These 28 Magical Movies Like Harry Potter Will Siriusly Enchant You
Harry Potter isn't just the boy who lived — he's also the boy who enchanted us through his fantastic adventures full of dragons, three-headed dogs, and secret rooms. The Harry Potter movie series officially ended with director David Yates's second installation of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" in 2011. But years later, Warner Bros. surprised fans with an adaptation of "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them," based on a spinoff prequel to "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone." And now, with a TV show in the works, it's likely we haven't seen the last of the franchise yet.
While fans might have a soft spot for the series based on their love and nostalgia for books, movies, and characters, many have turned away from the franchise in the wake of transphobia from author J.K. Rowling. Though many of the cast, including Daniel Radcliffe, have spoken out against Rowling's transphobia, former Potterheads have found themselves turning to new worlds and stories to find some of the friendship, adventure, and magic they first loved.
Luckily, there are plenty of spellbinding movies out there that'll captivate you just as much as Harry's adventures have. Ahead, we rounded up the most enchanting fantasies that film has to offer, from '90s classics like "Matilda" to dark dramas like Guillermo del Toro's "Pan's Labyrinth." Ahead, these are 28 movies like Harry Potter.
— Additional reporting by Lauren Haran
"Bridge to Terabithia"
Jesse "Jess" Aarons is the 11-year-old son of a low-income family who is constantly bullied at school. He finds refuge in his burgeoning friendship with the new girl at school, Leslie, whose adventurous and imaginative spirit spurs them to create a fantasy world in the woods, where he escapes from his every day worries.
In "The Matrix," Keanu Reeves portrays Neo (or Thomas Anderson), a computer programmer who lives in a dystopian world where humans are, unbeknownst to them, trapped inside a simulated reality where their bodies are being used as energy sources. Sure, Harry Potter isn't a jaded cog in the corporate machine like Neo in "The Matrix," but it's worth drawing comparisons between these two characters. Both of them start the story with rather ordinary lives, and later learn that they're the Chosen One to rescue the world from sinister forces. Besides diving into philosophical questions about free will, "The Matrix" also boasts stunning visual effects and choreography that hold up two decades later. and in 2021, the franchise returned with "The Matrix Resurrections."
"Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey"
Love all of the Christmas sequences in the "Harry Potter" movies? You'll get a kick out of Netflix's "Jingle Jangle," a steampunk fantasy that the entire family can enjoy. Inventor Jeronicus Jangle (Forest Whitaker) comes close to a breakthrough invention, only to have his sneaky apprentice Gustafson (Keegan-Michael Key) steal his idea from him. After his shop Jangles and Things fails, Jeronicus distances himself from his daughter, only meeting his grandchild Journey (Madalen Mills) much later in life. If the magical element isn't enough to convince you to watch the film, perhaps the Zonko's and Hogsmeade vibes of the fantastical Jangles and Things will.
The premise of "Pan's Labyrinth "is that the king of the underworld has built labyrinths everywhere in the hopes that one day, his daughter's spirit will return. In this early del Toro film, the shy young protagonist Ofelia meets an enigmatic faun who gives her three tasks to complete inside a labyrinth. The idea is that she'll achieve immortality if she passes these tests. But of course, there's a catch: she meets all sorts of monsters and creatures inside of the maze. Yup, it's very reminiscent of "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," although it's notably darker, with an R-rating to boot.
The MCU might include tech-savvy superheroes saving the world (*cough* Tony Stark *cough*), but it's not a universe that's completely devoid of magic altogether. "Doctor Strange" is one of the handful of Marvel movies that really centers on spells and magic. After losing his ability to operate as a surgeon, Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) journeys from New York to Kamar-Taj, devoting himself to learning from the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton). Doctor Strange travels across the world with the intention of healing his hand, but he then finds himself facing threats from other dimensions. There's no Invisibility Cloak here, but there's a rather cheeky Cloak of Levitation.
"Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves"
"Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves" burst into theaters in March 2023 with a cast that includes Chris Pine, Regé-Jean Page, and Hugh Grant. Based on the beloved board game, "Dungeons & Dragons" follows a rag-tag group that must come together to stop the forces of evil, a premise that will sound familiar to Potter fans. The movie mixes action, adventure, magic, and humor for an enjoyable thrill ride. By the end, this group of adventurers is a real family.
"Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings"
"Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" is another MCU installation that's centered around magic — in fact, you could even say that there are "Sorcerer's Stones" vibes going on here. Shang-Chi, at first, appears to be your average hustling millennial making ends meet in San Francisco. But after a rather tense showdown on the Muni, his friend Katy learns that he actually comes from a pretty gifted magical family. His father, Xu Wenwu, came across the immortality-granting mystical ten rings a thousand years ago, and formed the Ten Rings organization to assert his power. Worried about his sister's safety, Shang Chi heads to Macau to uncover his father's whereabouts.
"The House With a Clock in Its Walls"
After his parents pass away, 10-year-old Lewis (Owen Vaccaro) moves in with his uncle Jonathan (Jack Black). But an orphan boy isn't the only thing that "The House With a Clock in Its Wall" has in common with "Harry Potter." As Lewis pokes around the house, he begins to suspect that there's something off about it. It turns out that Uncle Jonathan and his neighbor Florence (Cate Blanchett) are actually magic practitioners! The previous owners of the house were also magicians who hid a clock in the house's walls. As Jonathan attempts to find the clock and learn about its secrets, Lewis studies magic, against his uncle's advice.
"The Shape of Water"
Guillermo del Toro's Oscar winner "The Shape of Water" is a sweet fairy tale for adults. It follows a mute woman named Elisa (Sally Hawkins) who takes interest in a sea creature at the lab where she works. Concerned about how the lab treats the Amphibian Man, she recruits her friends (Octavia Spencer and Richard Jenkins) to rescue him. The Amphibian Man, suffice to say, is a much gentler water dweller than the Merpeople in the wizarding world. But like "Harry Potter," "The Shape of Water" is a beautifully stylized fantasy story with a strong overarching message about acceptance and love.
"The Little Prince"
If the "Harry Potter" series is about anything, it's about love. And love is ultimately the core of "The Little Prince." Netflix brings to life Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's classic children's book in this animated film that's guaranteed to make you weep. The film follows the story of an overachieving young girl who learns the real meaning of life when she meets a quirky aviator who shares his adventures about encountering a strange young man, the little prince. The story isn't the only great thing about "The Little Prince "— it also features beautiful stop-motion animation from the studio Mikros Image.
"How to Train Your Dragon"
In one of the challenges for the Triwizard Tournament in "Goblet of Fire," Harry ends up working with a dragon, except the whole ordeal is pretty vicious. A beloved children's film, "How to Train Your Dragon "is somewhat similar to "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," except cuter and without the terrifying Death Eaters. In this family favorite, a Viking teenager named Hiccup must capture and slay a dragon to become a man. Though Hiccup's father is the chief of his clan, Hiccup doesn't actually care for fighting dragons. While in dragon-fighting school, he instead befriends and cares for a dragon he names Toothless. Plus, there are two sequels to enjoy.
"The Neverending Story"
In this 1984 classic, a boy named Bastian loses his mother, and lives a hard life full of school bullies. To cope with his troubles, he walks into a bookstore and uncovers a book called "The Neverending Story." Engrossed with the book, he unknowingly enters the world of Fantasia, a magical land that's become engulfed by a plague called The Nothing. A young warrior who works for the sick queen enlists Bastien for help defeating The Nothing. The story is reminiscent of Harry's own journey from being a misfit in the Muggle world, to becoming a hero in the wizarding world.
"Beauty and the Beast"
The live-action remake of "Beauty and the Beast" is one of Disney's most magical films — with anthropomorphic household items to boot! As the story goes, a selfish prince gets cursed to live as a beast until he finds true love. Lo and behold, the dreamy and bookish Belle ends up at the Beast's castle when her father stays there after getting lost in the forest. Belle offers to take her father's place, leading her to spend all of her time with the Beast. Eventually, romance brews between the duo, and the Beast begins to let his guard down. Of course, we'd be remiss not to mention that the live-action version of "Beauty and the Beast" stars Emma Watson, Hermione Granger herself, as Belle.
If you enjoyed Emma Thompson's portrayal of Professor Trelawney, you'll be sure to fall in love with her as Nanny McPhee! Here, Thompson transforms into a magical nanny with physical quirks. After the death of their mother, the Brown children have had a hard time adjusting, driving out every nanny who comes their way. Luckily for their father (Colin Firth), the one person who's able to get them under control is Nanny McPhee, who, as the children suspect, is a witch. Even if they don't immediately warm up to this magical caretaker, the children come across a greater nemesis: Aunt Adelaide (Angela Lansbury). With a more sinister adult in their lives, the only person who can help them is Nanny McPhee.
