The film was released in theatres in the United Kingdom and the United States on 15 November 2002. It became a critical and commercial success, grossing $879 million at the box office worldwide. It was the second highest grossing film of 2002 behind The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. It was nominated for many awards including the BAFTA Award for Best Production Design, Best Sound, and Best Special Visual Effects. It was followed by six sequels, beginning with Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in 2004 and ending with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2 in 2011, nearly ten years after the first film's release.
Harry Potter spends the summer with The Dursleys without receiving letters from his Hogwarts friends. Harry is desperate to return to Hogwarts as soon as possible because the Dursleys have been treating him very badly ever since he got home from his first term. In his room, Harry meets Dobby, a house-elf, who warns Harry bad things will happen if he returns to Hogwarts, and reveals he intercepted his friends' letters. The Dursleys lock Harry up, but Ron, Fred and George Weasley rescue him in their father's flying car, a Ford Anglia.
While purchasing school supplies, Harry and the Weasley family encounter Rubeus Hagrid and Hermione Granger, and they attend a book-signing by celebrity wizard Gilderoy Lockhart, who announces he will be the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher. Harry also encounters Draco Malfoy and his father Lucius, who slips a book in Ginny Weasley's belongings. When Harry and Ron are blocked from entering Platform Nine and Three-Quarters (later revealed to be Dobby's doing), they fly to Hogwarts in Ron's father's car, crashing into the Whomping Willow upon arrival. Ron's wand is damaged, and the car ejects them out before driving off. Both boys narrowly avoid expulsion when Professor McGonagall gives them detention.
While serving detention with Lockhart, Harry hears strange voices and later finds caretaker Argus Filch's cat, Mrs. Norris, petrified, along with a message written in blood announcing the "Chamber of Secrets has been opened, Enemies of the Heir, beware". McGonagall explains that one of Hogwarts' founders, Salazar Slytherin, supposedly constructed a secret Chamber and placed inside it a monster that only his Heir can control, to purge the school of impure-blooded wizards and witches. More attacks occur over the course of the year. Harry and Ron suspect Malfoy is the Heir, so Hermione suggests they question him while disguised using polyjuice potion. Their makeshift laboratory leads to a disused bathroom haunted by a ghost, Moaning Myrtle.
When Harry communicates with a snake (something Salazar Slytherin could do), the school suspects him as the Heir. On Christmas Day, Harry and Ron learn that Malfoy is not the Heir, but he mentions that a girl died when the Chamber was last opened fifty years ago. Harry finds an enchanted diary, owned by a former student named Tom Marvolo Riddle, which shows him a flashback to fifty years before, where Riddle framed Hagrid, then a student, of opening the Chamber, and accused his giant pet spider, Aragog as its resident monster. When the diary disappears and Hermione is petrified, Harry and Ron question Hagrid. Professor Dumbledore, Cornelius Fudge, and Lucius Malfoy come to take Hagrid to Azkaban, but he discreetly tells the boys to "follow the spiders". Lucius has Dumbledore suspended. In the Forbidden Forest, Harry and Ron find a now aging Aragog who reveals Hagrid's innocence and that the dead girl was found in a bathroom, before giving a small clue of the Chamber's resident monster. Aragog then sets his colony of Acromantula on the boys, but the now-wild Ford Anglia saves them.
A book page in Hermione's hand identifies the monster as a basilisk, a giant serpent that instantly kills those that make direct eye contact with it; the petrified victims only saw it indirectly. The school staff learn that Ginny was taken into the Chamber, and convince Lockhart to save her. Harry and Ron find Lockhart, exposed as a fraud, planning to flee; knowing Myrtle was the girl the Basilisk killed, they take him to her bathroom and find the Chamber's entrance. Once inside, Lockhart uses Ron's damaged wand against them, but it backfires, wiping his memory, and causes a cave-in.
Harry enters the Chamber alone and finds Ginny unconscious, guarded by Tom Riddle. Riddle reveals that he used the diary to manipulate Ginny and reopen the Chamber. When Riddle creates the anagram for his future new identity, "I am Lord Voldemort" from his full name, Harry realises that Riddle himself is Slytherin's heir and Voldemort was only a pseudonym. After Harry expresses support for Dumbledore, Dumbledore's Fawkes flies in with the Sorting Hat, and Riddle summons the Basilisk. Fawkes blinds the Basilisk, and the Sorting Hat eventually produces a sword with which Harry battles and slays the Basilisk, but he is poisoned by its fangs.
