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The Ending Of Every Harry Potter Movie Explained

In 2001, movie audiences across the globe stepped into Harry Potter's wizarding world with the release of "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone." Directed by Chris Columbus, the film launched a massive franchise that has become a cultural juggernaut over the last two decades, magnifying the impact of the already popular books the series was based on. There have been toys, video games, theme park attractions, and stores dedicated to the aesthetic created for these films.

Each installment was closely adapted from their source material, creating sprawling narratives with a huge cast of characters, all supported by a rich and complex mythology. Given the scope of the films, keeping everything that happened in the "Harry Potter" movies straight can be a bit difficult for even the most dedicated fans. So we're looking back at the climactic final acts from each film to contextualize the events and how they lead into one another. Below is the ending of every "Harry Potter" movie, explained.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

In "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," we meet an orphan boy living with his abusive aunt and uncle who is also a wizard — unbeknownst to him. His parents, Lily and James, have been murdered by an evil wizard named Voldemort. Also known as the Dark Lord, this powerful wizard also attempted to kill Harry, who was still a baby, but the spell backfired and destroys Voldemort instead. This is how Harry got his moniker as the Boy Who Lived.

As Harry navigates this wizarding world, it becomes evident that someone dangerous is seeking immortality using something called the Sorcerer's Stone, which can grant everlasting life. Beyond that, it may be hidden in Hogwarts, the magical school he attends. Harry and friends, Ron and Hermione, follow clues leading them through a gauntlet of trials protecting the stone.

They suspect that Professor Snape, a former follower of Voldemort, is trying to steal the stone to bring Voldemort back. As Harry enters the stone chamber, he's shocked to see mild-mannered Professor Quirrel instead. Quirrel removed his head wrap to reveal that Voldemort is attached to him as a sentient parasite. 

The stone appears in Harry's pocket and Quirrel attacks. Every time he touches Harry, it burns. Still, he keeps trying until he is nothing but ash. Harry passes out and wakes up in the infirmary where Headmaster Dumbledore explains to him the power of Lily's sacrifice was so strong that it protected him as a baby and is still doing so today. 

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Harry's second year at Hogwarts proves to be every bit as eventful as his first. He first hears a voice in his head threatening to kill someone and later finds a diary that used to belong to a Hogwarts student named Tom Riddle that can show him the past. Also, something called the chamber of secrets has been opened, releasing a dangerous creature and putting lives in danger.

Again, Harry and his friends follow the clues, and spiders, which lead them to discover that Ron's sister Ginny has opened the chamber of secrets. However, she is being manipulated by a malevolent force living in Tom Riddle's diary. Harry ventures into the chamber where he meets Tom Riddle himself and an important truth is revealed — Tom Riddle is Voldemort's real name. He has attached a part of himself in the pages of the journal and convinces Ginny to open the chamber and release a giant serpent, called a basilisk, which Riddle believes will allow him to proclaim himself the heir of Slytherin and purify the wizarding race. 

While battling the basilisk, Harry is given the sword of Gryffindor. He uses it to kill the basilisk before using the serpent's fang to destroy both Tom Riddle and his journal. We learn that Lucious Malfoy, father of the bully Draco, gave Ginny the journal, knowing she would be easily corrupted. In a moment of triumph, Harry threatens Lucious by assuring him that he will always be there to protect Hogwarts before tricking him into freeing Dobby, the much-abused house-elf who becomes a close friend of Harry's.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

In "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban," Harry learns that a man named Sirius Black sold his parents out to Voldemort, resulting in their deaths. Now Sirius has escaped from Azkaban prison and is on his way to Hogwarts. Everyone is on high alert because the Dementors, which are the creepy, soul-sucking guardians of Azkaban, are patrolling the grounds at Hogwarts.

Harry tracks Sirius to a shack where the escaped convict is waiting for him. It's revealed that Lupin, the new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, has been working with Sirius. It soon becomes clear that Sirius had nothing to do with the murder of Harry's parents. In fact, he is Harry's godfather and has been trying to protect him from the real culprit — Peter Pettigrew, a man previously believed to be dead.

Pettigrew has been disguised as Ron's pet rat and is still loyal to Voldemort. The full moon rises, and Lupin's own dark secret is revealed when he transforms into a werewolf. Sirius, who can change into a black dog, tries to save everyone but is caught by the Dementors. To rescue Sirius, the closest thing Harry has to family, he and Hermione travel to earlier points in the film using a device known as a time-turner. With the help of Buckbeak, the hippogriff, they manage to set Sirius free. The final image is an overjoyed Harry flying on his new broom to replace the one destroyed earlier.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

"Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" revolves around the Triwizard Tournament, an event where students from the wizarding schools of Hogwarts, Durmstrang, and the Beauxbatons Academy compete in a series of challenges in the hopes of winning the Triwizard Cup. Three students, Viktor Krum, Fleur Delacour, and Cedric Diggory, are chosen by the eponymous Goblet of Fire to compete. Strangely, a fourth student is also selected. That student, of course, is Harry Potter.

Even though it's against the rules, Harry is forced to compete because of the magical bonds the Goblet creates. During the final trial of the tournament, the students need to find the center of a maze and claim the Triwizard Cup. Harry and Cedric arrive simultaneously and are immediately transported to a cemetery seen earlier in the film. In one of the "Harry Potter" franchise's most heartbreaking moments, Cedric is murdered by Peter Pettigrew and a terrifying ceremony takes place that sees the full return of Voldemort.

