A few preliminary notes before we dive into this ranking of the ten Fast & Furious movies that exist as of this writing:
- Ranking these movies is fun but also a little impossible because there’s such a ridiculous range throughout the franchise, to the degree that the first and tenth movies have almost nothing in common beyond Vin Diesel driving cars very fast
- It’s nuts to sit back and think about how these movies have been a consistent part of pop culture around the world for over 20 years, kind of like Star Wars but if Mark Hamill had kept playing Luke Skywalker straight through the mid-1990s
- It would be really funny if Star Wars pulled a reverse-Fast and the final film in the entire franchise was about Han Solo’s descendants stealing consumer electronics from speeding 18-wheelers on Southern California highways
Let’s get into it. As always, these rankings are based on personal taste and your mileage may vary substantially. That’s fine. If we have learned nothing else from the adventures of Dominic Toretto, we have at least learned that you can always put your differences aside over a Corona or two at a backyard barbecue. Even if you’ve tried to kill each other with rockets. Which, I must stress here, I do not want you to do to me. Please do not shoot a rocket at me. Ever. For any reason. But especially not over these rankings.
10. Fast & Furious (2009)
The weird thing about this movie is that I remember almost nothing that happened in it despite watching it multiple times. It’s just kind of… there, the bridge between the franchise losing its stars and heading off to Tokyo and the whole thing becoming a multibillion-dollar enterprise about super-spies with rockets and futuristic technology and everything else it became in the ensuing decade. You could make an argument that it’s the most important movie in the franchise, just for the foundation it laid and the little chronological two-step it did that allowed Han to stick around and tie a few loose ends together. I say “you” could make this argument because I sure as hell am not going to. Not when there’s so much else to discuss.
There is one other thing worth noting here. This film wasn’t the entire bridge between the two parts of this franchise. There was also a short film called Los Bandoleros that came out in 2009, two months after Fast & Furious, that attempted to explain how Dom and Han knew each other. It was directed by Vin Diesel and is 20 minutes long and features some of the crew hijacking gas trucks in the Dominican Republic. It’s really fun to explain this to people who have only watched these movies casually. I recommend doing it as often as you can.
9. 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)
2 Fast 2 Furious has two things going for it that cannot be overstated:
- It introduced Ludacris to the franchise – officiating a jet ski race with a bullhorn, as one does – and set in motion one of the greatest characters arcs in the history of cinema
- Its dramatic conclusion featured a speeding car flying through the air and crashing into the bad guy’s boat, which set a precedent for “cars crashing into things or dragging things that crash into other things” that has continued through the franchise, from Fast Five (dragging a safe through the streets of Brazil) to Furious 7 (cars flying between and through skyscrapers) to Fast X (cars taking out helicopters, cars taking out bombs, really just the whole movie)
I’m serious about the Ludacris thing. Name one other movie character who has gone from jet ski race officiant to expert computer hacker to amateur astronaut. He is easily the most fascinating character in this franchise.
8. Fast X (2023)
There’s a fine line between acknowledging the past and becoming stuck inside it, and I think Fast X went racing over it in a NoS-fueled muscle car. The action scenes are still there and they still rip extremely hard. The stuff in Rome with the giant rolling bomb is very fun. It’s nice that someone woke up one morning and said “Hey, what if Jason Momoa played like an extremely jacked version of the Joker?” I like that we’re just blowing up planes and helicopters by the dozen now. But the rest of it has started to careen from fun implausibility to… it’s a bit much, man.
Every new character that’s introduced is a previously unmentioned relative of one we knew before. People keep coming back from the dead. The movie is like 40 percent flashbacks to other movies that attempt to explain why the stuff happening in this one is important, instead of just doing a lot of cool new stuff. I kind of want to see it again with someone who has not seen any of the previous nine movies, just to hear them explain what they think is going on.
That would be fun.