Harry defeats Riddle and revives Ginny by stabbing the diary with a basilisk fang. Fawkes's tears heal him, and he returns to Hogwarts with his friends and a baffled Lockhart. Dumbledore, reinstated as headmaster, praises them and orders for Hagrid's release. Dumbledore shows Harry that the sword he wielded was Godric Gryffindor's own sword, and says he is different from Voldemort, because he chose Gryffindor House instead of Slytherin House. Harry accuses Lucius, Dobby's master, of putting the diary in Ginny's cauldron and tricks him into freeing Dobby. The Basilisk's victims are healed, Hermione reunites with Harry and Ron, and Hagrid returns. In a post-credits scene, Lockhart has published a new autobiography, "Who Am I?".Daniel Radcliffe as Harry James Potter, a 12-year-old British wizard famous for surviving his parents' murder at the hands of the evil wizard Lord Voldemort as an infant, who now enters his second year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley, Harry's best male friend at Hogwarts and a younger member of the Weasley wizarding family.
Emma Watson as Hermione Granger, Harry's precocious Muggle-born best friend.
David Bradley as Argus Filch, the caretaker of Hogwarts.
Kenneth Branagh as Gilderoy Lockhart, a celebrity author and the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts. Hugh Grant is said to have been the first choice for the role but due to reported scheduling conflicts he was unable to play the character. On 25 October 2001, Branagh was selected as Grant's replacement.
John Cleese as Nearly Headless Nick, the ghost patron of Gryffindor House.
Robbie Coltrane as Rubeus Hagrid, the half-giant gamekeeper at Hogwarts. Martin Bayfield portrays a young Hagrid.
Christian Coulson as Tom Marvolo Riddle, a former Hogwarts student in Slytherin House who is revealed to be Voldemort's birth name and is Salazar Slytherin's last remaining descendant.
Warwick Davis as Filius Flitwick, the Charms teacher at Hogwarts and head of Ravenclaw.
Julian Glover as Aragog, Hagrid's giant pet spider
Frank Welker as the Basilisk, the giant snake in the Chamber of Secrets.
Richard Griffiths as Vernon Dursley, Harry's abusive Muggle (non-magical) uncle, who despises wizards and now works as a drill company director.
Richard Harris as Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts and one of the greatest wizards of the age. Harris died shortly before the film was released.
Jason Isaacs as Lucius Malfoy, a former Hogwarts pupil of Slytherin House now working as a school governor at Hogwarts and is the father of Draco Malfoy.
Miriam Margolyes as Professor Sprout, the Herbology teacher.
Alan Rickman as Severus Snape, the Potions teacher at Hogwarts and head of Slytherin.
Fiona Shaw as Petunia Dursley, Harry's Muggle aunt.
Maggie Smith as Minerva McGonagall, the Transfiguration teacher at Hogwarts and head of Gryffindor.
Julie Walters as Molly Weasley, the Weasley matriarch and a mother figure to Harry.
Toby Jones voices Dobby, a house elf who warns Harry not to return to Hogwarts; Gemma Jones portrays Madam Pomfrey, the nurse of the Hospital Wing. Robert Hardy portrays Cornelius Fudge, the Minister for Magic. Mark Williams appears as Ron's father Arthur Weasley, who works with the Ministry of Magic; James and Oliver Phelps appear as Fred and George Weasley, Ron's older twin brothers; Bonnie Wright portrays Ginny Weasley, Ron's younger sister; Chris Rankin portrays Percy Weasley, Ron's older Prefect brother. Tom Felton portrays Draco Malfoy, the trio's nemesis, Sean Biggerstaff portrays Oliver Wood, captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team, Matthew Lewis, Devon Murray, Alfred Enoch and Hugh Mitchell portray Neville Longbottom, Seamus Finnigan, Dean Thomas and Colin Creevey, various students of the Gryffindor House, respectively. Harry Melling portrays Dudley Dursley, Harry's Muggle cousin.
Although Chris Columbus returned to direct, Frank Oz said in an interview with The A.V. Club that he was asked to direct this film but he had no interest on it.
Production designer Stuart Craig returned for the sequel to design new elements previously not seen in the first film. These included the Burrow (the Weasley's house), Dumbledore's office (which houses the Sorting Hat, The Sword of Gryffindor and Dumbledore's desk), Borgin and Burkes, and the Chamber of Secrets. Mr. Weasley's flying car was created from a 1962 Ford Anglia 105E.
Production for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets began on 19 November 2001, just three days after the wide release of the first film. The first three weeks of shooting consisted mostly of second-unit work on special effects, primarily the flying car scene. First-unit photography then began in Surrey, England, at Number Four Privet Drive, Little Whinging, for scenes taking place at the Dursleys' home. Filming continued on location at the Isle of Man and in several places in Great Britain; Leavesden Film Studios in London made several scenes for Hogwarts. Other locations were shot in England, including a Hogwarts Express set in King's Cross railway station Platform 9¾. The famous cloisters of England's Gloucester Cathedral were used as the setting for Hogwarts School.
Originally, a scene in which Lucius Malfoy is confronted in Dumbledore's office ended sooner but the final exchange was ad-libbed. Jason Isaacs felt his character would've said something after being humiliated, and Columbus asked him to try. According to Isaacs, he improvised, "Let us hope Mr.Potter will always be around to save the day." Isaacs was impressed by Daniel Radcliffe's maturation as an actor based on his own improvised line, "Don't worry. I will be."
