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Complete Guide to all the Harry Potter Films

harry potter films

Harry Potter has captured the hearts of many people all over the world, who have fallen in love with the epic tale unfolding between the pages of the books. Its childlike whimsy and magic flows from authentic, beloved characters and an ever-changing story. Each film manages to produce a plot more surprising than the one before it, all stemming from J.K. Rowling’s masterpieces. The attention to detail in the adaptation from novel to film was very precise, resulting in the readers becoming renowned fans of the movies. The film adaptations help to capture the enchanted nostalgia that exists between the pages and succeeds in whisking the story to life. This article gives a short outline of all the Harry Potter films; there will be major spoilers ahead, so read on with caution!

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was the first film created, following Rowling’s highly successful first Harry Potter novel. Released in 2001, it was directed by Chris Columbus and adapted to the screen by Steve Kloves. The film begins with a mysterious baby boy zapped by a lightning shaped scar being left on a doorstep in a bundle of blankets. As the story flashes forward many years, this baby, named Harry, grows into a young boy who is horribly treated by the family he was left with all those years ago. This family, named the Dursleys, are comprised of Harry’s Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia, and Cousin Dudley, who all manage to make Harry’s life a living nightmare. Harry grows up living in a cupboard under the stairs, bearing insults from his cousin Dudley, and having to pretend as if he doesn’t exist. Having been told that his parents passed away in a car crash, Harry is simply forced to put up with the Dursleys and their horribly unfair behavior to him.

One day Harry receives a letter telling him that he has been accepted at Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Discovering a whole magical world existing right under the surface, Harry is plunged into the enchanted unknown, where he embarks for his first year at Hogwarts. Meeting lifelong friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, who all share a common bond in Gryffindor, Harry enjoys beginning to take his magical classes and learning the wizarding world sport of Quidditch. Yet, not everything is as peaceful and light as it seems. Harry discovers the truth behind his parent’s death: the evil sorcerer Lord Voldemort killed them. Yet the most peculiar thing happened afterward; Voldemort tried to kill Harry, but the spell rebounded, giving Harry his lightning shaped scar, but not hurting him at all. Voldemort, brutally wounded, but not dead, slinked off into a state of non-existence for ten years. It is at Hogwarts that Harry discovers a magical artifact called the sorcerer’s stone, which grants the wearer immortality, and Voldemort is desperately trying to get it…

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets


The second film arrived in 2002, directed again by Chris Columbus, and starring the main trio, Daniel Radcliffe, (Harry) Emma Watson, (Hermione) and Rupert Grint (Ron). It dives right into the story with Harry and Ron unable to get through the barrier leading to the Hogwarts Express. They decide the best way to get there must be to take a flying car! Amidst classes with loads of homework and Quidditch practices, strange happenings begin to arise at Hogwarts. Students begin to be attacked, found completely frozen in the corridors. They aren’t dead, but rather stunned into paralysis. Thought to be the culprit behind these attacks is the chamber of secrets, and the monster that lies within. Created by Salazar Slytherin, the monster exists to kill any wizards that are not purebloods. Only an heir of Slytherin will succeed in opening the chamber. Harry’s suspicions on Draco Malfoy lead Harry, Ron, and Hermione to make Polyjuice potion, transforming them into Draco’s friends, only to find that Draco is just as clueless as they are. Through further events including a ghost named Moaning Myrtle, a dilapidated journal claiming to be Tom Riddle, and a terrifying journey into the forest to ‘follow the spiders,’ Harry and Ron make their way down into the chamber, where Harry faces Tom Riddle- aka Lord Voldemort- and his massive basilisk. Due to some luck, a phoenix, and the sword of Gryffindor, Harry manages to slay the basilisk, strike the diary, and make his way to safety. At this point, what more can Harry expect from Hogwarts?

