Fast & Furious completionists may want to double-check that they've seen every movie in the canonical timeline. Many already know about the oddities in the timeline, but few know that the 2002 crime drama Better Luck Tomorrow is also a part of the family's story. It introduced fan-favorite character Han Lue, who returned in F9, making it all the more important.
Better Luck Tomorrow was directed and co-written by Justin Lin, who has since directed five of the Fast & Furious sequels and is slated to direct the series finale. However, he was little-known as a flimmaker in 2002 when he made Better Luck Tomorrow, right between the release of The Fast and the Furious (2001) and 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003). Lin first came to the franchise to direct The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, where Han is introduced — played by Sung Kang. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Lin explained that Han is the same character from Better Luck Tomorrow. He carried the character over because he loved working with Kang and he couldn't get Han out of his head.
"Very quickly, I realized, 'Well, I want Sung Kang, and I want Han," he reflected back in 2016. Kang and Lin told the outlet that they were both broke during the filming of Better Luck Tomorrow, when they would meet at a Denny's restaurant to workshop Han's characterization and flesh him out. Years later, Kang was washing dishes at his family's restaurant when Lin called him and asked him to audition for Tokyo Drift in front of a major casting director.
Still, that change of venue didn't change much about Han Lue. The character has a remarkably consistent arc when you follow it from his origin in Better Luck Tomorrow straight to Fast & Furious. He begins as an older teen in Better Luck Tomorrow – the cousin of valedictorian Virgil Hu (Jason Tobin).
Better Luck Tomorrow is about a group of over-achieving high school seniors who exploit their good grades and respectable standing to get away with petty crimes, which gradually increase in intensity. Han is the outsider of the group, with a blue-collar background and poor economic prospects. Kang envisioned him as the most Americanized among the Asian-American characters, and as a wannabe gangster.
The movie even provides a reasonable origin for Han's passion for cars. His father is a mechanic who helped him fix up a 1965 Ford Mustang and give it a flashy orange paint job. Kang smokes cigarettes incessantly in this movie, which comes up later in the Fast & Furious franchise where he constantly has a snack in hand instead.
The inclusion of Better Luck Tomorrow in the timeline deepens Han's characterization, but it also adds one more knot to an already complicated timeline. The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift was the third movie in the franchise to come out, but it technically takes place between Fast & Furious 6 and Furious 7. Han appears in Better Luck Tomorrow, the short film Los Bandoleros, Fast & Furious, Fast Five, Fast & Furious 6, Furious 7 and F9.
For those interested in adding Better Luck Tomorrow to their Fast & Furious watchlist, the movie is streaming now on Paramount+. Only time will tell what the future of the franchise holds for Han Lue.