“Fast & Furious” is one of Hollywood’s greatest underdog stories. It’s the little racecar that could, defying industry notions about diversity and longevity and cranking out some of the most ridiculously fun action films of the 21st century. What makes these films so much fun is their cartoonish set pieces and their willingness to laugh at themselves and evolve with the times by embracing spinoffs and new cast members.
Vin Diesel is the franchise’s Tom Cruise, an actor/producer who knows what the fans want and will give it to them, regardless of how ludicrous it may be. Driving off a cliff? Sure. Scaling a submarine? Ok. Launching into outer space? Why the hell not? The absurdity is balanced out by the anchoring theme of family, which extends to the franchise’s stellar roster of actors (Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and Jason Statham, just to name a few).
The franchise’s latest installment, “F9,” is now in theaters, and to commemorate its release, we decided to bust out the NOS and rank the “Fast & Furious” films from worst to best. The road might be dangerous, but we’ll be good as long as we take it a quarter-mile at a time.
10. “The Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift” (2006)
“Tokyo Drift” has some virtues. It was the franchise’s first attempt at crossing over to a more international market, and it introduced the world to the effortlessly cool Han Lue (Sung Kang). It also marked the entry point for director Justin Lin and screenwriter Chris Morgan, who would go on to helm some of the most acclaimed installments in the franchise moving forward.
Unfortunately, these virtues don’t hide the fact that “Tokyo Drift” is a chore to watch, with cringe-worthy dialogue and dramatic beats that make the first movie look groundbreaking by comparison. Lucas Black gives a painfully wooden performance as Sean Boswell, the American “teen” who gets roped into Japanese racing culture. His limitations as an actor are evident from the word go, but his lack of charisma gets amplified in the final scene, when we get a cameo from the man himself: Dom Torreto (Diesel).
“Tokyo Drift” is the only installment without Diesel or Paul Walker as an anchor, and while that’s admirable on paper, it makes the film stick out like the shark fin on a speedster. Don’t even get us started on its confusing placement within the larger “Fast & Furious” timeline.
9. “F9” (2021)
“F9” is a tough one. It has some predictably bonkers action, namely the scene in which Dom powers through dozens of henchmen with his bare hands, but it relies too heavily on the mythos of the previous films to feel like a satisfying entry on its own. Entire scenes are dedicated to explaining pre-existing relationships or reminding the viewer what happened in a given film without furthering the plot. It makes for a bloated and often pointless viewing experience.
“F9” also jumps the shark by introducing Dom’s long-lost brother Jakob (John Cena), a decision that reeks of desperation on the part of the screenwriters. The notion that Dom, the world’s greatest family man, would turn his back on his sibling is already a stretch, but Cena’s flat performance makes things even tougher to swallow. “F9” feels like a franchise running on fumes, and barring some major changes, it might be time to start looking for a garage.
8. “Fast & Furious” (2009)
In a franchise filled with strange titles, “Fast & Furious” is the most head-scratching. Why is it so close to the original? Why didn’t they add a “4”? The issues plaguing the title carry over to the film’s quality. “Fast & Furious” is a surprisingly joyless affair that sees Dom and Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) reconcile after the death of Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez). They form an uneasy alliance to take down the drug lord responsible for her passing and proceed to wreak havoc on the Mexico-United States border.
The film lays the important groundwork by reuniting the original cast and bringing in memorable newcomers like Gisele (Gal Gadot) and the duo of Rico and Tego (reggaeton stars Don Omar and Tego Calderon, once again broadening the film’s international appeal). The cliffhanger ending is also a first, setting up the franchise’s eventual golden age with “Fast Five.”
Still, the lack of self-awareness consistently keeps the film from reaching greatness. The characters take themselves too seriously to buy into the fun, thus squandering moments that would have been catnip in later installments. Pretty good soundtrack, though.
7. “2 Fast 2 Furious” (2003)
“2 Fast 2 Furious” was a gamble at the time of its release, stripping the main cast of all but one character and relocating him from Los Angeles to Miami. The film’s pedigree was solid thanks to director John Singleton and supporting players like Eva Mendes and James Remar, but truth be told, this is the most “B-movie” the franchise ever got (which is saying a lot). The cliches are pumped all the way up, and most of the joy of watching it today comes from how dated the whole thing feels. The fashion, the songs, and Paul Walker’s frosted tips are so aggressively 2003 that it plays like an accidental time capsule.
Walker is eminently likable as Brian, the everyman in a franchise that would grow increasingly surreal over time. His banter with Roman (Tyrese Gibson) powers the film’s best moments, reaffirming early on that male bonding was the stock-and-trade of the franchise. The rest of “2 Fast 2 Furious” keeps bogged down in double-crosses and boring villains, especially in comparison to the little brother-big brother dynamic of the first film. A charming, if forgettable, sequel.
6. “Hobbs & Shaw” (2019)
“Hobbs & Shaw” is the only franchise spinoff to date, and it shows. The film distinguishes itself by emphasizing comedy, celebrity cameos, and the introduction of a super-powered villain. It’s the closest “Fast & Furious” has come to the MCU, which means your mileage will vary depending on how bad you want to see Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) and Shaw (Jason Statham) stage their own “Captain America: Civil War” fight in the finale.
