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 dynamic, asking audiences to ponder more than the typical “hero versus faceless villain” trope on offer elsewhere. 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 relatable drama earned this Rob Cohen directed film a cult-like status; one that would ultimately form the bedrock of support that 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.
3. Fast & Furious 6 (2013)
When Han was revealed to be alive in Fast Five, Fast and Furious was thrown into the air, with Tokyo Drift taking its spot later in the universe’s timeline and Han therefore still being alive. Its follow-up, Fast & Furious 6, was in many respects his movie, director Justin Lin paying the character (whom he helped to form in Tokyo Drift) the biggest tribute he could.
Remembered mostly for a spectacular airplane chase and crash scene in which Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson finally teamed up, Fast & Furious 6 was a movie all about the spectacle of modern action set pieces and CGI, but it was the final act in which Jason Statham would be revealed as the killer of Han in a loop-back to Tokyo Drift that would give this film its emotional kick and leave thousands of people begging for more.
This period of Furious films, between Fast Five in 2011 and Furious 7 in 2015, was incomparable in terms of thrills, excitement and creativity for the franchise which at the time was riding a huge wave of momentum. Sadly, nobody could foresee this being the last film in which Paul Walker would be able to experience these things for himself, his death coming shortly after this movie’s release in 2013, Fast & Furious 6 taking its place in history as the last time the “family” were ever truly together.
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