It has been close to 20 years since The Fast and the Furious was first introduced to cinema screens, and in that time we’ve seen it grow from a street racing homage to Point Break into a worldwide box office phenomenon, the Vin Diesel fronted franchise earning over $5billion at the worldwide box office, with The Fate of the Furious becoming the 2nd highest grossing non-Chinese release in Chinese box office history.
The worldwide appeal of Fast and Furious is clear, its fandom less vocal but as ever-present as those who follow the Marvel Cinematic Universe, its every car-fronted action spectacular being a guaranteed profit maker for studio Universal, with its contents becoming ever more wacky and over-the-top with each installment.
Now 9 movies strong, including spin-off Hobbs and Shaw, the Fast and Furious franchise is a go-to for avid movie watchers and casual cinema goers alike given its mix of simple but enthralling action and ever-building mythology. With its diverse cast now more stacked than ever, and future franchise entries already finished and ready to go, we at The Film Magazine thought it was about time we took a deeper look at one of the world’s most successful ever movie series. That’s why, in this edition of Ranked, we’re ranking all 9 Fast and Furious movies from worst to best.
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Engines at the ready? Here we go…
9. 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)
Looking back, it’s easy to forget how fragile and niche of a project Fast and Furious once was. Back in 2003, the Furious films were no more than relatively low budget car movies aimed at teen boys, and with Vin Diesel moved on to pastures new, Universal seemed to double down on this fact, hiring rappers turned franchise stalwarts Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris to fill Diesel’s gap with their own brand of early 2000s cool.
As is the case with many second movies, this Furious film tried to capture lightning in a bottle all over again, sending Paul Walker’s Brian O’Conner on another path from do-good undercover cop to bad-boy street racer. The twist this time was that the gangsters and menial criminals he surrounded himself with were ultimately willing to help the “good guys”, twisting the narrative of Brian overlooking his duty to support Dom (the man he was investigating) in the first film.
2 Fast 2 Furious in many ways felt like the commodified version of The Fast and the Furious that Universal would have released if that film wasn’t made for so cheap and with such low expectations. It was more glamorous, with the colours, the cars and the cast being souped up just as you’d expect one of O’Conner’s Japanese street racing cars to be. It looked and felt well made, but that only seemed to distance it from its roots even further.
2 Fast 2 Furious was fun, sure, but overall it lacked the draw of Vin Diesel’s charisma and felt too disconnected from what had come before it, isolating it as the most disappointing and least rewatchable Fast and Furious movie to date.
8. The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)
Back in 2006, the Fast and Furious franchise was on its knees, so Universal sent it to Tokyo in an attempt to reach out in a different direction and hit new audiences. This meant that The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift would be the first film in the franchise without leading star Paul Walker, and as little of Vin Diesel as humanly possible, the result being something of a disconnect for core audiences and one of the franchise’s few odd outliers in terms of universe building.
The years have been kind to Tokyo Drift however, Fast Five working to establish its place in the universe as more than just a failed spin-off and the creative talents of director Justin Lin put to better work on three (soon to be four) sequels. For audiences just catching up with the franchise, Tokyo Drift seems like the normal spin-off approach any of the big franchises have (Star Wars, Marvel and even Pirates of the Caribbean), which makes this film an easier pill to swallow than it seemed to be for 2006 audiences who saw it in fewer numbers than any of the franchise’s other films, Tokyo Drift pulling in a franchise low of $159million at the box office.
In looking back on Fast and Furious, there’s an odd sense of nostalgia towards Tokyo Drift as a movie set in a more sensible and less spectacular universe, and while that doesn’t make for one of the franchise’s better entries, it does earn it a space in the canon as a welcomed caveat to the main story.