Like any fictional universe, the Harry Potter series has an intricate setting characterized by its own internal historical timeline. While most of this timeline remains largely unexplored before the 20th century, Potter fans are given glimpses of the central chronology tied to the series’ universe.
That being said, the Harry Potter series has an inherent linear nature that ties its universe together. So, as with Star Wars or The Lord of the Rings, this chronology isn’t strictly based on the movie’s release date. Instead, it's based on the historical setting of each film, providing prologues and backgrounds for many of the characters who’d come to play a central role in the Harry Potter canon.
Here is the correct order to watch the Harry Potter movies based on their historical dates.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
In Roaring Twenties New York, young British wizard Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) tries to collect various magical creatures, documenting them in his guidebook, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
The initial entry in the Fantastic Beasts trilogy, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, also goes the furthest back in Harry Potter’s cinematic timeline to date. Set in 1926, the events of 2016’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them take place 65 years before Harry Potter even discovered he was a wizard. It acts as a very loose adaptation of JK Rowling’s fictional guidebook of the same name, which details many magical creatures in the Potter universe.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
Escaping from prison, the dark wizard Gellert Grindewald (Johnny Depp) pieces together a magical force strong enough to conquer the Muggle world, with only Newt (Redmayne) and Grindewald’s childhood friend Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) able to stop him.
One year after the events of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, The Crimes of Grindelwald is set against the backdrop of 1927. Continuing the story of Newt Scamander, it’s also the first chronological appearance of a young Albus Dumbledore, currently teaching at Hogwarts as the school’s Defense Against the Dark Arts professor.
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore
With his best friend-turned-nemesis, Gellert Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen), organizing an army to eliminate all Muggles, Dumbledore (Law) and Newt (Redmayne) unite a coalition of wizards and Muggles to stop him.
Jumping ahead five years from its previous installment, The Secrets of Dumbledore takes place in 1932. While Newt remains the film's main hero, The Secrets of Dumbledore continues to build off the relationship between Dumbledore and Grindelwald, as well as the fierce rivalry between the two wizards that was only hinted at in the Harry Potter books and films.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Shortly after his eleventh birthday, abused British orphan Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) learns he’s a wizard. Escorted to the wizarding institute of Hogwarts, Harry enrolls in the school, meeting his classmates and learning of his ties to the Dark Lord, Voldemort.
The first entry in the hit Harry Potter cinematic franchise, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, is the movie that started it all, laying the groundwork for every Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts movie that came after. It occurred in 1991 and 1992, roughly sixty years after The Secrets of Dumbledore, with the main overarching character, Albus Dumbledore (Richard Harris), now the aged headmaster at Hogwarts.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Enrolling in Hogwarts for his second year, Harry (Radcliffe) tries to solve the mystery behind the Chamber of Secrets – a fabled subterranean passage below Hogwarts said to be home to an insidious monster.
Starting with Sorcerer’s Stone, the Harry Potter series proceeds in a straightforward fashion, covering Harry Potter’s school years from his early enrollment at age 11 in 1991 up to his final confrontation with Voldemort seven years later. One year after Sorcerer’s Stone, Chamber of Secrets follows Harry’s second year at Hogwarts for the 1992-1993 school year.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
In his third year at Hogwarts, Harry (Radcliffe) and his friends are menaced by a recently escaped inmate of Azkaban (Gary Oldman) said to have ties to Harry’s parents.
Focusing on Harry’s third year at Hogwarts, The Prisoner of Azkaban follows the now teenage protagonists meeting the remaining survivors of the Marauders (the childhood friends of James and Lily Potter) for the first time. The events of the story occur from 1993 to 1994.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
After several students from prestigious European wizarding schools gather for the famous Triwizard Tournament at Hogwarts, Harry (Radcliffe) is surprised to find that he’s been anonymously entered into the contest.
