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How to Watch Hobbs & Shaw When You’ve Never Seen a Fast & Furious Movie

Do the names Luke Hobbs and Deckard Shaw ring any bells? If not, you’ve come to the right place! Photo: Universal Pictures

For years, I resisted the Fast and the Furious franchise. I had no judgment in my heart for anyone who loved the films, but since I hated driving and had never once in my life slammed a Monster Energy drink*, I didn’t give the series a chance. Until I happened to catch the second trailer for the eighth movie, 2017’s The Fate of the Furious, at a theater. In the teaser for Fate — which should really be F8, darn it — Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson launches a torpedo with his bare hands. Faced with such a staggering display of unchecked machismo, it was then that I realized: I wanted to see Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson do that again.

So I borrowed a full set of The Fast and the Furious Blu-rays and marathoned the series. It was a transcendent experience. Over the span of some glorious weeks, I fell in love with the earnest adrenaline of the action institution and admired the chutzpah it took to hard-pivot genres five movies into the series’ run. I watched in awe as Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his crew graduated from stealing DVD players and living their lives a quarter-mile at a time to jumping cars out of airplanes and racing submarines. I got swept up in Fast’s characters, who loved lecturing me on the concepts of friendship and family.

Perhaps you are now where I was back in 2017. You’ve never felt the urge to watch a Fast and the Furious movie before, but your interest has been piqued by the Hobbs & Shaw trailer, in which The Rock performs a Samoan haka and lassos a helicopter. But unlike me, you don’t actually have the time to watch eight movies in preparation. Well, you’re in luck! Vulture has put together a guide to everything you need to know about the Fast and the Furious films. Forget the excruciatingly long Wikipedia entries, here is the abbreviated summary that will bring upon enlightenment and allow you to enjoy Jason Statham and The Rock in peace:

*I now realize my ignorance: The F&F crew chugs Corona. Accept no substitutions. 

The Fast and the Furious (2001)

What happens in this movie? If you’ve seen the bro-tastic 1991 Keanu Reeves–Patrick Swayze surfer crime thriller Point Break, then you’ve already got the gist of the first installment in the Fast franchise. Just replace the surfboards with muscle cars, Reeves with Paul Walker, Swayze with Vin Diesel, and you’re most of the way there. The Fast and the Furious follows undercover LAPD cop Brian O’Conner (Walker) as he immerses himself in the world of illegal street racing with the hopes of sniffing out a crew that’s been pulling off high-speed heists, stealing DVD players off moving 18-wheelers. Over the course of his investigation, Brian develops a friendship with street racer Dominic Toretto (Diesel) and begins dating Dom’s sister, Mia (Jordana Brewster), even as he realizes that Dom is the mastermind behind the robberies. After Brian attempts to arrest Dom, the two wind up agreeing to one final quarter-mile race — implying that the winner of the duel will decide if Dom gets cuffed. They end up crossing the finish line together, but Dom wrecks his car and climbs out with an air of defeat. Yet instead of arresting him, Brian gives Dom his car and allows him to escape, turning to face the oncoming sirens alone.

Who should I care about? Brian and Dom are the heart of the series, and one or both of them have appeared in every film through F8 of the Furious. This film also introduces Mia Toretto, and Dom’s girlfriend Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez), both of whom have significant roles to play as the series goes on.

How will this movie relate to Hobbs & Shaw? Honestly, it probably won’t. The Fast and the Furious lays the groundwork for the franchise, and introduces a few of the major players, but since none of its cast is likely to appear in Hobbs & Shaw, this film has more thematic relevance than story significance.

Tell me about the most ridiculous stunt: Surprisingly, there are not many! Brian and Dom race a train, but most of the stunts in this movie are pretty straightforward. Don’t worry, they’ll start ramping up very soon.

2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)

What happens in this movie? Now on the run from the LAPD after allowing Dom to escape, Brian O’Conner is now making a living doing — what else? — illegal street racing. This proves an ill-advised career choice, as Brian gets arrested, but he’s offered the chance to clear his criminal record by going undercover to help bring down an Argentine drug lord. You know, because Brian going undercover went so well last time. Brian enlists the help of Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson), his childhood friend who also has some red in his ledger that he’d like wiped clean. Together, they’re able to offer the drug lord precisely what he wants, which is, apparently, killer street-racing skills. After a lot of second-guessing, double-crossing, and, of course, driving very, very fast, Brian and Roman succeed in their mission, and their criminal records are erased. The two settle in Miami. Happy ending!