If you're looking for a lighter and funnier Stine adaptation than "Fear Street," "Goosebumps" is a fun crowd-pleaser that you can watch with the entire family. The movie starts with Zach, a boy who moves from New York City to the small town of Madison after his father's death. In a meta twist, his neighbor just so happens to be R.L. Stine. Here, Jack Black portrays a fictional version of Stine, who finds creatures from his books, including Slappy the Dummy and Fifi the Vampire Poodle, coming to life. Beedle the Bard could only wish he were as prolific as R.L. Stine, whether that's the fictionalized or actual one.
Pixar's "Onward" features Tom Holland and Chris Pratt as elf brothers! In the family-friendly film, magic used to be sacred, but it's not such a big deal anymore. Mythical creatures live among each other in "Onward"'s suburban fantasy world, where teenagers Ian (Holland) and Barley (Pratt) Lightfoot happily reside. On Ian's 16th birthday, his mother (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) gives Ian and his brother a set of magical gifts from his late father. From their father's note, the boys learn about a visitation spell that can bring him back for a day. While they deliver the incantation, they only manage to get half of their father, so they go on a quest to conjure up the rest of him. This is definitely a must-watch for those who enjoyed all of the magical mishaps Harry and his pals constantly got themselves into.
"Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events"
Before the Netflix series came along, there was this charming film version of Lemony Snicket's gothic mystery series. The dark fantasy follows the story of three hapless orphans who, after losing their parents to a terrible fire, encounter the nefarious Count Olaf who's set after their fortune. There's no witchcraft involved in the series, but like Harry Potter and his friends, the Baudelaires are resourceful and brave in the face of evil. Jim Carrey makes for a delightfully repellent Count Olaf, and the rest of the cast is pretty stacked too, given that it includes, oh, Jude Law and Meryl Streep.
"The Golden Compass"
Avid kid-lit bookworms may know that "The Golden Compass" is the first installation of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. It's a story about an orphan named Lyra Belacqua who, like Harry Potter, lives in a magical parallel universe where people have daemons, animal companions with human souls. In this world, a group called Gobblers takes away poor orphan Gyptian children, and Lyra makes it her quest to find her friend Roger with the help of her daemon and a ragtag team of supporters. The film adaptation stars Nicole Kidman, Dakota Blue Richards, and Daniel Craig.
Looking for a film about a precocious kid with pretty extraordinary gifts? Pop on "Matilda." This hilarious '90s movie adaptation of Roald Dahl's charming children's book tells the story of a young girl genius named Matilda who discovers that she has telekinetic powers. She uses her abilities to counter her mean principal (Pam Ferris) and cruel parents (Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman). Even though her parents are still alive, they're really more like the Dursleys than adults who actually want what's best for her. Luckily for Matilda, there's Miss Honey (Embeth Davidtz), a teacher in her life who genuinely cares about her well-being. When you're done, you can always watch 2022's "Matilda" musical film.
"The Princess Bride"
When it comes to iconic fantasy films, you can't go wrong with "The Princess Bride," which dropped over a decade before the first "Harry Potter" film. Based on William Goldman's book of the same name, the film uses the framework of a grandfather telling his sick grandson the story of Buttercup (Robin Wright), a beautiful young woman, and Westley (Cary Elwes), a farmhand, who fall in love. After Westley is presumed dead after a pirate attack, Buttercup finds herself betrothed to a sinister prince in the mythical kingdom of Florin. But before her wedding, she's kidnapped by a trio of intruders and finds out that Westley is, in fact, still alive. So how do these two lovers reunite? Watch the film to see how their epic saga unfolds.
"Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief"
Rick Riordan's "Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief" is for devoted fans of Greek mythology, which is also a major source of inspiration for "Harry Potter." The movie stars Logan Lerman as Percy Jackson, the titular character who discovers that he's the son of the god Poseidon. After a school trip gone wrong, Percy finds himself at a camp for demigod children, learning that his best friend Grover is actually a satyr and his designated protector. At camp, he befriends Annabeth Chase (Alexandra Daddario from "The White Lotus"), Athena's daughter, and Luke Castellan (Jake Abel), Hermes' son. If Hogwarts taught us anything, it's that things never go quite as planned for gifted magical children, so dangerous mythical adventures follow in this thrilling film.
