The evolution of the Fast and Furious films really makes it a fascinating franchise. It began simply enough; a familiar action film set in the flashy world of car modification and racing. But things got bigger. And bigger. Characters rose from the grave. Then they started jumping out of airplanes and flying through buildings—performing all manner of superhuman feats. Then came the spinoffs and more sequels. Now, it ranks right alongside your favorite sci-fi and comic book franchises in terms of linked universes and box office success. F9, the 10th film in the franchise, and ninth of the main series, opens this Friday. To celebrate, io9 decided to tell you where it ranks among the rest.
10. The Fate of the Furious
The main plot point in The Fate of the Furious is that Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) is now the bad guy. Oh sure, it’s explained—but when your hero is the villain for the entire movie, it becomes decidedly less entertaining. Add to that the decidedly drab look of the film and the unforgivable act of turning the previous film’s villain (Shaw, played by Jason Statham) into a hero without any sort of consequences, and you have a Fast and Furious movie that just missed on almost every level.
9. Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw
If Hobbs and Shaw had nothing to do with Fast and Furious, it would be a fairly good action movie. Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham are talented and have good chemistry. Idris Elba plays a badass cyborg, and there are cool cameos and huge action. But that’s all it is. It feels way too singular to register as a good Fast and Furious film.
8. Fast and Furious
After three movies where the Fast and Furious franchise didn’t know what it wanted to be, the fourth film simply titled Fast and Furious, is the one where everyone finally got back on the same page. The problem is to cover all of the things that happened in the previous three movies, this one had to do a ton of extraneous plot and character development that undercuts some of its entertainment value. It’s pretty good, but not great, especially in the overall context of the larger series.
7. 2 Fast 2 Furious
No Vin Diesel? No problem! What 2 Fast 2 Furious lacks in continuing the story from the previous movie, it makes up in excellent, dynamic new characters and a true love of the culture it’s set in. This film introduces the crucial characters of Tej (Ludacris) and Roman (Tyrese) who bring a whole new life to the film. It’s a little silly and frivolous but that’s part of what makes these films so enjoyable.
6. Furious 6
Here’s the point where the franchise leveled up. This being ranked sixth doesn’t mean it’s bad, of course, it means the rest of the movies are so good, this very good one just so happens to rank below them. Fast and Furious 6 brings the action to London with a killer new villain (Owen Shaw, played by Luke Evans), a real embracing of the idea of the characters being family, and hugely over-the-top action.
Yes, the new film ranks at number five. Why? Well, the action, drama, and humor are all top-notch. The way it weaves in and out of the franchise mythology cannot be topped—it even expands it in some really interesting ways. And yet, it’s so densely packed with narrative and backstory that at times it can feel a little overwhelming. That’s the only big knock on it though. It’s a hell of a ride.
4. The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift
Lots of people don’t like Tokyo Drift. Lots of people are wrong. At the start, this movie almost feels like a Halloween III in that it’s detached from the previous films. However not only does it eventually link up, but the entire spirit of it is perfect. Tokyo Drift is a film that loves cars and driving almost more than any other installment. Its main character (Sean, played by Lucas Black) loves them so much, he truly can’t keep from racing. We also meet Han (Sung Kang) for the first time. The music is incredible and director Justin Lin’s direction is incredibly dynamic. It’s a movie that gets what Fast and Furious is without the big action and stars. And while it’s not the best, it’s my personal favorite.
3. Furious 7
Filming on Furious 7 was underway when star Paul Walker unfortunately passed away in the middle of production. His loss is felt throughout the film, especially in the moving final scene, but before that, it’s a beyond fitting send-off. Director James Wan’s only foray into the franchise remains arguably the biggest and boldest in terms of action. There are no qualms about doing anything for the sake of action, and the villain, Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham, who as mentioned becomes more important later in the series), is probably the most formidable one to date. Just an excellent film.
2. The Fast and the Furious
The one that started it all. Sure, it’s just Point Break with cars instead of surfing, but everything that makes Fast and Furious great is baked into this small, emotional first film. Friendship, passion, love, excellent car races and appreciation, and two star-making performances in its leads Vin Diesel and Paul Walker. The film holds this spot both for its incredibly complete vision of what this world is as well as the groundwork it lays for everything moving ahead.
1. Fast Five
The film where it all came together and sent it into the stratosphere. Fast Five is The Fast and the Furious franchise in a single package. Almost everything in it has become the definition of what we love about these movies. Bringing back old characters? Check. Introducing new ones? Check. Really good villains? Check. Action so ridiculous you can’t help but laugh? Check. A good heart that makes you feel good? Check. The whole franchise is great but Fast Five is the best of the best.
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