law as the revered Albus Dumbledore, and is set for a United States release on April 15 of this year. Fans of Harry Potter and the Wizarding World universe can prepare for an exciting film by revisiting where the magic all began; here are the Harry Potter movies in chronological order, which is the same as by order of release. They are all available to stream on Hulu, HBO Max, and Peacock.

Harry Potter Movies in Chronological Order and By Release Date

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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Warner Bros. Pictures

The beloved fantasy film that launched the cinematic reign of the magical boy wonder, 2001’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone follows the orphaned titular character (played by Daniel Radcliffe) as he is swept away from the home of the abusive Dursleys to the enchanting Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. There, he learns about his true extraordinary destiny, harrowing dark past, and the malicious evil that haunts the magical world.

Harry meets his partners-in-crime Ron Weasley, an English pure-blood wizard played by Rupert Grint, and Hermione Granger, a Muggle-born witch played by Emma Watson. Harry Potter quickly gains adversaries in the pure-blood wizard Draco Malfoy and sinister Potions teacher Severus Snape. With the help of the wise Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore and the kind-hearted giant groundskeeper Rubeus Hagrid, the trio set out to locate the mystical philosopher’s stone, which can turn metal to gold and produce an immortality elixir.

They face off against the nefarious professor Quirinus Quirrell, who covets the stone and wishes to resurrect the dark wizard Lord Voldemort, the evil force that murdered Harry’s parents and left him an orphan. The young wizard must take the ultimate stand to ensure not only the safety of Hogwarts and the magical world, but mankind itself. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone became a critical and commercial success, going on to gross over $1 billion at the box office and spawning seven sequels. It wouldn’t take long before Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets continued the massive cultural movement.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Harry Potter stands in front of the blood-red writing on the wall in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Warner Bros. Pictures

The smash hit follow-up Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets picks up with “The Boy Who Lived,” Harry Potter, as he embarks on his second year at the wondrous Hogwarts, after being warned by house-elf Dobby that it’s far too dangerous for him to return to the magical school. Deciding to ignore his advice, Harry and his pals Ron and Hermione quickly realize that something is amiss when strange and awful occurrences befall the students and faculty of Hogwarts. They ultimately discover that the Heir of Salazar Slytherin has opened the Chamber of Secrets and unleashed a monster that petrifies the school’s denizens.

The installment features the final appearance of Richard Harris as the beloved Professor Dumbledore, who passed away the year of its release. Kenneth Branagh joins the franchise as the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher Gilderoy Lockhart, while Jason Issacs makes his first appearance as the ominous Lucius Malfoy and the character of Tom Riddle is introduced.

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Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets memorably includes the Weasley family’s flying Ford Anglia, which Ron and his mischievous brothers Fred and George famously steal to rescue Harry from the Dursleys; they hilariously crash the car into the Whomping Willow while attempting to land it at Hogwarts. Like its predecessor, the exciting film was a knockout with audiences and critics and led to the next entry of the franchise, 2004’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Hermione, Harry, and Ron stare out the window in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Warner Bros. Pictures

Director Chris Columbus stepped away from directing duties for the third installment of the series, passing the torch to the great director Alfonso Cuarón for 2004’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. The exciting flick follows Harry after he re-established peace within the halls of Hogwarts and defeated Tom Riddle, who turned out to be a manifestation of his sworn enemy, young Lord Voldemort.

In the picture, Harry, Ron, and Hermione return to the famed School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for their third year of study, where the tight-knit trio embark on a quest to solve the mystery surrounding escaped prisoner Sirius Black, who poses a dangerous threat to the young wizard.

