The next installment in The Fast and Furious franchise, Furious 9, is due out on May 28, making it a full 20 years since the original film debuted. Yes, the street-racing, vehicle-heisting, world-saving team — ahem, family — of Dominic Toretto, Brian O’Conner, Letty, and a small army of supporting characters has been around for two decades.
The massive franchise is one of the highest-grossing of all time, having earned more than $5 billion combined. It now includes nine films, including the spin-off Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw, two supporting short films, as well as a spin-off film in the works, and a spin-off TV show for Netflix called Spy Racers. Dwayne Johnson, who plays Luke Hobbs in the franchise, has revealed that even Hobbs and Shaw has its own sequel in the works, potentially making a franchise within the franchise.
Put simply, The Fast and Furious franchise is huge. If you want to catch up on everything that’s happened in this saga, you may need a little guidance because, like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you can’t just watch the movies based on when they came out. Below, we’ve broken down the best order to watch the Fast and Furious movies to follow the storyline in the way it was intended. And note, while we’re pretty sure you can slide Furious 9 on at the end of this list, this franchise has never shied away from a surprise.
Warning: Some spoilers ahead.
The one that started it all. If you’ve only seen some of the more recent films in the franchise, 2001’s Fast and Furious will be almost shocking in its restraint. The first film follows undercover LAPD officer Brian O’Conner (the late Paul Walker) as he infiltrates notorious street racer and gang leader Dominic Toretto’s (Vin Diesel) crew to investigate grand theft auto. Ultimately, Brian realizes he has more in common with Dom than he expected and falls in love with Dom’s sister, Mia, to boot. Rather than turn Dom over, Brian helps him escape, setting the stage for an enduring partnership.
The first short film in the franchise was included in the special edition DVD set of 2003’s 2 Fast 2 Furious. It’s not essential viewing — it’s buried in the special features of a DVD — but it provides a nice little link between the first and second films and shows just how forward-thinking this franchise really was. Marvel’s post-credits scenes receive the hype, but The Fast and Furious franchise was finding creative ways to further the story half a decade earlier.
In the six-minute film, Brian is on the run after helping Dom escape. He flees LA and begins winning street races across the U.S. to earn money and notoriety while the FBI launches a national manhunt for him. In the end, Brian reaches Miami, where 2 Fast 2 Furious takes place.
In Miami, Brian continues street racing to make a living. The film introduces us to mechanic Tej Parker (Ludacris) and starts making strides toward some of the crazy car modifications that the franchise is known for.
After failing to bring Brian in, his former boss, FBI Agent Bilkins (Thom Barry), cuts a deal with Brian to return to undercover work to take down drug lord Carter Verone (Cole Hauser). Brian teams up with childhood friend Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) and together they bring down Verone, both earning clean records in the process.
The second short film in The Fast and Furious franchise is 20 minutes long and aims to bridge the third film in the franchise — Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift — and Fast and Furious 4.
Los Bandoleros marks the return of Dom Toretto, now a fugitive hiding out in the Dominican Republic. In the film, Dom lays his plans to steal oil and break his friend Tego Leo (Tego Calderon) out of prison. It also sheds some important light on Dom and Letty’s (Michelle Rodriguez) relationship — one of the most important in the franchise.
Shockingly, it’s not until 2009’s Fast and Furious 4 that Dom Toretto and Brian O’Conner — the bromance at the crux of the franchise — finally reunite. Dom’s been on the run for five years and, in that time, has assembled a heist crew of Letty, Tego Leo, Rico Santos (Don Omar), Cara Mirtha (Mirtha Michelle), and Han Lue (Sung Kang).
Several months later, Dom finds out Letty has been killed so he returns to the U.S. for her funeral and to find out what happened. Meanwhile, Brian, now an FBI agent, is trying to track down a drug lord called Arturo Braga (John Ortiz), who it turns out, Letty was working undercover for while trying to clear Dom’s record when she died (or so the film leads you to believe). With the help of Braga’s liaison Gisele (Gal Gadot), Dom and Brian manage to take down Braga. However, rather than show gratitude, the FBI hits Dom with a 25-year prison sentence.
The final scene shows Brian, Mia, Leo, and Santos intercepting the bus taking Dom to prison.
Fast Five is the film that ushers The Fast and Furious franchise into a new decade and new levels of death-defying stunts and high-octane action. To wit: This is the one where they get into a high-speed chase with a fortified train.
