Ranking the Fast and Furious movies from NOS to NOPE
We find two valid ways to rate the FATF series that have surprisingly little to do with cars or muscle.
Kelsey AdamsSenior copy editor / Reviews
CNET senior copy editor and contributor Kelsey Adams was raised by computer programmers and writers, so she communicates best by keyboard. Loves genre fiction, RPGs, action movies; has long, fraught relationship with comics. Come talk to her on Twitter.
As two longtime action fans, we've spent a lot of hours souping up cars, drinking any beer we want (so long as it's Corona) and talking "Fast and the Furious" on Twitter. Mostly that last one. Luke reviewed "Fate of the Furious" here, and now that people have had a chance to see that, here's what we think of the other seven. Jump to the end for some mild spoilers and where we think 8 fits in.
Luke: Let's discuss our metrics. Because mine is basically how many times I laugh at how ridiculously earnest it all is while stuff explodes.
Kelsey: Yes, and I find that very valid, and I think 7 did it best of all.
Luke: It's not every movie that has a car fly out of one building and into another building and then yet another building.
Kelsey: But once you see the buildings, you know it must. And of course he keeps the car high in a skyscraper so that can happen. It's glorious.
But 7 is just my No. 2 pick. My top pick is the original, "The Fast and the Furious," aka BAD DECISION THEATER. It's fun and absurd (the robberies!), but serious enough to have soul. It also sets up the family thing and the folie-à-deux bond between Brian and Dom -- the sequels are all cashing from that bank but they're too fast-paced to add much to it.
Let's run through the rest of them before we rank them.
"2 Fast 2 Furious": HANGING OUT THE PASSENGER SIDE OF HIS BEST FRIEND'S RIDE
Kelsey: No Vin Diesel. We learn more about the past that made Brian the desperate screw-up he is in FATF... and it's not very interesting. He's got a loser-bro sidekick, and there are cars. Actress Devon Aoki has a funnier role in "D.E.B.S." (So does Jordana Brewster.)
Luke: This was the sequel that didn't know what it wanted to be. Though, it also marked the first appearance of Chris "Ludacris" Bridges as Tej Parker. This is worth noting because a Ludacris song is played at a party in this movie. So does Ludacris still exist in the Fast and the Furious universe? Is Tej his doppleganger? Does the recording artist have a secret life as a street racer? Do other musicians live their lives a quarter mile at a time? These are all questions more interesting than the actual plot of "2 Fast 2 Furious."
"Tokyo Drift": WHAT IS EVEN THE MAIN CHARACTER'S NAME
Kelsey: I could look it up, but why bother? I'd just forget again.
Luke: This is the FATF movie that is so bad they needed to do serious timeline gymnastics to even fit it into the series properly. None of the original cast has a major role. While it's still all very earnest, there are no monologues about the importance of family or living your life a quarter-mile at a time (the bit at the end doesn't count). It just sort of... misses what makes the series great.
Kelsey: I like the idea of showing street racing traditions in different countries. And Han's cool enough. But the hook is about how whatshisface should be loyal to Han while Han isn't loyal to the guy he works for? It doesn't even make sense.
"Fast & Furious": MEN HUG BY PUNCHING
Kelsey: I like this one because it actually tries to show consequences from the first movie. Can Dom keep his "family" happy on the run? (No.) Is Brian still a lonely adrenaline junkie? (Yes.) They physically fight each other, which is classic fanservice. Dom has Official Character Development (he's now willing to go back to prison) and then everyone throws out their entire lives to go jailbreak him, grinning, which is so silly it's perfect.
On the downside, Letty's personality reboot as angelically supportive about-to-be-dead girlfriend is so cheap, and the racing feels more like CG than something with real risks.
Luke: Vin's back. I guess that's something? You can insert your own "stuck in second gear" puns here. I agree this is the film that's the closest to a sequel to the first, but the series works so much better when it's ridiculous and over the top (see films 5 through 8).
Also, fun fact, on the way back from the cinema when I first saw this movie, my friend got caught speeding. So the moral is realism in these movies is bad.
"Fast Five": WHAT HAPPENS IN BRAZIL, STAYS IN BRAZIL
Kelsey: Still not convinced The Rock belongs in this series. He belongs in almost every other movie there is, just not here.
