It's pretty clear that the Transformers franchise is one of the most divisive film series of recent times: for everyone who loves the unique brand of mayhem that Michael Bay has brought to the films, there are several others who are far from convinced.


Still, that hasn't stopped the franchise from making a lot of money at the box office and so it's no real surprise that we had a new film titled Transformers: Rise of the Beasts – the seventh entry in the series so far.

Although most of the movies have begun with a prologue set in the past – whether that be the extinction of the dinosaurs or the space race in the ‘60s – for the most part the timelines of the films has been chronological from when they were released.

But that all changed with the sixth outing Bumblebee – the first entry not to be directed by Bay – which unfolded entirely in 1987 and therefore was set twenty years before the events of the earlier movies.

This newly complicated timeline continued with Rise of the Beasts, which is set between the end of Bumblebee and the beginning of the main series – so it's safe to say that there's now a little debate to be had about what order the films should be watched in.

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So if you are planning to re-watch the films now that the new one is arriving in UK cinemas, here’s how to navigate the series in both chronological and release order.

How to watch the Transformers movies in chronological order

Here's the best way to watch the Transformers movies in order, all the way from Bumblebee to The Last Knight:

  • Bumblebee (2018)
  • Transformers: Rise of the Beasts (2023)
  • Transformers (2007)
  • Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)
  • Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)
  • Transformers: The Last Knight (2017)

1. Bumblebee (2018)

The sixth Transformers film to be released is in fact the first movie when you look at the series chronologically. There’s been some debate over whether Bumblebee, written by Birds of Prey’s Christina Hodson and directed by Travis Knight, counts as a prequel or a soft reboot of the franchise (as some of the plot points it sets up don’t seamlessly line up with storylines in the later films). Either way, we know it takes place in 1987, two decades before Bay’s first Transformers movie.

When Optimus Prime sends fellow autobot B-127 (voiced by Dylan O’Brien) to Earth to set up a base, the transformer ends up disguising itself as a yellow Volkswagen Beetle. Grieving the death of her father, teenage Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld) receives the car as an 18th birthday present and starts trying to restore the vehicle.

Her renovation attempts are thrown off course when the car transforms back to B-127, but the pair soon become unlikely pals, with Charlie nicknaming the robot Bumblebee. When his enemies the Decepticons learn where Bumblebee has been hiding, though, the action steps up a gear.

2. Transformers: Rise of the Beasts (2023)

The most recent film in the franchise serves as both a sequel to the aforementioned Bumblebee and a prequel to the earlier films in the series, with the action unfolding in 1994 – where ex-military electronics expert Noah (Anthony Ramos) and museum intern Elena (Dominique Fishback) unwittingly find themselves caught up in a war between various species of Transformers.

The film finds the Autobots allying themselves with a species of Transformers known as Maximals which take the form of large animals (including a gorilla known as Optimus Primal). Together, they attempt to put a stop to the evil Terrorcons, who pose a threat so massive that it could spell the end of life on Earth.

The action takes Noah, Elena, and the various Transformers to Peru as they try to track down a vital 'Transwarp Key" – but it's far from a simple task and we soon see plenty of the epic action sequences that the franchise has become known for.

3. Transformers (2007)

The movie that kicked off Michael Bay’s larger than life franchise sets the tone with a more is more attitude, wisecracking robots and explosions galore. Amid the civil war between the Autobots and their long-time foes the Decepticons, Autobot boss Optimus Prime wants to track down the AllSpark (the source of all life on the planet Cybertron, aka the film’s plot-driving McGuffin) to restore peace, while the Decepticons plan to use it for nefarious means.

Decepticon leader Megatron is the one to find it hidden on earth, but crashes in the Arctic Circle and is frozen in the ice. Fast forward thousands of years, and the Decepticons, now disguised as Earth vehicles, are attempting to hack into the US military network to try and track down his location.

Meanwhile, autobot Bumblebee is also lurking on Earth, disguised as a Chevrolet Camaro, as nerdy high school student Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) discovers when he’s trying to buy his first car to impress crush Mikaela (Megan Fox). Soon Sam, Mikaela, Bumblebee and a host of other autobots are embroiled in the quest to hunt down Megatron and the AllSpark, all while dodging agents from Sector 7, a top-secret government programme.

Its talking robots and huge battle scenes ended up as the perfect recipe for an all-conquering summer blockbuster. Despite almost universally poor reviews upon its release in July 2007, Transformers eventually took more than $709.7 million at the box office worldwide.

4. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)

Set two years after the events of the first film, this sequel kicks off as Sam, now a college student, is plagued by visions of Cybertron symbols, which he’s been seeing ever since he touched a small shard of the AllSpark. That’s bad news for him, because the Decepticons are convinced that these symbols could lead them to a new Energon source that would give them the power to wipe out the sun and destroy life on Earth.

Behind this scheme is the first ever Decepticon known as the Fallen (whose backstory is set out in the prologue scenes set in 17,000 BC) who sends his minions to capture Sam and destroy Optimus Prime. It all culminates in a huge showdown against the backdrop of the Pyramids of Giza, with the arrival of Devastator, a gigantic composite of various Constructicons, providing one of the film’s most memorable battles.

As well as LaBeouf and Fox, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson and John Turturro were among the Transformers cast who returned for the second movie, joined by Tony Todd as the voice of the Fallen. After the box office success of the first film, expectations were inevitably high, but Revenge of the Fallen managed to surpass its predecessor, taking in $836.3 million dollars internationally and beating the record for the strongest Wednesday opening previously held by Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

5. Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)

The third Transformers movie begins with the now-traditional prologue, although this one isn’t set quite so far into the past. It takes place in 1961, with President John F Kennedy signing off on a mission to put a man on the moon as, you guessed it, a cover up to distract from what NASA are really doing: investigating the Ark, a Cybertronian spacecraft that has crashed up there.

In the film’s present day, four years after the events of Revenge of the Fallen, Sam has finished college and is living with girlfriend Carly (Rosie Huntingdon-Whiteley, who joined the franchise after the departure of Fox), but is struggling to find a steady job, despite his impeccable world-saving credentials. It soon becomes clear that the Decepticons are killing off anyone with information about The Ark and are stockpiling Pillars, advanced pieces of tech which can create wormholes connecting two points in space.

Their goal is to eventually restore their home planet and soon, the Decepticons are mounting a major attack on Chicago. It’s up to Sam and the Autobots to stop them, though our hero has his hands full when it turns out that Carly’s boss (Patrick Dempsey) is acting as an agent for the bad guys. As well as Dempsey, the likes of John Malkovich (as Sam’s boss) and Frances McDormand (as a government head of intelligence) also rather improbably crop up, adding some acting clout to the franchise. The third instalment crossed the $1 billion mark at the box office, becoming the second-highest-grossing movie of 2011, beaten only by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II.

6. Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)

The franchise had a major switch up for Age of Extinction with LaBeouf out and Mark Wahlberg in as inventor Cade Yeager. After the obligatory prologue set 65 million years ago, which helpfully explains that the dinosaurs were actually wiped out when an alien race covered the Earth in a metal alloy called Transformium, we learn that the Autobots are being hunted by a mercenary Transformer called Lockdown.

His sights are set on destroying Optimus Prime, who is hiding in Texas, where he is eventually discovered by Yeager. Though his daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz) encourages him to hand the robot in, he decides to use his technical know-how to fix him instead, a decision which will end up drawing him and his family into the latest clash between the Autobots and the Decepticons.

The all-new live action cast also features Stanley Tucci as a wealthy businessman who fancies building some Transformers of his own, Kelsey Grammer as the rogue CIA agent determined to wipe all Transformers off the face of the earth, and Jack Reynor as Shane, Tessa’s boyfriend.

7. Transformers: The Last Knight (2017)

Bay’s final Transformers movie begins with a dose of Arthurian mythology, as Merlin discovers a group of Transformers known as the Knights of Iacon and asks for them to help him support King Arthur. They present him with a magical staff, which helps the King ward off the invading Saxons.

Why is that relevant, you ask? Because as the film returns to the present day, Optimus Prime has been brainwashed, given a dark alter ego, Nemesis Prime and told to retrieve Merlin’s staff, which is powerful enough to restore the planet Cybertron. Meanwhile, Yeager is contacted by a secret organisation headed up by Sir Edmund Burton (Anthony Hopkins). Their job? To ensure that the Transformers' involvement in every major world event remains top secret, of course. With the help of an Oxford academic called Viviane Wembly (Laura Haddock), Yeager must attempt to track down the staff and break the spell on Optimus Prime.

The Last Knight saw the return of characters from past instalments, including Duhamel’s William Lennox and Turturro’s agent Seymour Simmons, but failed to live up to the dizzy heights of its predecessors, earning a comparatively lukewarm $605.4 million at the box office worldwide.

Transformers movies in release order

If you’d rather tackle the films in the order that they arrived in cinemas instead, here’s how to do it:

  1. Transformers (2007)
  2. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)
  3. Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)
  4. Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)
  5. Transformers: The Last Knight (2017)
  6. Bumblebee (2018)
  7. Transformers: Rise of the Beasts (2023)

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