7. The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)
A few important things are happening here:
- Tokyo Drift is the first movie in the franchise that was directed by Justin Lin, who took the series to its creative pinnacle a few films later
- It also marked the first appearance of Sung Kang as Han, a character so good they had to twist the entire timeline of the film into a pretzel to bring him back for the next films in the franchise
- Bow Wow played a car-obsessed high school student in this movie and then, six movies and 15 years later, the same character was the scientific mastermind behind a jet-powered Pontiac that sent Ludacris into outer space
Also, it’s a surprisingly fun watch, even today, many years and many improbable adventures later. Go watch it again sometime soon.
6. Fast & Furious 6 (2013)
We have discussed this before but it’s worth mentioning again, if only because it is still both true and a little hilarious: The titles of the films in this franchise are an absolute mess. There’s nothing even resembling a uniform structure. We have both a “The Fast and the Furious” and a “Fast & Furious.” We have wordplay with the eighth movie having the word Fate (F8… get it???) in the title. We have a Fast Five, with the number spelled out; and a Furious 7, with the actual number; and in between we have this movie, with both a Fast and a Furious and the number 6. It is unfiltered chaos and somehow not even a top-five wildest thing about the franchise and I love it a lot. The tenth movie introduced Roman numerals. There are no limits to how weird this can all get.
Anyway, this is a fun movie. It introduced the Shaw family, which led to both Jason Statham and Helen Mirren joining the franchise. It ended with an insane scene where a bunch of cars chased an airplane down a runway that was apparently 40 miles long. Vin Diesel drove a car out of the aforementioned airplane straight through the nose with a massive fireball trailing him. There’s really not much more you can ask for on a Saturday afternoon at like 2 pm when you’re glued to the couch.
5. The Fate of the Furious (2017)
Some notes here:
- Charlize Theron shows up as a cyberterrorist named Cipher who has braids for some reason
- Jason Statham’s character, who tried to shoot Dominic Toretto out of the sky with a rocket in the previous movie, is now a good guy who protects Dom’s infant son with his life during a pretty funny fight with multiple goons on an airplane
- There is a nuclear submarine now
Lots of other stuff happens, too. The Rock gets framed for a crime involving an off-book retrieval of an EMP device in Berlin and goes to prison. There’s a huge scene with cars being controlled remotely and crashing into each other a lot. There’s a whole car chase on top of a glacier. But mostly I just like the things in those bullet points.
4. F9 (2021)
Wellllllllllll we are in space now. That’s the main thing here. John Cena is here, too, as Dominic Toretto’s estranged brother Jakob, whose entry on the F9 Wikipedia page describes him as “a master thief, assassin, and high-performance driver,” which, I mean, yeah, sure, let’s add one of those to the mix. There are big magnets and satellites that can control nuclear weapons and Charlize Theron’s character has leather pants and a stylish bowl cut despite being housed in a plexiglass jail cell that she eventually breaks out of. There’s all of that.
But the space thing is the story here. It remains deeply funny to me that they did this. They actually did it. The dudes from Tokyo Drift built a rocket and strapped it to a Pontiac Fiero and Ludacris and Tyrese got inside and launched themselves into the cosmos to prevent Armageddon. It’s all just remarkable. Please remember this whenever anyone tells you that your dreams are unattainable. Remember both parts of it. Remember the thing inside the Fast universe where these characters went from humble beginnings — street races and jet ski competitions in Miami — to actual outer space, but also remember the thing where this whole franchise started with stolen DVD players and now has seen its characters thwart multiple nuclear-adjacent plots. Anything is possible in this life if you truly believe.
3. The Fast and the Furious (2001)
This all brings us back to the beginning, where this all started. Back when Vin Diesel was running a lunch counter and feuding with a local gang about stolen DVD players. When Paul Walker — whose character, it should be noted, is still very much alive in these movies, which is a whole extra level of bonkers, because it means the one character in the Family who has actual law enforcement training is just sitting at home and straight-up refusing to help while his closest friends and wife attempt to prevent cyberterrorists from turning the world into a nuclear wasteland — was just an undercover cop who liked driving fast. It’s all kind of quaint, really. Go back and watch this sometime and then chase it with one of the later installments and see how far we’ve all come. It’s staggering.
