Back in the early-’90s, when a struggling writer and single mother named J.K. Rowling sat down in an Edinburgh café to draft the first chapter of Harry Potter & The Philosopher’s Stone, she never imagined what she was about to unleash.
Since then, the Wizarding World – or Potterverse, if you prefer – has left a crater in popular culture, taking in seven Harry Potter movies, a hit stage show and theme park – plus too many action figures, duvet covers, chocolate frogs and collector’s edition wands to mention.
Potterphiles literally wept when the saga concluded with 2011’s Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Part Two. But like any great magician, Rowling had another trick up her sleeve. In 2016, alongside director David Yates, the writer conjured up the first Fantastic Beasts movie and lured us into a parallel Wizarding World. Two sequels later, and with yet more mysteries to unravel, cinema's most magical saga shows no sign of stopping.
With the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets back in cinemas, what better time to apparate with ODEON through all the Harry Potter movies in order of release date.
Orphaned as a baby and raised by mean-spirited relatives, Harry Potter lives the first 11 years of his life unaware of the wizarding world that exists just out of sight of the one we know. That is until he’s accepted into Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and learns that he’s The Boy Who Lived – the only person to survive an attack by the malevolent and all-powerful wizard, Lord Voldemort. An attack that somehow backfired, defeating Voldemort himself.
But, as Harry begins to acclimatise to the magical world, making friends with Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley, the trio stumble on a plot to resurrect Voldemort using the Philosopher’s Stone – an object of immense magical power hidden within Hogwarts.
The world’s cinematic introduction to the Potterverse is a cauldron brimming with standout moments – from the delights of Diagon Alley and the hidden Platform 9 3⁄4 at Kings Cross Station, to Harry’s introduction to Quidditch and that shocking reveal.
“Now if you two don't mind, I'm going to bed before either of you come up with another clever idea to get us killed – or worse, expelled.” - Hermione Granger
Harry, Hermione and Ron’s second year at Hogwarts is even more perilous than their first. To begin with, ‘someone’ seems hell-bent on keeping Harry away from school. And once he finally arrives, the staff, pupils and Mrs Norris the cat start turning up petrified.
It seems that dark forces are at work trying to reopen the legendary Chamber of Secrets – a hidden room containing a terrifying beast that only the heir of ‘pure-blood’ Salazar Slytherin can control, and which will spell certain doom for all Muggle-born students. With fear gripping Hogwarts and accusing eyes turning towards Harry, the race is on to locate the Chamber and confront what lurks within.
We love Ron and Harry’s flight to Hogwarts in the magical Ford Anglia, and the boys’ tense meeting with Hagrid’s giant pet spider Aragog, while Snape’s disdain whenever the vain and incompetent Gilderoy Lockhart is in his presence is a joy to behold.
“Follow the spiders, why can't it be follow the butterflies?” - Ron Weasley
The Potterverse begins to pivot towards a darker tone as Harry returns to Hogwarts to learn that Sirius Black, a convicted follower of Lord Voldemort, has somehow escaped the forbidding Azkaban Prison. A former family friend, Black is accused of betraying Harry’s parents to He Who Must Not Be Named and is now set on finding and killing young Potter.
With Hogwarts being guarded by Azkaban’s terrifying custodians, the dementors, the academic year progresses tensely. But is Sirius Black the man he’s painted to be, and what’s up with Professor Lupin, the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher? Harry’s going to be doing a lot of growing up before the year is out.
You’ll never forget Harry’s first encounter with the wraithlike dementors. For creatures supposedly on hand to protect Hogwarts’ students and staff, they are thoroughly terrifying. Gary Oldman, meanwhile, is predictably brilliant as Black, plus the time-twisty Patronus revelation is moving and deeply satisfying.
“It's cruel that I got to spend so much time with James and Lily, and you so little. But know this; the ones that love us never really leave us. And you can always find them in here,” - Sirius Black
Goblet of Fire ups the ante brilliantly. Harry’s fourth year at Hogwarts finds Voldemort’s followers, the Death Eaters, emboldened and on the rise. Meanwhile, school life and various characters’ love lives are thrown into chaos as Hogwarts hosts the international Triwizard Tournament and, against all tradition, the Goblet of Fire chooses Harry as a fourth competitor.
However, with the tournament’s trio of challenging tasks underway it becomes clear that Harry’s nomination is no mere accident – it’s part of a devious scheme that will bring tragedy to Hogwarts and herald the full return of He Who Must Not Be Named.
The Goblet of Fire is packed with spectacular moments. Take your pick from the Triwizard Tournament’s tasks – the high-stakes underwater rescue alone will have you catching your breath! But don’t forget the opening Death Eater attack at the Quidditch World Cup match, or Harry’s duel with a resurgent Voldemort!
“Don't you turn your back on me, Harry Potter! I want you to look at me when I kill you! I want to see the light leave your eyes!” - Lord Voldemort
The Ministry of Magic is in full denial about the return of Lord Voldemort and the Death Eaters. Harry finds allies in the Order of the Phoenix – a secret organisation created by Dumbledore, and counting his Godfather Sirius Black among its members. However, Potter’s fifth year at Hogwarts is anything but plain sailing.
With Umbridge’s toxic control over Hogwarts growing, the stage is set for some world-class breaking of school rules, plus a pitched battle between the rampant Death Eaters and those few noble souls who understand they’re the last line of defence between Voldemort and a stranglehold over the entire wizarding world.
So. Many. Great. Moments. Imelda Staunton’s prim but profoundly unpleasant Dolores Umbridge is surprisingly scary – in the best way – making her inevitable downfall a fist-pumping delight. As for Harry, Ron and Hermione’s untested resistance fighters, Dumbledore’s Army, facing off against the Death Eaters? If that sequence doesn’t have you gripping your Nimbus 2000 tightly, nothing will.
