Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Entire Shrek Timeline Explained

In 2001, the first "Shrek" movie was released. At the time, it was heralded as a funny and romantic story for the entire family, but it's also one of the most important animated movies ever made. By subverting the tired tropes associated with fairy tales and injecting some real edge, this DreamWorks classic proved that Disney wasn't the only animation studio capable of striking a chord with audiences. If anything, "Shrek" was a direct challenge to the House of Mouse to push animation in a new, modern direction.

The first film was a huge success, spawning spawned multiple sequels and spinoffs. The influence of its sardonic humor would also be felt in later animated hits like the "Despicable Me" franchise, and even Disney's "Wreck-It Ralph." As the "Shrek" films continued, they found new ways of deconstructing the hero's journey and testing their main character. Instead of giving him a quick "Happily Ever After" and following it up with a series of subpar straight-to-video sequels, DreamWorks explored the challenges of married life and showed that maintaining a happy ending takes work in the later films.

We're going to look back at the main "Shrek" films and break down the big story beats in order to relive the magic and make sense of some of the franchise's more confusing moments. This is the entire "Shrek" timeline explained.

Once upon a time...

When we first meet Shrek (Mike Myers), he's reading a story about a cursed princess in his outhouse. He then uses a page from the book as toilet paper, immediately letting the audience know what kind of movie they're in for. Shrek lives alone in his swamp, and that's just the way he likes it. His life seems to be moving along just fine until his home is invaded by a cavalcade of magical creatures.

The ruler of the surrounding land is a diminutive man named Lord Farquaad (John Lithgow), who wants nothing more than to become a proper king and rid his land of magical fairy tale creatures. With nowhere else to go, the ousted mythical characters are forced to live in Shrek's swamp, much to the ogre's chagrin. He decides to go give Farquaad a piece of his mind and demand the creatures be relocated. Since he doesn't know the way, he's led there by a talking Donkey named, you guessed it, Donkey ( Eddie Murphy). The pair eventually become best friends and the leading comedic duo of the franchise, but at this early point, Shrek can't stand the animal's constant yammering.

Bumbling heroes

Shrek and Donkey arrive in Duloc just as Lord Farquaad is charging his knights with a quest. He wants them to rescue Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) from the dragon's keep where she's locked and bring her back to him so he can marry her. When he sees Shrek, he demands his knights dispose of him. Unfortunately for them, Shrek can handle himself in a fight. With a little help from Donkey, he takes down all the knights with ease. Impressed, Farquaad agrees to clear the creatures from Shrek's swamp, but only if he retrieves Fiona for him.

After a long journey, Shrek and Donkey arrive at the castle and set to work rescuing the princess. In the process, the dragon ends up falling in love with Donkey, and Shrek nearly gets his face burned off. On the way back to Duloc, they learn very quickly that Fiona isn't your average princess and can handle herself in a fight. She proves this by beating Robin Hood and his men to a pulp. 

Fiona and Shrek begin to connect on a deeper level, but he worries that she could never love someone as ugly as him. What he doesn't know is that Fiona herself transforms into an ogre every night. That's her curse, and it's why she was locked up in the tower in the first place. Donkey discovers her secret but is forbidden from telling Shrek because she doesn't think he'll like her in her ogre form.

True Love's Kiss

When Shrek overhears Fiona talking to Donkey about someone being ugly and unworthy of love, he assumes she's talking about him. Farquaad and his men arrive soon thereafter to take Fiona to the castle for the wedding, and when she and Shrek part, they each mistakenly believe they're hated by the other. Unable to see them torn apart like this, Donkey reveals the secret of Fiona's curse and persuades Shrek to go get her back.

With the help of Dragon, Shrek and Donkey make it to the wedding. The ogre storms in and stops the proceedings, confessing his feelings to Fiona, and the two kiss. The princess assumes this act would break her curse and return her to human form, so she's shocked to discover that she's still an ogre afterward. Though she's initially repulsed by her new permanent appearance, Shrek tells her she still looks beautiful, and the two end up getting married.

Back at the swamp, Donkey and all the other magical creatures throw a big party celebrating Shrek and Fiona's union. Then the newlyweds begin the rest of their lives together.

The honeymoon

In "Shrek 2," we learn that the conceited Prince Charming (Rupert Everett) was supposed to be the one to save Fiona from her tower. He arrives at the keep too late, however, discovering that she's already been saved and is currently on her honeymoon. We then see Shrek and Fiona living it up on their trip before returning home to the swamp. Donkey and Dragon, whose relationship has also lasted, are there waiting for them.

