7. Fast & Furious (2009)
After two movies worth of diminishing returns, Universal handed Fast and Furious back to Vin Diesel, the actor and producer taking a more hands on approach behind the camera and bringing back the “family” at the heart of the original movie.
The result was something of a gear change for the franchise, Fast & Furious ramping up the action and drama ten-fold in pursuit of being the next Hollywood mega-franchise. Walker, Diesel and company worked under the stewardship of Tokyo Drift director Justin Lin to make a movie altogether more spectacular and enthralling than the two movies that had preceded it, providing the series’ most significant step away from the niche product The Fast and the Furious had begun the franchise as.
With Brian (Walker) and Dom (Diesel) coming together to take down a drug cartel, Fast & Furious was well and truly a movie about getting the band together both behind the scenes and in front of the camera, audiences returning in their droves to see the original crew back once more, the film earning more than double that of Tokyo Drift ($363.2million) at the box office. If The Fast and the Furious needed a fresh dose of adrenaline to see it into the next decade, Fast & Furious was it.
The rest is history.
6. Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw (2019)
When Universal announced that they were partnering with Hollywood’s highest earning star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson for a spin-off from the central Fast and Furious franchise, divisions grew among the “family”, Vin Diesel and Tyrese Gibson in particular taking to social media to tag Johnson a “traitor” and individualist. The movie, however, was actually quite good…
While overly long at 2 hours and 17 minutes, Hobbs and Shaw was the kind of actioner we rarely see anymore; that type of movie that has more fist fights than dialogue exchanges, just-about-believable technologies, spans what seems like the entire globe, and most importantly never takes itself too seriously. In what was the follow-up (at least in terms of release dates) to a film in which some cars out-run a submarine on a frozen sea, Hobbs and Shaw was even expansive in terms of the universe’s realms of possibilities, stepping out of Fast and Furious’ usual brand of pseudo-reality and into something more fantastical, a choice that both continued the franchise’s trajectory but also felt of detriment to its overall sense of belonging as regards the rest of the franchise.
With Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham in the leads – the two performers perhaps best received in the post-original-trilogy era of the franchise – Hobbs and Shaw was guaranteed fun quips and acts of one-upmanship, and it certainly delivered in both respects. The issue was that Fast and Furious usually had an ensemble to spread comedy, action and drama amongst, and in centering on a much smaller cast Hobbs and Shaw lost the rapid hit-a-minute pacing of the later Furious movies, placing it in the bottom half of this list.
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5. The Fate of the Furious (2017)
The one in which they outrun a submarine.
With the “family” brought as close as ever in Furious 7 (with even Johnson’s Luke Hobbs growing close to Diesel’s Toretto), The Fate of the Furious needed to throw a spanner in the works. Its answer: what if Toretto turned on his family?
It was a fresh concept for a franchise within touching distance of overplaying its own tropes and likely to fail in any attempt to recapture the heart and soul of its predecessor. It also made a space for Vin Diesel to reclaim his role at the front of the franchise after being overshadowed in back-to-back movies by Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham and Paul Walker. The choice also created the circumstances in which the “family” would have to adapt to a mission without their leader, creating the bedrock for great jokes and character exchanges, and offering Statham’s Deckard Shaw a way back into a franchise he’d become something of a fan favourite in during his star turn as Fast & Furious 6’s antagonist.
This simple decision also created a Civil War change-up in the dynamic, asking audiences to ponder more than the typical “hero versus faceless villain” trope on offer elsewhere, though with evidently less depth than its Marvel counterpart. This left the door open for Charlize Theron to debut, the South Africa born actress entering to great fanfare courtesy of her performance in car-crazy actioner Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), but ultimately only serving the purpose of being the antagonistic motivating factor behind Toretto’s defection – in short being the generic bad guy acted by someone with a name the producers could put on the film’s promotional material.
While just as snappy and spectacular as the best of the franchise, The Fate of the Furious did seem like a significant step down from the franchise high of its early-to-mid-2010s run, remaining thoroughly enjoyable and quotable but not quite earning the distinction of being the movie you’d most like to rewatch.
4. The Fast and the Furious (2001)
“Ride or die, remember?”
Often, there’s no better experience in a movie franchise than seeing the original for the first time. With Fast and Furious, that’s not quite true… The Fast and the Furious being a strong inclusion into the canon but certainly not the franchise’s most impressive feature release to date.
A surprise hit for Universal that repaid its production costs after just 3 days at the US box office, The Fast and the Furious was a success from the off, but one that still appealed only to a relatively niche market, the film striding to a $207million box office run that would pale in comparison to the $1billion returns of some later films. The true success of this 2001 release actually came on home video where its relatively grounded car chases and relateable drama earned this Rob Cohen directed film a cult-like status; one that would ultimately form the bedrock of support later franchise entries would embrace.
Later dubbed “the street racing version of Point Break“, The Fast and the Furious had a story worth investing in, with Paul Walker and Vin Diesel proving to be charismatic leads as undercover cop Brian O’Conner and loyal criminal Dominic Toretto, the film’s themes regarding morality and brotherhood elevating this beyond being just any other car movie.
In retrospect, The Fast and the Furious is something of a nostalgia trip back to the days when cinema didn’t have to be so loud, brash and flashy. And there’s certainly value in that.