Who should I care about? In addition to Roman Pearce, 2 Fast 2 Furious also brings in Ludacris as Tej Parker, Brian’s mechanic. Tej doesn’t get much to do here, but both he and Roman will have huge roles to play in future Fast films.

How will this movie relate to Hobbs & Shaw? While 2 Fast probably doesn’t have much of a direct impact on Hobbs & Shaw, it did bring Tyrese into the Fast family, which eventually led to his odd, one-sided feud with The Rock. That might not mean much for Hobbs & Shaw fans, but it probably means you can rule out any possibility of a Roman cameo.

Tell me about the most ridiculous stunt: In what Roman aptly describes as “some real Dukes of Hazzard shit,” Brian speeds off a conveniently placed ramp at 120 mph in order to jump his car 40-plus feet onto the back of a yacht. However, this scene still keeps one toe in reality, as Brian and Roman mostly just moan and groan after landing on the boat, and undercover U.S. Customs Agent Monica Fuentes (Eva Mendes) is the one to actually best the bad guy.

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)

What happens in this movie? In the first and only Fast film (until Hobbs & Shaw) not to center on Dom or Brian, Tokyo Drift follows high-school student Sean Boswell (Lucas Black) who is sent to live with his dad in Japan after making the extremely poor decision to street race through a residential construction zone, demolishing an entire house. In Japan, Sean befriends Twinkie (Bow Wow) and Han (Sung Kang), who introduce him to the concept of drift racing, a driving technique that involves controlled skids that enable drivers to turn at high speeds. Sean, to put it mildly, sucks at drifting, but Han eventually teaches him his ways. And just as Sean is getting good, Han is promptly accused of stealing from the Yakuza. After a drift-heavy chase through the streets of Tokyo, ending in Han’s death, Sean finds himself on the wrong side of the organized-crime syndicate. So Sean challenges the nephew of the Yakuza leader to a race (why not?!); with the understanding that the loser will leave Tokyo, and the winner will be cleared of all debts. Fast forward: Sean wins the race. In the closing moments of the film, Dominic Toretto arrives to challenge the newly minted Drift King to a race, saying that he and Han used to work together, and that Han was — wait for it — family.

Who should I care about? Han — whose full name in this franchise, and it is extremely important that you know this, is Han Seoul-Oh — and only Han. I know, it seems a little weird, considering he dies, but just roll with it.

How will this movie relate to Hobbs & Shaw? Good question! Tokyo Drift was writer Chris Morgan’s first Fast franchise gig. Morgan is responsible for penning every Fast film thereafter, including Hobbs & Shaw (which he co-wrote with Drew Pearce), so it wouldn’t be crazy for Hobbs & Shaw to call back to this film.

Tell me about the most ridiculous stunt: Before Han dies, he leads the Yakuza (and, for some reason, Sean) on a chase through the streets of Tokyo, which includes a crowded intersection in Shibuya. Instead of tragically mowing down hundreds of innocent people (as would probably happen in real life), the crowd smoothly parts just in time for all the speeding cars to pass through without hitting anyone, miraculously right along the curved path of the drift.

Fast & Furious (2009)

What happens in this movie? Five years after the events of the first film, Dom, Letty, and his new crew — which includes a very much alive Han, revealing this to be a prequel to Tokyo Drift — are living in the Dominican Republic, hijacking fuel tankers. Things quickly go south, and the crew is forced to disband, with Han heading to Tokyo (nooooo, Han, don’t go!) and Dom going on the run, leaving Letty behind. Sadly, a couple months later, Dom gets a call from his sister Mia, who tells him Letty has been murdered. Dom returns to Los Angeles for Letty’s funeral and to see if he can dig up any information on her killer. His search leads him to cross paths with Brian O’Conner, who is now working undercover for the FBI, attempting to take down a Mexican drug lord named Braga. Suspecting that Braga had something to do with Letty’s death, Dom manages to race (of course) his way onto Braga’s crew, and he and Brian end up on a heroin run together, during which time Dom learns that one of Braga’s men is Letty’s killer. After an unsuccessful confrontation, Dom and Brian return to the U.S., where Brian reveals that Letty died trying to take down Braga, in exchange for a pardon for Dom. Dom agrees to help Brian catch Braga, but a decoy gets in the way and the real Braga (John Ortiz) escapes, along with Letty’s murderer. But don’t worry, eventually Brian arrests Braga and Dom kills the man who killed Letty. At that point, Brian urges Dom to run before he’s arrested, but Dom refuses. Brian quits the FBI, and Dom is sentenced to 25 years in prison — which seems bad! But then the closing scene features Brian, Mia, and two other members of Dom’s crew driving their cars down the same road Dom’s prison bus is traveling, implying that they’re going to break him out.

