This is it. We’re putting the hours — nay, weeks of debate to rest about what is probably the most important issue of our time: ranking the “Fast and the Furious” movie franchise from worst to best.
A note before we begin: Anyone who sees these movies then bags on them for being stupid is either a fool or a liar, critics included. If you went into the theater expecting “Pulp Fiction” or “Apocalypse Now,” you’re a fool. The trailers (and the title) clearly tell you what to expect. If you like action movies and cars and say you don’t like this, then you’re a liar and are trying to look more sophisticated than you are. The only moviegoers I give a pass to are the old folks and “Bullitt” fans — people who know what car films looked like before special effects.
Enjoy them for what they are: good action flicks centered on cars. Plots!? We don’t need no stinking plots!
8. “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” (2006)
“Fast 3” didn’t feature any of our favorite characters until the middle of the movie when protagonist Sean Boswell (Lucas Black) is sent to Tokyo after crashing his car and befriends drifter Han Lue (played by Sung Kang), aka Han Seoul-Oh.
“Tokyo Drift” was only brought into the FF timeline in the “Fast 6” credits when it’s revealed that Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) is the man responsible for killing Han. So technically, it fits between films 6 and 7 in the timeline. Strange that everyone has flip phones, but we digress.
“Fast 3” suffers from its lack of known characters — though Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) makes an appearance at the end — and thin but lightly entertaining storyline. It resonated even less after the rest of the movies came out, all featuring at least some combination of the original cast.
Best Cars: 1967 Ford Mustang, 2006 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX, 1970 Plymouth Satellite
Coolest/hardest to believe stunts: Takashi drives off cliff, busy Tokyo street drifting
Rotten Tomatoes score (critics/audience): 37/69
7. “The Fast and the Furious” (2001)
The one that started it all. It only comes in so low on our list because it’s now nearly 20(!) years old and doesn’t quite hold up to current standards. It’s where we first get introduced to undercover cop Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) and thug-with-a-heart-of-gold Dominic Toretto.
This movie is where we jump into this world of illegal street racing and meet all of the main characters. It was hugely popular when it came out and is more than partly responsible for bringing the sport compact tuner hobby to the forefront. Newer movies in the series have moved past Honda Civics and Volkswagen Jettas, but we’ll always have a special place in our hearts for the original. Just not special enough to rank it higher than 7.
Best Cars: Veilside Mazda RX-7, 1995 Toyota Supra, 1969 Dodge Challenger
Coolest/hardest to believe stunts: Driving under semitrucks in Honda Civics, racing across the train tracks (though the crash was real, which can be seen in the DVD extras)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 53/74
6. “2 Fast 2 Furious” (2003)
“2 Fast” gets a lot of flak, but with good action scenes and Cole Hauser playing bad guy Carter Verone, it lands ahead of the original and the then-incongruous embarrassment that was “Tokyo Drift.”
During the first race in “2 Fast,” we find a twist in that the competitions also involve turns (gasp!) as opposed to the usual straight line. The racing scenes and racers are a little cheesy, but we’re still talking about popcorn movie fun here. “Citizen Kane” it ain’t.
The 100-car scramble as Brian and Roman lose their tails is great, as is the pink-slip race. Again, it’s funny, cheesy and not too serious. However, the part with the rat in the metal bucket is pretty intense. And, Benny from “Dazed and Confused!”
Best Cars: 1999 Nissan Skyline GT-R R34, 1969 Yenko Camaro
Coolest/hardest to believe stunts: Camaro jumping from land to boat, Skyline driving down an expressway embankment at high speed and continuing on
Rotten Tomatoes score: 36/50
5. “Furious 7” (2015)
“Fast 7” is where it all goes haywire. After “Fast 5” and “Fast 6” went full action team heist movie, “Furious 7” makes them superheroes, not afraid of bullets or a building-to-building car jump. Its saving grace is a young, talented British actor by the name of Jason Statham playing Deckard Shaw, who is basically the Jean-Claude Van Damme of the modern era.
Statham is also invincible — he and Dom crash into each other in a head-on car accident and both step out nearly unharmed. We then find out that Deckard has a reinforced frame in his Aston Martin, which Dom compares to weighted gloves in boxing.