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban


The third Harry Potter film came flying into theaters in 2004, directed by Alfonso Cuarón, and premiered a new actor: Gary Oldman. Oldman plays the sinister Sirius Black, a character causing most of the fear-filled chaos throughout the story. Of the Harry Potter films, this has one of the most shocking, twist-filled plots of them all. Harry begins his journey on the Night Bus: a crazy mode of transportation for wizards and witches in need, which zigzags and plummets extremely fast through the busy streets of London. Harry prepares to head back to Hogwarts, where rumors are running rampant about the notorious Black, who is rumored to be one of Voldemort’s most loyal followers. Due to Black’s escape, dementors: the hooded wraiths who guard Azkaban, aimlessly roam the grounds at Hogwarts. Thankfully, their new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Professor Lupin (David Thewlis) teachers Harry how to create a Patronus spell. While advanced magic, it’s essential for Harry, as the dementors have more of an effect on him, due to his tragic past.

The plot culminates to its climax with Harry, Ron, Hermione, Sirius Black, Professor Lupin, and Professor Snape in the shrieking shack. It’s in here they discover the shocking truth behind the story of Sirius Black and Peter Pettigrew. Yet, the night is just getting started. In a time-twisting turn of events, Harry and Hermione fly back in time to rescue the hippogriff Buckbeak and free Sirius from the astronomy tower. Of the Harry Potter films, this is one of the best plots of all. It keeps your heart racing, and you constantly question what’s coming next. But we’re not done yet! Keep reading to find out what’s still in store for Harry Potter.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire


Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the fourth of the Harry Potter films, was directed by Mike Newell and released in 2005. The switching of directors between films thankfully did not impact the quality of them or interrupt the flow that the previous directors before them had established. This also may in part be due to the genius screenwriting by Steve Kloves, who wrote all but one of the eight Harry Potter films. Working in close collaboration with J.K. Rowling, he managed to keep the integrity of the books intact, and even squeezed many lines word-for-word into the films.

Harry Potter’s fourth year is another eventful one. Hogwarts hosts the Triwizard Tournament: a competition which sees a champion from three participating wizarding schools duel in three tasks to claim victory for their school. The two visiting schools arriving at Hogwarts are Durmstrang, whose champion is Viktor Krum, and Beauxbatons, whose champion is the beautiful Fleur Delacour. The Hogwarts champion is the Hufflepuff boy Cedric Diggory, yet to everyone’s shock, a fourth champion’s name flies out of the Goblet of Fire: Harry Potter.

With the help of the new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor Mad-Eye-Moody, Harry manages to succeed through the first two challenges: retrieving an egg from a Hungarian Horntail dragon and diving into the black depths of the lake outside Hogwarts to rescue Ron Weasley from the merpeople. The third task, however, proves the most dangerous and horrible of them all. In a gigantic maze where they must search for a trophy, Cedric and Harry end up finding and touching it together, in a true act of comradery. To their horror, they find themselves transported to a desolate graveyard where Voldemort is being nursed back to health. Diggory is killed, then Harry’s arm is slashed, leading his blood to be spilled into the potion. The spell works: Lord Voldemort, complete with pale skin, red eyes, and slits for a nose, is now raised. Harry just manages to escape and return to Hogwarts only to find more bad news: Professor Mad-Eye Moody was actually the death eater Barty Crouch Jr, who had been impersonating Moody the entire time. Here ends the events of the fourth movie. Of the Harry Potter films, the death of Cedric Diggory makes this ending a tearjerker.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix


The fifth return to the screen was directed by David Yates and released in 2007. One of the best parts of this movie is the wonderful music adaptation, scored by Nicholas Hooper. It adds a layer of nostalgia, charm, and beauty that intensifies the ever-twisting plot. Of the Harry Potter films, this one introduces a rather horrible villain, clothed in pink and wreaking of senile charm and a revolting cruelty.