Who should I care about? Significant new characters include Gisele (Gal Gadot), a former member of Braga’s crew whose life Dom saves in Mexico, and, surprisingly, Braga, whom we have not seen the last of.

How will this movie relate to Hobbs & Shaw? Expect Letty’s death to come back around in a way that is relevant to Hobbs & Shaw — and the character of Braga. And since Han has showed some staying power as a character, might as well keep him in mind, too.

Tell me about the most ridiculous stunt: The most off-the-wall action sequence in this film happens right at the beginning, when a fuel heist goes wrong and Dom winds up driving backward at top speed to save Letty, then revs his engine and times his acceleration just so in order to barely make it under the spiraling body of an exploding tanker. But the award for the most ridiculous scene in the film has to go to the moment Dom is examining Letty’s murder scene and uses his heretofore-unhinted-at CSI skills to piece together a vivid image of exactly what happened based on a couple skid marks on the road.

Fast Five (2011)

What happens in this movie? Buckle up, buttercups, things are about to get wild. Fast Five is when the franchise decided to throw caution to the wind and lean fully into absurdity, and it is — and I cannot stress this enough — awesome. Following the prison break they staged at the end of Fast 4, Dom, Brian, and Mia have fled to Rio de Janeiro, where they’re (duh) stealing cars. It turns out that one of the cars they’re after is of particular significance to a local crime lord, because it contains a chip that holds the secret location of $100 million. Pursued by Diplomatic Security Service agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson, finally) and local officer Elena Neves (Elsa Pataky), Dom, Brian, and a pregnant Mia decide to steal the money for themselves and start a new life. They recruit a crew that includes (a still alive!) Han, Gisele, Roman, and Tej (who is now not only a mechanic but also a computer genius). Before they can execute their heist, however, Dom, Brian, and Mia are arrested by Hobbs. Then, while awaiting extradition, Hobbs’s team is ambushed by the crime lord’s men. Dom’s people end up saving Hobbs, who, along with Elena, opt to join the heist, which prompts the supersmart and not-at-all physically impossible decision to tow a giant bank vault through the streets of the city. When they succeed in doing that, Hobbs lets Dom and Brian go, and they split the money among their crew. Cut to the end of the film, when Monica Fuentes from 2 Fast 2 Furious returns to tell Hobbs that Letty is alive and has been implicated in the hijacking of a military convoy.

Who should I care about? Almost everyone. Obviously, Hobbs’s introduction is the most important one in this film, but Elena is also significant to the events leading up to Hobbs & Shaw.

How will this movie relate to Hobbs & Shaw? For starters, we finally get introduced to half of the film’s titular duo. While Hobbs functions as an antagonist for most of Fast Five, the seeds of his eventual alliance are planted. (If you’re wondering when Jason Statham will show up, what would you say if I told you he already has but you just didn’t realize it? Don’t worry, it’ll all be made clear soon.)

Tell me about the most ridiculous stunt: Did I mention the part where they drag a bank vault through the streets of Rio? In addition to that, there’s the high-octane train heist at the beginning of the film, which involves cars racing trains, cars driving off of trains, exploding trains, and a car driving off a cliff to avoid being hit by a train.

Fast & Furious 6 (2013)

What happens in this movie? Nearly everyone has paired off following the events of Fast Five. Dom and Elena are now living together, Brian and Mia are raising their son together, Gisele and Han are an item, and Roman and Tej are … not together, at least not romantically, but they sure do squabble like an old married couple. Hobbs returns to ask for Dom’s help apprehending a criminal crew led by former British soldier Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), who is building a powerful weapon with the intent of selling it to the highest bidder. Hobbs reveals that Letty is still alive and working with Shaw. Dom calls in his old crew to help, but when they catch up with Shaw, Letty shoots Dom and escapes with Shaw. After visiting Braga in prison, Brian learns that Letty survived the wreck that supposedly killed her, and that Braga sent Shaw to finish her off, but Shaw made her part of his crew after discovering she had amnesia. During an attempt to capture Shaw, Dom saves Letty’s life, and she decides to stay with him. With Letty now on their side, Dom and Brian lead a crew to stop Shaw’s airplane before it can take off, but in the process, Gisele is killed, sacrificing herself to save Han. In the end, Shaw is captured, and Hobbs even secures pardons for Dom and his crew (again). Alas, Letty still doesn’t have her memories back; nonetheless, Elena steps back so that Dom can be with his former love. In a mid-credits scene, we revisit Han’s deadly car chase through the streets of Shibuya from Tokyo Drift — only this time, we see who was driving the car that hit him, and it’s none other than Jason Statham! Walking away from Han’s exploding car, Statham’s character calls Dom with the menacing message, “Dominic Toretto. You don’t know me. But you’re about to.”

