If you are a movie-mad muggle, there’s a good chance you’ve seen every entry in the lengthy “Harry Potter” series. However, with eight big-screen adaptations of J.K. Rowling’s literary blockbusters about a young wizard, as well as two prequels, it’s easy to get confused.
With “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald ” - a sequel to 2016’s financially successful if unmemorable “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” - set to open Nov. 15, it’s a fine time to take a closer look at this remarkably rich series.
Let’s go back to the start, and the cinematic introduction of “The Boy Who Lived.”
“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” (2001)
The first entry in the series introduces 11-year-old Harry Potter (played by Daniel Radcliffe), an orphan who discovers he has magical abilities.
Whisked away from his cruel aunt and uncle to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Potter has his first encounter with the evil wizard who tried to kill him in infancy, Lord Voldemort. The stage is set nicely for what was to come, although the effects and acting, from a then-novice group of youngsters, are a tad weak.
New characters: Err, all of them. Potter meets his BFFs, ginger-top Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and brainy Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), as well as Hogwarts bigwigs like headmaster Albus Dumbledore and half-giant groundskeeper Hagrid and series-long adversaries like Draco Malfoy and Severus Snape.
Keep an eye on: Appearances from some of the U.K.’s most noteworthy actors, including Richard Harris (as Albus Dumbledore), Alan Rickman (as Severus Snape), John Hurt (as Garrick Ollivander) and Maggie Smith (as Professor Minerva McGonagall). Stellar supporting cast members became a series trademark.
“Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” (2002)
With intros out of the way, “Chamber” gets right to the action. The result is a less ambitious but more entertaining creation about a terrifying monster unleashed at the school.
New characters: Kenneth Branagh makes his sole “Potter” appearance as the delightfully vain celeb wizard Gilderoy Lockhart.
Keep an eye on: A much darker tone. With a creepy giant spider and more violence, “Chamber” presaged the bloodier events to come. This was the last time Harris played the kindly Dumbledore, as the actor died before the film’s release.
“Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” (2004)
Now we’re getting somewhere. With “Y Tu Mamá También” director Alfonso Cuarón behind the camera, Harry, Ron and Hermione suddenly seemed like real teenagers, full of angst and sporting hoodies and sneakers. Harry learns more about his past, and has his first encounter with the fearsome, soul-sucking Dementors.
New characters: Gary Oldman memorably plays escaped prisoner Sirius Black, who — spoiler — is Harry’s godfather. Other important newbies are Hogwarts teacher/werewolf Remus Lupin and the ratty (literally) villain Peter Pettigrew.
Keep an eye on: Michael Gambon, who makes his debut as Albus Dumbledore, and plays the character as a bit of a stern (but loving) hippie.
“Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” (2005)
Teenager wizards descend on Hogwarts for the Tri-Wizard Tournament, culminating in the long-feared return of Lord Voldemort. “Goblet” is a long but gripping chapter in the saga, and Harry and company are plunged into the scary world of teenage romance.
New characters: Voldemort, baby. Ralph Fiennes plays the reborn He-Who-Must-Not-Named. Also new is a scene-stealing Brendan Gleeson as mysterious professor Mad-Eye Moody. Watch for an adorably youthful Robert Pattinson as a Tri-Wizard rival.
Keep an eye on: The first unhappy ending of the series. “Goblet” marks a turning point. From here on, everything is a bit more serious (if not Sirius).
[Read more: Book review of "The Goblet of Fire," from 2000]
“Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” (2007)
Tension rises as Harry forms a secret group of Hogwarts students known as Dumbledore’s Army. Once again, he loses someone near and dear to his heart.
New characters: Two of the series most memorable villainesses appear — pink-clad baddie Dolores Umbridge and Voldemort acolyte Bellatrix Lestrange.
Keep an eye on: The link between Harry and Voldemort is established with greater detail. Let’s just say that one or the other is going to have to bite the dust.
“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” (2009)
The path to the end of the series starts with “Half-Blood Prince,” in which Harry learns crucial info about how to defeat Voldemort, and — again — suffers the loss of a trusted mentor.
New characters: Every Hogwarts professor has some skeletons in the closet, especially the friendly but befuddled Horace Slughorn.
Keep an eye on: What’s a Horcrux? In “Prince,” you’ll learn all about these objects containing pieces of Voldemort’s soul.
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1” (2010) and “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” (2011)
It’s go-time. Rowling’s final book was split into two for the action-heavy concluding entries. Harry and Voldemort have their ultimate face-off, and Hogwarts takes a bloody-helluva beating.
Keep an eye on: A genuinely moving epilogue in which the now-middle aged Harry, Ron and Hermione send their kiddos off to Hogwarts. You’ll be crying in your butterbeer.
“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” (2016)
A film series as successful as “Harry Potter” was destined to stay alive, and so, Rowling introduced the “Wizarding World” concept. “Beasts” takes place decades before Harry and friends hopped around Hogwarts, as a wizard and magical creature expert named Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) journeys to New York. He is plunged wand-first into a dangerous and deadly mystery.
“Fantastic Beasts” played well for “Potter” fans, but the old magic wasn’t quite there. Still, there is much to enjoy and savor.
Returning Characters: Several of the characters in “Beasts” have links to others in the “Potter” series, including a murderous wizard named Gellert Grindelwald, who, we know, was later defeated by one Albus Dumbledore.
[Read more: Chris Schobert's review of "Fantastic Beasts"]
“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” (2018)
Jude Law plays young Dumbledore and Johnny Depp is a sneering Grindelwald in the first “Beasts” sequel. Also, the action shifts overseas and we meet the human incarnation of Voldemort’s snake pal, Nagini.
Are there more links to some of our old favorites? We’ll find out on Nov. 16.