Every Fast and Furious Movie, Ranked
The horsepower behind the Fast and Furious franchise is undeniable: It ranks as the biggest movie franchise that doesn’t involve wizards, superheroes or space. At least not yet on the latter; there is much Internet chatter that subsequent features won’t take place on terra firma. Not implausible for a series where cars have the ability to jump over submarines, out of planes, and across city skylines. In the Fast and Furious universe, gravity is merely a suggestion.
What holds an F and F movie together, however? Quick, powerful vehicles and the elaborate set pieces they are launched into, of course. But, ultimately, it’s the serious stuff that fuels these films: the idea of family, friendship and loyalty, the malleability of good and bad. And not enough credit is given to the Fast and Furious franchise for proving that multicultural casts could be bankable in a big way. You have to remember that the first F and F movie came out in 2001, pre 9/11, during the first Bush administration.
You may disagree with this ranking. And that’s ok. If you are a fan of Fast and Furious movies, chances are you like them all. They contain this wonderful misfit energy that’s hard to hate even when there’s campy, meme-like lines like “I live my life a quarter mile at a time" or "I'll have the tuna. No crust” or there’s terrible CGI — as in the dirt tunnel race in Fast 6. To me, there are no bad Fast and Furious movies, just misunderstood ones whose true value may not be understood until years later. Which helps explain the No. 1 choice...but let’s start from the bottom first:
9| Fast and Furious (2009)
The fourth film. It rebooted the franchise after the original trilogy, six years after Tokyo Drift. It’s great to see Vin Diesel's Dom Toretto and Paul Walker’s Brian O’Conner back in the franchise again, as well as Michelle Rodriguez as the ever-brooding Lettie. The tagline in the original trailer: "New Model, Original Parts." The car chases are a little incoherent, as is Brian and Dom infiltrating a drug gang to avenge their involvement in the death of Lettie. But the highlight is the introduction of future Wonder Woman herself, Gal Gadot as Gisele Yashar who poses this wonderful line to Dom: “Are you one of those boys that prefers cars to women?”
8| Fate of the Furious
Directed by F. Gary Gray,—who proved his chase scene chops in the remake of The Italian Job—this is a loud, globe-hopping spectacle that introduces two fun players to the series: Hellen Mirren as the Shaw family matriarch and Charlize Theron as the hacker-villain Cipher. But the non-presence of Paul Walker is felt. Also not present: #JusticeForHan. When it was revealed that Han was murdered by Shaw in Fast 7, Dom swore revenge. So it’s odd that Han isn’t mentioned once in Fate. Especially since Han was such a beloved character that, after his death in Tokyo Drift, the three subsequent movies became prequels so that audiences could get more of Han. The most rewarding part of the film is the odd-couple energy of Johnson and Statham, which led to the spinoff Hobbs and Shaw. But it’s kind of weird that Shaw, who was revealed to have killed Han, is turning into a good guy.
7| Fast and Furious 6
“Aren’t you team muscle? Don’t make me go over there and make you team pussy.” Yes, Lettie is back. Not dead. But she has amnesia? And quips like that? This should get interesting. Luke Evans plays Owen Shaw an ex-special British Forces officer who has recruited and possibly brainwashed Lettie. The most memorable moments of the movie is the introduction of Shaw and his F1-inspired villain mobile with a ramp for a hood that enables him to flip oncoming cars. This is also known as the Fast and Furious with a tank. And the one where Dom drives his Dodge Challenger through the front of a burning plane on an impossibly long runway that feels like it's the length of Montana.
6| Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw
The spinoff featuring the characters of Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham pushes the F and F franchise even further into spy movie territory, complete with a Bond-level villain in Idris Elba’s Brixton Lore, a cyborg built by an evil entity who believes the evolution of the human race is to become part machine. Helmed by stuntman-turned Director David Lietch (Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2), the hand to hand fight scenes receive a huge upgrade, but the car scenes are a touch derivative at this point—there’s only so many times you can pull an aircraft to the ground with an automobile or slide a car under a tractor trailer. Vanessa Kirby’s Hattie Shaw could hold her own spinoff. And the probability of Ryan Reynolds as the Rock’s partner in a future sequel? Take my money.