What screws this movie up — though it’s still a good action flick — is that there are basically two bad guys. First Shaw, who shows up in every scene trying to kill the crew, and Jakande, a terrorist who obtains “God’s Eye,” a computer program that can track down anyone in the world. Though Jakande is the main target, the story is more about Shaw and his battles with the main crew.
This installment also introduces us to Mr. Nobody, a nondescript, high-level government employee played by Kurt Russell.
With Paul Walker dying during the filming, “Fast 7” ends with a fitting and touching tribute to the actor. Using computer-generated graphics, Walker and Diesel perform the missing man formation where they drive as a pair before Walker splits off down a separate road off into the distance.
Best Cars: 1970 Dodge Charger R/T, Lykan Hypersport
Coolest/hardest to believe stunts: Air drop, Brian’s jumping off a bus on cliff and catching Letty’s spoiler
Rotten Tomatoes score: 80/82
4. “Fast & Furious” (2009)
After the embarrassment that was “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift,” the franchise returned to its roots, and its main players: Dom, Brian, Mia and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez). It begins with brother Toretto and his crew robbing fuel tankers in the Dominican Republic. The police on his tail, he disbands the team to keep them safe and heads to Panama — the country, not the city in Florida.
Though still having a racing bent, “Fast 4” marks a move for the series into the straight-up action film genre. It’s sort of a heist job meets driving movie meets B-plus acting. It’s the first of the “modern” “Fast” movies, and that’s why it comes in ahead of the first three, which we now call prequels.
Best cars: 2002 Nissan Skyline GT-R R34, 1987 Buick GNX
Coolest/hardest to believe stunts: Driving under a rolling gas tanker, escaping to the U.S. via collapsing underground tunnels
Rotten Tomatoes score: 28/67
3. “Fast & Furious 6” (2013)
“Fast 6” had the bad guys driving “ramp cars” which were actually tube-frame Chevy V8-powered chassis with a slanted nose built to send cars flipping over the top. They made for some great action in the opening sequence, only topped by the take-the-airplane-down-with-our-cars, 20-mile airport runway scene at the end.
It’s also revealed during the credits that it was Deckard Shaw, Owen’s brother, who killed Han in Tokyo, which places the third movie between “Fast 6” and “Fast 7” in the FF time continuum.
Best cars: Jensen Interceptor, Ford Escort Mk I, Ramp Car
Coolest/hardest to believe stunts: Airplane takedown, Dom jumping from bridge to bridge to save Letty
Rotten Tomatoes score: 69/83
2. “The Fate of the Furious” (2017)
This is technically “Fast 8.” This one broke the box office, grossing $541 million and dethroning “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” for the biggest opening weekend ever. “Fast 8” pulled back the reins a bit from “Fast 7,” which was so wild and unbelievable it may as well have been an “Avengers” movie. The team acted like they were invincible.
It brought back Deckard AND Owen Shaw, as well as introducing their mother, played by Dame Helen Mirren. Deckard Shaw ends up being the hero of the movie, but the interplay between Statham as Shaw and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Luke Hobbs is probably the best part. Sure, could a man, even a man as imposing as Hobbs, redirect a torpedo with his arms? Probably not.
We spent about 45 minutes breaking the movie down after the credits, looking for plot holes, but as we expected, it’s airtight.
This one has almost all the fun of “Fast Five” with more characters and insane action sequences, though they’re still more believable than the ones in “Furious 7.”
Best cars: Dodge Ice Charger, 1966 Chevy Corvette Stingray
Coolest/hardest to believe stunts: Hobbs redirecting a torpedo with his arms, Toretto winning a drag race in reverse
Rotten Tomatoes score: 66/74
1. “Fast Five” (2011)
“Fast Five” is the best of the franchise. It’s the movie that helped the series transition from car-centric to action-centric and it’s the first appearance of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as U.S. Diplomatic Security Serviceman Luke Hobbs. In fact, it sort of made Johnson a household name. Now he’s the biggest (figuratively and literally) star in the world.
This is the first film that brought all the previous team members back together, making it “Ocean’s Eleven” with cars.
Best cars: Porsche 996 GT3 RS, 1970 Dodge Charger R/T
Coolest/hardest to believe stunts: Safe-stealing scene, train heist
Rotten Tomatoes score: 77/83