The "Fear Street "Trilogy: 1994, 1978, and 1666
As opposed to a wondrous magical world, Netflix's "Fear Street" trilogy, based on R.L. Stine's series of the same name, is about a curse set on the downtrodden town of Shadyside. While "Fear Street" isn't as cozy as "Harry Potter," you'll get your fix of witches and monstrous creatures. The first film follows a teenager named Deena, who, while dealing with her complicated love life, tries to undo the curse that the witch Sarah Fier (allegedly) cast on Shadyside. Just a fair warning: the Fear Street trilogy is very much a slasher, so prepare for gruesome kill scenes. Each installments takes place during a different time period, each offering more backstory behind the curse, so get ready lore-heavy ride.
Directed by Tom Tykwer and the Wachowskis, "Cloud Atlas" is a visually striking film that spans six separate eras. The stories may take place in different times and places, but they're all interconnected in some way, which makes the film a great puzzle for Potterheads who love detangling intricate world-building. As we skip through the different time periods, unsavory characters change roles as well, which may indicate some sort of connection of souls through reincarnation. "Cloud Atlas "plays around with metaphysical ideas, which the "Harry Potter" movies also do through concepts like the Mirror of Erised and Horcruxes. And just like the "Harry Potter" films, it has a pretty stacked cast, featuring Tom Hanks and Halle Berry.
"Kubo and the Two Strings"
Looking to watch a film full of magical creatures and their adventures? Potterheads will surely love "Kubo and the Two Strings"' fantastic world set in mythical ancient Japan. In this gorgeous stop-motion movie, a young boy named Kubo, armed with a magical shamisen instrument and protected by a snow monkey and beetle, goes on a quest to retrieve his left eye from his villainous grandfather. As much as it's an epic fantasy film, it's also a movie about family and grief. Kubo knows little about his missing father, and his mother's troubled mental state makes it difficult for her to lucidly recall anything about him.
"Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring"
The magical creatures, deep bonds of friendship, and heroic quests in "The Fellowship of the Ring" will satisfy Harry Potter fans who crave adventure and fantasy. Director Peter Jackson brings to life J.R.R. Tolkien's classic about a ragtag band of heroes from Middle-Earth who venture to Mount Doom to destroy the One Ring so that it won't get into the hands of Dark Lord Sauron. Elijah Wood, Sir Ian McKellan, Cate Blanchett, and Viggo Mortensen are some of the stars in the film's fantastic ensemble cast. And, like Harry Potter, there are plenty of sequels: "The Two Towers" and "The Return of the King." There's also a three-film adaptation of Tolkien's prequel, "The Hobbit," that features "Sherlock"'s Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins, and the Amazon TV series "The Rings of Power."
"The Old Guard"
Adapted from the comics by Greg Rucka, Gina Prince-Bythewood's "The Old Guard" follows a team of immortal mercenaries who can instantaneously heal themselves. For centuries, these warriors have used this ability to help civilians. However, they eventually find themselves as targets by pharmaceutical executive, Steven Merrick (played by Harry Melling, Dudley Dursley himself!), who goes after the group to torture them and capitalize on their powers. Leading the group and the fight against Merrick is Andy (Charlize Theron). Similar to the conflict between Voldemort and the group of young wizards, the tension between Andy's friends and Merric will totally give you "Order of the Phoenix" vibes.
"The Hunger Games"
In this popular young-adult film series, Jennifer Lawrence stars as Katniss Everdeen, a teenager who volunteers as tribute for her district during a dystopian time period where children fight each other to the death for a televised pageant called the Hunger Games. There's not much magic or witchcraft in "The Hunger Games" (or its sequels "Catching Fire," "Mockingjay – Part 1," and "Mockingjay – Part 2"), but its tale of youth defying corrupt authority figures will make brave-hearted "Harry Potter" fans feel a certain kind of way. Plus, the prequel film "The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes" is on the way.
"Star Wars: A New Hope"
Although "Star Wars" is more sci-fi than fantasy, it shares the same general idea as the "Harry Potter" films. The tale of Luke Skywalker is quite similar to the story of Harry Potter, the boy who lived. Like Harry, Luke is an orphan (or so he thinks) on the planet Tatooine, living under the care of his aunt and uncle, who, at the very least, are more loving than the Dursleys. Although there's an ongoing intergalactic space war, Luke's life is somewhat mundane. But all of that changes when Luke discovers the secrets of the Force and the Jedi, prompting him to go on an adventure to stop the sinister Darth Vader.