Harry Potter is one of the world's most successful fantasy franchises, both in terms of the books and the movies. JK Rowling's first Harry Potter novel was released in 1997 and the first movie came out in 2001. Today is the 20th anniversary of that first movie, but since 2001 there's been seven major novels and eight movies based on those novels.
But Harry's story didn't end there. In 2001, Rowling wrote a guidebook to the magical creatures of the Potter universe: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. That book inspired a film set 70 years before the first Harry Potter book, focusing on magizoologist Newt Scamander, and the Fantastic Beasts film series is expected to comprise five films in total.
It might seem pretty straightforward to find all the Harry Potter films and watch them in order, but the Fantastic Beasts movies make it a little tangled. And there's also a two-part play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, that premiered in 2016 and continues Harry's story as an adult husband and father. Here's our guide to watching everything Harry Potter.
Fantastic Beasts films
Here you have to make a choice. If you're a purist who wants to start with Ye Olden Times in the Harry Potter universe, the Fantastic Beasts films definitely come first: The first one is set seven decades before Harry's time. But honestly, if you prefer to watch the Harry Potter series first, though you'll be watching out of chronological order, Harry's rich and detailed universe will inform your knowledge of Newt Scamander and crew. For the sake of getting things rolling, we'll start with the Fantastic Beasts. (No true movie spoilers ahead, though there are some details.)
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
The 2016 film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them introduces Potter fans to a world before The Boy Who Lived. Set in 1926, the first Fantastic Beasts flick introduces viewers to British wizard and magizoologist Newton "Newt" Scamander (played charmingly by Eddie Redmayne), the future author of the Fantastic Beasts textbook that Harry and the others later use at Hogwarts. Young Newt is a bit of a disaster, losing various creatures while on a trip to New York City. But fortunately, he makes a number of notable friends, including nonmagical baker Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), demoted Auror Porpentina "Tina" Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) and her sister Queenie (Alison Sudol), to help him on his way.
Where to watch Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The movie isn't currently streaming on demand for free on any subscription services, but if you have Hulu Plus Live TV, do a search on the title -- it may be scheduled to come up. Otherwise, you can buy the film on DVD or Blu-ray, or pay to rent or purchase it on a number of streaming services, including Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV and YouTube.
Memorable quote: "Hey! Mr. English Guy! I think your egg is hatching." --Jacob to Newt
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
The first sequel in this series, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, came out in 2018 and featured Johnny Depp as the legendary dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald. Newt and his pals from the first film are back, and Harry's beloved Hogwarts headmaster, Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law), plays a major role.
Where to watch Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald: As with the first Fantastic Beasts film, this one currently isn't available on any subscription services for free, though I did spot it coming up on the Hulu Plus Live TV schedule. But you can buy the DVD or Blu-ray, or pay to rent or purchase it on various services, including Prime Video, Google Play, YouTube or Redbox.
Memorable quote: "Oh, Newt. You never met a monster you couldn't love." --Leta Lestrange
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore
You'll need to wait until April 15, 2022, to watch Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore. Most of the original cast returns, including Eddie Redmayne as Newt, Dan Fogler as Jacob, and Jude Law as Dumbledore. But Johnny Depp is no longer playing Grindelwald -- that role has been recast with Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen. Depp reportedly had filmed one scene for this film before Warner Bros. asked him to resign (more details here).
The film itself is set in the 1930s, and leads up to the Wizarding World's involvement in World War II. It'll also move on from the previously known wizarding communities in the US and UK and show magical life in Bhutan, Germany and China.
Where to watch Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore: The film is scheduled to be available in theaters on April 8, 2022, in the UK and Ireland, and on April 15, 2022, in the US, and to stream on HBO Max 45 days after its theatrical debut.
Harry Potter films
The Harry Potter films came out pretty much one right after another. Their elaborate titles don't help a newbie know which order to watch them in, but they march on in the same order of the book releases, with the seventh and final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, broken into two films. Don't mess around here, watch them in order and see the starring trio of talented young actors Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint grow up before your very eyes.
Where to watch the original Harry Potter movies: The Potter films are easy to find these days, just not always for free. If you subscribe to HBO Max or Peacock Premium, you can watch the original eight movies on streaming as part of your subscription. And the Harry Potter films are old enough that they may show up on a cable channel you subscribe to, such as USA Network. Of course, you can buy them on DVD or Blu-ray, or pay to rent or purchase the movie of your choice on Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, Vudu, YouTube and other services.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, called Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in the US, came out in 2001, and Radcliffe, Watson and Grint brought Harry, Hermione and Ron to life for the many devoted fans of the book series. Harry is just 11 when the film series begins, and he's suddenly lifted from his miserable life with his miserable cousins to the marvelous wizarding school Hogwarts. The magical world is as new to Harry as it is to the viewers, and he soon learns that the evil Lord Voldemort, who killed Harry's parents, is after him. If you never watch any other Harry Potter movie, watch this one.
