Fast cars, fast friends and of course, family. For nearly 20 years, the “Fast & Furious” series has put the pedal to the medal, racing its way to become one of the most successful franchises of all time.
The wildly popular series, which shifted gears from street racing to heist-centric thrillers over the course of eight films, has grossed more than $5 billion worldwide. The franchise even spawned a spinoff last year, “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw.”
The “Fast” saga’s ninth installment, “F9,” was set to be released May 22 in theaters. But the coronavirus pandemic pushed the franchise’s next chapter back a full year, to April 2, 2021.
What will we do until we see Dominic Toretto and the gang ride again? As big fans of the franchise, we decided to get on the gas and rank the eight movies in the main series from least favorite to favorite. Here’s to living life a quarter mile at a time.
8. “The Fate of the Furious” (2017)
The eighth “Fast & Furious” film is also the most frustrating. The most recent installment is too dark and too serious, a departure from the absurdly fun films. It betrays the theme of family that runs throughout the series.
The mediocre entry sees Dom (Vin Diesel) turn his back on his crew. It’s a head-scratching move for the film, the first without Paul Walker after his untimely death. Instead of breaking apart the family, the film should have tried to keep them together. “Fate of the Furious” also wastes Charlize Theron as villainous hacker Cipher, who does little more than type furiously on a keyboard. And in a brutal move, the film kills Elena (Elsa Pataky), Dom’s former flame and the mother of his newly discovered son.
Speaking of family, “The Fate of the Furious” welcomes Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) – the killing machine from “Furious 7” who murdered Han (Sung Kang), one of the crew’s own – with open arms. As great as Statham is in the role, this is a slap in the face to one of the most popular characters in the franchise.
The best part of the film is the entertaining back-and-forth dynamic between Statham’s Shaw and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s law enforcement agent Luke Hobbs. The two are so good together that they earned their own spinoff, “Hobbs & Shaw.”
7. “2 Fast 2 Furious” (2003)
Two years after “The Fast and the Furious” launched what would become a phenomenon, Walker brought his beloved character, undercover cop Brian O’Conner, back for a sequel. Unfortunately, he was the only one from the original film to return, with Diesel passing on the follow-up. The absence of the original cast is felt here.
The so-so, formulaic actioner directed by John Singleton recycles part of the plot of the first film. Brian goes undercover once again, this time to infiltrate the racing underworld of Miami.
But there’s some fun to be had here. “2 Fast 2 Furious” introduces Tyrese as goofy muscle Roman and Ludacris as race planner turned tech whiz Tej, both of whom play essential roles in future films. And the final stunt – a car flying into a boat – sets the course for the physics-defying set pieces that would become a hallmark of the franchise.
6. “Fast & Furious” (2009)
The fourth film showed the franchise still had gas in the tank by reuniting the family at the heart of the story. “Fast & Furious” brought back Diesel, Walker, Jordana Brewster as Mia and Michelle Rodriguez as Letty for the first time since the 2001 original. The entry acts as a bridge between the first three loosely connected films and the franchise’s streamlined future.
The second of the four films in the franchise directed by Justin Lin, “Fast & Furious” established a cohesive look for the series – flashy and sleek – that later directors have run with. Lin himself will return as director for “F9.”
The introductory sequence with the gasoline heist is cool and thrilling, revving the franchise into more action-oriented territory. “Fast & Furious” sets the stage for the series’ shift from street racing to heist flick that “Fast Five” would deliver upon.
Despite its importance in jump-starting the franchise, “Fast & Furious” falls short of the excellence that the next three installments would achieve. The racing action is underwhelming and murky, including its climactic chase in the tunnels. The chemistry is also off between Dom, who’s grieving the death of Letty, and Gisele (Gal Gadot), whose character is used more effectively in future films.
5. “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” (2006)
The underrated “Tokyo Drift” was initially considered an oddball entry. The third installment features a new cast and moves the action from the U.S. to Japan. But Lin’s first film in the franchise highlights the colorful “drift” racing and introduces a character who would leave a lasting impact on the series.
The cool, calm and collected Han – my favorite character in the franchise – shockingly dies at the end of “Tokyo Drift.” But the character became so beloved that the filmmakers changed the series’ chronological timeline just to keep Han in the movies. The next three installments – “Fast & Furious,” “Fast Five” and “Fast & Furious 6” – all occur before “Tokyo Drift.”
