This post is an updated version of a previous post, located here, which ranked the six existing films in the Fast & Furious franchise on the eve of the Furious 7 release. It now contains all seven previously released films as we await the eighth, The Fate of the Furious. We’ll probably just keep updating this ranking every time they release a film. That seems like a good plan.
1. Fast Five
An incomplete list of things that happen in Fast Five:
- Vin Diesel’s character, Dominic Toretto, is freed from police custody by Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) and Mia Toretto (Jordana Brewster) 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 yoink 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.
- They get the handprint they need to access the drug lord’s vault from the bikini bottoms of one of their attractive crew members (Gal Gadot), whose butt he gropes within moments of meeting her at a fancy beachfront club/restaurant in the middle of the day.
- They rip the drug lord’s cash-filled vault out of the corrupt Brazilian police force’s downtown headquarters and dragging 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.
2. Furious 7
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, 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 was the biggest, most ambitious, most heartfelt movie of the series, and it has Statham. The Rock flexed his broken arm so hard that his cast broke off. We should make it a point to think about that every few weeks. The only reasons I have this movie at number two are 1) because it didn’t feel as tight as Fast Five, and 2) because the addition of The Rock to the franchise in Fast Five was such a critical moment that it can’t be ignored. And for the record, I don’t mean it was a critical moment for the franchise. I mean it was a critical moment for cinema, in general.
I am barely joking.
3. Fast & Furious 6
The sixth film in the franchise did a couple important things. First, it did away once and for all with the pretense that these are movies about street racing and just threw all the biggest, dumbest, greatest action it could at the audience for 130 minutes. Fancy British bad guy doing heists to try to acquire a device that will disable an entire power grid so he can sell it on the black market to the highest bidder? Sure. Tank bursting out of a larger vehicle and destroying dozens of cars on the highway (and presumably killing all of their occupants)? Yup. Hilarious scene at the end where the gang chases a plane down the longest runway in the world, and Vin Diesel escapes by driving a car through the nose of the crashing, exploding plane at the last possible moment? Obviously.
So, good movie. Although killing off Gisele and closing the chronological wormhole that kept Han alive did hurt quite a bit. Theirs was the greatest love story of our time and I miss them dearly. Not that I’m 100 percent sure they’re gone. I mean…
4. The Fast and the Furious
I’ve made this point before, but I think it bears repeating. In hindsight, the first Fast & Furious film (Fast & Furious: Original Flavor, if you will), is almost kind of quaint. Vin Diesel runs a lunch counter and feuds with a local gang about stolen DVD players. That’s it. Contrast that with Furious 7, in which he drives a million-dollar luxury sports car through the air from one skyscraper to another while one of the world’s most notorious criminals fires some sort of exploding artillery at him.
I imagine while that was happening, while a tuxedo-clad Dominic Toretto was soaring like an eagle through the Arabian sky, he thought back on just how far he came from those early days. I mean, DVD players, man. And street racing against Ja Rule for a few thousand dollars. I bet they all laugh about that now.
5. The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift
I realize some of you might think it’s insane to put Tokyo Drift fifth. It is a film that has none of the big-name cast of the others, focuses on angsty teens in a Tokyo high school, co-stars Bow Wow as a character named Twinkie, and forced the films that came after it to do a chronological jig to make sense of everything. (Reminder: The chronological order of the series is 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 3, 7, because why wouldn’t a big silly action series about neon Hondas feature a more complicated timeline than The Godfather: Part II?) But I almost — almost — put it third, so…
Look, Tokyo Drift has flaws. I’ll give you that. The acting is, uh … everyone tries very hard. But it is highly re-watchable, and it introduces us to a character named “Han Seoul-Oh” who has a Brad Pitt-like habit of snacking throughout the film and who somehow ends up becoming an integral part of the franchise, and it ends with the douche-y teenage nephew of a Yakuza boss heaving himself and his car off a mountain during a street race to determine which character has to leave Tokyo forever. You could do a lot worse.
6. 2 Fast 2 Furious
2 Fast 2 Furious has 3 things going for it:
- Eva Mendes as an undercover agent who infiltrated a criminal organization in Miami by seducing the boss and who has somehow not rejoined the franchise in a major capacity beyond a single, brief post-credits appearance
- Ludacris officiating a jet ski race with a bullhorn
- A speeding car flying through the air and crashing into the bad guy’s boat
Still more than you can say for most movies.
7. Fast & Furious
The fourth Fast & Furious film was also the first to reunite Vin Diesel and Paul Walker after Diesel bailed on the second to make xXx and everyone bailed on the third. It also laid the groundwork for what the fifth, sixth, and seventh would become: bigger action, a bigger crew that rolled in characters from the previous installments, and ever-increasing stakes. The problem is that it’s just not quite all there yet. It’s like they all needed a warm-up before they really got back into the swing of things.
One thing Fast & Furious does have going for it, though, is that it is very fun to imagine the meeting they must have had at the studio after it came out.
STUDIO EXEC 1: This was… good. It was good. But where can we go from here?
STUDIO EXEC 2: uuuhhhhh idk bring in The Rock?
STUDIO EXEC 1: Genius.
A foolproof plan for any franchise.