The Harry Potter films constantly acquired dynamite talent and performers, and the gifted Gary Oldman joined the series as the mysterious Black in addition to Emma Thompson and David Thewlis as teachers Sybill Trelawney and Remus Lupin. The installment marks the debut of Michael Gambon as Albus Dumbledore, who assumed the role after Richard Harris’ death in 2002. Producers originally offered the beloved character to Christopher Lee and Ian McKellen, with the latter turning it down because of the part being too similar to Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Director Cuarón wanted to adopt a different tone for the movie than Columbus’, wanting to make it more mature, having said, “What I really wanted to do was to make Hogwarts more contemporary and a little more naturalistic.” The filmmaker’s vision garnered praise, though he did not return for directing duties for 2005’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, instead going on to make one of the best sci-fi movies of the past 20 years, Children of Men.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

The young wizards at Hogwarts and Dumbledore stand back and watch the blue flames of the goblet in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Warner Bros. Pictures

The highest-grossing film of 2005 was the Mike Newell-helmed Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which centers on Harry’s fourth year at Hogwarts. One of the most delightful aspects of the Harry Potter franchise for audiences was being able to grow up with the characters as they (and the actors who played them) grow in real time; setting the films for each new school year is a brilliant framing device for this.

In Goblet of Fire, Harry finds himself competing in the dangerous Triwizard Tournament between rival schools of magic. The brilliant wizard is plagued by disturbing nightmares and is shockingly chosen to be a participant in the competition, despite not being eligible; Harry’s selection causes a strain between him and his slighted friend Ron.

The fourth installment is the official introduction of the terrifying Death Eaters, a terrorist group of wizards and witches led by the ruthless Lord Voldemort, who seek to purify the wizarding community by eliminating those born to non-magical parents. Harry teams up with fellow champion Cedric Diggory (portrayed by Robert Pattinson) to take on the opposing schools, while confronting Voldemort and the Death Eaters during the final task of the tournament.

Ralph Fiennes makes his chillingly superb debut as the notorious Lord Voldemort, giving substance and depth to the frequently mentioned, fear-inducing antagonist. The actor was cast because Newell felt he had an acute ability to play “a realistic and frightening villain” instead of “a simple caricature.” Fiennes later expressed how difficult it was playing someone who is “the essence of evil” and wanted to give a humanity to Voldemort in order for him to be “deeply, truly evil,” citing the character’s unhappy childhood as fuel for his abhorrent behavior and anger. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is one of the best-reviewed installments within the series, earning praise for the maturity and sophistication of its characters, tone, and performances. Its immense success led to 2007’s Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

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Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Harry Potter and some other young wizards at Hogwarts in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Warner Bros. Pictures

The esteemed David Yates signed on for 2007’s blockbuster hit Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (and subsequently for the remaining three sequels) which follows Harry, Ron, and Hermione for their fifth years at Hogwarts as the Ministry of Magic is in denial about the return of Lord Voldemort. Here, the toady and diabolical Dolores Umbridge is appointed as the new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, much to the dismay of Harry and his fellow students.

The film also features the appearance of the eerie and ghoulish Dementors, a phantom species that gradually deprives human minds of intelligence and happiness. The young Wizard develops a close bond with his godfather Sirius Black, whom he turns to for guidance and comfort as he comes to terms with Voldemort’s arrival; Black is also a member of the secret organization known as the Order of the Phoenix. A slew of other exciting and memorable characters appear in this installment of the franchise, most notably the quirky Luna Lovegood, deranged Bellatrix Lestrange, and aforementioned Dolores Umbridge, the bane of countless Harry Potter fans’ existence.

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Order of the Phoenix is the longest book in the series, yet is the second-shortest film, an impressive feat by Yates. Author J.K. Rowling allowed the director and producers to alter the material, who said “she just wanted to see a great movie, and gave them permission to take whatever liberties they felt they needed to take to translate the book into a movie she would love.” Sadly for Potterheads, this meant the absence of the beloved wizarding sport Quidditch, which both Harry and Ron played. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix highlights the boy wonder as he becomes disillusioned with the magical world and understands his uphill battle, a sentiment that carries over into 2009’s Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Harry Potter Dumbledore in a rain storm in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince'

Warner Bros. Pictures

For 2009’s Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the famed hero and his pals face their sixth year at Hogwarts with more uncertainty than ever as Lord Voldemort tightens his hold on both the wizarding and Muggle worlds. Harry is coping with the loss of his beloved father-figure and mentor Sirius Black, and Dumbledore is helping prepare him for the ultimate final showdown with the malicious dark wizard Voldemort; they must discover the key to his downfall. He finds a book filled with helpful notes and spells that once belonged to the mystical Half-Blood Prince, which leads him to excelling in his Potions class.

