With F9: The Fast Saga finally hitting theaters after multiple delays, let’s revisit the series as we rank all Fast & Furious movies from worst to best.
Fast & Furious — or The Fast Saga, as it’s now being referred to — has had a fascinating underdog story when it comes to its road to success. Since its inception, the franchise has been heavily criticized for overusing countless action-adventure clichés, having stiff performances, and allegedly being a beat-for-beat remake (we’ll get to do that later) of Kathryn Bigelow’s 1991 action film Point Break. Yet, Fast & Furious is the one that ended up sustaining a long-running franchise, unlike Point Break, that only got one bad remake 24-years after the original. Why did this happen? How did a seemingly dying franchise suddenly find an entirely new success? Well, it’s not an easy thing to explain, because The Fast Saga is not an easy film series to discuss, since it took nearly five movies for the saga to find its true identity and target audience.
Each sequel since the first installment has tried something different than the last, whether it’s a crazy new action set piece, exotic new locations or characters. Though successful, The Fast Saga could’ve never become the billion dollar franchise it is today if it weren’t for director Justin Lin. Many directors have come and gone through the years, but Lin is the one who understood what these movies should’ve always been about: be as ridiculous as possible and show audiences a good time. Two decades, eight movies and one spin-off later, F9 is right around the corner. So, in honor of its imminent release, let’s do a U-turn and revisit The Fast Saga as it evolves into the franchise it is today.
9. 2 FAST 2 FURIOUS
Following the events of The Fast And The Furious, Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker, Hours) — now an ex-LAPD cop — is called back to action to bust a dangerous criminal with the help of a former friend and street racer Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson, Transformers). 2 Fast 2 Furious is never really brought up when discussing the franchise as a whole, not even by its core fandom. That comes as no surprise because, unlike the most popular entries in the series, this doesn’t have many, if any, note-worthy moments that puts it up there with the more recent movies in the saga. Yes, of course we get the introduction of fan-favorites like Tyrese and Ludacris, but not even their charisma can save this from its forgettable villain and plot you’ve seen a thousand times before. Sure, it’s still fun to see Paul Walker behind the wheel and join random street races, but it’s sad to say the only memorable aspect of 2 Fast 2 Furious is its ridiculously fun title and nothing else.
8. FAST & FURIOUS
Justin Lin’s second offering in the franchise is an entertaining, yet messy movie. After Letty’s (Michielle Rodriguez, Avatar) sudden murder, Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel, Guardians of the Galaxy) embarks on a mission to find the killer of his beloved, while former friend and now FBI agent Brian O’Connor is assigned to infiltrate a drug lord that might just be responsible for Letty’s death. Released after Tokyo Drift, Fast & Furious surprised audiences by revealing itself as the first in a trilogy of prequels, taking place between the second and third film in the series. Though reuniting the original cast, the tone is all over the place here as it fails to understand the basics of the saga by taking itself too seriously. Something you wouldn’t expect with Lin behind the camera. One moment it has the over-the-top, goofy tone that makes these movies fun, the next is a full-on melodrama trying to tell a compelling revenge story that simply isn’t there. The racing scenes are fun to watch, but, even then, they don’t do much to elevate this boring entry in The Fast Saga, which might just be the worst thing you can possibly be in a franchise whose only purpose is to entertain.
7. FAST & FURIOUS PRESENTS: HOBBS & SHAW
You’d think a movie dedicated strictly to The Rock and Jason Statham’s characters would be an enormous hit on all fronts, but Hobbs & Shaw wasn’t able to live up neither to the hype nor to the billion dollar numbers its predecessors were able to make. Not only that, but the film itself lacks the charisma the main movies in the series have. Lawman Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson, Jumanji) and outcast Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham, Wrath of Man) form an unlikely alliance to stop Brixton (Idris Elba, Concrete Cowboy), a genetically enhanced villain who threatens the future of humanity. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we’re now dealing with villains that have superhuman strength. We knew we would get here at some point, but seeing it play out is definitely something to behold. David Leitch — known for John Wick and Deadpool 2 — is a welcome addition to the growing family of filmmakers who’ve joined the series. His approach to action is unique and unlike anything we’ve seen before, but Hobbs & Shaw’s issue, here, is that it lacks heart. As stupid and ridiculous as The Fast Saga is, the franchise attempts to be about something, such as family. It’s insanely entertaining to see Johnson and Statham insult one another while trying to work together, but it just doesn’t work as well as it should. It doesn’t help that the original cast expressed their disappointment at the studio for breaking up the family by making a spin-off that tries to sympathize with a character who previously killed a member of the Fast Family.
6. THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS
The Fast And The Furious is the one that started it all and arguably the weirdest one in the saga to revisit. Why? Simple, it is massively different compared to its sequels in terms of style, tone and not really knowing what it wants to be yet. Plus, the inevitable comparisons and criticism made at the time (and now) for being an almost beat-for-beat remake of the cult classic Point Break. Only a decade apart, both movies feature lawmen infiltrating a gang of robbers as they get drawn into the lifestyle of their new unlikely allies. An argument can be made for this to be more of a cliché in the action genre than a straight up rip-off, but the similarities are still there.
Despite its obvious influences, there’s an odd charm to the introduction of The Fast Saga. Looking back, it is fun to see Diesel’s character not be an indestructible superhero that can jump off a car and land on the floor without a single scratch. It’s really easy to forget that after several sequels and a spin-off, this franchise’s idea of a big action set piece used to be stealing DVD players, rescuing a friend hanging from a truck and chasing down motorcycles around L.A. In no way is this a bad movie, but it ain’t even close to being the best one of the bunch. It’s mostly nostalgia that sustains this movie in people’s memories. That’s why The Fast And The Furious keeps this spot on the list, it’s both a nice throwback to what these movies used to be and a perfect anomaly of how drastically a franchise can change over time with just a few sequels.
5. THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS: TOKYO DRIFT
Depending on who you ask, you are probably wondering why The Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift is either so low or high on this list. Truth be told, Tokyo Drift isn’t necessarily a good movie, but I’d be lying to myself if I said I didn’t enjoy every minute of its runtime. After taking part in an illegal street race, Sean Boswell (Lucas Black, 42) is forced to move with his father in Tokyo, Japan, to avoid a prison sentence in America. Once in his new home, he becomes fascinated with Tokyo’s dangerous ways of street racing as he’s trained by his new friend Han (Sung Kang, We Can Be Heroes) to become the best drifter in the underground race world.
The plot here isn’t anything special: guy goes overseas and adapts to his new lifestyle, you know how it goes. What makes Tokyo Drift so ridiculously entertaining is Justin Lin’s way to inject new life into the franchise by giving us a self-aware action movie with a vibrant, messy tone and a completely different setting that allows for new and exciting race sequences. Tokyo Drift marks the first big step that would take the franchise into a much needed new direction. This movie doesn’t concern itself with trying to tell a compelling story, but instead has fun with what the title of these movies promises, fast cars. Do you believe any of these 30 year-old actors are actual high schoolers? Not even for a second, but it adds to the silliness of the tone The Fast Saga would be adapting moving forward.
4. THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS
What do you do when you’ve almost reached your limit as a franchise but you have to continue making movies for a profit? You turn your protagonists against one another in a “battle for the ages” sort of thing. At least that’s what everybody was doing at the time. Zack Snyder did it with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, so did Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War and Michael Bay’s Transformers: The Last Knight. So it was only natural that The Fast Saga would want to take that route as well. After saving the world twice and earning their pardons, Dom and his crew are finally getting to live normal lives. That is until a mysterious woman named Cipher (Charlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road) draws Dom back into the world of crime and betrays his family.
This is the eighth entry in the series and, if you’re not on board by now with the ridiculous stunts these movies try to make us believe are possible, then maybe you should look for another franchise to laugh with. Not only does The Fate Of The Furious attempt to carry such a cliché of a storyline, but at this point all of this is just a Saturday morning cartoon. We have secret children our characters didn’t know of their existence, jet-packs our formal villains can use to infiltrate a flying airplane, and a submarine chasing down an army of cars through the arctic. This has the best and worst elements of The Fast Saga. For most of its runtime, it is as silly as its predecessors, but then it makes the mistake of being a melodramatic, betrayal story that simply nobody cares about, because we all know it’s going to end with everybody being friends again by the end.
