Ranking the “Fast & Furious” Movies (Pre-“F9”)

The “Fast & Furious” saga has become one of the quintessential franchises in all of film over the last two decades evolving from a simple product of its time into Universal’s biggest franchise and one of the top ten highest grossing film series in history. Comprised of eight main entries and one spinoff film with the ninth main series title “F9” on the way this weekend after a year-long COVID delay, the franchise looks like it’s only going to get bigger and bigger in years to come with at least two more films and several potential rumored spinoffs on the horizon. I will admit the “Fast & Furious” movies have never been my favorite franchise but it’s a series that has defined much of my teenage and adult years and I’ll be damned if the films don’t bring me quite a bit of shameless joy as sources of escapist entertainment.

So, with the next film finally arriving in theaters this weekend I decided to do what many others have done before me and examine the movies in the series so far from what I consider worst to best. I will be including “Hobbs & Shaw” as it might not be a main series movie but it’s still part of the franchise. I’ll be looking at how well I think the movies have aged, how memorable I think they are and, simply put, which ones are my favorites in a franchise that honestly had no business becoming as popular and entertaining as it is.

What is you’re favorite “Fast & Furious” movie? Let me know in the comments!

9. “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift”

The clear outlier of the franchise for many, “Tokyo Drift” is the third film in the series in release order although it has been retconned to occur in the latter half of the main franchise proper. This movie focuses the least on the cast we’ve come to know and love but did introduce series mainstay Han Lue. “Tokyo Drift” is probably the biggest product of its time out of all the movies and while Universal and the “Fast & Furious” crew have tried their damndest to tie this movie effectively into the series it always feels like the one most worth skipping to me. The acting is impressively bad compared to the rest of the movies, which themselves aren’t exactly examples of great performances to begin with, and the personality of the movie feels completely rooted in 2000s car culture making its placement in the series timeline feel even stranger and the film as a whole feel more dated than any before it or released since. I don’t think this is anyone’s favorite and it’s certainly far from mine.

8. “2 Fast 2 Furious”

A lot of times I forget this movie even exists. Most of the bigger names that eventually became the faces of the franchise skipped out on this movie, specifically Vin Diesel, and the focus was squarely put on Paul Walker’s Brian O’Conner and introducing Tyrese Gibson’s Roman Pierce and Ludacris’s Tej Parker to the crew who would become mainstays as more movies were released. That’s about the only real memorable thing I’ve ever taken away from “2 Fast 2 Furious” which to me feels like exactly what it is, a continuation of a money-making franchise before Universal actually knew what they wanted to do with it. It’s non-offensive but it’s a movie that feels like a chore to return to with it’s rewatchability squarely based on the fact that it is, in fact, a proper part of this franchise. On its own it’s a basic, bland and forced sequel at best in my eyes.

7. “Fast & Furious”

This to me is where the franchise found its footing and evolved from a niche series to an actual money-making machine. “Fast & Furious” is, in my opinion, the worst of the best films in this franchise for whatever that’s worth as it set the standard for the rest of the series giving viewers faster, more intense action and plots that tie characters together more properly. In the process it more fully established many of the character relationships we’ve come to associate with the series. Most of all it solidified the growing brotherhood between Brian O’Conner and Dominic Torretto transforming them from full-on rivals into more cautious allies. This could have easily been the second movie in the series and the franchise would have been perfectly fine. The saga only continued to get more interesting and engaging from here.

6. “The Fate of the Furious”

The first and only main-line movie I’ve reviewed on this blog so far, my reaction to the eighth entry was mixed when I saw it and remains mixed today. “Fate” takes an all-too familiar path for franchises seemingly out of ideas by taking the core hero, Demonic Toretto, and pitting him against his own crew doing the bidding of a primary villain. After the emotional and well-polished punch that was “Furious 7” (more on that soon) “The Fate of the Furious” felt like a small step backwards to the franchise’s more middling roots with more of the focus on clichés and action than proper storytelling and well-developed character arcs. Sure, we get some powerful moments and fun twists but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before and the risks and stakes feel both ridiculous and tragically predictable to solve. Overall, it’s an entertaining film that kept the franchise alive, but to me it still feels like a bridge feature to what I hope is something much more interesting in the franchise’s immediate future.

