I’ve invested in a lot of movie franchises in my lifetime. From Star Wars, Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings to Mission: Impossible, Pirates of the Caribbean, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and even Twilight and Transformers.
And if you look at the highest grossing movies of the 21st century, that list is almost completely dominated by these franchises. But there’s one franchise featured on that list that I’ve been ignoring, until now: The Fast and the Furious franchise.
There’s been eight Furious movies in the past 20 years and one spinoff, with at least three more movies planned. The seventh and eighth movies each made over a billion dollars at the box office!
So I decided it was finally time to see what being fast and furious was all about.
And you know what?
I freaking loved it. The Fast and the Furious series is one of the most ridiculous series of films I’ve ever seen, but somehow it all works and it’s an absolute blast. It unlocked a specific piece of my dumb “bro brain” that couldn’t get enough of the increasingly excessive car chases, stunts and explosions. The evolution of the series from street racing to spy/heist action blockbusters is truly impressive to watch.
The series gets points off the bat for having one of the most diverse main casts of any major contemporary franchise, especially in the later movies once the team is solidified. White Boy Paul Walker is our initial point-of-view character, but there’s representation for Black, Asian, Hispanic and female characters.
Likewise, all but two Fast and Furious movies have been directed by non-white directors. Justin Lin, a Taiwanese American, has directed four of the movies, and F. Gary Gray and John Singleton, Black directors behind the iconic 1990s movies Friday and Boyz n the Hood, respectively, have each directed an installment.
The action is really what drives (lol) this series, and the best Fast and Furious movies make a point to rely predominately on practical stunts, which makes a huge difference in the quality of the action, especially as it gets crazier as the series progresses (even when physics doesn’t seem to work like it does in the real world). You’ll see things you could never have imagined in these movies.
And beneath all the cars falling from planes, tanks and submarines, there’s a strong heart and soul to these movies. Family is a major theme in the franchise, especially the found family these characters create together. A lot of the movies end with the characters sitting around a table, saying grace and enjoying a meal together.
That said, the series isn’t perfect. Pretty much every movie features a party or race scene to show off scantily clad women, with some shots just focused on butts. The first four movies even show shots of two women kissing to…prove that the party is wild, I guess? And there are some “jokes” or lines that don’t really hold up anymore.
But overall, you almost can’t go wrong with any one of these if you’re looking for a fun couple of hours. So here are some of my thoughts about each movie:
The Fast and the Furious (2001)
The first movie introduces us to our main characters, Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) and Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel). Brian is an undercover cop who infiltrates the world of Los Angeles street racing and Dom’s crew because they’re hijacking 18-wheelers full of – wait for it – Panasonic DVD players. 2001, man. Dom’s crew includes his girlfriend Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and his sister Mia (Jordana Brewster).
This movie is Point Break with cars instead of surfing. It’s honestly shocking how average and normal this movie feels knowing where the series goes in the future. There’s some casual misogyny and toxic masculinity and a street race Woodstock-type event called Race Wars that feels incredibly uncomfortable when anyone says the name out loud. Brian and Dom come to a begrudging respect and part ways. It’s fine and just fun enough to justify it as the launching point for a multi-billion-dollar franchise.
2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)
This movie is so dumb in the best way. It has to be one of the most iconic titles in the history of filmmaking. 2 Fast takes Brian (who is no longer a cop) to Miami where he teams up with his childhood friend Roman Pierce (Tyrese Gibson) and undercover agent Monica Fuentes (Eva Mendes) to bring down a shady generic bad guy.
The dialogue in this movie is majestic. Tyrese uses the word “breh” in almost every line and poor Paul Walker just sounds so…white. 2 Fast marks the first appearances of Roman Pierce and Tej, played by rapper Ludacris. The chemistry between Paul Walker and Tyrese really holds the movie together, as does the final chase that includes Tyrese yelling “EJECTO SEATO, CUZ” as he literally ejects his passenger out of the car. And then Tyrese and Paul Walker ramp a car through the air to land onto a yacht.
The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)
Tokyo Drift introduces us to a whole new cast of characters and is the first in the series to go international. “High school student” Sean Boswell (Lucas Black, who looks about 35) is sent to Tokyo to live with his Navy father after causing too many problems at home. There, he discovers the world of Tokyo drift racing. We’re introduced to Han (Sung Kang), the best character, and Lil Bow Wow is there driving a van painted like the Incredible Hulk. The plot has something to do with the Yakuza.
The opening chase of this movie includes a girl offering herself as the “trophy” to the winner of the race and it just made me so sad for her. Lucas Black, who grew up in Alabama, has the thickest Southern accent in this movie and it sticks out so strong against the other main characters. Oh, and Han dies. That’s important later. Vin Diesel does show up for a cameo at the end of the movie saying he knew Han.