Memorable quote: "You're a wizard, Harry." --Hagrid to Harry
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
The second film, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, came out in 2002. Here, Harry, Hermione and Ron begin their second year at Hogwarts. But it's not all just spells, Quidditch and tests. The heir of Salazar Slytherin opens the Chamber of Secrets and people and animals start turning up petrified, leaving Harry to solve the mystery and save his friends.
Memorable quote: "It is not our abilities that show what we truly are. It is our choices." --Dumbledore to Harry
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
The third Potter film, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, came out in 2004 and is one of the creepiest of the films, thanks to the eerie dementors, soulless, eyeless beings who guard the wizard prison, Azkaban. As Harry and friends start their first year, the dementors are guarding Hogwarts, supposedly offering protection from Sirius Black, an Azkaban escapee. Of course, in the Potter universe, nothing is quite as it seems.
Memorable quote: "Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light." --Dumbledore to the Hogwarts student body
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Whether you like 2005's Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire depends on how much you enjoy meeting other kid characters, because there are plenty of them in this film. Harry is chosen by the Goblet of Fire to compete in the Triwizard Tournament, where three magical schools compete in three challenges. Twilight fans know this film because it also stars Robert "Edward Cullen" Pattinson as Hogwarts hunky champion Cedric Diggory. This is the first Harry Potter film to be rated PG-13 as opposed to PG.
Memorable quote: "Dark and difficult times lie ahead. Soon, we must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy." --Dumbledore to Harry
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Harry and friends enter their fifth year at Hogwarts in 2007's Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. The mysterious order of the title is a secret group founded by Dumbledore, and the group lets Harry know that Lord Voldemort is back and up to no good. This is the film installment that features a truly hard-to-watch scene where teacher Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton) tortures Harry, and in which Harry and friends form Dumbledore's Army to train students to defend themselves.
Memorable quote: "I want you to listen to me very carefully, Harry. You're not a bad person. You're a very good person, who bad things have happened to. Besides, the world isn't split into good people and Death Eaters. We've all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That's who we really are." --Sirius Black
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which came out in 2009, cost an estimated $250 million, making it the most expensive film in a very expensive series. And it's not just expensive, it's also full of huge plot points, including a heart-wrenching death that no Potter fan can forget or perhaps forgive. The Half-Blood Prince of the title appears to be whoever last owned Harry's Potions textbook, leaving him notes and spells that help him in class, but of course, nothing is as simple as it seems in this magical world.
Memorable quote: "Once again I must ask too much of you Harry." --Dumbledore
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 1
The final book in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was divided into two films, with the first one coming out in 2010. Get ready for plenty of the creepy villain Lord Voldemort, he of the smashed, slit nose, as Harry sets out to find and destroy Voldemort's Horcruxes, which give him immortality. And there's another sob-worthy death, because of course there is.
Memorable quote: "Dobby did not mean to kill anyone! Dobby only meant to maim, or seriously injure!" --Dobby the house elf, after dropping a chandelier, aiming for Bellatrix.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 2
Here it is, the culmination of the Potter films -- before the Fantastic Beasts and Cursed Child universes, of course. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 2 came out in 2011. The big battle is on, and bring Kleenex, because this saga isn't done breaking viewers' hearts -- and serving up surprises -- until the final credits roll.
Memorable quote: "Of course it's happening inside your head, Harry. But why then should it mean that it's not real?" --Dumbledore
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
The very end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 2 offers a sneak peek at Harry and his friends' futures. If that intrigues you, seek out Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a two-part play written by Jack Thorne and based on a story by J. K. Rowling, John Tiffany and Thorne. The Cursed Child story takes place 19 years after the events of the Potter movies, with Harry now working at the Ministry of Magic, and his own son about to attend Hogwarts for the first time.
The play took to the London stage beginning in 2016, making headlines because the role of a grown-up Hermione was played by Black actress Noma Dumezweni. ("Idiots were going to idiot," J.K. Rowling said of the racist reactions.)
Where to watch Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: There's no movie version. Yet. (It seems inevitable, even though Warner Bros. has said there are no plans for a Cursed Child film.) The above YouTube video gives fans the tiniest glimpse at the stage show.
You can see the stage play on New York's Broadway, as well as in London and other cities, including Melbourne, Australia; Hamburg, Germany; San Francisco; and Toronto. The play originally was presented as two separate parts shown on separate nights. That's still the way London, Melbourne and Hamburg will do it, but Broadway, San Francisco and Toronto are moving to a one-night version. That one-part show is scheduled to start in the fall of 2021 in New York and in 2022 in the other two cities. A Tokyo version is set to open in 2022, with no word on whether it's the one- or two-parter. Here's info about tickets to all the stage productions.
If you can't make it to a live production, you can buy Harry Potter and the Cursed Child as a book -- it was Amazon's most preordered book of 2016.
Memorable quote: "Those we love never truly leave us, Harry. There are things that death cannot touch." --Dumbledore, from the rehearsal edition script of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child