The Entire It Timeline Fully Explained

Master of horror Stephen King has been terrorizing audiences for almost 50 years. His work is responsible for sparking some of society's most common phobias, none more so than coulrophobia — or the fear of clowns — thanks to Pennywise the Dancing Clown from his novel turned miniseries turned movie, "It." First given the television miniseries treatment in 1990, the legendary Tim Curry scarred a generation with his horrifically cartoonish portrayal of Pennywise. Then, in 2017, Bill Skarsgård ushered in a fresh and frightening Pennywise for the new millennium. While King's novel is told in a nonlinear fashion, both the miniseries and the cinematic "It" saga do their best to tell the story of the Losers Club and their encounters with the malicious, child-eating otherworldly entity in sequential order, first as children and again 27 years later as adults.

As the members of the Losers Club do their best to make sense of the creature tormenting them, they learn that the shapeshifter known as It has a complex history dating back centuries. The miniseries and both films naturally took creative liberties with King's source material, but with the exception of minor details like dates changing to accommodate the films' setting to the 1980s and 2010s compared to the novel's 1950s and 1980s and miniseries' 1960s and 1990s, the chronology of It's reign of terror is mostly the same. 

Put away your paper sailboats and grab your red balloons, because this is the "It" timeline, fully explained.

It before the Losers Club

The shape-shifting entity called It is actually billions of years old, and is classified in the Stephen King multiverse as coming from a tribe of feareaters known as Glamours. It made a home out of Earth but was born in a dimension outside of our own galaxy known as the Macroverse. The true identity of It, as well as its real name, remains unknown and is also sometimes simply referred to as Deadlights. The lore says that no human being could actually process the visualization of It's true form, instead viewing It as a gigantic spider. If we try to comprehend anything further, we end up like poor Beverly Marsh — dead-eyed, and floating in Pennywise's cistern, until rescued with true love's kiss. Thanks, Ben!

Upon arriving, It unleashed a three-year reign of terror causing the disappearance of over three hundred settlers from Derry Township. It then spent centuries shape-shifting and feeding, frequently taking the form of Pennywise the Dancing Clown who possesses the power to both excite and terrify those around him. 

Just about everything bad in Derry can be traced back to the direct or indirect influence of It. John Markson's familial annihilation, the murder of the lumberjacks near Kenduskeag Stream, the axe murders of Claude Heroux, the Kitchener Ironworks explosion, the ambush and murder of the Bradley Gang, the racist attacks on The Black Spot bar, the murder of Dorsey Corcoran by his own father, and of course, the death of little Georgie Denbrough. Each event took place roughly 27 years apart from one another, with an "odd character," aka It, present at just about every scene.

The Losers Club meets It

The main story in King's novel, the miniseries, and the films all begin when Georgie Denbrough's paper boat gets washed away by the rain, and leads the little boy to a sewer drain inhabiting It in the form of Pennywise the Clown. Georgie is skeptical of the clown because he's a stranger but, ultimately, he doesn't seem too afraid. When Pennywise offers him back his paper boat, he reaches his arm in toward the sewer to take it, as Pennywise's mouth extends far beyond expectation, teeth now sharpened and stacked, and kills poor Georgie. No one in Derry questions what really happened to the little boy, leaving his big brother Bill, the de facto leader of the Losers Club, to try and solve the mystery on his own.

The more Bill and fellow Losers Eddie, Richie, Mike, Ben, Stanley, and Beverly pry into the truth of It as children, the more intimately terrifying the entity becomes. After weeks of tyranny, kidnapping, and possession, The Losers venture into the sewers and find It's underground lair. Forced to come face to face with what they each fear the most, the Losers battle with It and force the beast back into hibernation. Beverly, having seen the true face of the Deadlights, knows that this bout with It will not be their last. The Losers make a blood pact to return to Derry as adults if It returns, swearing to defeat the monster once and for all.

The Losers return

27 years later, Mike Hanlon, the sole Loser to stay in Derry as an adult, alerts the crew that It has returned. 

It's important to note that the novel always saw Mike as the town's historian, while the 2017 film gave the role to Ben with Mike taking over the reins as an adult. 

The crew all agree to return to Derry with the exception of Stanley, who is overwhelmed with fear and trauma from what happened to them as children. He dies by suicide before they get the chance to destroy It once and for all. The remaining six meet up at a Chinese restaurant and reminisce with one another before It makes their presence known, beginning a new wave of terror.

Unfortunately, they don't only have to deal with It as an entity, they also have to deal with the possessed Henry Bowers, the now-adult bully who tormented them as children. In the novel, the only way to defeat It is by performing the Ritual of Chüd, a psychic battle of wills requiring the power of imagination. 

Yes, it is as weird as it sounds. 

It's how Bill defeats It the first time in the book, but as an adult, when his imagination is too weak, he is assisted in the ritual by his fellow Losers. The film, however, presents it as an ancient ritual first used by the Indigenous tribes outside of Derry requiring sacrificial tokens that will force It into its true form where it can be trapped in a ceremonial jar. Most of "It: Chapter 2" is focused on each member of the Losers Club tracking down their own sacred items before finally facing off with It after all these years.

The Losers take It down

King's novel involves Pennywise possessing Beverly's abusive husband, Tom, to kidnap Bill's wife Audra as a way to lure the Losers to his lair, but they get the upper hand by successfully completing the Ritual of Chüd, causing a storm that destroys It and the entire town of Derry. The group goes their separate ways and once again begins to lose the memory of what happened to them. "It: Chapter 2" takes a wildly different direction.

The six surviving Losers head to It's lair to perform the ritual, but it fails. Mike knew full well that the Indigenous people also failed at their attempts, but believed it would work for him and his friends because they truly believed it could. It takes on the form of a gigantic clown spider, killing Eddie as the group tries to fight back. When they realize they need to make It feel "small" in order to destroy it, they begin hurling insults at It like those they received as children. It shrinks smaller and smaller before the Losers rip out its heart, demolishing It for good. They escape the now destroyed lair, vowing to stay in touch, and never forgetting all that they've been through ... together.