This film centers around the ministry of magic’s unbelief that Voldemort has returned, which forces suspicions on Harry and Dumbledore. Professor Umbridge is introduced to the school to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts. Sent directly from the ministry, she makes Hogwarts a living nightmare. When Harry continually insists that Voldemort is back, Umbridge claims that Harry ‘must not tell lies,’ where the lines he writes during detention form out of the blood in Harry’s hands. Umbridge continues to wreak havoc, yet Harry and his friends manage to find their own way of rebellion. They develop a secret club called Dumbledore’s Army, which meets in the enchanted room of requirement, where they practice defense against dark magic. Defense is just what Harry needs, as he continually develops dreams about a dark corridor with a mysterious door, and starts to see clips from Voldemort’s head, and feel the emotions Voldemort is feeling.

One day, Harry has a vision of Sirius being attacked by Voldemort in the same corridor he’s been dreaming about. Suddenly knowing that it is in the ministry of magic, he manages to escape Hogwarts with Ron, Hermione, Luna, Neville, and Ginny. In the department of mysteries, Harry is shocked to find that Sirius is nowhere to be found, and they are besieged by death eaters instead. Tricked by Voldemort, their desire is to force Harry to hand them a prophecy (about Harry and Voldemort) that can only be taken by the person the prophecy is about. In the chaos and the fighting, members of the order of the phoenix arrive: the secret society against Voldemort. During the madness, the prophecy sphere is broken, and Sirius is killed by Bellatrix Lestrange. Harry flees after her only to find Voldemort himself, who begins to fight Harry, but then is interrupted by Dumbledore. Wizards from the ministry of magic appear; they see Voldemort, and now cannot deny that he is back. The Harry Potter films continue to end with misery, as the death of Sirius Black (Harry’s godfather) plagues the heartstrings of all those watching.

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince


The sixth of the Harry Potter films arrived in theaters in 2009, directed by David Yates. The story begins with Dumbledore whisking Harry off on a mysterious adventure to recruit a new Hogwarts teacher: Professor Slughorn. Once back at school, Harry and Ron begin taking Potions class, where Harry ends up using a well-worn, scribbled down textbook, whose original owner was the mysterious Half-Blood Prince.

Meanwhile, Dumbledore begins offering private lessons to Harry, where he takes him inside his pensieve: a magical artifact that transports the viewer in time to replay memories. It is here that Harry discovers more about Voldemort’s past, including the first time Dumbledore met the young Tom Riddle (Voldemort) in an orphanage. Harry is tasked with retrieving a tampered memory from Professor Slughorn, which proves quite difficult, but nothing a little luck can’t fix. After succeeding in procuring the memory, Harry realizes the importance of its contents. In the memory, Slughorn explains the meaning behind horcruxes to an inquiring Tom Riddle. They are objects that a person can split their soul into, thus preserving life after death, rendering the user immortal. To make one, it requires murder: an act that splits the soul apart. When Tom asks if it’d be possible to create seven, Slughorn is deeply uncomfortable, but explains that yes indeed, it would be possible. Now, Harry realizes the task set before him: to find and destroy the horcruxes. Harry begins suspecting Draco of becoming a death eater, and in using a dark spell from the Half-Blood Prince’s book, Harry nearly kills Draco. Finally realizing the dark magic the book has, he places it in the room of requirement with help from Ginny.

Of the Harry Potter films, this has one of the most climatic endings. Dumbledore believes he has found a horcrux and offers to bring Harry along with him. In a blustery cave out at sea, they paddle across an Inferi (corpse) filled lake, to find a bowl filled with grotesque potion. At the bottom of this lies a locket. They scoop the locket up and hurry out of the cave, back to Hogwarts, only to find death eaters running wild. In the astronomy tower, Dumbledore places a spell on Harry to immobilize him, who then can only watch in horror as Draco approaches Dumbledore, pleading that he must kill him. However, Draco does not seem to have the willpower to do it. Enter Professor Snape, to whom Dumbledore whispers “Severus, please.” In an instant, Snape kills Dumbledore, and the death eaters scurry from the castle. In following Snape outside, Harry discovers that Snape was in fact the Half-Blood Prince.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1


J.K. Rowling’s final masterpiece was published in 2007 and is an epic conclusion that ties the entire story together. Based on the excessive amount of material, the decision was made to split the book into two movies. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 was released in 2010, directed by David Yates, and continued to star the main trio of Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson. The wizarding world is now in complete chaos as Voldemort has returned to the height of power, and his most powerful nemesis, Dumbledore, is dead. Harry, Ron, and Hermione begin hunting horcruxes, of which the first they find being worn by the toad-like Umbridge in the ministry of magic. They are able to succeed in snatching it from her, but their search has only just begun.