Love is also in the air for the installment, as Ron and Hermione’s true feelings for one another come to light (resulting in some of Hermione Granger’s best moments in the franchise) while Harry finds himself attracted to Ron’s younger sister Ginny. The film includes a heartbreaking death of a beloved character at the hands of Slytherin head Severus Snape, much to the shock and dismay of audiences.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince builds towards an epic and life-altering grand finale battle between Harry and Voldemort, and observant fans will notice that the opening title sequence once again features a darker and more somber tone that carries on into the final two films. At various points during the franchise, leads Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson all experienced a burnout and pondered their future with the series; Watson considered not returning for her role, wanting to quit but eventually deciding that, “the pluses outweighed the minuses” and that she couldn’t bear anyone else playing Hermione. All three of the adored performers reprised their characters for the two-part finale, starting with 2010’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1.

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1

Harry Potter and Hermione Granger in the hills in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows

Warner Bros. Pictures

Marking the beginning of the end for Potter fans, 2010’s emotional penultimate film in the franchise, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 depicts the valiant efforts of Harry, Ron, and Hermione as they finish Dumbledore’s work and race against time to find and destroy the secret to Lord Voldemort’s power and immortality: the Horcruxes. In the process, the trio uncover the existence of the three most hallowed objects of the Wizarding world: the Deathly Hallows. The longtime friends find themselves tested in more ways than one, as dark forces threaten to tear them apart. Hogwarts and the Ministry of Magic have been seized by Voldemort’s Death Eaters, as they relentlessly search for Harry for the ultimate showdown between the two powerful forces.

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The installment of the franchise is heart-wrenching and foreboding, as audiences witness the immeasurable sacrifices the young wizards have selflessly made to ensure the legacy of Hogwarts remains intact; director David Yates described the film as “quite real,” a “road movie” that’s “almost like a vérité documentary.” Over 500 hundred wands were used during production, and it is also the first time in the series that Hogwarts is not featured, apart from a brief final scene of Hogwarts Lake.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 was bittersweet for fans and critics, with many appreciating the emotion-driven picture for its maturity and depth but also understanding that it signaled the franchise’s impending end. The New York Times wrote, “Even though it ends in the middle, Deathly Hallows: Part 1 finds notes of anxious suspense and grave emotion to send its characters, and its fans, into the last round.”

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2

Harry Potter in the woods looking frazzled in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Warner Bros. Pictures

The stunning and poignant conclusion to J.K. Rowling’s adored bestselling series, 2011’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 depicts the ultimate clash between good and evil as Harry, Ron, and Hermione prepare for the final battle against the nefarious Lord Voldemort. Harry has grown from a wide-eyed, enchanted boy to a hardened and determined young man, one who will take the ultimate stand to ensure both the magical and Muggle world is free of the evil wizard’s reign.

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The two adversaries meet for a legendary showdown at Hogwarts castle, where the literary hero is joined in his efforts by his classmates and friends to stop the forces of darkness once and for all. All of Harry’s struggles, trials, and tribulations thus far have led to this monumental moment, and defeating Voldemort means he can finally have a long-desired peace of mind and closure. The grim direction Harry Potter had gone in is battled against in this film, resulting in something epic, filled with life, and beautiful.

Director David Yates wanted Harry Potter to go out in style and with a spellbinding bang, and described the finale as “operatic, colorful and fantasy-oriented,” and a “big opera with huge battles.” The tone of the picture is far more spirited and resolute than the last, as the trio realize their exhausting journey is coming to a close and one way or another, the life they knew before would never be the same.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 is full of thrilling action sequences, tender moments between the iconic characters and shockingly painful goodbyes to beloved faces, and serves as a truly satisfying ending for the saga. Fans must have agreed, as this final installment was the most financially successful film of the Harry Potter franchise, earning $1.342 billion at the box office, making it the third highest-grossing movie ever made at the time.

The Daily Telegraph beautifully captured the meaning behind the hallowed franchise, writing, “This is monumental cinema, awash with gorgeous tones, and carrying an ultimate message that will resonate with every viewer, your or old: there is darkness in all of us, but we can overcome it.”

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Hermione, Harry and Ron from Harry Potter

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