The Fast and Furious franchise didn’t exactly get off to a fast start. After the first film in the series was released 23 years ago, The Fast and the Furious star Vin Diesel cited a weak script as the reason he wouldn’t return for the sequel, 2 Fast 2 Furious. After the sequel was panned, the next one, Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift, was almost sent straight to video release. And what appeared to be a burgeoning box office titan appeared destined for dormancy. But, there was a promising silver-lining: Diesel’s character, the iconic Dom Toretto, made a surprise cameo at the end of the film, signifying his return to the Fast and Furious universe. He hasn’t left since.
Known for its high-speed chases, over-the-top action sequences and spurts of melodrama, the Fast and Furious series has become one of the biggest action-flick franchises this side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Like the MCU, it’s a ceaseless machine that thrives on big explosions and big personalities, and it’s spawned it’s earned billions of dollars at the box office, and it hasn’t shown many signs of slowing up, even in a post-pandemic reality that’s resulted in declining box office ticket sales. The latest is Fast X, the 10th movie in the series — Hobbs & Shaw not included.
The new flick is one that sees Dom and the gang take on a fearsome, yet hilarious new villain by the name of Dante Reyes (Jason Momoa), and it’s going to take all the crew’s expertise to subdue their newest threat. Are they up to the task? Based on action flick bylaws — and the need for more Fast and Furious sequels — most definitely.
Fast and Furious might have a lot of big races, guns and corny jokes, but at is best, it blends drama with humor and the action that made it so thrilling. Some flicks have been better than others. We took a look back to rank the Fast and Furious movies in order from worst to best.
12. 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003) Directed by John Singleton
Admittedly, 2 Fast 2 Furious had some things working against it before it even began — namely, the fact that the star of its predecessor decided not to pull up. No Vin Diesel meant there were things that had to be reworked, but such a drastic change is hard to account for, and you realize the difficulty of doing so when watching this sequel, which is hindered by a lack of continuity and a shitty, colorless villain. Without a charismatic performance from Vin Diesel, 2 Fast 2 Furious feels like an extravagantly lame excuse to race flashy cars.
11. Fast & Furious (2009) Directed by Justin Lin
Fast & Furious is an example of when motion is confused for genuine movement. The collisions and high-octane races are here, but they lack refinement of the best Fast and Furious films, and the plot itself feels more convoluted than it needs to be. Additionally, Fast & Furious lacks the dynamic character roster that makes the best flicks in the franchise so enjoyable. This isn’t the worst Fast & Furious flick, but it’s definitely one of the most boring.
10. The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006) Directed by Justin Lin
Once upon a time, the Fast and Furious franchise tried its hand at a coming of age tale — and it was actually pretty solid. This one places an American teen in the heart of Tokyo’s street racing underworld and the crosshairs of the local Yakuza. The fish-out-of-water story of a beleaguered kid (Bow Wow) trying to make the best of a tough situation while transforming himself was already a bit tired when Tokyo Drift hit the screens, but the kinetic driving sequences and the controlled cool of Han Lue (Sung Kang) embed the film with stylish wonder. This one gets extra credit for getting Vin Diesel to get back in the driver’s seat.
9. Los Bandoleros Directed by Vin Diesel (2009)
A prequel to Fast & Furious, this short film helped re-introduce Dom Toretto into the fold after he hadn’t appeared in any meaningful way since 2009. Vin Diesel directs the movie, which is a brief surge of adrenaline that adequately contextualizes his new life in South America. You can understand the next movie without it, but if you’re in Fast and Furious marathon mode, might as well throw this on your list.
8. The Fate of the Furious (2017) Directed by F. Gary Gray
By the time The Fate of the Furious hit theaters in 2017, it was clear that the series had gone into full-on franchise mode, a veritable machine that made too much money to justify entertaining an ending. A side effect of this is monotony. Given all the elaborate chase scenes and explosions, that shouldn’t be possible for a flick like this one, but when you’ve got characters letting loose jokes in the face of inexplicable betrayal and life or death situations, things have definitely gotten a bit stale. Still, Charlize Theron makes for a magnetic villain, the action is electric and the stakes are high enough for it all to stick. This isn’t one of the more acclaimed Fast and Furious entries, but it’s definitely got its charms.