Journeying to Xenophilius Lovegood’s house reveals the story of the deathly hallows. It is here they learn the tale of the three brothers, who owned the invisibility cloak, resurrection stone, and the elder wand. While it is believed to be a mere myth, they find that it may hold more meaning than meets the eye. Mysteriously, while they are camping, Harry discovers the sword of Gryffindor by following an enigmatic Patronus. Unfortunately, they are attacked by death eaters and taken to Malfoy Manor. Trapped in the basement, they are saved by Dobby, who apparates all of them out of the manor, yet takes a knife to the chest from Bellatrix. Here ends the events of Part 1. On trend with all the Harry Potter films, this ending leaves the watcher drowning in tears.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2


The opening to this film centers around Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s adventure into Gringotts to retrieve the Hufflepuff cup from Bellatrix Lestrange’s vault. They escape on a dragon, where Harry has a vision of Voldemort, who is now awakened to their desperate search for horcruxes. Harry also discovers that the next horcrux lies inside Hogwarts. Thanks to Luna Lovegood, Harry learns about the lost Ravenclaw diadem, and is able to find it in the room of requirement. Meanwhile, Ron and Hermione delve into the chamber of secrets to acquire a basilisk fang, in order to destroy horcruxes. They then destroy the diadem and prepare for war.

Chaos abounds at Hogwarts as Voldemort arrives with his army of death eaters to attack the school. One of the most powerful touches in this scene is the music, composed by Alexandre Desplat. The tragic, beautiful melody perforates the screen as we watch beloved characters meet their death. Harry sees a vision of Voldemort near the lake, where he runs to watch Snape’s demise. Harry retrieves Snape’s tears as he dies, which he then puts in the pensieve back in Dumbledore’s office. It is here we encounter one of the most powerful moments of the entire Harry Potter films. Snape’s allegiance was questioned throughout all eight movies, but now we find Dumbledore pleading for Snape to be the one to kill him, to spare Draco’s soul and prove Snape’s loyalty to the Dark Lord. Harry also discovers that Snape was in love with Lily Potter the entire time. Yet the most heartbreaking moment is still to come: Harry discovers he must die in order to kill the piece of Voldemort inside him, for he is Voldemort’s unintentional horcrux.

Harry, knowing he must die, walks alone into the forbidden forest, where he uses the resurrection stone, which manifests the ghosts of his parents, Sirius, and Lupin, who accompany him to his death. Walking into the crowd of jeering death eaters, Voldemort screams the killing curse at Harry. Yet, this is Voldemort’s undoing, as he succeeds in destroying the horcrux in Harry, but cannot kill him, as he’s protected because of his mother’s blood. Harry returns to earth to compete in an epic duel with Voldemort. After a few long moments of a strong connection between the wands and sparks showering everywhere, Harry’s wand begins to overpower Voldemort, who then dissolves into nothingness. The war is over.

The last scene we see is nineteen years in the future, where Harry and Ginny’s children James and Albus get onto the Hogwarts express, along with Ron and Hermione’s daughter, Rose. The cycle continues with their kids going to Hogwarts, sitting together in a train compartment, and watching chocolate frogs jump around them. Thus, here ends the wonderful Harry Potter films. These movies are remarkable in many ways, drawing on the strength of friendship and the power of love and bravery. The strong telling of good overcoming evil is a resonating theme that gives all of us courage to pursue goodness, knowing along the way, we may encounter some magic.