The film itself brings a new spin to the “Fast” saga. “Tokyo Drift” adopts the structure of a modern-day Western as American high school student Sean (Lucas Black) finds himself an outsider in Tokyo. Black isn’t the most charismatic here, but he’s likable enough. He returned to the franchise in “Furious 7” and is set to come back in “F9.”
A cameo from Diesel also cements the movie’s connection to the original film. Plus, the movie has a really catchy intro song, “Six Days” by DJ Shadow featuring Mos Def.
4. “The Fast and the Furious” (2001)
This is the film that started it all. “The Fast and the Furious” establishes the family dynamic between Dom, Letty, Brian and Mia. The film delved into the world of illegal street racing, relishing the sights and sounds of drag racing, car parts and the accompanying lingo.
“The Fast and the Furious” came out when I was in college. Some of my friends were involved with car clubs and fixing up their cars, so the movie brings back good memories for me. My friends and I used to “cruise the ave,” which meant driving around a stretch of Wyoming Avenue in Kingston and Edwardsville.
The conflicted Brian became one of my favorite characters in the franchise. Walker, with his flowing, blonde curls, captured the character’s struggle between his duty as a cop, his growing respect for Dom and his feelings for Mia. I always liked the romance between Brian and Mia, which I was happy to see develop over future installments.
3. “Fast & Furious 6” (2013)
No offense to Michelle Rodriguez, but I’m not a big fan of Letty. I’ve just never been able to relate to the character. However, her resurrection from the dead, revealed at the end of “Fast Five,” was a huge shock. “Fast & Furious 6” does a great job of bringing the character back into the fold. The film also embraces the larger-than-life action that “Fast Five” dove into, engineering a worthy follow-up.
Rodriguez’s chemistry with Diesel still sizzles onscreen. The actress navigates Letty’s amnesia with her desire to figure out what happened to her and take control of her life. Though it’s unlikely she’d win against MMA fighter Gina Carano in real life, their subway fight in “Fast & Furious 6” is one of the best in the series. Luke Evans makes a formidable villain in Owen Shaw, who harbors an unsettling hold over Letty.
“Fast & Furious 6” boasts incredible action. There’s street racing, a tank and a heartbreaking airplane sequence. And when the film finally addresses Han’s death, it’s delivered with an added blow: the stinger of an ending introduces Statham’s Deckard Shaw as the culprit. I remember sitting in the theater dumbstruck at the reveal of the action star joining one of the world’s biggest franchises.
2. “Furious 7” (2015)
The seventh film in the franchise carried a monumental task: It marked Walker’s final film in the series. Yet “Furious 7” succeeds as a moving tribute to the actor. His sendoff, accompanied by the fitting tune of Wiz Khalifa’s “See You Again,” is nothing short of perfect.
Walker’s scenes were finished through CGI and by using his brothers as stand-ins. Though the techniques could have proven distracting, they don’t take away from the film. We see Brian mix it up with Dom and Mia, take on some of the most pulse-pounding action sequences in franchise history, and ride off into the sunset as the character lives on. I’ll never forget watching “Furious 7” in the theater as we applauded Walker’s action scenes and shed tears at the finale.
“Furious 7” also had some of the best action of any movie I saw that year. With director James Wan taking over the outing, the film features one of my favorite action sequences in the series: Cars flying through buildings in Abu Dhabi. The breathtaking stunt represents the peak action the franchise strives for. As Deckard Shaw, Statham was a force of nature from the opening scene, showing his metal in a relentless hospital attack. The action star engaged in jaw-dropping fights with both the Rock and Diesel, making a fantastic new addition to the franchise.
The film maintains the upward trajectory of excellence set by “Fast Five.” Which brings me to …
1. “Fast Five” (2011)
The fifth installment of the franchise beat the Marvel Cinematic Universe at its own game. A year before “The Avengers,” “Fast Five” assembled the best characters from the previous four “Fast & Furious” films – and added juggernaut Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to the mix. The result is the best film of the series, which beautifully completed its transition into the heist genre. “Fast Five” elevated the franchise to a whole new level.
Dom, Brian, Mia, Roman, Tej, Han and Gisele reunite with Leo (Tego Calderon) and Santos (Don Omar) from “Fast & Furious” to take on a ruthless drug lord. The film also introduces Elena, a brave cop who shares a connection with Dom. I’ve always liked Elena and her character’s quiet strength, and I like her better with Dom than Letty.