“You're the weak one. And you'll never know love... or friendship. And I feel sorry for you.” - Harry Potter
Lord Voldemort’s grip on the wizarding and Muggle worlds grows ever tighter, and Harry returns to a Hogwarts that’s filled with rumour and suspicion. With Draco Malfoy seemingly recruited by the Death Eaters, Severus Snape’s loyalty in question and Harry getting help from a mystery ally known as the Half-Blood Prince, Potter is tasked by Dumbledore to retrieve a memory that could help thwart Voldemort’s plans for total control.
Some of The Half-Blood Prince’s best moments are caught up in the teenage trio of Ron, Hermione and Harry’s touchingly awkward first steps (and missteps) into romance, but no mention of this film’s standout scenes can fail to mention that climactic betrayal...
“Don't you understand? I have to do this. I have to kill you... or he's gonna kill me.” - Draco Malfoy
With the collapse of the Ministry of Magic and Voldemort’s ascendency preventing their return to Hogwarts for their final year, Harry, Hermione and Ron embark on a mission to locate the Horcruxes – enchanted items that are the key to the Dark Lord’s immortality. Pursued at every turn by Voldemort’s Death Eaters the trio begins to crack under the pressure.
Without Dumbledore’s guiding hand and wisdom, how do they destroy the Horcruxes they do find? What is the importance of the three magical objects known as the Deathly Hallows? And can anything stop the Dark Lord and his followers from dominating the wizarding world once and for all?
The flight of the seven decoy Harrys is a spectacular sequence, as is the Dolores Umbridge locket heist. And who can forget the tense and heart-wrenching prison break and its brave but fallen hero?
“If Voldemort's really taken over the Ministry, none of the old places are safe.” - Hermione Granger
With Voldemort hot on their heels, Harry, Hermione and Ron pursue the remaining Horcruxes in order to rob the Dark Lord of his immortality. Revelations come thick and fast as our heroes return to Hogwarts for a final pitched battle between good and evil, and Harry learns that, in order to defeat He Who Must Not Be Named, he may have to sacrifice more than he ever imagined.
Where do we begin? The Gringotts break-in is all sorts of exciting, Snape’s true intentions will break your heart, and the final showdown is surprising, exhilarating and (ultimately) gloriously satisfying.
“I am ready to die.” - Harry Potter
Bumbling British wizard and ‘magizoologist’ Newt Scamander arrives in 1920s New York carrying an enchanted suitcase full of outlandish animals. Needless to say, Newt’s furry luggage escapes, causing city-wide mayhem and heat from the authorities. But that’s the least of the young wizard’s worries, as it is revealed that the notorious dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald is moving in disguise amongst the magical community and plotting his move.
We’re tempted to give the nod to every scene involving the adorable mole-like Niffler (check out the moment when this fun-sized kleptomaniac hides in a jewellery shop window display). But for sheer ‘what-just-happened?’, it has to be the big reveal, when Johnny Depp’s peroxide Grindelwald sprouts from his hiding place within the body of Percival Graves. “Do you really think you can hold me?” he taunts his captors – and suddenly the Fantastic Beasts franchise had a villain to treasure.
“I refuse to bow down any longer!” - Jacob Kowalski
True to his promise, Grindelwald quickly slips the shackles of the magical community and assembles an army of followers to carry out his vision of a global war. But the dark wizard hasn’t figured on a counterstrike by his childhood friend, Albus Dumbledore – if only the future Hogwarts headmaster from the Harry Potter movies can break the blood pact that prevents the pair from going wand-to-wand.
The Crimes Of Grindelwald seared its best scenes into the memory. The chase through the French Ministry’s living jigsaw puzzle and Nagini’s transformation from circus showgirl into coiled serpent were both eye-popping. But director David Yates never topped the audacious opening scene, as Grindelwald busts out of custody by flooding his Thestral-drawn carriage and turning everything to snakes. The new Fantastic Beasts movie had our attention.
“It's not too late to free yourself. Confession is a relief, I'm told, a great weight lifted. Regret is my constant companion. Do not let it become yours.” - Albus Dumbledore
As the Fantastic Beasts saga shifts to the 1930s – and the storm cloud of World War II looms on the horizon – we find Grindelwald’s power growing and his army on the march. “The world as we know it is coming undone,” says Dumbledore in the Fantastic Beasts 3 trailer. “Grindelwald is pulling it apart with hate.”
Dumbledore entrusts the fightback to Newt and his comrades. But the great wizard himself will surely be forced into the fray, even if that means his darkest secrets come to light. “All I can say is that the biggest secret of the Wizarding World – Dumbledore’s mystery – will be revealed,” explained David Yates at a promotional event for the new Fantastic Beasts movie. “And you’ll need to watch the movie to find out what it is.”
We’re not in the spoilers business, but the Fantastic Beasts 3 trailer has already offered a fistful of early contenders for unmissable scene. You won’t know whether to laugh or cower when Newt encounters a cave full of terrifying blast-ended screwts – and dances his way out of trouble.
If you’ve been following the Wizarding World since 2001, you’ll feel your heart fill back up as the gang gather for breakfast in Hogwarts’ Great Hall. But somehow, we suspect the best is yet to come. As Rowling herself tells us: “There will be answers.”
“This is the team that’s going to take down the most dangerous wizard in over a century? A magizoologist, his indispensable assistant, a wizard descended from a very old family, a school teacher – and a muggle. Who wouldn’t like our chances…?” - Theseus Scamander