Fast and Furious (2009)
This is the transition movie between the street racing style and the more action-packed spectacles the series will become. It’s great to have the main cast return here – Dom, Brian, Mia and Letty all return. However, Letty gets killed (supposedly) in the first act, kicking off the rest of the plot as Dom tries to get revenge for her death. The relationship between Dom and Brian really clicks here. Brian now works for the FBI, so there’s a familiar dynamic between the two as they begin to truly respect each other.
Other than that, the plot involves a drug lord and trafficking drugs through tunnels under the border. There are some fun action sequences, including one chase through Los Angeles where Brian literally apologizes to his car before jumping it off the side of a road. This movie also features the debut of a pre-Wonder Woman Gal Gadot as Gisele!
Fast Five (2011)
Fast Five is the Avengers of the Fast and Furious franchise and it is the best one. It brings together all our main and supporting characters introduced in the previous four movies: Brian, Dom, Letty, Mia, Roman, Tej, Han and Gisele. The team plans a heist to steal $100 million from a corrupt businessman in Rio de Janeiro and escape the law one last time. Fast Five also introduces us to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s Luke Hobbs, the government agent tracking the team down.
This movie is basically Mission: Impossible meets Ocean’s 11 with fast cars. It’s insane and one of the most fun movie experiences I’ve had. The action scenes in Fast Five are unparalleled. The movie opens with a train sequence that includes a truck crashing into the side of a moving train and Brian and Dom driving a car off a cliff and jumping into a river and surviving. In the final act, the team steals the safe with $100 million in it and DRAGS IT THROUGH THE STREETS behind two cars and USING IT AS A WEAPON to crash the police following them.
The chemistry between the core team is fantastic here – Roman and Tej have some great one-liners, Han is the coolest as always, and Brian and Mia find out Mia is pregnant!
Fast and Furious 6 (2013)
The sixth installment has Hobbs recruit Brian, Dom and their team to take down a crew of mercenaries led by Owen Shaw (Luke Evans). The surprise twist, though, is that Letty is alive! And working with Shaw? And has no memory of Dom or her life before the accident from Fast and Furious?
At this point in the series, we’ve transitioned from Point Break with street racing to pretty much a full-fledged superhero franchise. The team faces an actual TANK and brings down a massive plane on the runway. At one point, Dom literally jumps out of his car, flies through the air, catches Letty mid-air and lands on a car on the other side of the road, and they’re both fine.
This movie finally closes the loop on Han in Tokyo Drift and introduces us to the next Big Bad – Owen Shaw’s brother, Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham).
Furious 7 (2015)
Paul Walker died in 2013 halfway through filming on Furious 7, so this is Brian’s final appearance in the series. Maybe it was having watched all of these movies within a week, but I got really emotional at the end?? I think the movie did a fantastic job wrapping up his character and giving him the send-off he deserved.
After the events of Fast and Furious 6, Deckard Shaw enacts his revenge against Brian and Dom for what they did to his brother. Having already killed Han in Tokyo, he comes after the rest of the team as they rescue a hacker named Ramsay (Game of Thrones’ Nathalie Emmanuel).
Also, Brian and Dom’s team DROPS CARS OUT OF A PLANE and parachutes them down onto a mountain road to ambush the convoy carrying Ramsay. AND Brian and Dom drive another car through the air between THREE SKYSCRAPER TOWERS (“Cars don’t fly!!”). Bonkers stuff, but great fun.
The Fate of the Furious (2017)
I hope whoever suggested naming this movie “F8 of the Furious” meant it as a joke at first and got a massive raise or promotion. It’s genius.
Fate introduces us to the villainous Cipher (Charlize Theron), who blackmails Dom to work for her, so the Hobbs and the rest of Dom’s team must stop them. They are also forced to partner with Shaw, much to their disgust.
This movie is just as wild as the previous few, but almost bursts the insanity bubble for me. Plus, so much of the plot is based on hacking and has characters saying things like “hack them all” and typing furiously (lol) on computers like that has any meaning. We do get Scott Eastwood here to fulfill the white boy quotient and a delightful cameo from Helen Mirren.
Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw (2019)
This one was pretty disappointing. The Rock and Jason Statham are obviously having a blast, but the villain (Idris Elba) is a cybernetically enhanced mercenary? It barely felt like a Fast and Furious movie and gave no explanation why Hobbs wouldn’t have called Dom or the rest of the team to help.
So what do you think? Have you seen the Fast and Furious movies or have I convinced you to give them a shot? I’m officially a fan and can’t wait for F9 (hopefully) later this year.