'Fast & Furious' Cheat Sheet: Untangling the Franchise's Twisted Timeline Prior to 'F8' (Spoilers!)
‘The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift’ (2006): (Left to right) Bow Wow, Lucas Black, Nathalie Kelley, Brian Tee. (Photo: Everett)
Most franchises have a chronology that unfolds in a straight line. The Fast and the Furious series, on the other hand, took a major detour along the way. If you’re planning to start your binge engines and re-watch the seven previous Fast films — or fill a gap in your F&F experience — before movie no. 8, The Fate of the Furious, arrives on April 14, you might want to consult our primer as a reminder how to shuffle the movies around to watch events unfold in chronological order, which is NOT as simple as following its production order. (Warning: Spoilers for all previous ‘Fast & Furious’ films follow.)
[Ed. Note: This story was originally published in 2015; it has been updated to reflect Furious 7.]
The Fast and The Furious (2001) -Los Angeles undercover cop Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) infiltrates a crew of street racers led by Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) suspected in a series of local truck heists.
-After suspecting rival racer Johnny Tran (Rick Yune) is ripping off the trucks, Brian discovers that Dom is definitely the guilty party. Rather then arrest the guy who’s become his friend, he hands over the keys to his own car, and they go their separate ways: Brian to Miami and Dom to Baja.
2 Fast 2 Furious (2003) -The short film, Turbo-Charged Prelude, depicts Brian’s journey to Florida’s sun-dappled party town, where he hooks up with street-race organizer Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges), races under the codename Bullet — and becomes one of America’s Most Wanted due to the whole “letting Dom go” thing.
-Caught by the U.S. Customs Service, Brian is forced to go back undercover — in partnership with his childhood buddy Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) — to help deep-cover Customs agent Monica Fuentes (Eva Mendes) bring down drug kingpin Carter Verone (Cole Hauser).
-Brian and Roman successfully capture Carter, get their records expunged, and line their own pockets with spare drug money. O’Conner suggests he’s ready to put down roots in Miami, with Pearce serving as the Riggs to his Murtaugh.
Fast & Furious (2009) -The short Los Bandoleros flash-forwards five years and finds Dom in the Dominican Republic, planning a heist with a new crew, including Han (Sung Kang), Leo (Tego Calderon), and Rico (Don Omar). Letty turns up, having followed his trail from Mexico, and signs up for the fuel-stealing operation that’s seen at the beginning of Fast & Furious. They also tie the knot in an off-screen ceremony, though we won’t know about that for three more movies.
-Han arrives in D.R. direct from L.A., where he made his first appearance in director Justin Lin‘s breakout 2002 crime movie, Better Luck Tomorrow. That earlier film isn’t directly connected to the Fast & Furious franchise, but both Lin and Kang have acknowledged over the years that it’s the same Han.
-Increased police vigilance during their fuel-tank raid forces Dom to ditch his girlfriend-wife and go on the lam once more. Three months later, Dom is in Panama City, where Mia calls him with the news Letty’s been murdered. He returns stateside to observe her funeral from a distance. Meanwhile, Brian — who has signed up with the FBI rather than continue to play Lethal Weapon with Roman — is on the trail of yet another drug runner…one who holds the key to figuring out who killed Letty.
-Brian and Dom reunite to attack the drug lord head-on, and this time Dom surrenders to the authorities rather than flee. Sentenced to 25 years-to-life, Dom is en route to the big house when Brian and Mia zoom by and initiate a prison-bus break.
Fast Five (2011) -Once again fugitives from justice, Dom, Brian, and Mia head off to Rio de Janeiro where they reconnect with original Fast & Furious crew member, Vince (Matt Schulze). Their subsequent participation in a great train robbery puts Diplomatic Security Service agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Brazilian cop Elena Neves (Elsa Pataky) on the trio’s trail.
-Meanwhile, using information they’ve gathered from a computer chip outlining the criminal empire of Hernan Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida), Dom and Brian plot a heist to score one last big payday. That heist requires the participation of all their buddies, including Han, Tej, Roman, Leo, Rico, and Gisele (Gal Gadot), who converge on Rio to execute an Ocean’s Eleven-style scheme.
-Flush with cash, Brian and his now-pregnant girlfriend Mia head off to a tropical paradise where Dom drops by for a visit with his new lover, Elena. (Han and Gisele, meanwhile, take their partnership to the next level in Europe.) But back in the U.S., Customs agent Fuentes turns up at Hobbs’ office with evidence Letty isn’t as dead as everyone assumed.
Fast & Furious 6 (2013) -Hobbs pulls Dom and the gang out of their post-Rio retirement to employ their special set of skills to stop the reign of terror propagated by a rogue British Special Forces officer, Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), whose ranks of vehicular soldiers include an amnesia-stricken Letty.
-The group stops Shaw, but Gisele is killed. Dom, now reunited with Letty, and Brian and Mia (with their infant son Jack) return to America and settle down in their old L.A. neighborhood for the first time since the original Fast and the Furious. Recognizing that three’s a crowd, Elena blesses the Dom/Letty reunion and decamps for parts unknown.
-Meanwhile, a grieving Han heads to Tokyo, where he’s in mid-chase when his ride is viciously T-boned by an oncoming car driven by…Shaw’s brother (Jason Statham), a sudden callback to…
The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006) -Sean (Lucas Black), a rebellious Arizona teenager and gearhead, is sent to Tokyo to live with his military father after getting involved in one joyride too many. He soon falls into the city’s “drift racing” scene, learning the ropes of drifting from Dom’s old pal, Han.
-Midway through the movie, Han is killed in the aforementioned car chase that we see at the end of Fast & Furious 6. The identity of the other driver wasn’t revealed in this film, but there’s no doubt that Han is pushing up daisies after his car explodes.
-As the film ends, Sean is preparing to prove his drifting skills against a new challenger: Dom. The two pay homage to their fallen mutual friend and gun their engines…racing off, we learn in retrospect, to Furious 7, nine years after this film’s release.
Furious 7 (2015) -Sure enough, Dom is in Tokyo to transport Han’s remains back to Los Angeles for burial, while it’s revealed that Owen Shaw isn’t dead, but lies comatose in a prison hospital. Meanwhile, Owen’s brother Deckard (Statham) sets his sights on Dom’s team in a grand revenge plan that sidelines Hobbs and blows up the Toretto household.
-Eager for his own revenge, Dom strikes a bargain with covert ops bigwig Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) to steal the God’s Eye — a computer program that gives its user virtually unlimited spying power — in exchange for a shot at Deckard Shaw. The trail to the God’s Eye goes through hacker extraordinaire Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), who becomes the team’s latest accomplice…and the object of Tej and Roman’s competing affections.
-Following a knock-down, drag-out fight on the streets of L.A., Deckard is sent to a top-secret underground prison. Letty shakes the final strands of amnesiac cobwebbing from her brain and is flooded with memories from their wedding night, when she and Dom exchanged a necklace rather than rings. They embark on their years-delayed honeymoon, while Brian and Mia head off into well-deserved retirement to raise their baby boy.
‘The Fate Of The Furious’ Featurette: Zombie Cars: