The Big Picture
- Transformers movies have a non-linear storytelling style, jumping around in time from historical events to the present day.
- Bumblebee is set in the 1980s and serves as a prequel to the original film, introducing the character of Charlie and the friendship between her and Bumblebee.
- The Transformers series has dense and absurd lore, with the robots playing a role in various historical events throughout human history.
Starting in 2007, the Transformers series has managed to spawn six films, including a spin-off feature for the character Bumblebee. With several other projects currently in development, it’s clear this series is not ending anytime soon. Just as the Transformers have proven enduringly popular in your local toy aisle, these shapeshifting robots have had similar longevity in their presence on the silver screen.
However, among the current Transformers movies, it can be easy to get lost in terms of where certain events fall in the continuity. Not only did these films adapt core parts of previously-established Transformers mythology, but they also created their own lore that introduced the idea of Autobots and Decepticons having a significant impact on human history. This has led to non-linear digressions throughout the various films that take the viewer everywhere from the days of King Arthur to the extinction of dinosaurs and everywhere in between. Bumblebee, the franchise’s second-to-most recent installment right before its most recent Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, takes place in the 1980s, two decades before the original film. The Transformers movies love to jump all around time almost as much as they love giant robots that turn into various forms of transportation. Considering that fact, it can be hard to parse out where exactly each film takes place in time.
To solve that problem, here is an in-depth guide to how to watch every film in the Transformers series, chronologically in order of events and by order of release date. Making sense of this franchise’s delightfully absurd lore has never been easier.
An ancient struggle between two Cybertronian races, the heroic Autobots and the evil Decepticons, comes to Earth, with a clue to the ultimate power held by a teenager.
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Transformers Movies in Chronological Order of Events
Bumblebee, the first spin-off in the franchise takes things back to the 1980s, the decade when the Transformers animated series first debuted. Set against the backdrop of 1987, this film sees Bumblebee crashing to Earth and meeting human teenager Charlie Watson (Hailee Steinfeld). The two become unlikely friends as Charlie learns to move past the death of her biological father and Bumblebee learns to become the protector of Earth that Optimus Prime believed he could be. Unlike the rest of the movies in the series, Bumblebee never breaks away for digressions into other time periods. This includes both the film’s ending and mid-credits scene, in which Bumblebee parts ways with Charlie and reunites with the newly arrived Optimus Prime. That reunion leads to Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, which takes place in 1994. Here, a cast of new humans reunites with familiar Autobot heroes and the Maximals (a collection of robots who turn into mechanical animals) to fight off Unicron and his forces.
While the most recent installments of the Transformers saga have taken audiences to years past, this entire franchise began with stories that were (mostly) rooted in the years they were released. For instance, the notable presence of a 2006 Chevrolet Camaro, eBay, and a stand-in for then-President George W. Bush all factor into the runtime of Transformers, the next adventure in the Transformers saga after Rise of the Beasts in the franchise’s chronology. Here, moviegoers are introduced to nerdy high school student Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), the protagonist of the first three Transformers films, as he, Mikaela Banes (Megan Fox), and a handful of friendly Autobots try to track down the powerful AllSpark. It turns out the AllSpark’s location was accidentally engraved onto a pair of glasses belonging to Witwicky’s grandfather by a frozen Megatron. The journey culminates in a battle in Mission City that leaves the AllSpark reduced to a shard and Megatron defeated.
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Even with all of this to juggle, the story does make time for brief digressions to the year 1897 to depict a fateful arctic encounter involving Megatron as well as footage of the supposedly lost Beagle 2 Mars Rover having a run-in with a Decepticons in December 2003. Similarly, the next entry in the franchise, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, opens with a prologue set on Earth in 17,000 B.C. This scene depicts a group of Transformers building a Star Harvester, a machine that will be utilized in the film’s climax. While they’re doing this, the robots are discovered by cavemen, cueing up the first (but far from the last) violent encounter between man and machine. The rest of the proceedings are set against the landscape of 2009, which means you can look forward to references to the Global Recession of 2007 as well as brief news footage of President Obama. Set two years after the original film, Sam Witwicky is now heading off to college. However, his academic pursuits become jeopardized after he touches a shard of the AllSpark and starts behaving erratically. Meanwhile, the resurrection of Megatron has allowed the sinister plans of an archvillain Decepticon known as The Fallen to move forward.
When Does ‘Transformers: Dark of the Moon’ Take Place?
Transformers: Dark of the Moon takes place three years after the events of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Sam Whitwicky has finished college and is now looking for a job. Despite saving the world on two separate occasions, he’s somehow finding it difficult to hang on to steady employment. At the same time, Sam is also dealing with his new girlfriend, Carly Spencer (Rosie Huntington-Whitley), and a new plan by the Decepticons to essentially bring Cybertron to Earth, effectively destroying the planet.
Like its predecessor, Dark of the Moon kicks its story off with a prologue set in the distant past. This time, the Space Race of the 1960s is the focus, with the film revealing that the Moon was actually the secret crash site of an Autobot ship called The Ark. This digression to the past involves a whole slew of historical figures including John F. Kennedy, Richard M. Nixon, and Buzz Aldrin, the latter figure making an appearance as himself to help explain the conspiracy. Transformers: Age of Extinction picks up the action five years after Transformers: Dark of the Moon.
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With that time jump comes a new protagonist. Say goodbye to Sam Witwicky and say hello to Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg), a single Texas dad with an inexplicable thick Boston accent. He, his daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz), and her boyfriend Shane (Jack Reynor) get swept up in a new Transformers adventure after Yeager stumbles on a hibernating Optimus Prime. They create such a strong bond with the robots that Reager and company return for Transformers: The Last Knight, which flashes forward to an era set both in the future and an unspecified amount of time after Transformers: Age of Extinction.
While on a fresh quest to save the day, Yeager and new love interest Vivian Wembley (Laura Haddock) discover an organization led by Sir Edmund Burton (Anthony Hopkins) dedicated to protecting the secret that Transformers were involved in every significant event in human history. Though we are told that the shapeshifting robots were involved in everything from the Underground Railroad to the life of William Shakespeare, the only instance of this phenomenon the audiences get to see is a brief flashback depicting Bumblebee fighting alongside Allied forces in World War II.
Transformers Movies in Order of Release
The live-action Transformers movies jump all over time to flesh out their ludicrously dense lore, but the events are more or less a continuous narrative. Here’s how to watch the series by order of release date.
Transformers – July 3, 2007
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen – June 24, 2009
Transformers: Dark of the Moon – June 29, 2011
Transformers: Age of Extinction – June 27, 2014
Transformers: The Last Knight – June 21, 2021
Bumblebee – December 21, 2018
Transformers: Rise of the Beasts – June 9, 2023
Transformers: Rise of the Beasts is now available on Paramount+ in the U.S.
Watch on Paramount+