6. The Fate of the Furious (2017)
Is there such a thing as going too big? Well, yes and no. The eighth entry in the franchise certainly feels like the most explosive, and it heightens things to the most ridiculous point. Cars rain from the sky, and nuclear war lurks around the corner. The cast is also massively expansive, and we have to give credit to the movie for juggling all of the characters here. We also have to give kudos to Jason Statham for delivering the best action-star-with-a-baby scene this side of John Woo’s filmography. But with so much happening, it can become difficult to keep track of everything and to feel grounded in a single arc. Still, there are much worse problems to have than a movie with too much of a good thing.
5. Fast & Furious 6 (2013)
Dominic (Diesel), Brian (Walker), and their merry band of misfits are offered amnesty for their many vehicular sins by the menacing, muscle-bound Luke Hobbs (Johnson) in exchange for neutralizing a dangerous mercenary band (which includes Dom’s supposedly dead lady friend Letty) led by Owen Shaw (Luke Evans). Fast & Furious 6 continues the franchise’s crimes against physics, leaning hard into the preposterous, with tanks versus cars, the world’s longest airport runway, and all manner of admirable automotive insanity. So long, street racing realism. Hello, outlandish telenovela action setpieces. Is it silly? Yes. Is that part of the fun? Also Yes. The new mantra: screw logic, we’ve got NAS.
4. F9: The Fast Saga (2021)
F9: The Fast Saga is the epitome of being a child and just slamming action figures together like you’re Zeus creating thunder. If that is how you enjoyed spending your primary years, then this sequel will have you clapping like a performing seal. If it isn’t, well, then you probably took a wrong turn to end up on this list and we recommend retracing your steps until you’re back watching the Tarkovsky film of your choice. For real though, F9 is the dream movie to mark a return to cinemas. It is bombastic and ridiculous and so, so much fun. It broadens the world as we know it, introduces us to some new characters, and welcomes back some who are long overdue for a return. All around, this might not be the best the franchise has to offer, but this is exactly what the ninth entry should have been.
3. The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)
If you have a very big brain, you will not be surprised to see Tokyo Drift this high up the list. While often unfairly maligned for not being its predecessors, this third installment achieves a perfect balance between engaging car shenanigans and keeping the personal stakes grounded and personal. The seemingly standalone sequel follows Sean Boswell (Lucas Black), who moves to Japan to live with his father to avoid a stateside jail sentence. Naturally, he gets caught up in the underground world of drift racing, where he meets a mentor figure in Han Lee (Sung Kang). Tokyo Drift might not fit snugly into the franchise, but at its core, the movie delivers on what the Fast and Furious movies are all about: finding a family. Arguably the most iconic entry in the series (the name! The theme song! Justice for Han!) Tokyo Drift deserves way, way more love.
2. Furious 7 (2015)
More than any other entry in the franchise, Furious 7 is the one we can assume to be the biggest challenge for the cast and crew. The tragic and untimely passing of Paul Walker necessitated rewrites and digital effects to compensate for Brian’s place in the story. It also added a heavy responsibility to director James Wan’s shoulders. Walker was beloved by fans and fellow actors, and there was a need to handle his departure from the franchise with grace. Thankfully, Wan excelled. He gave the character a touching send-off in addition to delivering a truly exhilarating action movie. There are a handful of instantly iconic stunts, from the car skydiving scene to the Abu Dhabi skyscraper jump. Furious 7 is a touching finale for Walker’s character and a gloriously over-the-top display of what this franchise accomplishes at its best.
1. Fast Five (2011)
Although Justin Lin’s Fast Five wasn’t a literal reboot of the franchise (the fourth entry more so occupies that role), it was a spiritual reboot. It serves up an Ocean’s Eleven-style assemblage of a proper team in order to pull off a South American heist. The criminal plot here is a lot of fun, with slick driving and the iconic safe rampage through the streets of Rio. But what Fast Five really did for this franchise was bestow all that came before with a sense of retroactive importance. Characters we saw in several movies prior are now integral to this world and vital to the ever-growing family.
There’s a lot to say about the movie’s tight pace, sense of humor, and a palpable sense of camaraderie between characters. But the thing that really highlights what Fast Five means for the franchise is found in a simple cut. At one point, the crew realizes they need some cars to pull off the plan. And where do you get cars when you’re a gang of outlaws running from the US government? A drag race, obviously. But instead of depicting the actual race, the movie just cuts to show their return with pink slips and a new ride.
The Fast and Furious movies have evolved so much over the years, and the characters project such capability and confidence that we already know they’d win. Why show a race if there are really no stakes to it? This is a movie that, for all of its bombastic indulgence, wields its action with precision. Not a second is to be wasted.
Related Topics: Fast and Furious