Cars, an alien war, and explosions. What more could you want from a classic 2000s action-adventure movie series? The Transformers movies in order deliver all that and more.
The popularity of the live-action adaptations of the Hasbro action figures reached epic heights. With another prequel adaptation anticipated in 2023, now is a great time to catch up on watching all the movies and learning more about this franchise. So, buckle up, and get ready for a wild ride.
About the Transformers Franchise
Anyone who lived through the late 2000s and 2010s was likely unable to escape from the grip that the Transformers live-action movies had on society. Outside the box office there was drama from the cast and crew that felt like it was everywhere, but today we will be focusing on the two ways to watch the Transformers movies in order, and a bit about the origins of the franchise.
Before there were five main movies and a prequel reboot, there was an animated TV series and movie. Then before even that, there were the Hasbro toys from the 1980s.
The Transformers action figures sparked a multi-billion-dollar franchise. The six live-action films made more than $4.8 billion at box offices worldwide alone. Even though the franchise is no stranger to controversy or poor critical reception, the financial success of the movies is undeniable.
The original live-action actors Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox are no longer attached to the franchise, but many fans who first viewed the movies in theatres have a nostalgic attachment to their portrayal in the movies.
The popularity of the films, and financial success, did dip by the fifth movie, which saw the end of Michael Bay in the chair of director and executive producer. Even though Transformers: The Last Knight grossed more than $600 million at box offices worldwide, it apparently lost Paramount Pictures $200 million.
However, the fact that it was less successful than its predecessors opened the door for a change in direction. Which is exactly what happened with the release of Bumblebee the following year.
The Original Adaptations
But before Michael Bay had a vision for Transformers, there were the original adaptations of the toys in the 1980s. The first was an animated TV series that ran from 1984 to 1987. The series was a collaboration between Hasbro and Toei Animation.
It takes the basic premise of good vs. evil which is at the core of each Transformers movie. In this installment the Autobots are fighting the evil Decepticons with the fate of Earth at stake.
It was the first time Peter Cullen was the voice of Optimus Prime, which is a role he would continue portray until present day: More than 30 years later. Cullen is also the only cast member to have appeared in every theatrically-released Transformers movie. Including the animations, live-action films, shorts, and video games, Cullen has reprised his role as Optimus Prime more than 10 times.
Following up from the popularity of the TV series, there was also an animated movie in 1986, The Transformers: The Movie. In this movie, the Autobots are defending their home, Cybertron, from the evil Decepticons. Both sides are seething with anger, and it is that hatred which blinds them to a hideous menace heading their way.
Orson Welles voiced Unicron, Peter Cullen reprised his role as Optimus Prime, Leonard Nimoy was the voice of Galvatron, and Frank Welker was Megatron.
However, the live-action movies do not tie-in with the original adaptations.
1) Transformers Movies in Order of Release
The first, and recommended, way to watch the Transformers movies in order is in the order of release. The Transformers universe has changed significantly from the first live-action movie in 2007 to the latest release in 2018. The lore has changed and expanded.
Even though some of that lore has been retconned, there is an understandable progression to the movies in which each one builds upon the previous in some way. The one exception to this may be the reboot, Bumblebee.
However, this would still be the recommended viewing order if you have never seen these movies before. This will let you decide for yourself whether you agree with critics about which film is the best.
- Transformers (2007)
- Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)
- Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)
- Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)
- Transformers: The Last Knight (2017)
- Bumblebee (2018)
- Transformers: Rise of the Beasts (Expected: June 9, 2023)
2) Transformers Movies in Order of Chronology
Of course, there is a second way to watch the Transformers movies in order, which is the chronological order. However, if you have never watched the Transformers movies before, this would not be the recommended viewing order.
That’s because Bumblebee significantly altered events which take place throughout the Transformers movie franchise. Bumblebee takes place in 1987, years before the first live-action movies.
One big change is how it sets up the Transformers arriving on Earth, which directly contradicts how events take place in the 2007 movie. Therefore, if you view the Transformers movies in this order for the first time, you may experience some understandable confusion.