5. “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw”

The lone spin-off movie to date, “Hobbs & Shaw” teams series regulars Dwayne Johnson as Luke Hobbs and Jason Statham as Deckard Shaw together as they try to hunt down a superhuman enemy seeking a super virus capable of massive destruction to populations. As you can imagine this diverts from the cars and family themed plots of the other movies into something more akin to a superhero film and while the later movies do pretty much establish Toretto and his team and somewhat superhuman, this movie truly feels like it’s doing its own thing. On its own it’s really not bad and you don’t really need to know much about the “Fast & Furious” series to enjoy it other than there is a past rivalry between the leads. It’s mindlessly entertaining and sets a neat standard for future spinoffs even if it really doesn’t feel like a “Fast & Furious” movie at its core.

4. “Fast & Furious 6”

After “Fast & Furious” helped the series finally establish an identity Universal went about evolving the franchise into a mishmash of action genres incorporating cars. The fifth film evolved the series into a heist franchise and “Fast & Furious 6” built on that bringing it into the spy genre as the main cast team up with rival Luke Hobbs to catch a new villain, Owen Shaw. A lot of iconic scenes and even a notable death are part of this film which was the last to be set before the events of “Tokyo Drift”. While I didn’t find this to be the most memorable addition to the series it has its own personality and helped further evolve the franchise into what it has become, a love-letter to everything action and over-the-top blockbuster entertainment. I respect it even if there are several movies I’d more rather go back to on a moment’s notice, and I still love how it serves as a prime example of how Universal really felt inspired to make this franchise work.

3. “The Fast and the Furious”

The original film is still a certified classic even after twenty years. While certainly a product of its time in its own right, the first movie holds up much better than the two that followed and its practical car-based stunts are a heavily missed aspect of a series that has turned more to CGI to up the crazy factor. What the first film brought most of all to the series though was its heart introducing many mainstay characters and story threads including the rivalry between Brian O’Conner and Dominic Toretto that would carry the franchise into its prime. It’s actually amazing how such a small film with a simple setting and an embrace of late-90s and early-2000s car culture turned into one of the highest grossing film franchises of all time. Looking back on it now, it is certainly imperfect but it’s hard not to admit the franchise really wouldn’t be what it is today without the first movie setting everything in motion.

2. “Furious 7”

There are so many memorable things from this movie which today remains the highest grossing and most critically acclaimed entry in the series. It earned those rights partially because it manages to bring so many big names together, including adding Kurt Russell, Rhonda Rousey and Jason Statham to the cast along with the complete roster of returning regulars, and never feels bloated or too extreme. It reaches that perfect level of ridiculousness that somehow defies all attempts to insert logic into the equation and forces even a cinema cynic like me to just sit back and enjoy the fun. It doesn’t push the franchise into any real new territory but rather builds on the foundation set before it to create arguably the most perfectly executed films in the series on many fronts. The fact that it’s finale pays tribute to the connection that viewers have formed with the characters by honoring the late Paul Walker only makes it that much more memorable and worthy of revisiting. And yet it’s not my favorite film in the franchise.

1. “Fast Five”

When I think of the “Fast & Furious” franchise this is the first movie that comes to mind mostly because it was THE film that actually made me a fan. “Fast Five” came at the perfect time. “Fast & Furious” had finally produced a proper sequel to the original film and Universal was looking for a way to keep the series moving. Rather than sticking with the car racing theme they switched things up and made the fifth entry a heist film incorporating cars while adding Dwayne Johnson and the still up-and-coming Gal Gadot to the cast while officially bringing Han Lue in as a bigger part of the series. “Fast Five” to me is the perfect mix of series evolution, adrenaline, and over-the-top ridiculousness that I’ve come to appreciate the saga for the most. The safe theft that makes up the third act is probably my all-time favorite action sequence in the whole franchise. Everyone has their favorite “Fast” movie for a variety of reasons, and for me “Fast Five” served as the movie that made me a fan and is the one I still compare every movie to in terms of quality and entertainment.

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