Ranked: ‘Fast and the Furious’ Films

Eighteen years and nine movies in (wow!), ‘The Fast and the Furious’ franchise is still going strong at the box office and is still mostly pleasing fans and critics. The series started with small street racing films but has developed into a huge action series with a varied cast, making Universal boatloads of money. With the release of the franchise’s first spinoff film — ‘Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw’ — this summer, I decided to stack the films up against each other in a personal ranking. Let’s get our engines started. 

9. ‘Fast & Furious’ (2009) 

‘Fast & Furious,’ the fourth installment, feels like a forgettable stepping stone sequel in leaving the street racing stuff mostly behind to go onto bigger plans. Yet things weren’t quite there until ‘Fast Five’ (2011) rolled around. More on that later. This film brought back Dom (Vin Diesel) and Brian (Paul Walker) and their tension after the third film left them behind for Tokyo, but it doesn’t have too much else of interest. The heroin running plot is standard and the action here is often dimly lit. The CGI on some of the vehicles has not aged very well either; this is where the franchise started to abandon practical stunts for visual effects, yet things didn’t look very smooth yet. ‘Fast & Furious’ is still watchable, but it’s kind of a dull spot when marathoning these movies. Grade: C+ 

8. ‘Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw’ (2019) 

I enjoy the first forty minutes or so of ‘Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw’ quite a bit, with a cool London street race and fun banter between Hobbs (Dwayne Johson) and Shaw (Jason Statham) in that time. But then things just get dumber and more bombastic as it goes along. For me, the fifth through eighth installments have their share of over-the-top scenes but still maintain a small shred of believability in their heist-and-spy-movie ways. With ‘Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw’ it officially feels like a “jumping the shark” moment in the series for me as the villain (a hammy Idris Elba) is part machine, Hobbs uses human strength to hold a truck and helicopter together with just a metal chain, and a shop mechanic is able to reenable a scientific device to be able to pull a virus out of a woman’s body. And that’s just a fraction of the stupidity. The film is in on the joke but it thinks it’s funnier than it is, getting too silly for its own good. At least the three leads (Johnson, Statham, and Vanessa Kirby) have great chemistry. Grade: C+ 

7. ‘2 Fast 2 Furious’ (2003) 

Moving on without Vin Diesel’s Dom character was a bold choice that ‘2 Fast 2 Furious’ made. Other than that, there isn’t much bold going on in the second installment. Even so, this is a solid entry (directed by John Singleton of all people) that makes colorful use of Miami and introduced us to fun supporting characters Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges); Gibson and lead Paul Walker have excellent chemistry that would continue into later films. Cole Hauser is pretty entertaining too as baddie Carter. The action and racing is all stylish, though not too much of it is memorable other than the ejector seats and the boat jump. Grade: B

6. ‘The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift’ (2006) 

If any of the movies in the ‘Fast’ series could be labeled as underrated, it would be ‘The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.’ It’s by no means a terrific film, but people like to unfairly beat it up — mostly just because it doesn’t feature fan favorites Vin Diesel or Paul Walker. This was the first entry directed by Justin Lin, who went on to helm the fourth, fifth, and sixth films as well and is set to return to the director’s chair for the upcoming ninth and tenth main series entries. Right out of the gate he shows a sure-handed approach with the action, with the drifting sequences providing some edge-of-your-seat stunt work. Adding Sonny Chiba to the supporting cast is a nice touch, and the film gave us the introduction of Han (Sung Kang), one of the coolest characters in the franchise. Grade: B 

5. ‘The Fate of the Furious’ (2017) 

Despite bringing skilled director F. Gary Gray into the mix, ‘The Fate of the Furious’ feels a bit rote in terms of plot in this second phase of ‘Fast’ films and the late Paul Walker is sorely missed. The transition of Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) from bad guy to good guy also feels a little awkward. Even so, the sequel still packs a lot of thrills. The opening race scene in Havana is dynamite and the angle of Dom working for the cyberterrorist villain, Cipher (a welcome Charlize Theron), is a neat touch. Things get too ridiculous in the third act — such as when Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) slings a submarine torpedo with his hands — but it’s still exciting for the most part. Grade: B+ 

4. ‘Furious 7’ (2015) 

Famed horror director James Wan took a crack at action filmmaking with ‘Furious 7’ after usual director Justin Lin stepped away. And boy did Wan deliver. ‘Furious 7’ contains a number of insane sequences, with the mountain-road-and-armored-bus scene being one of the best action scenes I’ve ever seen. Adding Jason Statham and Kurt Russell to the cast was a great move too and both actors fit in well. The film becomes exhausting and muddled after a while, but it ends on a tasteful and emotional note as the filmmakers pay tribute to Paul Walker. He sadly passed away before finishing all of his scenes; his brothers and CGI filled in for the rest. Grade: B+ 

3. ‘Fast & Furious 6’ (2013) 

Riding high off of the new formula established in ‘Fast Five,’ ‘Fast & Furious 6’ is a monster full of eye-popping stunts and effects. The tank-highway sequence and the cargo plane climax are adrenaline-fueled highlights. The Dom-Letty relationship is given a nice boost of attention. Luke Evans makes for the first genuinely great villain in the franchise as Owen Shaw. All of that and more make ‘Fast & Furious 6’ a blast of a blockbuster film. Grade: B+ 

2. ‘The Fast and the Furious’ (2001) 

Here is the one that started it all with the car races, crazy stunts, and family importance — and probably the last good film Rob Cohen directed. ‘The Fast and the Furious’ is essentially a ‘Point Break’ (1991) ripoff in terms of its plot, but it’s still a lot of fun as it puts a street racing spin on that plot. Right out of the gate Dom (Vin Diesel) is a tough and interesting character, with his “quarter mile” speech memorable. The rest of the cast of up-and-comers is strong too, with Paul Walker especially bringing a lot of likability as Brian. The film’s action scenes are small compared to the ones that would come in later movies, but they are tightly and energetically filmed nonetheless. A lot of the sequels may be bigger, but the original ‘The Fast and the Furious’ has an antihero charm and briskness to it that still shines all these years later. Grade: B+ 

1. ‘Fast Five’ (2011) 

The best entry (so far) of the ‘Fast’ franchise is ‘Fast Five’ as it was a game-changer in the series and just rocks from beginning to end. The film brought in an ‘Ocean’s 11’-like team element that immediately clicked, added Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Hobbs to the mix, upped the “wow” factor with the ridiculous but entertaining action, and expanded the plot to include much more outside of street racing. All of those elements are still in play in the franchise to this day. The Brazilian locations and heist plot add a lot of flavor to ‘Fast Five’ and the climactic vault dragging scene is a showstopper. Grade: B+

Written by
Daniel Rester is a writer for the We Live Film portion of We Live Entertainment. He is a Southern Oregon University alumnus and has a Bachelor of Science degree with a double major in Communication (Film, Television, and Convergent Media) and Emerging Media and Digital Arts. He has been involved with writing and directing short films for years. Rester also won 2nd place in the Feature Screenplay Competition in the 2015 Oregon Film Awards for his screenplay "Emma Was Here," which is currently in post-production and will be Rester's feature directorial debut.

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