While Bumblebee was initially marketed as a spin-off prequel, it has since officially been declared a prequel reboot. That does help mediate some of those big changes. But there is also a very big tonal shift which occurs with that movie, which will presumably carry through into Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, another prequel taking place in the 1990s.
If you would like to learn a little bit more about what year each film takes place in, and any flashbacks, check out the summaries sections below.
- Transformers: Rise of the Beasts (Expected: June 9, 2023)
- Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
- Transformers: Dark of the Moon
- Transformers: Age of Extinction
- Transformers: The Last Knight
Summary of the Transformers Movies in Order
Below you will find summaries for each of the live-action Transformers movies in order of release. This is the best way to watch them if you’re just starting out with the movies. This viewing order will also set you up perfectly to watch the next Transformers movie coming to theaters next year.
There will be minor spoilers for the events during the course of the series in the summaries below. However, in addition to a brief plot synopsis, each will dive into the cast, crew, and box office performance.
This is the first movie you should watch if you are watching the Transformers movies in order for the first time. It introduces the first protagonist of the film franchise, Sam Witwicky, and his introduction to the world of alien robots.
It also introduces the ancient struggle between two Cybertronian races, the heroic Autobots and the evil Decepticons. With Sam choosing a yellow Camaro as his first car, he is drawn into the ancient struggle as it comes to Earth. He also holds a clue to the ultimate power.
While this movie takes place in 2007, it also features flashbacks to 1897 and 2003.
Shia LaBeouf stars as Sam Witwicky and Megan Fox stars opposite him as his classmate and love interest Mikaela Banes. Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, Rachael Taylor, and Anthony Anderson also star in the movie.
The director was Michael Bay and the writers were Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and John Rogers. Steven Spielberg was an executive producer for the film. Transformers was nominated for three Oscars including Best Achievement in Sound Mixing, Best Achievement in Sound Editing, and Best Achievement in Visual Effects.
The first movie in the franchise had an estimated budget of $150 million and made nearly $710 million at box offices worldwide. It has a runtime of two hours and 24 minutes.
2. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
The next Transformers movie picks up a few years after the first and features Sam Witwicky trying to leave the Autobots behind for a normal life. He’s attending college and trying his best.
But when Sam accidently nicks himself with a shard of AllSpark, his mind becomes full of cryptic symbols. Then the Decepticons target him and he is dragged back into the Transformers’ war. This movie also opens with a prologue taking place in 17,000 B.C. that depicts more of the Transformers backstory.
Both Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox return as Sam Witwicky and Mikaela Banes. Rainn Wilson, John Turturro, Tyrese Gibson, and Josh Duhamel also star in this second Transformers movie.
Michael Bay was once more the director and the writers were Ehren Kruger, Roberto Orci, and Alex Kurtzman. Steven Spielberg was also an executive producer. This installment saw the franchise be nominated once again for an Oscar for Best Achievement in Sound Mixing.
It had an estimated budget of $200 million and made more than $836 million at box offices worldwide. It has a runtime of two hours and 29 minutes.
3. Transformers: Dark of the Moon
In the third movie, Sam Witwicky and his new girlfriend, Carly, join the fray when the evil Decepticons renew their long-standing war against the Autobots. Optimus Prime believes that resurrecting ancient Transformer Sentinel Prime, once the leader of the Autobots, may lead to victory.
However, that decision has devastating consequences. Then the war appears to tip in favor of the Decepticons, leading to a climactic battle in Chicago.
While the majority of this film takes place in 2011, it also features a prologue that takes place during the Space Race of the 1960s. The film suggests that the space landing lead to the discovery of something ominous on the dark side of the moon: A Cybertronian spacecraft. Now that the Autobots have learned of the spacecraft, they must embark in a race against the Decepticons to reach it and learn its secrets.
Shia LaBeouf reprised his role as Sam Witwicky, however, this installment saw the departure of Megan Fox from the franchise amid much controversy. Instead, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley stars as Sam’s new girlfriend, Carly.
Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, and John Turturro all returned to reprise their roles. The third Transformers movie in order also starred Patrick Dempsey as an antagonist, Dylan, and Leonard Nimoy as the voice of Sentinel Prime.
Once more the director was Michael Bay and Steven Spielberg was an executive producer. The writer for the movie was Ehren Kruger. It was nominated for three Oscars including Best Achievement in Sound Mixing, Best Achievement in Sound Editing, and Best Achievement in Visual Effects.
It had an estimated budget of $195 million and made more than $1.1 billion at box offices worldwide. Dark of the Moon has a runtime of two hours and 34 minutes.
4. Transformers: Age of Extinction
The fourth of the Transformers movies in order features a massive casting change and shift in direction. Rather than focusing on Sam Witwicky once more, Age of Extinction features a new protagonist.
Humanity has allied with an alien robot bounty hunter in pursuit of Optimus Prime, so the Autobots turn to a Texan robotics expert, Cade Yeager, and his daughter for help.
While this film follows a new protagonist it continues the previous trends of roughly taking place in the same year it was released with a flashback prologue. This movie’s prologue goes all the way back to the age of the dinosaurs and that era’s connection with the Transformers.
Mark Wahlberg stars as Cade Yeager and Nicole Peltz Beckham stars as his daughter Tessa. Jack Eynor, Stanley Tucci, and Kelsey Grammar also star in the movie. Just like the previous movie, Michael Bay was the director, Steven Spielberg was an executive producer, and Ehren Kruger was the writer.
Age of Extinction had an estimated budget of $210 million and made $1.1 billion at box offices worldwide. It has a runtime of two hours and 45 minutes.
5. Transformers: The Last Knight
This is the last movie within the original Transformers timeline. It features, yet again, another deadly threat from Earth’s past reappearing. This spurs on the hunt for a lost artifact between the Autobots and the Decepticons, while Optimus Prime encounters his creator in space.
The Last Knight takes place in the relative present and features a prologue that delves back into ancient times. This time there is the depiction of an alliance between the Transformers and King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.
It is said that Transformers have been around and involved in every monumental event on Earth. There is even a flashback of Bumblebee fighting alongside Allied forces in World War II.
Mark Wahlberg reprised his role as Cade Yeager in this installment and this film also saw the return of Josh Duhamel. Anthony Hopkins also starred as Sir Edmund Burton and Laura Haddock as Vivian Wembly. Stanley Tucci stars as Merlin.
Michael Bay was the director for this Transformers installment. The writers were Art Marcum, Matt Halloway, and Ken Nolan.
This film has the highest estimated budget yet with $217 million, but it made significantly less than the previous two Transformers movies with $605 million grossed worldwide at box offices. It has a runtime of two hours and 34 minutes.
Which brings us to the final Transformers movie that is currently available to watch. As previously mentioned, Bumblebee doesn’t follow along the same vision as the previous movies. While it was initially described as a prequel spin-off, it has now been more accurately described as a prequel reboot.
This film takes place in 1987 and unlike its predecessors, it doesn’t feature any major flashbacks. Instead, it focuses on Bumblebee who is on the run and finds refuge in a junkyard in a small California beach town.
Meanwhile, Charlie Watson is on the cusp of turning 18 and trying to find her place in this world. She finds Bumblebee battle-scarred and broken, and a bond is formed.
Hailee Steinfeld stars as Charlie, Jorge Lendeborg Jr. as Memo, and John Cena as Agent Burns. The director for Bumblebee was Travis Knight and the writer was Christina Hodson.
It had an estimated budget of $135 million and made nearly $468 million at box offices worldwide. It has a shorter runtime than the previous Transformers movies in order at one hour and 54 minutes.
Final thoughts on Transformers movies in order
Where the franchise began in the 1980s, its journey through the 2000s, and its most recent movie all have very different feels. If you’re looking for an action series with a science fiction twist and humour throughout, then this is a great franchise to check out, but be prepared for the sinuous route it takes.
Looking for more movies in order?
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