“Fast Five” is one of the best action flicks in the last decade. Set in picturesque Brazil, the sprawling entry includes a death-defying train heist and a thrilling chase along the rooftops of the favelas. The breathtaking finale is an intense, around 20-minute long sequence of the gang using their cars to drag a safe through the streets. It’s a cinematic feat.
This is the film that catapulted the franchise into blockbuster territory, making each new sequel a must-see event in theaters. It’s a blast to watch and remains my favorite.
“Fast Five” reinvigorated the series and transformed the action landscape. It set a high bar for the franchise that still stands today.
8. “The Fate of the Furious” (2017)
The eighth installment of the franchise has many flaws, but one provided the death blow and landed it at the bottom of my list. In a franchise filled with some tough deaths, “The Fate of the Furious” went too dark, killing Dom Toretto’s (Vin Diesel) former love interest, Elena (Elsa Pataky), in front of their newborn baby. It’s something I struggle to get past in a franchise based on fun.
I also don’t like that Dom spends most of the movie helping the bad guys. I understand he’s under duress, but it’s no fun watching him not lead the team. The movie wastes the great Charlize Theron and sets up a scene involving Paul Walker’s character Brian O’Conner that rubbed me the wrong way. The team wants to ask Brian and Mia for help, but Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) says we promised to never involve them. It wasn’t necessary to the film as the audience knows Walker died. It’s a shame because the film pays a nice tribute to the character and Walker when Dom names his kid Brian at the end.
The negatives are also unfortunate because this film has a lot going for it. Each action sequence gives the audience something different, capped with a beautifully absurd submarine chase paired with a phenomenally choreographed airplane rescue sequence with Jason Statham (Deckard Shaw). The Rock (Luke Hobbs) pushes a torpedo at one point and has great scenes with Statham, including a prison break that planted the seed for the Hobbs and Shaw spinoff.
It’s a better made film than at least the next two movies on my list, but “The Fate of the Furious” is the only film in the franchise that made me think maybe it had gone too far. Granted, it is the eighth film in the franchise so it tried to distinguish itself somehow. But, the dark tone left a bad taste in my mouth.
7. “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” (2006)
When I first saw this movie, I didn’t like Lucas Black, who plays the lead Sean Boswell, and I didn’t like being away from all the characters we loved from the first two films. My favorite character in the film is Han (Sung Kang) and in 2006 we didn’t know anything about him. This third installment benefits from a rewatch after seeing films four through six. It was at this point I realized “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” is a good movie. The franchise retroactively made it better because the audience learns more about Han.
The idea of drifting was also pretty cool to explore and adds another layer to the franchise’s future films. I’ve grown to like Black as an actor after seeing more of his projects, including “42.” His interactions as Sean with Han are the best parts of the movie. It’s amazing how much heart this film has with Han at its center. I also really enjoy the music throughout the movie.
That being said, without Brian or Dom (Well, he did have a cameo) “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” had to fall toward the bottom of the list.
6. “2 Fast 2 Furious” (2003)
I fully admit “2 Fast 2 Furious” is a guilty pleasure. It is the worst film and biggest departure from the franchise. And let’s not forget one of the movies takes us to Tokyo. But, here’s why I enjoy it.
It’s the most relaxed film of the bunch and that makes it an easy, fun watch. While most of the “Fast and Furious” films are based on family, this one is based on community. It all starts with the great chemistry between Walker and Tyrese Gibson (Roman Pearce). Gibson is mostly the comic relief in the other films, but he shines brightest in “2 Fast 2 Furious.” The duo makes the audience believe they are friends instantly. It starts as a combative relationship that grows to both sides taking responsibility for their actions and ends with them forming a brotherhood. Their back and forth throughout fuels the film. They have some great visual and physical comedy as well as some absurd lines. Some rhyme and I don’t know if it was on purpose. Even still, they make me laugh. Here’s a few:
Roman: “Eject-o seat-o, cous!
Brian: “I know, man. I know. It’s getting thick real quick.”
Roman: “Brian’s woman is on her own with Verone.”
