At one point, rather a long time ago now, the “Fast & Furious” movies were about street racing. They do still involve cars moving at breakneck speeds, but only as one component in a blockbuster machine that also routinely includes high-stakes espionage, military-grade shootouts, multimillion-dollar bank heists and villainous schemes for global annihilation. They lately have more in common with James Bond or “Mission: Impossible” than with “Gone in 60 Seconds.”
As the movies have gotten bigger and more spectacular, so too has their ensemble swelled and broadened, and with the latest installment, “F9,” the list of marquee names makes “Game of Thrones” look like “Waiting for Godot.” This is made more complicated by the franchise’s tendency to shuffle characters in and out of the troupe without warning or explanation — actors are frequently being written out and then written back in, or killed off, then suddenly resuscitated. It can be very, very hard to keep track of who’s who and what their deal is.
With “F9” nitrous-boosting its way into theaters this weekend, here’s a handy cast explainer to get you up to speed.
Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel)
The heart of the series, Dom’s a world-weary, Corona-drinking street racer and car hijacker with an obsessive devotion to his family and a fraught relationship to the law. He first appeared in “The Fast and the Furious” (2001, the movie that started it all) as a small-time Los Angeles crook with a heart of gold, and has gradually evolved to become a sort of freelance secret agent and globe-trotting supercop. In “The Fate of the Furious” (2017), it was revealed that he had an infant son.
Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker)
The original series hero, Brian was a cop going undercover as a street racer to bust Dom and his crew of hijackers. When it came time to make the arrest, Brian chose to let Dom get away, and the two have been like brothers ever since. Paul Walker died in an automobile accident in 2013, but rather than kill him off, the films wrote Brian into peaceful retirement. He was last seen in the closing moments of “Furious 7” (2015) literally riding off into the sunset.
Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez)
Dom’s wife and partner in crime, Letty was killed at the beginning of the fourth film, “Fast & Furious” (2009), after she ran afoul of a master criminal. In “Fast & Furious 6” (2013), however, she was revealed to have survived the murder attempt after all — though with a serious case of mind-wiping amnesia, which caused her, temporarily, to team up with the bad guys. She saw the error of her ways at the end of that movie, and she’s been back with Dom and company ever since.
Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson)
One of Brian’s childhood friends, Roman was introduced in “2 Fast 2 Furious” (2003, the first sequel) as a silver-tongued Lothario who is sensational behind the wheel. Since being called upon for help with a bank heist in “Fast Five” (2011), he’s been a mainstay of Dom’s crew, usually serving as the comic relief.
Tej Parker (Ludacris)
Like Roman, Tej first appeared in “2 Fast 2 Furious” and has been a series regular since “Fast Five.” He’s the crew’s gifted computer hacker, handling comms, tech and surveillance, although when necessary, he’s willing to drive or fight. Tej and Roman have a friendly rivalry and tease each other constantly.
Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson)
Dwayne Johnson made his debut in “Fast Five” as the brawny Diplomatic Security Service agent Luke Hobbs, the antagonist striving to foil Dom and his crew’s heist plans. Eventually, Dom and friends won him over to their side, and since “Fast & Furious 6” he’s been their frequent teammate and friend. He most recently appeared in the series spinoff “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw” (2019).
Mia Toretto (Jordana Brewster)
Dom’s sister, Mia, was Brian’s love interest in “The Fast and the Furious,” and she has continued to accompany him on his adventures. After she gave birth to her first child, in “Furious 7,” she and Brian have been in retirement, and is back for “F9” after being sidelined in “The Fate of the Furious.”
Han Lue (Sung Kang)
Han, a Korean street racer living in Japan, co-starred in the third film in the series, “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” (2006), and was killed in a car crash during the finale. He appeared alive and well in the next three sequels, however, because they evidently took place before the third film chronologically. To add to the confusion, his accidental death was rewritten as a murder in “Furious 7,” using a mix of archival and new footage. And now he is back, alive again, in “F9,” for reasons that are as yet unclear.
Gisele Yashar (Gal Gadot)
A femme fatale in “Fast & Furious,” Gisele was inducted into the crew in “Fast Five,” when she started a romantic relationship with Han. She died in “Fast & Furious 6,” sacrificing herself to save Han during the action-packed climax. She has not been brought back to life — yet.
Megan Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel)
A world-renowned super-hacker rescued by Dom and his crew from kidnapping in the middle of “Furious 7,” Ramsey has since become a series regular who helps the team with computer-related problems. Tej and Roman have been steadily competing to win her affections.
Sean Boswell (Lucas Black)
The hero of “Tokyo Drift,” Sean is a ne’er-do-well young street racer who hopes to avoid a stint in juvenile detention by shipping out to live with his father in Japan. Other than a brief cameo in “Furious 7,” he hadn’t appeared in a “Fast” movie since, but surprisingly enough, he’s back for “F9.”
Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell)
A top-secret government agent with seemingly limitless resources, Mr. Nobody hired Dom and his crew to help save the world in “Furious 7” and again in “Fate of the Furious.” Think of him as the M to Dom’s James Bond.
Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham)
Another villain turned hero, Shaw tried to wipe out Dom’s crew in “Furious 7” before teaming up with them in “The Fate of the Furious.” He last co-starred in the series spinoff “Hobbs & Shaw” and only has a small cameo in “F9.”
Magdalene Shaw (Helen Mirren)
Deckard’s cockney-accented mother, Magdalene, turned up in “The Fate of the Furious” to lend a hand to Dom. She was last seen in “Hobbs & Shaw,” serving time in prison.
Owen Shaw (Luke Evans)
Deckard’s brother, Owen, meanwhile, was the villain terrorizing the crew in “Fast & Furious 6,” hounding them across London before being thrown out of an airplane in mid-takeoff. He survived that fall and came to Deckard’s (and Dom’s) aid in “The Fate of the Furious.”
Cipher (Charlize Theron)
Cipher is reputedly the world’s most gifted and terrifying hacker, so much so that even the notorious Anonymous collective is afraid to mess with her. She tries to bring about nuclear war in “The Fate of the Furious,” holding Dom’s baby son hostage and killing the baby’s mother in the process. She returns — apparently as a villain again — in “F9.”
Jakob Toretto (John Cena)
A newcomer to the saga. Jakob is Dom’s never-before-mentioned brother, and of course the primary antagonist of “F9.”
Elena Neves (Elsa Pataky)
Dom’s love interest when Letty was presumed dead, Elena was a cop in Rio tapped by Hobbs for assistance in “Fast Five.” She had Dom’s baby, unbeknown to him, and was killed by Cipher shortly after revealing the news to him in “The Fate of the Furious.”
Tego and Rico (Tego Calderon and Don Omar)
Perennial comic sidekicks Tego and Rico have tagged along on several of Dom’s jobs, and usually turn up once or twice per movie for some pratfalls.