7. F9 (2019) Directed by Justin Lin
By the time F9 was released, the franchise had gone so far over the top that it actually outpaced the jokes about it. Seriously, two of Dom’s crew members literally end up floating through space, in a space whip, no less. The fight choreography here is A-1, the setpieces are as creative as it gets and the self-referencing jokes usually land, even if the quips and the crew’s ability to walk away from the destruction stakes feel as low as they have in years.
6. FAST X (2023) Directed by Louis Leterrier
Powered by a Joker-esque villain (Jason Momoa), team chemistry and all the over-the-top kineticism of the best Fast and Furious flicks, Fast X is more than good enough to justify a sequel. Here, familial ties are revealed in shocking fashion, and the car chase scenes reach inventive heights that prevent things from getting stale. Sure, at least some of these surprises feel unearned, and it’s a little too silly to make it stand as much of a genuine drama like Fast 5 or Fast 7, but it stands as one of the most entertaining flicks in the franchise.
5. Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (2019) Directed by David Leitch
In their time as action movie stars, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Jason Statham have served as poster children for winking absurdity. So then, their Fast & Furious Present: Hobbs & Shaw feels a lot like a Dream Team. This one plays out like a buddy cop film infused with the excessive action that fuels the most exciting Fast and Furious adventures. The Rock and Statham’s back-and-forth banter feels as natural as any connection in the franchise, with their movie persona types being pushed to the reasonable limits of self-caricature. This makes the flick the funniest in the series, and Idris Elba’s turn as a witty, super-charged bad guy helps tie this one together in a way that propels it past many of the flicks in the franchise.
4. The Fast and the Furious (2001) Directed by Rob Cohen
The Fast and the Furious has all the hallmarks of shitty action thrillers, but Vin Diesel’s turn as a stoic racer and the tale of a forbidden friendship ensure it’s a worthwhile ride. This isn’t a classic, but it also wasn’t designed to be. There are fast cars. There are explosions. There are pretty people and the stakes get pretty high. And with an impending betrayal at the center of the plot, it’s easy to care about the characters, even if they aren’t particularly deep. As stylish as it is corny, the first entry in the Fast and Furious franchise is shameless, exhilarating fun.
3. Fast & Furious 6 (2013) Directed by Justin Lin
While it’s a step back from Fast Five, Fast & Furious 6 has no shortage of self-contained thrill rides, and the chemistry between the team members is as strong as ever. This is the moment the franchise went from heists to heroism, as Dom Toretto and the rest of his squad face off against a team with military weaponry and the collateral damage reaches devastating new heights. And yet, like there is plenty of pathos, as characters are forced to deal with loss and new beginnings amid the chaos, a balancing act that proved once again that the series had evolved in the best way possible.
2. Fast Five (2011) Directed by Justin Lin
Halfway through the franchise, the folks behind Fast and Furious got it right. Pulling together situational squad members from the previous films, Fast Five balances personalities with dynamic action. Those quippy exchanges between Tej Parker (Ludacris) and Roman Pearce (Tyrese) flourish while Gisele Yashar (Gal Gadot) and Han Lue bring mystique and effortless cool. Meanwhile, The Rock also came through, with his brand of over-the-top masculinity reaching comedic levels. Collectively, the mix of personas gives the film a propulsive force that was missing from most of the previous flicks while infusing it with all the organized chaos of the best heist movies. Between the exhilarating car chase scenes, high-stakes thefts and genuinely clever schemes, this one had enough to be an above average Fast and Furious flick. But Fast Five reached a new level by embracing teamwork and character pathos, embracing family in a way that’s come to define the franchise.
1. Furious 7 (2015) Directed by James Wan
After the tragic death of Paul Walker, the writers for Furious 7 faced the nearly impossible task of explaining Brian O’Conner’s departure in an organic way that still paid tribute to his legacy. They had to do all of that while moving the story forward. It’s hard, but they make it work, as evidenced by the film being the highest-rated Fast and Furious movie in the Rotten Tomatoes database. Here, the gang is all back together, and their interactions feel as genuine as ever. But, knowing the fate of Walker, there’s a lot more weight. However, that doesn’t stop the fight scenes and car stunts reach Marvel Cinematic Universe levels. It’s as fun as it is touching, and it’s got one of the great movie soundtrack songs of all time. With affecting performances from its ensemble cast, a little editing ingenuity, and a script that extracts meaningful drama at nearly every turn, the Fast and Furious team turned an insurmountable obstacle into their greatest triumph.
Peter is a writer and editor who covers music, movies, and all things dope.
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