On top of that, the racers and mechanics all respect each other, led by the introduction of Tej Parker (Ludacris) and Suki (Devon Aoki). This is seen most during the “scramble” when drivers who were competing at the beginning of the movie helped Brian and Roman escape the cops toward the end. I’ve just always enjoyed that sense of community and as a result the film relaxes me. It just feels like a bunch of friends hanging out with the great chemistry between Brian and Roman at its center. Add in a Dukes of Hazzard jump from land to a boat and the cars accelerating to Mach 3 every time they hit the nitrous and I just have an absolute blast. It also has one of the best songs of the franchise (“Act a Fool” by Ludacris).
One scene I think is really well done is when Brian and Roman are looking for Carter Verone’s (Cole Hauser) car. They enter the lot where the boats are and they’re looking for the cars. They’re traveling at high speeds obviously and eventually the camera zooms in on their eyes looking back and forth. Finally they reach the section with the cars. Then their eyes widen when they find Verone’s car. I’ve always been impressed that they made driving through the parking lot look entertaining and showing their eyes when they find the car instead of one of them shouting, “There it is!”
Very few share my opinion and I understand. It is the worst made film and it has a gruesome rat sequence that comes out of nowhere. However, it has a certain charm that separates it from the other movies.
5. “Fast & Furious” (2009)
The fourth installment deserves credit for getting the gang back together and it does a nice job setting the stage for “Fast Five.” It also has one of my favorite absurd scenes in the franchise. Dom gets shot in the shoulder and it doesn’t seem to hurt him. It only serves to enrage him. It makes me laugh every time. The bullet does not faze him one bit. It’s not as egregious as how Nicolas Cage takes a bullet in “Con Air,” but it’s pretty close.
I love when Dom finds out Brian was working with Letty and they fight. I always thought Walker handled emotional scenes well in the franchise and he didn’t disappoint here.
This was an early appearance from Gal Gadot as Gisele. She does a great job building the character in other films, but she doesn’t have much depth in “Fast & Furious.” She is one of a few vital parts of the franchise introduced in the film. The other is Arturo Braga (John Ortiz), who is revisited in “Fast and Furious 6.” This is also the movie where Dom cheats to beat Brian, or so Brian claims.
I enjoy “Fast & Furious.” It accomplishes a lot by reestablishing the characters from the first film to set the stage for the future. The one thing it has going against it is the next three films in the franchise proved better.
4. “The Fast and the Furious” (2001)
Remember in 2001 when this movie (if I told somebody this would become the franchise it did back then, he or she would laugh at me) was seen as a derivative of “Point Break?” Remember when the franchise dealt more with street racing? Remember Walker’s luscious locks and how young everyone looked? “The Fast and the Furious” had no idea what it would become. Back then it was simply a good film.
It’s weird to watch this now as the original film is grounded in reality. At this point, they’re all superheroes. I think it’s one of the best scenes in the franchise when Dom talks about his father’s death to Brian. It’s oddly great writing for an action franchise.
The truck heist scene toward the end is well done and very intense. The “Dude, I almost had you” scene is great and the final race to the railroad tracks is still iconic. Also, at the end of the film, make sure to look at how Brian hands his keys to Dom. He hands them over like no other human being would and it’s hilarious.
And who doesn’t like to randomly scream, “I never narked on nobody!” Oh, is that just me?
I could see “The Fast and the Furious” being some people’s favorites if this is the kind of movie they are looking for. Today, the franchise is drastically different. However, I think many agree it’s drastically different in a good way.
3. “Furious 7” (2015)
This film deserves a lot of credit for its handling of Walker’s death. The tribute at the end is perfect and emotional. I cried in the theater along with a lot of other men. Never have I seen more man tears. They also shot the film with Brian part of the entire plot. The use of CGI and his brothers worked really well when a lot of people doubted the filmmakers could make it happen.
“Furious 7” also adds Statham who establishes his presence right away. The film cleverly shows the destruction he left behind when he went to see his brother at the hospital. He also takes on Hobbs and Dom in the same film. Although I fully admit the last fight with Dom ends in the most absurd way. Dom says, “Thing about street fights … The street always wins” and then slams his foot into the pavement to make the ground collapse around Shaw. It’s dumb, but it does make me laugh.
It has an awesome double skyscraper jump in Abu Dhabi. It was a great Super Bowl ad as well. Parachuting cars with Roman afraid to go on the mission proves a fun sequence. The action is top notch throughout the film and I enjoy Kurt Russell as Mr. Nobody.
