, As ‘F9’ Opens, Every ‘Fast & Furious’ Movie Ranked From Worst To Best, The Nzuchi News Forbes

As ‘F9’ Opens, Every ‘Fast & Furious’ Movie Ranked From Worst To Best

, As ‘F9’ Opens, Every ‘Fast & Furious’ Movie Ranked From Worst To Best, The Nzuchi News Forbes

Because F9 is finally opening tonight in North America, because I actually took the time to re-watch the previous Fast and Furious movies and because I’ve never done this for this series… Behold, using my patented powers of math, science and dark magic, I have correctly ranked all ten official Fast & Furious movies. And, yes, since I hadn’t watched many of these in around a decade (I only watched the first four for the first time in 2011 in the run-up to Fast Five), I was surprised at how some of them played better or worse than I expected.

Like any long-running series, some of the lesser entries don’t play as bad when they’re just “tonight’s installment” rather than the big-deal event film of the moment. Iron Man 2 plays better as just an off-brand sitcom-ish MCU movie than as its own thing. That said, even a renewed appreciation for the Roger Moore 007 era can’t make A View to a Kill any less terrible. Moreover, some of the earlier ones benefit from being (comparatively speaking) “just a movie” in an era when old-school studio programmers are an endangered species. This list will not be your list, because what fun would that be? And now…

F9 (2021)

Budget: $200 million-plus

Domestic Box Office: NA

Worldwide Box Office: $295 million-and-counting

While the over-the-top stunts and larger-than-life spectacle is what’s to be expected from this franchise, this is one where the series’ devotion to Saw-like continuity and needless fan service gets the better of them. In what is the third straight remake of Fast & Furious 6 (fourth if you count Hobbs & Shaw), yet again the team is reluctantly recruited by the government to make sure a world-ending gadget doesn’t fall into the wrong hands, but without any deviations from formula (John Cena’s baddie is Dom’s brother… yawn) to make it at least look fresh.

The action scenes are well-made without being especially impressive. The characters explicitly point out how nothing matters and nothing of consequence will stick, which the movie then proves ad nauseum. The plot trips over itself trying to resurrect Han in a way that won’t imperil the Hobbs & Shaw franchise, with ridiculous retcons that A) contradict previous movies and B) show that our Fast family learned the wrong lessons from Scream 3, Spectre, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald and The Rise of Skywalker. Let’s hope the next two films focus on forward momentum.

Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)

Budget: $85 million

Domestic Box Office: $63 million

Worldwide Box Office: $159 billion

I realize this one has its fans, including Chris Nolan, but this “barely a sequel” flick coasts by on the strength of its locations and its proverbial Jack Sparrow character. Lucas Black isn’t exactly a new star made before our eyes (he eventually found his groove on NCIS: New Orleans), and almost none of the supporting cast registers. Yes, Sung Kang oozes rogue-ish charisma as Han Lue, and I can see why A) he became a fan favorite and B) why Justin Lin bent space and time in order to keep him around.

However, a good Star Wars knock-off needs more than a good Han Solo stand-in, especially when that anti-hero is playing Solo and Obi-Wan Kenobi. I will give credit to Universal and friends for spending $85 million on a star-free and mostly disconnected sequel, irresponsible hubris then but somewhat impressive today, and this does have more street racing than any installment thus far. It’s the On Her Majesty’s Secret Service of the series, in that it’s a change of pace for which folks have been arguing since its release as to whether it’s overrated or underrated.  

Fast & Furious (2009)

Budget: $85 million

Domestic Box Office: $155 million

Worldwide Box Office: $360 billion

Often considered the worst of the series, this fourth film has aged somewhat well because it’s one of the last times our Fast Family felt like mortal human beings and obviously before they started bringing corpses back to life. While its grim tone didn’t quite play in 2009, it now stands out alongside its campier sequels. It’s a prequel to Tokyo Drift, which means Sung Kang’s Han can show up again. However, his eventual demise brings an extra level of gravity alongside the (eventually retconned) murder of Michelle Rodriguez’s Letty in this comparatively serious and grim entry.

This “direct sequel” to The Fast & the Furious gets mileage from picking at the scabs of its initial predecessor, fitting alongside early legacy sequels the fourth Die Hard and the fourth Indiana Jones. The third act falters as drama, but it’s fun seeing Gal Gadot as the first of several women whom Dom turns from enemy to ally. It still remains a brilliant piece of franchise revival, with Universal successfully selling the original stars coming back not as a “our careers didn’t really break out” defeat but as a glorious “new model, old parts” nostalgic triumph.  