F5 is when the series starts its cartoon-y ensemble action phase while trying to hang onto some emotional roots. It does wedge in a (brief) moment for every character. Otherwise, this movie's mostly notable to me for the car chase in which our heroes probably manslaughtered dozens of innocent people. Also, Vin working hard to sell rebound romance with a lady half his size.
I do like how this one carries on the throughline of the series: Dom will always try to solve his problems in the most dangerous, silliest way, and Brian will always be ALL IN.
Luke: We call Dom's approach "the Max Power way." OK, let's look at that car chase for a second, because dragging that safe like a wrecking ball through the streets was a watershed moment for the series. Up until now, I couldn't exactly call the action sequences realistic, but "Fast Five" was most assuredly where they kicked it up to "these guys are all superheroes and their power is to defy physics while in close proximity to cars." I think Kelsey and I might be approaching this one from different sides.
Kelsey: I think Luke thinks I meant that as a criticism.
"Furious 6": LETTY'S SECOND PERSONALITY REBOOT
Kelsey: This is the one where they're going fully for Big Action with more lip service to "family." Kind of forgettable. Generic bad guy. And we lose cute couple Gisele and Han, boo. It does finally complete the arc of getting the team pardoned, and there's that big highway scene with the tank and whatnot.
Luke: Generic bad guy!? It's Luke Evans, who -- No, I really can't keep that up.
Luke: His character Owen Shaw does establish the evil family that will serve as the antagonists for the next film, because I guess that's the only thing that can stand up to the Fast and the Furiouses at this point. But he does not compare favourably to superior Englishman Jason Statham.
This one also loses points in my book because Han, who was the best thing about "Tokyo Drift," leaves to go be in "Tokyo Drift," which chronologically takes place after this movie. I'm learning that a lot of my feelings about this series come back to how much I detest "Tokyo Drift."
Also, the group kills a huge plane on the longest runway in the universe. Which presumably takes all planes out of the picture before film No. 7, because...
"Furious 7": CARS DON'T FLY, DOM
But around these people, they DO.
Kelsey: That opening sequence with Statham (a great choice as the rougher, badder big brother) is so smooth, violent, over-the-top and brilliant. The Rock pops a cast off by flexing. Ex-FBI ex-cop Brian easily outfights a martial artist. Letty's here for the evening-gown round with Ronda Rousey. We're barely pretending these are real humans anymore. It's all about laugh-out-loud spectacle.
This series is not going to be the same without Paul Walker, who provided an awful lot of what originally made it work. But keep the hero shots coming and I'm still in.
Luke: Tokyo Drift is also back in this one. I don't remember the name of the character or the actor either, so that's what he's called now. He is just as bad in this film. See my previous introspection re: the cinematic nadir that is "Tokyo Drift."
Kelsey: So my ranking from best to worst is: 1, 7, 4, 5, pause, 6, 2, 3.
Luke: 7, 5, 1, 6, 4, 2, every other movie ever made, 3.
Kelsey: We're basically agreeing. You've put them in proper action movie order, and I'm just weighting 1 and 4 extra for their place in the history of Dom and Brian's, um, entanglement.
Luke, before seeing and reviewing "Fate of the Furious": I can't wait for 8 which somehow has a car chase involving a submarine.
Kelsey: Well if cars can fly, they can surely swim. IN VOLCANOES. But I was amazed so many fans were wigging out about Dom "betraying his family" in the trailers for F8. I'd say it's like they've never seen a movie before, but they must have seen at least seven!
Luke: Well, six. "Tokyo Drift" is COMPLETELY SKIPPABLE.
Luke, after seeing "Fate of the Furious": Something was missing with this one. There were still ridiculous action set-pieces and very on-the-nose plot beats about family. Maybe it was Dom's incredibly unconvincing heel turn, or Charlize Theron playing one of the least compelling antagonists in the series. Maybe it was the way in which "Furious 7" felt like a natural farewell, closing the book on Dom and Brian's relationship. But at least the dude from "Tokyo Drift" didn't have a cameo.
So, my final list until the next ride: 7, 5, 1, 6, 8, 4, 2, still every other movie ever made, 3.
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