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The Paranormal Activity Movies In Order, Chronologically And By Release Date

Emily Bader looks into the camera frightened in Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin.
(Image credit: Paramount Players)

Just when you thought you were safe from any demonic apparitions, it looks like it is time to set up cameras in the house again because the Paranormal Activity movies are back with a new chapter being exclusively released on Paramount+. The seventh installment, called Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin, follows a young woman (Emily Bader) documenting her recently discovered heritage and seems to be a diversion from the main storyline explored in the previous films. 

If you wanted to revisit the events of the original six found footage thrillers first, we have listed all of the Paranormal Activity movies in order of where they fall on the timeline below. We shall begin, however, by reviewing their original release dates.

Burned picture from Paranormal Activity

(Image credit: Paramount)

The Paranormal Activity Movies In Order By Release Date

  • Paranormal Activity (2007)
  • Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)
  • Paranormal Activity 3 (2011)
  • Paranormal Activity 4 (2012)
  • Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones (2014)
  • Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (2015)
  • Paranormal Activity: Next Of Kin (2021)

Now, the questions that remain are where can you find the Paranormal Activity movies and how exactly should you watch them? I mean, you could just watch them in order of release, but this is one of those horror movie franchises that likes to jump around through time a lot and mess with your understanding of what is or is not canon. If you are the kind of person who, for example, likes to watch the Star Wars movies in order (starting with the prequels before the original trilogy), allow us to explain where each of the Paranormal Activity movies fall on their main timeline chronologically, without giving too much away.

The Paranormal Activity Movies In Chronological Order

Chloe Csengary and Jessica Tyler Brown Paranormal Activity 3

(Image credit: Paramount)

Paranormal Activity 3

Directed by the Oscar nominated filmmakers behind Catfish, Paranormal Activity 3 is the true first chapter of this story and a favorite among most fans. After a March 2005-set introduction shows Katie (Katie Featherstone) and her younger sister Kristi Rey (Sprague Grayden) at happier times, we cut to some “lost tapes” of young Katie (Chloe Csengary) and young Kristi ’s (Jessica Tyler Brown) childhood during 1988. Capturing the footage is Dennis (Chris Smith), a professional videographer and boyfriend of the girls’ mother, Julie (Lauren Bittner), and the strange things he captures include Kristi’s talks with the imaginary “Tobi,” the usual instance of objects suspended in midair, and some very ominous symbols on the wall. 

Dog and baby from Paranormal Activity 2

(Image credit: Paramount)

Paranormal Activity 2

Eighteen years later (specifically in August 2006), Kristi Rey and her husband, Daniel (Brian Boland), have just welcomed their new child, Hunter, who also happens to be the first male born on her side of the family in a long time. Their home is suddenly plagued by disturbing events, convincing Daniel to set up security cameras and, eventually, take more desperate and immoral measures to save his wife and protect Hunter and his older daughter Ali (Molly Ephraim). The results of his actions lead to a startling conclusion where the events of Paranormal Activity 2 bleed into the events of its predecessor.

The couple on Paranormal Activity.

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Paranormal Activity

Premiering initially in 2007 before receiving a 2009 wide release was Paranormal Activity - the movie that started it all (and one of the best horror movies of the found footage variety) in which Katie’s boyfriend Micah (Micah Sloat) sets up a camera in their bedroom after she suspects their new home is haunted shortly after moving in in September 2006. Of course, this is not the first time she has experienced strange unexplainable phenomena and, as a medium (Marc Fredrichs) explains to them (in at twist that predates Insidious), it is not the house that is haunted… it is Katie. We can thank Steven Spielberg for inspiring writer and director Oren Peli to change the original ending and making what happens next possible.

Kathryn Newton in Paranormal Activity 4

(Image credit: Paramount)

Paranormal Activity 4 

Directors Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost and writer Christopher Landon returned for Paranormal Activity 4, which begins on Halloween in 2011, right before teenager Alex Nelson (soon-to-be Marvel movies actor Kathryn Newton) and her younger brother Wyatt (Aiden Lovekamp) befriend their young next door neighbor, Robbie (Brady Allen). The boy’s presence seems to attract some odd occurrences, including an imaginary friend named “Tobi” and some very ominous symbols appearing in various places. It is when we meet Robbie’s “mother” that these events begin to make sense, until even more startling revelations come to light.

Andrew Jacobs in Andrew Jacobs

(Image credit: Paramount)

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones

The following summer, in June 2012, Jesse Arista (Andrew Jacobs) uses his high school graduation money to buy a camera so he can start a vlog, which turns into a documentation of disturbing mysteries surrounding his apartment building that slowly begin to affect him in horrifying ways. His friends Marisol (Gabrielle Walsh) and Hector (Jorge Diaz) call upon the help of Ali Rey, who explains to them what happened to her family during the events of Paranormal Activity 2. This is just one of multiple, mind-blowing connections to the previous films in the otherwise standalone story of Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, which sees Christopher Landon assume directorial duties.

Portal from Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension

(Image credit: Paramount)

Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension

After a cold open that picks up immediately where Paranormal Activity 3 ended in 1988, Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension flashes forward 25 years as the Fleege family move into a house that turns out to be built at the former site of Katie and Kristi’s destroyed childhood home. There, Ryan Fleege (Chris J. Murray) and his brother, Mike (Dan Gill), find a camera that allows them to see a spiritual entity which they learn is named “Tobi,” and leads them to suspect their residency here was not by accident. The horrors and trippy events that ensue serve as a proper ending to the Paranormal Activity franchise… or so we thought.

Judging from the Paranormal Activity: Next Of Kin trailer, the seventh installment does seem to be set in the present (especially by the production values), but shows no apparent connection to the “Katie” storyline that I can tell. Whether or not one of the most anticipated new horror movies of the year does branch off from its predecessors or goes by the beat of its own drum will be revealed when it begins streaming on Paramount+ Friday, October 29, 2021.

Jason Wiese

Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in just about any article related to Batman.