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7 Movies to Watch After You’ve Seen Furious 7

By  · Published on April 3rd, 2015

Buena Vista Distribution Company

Two years ago, I began doing these lists of movie recommendations with Fast & Furious 6, mainly because I was excited about its cast comprised of real-life heavies like professional weightlifter Kim Kold and MMA vet Gina Carano and former judoka champ Joe Taslim, each of whom had appeared in at least one small movie prior to joining the ensemble of a studio blockbuster sequel. Furious 7 doesn’t have me nearly as excited, even with enjoyable non-famous newcomers like Game of Thrones cast member Nathalie Emmanuel and another MMA fighter, Ronda Rousey.

The latest sequel did have me thinking of a bunch of precursors worth recommending, though. A lot of the movies I was reminded of while watching Furious 7 are recent tentpole action pictures, the kind you’re likely to have already seen, such as Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol and Guardians of the Galaxy, and stuff I already chose for the FF6 list, like Condorman. I’ve therefore been able to keep this one short and sweet, only the essentials that you need to become familiar with after becoming familiar with the new James Wan-directed bro-down.

All of these should be easily accessible for you to catch up with this week, so you don’t get too far behind in assignments. And as always, there may be SPOILERS here for the new movie in question.

Dad… Can I Borrow the Car (1970/1972)

With Kurt Russell joining the Fast and Furious franchise, many fans are likely thinking of his relevance in Used Cars and the Grindhouse movie Death Proof, but it’s this earlier short film that best links the actor to car movies for me. Back during his days under contract with Disney, Russell narrated the 22-minute educational-style short about a teenager getting his license and first car. In the first minute, I should point out, that a car is dropped from an airplane and another (cartoon) car drives off the top of a building – both 45 years ahead of Furious 7.

Directed by Ward Kimball, a longtime Disney animator who’d won the Oscar for best animated short in 1970 for It’s Tough to Be a Bird, Dad… Can I Borrow the Car was extended to a 45-minute version in 1972 aired on TV as an episode of The Wonderful World of Disney. This is the one you can watch below, featuring all facets of car culture, from hot rods to derby races to car washes. Watch the longer version in its entirety below.

Blue Thunder (1983)

Thanks to suspension of disbelief, we can overlook the idea that a foreign military helicopter and its drone offspring could patrol let alone attack Downtown Los Angeles and commit terrorist acts for quite a while before the US Air Force responds. Logic isn’t important when you have such cool action sequences. Plus, the people of L.A. are probably just used to helicopters flying around at night, never mind the gunfire and explosions. The climactic sequence reminded me of Blue Thunder, John Badham’s 1983 movie starring Roy Scheider as the pilot of the LAPD’s fancy new military helicopter used for surveillance and crowd control. It’s also worth seeing now before the announced remake, which interestingly involves a drone rather than a helicopter. It’s like Furious 7 bridges the original and the redo.

Sneakers (1992)

It was exactly a year ago that I recommended Sneakers on another of these lists, for Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It’s a much better fit for Furious 7, because of how both movies involve a team of experts, some more serious than others, not tied to any government or military organization who are recruited by a government agency that tasks them with retrieving a device that is about to wind up in the enemy’s hands. That device – in Sneakers it’s a decoding MacGuffin and in Furious 7 it’s the greatest surveillance and location software ever designed – is the sort of thing that’s great in “our” hands but extremely dangerous in our others’.

One thing the Fast and Furious movies could use, by the way, is some goofy character actor in a minor role, like Stephen Tobolowsky in Sneakers. But that’s part of the joke about the FF movies is that even the hackers are hot women, like Nathalie Emmanuel.

Die Hard With a Vengeance (1995)

Franchises seem to be relying too heavily on new villains being related to previous villains and out for revenge for the latter’s death or injury. Before Jason Statham joined the Fast and Furious movies as the brother of Luke Evans’s character, we saw similar situations in the Taken, Crank, Dark Knight, Kick Ass, Pitch Black and Die Hard movies. The last may be the first, if we ignore the shark in Jaws: The Revenge being related to the shark in the original Jaws. If we stick to people and some semblance of plausibility, it’s Jeremy Irons in the third Die Hard being a brother bent on payback for the death of Alan Rickman’s villain in the first movie that should be recognized as the important precedent.

In America (2002)

When Djimon Hounsou showed up in Furious 7, all I could think of was his similar part in Guardians of the Galaxy as a forgettable bad guy. So much that it wasn’t until I was on the actor’s IMDb page that I was reminded that he has twice been nominated for an Academy Award. This 13-year-old movie was the first to get him Oscar recognition, and I feel like it’s sort of been forgotten in the past decade, much like how Hollywood has forgotten that Hounsou has great acting talent. I’m glad he’s been getting money from Guardians, Furious, How to Train Your Dragon 2 and, worst of all, Seventh Son, because maybe it’ll allow him to do something smaller like this moving drama from Jim Sheridan, in which Hounsou plays a man dying of AIDS. His other Oscar nomination, if you’re further interested in his chops, came with his performance in Blood Diamond.

Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior (2003)

Another new recruit for the villain side in Furious 7 is martial arts icon Tony Jaa, who is better than a single fight where he’s challenged let alone defeated by Paul Walker (no offense to the dead). Consider the movie an introduction, albeit not one that necessarily makes Jaa out to be the athletically talented international megastar he is to the unfamiliar viewer. Whether he impressed you there or not, pay him the respect of going back to Ong-Bak, his first action movie as a lead, and then go through its sequels and also The Protector and its sequel. And if you’re in need of vehicular action, the three-wheeled taxi chase below is more fun than a lot of what’s in Furious 7, too.

Ronda Rousey: Breaking Ground (2013)

Ronda Rousey is another martial arts talent who deserved more screen time in Furious 7. Hopefully the UFC champ can return for the next installment, though, as her security team leader character wasn’t killed at the end of her one big scene. For now, you could look to The Expendables 3 for better use of her skills and more promise of her potential as a movie star (she’s set for a buddy cop action flick with The Raid’s Iko Uwais). You should also get to know the real and very likable Rousey through this short documentary profile from Fox Sports. Watch it in full below.

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.