Dom, Brian, and Mia are on the run in Rio de Janeiro after breaking Dom out of the prison bus in the previous film. Now, the FBI sends top agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) to bring the crew back to the U.S. Aware of Hobbs’ arrival, Dom and Brian decide to rob crime lord Hernan Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida) to support their life on the run.
After they successfully steal hundreds of millions of dollars and help Hobbs and Brazilian officer Elena Neves (Elsa Pataky) bring this violent crime lord to justice, Hobbs compromises by giving Dom and Brian a 24-hour head start before he resumes the hunt.
The film ends with a pregnant Mia, Brian, Dom, and Elena all on a beach together. Mid-credits, Hobbs appears with a recent picture of Letty, who is very much alive without Dom’s knowledge.
Fast and Furious 6 begins with all the members of the Brazil heist finally living happily and in peace. Brian and Mia have a son, Dom and Elena are together, Hans and Gisele are together, and Roman and Tej are living it up with more wealth than they could have ever imagined. Luke Hobbs has even backed off.
That is until he encounters a former special ops agent gone rogue, Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), who is working with Letty. Shocked that his wife is still alive, Dom and his crew agree to help in exchange for complete exoneration.
The team succeeds in derailing Shaw from his master plan but not without a price. Gisele sacrifices herself to save Han, and in the mid-credits scene, we see Han in a high-speed car chase in Tokyo. Suddenly, his car is obliterated by another one. Dom gets a phone call from the driver, Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), who warns “You don’t know me, but you’re about to.”
This is where things get a little dicey. Tokyo Drift follows high school student Sean Boswell (Lucas Black) who moves to Tokyo to avoid a prison sentence for street racing in the U.S. In Tokyo, Sean discovers drift racing and meets Han, whom he begins to work and live with.
Together, they rob the cruel, super-rich leader of the drift racing underworld, the Drift King, and wind up in a chase. Just as Han gets away, his car is struck by another, exploding instantly and killing Han. This is the same crash that finally makes sense after Fast & Furious 6.
If Fast Five took it up a notch, Furious 7 breaks the adrenaline meter. This is the one where they drop cars out of a plane directly into a high-speed chase. This is also the film that elevates the franchise into dealing with more global existential stakes.
Furious 7 introduces us to Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw, a rogue special forces assassin on a mission to avenge his brother Owen after Dom Toretto put him in a coma. Working with a covert ops team led by Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell), Dom and his team track Shaw while trying to obtain a computer program called God’s Eye that can be used to locate any person in the world in less than four minutes.
After some intense action and one-on-one fights, Luke Hobbs arrives to save the day, putting Shaw in prison and sending Dom’s team back to the beach.
Unfortunately, Furious 7 is Paul Walker’s final film as he died in a real car crash midway through production. The film handles his passing beautifully, giving him, Mia, and their son a touching, peaceful farewell from the franchise.
The most recent film in the primary Fast and Furious franchise pits Dom against his own team. After being coerced into working for cyberterrorist Cipher (Charlize Theron), Dom goes rogue while working on a mission led by Hobbs. The betrayal leads to Hobbs winding up in the same prison as Deckard Shaw. Covert ops leader Mr. Nobody recruits them together to hunt down Dom and Cipher.
Throughout the film, we realize that Dom has a son with ex-girlfriend Elena that he never knew about and Cipher is using him and Elena as leverage against Dom. Proving she is the real deal, Cipher kills Elena to secure Dom’s cooperation, although Deckard and Owen Shaw come through in the clutch to save Dom’s son.
In a resolving act, Shaw delivers Dom’s son safely to Dom, ending the rift between Dom, Shaw, and Hobbs.
The first (but certainly not only) spinoff in the Fast and Furious franchise stars two of its most lovable, most poorly matched stars: Luke Hobbs and Deckard Shaw. While Hobbs and Shaw may loathe one another, Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham’s chemistry and action star pedigree make for a ton of high-octane fun.
Forced to team up against Brixton Lore (Idris Elba), a cyber-genetically enhanced terrorist working for a shadow organization that plans to release a deadly virus that would wipe out half the planet, Hobbs and Shaw must put aside their differences to accomplish the mission. They’ll have help from a new secret agent, too, with a connection to Shaw’s past.
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