F9 has finally hit theaters, and you know what that means: it’s time to fire up a new ranking of the entire Fast and Furious franchise so far.
Ranking these movies from worst to best is a brand new concept that has never been done before on /Film or anywhere else on the entire Internet, so please take a minute to familiarize yourself with this unheard-of concept, and then dive in to discover the definitive order of these ridiculous, lovable, and utterly insane action movies.
10. Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw
Whereas the first Fast movie was a riff on Point Break, Hobbs and Shaw is a riff on the Sylvester Stallone/Kurt Russell film Tango & Cash. But while that “unlikely partners who are at each other’s throats but eventually and begrudgingly earn each other’s respect” dynamic still felt somewhat fresh in 1989, it was stale as hell by the time this movie rolled around in 2019. Almost none of the comedy works here, the cameo appearances from Ryan Reynolds and Kevin Hart feel totally inorganic and forced, and the action is just…fine. I appreciate how it tries to do something slightly different with the “family” theme that runs throughout the main saga, but with a few years of hindsight, I think Hobbs and Shaw is the franchise’s biggest misfire and case of most blown potential.
9. The Fate of the Furious
I used to think this was a middle-of-the-road installment, but upon another rewatch, I found it to be the emptiest film in this entire franchise. Making Dom “go rogue” against his family is one of those ideas that probably seems great on paper, but considering how Vin Diesel spent so many films underlining how his character has an unimpeachable code, it feels forced and phony instead of suspenseful. The movie wants us to feel tension and wonder if Dom has really broken bad, but fans of these movies know he’s going to return to the correct side by the end, so the whole subplot ends up feels like it’s treading water. There are a couple of good action moments (Jason Statham fighting guys on a plane with a baby in tow is still excellent), but Charlize Theron’s underwritten villain character, the introduction of the charisma-free Scott Eastwood, and the lack of Paul Walker as the straight man hobbles this movie in a profound way. It’s also a needlessly cruel film – Elsa Pataky’s Elena gets shot in the head at point blank range about 10 feet away from her infant child.
8. Fast and Furious
I like to refer to this movie as the Iron Man 2 of the Fast and Furious saga – a film that lays groundwork for a super fun follow-up that would arrive a few years later. It’s important, but not very good. Director Justin Lin, who saved the franchise from a direct-to-DVD fate with Tokyo Drift, obviously had a larger picture in mind for what this franchise could become, but he needed a bridge to get from the almost entirely disconnected Tokyo to Fast Five. So we got Fast & Furious, a film that has the worst CG of the franchise and a story that feels like the reheated leftovers of 2 Fast 2 Furious. But it’s far from a total waste of time: it starts building up its mythology up with the villainous Braga (who comes back later), and more importantly, this is where Dom’s superhero status really starts to take hold. There’s an amazing scene where he visits the scene of Letty’s “death” and pieces things together like some sort of cross between Sherlock Holmes and the Ghost Whisperer – it’s laughable, but a precursor to the type of stuff that these films would lean into later on.
7. 2 Fast 2 Furious
Director John Singleton took the reins from Rob Cohen for this second installment in the franchise, which introduced the characters of Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej Parker (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges). I definitely feel the lack of Vin Diesel in this one, but while I used to think this was the worst entry in the franchise, it significantly improved in my estimation on a recent rewatch. Sure, Eva Mendes’ performance is a bit flatter than I’d like, the plotting is fairly generic, and the villain’s plan is basically repackaged in the fourth movie. But there’s still plenty of fun to be had here, whether it’s that strong opening race scene or the wild “confuse the cops by releasing a ton of cars from a warehouse at the same time” tactic that happens during the climactic chase.
6. Fast & Furious 6
I’ll admit that the climactic airport runway sequence bothered me when I first saw it. But as this franchise has gotten further and further away from anything resembling reality, so has my problem with the logic behind that scene. Now I embrace this movie as a solid Fast installment, one that combines the high drama of Letty’s return to the franchise with the high-octane action and amusing group dynamics established in the previous film. (RIP Gisele.)
5. The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift
Confession time: I used to be one of those people who did not like The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift very much. I was distracted by Lucas Black’s obnoxious southern accent, and I never truly understood why such a vocal cult sprang up around what I always thought was clearly a lesser entry in this franchise. But man, this rewatch changed my mind on this movie in a big way. I’m not ready to dance arm-in-arm with the folks who proclaim this is the best of the series, but it certainly has a lot going for it. Black’s accent did not distract me at all this time around, and I found myself more enchanted than ever by the execution of a classic fish out of water story and Justin Lin’s stylish (but never overbearing) direction. And, of course, the introduction of Sung Kang’s Han is terrific, and takes on a whole new level of pathos when you remember where this falls on the timeline and what that character has endured up to that point.
Justin Lin took two movies off from this franchise and returned in a big way with F9, which brings Han back and explores the strained familial bond between Dom and his villainous brother, Jakob (John Cena). The action scenes are strong (those magnet-based set pieces are very entertaining), Helen Mirren and Nathalie Emmanuel are given more to do this time around, and as someone who is way too invested in this franchise, I got a lot of enjoyment out of seeing flashbacks to Dom’s younger days. This movie somehow managed to make a subplot in which Tej and Roman go to space actually kind of make sense, so it deserves major props for that alone.
3. The Fast and the Furious
I didn’t appreciate Paul Walker enough when this movie came out in 2001. I think this might actually be the best work he does in the whole series, playing the wide-eyed puppy dog trying to earn Dominic Toretto’s approval. And before Diesel became a parody of himself, he was actually really good here, giving his character some real pathos and a believable physicality that didn’t yet strain credulity. Both of those guys are giving straight-up movie star performances, and while some aspects of the movie have aged a little more poorly than others, it’s largely still an enjoyable experience to revisit it all these years later.
2. Furious 7
If Fast Five is the platonic ideal of a Fast and Furious film, Furious 7 is right there nipping at its heels. I am more impressed by this film every time I watch it, considering how James Wan, who probably just thought he was giving himself a fun challenge outside of the horror genre by taking this directing job, ended up in the middle of the franchise’s most emotionally devastating real-life moment when Paul Walker was killed during production. I’m glad they decided to finish the movie after pausing the production for a while, because the final film is one of the best of the bunch, and that moving tribute to Walker at the end still gets me.
1. Fast Five
One of my favorite films of the entire 2010s, Fast Five is the point when the franchise found its groove and was jamming on all cylinders. Introducing Dwayne Johnson changed the calculus for these films forever (some might argue that was ultimately for the worse, with all of the behind-the-scenes drama that ensued), bringing the #family together and putting a bloodhound drenched in baby oil hot on their trail. I love how it purely embraces the structure of a heist movie while filtering that concept through insane practical action scenes and some gloriously ridiculous set pieces. This may be the boring choice for number one, but it honestly has just about everything I want in a Fast and Furious movie – including a killer mid-credits scene that gave me chills in the theater and still gets me amped when I think about it.
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