These ingredients mostly work. Johnson and Statham have great banter, and their nagging relationship helps to bolster some of the more generic action scenes. Vinessa Shaw is a welcome addition as Shaw’s sister, and the Samoa-based chase is one of the franchise’s best. I think where “Hobbs & Shaw” ultimately slips up is in the runtime. There’s absolutely no need for the film to be 137 minutes, and a trimmed version would have done well to elevate the fun and downplay the filler. Here’s hoping “Hobbs & Shaw 2” makes the necessary fixes.
5. “The Fate Of The Furious” (2017)
“The Fate of the Furious” had a stellar promotional rollout on the basis of one simple promise: Dom Torreto goes bad. How? Why?? It was a perfect hook for audiences, but the endless possibilities of a rogue Dom may have set expectations too high. “The Fate of the Furious” is a perfectly enjoyable blockbuster that underwhelms ever so slightly, and it’s largely due to the seriousness with which the film treats Dom’s turn.
“The Fate of the Furious” veers into unexpectedly dark territory at times, which is hampered further by the incongruous performing styles of Vin Diesel and villainous newcomer Charlize Theron. Their scenes felt tonally at odds with the rest of the “Fast & Furious” team. Still, the emphasis on family is strong as ever, and any film that opens with Dom driving a burning car backward and ends with him scaling a submarine can only rank so low.
4. “The Fast And The Furious” (2001)
The one that started it all. “The Fast and the Furious” recently celebrated its 20th anniversary, and it’s amazing to look back on how intimate and small scale the film is in comparison to the rest of the series. It’s a blatant “Point Break” ripoff with cars subbed for surfing, but director Rob Cohen overcomes his creative limitations by playing up his actors’ strengths.
Paul Walker and Jordana Brewster (as Dom’s sister Mia) have adorable chemistry, and Diesel, long before his gravelly stoicism took over, gives one of his most charismatic performances. When he schools Walker’s character on the basics of the street, you fully buy that he’s the best racer to ever get behind the wheel. The relationships forged are what continue to make “The Fast and the Furious” such a solid entry, regardless of the recycled plot and the dated Ja Rule cameo.
3. “Fast & Furious 6” (2013)
“Fast & Furious 6” is sandwiched between the best films in the franchise, and it suffers because it has little to set itself apart. The gang of car thieves do their usual thing, The Rock is back to deliver cheesy dialogue, and the whole thing plays out exactly as you’d expect it. However, the trick to good entertainment lies in the execution, and “Fast & Furious 6” is one of the sleekest, most consistently exciting entries in the franchise.
There are several classic “Fast & Furious” scenes scattered throughout the film. There’s the highway chase, where Dom launches himself across a median to catch a falling Letty, and the climactic airplane battle, which sees every main character score cool points on a seemingly endless runway. “Fast & Furious 6” does not reinvent the wheel by any means, but it knows precisely what to do with that wheel, and boy is it fun.
2. “Furious 7” (2015)
“Furious 7” was marred in tragedy well before its release. Paul Walker passed away during the film’s production, and the grieving cast and crew were forced to use Walker’s brothers as body doubles so they could finish shooting. Fans were understandably leery over the film and how it was going to handle Walker’s passing, especially given the franchise’s track record for unsubtle characterization. All credit to director James Wan and the cast, however, because they pulled it off beautifully.
The film avoids killing Walker onscreen and merely amplifies his character’s feeling to move on with his life. The action is first-rate, the introduction of Shaw is glorious action camp, and the implementation of Hobbs (despite Dwayne Johnson’s busy schedule) is fan service at its finest. Then, of course, there’s the final scene, where Dom and Brian part ways and drive off in separate directions to the sound of Wiz Khalifa’s “See You Again.” It’s tough not to shed a tear here. It’s the franchise’s greatest display of familial love and the perfect send-off for an irreplaceable member.
1. “Fast Five” (2011)
“Fast Five” is one of the most entertaining blockbusters of the 21st century. It’s the culmination of the four preceding films, both in terms of momentum and cast, and it finally hits the perfect tone: earnest, cheesy, and knowingly silly. It’s the film that brought us the epic showdown between Dom Torreto and Hobbs, which is still the most incredible fight in the franchise. It brought us the much-loved “This is Brazil!” moment, as well as the heartfelt scene where Dom says the word “father” unlike any man in history.
All memes aside, “Fast Five” is a terrifically paced caper with lots of parallel plotting, clever slights of hand, and attention to detail that the rest of the films lack. Justin Lin proves himself to be the quintessential “Fast & Furious” director here, and it’s a high point that he (and the rest of the cast) will be chasing for as long as the franchise is active.
Have you seen “F9” yet? Where does it rank in the saga for you? What is your own ranking of the entire saga? Let us know in the comments section below or on our Twitter account.
You can follow Danilo and hear more of his thoughts on the Oscars and Film on Twitter at @DaniloSCastro