3. FURIOUS 7
James Wan might’ve had the toughest job any director in The Fast Saga has had to pull off. Not only did he have to follow two critically and commercially successful entries in the series, but handle the sudden passing of actor Paul Walker as well. If two intimidating challenges weren’t enough, Furious 7 marked Wan’s first ever action-adventure project with a massive budget. How did it all turn out? Well, it is another Fast & Furious movie. Taking place shortly after Tokyo Drift — I know, these movies are too complicated for their own good — Deckard Shaw is seeking revenge against Dom and his crew for defeating his younger brother. Even worse, terrorist Jakarde (Djimon Hounsonu, Shazam) and government official Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell, The Thing) are both competing to steal a computer program that can turn any technological device into a weapon.
A recurring theme in The Fast Saga — believe it or not these movies are about something — is nothing more important than family. That theme isn’t more present than in Furious 7. We could talk about how Vin Diesel drives a car through three separate buildings, or how we get to see flying cars in this one, but the emotional weight this movie carries is surprisingly touching. As briefly mentioned, Paul Walker died tragically in a car accident after attending a charity event. As a result, the film is dedicated to him as it walks this tricky line of not only being another ridiculous spy movie, but honoring the actor’s memory. James Wan does just that by having the closing scenes pay tribute to Walker, whose character is met with a happy ending, and rides off into the sunset.
2. FAST & FURIOUS 6
It was tough not to place Fast & Furious 6 on the top spot, but, my god, was it close! Forget about stealing DVD players or millions of dollars, this time it’s about saving the world! On paper, these newer movies shouldn’t work at all, but for some reason they just do. This wouldn’t be the last time The Fast Saga tries to make us believe our protagonists are super spies, but it’s hilarious to see Fast & Furious 6 be the first one to attempt just that. Scattered around the globe, our heroes need to reassemble the crew once more and team up with Hobbs to stop a group of mercenaries led by Owen Shaw (Luke Evans, Beauty and the Beast). If they stop Shaw, Dom and his crew will get full pardons in order to return home. Oh, by the way, remember Letty’s death? Yeah, she’s not dead and has been working with Shaw this entire time. All the bad clichés are here: a character presumed dead is actually alive, but has lost her memory and we need to bring her back to the good side. This movie really does have it all! From its nonsensical plot to people jumping off tanks into other cars, Fast & Furious 6 is Justin Lin releasing his inner child and playing with his toys in this massive sandbox of a blockbuster. The climax is just as silly as the tank sequence with our heroes chasing down a plane through an endless runway. Fast & Furious 6 is the closure to this trilogy of prequels started by Fast & Furious and what a way to end this chapter in The Fast Saga, marking the beginning of a brand new one.
1. FAST FIVE
Fast Five is widely considered as the ultimate turning point in The Fast Saga, and rightfully so. Since the fifth chapter in the series, these movies have stopped being about dudes driving fast cars and instead have become a mix of heist and spy films. This time around Dom Toretto, Brian O’Conner and Mia (Jordana Brewster, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning) find themselves on the run after breaking Dom out of prison. Now hiding in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, they put together a crew to pull off one last job in order to gain their freedom and become rich. Fast Five is a perfect balance of crazy action, cheesy dialogue, and great banter between the team. In many ways, this really is The Avengers of the Fast & Furious franchise in the sense that it brings together almost every fan-favorite character from previous entries.
The fifth movie in the series also marks the addition of Dwayne Johnson who after joining the cast opened the doors for other Hollywood stars to sign on tothe franchise, such as Jason Statham, Kurt Russell, and Charlize Theron. Johnson brings a distinct, but much necessary energy to these movies. He was given the assignment to play a strict, over-the-top lawman and he does it perfectly. Paired with the impossible mission our heroes are trying to accomplish, this makes for an extremely entertaining heist film. If your movie has two Dodge Chargers dragging a vault with $11 million through the streets of Rio de Janeiro, then you automatically take the top spot.
F9: The Fast Saga will be released in US theaters on June 25, 2021.