This week the summer movie season kicks off with the release of Furious 7. It’s exciting, but if we’re being honest, it’s also a little bit intimidating. At this point, Fast & Furious bears closer resemblance to Marvel’s cinematic universe and, say, the Star Wars franchise than it does your standard summer action movie, in more ways than one.
What started as a decent action movie with a car-themed twist with 2001’s The Fast & The Furious has, in the 14 years since, sprawled outward, occasionally backtracking and sidestepping itself in the name of character relationships and complicated world-building. At this point, The Fast & Furious movies are a canonically dense fiction. And to make things more complicated, the movies aren’t even in order — the third film, The Fast & The Furious: Tokyo Drift, takes place after 2013’s Fast & Furious 6.
The side effect of all that story is that Furious 7 could be one of the most confusing movies of the summer for people just jumping on board.
But we’re here to help.
While Fast & Furious is remarkably complicated, that’s part of what makes it more than just another action movie franchise. It’s a series whose installments have routinely become about the lives and relationships of its characters as much as any heist, score or plot. It’s about enemies who become allies, allies who become friends, and friends who become family, and the complicated history there adds weight and gravity to every moment. When characters in the franchise are in danger, it’s more effective because of all that emotional baggage that’s come before — if you can navigate the twists and turns the series throws at you.
The following timeline is designed as a map to guide you through all that history if you’re new to the series, or haven’t seen everything — and even if you’ve seen all the movies, you may not have seen everything. Did you know there’s a short film? Or that one character has a secret origin story in a completely separate movie? You’ll find the most important characters as they appear throughout the series, what the big plot points and character arcs are, and how they’ve all led to where Fast & Furious is now.