You Can Watch Any Movie You Want

As Long As It's Fast And Furious

When it comes to watching the Fast & Furious series of movies, it's not as simple as 1, 2, 3. The chronology of events is different from the order of the theatrical release dates. This can be confusing to the casual fan, since it makes it seem like certain characters are effectively immortal, somehow cheating death or reliving the same death scene repeatedly. But this article sets down the definitive chronological order of events in these fan-favorite racing movies, taking into account the theatrical films, as well as the short films that have been released alongside them.

The Fast And The Furious

Point Break With Pistons

First of all, the Fast & Furious series begins with the first film that was released, The Fast and the Furious (released in theaters on June 22, 2001). Nothing confusing so far, right? In this film, you meet the central protagonists for almost every film, Brian O'Connor (Paul Walker) and Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), as well as the friends, family and coworkers that surround them (keep that word family in mind, it is a huge repeated theme throughout each movie). 

A very quotable movie ("You can have any beer you want, as long as it's a Corona"), The Fast and the Furious is an enjoyable gangster and street-racing action film in its own right. If you watch it today, it is also interesting to see just how much things can change in a decade. For one thing, one of the main plot points of this movie is a gang that is boosting Avex DVD players and CRT televisions. Now, many people would probably pay you to take those items off their hands. 

This first film works as a stand-alone piece, but there are also some unresolved situations among the characters here that are thankfully covered in greater detail as the series progresses. Be sure to stick around until after the end credits, as there is a short post-credits scene with Diesel.

Turbo-Charged Prelude

O'Connor Travels From L.A. to Miami

This is a short (7 minute) film released on June 3, 2003, that wordlessly explains how O'Connor got from Los Angeles (the setting of the first film) to Miami (the setting of the next film). The first two theatrical films can seem really disconnected if you do not take the time to check out Turbo-Charged Prelude. It is available to view online or as a special feature on the Blu-Ray or DVD for 2 Fast 2 Furious.

2 Fast 2 Furious

Bienvenido A Miami

Brian O'Connor is still the protagonist of this entry, directed by John Singleton. However, Toretto and his crew are completely absent from the proceedings, replaced with friends from O'Connor's past, Roman Pierce (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej Parker (Chris "Ludacris" Bridges), who will return for future films in the FF universe. 2 Fast, released on June 6, 2003, is set completely in Miami, and while it still continues the themes of family, false identity, and fast cars, it does so in a way that is not quite as serious as the first film. This is in large part due to the onscreen antics of Gibson, whose Roman character frequently steals the scenes he is in with bombastic humor. Gibson and Walker also have really compelling brotherly chemistry for the whole movie, but this comes at the expense of a clear narrative regarding the romantic subplot between O'Connor and Agent Monica Fuentes (Eva Mendes).

It is recommended that you watch the whole thing, but if you only have 60 seconds, just watch the following video:

Los Bandoleros

Vin Diesel's "Mean Streets"

With this short film, directed by star Vin Diesel, and released on July 28, 2009, we see what Dominic Toretto has been up to since the end of the first movie. Toretto and crew, including new recruit Han Seoul-Oh (cool name) are boosting gas tankers in Dominican Republic, until Dom has to leave, eventually finding his way back to America. This short is available as a special feature on the Blu-Ray and DVD release of the next film, Fast & Furious.

Vin Diesel and Paul Walker in "The Fast and the Furious"
Credit: Universal Pictures

Fast & Furious

Still The Definite Article, Even Without The Definite Articles

Released on April 3, 2009, this is the fourth theatrical film in the series, but the third that you should watch in chronological order. For people who know very little about this film franchise, the title for this entry is probably incredibly confusing. It is the same as the first movie, except now the definite articles "The" have been removed and an ampersand takes the place of "and." This sort of reductive titling was popular around this time in Hollywood. Consider the examples of Rocky Balboa (the sixth in the series) and Rambo (the fourth in its series).

Anyway, Fast & Furious came to theaters three years after 2006's The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift, but Tokyo Drift film takes place after the sixth movie, so it is best not to watch it yet. Director Justin Lin began shepherding the franchise with Tokyo Drift, and this movie was his chance to bring the spotlight back to the original film's protagonists of Brian O'Connor and Dominic Toretto. This time, Brian and Dom have to work together to bust a Mexican drug-smuggling ring. This entry also introduces the beautiful Gal Gadot as Gisele Harabo, who also returns for the next two films.

Fast & Furious is really the beginning of the development of the Fast & Furious films as a cohesive narrative universe, thanks to the careful planning of Lin and the support of series patriarch Vin Diesel. The idea of the films as a continuing narrative is emphasized with the last scene, which directly leads into the opening for the next film in the series, Fast Five. And that is where the next article in this series on the proper order to watch the Fast & Furious films picks up, so be sure to check it out.