Members of the Fast & Furious family have gone quite the distance: the streets of Los Angeles, London and Havana, sure, but also the ice roads of the Arctic and even the reaches of outer space. Now, the latest entry in the series, Fast X, speeds to a special place only known by the likes of James Bond and Darth Vader: straight past the 10-film franchise mark. (Even more impressive, the F&F movies have hit this milestone using the same actors across its movies, no alternating 007s necessary.)
But which entry is the Cadillac of the F&F fam, and which is the Pinto? Six years ago, I attempted a fast, cheap and out-of-control ranking. But with Vin Diesel’s merry band of meatheads having expanded threefold since then (including the 2019 spinoff Hobbs & Shaw) it was again time to take the blockbuster car apart and build it back together. So, from best to worst:
1. Fast Five (2011)
Five sequels, one spinoff and a whole pandemic later, there still isn’t a better F&F movie than Justin Lin’s action masterpiece. After Lin took over the Fast brand with the third entry, Tokyo Drift, a once-disposable street-racing series swerved into blockbuster territory. Lin has helmed five and a half F&F entries (including starting, but then abandoning, Fast X), making him the series’ shepherd as much as Diesel. But Five is truly his masterpiece, a bonkers bonanza of vehicular destruction that is pure popcorn lunacy.
2. Furious 7 (2015)
As a ride-or-die F&F fan, I live in constant fear that Diesel is going to one day harness the dark powers of AI to digitally recreate Paul Walker. My anxiety is amplified every time I watch Furious 7, so coloured is it with the death of Walker, who played Toretto’s BFF Brian O’Conner. We may never know how F7 would have played out had Walker not died mid-production, but it’s safe to say that the ending which we did get – featuring O’Conner driving off into the literal sunset – will stand apart in cinema history as a profound, and profoundly weird, instance of real life bleeding into fiction. Oh, and the film had a scene where a sports car crashes through not one, not two but three different Abu Dhabi skyscrapers.
3. Fast X (2023)
Thanks to a deliciously unhinged performance from Jason Momoa as the son of the crime lord that Dom and the gang took down in Fast Five, plus a general sense of relentless mayhem from new-to-the-series director Louis Leterrier, the latest F&F movie is a blast of brain-dead beauty. (Read review.)
4. Fast and Furious 6 (2013)
Lin’s deeply cartoonish adventure was to be his series farewell, before he was coaxed into returning for F9. Building upon all the successes of Fast Five – Johnson’s hard-ass lawman Hobbs is back, the gang reunites for one last score, there’s a ridiculous McGuffin at the heart of the plot – F&F 6 truly lets loose with its action sequences, which turn Toretto and company into gravity-defying superheroes, leaping from car to car like it was just another day in Metropolis. The film’s only misstep is its watery villain, a motiveless British mercenary named Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) who becomes far more compelling in later films, and is mainly here to pave the way for the arrival of his bigger, badder, balder brother Deckard (Jason Statham).
5. The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)
Most Furious-heads rank this Japan-set effort at the bottom of the series, probably because it abandons every character from the previous two installments, with the exception of a Diesel cameo. Yet Tokyo Drift has its own goofy charm, with director Lin well aware that the series is a malleable product fit for multiple genre retrofits. So we get not just a street-racing film, but also a yakuza movie and a high-school melodrama. Lin also introduces the franchise’s second secret weapon, after Hobbs: Sung Kang’s constantly snacking hustler Han, who brought so much charm to the narrative that producers twisted around the series’ entire timeline to ensure the character, who dies here, stuck around for three sequels (and is resurrected for F9).
6. F9 (2022)
With the caveat that I first watched F9 under exceptionally subpar conditions – at home, with a distracting “Barry Hertz” watermark splashed on the bottom, thanks to Ontario movie theatres having been in shutdown mode at the time – I’m going to say that the sequel lives up to expectations. Diesel gets to mumble-mutter all manner of unbelievable dialogue. Long-dead characters return to life with little explanation. Cars flip over, get plucked out of the sky by magnetic jets, and at blast off into outer space. And the whole adventure is capped off by a big happy family BBQ ostensibly sponsored by Corona (the beer, not the virus). What more could you want?
7. The Fate of the Furious (2017)
With Walker gone, there was a sad sense of shoulder-shrugging that accompanied F8. For every “hell yes” moment of action-film ecstasy, there’s a weary flick at why this might not be so fun any more. Meanwhile, the youthful verve that Lin delivered – such smoothly choreographed chase scenes, such perfectly staged moments of hand-to-hand combat – is gone here, swapped for director F. Gary Gray’s horrendously choppy aesthetic that barely conceals the fact everyone’s been in this game for some time now.
8. The Fast and the Furious (2001)
Rewatching this altogether meh effort from director Rob Cohen (xXx) is a great mental exercise. No one in their wildest dreams would imagine this Point Break rip-off spawning a multibillion-dollar global enterprise. A relatively simple tale of a car thief named Dom and the cop named Brian tasked with bringing him down/loving him, The Fast and the Furious is dumb-dumb low-stakes entertainment that gets away with its many cinematic crimes thanks to the chemistry between the young bucks Diesel and Walker.
9. Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (2019)
You could watch Hobbs & Shaw without having knocked back a single other F&F movie. After all, director David Leitch briskly introduces U.S. government agent Hobbs (Johnson) and British mercenary Shaw (Jason Statham) as just another odd couple expert at attracting trouble, no Furious-verse continuity necessary. But while this blank-slate approach works well from a marketing perspective, you cannot help but feel the pangs of a film fighting for two things and achieving only one. There is plenty of heat here – fiery action on every conceivable level in every possible variety – but too little heart.
10. 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)
After the first film earned a shocking $200-million worldwide, Diesel suddenly decided to actually read the scripts sent his way and passed on what he deemed a disappointing sequel, opting to do The Chronicles of Riddick instead (which proved to be a stealth move, as that sci-fi/horror film spawned a mini-franchise of its own). No knock on Walker, but without Diesel, his surfer-boy vibe just can’t carry this thrifty-looking follow-up, even when paired with Tyrese Gibson’s charming loudmouth Roman Pearce (who would become more of a comic-relief character as the series wore on). At least Chris “Ludacris” Bridges delivers a loose performance.
11. Fast & Furious (2009)
Marketed with a clever tag line – “New Model. Original Parts.” – the fourth instalment set the groundwork for later franchise triumphs, but what a long, slow slog it was to get there. The most self-conscious and serious of the Furious films, it reunites original stars Diesel, Walker, Jordana Brewster and Michelle Rodriguez, but traps them in a dull drug-trafficking plot that culminates in lazy and poorly lit set pieces. Kang’s Han and the introduction of Gal Godot’s criminal go-between Gisele Yashar enliven matters, but just barely.