It is a good movie, though! It’s basically Point Break with cars, which is not a complaint. “Point Break with [literally anything]” is a good starting point for any movie. Point Break with basketball. Point Break with chain restaurants. Point Break with the Westminster Dog Show. These are all free ideas for anyone who has the juice to get them made. Especially that last one. You never know, man, it could lead to a multi-decade franchise that ends with an award-winning corgi preventing a dirty bomb from going off in Las Vegas on New Year’s Eve. Stranger things have happened. In this very franchise. We really can’t rule anything out.
2. Furious 7 (2015)
Furious 7 asked a very important question that more movies should ask at some point: “But what if Statham, also?” Because, really, the biggest surprise here isn’t that Jason Statham appeared in a Fast & Furious movie. The biggest surprise is that it took everyone until the seventh film in the franchise to get us there. Although he did appear in the post-credits scene of the sixth, so it’s not like a “full” seven. And I guess if we’re being technical about it all, now that we know he was driving the car that killed Han (“killed” Han, technically, as no one in these movies ever really dies, kind of like death is a suggestion more than an act of finality), he was kind of in Tokyo Drift, too, in an offscreen, uncredited role. This is a lot of fun to think about while watching Tokyo Drift now, by the way, years later. The secret Statham of it all.
But anyway, yes, Statham. Between his introduction as a villain and the skyscraper car heist/escape and the ending scene with Dom and Brian where they drive off into the sunsNO YOU CRIED DURING AN ACTION MOVIE ABOUT CARS THAT GO ZOOM AND VROOM.
I’m sorry. I’m still a little emotional about all of this. What I’m saying is that this movie is a big, ambitious, heartfelt endeavor and it had a rocky run-up with the actual death of Paul Walker before filming was completed. It was a miracle they pulled it off and it was a great piece of work by director James Wan and it remains extremely rewatchable today, even with the ending that yoinks on your heart a little.
And, again, it has Statham. And the scene where Vin Diesel soars through the Abu Dhabi sky from one skyscraper to another inside a million-dollar sports car. And at one point The Rock says “Daddy’s gotta go to work” and flexes his broken arm so hard that his cast breaks off and turns to dust on the floor of his hospital room. We should make it a point to think about all of that every few weeks.
1. Fast Five (2011)
An incomplete list of things that happen in Fast Five:
— Vin Diesel’s character, Dominic Toretto, is freed from police custody by his best friend and his sister when they intercept an inmate transfer bus and send it tumbling down a deserted road. Despite the bus flipping over at least four times, Vin Diesel survives. The accident is covered on television by the same actor who played Perd Hapley on Parks and Recreation. This is the first thing that happens in the movie.
— The crew takes part in a train heist that sees them yank a number of expensive racing-type cars off the train while it is speeding down a Brazilian track, and the train heist ends in disaster and explosions and Vin Diesel and Paul Walker flying off a cliff in a sports car and splashing to safety 100 feet below, at which point they are promptly captured by Brazil’s biggest drug lord. This is the second thing that happens in the movie.
— The Rock is introduced as a U.S. government agent named Luke Hobbs who (A) travels to Brazil to arrest Dom and Brian as though jurisdiction is a mere suggestion; (B) has a wardrobe that consists exclusively of military-issue cargo pants and Under Armour t-shirts so tight that you can see his heartbeat through them; and (C) re-introduces the audience to all the characters by saying, “I know you, I read your file,” then ticking off all the history and personality traits “from the file” that you need to know to get caught up. Useful, that guy.
— This scene…
— They rip the drug lord’s cash-filled vault out of the corrupt Brazilian police force’s downtown headquarters and drag it behind two muscle cars through the streets of Rio, flinging it into personal property and storefronts and doing what one has to assume is millions of dollars in damage before fleeing the country.
Fast Five is the best Fast & Furious movie.