How to watch ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ movies in order
The magical translation of Harry Potter from book to screen didn’t go unnoticed in Hollywood. Production companies snapped up rights to children and YA books that held the promise of mega-media franchises.
But it’s not so easy to capture that box office magic, no matter how well-loved or widely read the source material. For every Twilight, there’s The Golden Compass.
The past 20 years have seen more YA franchises fail than succeed. Attempts like Lemony Snicket’s A Series Of Unfortunate Events, the Alex Rider series, and His Dark Materials have found more luck on the small screen. Others are just too big to abandon.
The movie adaptations of The Chronicles of Narnia weren’t the worst attempts at translating page-turning magic to live-action success. The franchise returned a healthy $1.5 billion over three films. The final film, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, even knocked Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 from the top spot at the box office in its first week of release.
But then the franchise stalled five years after the first release, with four books unfilmed. Bringing Narnia to the screen proved to be a challenge. But while the sequence remains incomplete, it’s worth catching up with the spectacular adaptations as it seems very possible that, true to the books, the magical land will reappear soon.
The author, the books, and the adaptations
Written by C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia series has a good claim to be the definitive YA fantasy book series. Over seven volumes, it established the world of Narnia, a magical land packed with Ice Queens, talking animals, magical creatures, and ancient prophecies that led to epic battles.
The books have been translated into 47 languages and sold over 100 million copies. It’s no wonder that cartoon and TV adaptations led to movies. But when the series was published between 1950 and 1956, there was no such thing as a YA market. In creating a series that appealed to children and adults, Lewis drew on a broad range of influences.
The academic author drew inspiration from his biography (boarding schools and the wartime evacuation of his goddaughter from London) and wider aspects of mythology and religion. He fused Celtic literature and classical folklore with elements of Christianity and astrology across the series. It’s a world where fauns and giants (almost) rub shoulders with talking beavers and Father Christmas. It was too much for J. R. R. Tolkien — the master of building deep fantasy mythology — who apparently wasn’t keen on the random mix of legends. However, he and his friend Lewis enjoyed poking fun at each other’s works.
Along with its broad influences, the chronology of the book sequence posed a challenge for a movie franchise. Only five of the seven books have a straightforward narrative. The correct placement of The Magician’s Nephew and The Horse and His Boy has been subject to debate for over 60 years. It didn’t help that the series wasn’t published in the order it was written. It took a decade for Lewis’ first book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, to be published after he started work on it. The Magician’s Nephew, published second from last, was the final installment to be written. Placed at the end, that creates a cycle through the character of Professor Digory Kirke, but the sequence is generally considered to close with The Last Battle.
The overarching timeline of the Narnia books is a strength. The seven slight novels span the entire history of Narnia, from creation to destruction. It’s relatable as in all but one of the books (The Horse and His Boy), we join children on a journey from our world to that fantasy land. It’s tied us into the fate of Narnia for decades and changed the reputation of wardrobes forever.
How to watch the Narnia movies in order
There have been three live-action movie adaptations of The Chronicles of Narnia. They follow the running order of the novels, linked by the Pevensie siblings.
- The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005)
- The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008)
- The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010)
1. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
In the first of the sequence, the four Pevensie siblings step through a wardrobe into the magical world of Narnia. In that extraordinary land, they join the struggle against the ice-cold and heartless grip of the White Witch. Can the four arrivals help the armies of Aslan the Lion reclaim the land from eternal winter? The film starred Liam Neeson as Aslan, Tilda Swinton as the White Witch, and James McAvoy as the faun Mr. Tumnus.
2. Prince Caspian
In Narnia time, it’s over a millennium since the Pevensies battled the White Witch, but it’s only a year for the siblings, who find themselves back in the magical land. This time, they help Prince Caspian seize the throne from his evil uncle. Ben Barnes joined the film as Prince Caspian, alongside Peter Dinklage as Trumpkin.
3. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
In the third movie, World War II is still raging as the two younger Pevensie children arrive in Narnia once again, this time with their obnoxious cousin Eustace. They join Caspain three years after he ascended to the throne on a sea quest to reverse his uncle’s rule and rescue the lost Lords of Narnia. Will Poulter joined the cast as Eustace Scrubb, and Simon Pegg took on vocal duties for the swashbuckling mouse Reepicheep.
With three adventures of Narnia reaching movie theaters, four volumes remain. But the story stopped in 2010…
What’s next for Narnia?
Plans to adapt the fourth book in the sequence, The Silver Chair, stalled after The Voyage of the Dawn Treader’s release. Walden Media — which had produced the three movies — lost the movie rights in 2011. For the next half-decade, various plans to bring The Silver Chair to the screen struggled before The C. S. Lewis Company announced a game-changing deal in 2018.
While the franchise was already looking at a creative reboot following a long gap, the new deal promised a multimedia approach. Netflix took the rights, aiming to establish a new film and TV universe around the novels. It’s all been quiet for the past few years, although signs are that plans for this new-look franchise are still underway. COVID-19 is likely responsible for the delayed project, but if the books teach us anything, Aslan and Narnia will rise again.
Even if it’s when we least expect it, Narnia is likely to reappear in the future.