University of Cambridge linguistics professor Francis Nolan was hired to construct the Parseltongue language for the scenes where Harry Potter was talking to snakes.
Principal photography concluded in the summer of 2002, while the film spent until early October in post-production. In a change of cinematography from the first instalment, director Chris Columbus opted to handheld cameras for Chamber of Secrets to allow more freedom in movement.
Due to the events that take place in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the film's sound effects were much more expansive than in the previous instalment. Sound designer and co-supervising sound editor Randy Thom returned for the sequel using Pro Tools to complete the job, which included initial conceptions done at Skywalker Sound in California and primary work done at Shepperton Studios in England.
John Williams, who composed the previous film's score, returned to score Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Scoring the film proved to be a difficult task. Williams had just completed scoring Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones and Minority Report when work was to begin on Catch Me If You Can. Because of this, William Ross was brought in to arrange themes from the Philosopher's Stone into the new material that Williams was composing whenever he had the chance. The soundtrack was released on 12 November 2002.
Footage for the film began appearing online in the summer of 2002, with a teaser trailer debuting in cinemas with the release of Scooby-Doo. A video game based on the film was released in early November 2002 by Electronic Arts for several consoles, including GameCube, PlayStation 2, and Xbox. The film also continued the merchandising success set by its predecessor, with the reports of shortages on Lego's Chamber of Secrets tie-ins.
The film premiered in the UK on 3 November 2002 and in the United States and Canada on 14 November 2002 before its wide release on 15 November, one year after the Philosopher's Stone.
The film was originally released in the UK, US and Canada on 11 April 2003 on both VHS tape and in a two-disc special edition DVD digipack, which included extended and deleted scenes and interviews. On 11 December 2007, the film's Blu-ray version was released. An Ultimate Edition of the film was released on 8 December 2009, featuring new footage, TV spots, an extended version of the film with deleted scenes edited in, and a feature-length special Creating the World of Harry Potter Part 2: Characters. The film's extended version has a running time of about 174 minutes, which has previously been shown during certain television airings.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets broke multiple records upon its opening. In the US and Canada, the film opened to an $88.4 million opening weekend at 3,682 cinemas, the third largest opening at the time, behind Spider-Man and Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. It was also No. 1 at the box office for two non-consecutive weekends. In the United Kingdom, the film broke all opening records that were previously held by The Philosopher's Stone. It made £18.9 million during its opening including previews and £10.9 million excluding previews. It went on to make £54.8 million in the UK; at the time, the fifth biggest tally of all time in the region.
The film made a total of $879 million worldwide, which made it the fifth highest-grossing film ever at the time. It was 2002's second highest-grossing film worldwide behind The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and the fourth highest-grossing film in the US and Canada that year with $262 million behind Spider-Man, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, and Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones. However, it was the year's number one film at the non-American box office, making $617 million compared to The Two Towers' $584.5 million.
On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 82% based on 230 reviews, with an average rating of 7.3/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Though perhaps more enchanting for younger audiences, Chamber of Secrets is nevertheless both darker and livelier than its predecessor, expanding and improving upon the first film's universe." On Metacritic the film has a score of 63 out of 100, based on 35 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews" (the lowest rated film of the series on the site). Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A+" on an A+ to F scale, making it the only Harry Potter film to receive such a score.
Roger Ebert called The Chamber of Secrets "a phenomenal film" and gave the film 4 out of 4 stars, especially praising the set design. Entertainment Weekly commended the film for being better and darker than its predecessor: "And among the things this Harry Potter does very well indeed is deepen the darker, more frightening atmosphere for audiences. This is as it should be: Harry's story is supposed to get darker". Richard Roeper praised the directing and the film's faithfulness to the book, saying: "Chris Columbus, the director, does a real wonderful job of being faithful to the story but also taking it into a cinematic era". Variety also said the film was excessively long, but praised it for being darker and more dramatic, saying that its confidence and intermittent flair to give it a life of its own apart from the books was something The Philosopher's Stone never achieved. A. O. Scott from The New York Times said: "instead of feeling stirred you may feel battered and worn down, but not, in the end, too terribly disappointed".
Peter Travers from Rolling Stone condemned the film for being over-long and too faithful to the book: "Once again, director Chris Columbus takes a hat-in-hand approach to Rowling that stifles creativity and allows the film to drag on for nearly three hours". Kenneth Turan from the Los Angeles Times called the film a cliché which is "deja vu all over again, it's likely that whatever you thought of the first production – pro or con – you'll likely think of this one".
The film was nominated for three BAFTA Awards. These were for Best Production Design, Sound, and Achievement in Visual Effects. The film was also nominated for six Saturn Awards in 2003 and in 2004 for its DVD release.