Shortly after, representatives from the land of Far Far Away — Fiona's home — arrive to invite her back to the kingdom for a celebratory ball in honor of her rescue and marriage. Although Fiona is excited by the prospect of seeing her parents again, Shrek isn't so keen. He knows all too well what will happen when the king and queen see that their daughter has married an ogre. Still, to make his wife happy, he agrees to go. Of course, Donkey tags along too and annoys Shrek the whole time.

Meet the parents

The land of Far Far Away is basically a spoof of Hollywood, and Fiona is essentially a celebrity there. However, her and Shrek's initially warm reception turns to ice when King Harold (John Cleese) and Queen Lillian (Julie Andrews) see that their daughter and her husband are both ogres. We learn that Harold made a deal with the Fairy Godmother (Jennifer Saunders) to let Prince Charming (her son) marry Fiona. Since that didn't happen, she threatens Harold with severe punishments and demands that he make the situation right.

Harold seeks the help of an assassin in the form of Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) — a lethal cat with a big heart who quickly becomes one of Shrek's friends. After his attempt to clear things up with Fiona only leads to more arguing, Shrek realizes he needs the help of Fairy Godmother for a "Happily Ever After" potion. Unfortunately for him, she refuses, stating that there's no room for ogres in Happily Ever Afters.

Shrek, Donkey, and Puss decide to steal the potion instead. Upon drinking it, Shrek and Fiona are turned into humans and Donkey becomes a handsome stallion. They rush back to the city to meet with Fiona, but Charming has already beaten them there and begins masquerading as Shrek. Fiona has her doubts, but she goes along with it. Fairy Godmother then convinces Shrek that Fiona will be better off without him, and he leaves with Donkey and Puss.

Holding out for a hero

Drowning his sorrows at local watering hole The Poison Apple, Shrek overhears Fairy Godmother giving King Harold a strange potion. He learns that the concoction will make Fiona ignore her doubts and fall in love with the first person she kisses, who Fairy Godmother expects will be her son. Realizing the deception Charming has pulled, Shrek and his friends spring into action, but they're arrested and locked in a dungeon just as the royal ball is about to begin. Harold is then shown putting the potion in some tea that he shares with Fiona.

Luckily, Shrek's other friends see everything unfold on TV back at the swamp. They swoop in just in time to save Shrek, Donkey, and Puss, and to construct an enormous gingerbread man named Mongo to help them storm the castle. The team breaks into the ball just as Fiona and Charming kiss. However, she ends up slugging him instead of falling in love. It turns out that Harold never gave her the potion, leading to a big battle where Fairy Godmother and Charming are defeated and Harold is turned back into his original form of a frog.

Fiona allows herself and Shrek to transform back into ogres (and Donkey back into a donkey) because she wants to return to the happy life the two enjoyed before. With the approval of Harold and Lillian, Shrek and Fiona properly reunite, just as Dragon returns with a litter of half-donkey babies.

Live and let die

"Shrek the Third" begins with a bitter Prince Charming performing at a dinner theater. He believes himself to be the rightful king of Far Far Away and swears to do whatever it takes to gain control of the realm. Meanwhile, Shrek and Fiona (but mostly Shrek) are struggling to fulfill their royal duties as rulers while King Harold deals with an illness. Shrek can't wait until they can finally go back to the swamp and live their normal lives again.

On his deathbed, Harold tries to name Shrek as his successor, but when the ogre declines, he mentions a nephew named Arthur (Justin Timberlake). Thrilled at the idea of not having to be king, Shrek decides he'll go on a journey to find Arthur and bring him back. While this is going on, Charming visits The Poison Apple and appeals to its villainous patrons. He points out that they were all robbed of happiness and declares that they deserve to steal it back. Suddenly invigorated, they agree to help him.

Shrek the father

Before leaving on his quest, Shrek discovers that Fiona's pregnant and that he's going to be a father — news that doesn't go over well. He has a nightmare about his home being taken over by needy little ogre babies and feels like he can't handle the pressure. Focusing instead on the mission of finding Arthur (who goes by Artie), Shrek journeys to the school the boy attends with Donkey and Puss. As it turns out, Artie isn't exactly the most popular kid, so he's thrilled by the idea of becoming king.

Shrek and Artie don't really get along, and while the ogre's busy worrying about his impending future as a father, he ignores the turmoil beginning to rise within the young man. On their way home, their boat crashes and they meet Merlin, an eccentric old wizard who agrees to help them however he can. First, he has them gaze into a fire to reveal their inner trauma. For Shrek, it's his concerns about fatherhood. For Artie, it's how he was abandoned by his own father.

