With the legendary wizard’s final chapter set to hit theaters this month, Tribute takes a look back at Harry Potter’s cinematic start. From humble beginnings as a children’s novel written in a small coffee shop in Scotland, to the billion-dollar movie franchise that it has since become—it’s hard to deny that the world has Harry Potter fever.
Written in 1995 by English author J.K. Rowling, the first Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, was rejected by 12 publishers before finally being purchased in 1997 and given a limited print run of 1000 copies. The tale of a magical young orphan and his entrance to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry soon found an audience, and within two years had spawned a sequel, leading to the Harry Potter film rights being sold to Warner Brothers.
In 2001 moviegoers the world over were introduced to the young orphan boy Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. As a wizard-to-be, Harry bides his time living under the roof of a miserable Muggle (non-magic folk) family, the Dursleys. Stuck sleeping in a closet under the stairs, enduring the torment of the Dursleys’ spoiled son Dudley, a surprise encounter with the monstrous, but loveable Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) draws Harry to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Unlike other schools, Hogwarts teaches young Harry the secrets of magic, and along with his new friends Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint), Harry discovers that the death of his parents is linked to the long-dead Dark Lord Voldemort.
Soon enough, the young wizards find themselves pulled into an adventure to uncover the mysterious Philosopher’s Stone, a gem rumored to grant its owner immortality. Convinced that their malevolent potions teacher Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) is attempting to resurrect Voldemort, Harry, Ron and Hermione journey to the belly of Hogwarts, escaping a three-headed dog, lethal plants, and a deadly, life-sized chess match, only to discover it was their Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Professor Quirrell (Ian Hart), who was harboring Voldemort all along. Defeating Quirrell, but not in time to stop Voldemort from escaping, Harry return to Hogwarts, and with the Philosopher’s Stone soon destroyed and the school year winding down, Harry realizes for the first time that the home that he never had is Hogwarts.
It wasn’t long before Potter returned to the big screen in 2002’s Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Stuck living with the Dursleys once again while prepping for his second year at Hogwarts, Harry’s life is turned upside down by a house elf named Dobby, who warns him not to return to school. Ignoring Dobby’s warnings Harry journeys back to Hogwarts, where he is reunited with Ron and Hermione and once again drawn into a world of wizard intrigue. This time the mysterious Chamber of Secrets has been opened, leading to students being transformed into a frozen, petrified state, and pulling Harry into a showdown with the malevolent Tom Riddle, a powerful apparition from Voldemort’s past. Battling it out, Harry once again saves the day by defeating Riddle, restoring his petrified classmates and saving Hogwarts.
In 2003’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry, Ron and Hermione enter their third-year of study at Hogwarts while a dark cloud looms in the form of escaped murderer Sirius Black (Gary Oldman). Headed for Hogwarts, and alleged to have helped Voldemort murder Harry’s parents, Black is pursued by the flying, soul-sucking Azkaban prison guards, the Dementors. With the help of Professor Lupin (David Thewlis), Ron and Hermione, Harry soon uncovers Black’s innocence, while revealing the guilty culprit to be Peter Pettigrew (Timothy Spall), a magician in league with Lord Voldemort. In a stunning, time traveling finale, Harry and Hermione rescue Black from the ghastly Dementors, but not without Peter Pettigrew escaping, and Voldemort remaining at large.
Harry and crew returned in 2005, this time entering their teenage years in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Now a celebrity in the wizard world, Harry’s trip to the Quidditch World Cup leads to a fiery confrontation with the Death Eaters, a posse of dark wizards loyal to Voldemort. Narrowly escaping, Harry returns to Hogwarts, only to be thrown into controversy when he is mysteriously entered into the TriWizard Cup, an annual competition pitting the best young wizards against each other. Enduring a variety of challenges, from battling a dragon to rescuing Ron from vicious mermaids, Harry and classmate Cedric Diggory’s (Robert Pattinson) final TriWizard test, a race through a hedge maze, turns deadly when they’re confronted by the Dark Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes). After a stunning battle that leaves Cedric dead and Harry barely escaping with his life, the wizard world is shocked, with one thing remaining certain: Voldemort is back and he’s here to stay.
2007’s Harry Potter and the Order of The Phoenix finds a more grownup Harry, Ron and Hermione returning to Hogwarts, where they discover things have changed for the worse. In denial over Voldemort’s return, The Ministry of Magic takes control of Hogwarts’ curriculum by placing a new, cruel Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher in charge (Imelda Staunton), forcing Harry to take it upon himself to teach his classmates. Forming Dumbledore’s Army, Sirius Black, Harry and crew soon battle the Death Eaters, leading to a cataclysmic showdown between Hogwarts’ headmaster Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) and the Dark Lord (Ralph Fiennes) himself. Ending in a draw with Voldemort escaping, Sirius Black is killed by the devious Death Eater Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter), while a prophecy reveals that Harry must either kill or be killed by the Dark Lord Voldemort.
In Harry’s sixth installment, 2009’s Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, both the Muggle and wizard world face the menace of Voldemort as an army of Death Eaters grows and the Dark Lord’s plans for taking over Hogwarts becomes clear. When the once seemingly invincible Dumbledore is killed, Harry is forced to pursue the missing Horcruxes, magical items that, unless destroyed, will allow Voldemort to remain immortal. With Hogwart’s in ruins and the wizard world in shambles its up to Harry, Ron and Hermione to track down the final Horcruxes and take out Voldemort once and for all.
Harry’s final big-screen adventure, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, will be hitting theaters as two separate films. Based on a single book (one of the longest in the series), the story was divided in two to pay justice to the length and complexities of the novel. Departing from the Hogwarts-centric storylines of past, Harry, Ron and Hermione hit the road in pursuit of the remaining Horcruxes as Voldemort’s control over the Ministry of Magic tightens. Rumored to have cost upwards of $250 million dollars, look for the first part of Harry’s exciting finale to hit theaters November 19, 2010, with the second arriving July 15, 2011.