Goblet of Fire is notable for several reasons. Set from 1994 to 1995, it marks the physical return of Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), the main antagonist of the Potter series, who lived in a disembodied, spiritual form throughout the first three films. Most of the movie specifically centers around Harry’s participation in the Triwizard Tournament, a legendary competition among young wizards. The tournament that appears in Goblet of Fire is the first official tournament held since the competition was temporarily halted in 1792 due to high fatality rates among contestants.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
With rumors of Voldemort’s (Fiennes) return swirling around the wizarding world, Harry (Radcliffe) contends with a bureaucratic Ministry worker (Imelda Staunton) attempting to assert control over Hogwarts.
One year after Voldemort’s 1995 resurrection in Goblet of Fire, Order of the Phoenix details Harry’s attempts to convince the wizarding community of Voldemort’s return, combating a hush campaign run by the Ministry of Magic. This film also directly sets up the Second Wizarding War, debuting the Order of the Phoenix and detailing Harry’s efforts to train Hogwarts’ students to fight the Death Eaters.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
As Voldemort’s (Fiennes) influence continues to grow, Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) tries to instruct Harry (Radcliffe) on how to access memories, uncovering the origin story of Voldemort.
The preliminary chapter to Harry Potter’s final adventure with Deathly Hallows: Part 1 and Part 2, Half-Blood Prince, follows Harry’s school year from 1996 to 1997. Particular points of interest regarding this movie are the death of Albus Dumbledore and Snape’s “defection” to the Death Eaters (in reality, just a ploy, with Snape now a double agent inside Voldemort’s inner circle). Also, unlike other entries on this list, Harry’s time at Hogwarts is cut short by Dumbledoe’s demise, with Harry opting to flee from Hogwarts and hunt for Voldemort’s Horcruxes.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
As the Second Wizarding War unfolds in Voldemort’s (Fiennes) favor, Harry (Radcliffe) tries to evade the clutches of Voldemort’s forces.
In the months after Dumbledore’s death in Half-Blood Prince, Harry and his friends continue their uphill crusade against Voldemort’s army. Two years into the Second Wizarding War, the first and second Deathly Hallows movies occurred from 1997 to 1998. In Part 1, the Ministry falls to the Death Eaters, with Voldemort establishing an anti-Muggle puppet government. With two of the seven Horcruxes already destroyed (Tom Riddle's diary and Marvelo Gaunt’s ring destroyed), Ron manages to destroy Salazar Slytherin’s locket in this film.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
Continuing their mission of destroying all the Horcruxes, Harry (Radcliffe) prepares for an epic battle with Voldemort (Fiennes) to decide the fate of the wizarding and Muggle world.
Picking up almost immediately where Deathly Hallows: Part 1 left off, Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is the exciting final chapter in the Harry Potter series. Most of the film is set from 1997 to 1998, with Harry and his foremost allies rallying against Voldemort’s Death Eaters. After destroying all seven Horcruxes, Voldemort is finally defeated, ending the Second Wizarding War with Harry and his friends as the victors. The final scene jumps ahead 20 years to 2017, with a now middle-aged Harry, Ginny, Ron, and Hermione seeing their children off to Hogwarts – the next generation of studies ready to embark on their first adventures.
This post was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.
Richard Chachowski is an entertainment and travel writer who has written for such publications as Wealth of Geeks, Looper, Screen Rant, Fangoria, and Sportskeeda, among many others. He received his BA from The College of New Jersey and has been a professional writer since 2020. His geeky areas of interest include Star Wars, travel writing, horror, video games, comic books, literature, and animation.
Richard has been an avid consumer of movies, television, books, and pop culture since he was four-years-old. Raised on a diverse mix of Clint Eastwood Westerns, Star Wars, sci-fi and horror films, Alan Moore comics, and Stephen King novels, he eventually turned his various passions into a creative outlet, writing about film, television, literature, comics, and gaming for his high school and college newspapers. A traveling enthusiast, Richard has also managed to create a career out of journeying abroad, venturing to such awe-inspiring places as the Sonoran Desert of Mexico, the rainforests of Costa Rica, and the scenic coastline of Haiti. Upon graduating from TCNJ, Richard set his sights on a career in journalism, writing extensively about the art of traveling and the entertainment medium for various online publications. When he’s not busy making his way through The Criterion Collection, he can be found either reading or planning a trip somewhere (preferably someplace with a scenic hiking trail).