Who should I care about? While the villain for most of Fast & Furious 6 is Owen Shaw, he’s the catalyst that brings Statham’s Deckard Shaw into the franchise. Otherwise, there are no significant new characters introduced in this movie, but the loss of Han (again) and Gisele hits hard.

How will this movie relate to Hobbs & Shaw? After waiting a full six movies, we’ve finally met the two main characters of Hobbs & Shaw, even if Jason Statham’s character hasn’t been named yet (spoiler: It’s Shaw).

Tell me about the most ridiculous stunt: Dom and his crew chase Owen Shaw (who is driving a literal tank) along a towering viaduct. Cars are flattened, jumped from one elevated roadway to another, and thrown into chasms to act as anchors. But probably the most ridiculous part of the chase occurs when Letty is hurled off the top of the tank, and Dom leaps out of his speeding car to catch her in mid-air and lands safely on a car on the opposite side of the road.

Furious 7 (2015)

What happens in this movie? Furious 7 finds Dom back in the States, working with Letty to help her regain her memories. Meanwhile, Deckard Shaw, on a mission to avenge his brother’s injuries (Owen is in a coma), breaks into Hobbs’s office searching for information on Dom and his crew. The two of them fight (the first of many Hobbs-vs.-Shaw fights), but Hobbs is badly injured when Shaw sets off a bomb in order to escape. This is where the end of Fast 6 and the middle of Tokyo Drift line up, as Shaw uses the information from Hobbs’s office to kill Han and simultaneously blow up Dom’s house, after which he makes the phone call we see at the end of Fast 6. At Han’s funeral, Dom is approached by Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell), the leader of a covert-ops team who wants Dom’s help tracking down the creator of an important piece of software called the God’s Eye. In exchange, Nobody promises his assistance in dealing with Shaw. After rescuing the God’s Eye’s creator, Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), from her kidnappers, Dom and his crew work with her to shut down the God’s Eye and apprehend Shaw. Once they’ve saved the day, Letty reveals that her memories have returned and then remembers that she and Dom married (off-screen). Hobbs puts Shaw in prison, and Brian and Mia play with their children on the beach, as the rest of the Fast crew looks on, knowing that Brian has retired and won’t be joining them for future adventures.

Who should I care about? During production of Furious 7, Paul Walker was tragically killed in a car accident. Rather than kill Brian off-screen, the ending of the film was rewritten to give Brian a happy ending with Mia and their kids. The film closes with a touching tribute to Walker’s journey in the series, coming as close as it possibly can to breaking the fourth wall without actually doing it. Brian’s emotional send-off will likely have little to do with Hobbs & Shaw, but the fact that such an adrenaline-heavy action series managed to pull off such an unreservedly sentimental ending just goes to show how well the Fast films balance unrelenting action with sincere themes of family and friendship. Basically, by this point, the answer to who you should care about in a Fast film is, “Everyone, always, so much.”

How will this movie relate to Hobbs & Shaw? How will it not? This is the first time Hobbs and Shaw meet, and let’s just say they’re not particularly fond of each other. Shaw is the first Fast villain to be driven by a personal vendetta, and this is also the first film that sees Dom and his entire crew working for a government agency as a heist squad for hire, a dynamic that looks like it will come back around in Hobbs & Shaw.

Tell me about the most ridiculous stunt: This movie is so ridiculous overall it is impossible to highlight just one scene. Brian runs up the side of a falling bus as it tumbles off a cliff. The Rock flexes his cast off. A car is driven out of a skyscraper, into another skyscraper, then out of that skyscraper, into another skyscraper. But probably the most ludicrous scene in the film occurs when Dom’s whole crew decides to drive their cars out of a plane and parachute down to the road in order to rescue Ramsey, and no one dies, not even a little bit.

