There is an argument to be made that the Fast and Furious series is one of the best-executed superhero sagas ever to hit the silver screen. Our beloved anti-heroes might not shoot lasers out of their eyes, but they do display physics-denying driving abilities and superhuman durability when it comes to surviving wrecks would leave even Captain America rattled. Fast and Furious has one other thing in common with superhero films; a long and complicated backstory.
Critics rarely acknowledged the gradual way Fast and Furious has escalated the insanity of its plots over the years. The first film is a small, street-level crime movie, but by the time you get to Fate of the Furious, the lives of millions hang in the balance. Watched out of order, it can all seem needlessly complicated. To be fair, maybe it is unnecessarily complicated. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a way to watch the Fast and Furious films to soak in every last detail and surprise of this bat shit insane gospel of vehicular chaos.
The best order to watch the Fast and Furious franchise
There are two ways to watch the Fast and Furious films, and the only difference between them is when you watch one movie.
Fast and Furious viewing order No. 1
The first option is to watch The Fast and the Furious in the order it was released. It’s pretty straight forward.
- The Fast and Furious (2001)
- 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)
- The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)
- Fast & Furious (2009)
- Fast Five (2011)
- Fast & Furious 6 (2013)
- Furious 7 (2015)
- The Fate of the Furious (2017)
Fast and Furious viewing order No. 2
The second and better option, however, is watching the films in the order that gives them the most emotional impact by changing one movie in the lineup. What single film could shift the emotional resonance of an entire series? Why the black sheep of the family, Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.
It’s odd that Tokyo Drift would end up being the deciding factor in how you consume the Fast and Furious series. It’s the only one that doesn’t feature Paul Walker before the actor’s death. Vin Diesel appears in a brief cameo, but otherwise, this is a whole new story with all new characters.
Tokyo Drift is also where the series takes on another aspect of the superhero mythology: the extended universe. Part 3 in the Fast and Furious series acknowledges that, while our heroes from the first two films are incredible drivers, they live in a world where other people share their abilities. It establishes that there are other drivers out there that could be a threat.
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Here’s where things get complicated. Tokyo Drift is technically the sixth movie in the series. Despite coming out third, it takes place after the fifth film in the timeline. When it was released in 2006 that didn’t matter, but one of its most popular characters, Han, was then included in Fast and Furious parts 4 through 7. If you want to fully experience Han’s story without spoilers you’ll want to listen close.
The ideal viewing order of the Fast and Furious series requires you to take two unusual steps. Just trust us, and give it a try. Here’s how it works.
- The Fast and Furious
- 2 Fast 2 Furious
- Fast & Furious
- Fast Five
- Fast & Furious 6**
- The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift
** Here’s where it gets tricky. Fast & Furious 6 has a post-credit sequence that gives away the ending to Tokyo Drift. If you want to appreciate Han’s story arc fully, you need to turn off Fast & Furious 6 as soon as the credits start. Step away, get a drink, walk the dog.
When you come back, turn on The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift and enjoy the rest of Han’s story. Then watch the post-credit scene from Fast and Furious 6. We acknowledge this is obnoxious, but trust us: It’s worth it. (If you don’t want to mess with skipping to the end of the DVD or Blu-ray, here’s a link to the post credit scene from part 6 for your convenience.)
This sets you up for the last two films—at least until they make the next one, which is apparently already in the works.
- Furious 7
- The Fate of the Furious
It’s obvious this wasn’t the plan from the beginning, but the inclusion of Tokyo Drift in the series makes for a richer world. Han’s story in part 3 is fine, but watching it after 4, 5, and 6 gives it weight.
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These may be ridiculous films with rocket cars and machine guns, but over the course of eight films, the series has built a story featuring characters you learn to love over time. These films are better than many people give them credit for, but the billions of dollars they’ve earned worldwide speaks volumes. We just suggest this one humble change if you want to experience the series at its best.