5| 2 Fast 2 Furious
Are you surprised to see what is considered by many to be the worst of the series so high on this list? So was I. But watch it again. The film almost has a The Room like quality to it now. One can imagine, in the near future, the sequel to the original’s silly title adorning the marquees of indie movie theaters hosting midnight screenings where drunk audiences act out lines like: “I didn't know pizza places made motors.” That said, this John Singleton directed sequel (yes, can you believe it?) plays out like Miami Vice meets 48 Hours and introduces Roman to the franchise played by the uniquely hammy Tyrese (Vin Diesel did not want to be part of the sequel because he didn’t like the original script.) For as campy as the film can be, Brian and Roman arguably have an excellent on-screen chemistry and it helped pave the way for the outrageous action found later in the franchise—a car is launched onto a yacht in the final act. This also marks the first appearance of Ludacris as Tej Parker. (Ja Rule said no to the sequel—his lost.) Tej is a garage owner and race referee in this movie and later in the series he morphs into a hacker savant—don’t discount this franchise when it comes to character arcs, kid.
4| The Fast and the Furious
Point Break in the street racing world? Yeah, but it works. It’s hard to imagine that the billion dollar, globe-spanning franchise that grew to include cars jumping over submarines started here, in the humble, gritty environment of East Los Angeles with tuner Japanese cars. It still holds up after all these years because it’s grounded in reality—even the high-speed car jacking of tractor trailers seem like they could actually happen. It’s also fun to watch the origins of the unlikely chemistry between Vin Diesel and Paul Walker, seen here in their dewy faced youth.
3| Fast Five
This is the installment that abandons street racing and goes full heist movie, plus injected The Rock. The approach was like a shot of Nos to the franchise and they haven’t stopped hitting that button since. It was the first in the series to make more than $200 million at the box office. It also introduced one of the greatest bank robbery scenes in cinema history: an entire vault is plucked out of a bank and dragged through the streets of Rio de Janeiro by two Dodge Chargers.
2| Furious 7
You know how an album like, say, Pearl Jam’s 10 has so many memorable tracks that it’s practically the band’s greatest hits album? Furious 7 is that movie for the F and F franchise. Cars with parachutes attached to them drive off of a plane and onto a mountain road in Azerbaijan. A Lykan Hyper Sport, one of the world’s rarest cars, is jumped from not one, not two, but three skyscrapers in Abu Dhabi. And there is a killer drone versus car battle on the streets of downtown L.A. that involves the Rock driving an ambulance off of a bridge on top of a drone. And then he rips a machine gun off of the drone to shoot a stealth helicopter. This happens after he breaks out of a cast by flexing, pops a handful of painkillers and tells his daughter: “Daddy’s gotta go to work.” It’s the movie that best captures that infectious feeling of eight-year-old boys playing in a sandbox with Matchbox cars after having downed Coca Cola with a side of Pop Rocks.
1| The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift
How is a Fast and Furious movie where Vin Diesel only makes a scant cameo the No. 1 in the franchise? Because it is the most pure Fast and Furious movie there is. It’s the only one that fully embraced fringe car culture: Sean Boswell (Lucas Black) and Neela (Nathalie Kelley) solidify their friendship by drifting down the Japanese mountain similar to the one where the sport was invented. The villain Takashi is nicknamed Drift King, who is a real person in the Japanese motorsports world—he was a stunt coordinator on the film and makes a cameo appearance. Han, who is introduced in this series, uses his cars to flirt with women. Boswell bonds with his friend Twinkie (Bow Wo) through their mutual love of cars. There’s also a surprisingly accurate montage of Boswell and his crew tuning his dad's old Mustang to prepare it for a drift race. It’s the story of underdogs that felt like it was made by underdogs: It had a budget so low it could have been a straight to DVD release if it weren’t for the deft direction of Justin Lin who went on to turn the franchise into what it is today. It’s Lost in Translation, meets the Breakfast Club, meets Romeo and Juliet with cars. More than the other films, it really captures the idea that misfit outsiders can create their own tribe when they work together.
This story originally appeared on Esquire.com. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.