The events of the film are all a ruse to lure Harry here. He is surrounded by Voldemort's minions and forced to battle him. However, they're evenly matched. As their spells collide, Harry sees his deceased parents and Cedric appear, all of whom help him escape. Upon his return to Hogwarts, Harry declares over Cedric's corpse that Voldemort is back. Although the new professor, Alastor Moody, is a Death Eater in disguise, precious few believe Harry's claims of Voldemort's return, which leads directly into the events of the next film.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

"Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" is where the wizarding world changes forever. Dementors show up in the muggle world, a sadistic new headmistress takes over Hogwarts, Harry has been blamed for the death of Cedric Diggory, and Dumbledore is branded as an enemy. Still, some are loyal to Harry and Dumbledore, such as the Order of the Phoenix, which is composed of adult witches and wizards organizing resistance to Voldemort, and Dumbledore's Army. The latter is formed by Hogwarts students to help them learn to defend themselves in the battle everyone can sense is coming. Harry is elected to teach them, given his range of experiences with dark magic.

Also, Harry has visions of Voldemort, hinting at a mental connection between them. He learns Voldemort is desperate to find a prophecy hidden in the Ministry of Magic. Dumbledore's Army tries to get to it first but clashes with Death Eaters. The Order of the Phoenix arrives for an all-out wizard battle. Sadly, Sirius is killed by his Death Eater cousin Bellatrix.

Harry tries to fight Voldemort but fails. Dumbledore arrives to help him. During their duel, Voldemort takes control of Harry, but he is driven out. As Voldemort escapes, the Minister of Magic arrives and is flabbergasted to find out the truth: Voldemort is back. It is also revealed that the prophecy states "Neither can live while the other survives," meaning that another confrontation between Harry and Voldemort is inevitable — and that Harry is in Voldemort's sights more than ever.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

As Voldemort's forces begin to attack the muggle world, Dumbledore and Harry dive into the life of Tom Riddle. They learn that he became very interested in magical artifacts called Horcruxes. It is explained that a Horcrux is an object containing a piece of a wizard's soul. To place a part of their soul into an object, a wizard must first kill someone. The evil associated with the act damages a soul so much that it can be split. In his attempt to remain immortal, Voldemort broke his soul into six pieces and hid the objects. Remember Tom Riddle's diary from "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets?" That was a Horcrux. 

Throughout "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," Harry learns about experimental spells from notes found in an old textbook that used to belong to someone calling themselves the Half-Blood Prince. These spells help him succeed in school but also badly wound Draco after a confrontation over his possible involvement with murder attempts on students. Harry and Dumbledore venture to a cave where another Horcrux is hidden. The task of retrieving the Horcrux leaves Dumbledore weak.

At Hogwarts, Death Eaters have made it inside and their target is Dumbledore. Draco is tasked with killing Dumbledore but can't go through with it. In a pivotal moment, Snape steps in and murders Dumbledore instead, and also reveals to Harry that he is the Half-Blood Prince. With no intention of returning to Hogwarts next year, Harry decides to find the other Horcruxes and destroy them.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1

The final book in the "Harry Potter" saga, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," was split into two films. "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1" covers about half of the book, focusing on Harry, Ron, and Hermione's quest to destroy the remaining Horcruxes and the first movements of the new war between Voldemort and the rest of the wizarding world.

After Death Eaters attack the wedding of Ron's older brother, the trio flees to London where they begin their dangerous journey. While the Death Eaters amass power while hunting down the three friends. They manage to stay clear of the Dark Lord's minions for most of the film but are eventually captured and held prisoner at the home of the Malfoys. They manage to escape but lose their old friend Dobby in the process, leading to a tearful burial by the sea.

During all this espionage and adventure, it is explained that the Deathly Hallows are objects capable of defying death. After being tortured by Voldemort, Gellert Grindelwald reveals to Voldemort that one of the Deathly Hallows, the Elder Wand, has been buried with Dumbledore. The final moments of the film see Voldemort breaking into his old professor's tomb and stealing the wand for himself — potentially making him invincible, not to mention even more dangerous in the coming confrontation with Harry and the rest of the wizarding world.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

Things get off to a rollicking start with a barely successful heist of Gringotts. Riding a dragon to safety, Harry, Ron, and Hermione find their way back to Hogwarts, where Severus is the new headmaster. While searching for the final Horcruxes, the battle begins. It's a full-on war as students, teachers, and death eaters face off at the beloved school.

Snape is murdered by Voldemort's snake, as Voldemort believes that this will force the Elder Wand to align itself with him. As Snape dies, he asks Harry to look into his memories. It's revealed that Snape was in love with Harry's mother and has been undercover as a Death Eater. It is also revealed that Snape's allegiance was always with Dumbledore and only killed the headmaster because Dumbledore instructed him to. Harry also learns that Voldemort's failed attempt to kill him as a baby inadvertently turned Harry into one of the Horcruxes, meaning Harry must die to destroy Voldemort.

Voldemort kills Harry, sending him to a version of the afterlife where Dumbledore greets him. Harry's sacrifice removes the imprint of Voldemort from him, and Harry returns to his body thanks to the Resurrection Stone hidden in the golden snitch Dumbledore left to Harry after his death. During the final showdown, Harry is able to kill Voldemort because the Elder Wand never aligned itself with the Dark Lord, preventing him from wielding it properly.

In the epilogue, we see that Harry and Ginny are married, as are Ron and Hermione. They see their children off to school at Hogwarts and Harry, finally, has the family he's always dreamed of.