One of my problems with the franchise is that I don’t really care about Letty. So, the movie is mostly based on Letty getting her memory back and I just don’t care about her relationship with Dom. I like Dom with Elena better, but the franchise had to go kill her off. I’m just not on board with a plot that centers on Letty. She also beats up her second straight MMA fighter (Ronda Rousey) and it’s just not believable.
The God’s Eye is also probably a little too powerful of a plot device. Overall though, solid action and reverence to a beloved actor make “Furious 7” a winner.
2. “Fast & Furious 6” (2013)
After the great “Fast Five,” “Fast & Furious 6” did everything it could to try to surpass its predecessor. And almost succeeded. After bringing in The Rock to try to take down Dom and the team, they join forces. They have to take down Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), who we later find out is the brother of the more formidable Deckard Shaw, but he’s a strong villain who goes toe-to-toe with Dom’s stacked team. He even makes them look pedestrian in an impressive display of power at the beginning of the film.
Once again the action sequences are phenomenal, including the introduction to Shaw, the highway tank scene and the plane takedown on the longest runway ever created. It must be about 15 miles long for the time it takes to finally ground the plane for good. The plane sequence includes some fun, over-the-top action where Dom and Hobbs team up in hand-to-hand combat. Dom connects on a hilarious flying head butt. He also jumps in a car and floors it out of the front of the plane, which is in flames, and does a barrel roll down the runway. Seconds later, he gets out of the car and is completely fine. Gisele’s arc is also completed as she sacrifices herself for Han.
The tank scene is also amazing, with some funny banter from Roman and a great Roman leap to another car. Speaking of leaps, Dom saves Letty by catapulting himself across an elevated highway and pretty much tackling her into a car on the other side. Instead of a physics argument, Letty’s only question after the fact is, “How did you know a car would be there to catch us?” Cars don’t catch you. If you hit them at a high rate of speed, they kill you. But this is the “Fast and Furious” franchise.
There’s also a sequence when Roman and Han chase down one henchman and are completely overmatched in hand-to-hand combat. It’s a hilarious sequence where the good guys actually lose the fight. After the bad guy gets away, Roman tells Han, “Nobody needs to know about this.”
Once again Letty beats up an MMA fighter in Gina Carano (Riley) and the film’s plot zeroes in on her amnesia. If this franchise never focused on Letty, it would somehow be even better.
The sixth installment is an awesome movie and makes “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” better with its end credit scene. However, only one film elevated this franchise to billion-dollar status.
1. “Fast Five” (2011)
The fifth and best installment of the “Fast and Furious” franchise brings back every character the audience liked in the previous films for a heist. It also adds the constantly sweating Rock to try to take the team down.
The stunt work is phenomenal as scenes the audience wouldn’t think are real turn out to be just that. The safe scene is the best action sequence of the franchise and for years I thought it was all CGI. Turns out, there’s a car in the safe. So, some of that scene is real. Also, the car driving off the train into the desert proves real as well.
The safe scene is just so much fun with Brian and Dom pulling it. The destruction it caused is absurd, as they probably killed about 100 innocent people. Just try to stay focused on the fun.
It perfectly expands the franchise, giving each character a role as it embraces an “Ocean’s 11” vibe. Diesel and The Rock go toe-to-toe in a fight we were all looking forward to that ends with a nice callback to the first film. It also has its token race scene as Roman, Han, Brian and Dom battle for $4 million. Dom lets Brian win as a baby gift, and Roman and Han don’t let him live it down.
The “This is Brazil” scene is also pretty awesome and serves as a tease for when we’re going to see The Rock fight Diesel. Also, I cannot emphasize enough The Rock’s sweat. So much sweat.
Also, Letty isn’t in it, which is a huge positive. Well, her picture pops in during the end credit scene, but the less Letty the better.
I also have always enjoyed when they show what each character did with their money in a montage. The music choices throughout the film are also phenomenal.
Most importantly, “Fast Five” is the first film that truly establishes the theme of family, which has driven the franchise ever since.
Rebecca Kivak and Joe Baress write about movies for Take 2 blog. Together, they review current flicks and offer their insights into the latest movie news. Rebecca is a copy editor and page designer at The Times-Tribune. She started her career with Times-Shamrock Newspapers in 2005 and has won several professional journalism awards for page design and headline writing. She also covers NASCAR races from Pocono Raceway. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9100 x5126; @TTRebeccaKivak