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Transformers: How to watch the Robots in Disguise's big screen adventures in chronological and release order

Get the most out of your More than Meets the Eye

Transformers: Rise of the Beasts
Image credit: Paramount Pictures

They are, famously, both :robots in disguise” and “more than meets the eye,” but how does Hasbro’s Transformers stand up when it comes to big screen scrutiny? The movie series — which launched in 2007 with an eponymous debut before continuing with a new installment every few years ever since — has been wildly successful, proving that audiences remain excited by the sight of giant robots who want to fight each other and confuse the humans around them… but with a timeline that jumps through both the history of humanity and the history of its own franchise seemingly randomly, the Transformers movie series might seem a little foreboding for newcomers.

We’re here to fix that. Which movie should you watch first? What order do they go in? What’s with the sixth installment actually being the first, kind of? We’re going to answer all of those questions and more. That’s right: we’re doing to make sure that the Transformers movie series is… less than meets the eye…?

How to watch the live action Transformers in release order

Image credit: Paramount Pictures

Let’s just establish one thing right now: yes, we know that the 1986 animated film The Transformers: The Movie is technically the first Transformers movie. It is, however, not part of the live action movie continuity, and therefore we won’t be mentioning it again. (That said: it’s a lot of fun)

The Transformers movie franchise as it exists today has its origins in 2007’s Transformers — a straight-forward story about the Transformers arriving on Earth for the first time that is almost immediately contradicted by subsequent movies that keep retconning the backstory of the Transformers on Earth… before the franchise enjoys a stealth reboot with 2018’s Bumblebee, a prequel that launches its own sub-franchise of stories that all take places decades ahead of the 2007 movie but… were never referenced in any way in any of those other movies that took place afterwards…?

Really, it’s best if you don’t think about it too much, which is why the release order of the Transformers movie franchise might be the preferred way in which to watch the series.

Several additional projects in the Transformers cinematic universe have been announced : This summer’s Transformers: Rise of the Beasts is intended as the first in a planned trilogy of films, assuming this one does well at the box office. Entirely separately, a sequel was planned to Transformers: The Last Knight despite that movie’s disappointing reception amongst the core Transformers fanbase; in 2019, one of the producers said that an as-yet-untitled 'Transformers 7' was still in development, separate from any sequel to Bumblebee.

Beyond both of those, an entirely standalone Transformers film by director Angel Manuel Soto and writer Marco Ramirez was announced in 2021. It’s unknown if this project, or the untitled Transformers 7, are still in play.

As if that weren’t enough, the Transformers cinematic universe is bridging back into animation — which if you think of all the CGI in the live-acton films, is kind of already happening — with a Cybertron-era prequel film called Transformers One. Scheduled for September 19, 2024, the film is reportedly set in the continuity of the live-action movies but will feature numerous new actors in classic roles including Chris Hemsworth as Optimus, Brian Tyree Henry as Megatron, Scarlett Johansson as Elita, Keegan-Michael Key as Bumblebee, Jon Hamm as Sentinel Prime, and Laurence Fishburne as Alpha Trion.

Does that feel like enough Robots in Disguise to keep busy for the next few years…?

How to watch the live action Transformers in chronological order

Image credit: Paramount Pictures

Okay, this is where things get interesting. If you ignore some flashback scenes, the rough chronological order for the Transformers movie franchise looks like this:

If you include those flashback scenes — which involve but are not limited to the Transformers’ complicity in the death of the dinosaurs, the Transformers’ involvement in the moon landing, and a group of Transformers hanging out during Arthurian times because why not — the chronological timeline of the franchise looks more like this:

  • ”Creators” scenes from Transformers: Age of Extinction (Circa 65,000,000 BC)
  • ”Primes” scenes from Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (17,000 BC)
  • Ancient England scenes from Transformers: The Last Knight (484 BC)
  • Moon landing scenes from Transformers: Dark of the Moon (1961 AD)
  • Bumblebee (1987 AD)
  • Contemporary scenes in Transformers: Rise of the Beasts (1994 AD)
  • Transformers (2007 AD)
  • Contemporary scenes in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009 AD)
  • Contemporary scenes in Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011 AD)
  • Contemporary scenes in Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014 AD)
  • Contemporary scenes in Transformers: The Last Knight (2017 AD)
  • Future scenes in Transformers: Rise of the Beasts (Unknown)

That seems like a lot of movies, what are the essential movies if I just want to sample Transformers?

Image credit: Paramount Pictures

Honestly, the best introduction to the Transformers movie might depend on whether or not you grew up with the Generation 1 Transformers or not. If you did, then Bumblebee is almost certainly your jam, featuring characters and, more importantly, character designs that you’ll recognize.

For those with almost no nostalgic grounding in the Transformers property at all, then the 2007 movie is perhaps the best place to start: not only is it the first movie in the series and so requires the least amount of preparation or knowledge before starting, but it’s also a good introduction to the frenetic and overstuffed directorial stylings of Michael Bay, which only get more Michael Bay-ian as the series continues. If you can’t handle the 2007 movie, then perhaps the overall movie series isn’t for you, and you should just skip to the prequel series, which consists solely of Bumblebee and Rise of the Beasts so far.

Where to watch the Transformers movies?

Transformers: Rise of the Beasts
Image credit: Paramount Pictures

The Transformers movie series is available to stream on Paramount+, with the exception of Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, which has only just been released in theaters. Additionally, Transformers (2007) is available on both Max and Prime Video as of writing.

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Graeme McMillan

Graeme McMillan: Popverse Editor Graeme McMillan (he/him) has been writing about comics, culture, and comics culture on the internet for close to two decades at this point, which is terrifying to admit. He completely understands if you have problems understanding his accent.


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