The Fate of the Furious (2017)

What happens in this movie? While on his honeymoon with Letty, Dom is approached by Cipher (Charlize Theron), who tells him she needs him for a job. Later, while working with Hobbs to steal an EMP device, Dom betrays his crew and steals the device for Cipher. Hobbs is then arrested and put in the same maximum-security prison where Deckard Shaw is serving his time, but they’re both freed by Mr. Nobody, who recruits Dom’s crew to track Cipher and Dom. Despite the crew’s best efforts to stop him, Dom steals a nuclear football for Cipher. But unbeknownst to her, he also manages to get a hold of Magdalene Shaw (Helen Mirren), the Shaw brothers’ mother. It turns out that Cipher is holding Dom’s ex-girlfriend Elena hostage, along with their infant son Dom never knew existed, which is how she forced Dom to work for her. However, when one of Cipher’s men tries to kill Letty, Dom saves her, and as punishment, Cipher has Elena executed before heading to Russia to hijack a nuclear submarine using the EMP. Enter Deckard and Owen Shaw, who sneaks aboard Cipher’s plane and rescues Dom’s son. Once Dom receives word that his son is safe, he turns on Cipher, destroying the submarine. However, Cipher manages to escape, jumping from her plane before anyone can capture her. In the end, Hobbs decides not to return to his job as a DSS agent, and Shaw returns Dom’s son to him, which seems to smooth things over between the two in the wake of Han’s death. In a sucker punch straight to my tear ducts, Dom announces that he’s naming the baby Brian.

Who should I care about? Despite killing Han a mere one movie ago in the Fast and Furious timeline, all seems forgiven here when it comes to Deckard Shaw (and apparently Owen as well). It all seems a little quick to me, but judging from the trailers for Hobbs & Shaw, we’re supposed to be full-on rooting for him by now. That said, don’t expect Hobbs and Shaw to be fast friends the next time they appear together onscreen; these two still kind of hate each other.

How will this movie relate to Hobbs & Shaw? As the final Fast and Furious movie before Hobbs & Shaw, it’s safe to assume that this one will have the most direct impact on the events of that film. The end of F8 finds both Hobbs and Shaw as free men with no jobs, leaving them wide open to team up and take down supervillains. Hobbs says he wants to spend more time with his preteen daughter, but from the looks of things, that resolution’s not going to stick.

Tell me about the most ridiculous stunt: Dom competes in a street race, and spends a good portion of it driving backward with his car on fire. Cipher makes cars rain down on the Fast crew like two-ton hail. Shaw takes out a plane full of bad guys while holding a baby. The Rock throws the aforementioned torpedo. Hobbs leads his daughter’s soccer team in a haka, which is not ridiculous but deserves a shout-out anyway. However, without a doubt, the most ridiculous moment comes when Dom uses his car to blow up Cipher’s submarine, then is saved from the resulting blast by his crew sliding into a perfect semicircle around him at the last second, shielding him with their cars, “We are Groot” style.

So what should I expect going into Hobbs & Shaw?

As you’ve probably noticed, each Fast and the Furious film has steadily ramped up the action, the complexity, the size of the cast, and the scale of its set pieces. If the trailer for Hobbs & Shaw is any indication, this installment is likely to continue that trend, teasing an all-out battle scene with traditional Samoan weapons, The Rock’s ability to wrangle a helicopter into submission like a stubborn steer, and a literal supervillain, emphasis on the super.

Yet each Fast film has also worked hard to honor what has come before, and Hobbs & Shaw will presumably do that, too. Helen Mirren will be reprising her role from F8, perhaps shining a little more light on precisely how she persuaded her sons to help the very people they’d previously tried to kill. Hobbs & Shaw will also contain a scene in which Hobbs and his brothers perform the “Siva Tau,” the Samoan version of the haka, which we saw Hobbs and his daughter perform in F8. And of course, since it’s a Fast film, don’t be surprised to see Hobbs and/or Shaw mash the NOS (nitrous oxide) button in their vehicles because they simply must go faster.

Hobbs & Shaw is a spinoff, not a direct continuation (that will be coming in the form of Fast and Furious 9 in 2020), so we’re kind of venturing into uncharted territory here. Yet despite its eye-popping stunts and increasingly outrageous stakes, The Fast and the Furious franchise has always, at its heart, been about love, loyalty, and the importance of holding the people you care about close. I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

*Raises Corona* So here’s to family, friendship, and driving really, really fast. Salud, mi familia. See you at the theater.

How to Watch Hobbs & Shaw Without Seeing an F&F Movie