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How To Start Watching The Harry Potter Franchise

Since its publication in 1997, the "Harry Potter" series, written by J.K. Rowing, has certainly taken the world by storm. Its popularity seemingly skyrocketed overnight, and demand for the boy wizard manifested into six more books, eight films, and even theme park attractions. 

The cultural impact of "Harry Potter" has not lessened, even after "The Deathly Hallows: Part 2" released in theaters in 2011. Only a few years later, the series expanded with the "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" films. Set some 70 years before the start of "Harry Potter," the series follows magizoologist, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), as he works on his aptly named book, and is suddenly thrust into the feud between Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) and Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp/Mads Mikkelsen). Three out of five planned films have been released, and are set to conclude the tale of how Dumbledore overpowered his friend-turned-enemy. 

With so many films in the Wizarding World franchise, viewers might be confused about where to start if they want the full story. Here's a guide on how to best watch these magical flicks. 

Start with Fantastic Beasts (2016-2022)

Though they came out in 2016, the "Fantastic Beasts" films are a great way to start a journey into the wizarding world. The three movies — taking place in the late 1920s and early 1930s — introduce viewers to Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne). After meeting Muggle—or No Maj—Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), Auror Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), and her sister, Queenie (Alison Sudol), he finds the fate of the world in his hands as Albus Dumbledore tries to stop Gellert Grindelwald from starting an all-out war with the non-magical community.

Though the first movie did reasonably well critically and financially, both "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald" and the third film, "Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore," did not garner the same praise — and not many fans want another sequel to the "Fantastic Beasts" series. Despite this, all three "Fantastic Beasts" offer a deeper look into the rich world and into characters who are later key figures in the "Harry Potter" series. Viewers are sure to look back on Law's performance as Dumbledore and have a better understanding of the prolific wizard during his reign as Hogwarts' headmaster.

Watch all of Harry's Story (2001-2011)

After finishing "The Secrets of Dumbledore," it's time for the main event: the "Harry Potter" films. Keeping in mind Albus Dumbledore's characterization from the previous movies will offer new fans a new lens to see the character through, but the majority of the spotlight will be on Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and his two stalwart companions.

Starting with "The Sorcerer's Stone" and ending with "The Deathly Hallows: Part 2," the series follows Harry alongside friends Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson). Surviving an attack by the evil Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) that leaves Harry orphaned, he's invited to follow in his parent's footsteps and attend the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry on his eleventh birthday. From there, his magical schooling often sees the young wizard wrapped up in dangerous adventures, with the constant shadow of the dreaded Lord Voldemort's return always hanging overhead.

The film adaptations of "Harry Potter" are highly acclaimed and praised for bringing J.K. Rowling's vision to life. Though the films often cut out many parts from the books, the movies were exceedingly faithful to the source material and told Harry's story in a satisfying way. In fact, the films have become cultural icons in their own right, with many fans having marathons to relive the magic over and over again.