Sent by Charming, Captain Hook and his cronies arrive to kill Shrek. The crew fights them off but learns that Charming has taken over Far Far Away. Merlin agrees to teleport them back, but Donkey and Puss swap bodies by mistake. Arriving at the kingdom, they see villains running amok and advertisements for a big play that Shrek is forced to participate in.

Stealing Happily Ever After

Although Artie and Shrek begin to bond while staying with Merlin, the ogre ends up pushing him away to in an attempt to keep him safe in Far Far Away. Charming allows Artie to leave while Donkey, Puss, and Shrek are taken prisoner. During all this, Fiona and her mother are locked up with Disney princesses like Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty. Their former friend Rapunzel betrayed them by teaming up with Charming to take over the kingdom.

Puss and Donkey arrive and explain what's been happening. Thanks to Queen Lillian's considerable strength, everyone escapes. The princesses team up to infiltrate the play and stop it from proceeding before Charming has a chance to murder Shrek live on stage. Donkey and Puss convince Artie to help them, and when he arrives, he convinces the villains to stop fighting and accept the goodness within themselves. He claims the crown at the end of the movie, ensuring Prince Charming will never become king. Donkey and Puss are swapped back into their correct bodies, and Shrek and Fiona return home to the swamp, where they have three children. 


"Shrek Forever After" opens with a flashback set during the events of the first film. Harold and Lillian are desperate to cure their daughter of her curse, so they visit the trickster Rumpelstiltskin. Before they can make a deal, the news that Fiona has been rescued reaches them and they tear up the contract. Bitter over the fact that he lost his chance to trick them into letting him become king, Rumpel swears revenge.

The film then cuts to Shrek and Fiona's present-day life as parents. While they're mostly happy, the daily grind is really starting to get to Shrek, and he loses it during his kids' birthday party. He tells Fiona that he wishes they could go back to the way things were before he rescued her. The conversation is overheard by Rumpel, and he sets a dastardly plan in motion. Pretending to be trapped under his own carriage, Rumpel tricks Shrek into rescuing him. As a supposed thank-you, he offers Shrek a deal. He'll let the ogre live 24 hours of his old life again, but he has to allow Rumpel to erase a day of Shrek's life from history. Shrek agrees, stating that Rumpel can have any of the days from his childhood that he can't remember. He then signs the contract, setting a series of magical events in motion.

A world without Shrek

Once Shrek signs Rumpel's contract, everything changes, and he finds himself in an alternate timeline where no one knows who he is. He's free to live in solitude again, but as much fun as that is at first, Shrek discovers that his swamp is abandoned and that witches now roam the land hunting ogres. They eventually find him, capture him, and take him to meet with Rumpelstiltskin, who's now the king of Far Far Away. Shrek realizes that the carriage he's being transported in is being pulled by Donkey, but his friend doesn't know who he is.

With Rumpel as king, everything is miserable. Shrek confronts him and learns that the trickster erased the day Shrek was born, making it as though he never existed. To make things even worse, when the agreed-upon 24 hours is up, Shrek will be erased from history completely. After escaping the castle, Shrek convinces Donkey that they do know each other, and Donkey helps him find an escape clause in Rumpel's contract. The agreement states that if Shrek is kissed by his true love, everything will go back to normal. Low on time, Shrek and Donkey seek out Fiona.

Falling in love all over again

In the new reality, Fiona is the leader of an ogre resistance movement fighting to reclaim the land from Rumpel. Shrek tries his best to convince her that he's her true love, but she doesn't buy it. The only thing she cares about is her mission and her pet, a lethargic Puss in Boots. Fiona doesn't believe in the power of love anymore, making Shrek's task infinitely more complicated.

Rumpel enlists the help of the Pied Piper (who can control people with his flute) to track down and kill Shrek. The Piper discovers the resistance camp, but the main characters escape. Fiona finally kisses Shrek, but nothing happens because she doesn't truly love him yet. Rumpel then puts a bounty on Shrek's head, with the prize for capturing him being any wish the captor wants. Shrek turns himself in, forcing Rumpel to grant one of his own wishes, which is to set all the captured ogres free.

Rumpel still locks up Shrek and Fiona, but Puss, Donkey, and the other ogres arrive to battle Rumpel and his witches. Shrek and Fiona work well together as a team to subdue Dragon (now an agent of evil), and their bond is reestablished. As time ticks away, though, Shrek begins to fade. He tells Fiona he's happy he got to fall in love with her all over again, seemingly accepting his fate. She kisses him again, and this time, everything goes back to normal. The film ends with Shrek and Fiona finally getting a definitive happily ever after.