Fate of the Furious (2017)

Budget: $250 million

Domestic Box Office: $226 million

Worldwide Box Office: $1.237 billion

Plenty of big action movies ask you to turn off your brain. This one more or less asks you to turn off your memory and/or your conscience. Having Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto go rogue is a viable story choice, but it forces him and his supporting cast (who are now all expert killing machines) to play grim and sad while paying little mind to the cataclysmic real-world consequences of the admittedly bonkers action sequences. The way Elsa Pataky is arbitrarily executed to make sure she doesn’t conflict with Dom and Letty’s relationship is the worst kind of fridge-ing.  

If the Dom-and-friends plot is a bummer, the Hobbs & Shaw set-up is admittedly entertaining (Letty gets to fight a man for once). You have to ignore that Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw killed Han and shot up a hospital, and Luke Evans’ Owen Shaw ran over a dozen civilians with a tank and came within seconds of executing Jordana Brewster’s Mia. But Statham and Evans are fun, and the film’s “turn my enemy into a temporary ally” philosophy makes sense within this specific installment. Still, the airplane shoot-out shoulda been set to the “The Chipmunk Song.”

The Fast and the Furious (2001)

Budget: $38 million

Domestic Box Office: $144 million

Worldwide Box Office: $206 billion

The one that started it all. The defining example of “rip-off, don’t remake,” this unapologetic Point Break knock-off made waves in 2001 with $206 million on a $38 million budget. Even 20 years ago, it was unique in that it was an entirely original picture sans major (known by adults) movie stars and more diverse than the conventional big studio movie. Yes, we can tease the fact that the franchise went from anti-heroes boosting DVD players to saving the world in outer space, but the Rob Cohen-directed and David Ayer-cowritten original has aged somewhat well in that “just a movie” way.

It’s a lean 105 minute movie, with lightning-fast character introductions and the big reveal (that Paul Walker’s Brian O’Conner is an undercover cop) offered up at the end of act one. Whether it’s a “good movie” (that’s highly debatable, and it’s nowhere near as soulful and poignant as Point Break), it stands out amid the franchise as the only one where Dom is a genuinely imposing and scary presence. Its past-tense character development has been retconned a few times into frankly more wholesome backstories, and the original still kinda-sorta works as a one-and-done racing/crime melodrama.

, As ‘F9’ Opens, Every ‘Fast & Furious’ Movie Ranked From Worst To Best, The Nzuchi News Forbes

Hobbs & Shaw (2019)

Budget: $200 million

Domestic Box Office: $174 million

Worldwide Box Office: $760 million

David Leitch’s Hobbs & Shaw stars versions of Luke Hobbs and Dereck Shaw that bare almost no resemblance to the version introduced in Fast Five (instinct and duty-driven animalistic pursuer of whatever name crosses his desk) and Furious 7 (diabolical super-assassin of few words), but this film is so stand-alone that I wouldn’t be surprised if the actual Fast sequels never acknowledge it. Nonetheless, this is an old-school action buddy copy romp, one that plays to its strengths (star power and big-budget action) while perhaps overcompensating in attempts to square with the Fast Saga’s “family above all else” sentiment.

Once Hobbs, Shaw and the other Shaw (Vanessa Kirby as Statham’s badge-wearing sister) reluctantly team up to stop Idris Elba’s “Black Superman,” you get what you paid for. The movie feels willfully scripted to the lowest-common-denominator. I hope the theoretical sequel realizes that you don’t have to try to hard to be big and brainless, and that you don’t have to copy the whole “heroes get recruited by the government to stop a supervillain from stealing a world-imperiling thingy” plot from the last four Fast movies, but I’ll happily go for another ride with these goofballs.

Fast & Furious 6 (2013)

Budget: $160 million

Domestic Box Office: $239 million

Worldwide Box Office: $789 billion

The proverbial You Only Live Twice of the franchise, in that it cemented the plot formula that the series has been essentially copying ever since. Dom and his team become full-blown heroes this time out, working for “the man” (Dwayne Johnson’s Agent Hobbs) to stop a British super criminal (Luke Evans’ Owen Shaw) and his band of Legion of Doom-like “opposites” from stealing a scary device. The film strains to copy the structure of Fast Five but lacks that film’s emotional oomph and underdog status. The gang’s all here, yet again, but little is at stake.

Still, the fisticuffs are impressive, the runaway finale gives everyone something to do and this is arguably as close as the franchise has gotten to living up to its reputation as a gender-neutral/racially-diverse action blockbuster franchise. Alas, of the six female characters, three of them die (Gadot’s Gisele goes out a hero to set up Han’s fiery death in Tokyo), one of them (Mia) gets damsel-ed and one (Elena) gets sidelined. That leaves a resurrected Letty (eye roll) as a living action participant. This one is lots of fun but began some bad franchise-specific tropes.

2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)

Budget: $76 million

Domestic Box Office: $127 million

Worldwide Box Office: $236 billion

John Singleton’s sequel/spin-off had to make do without Vin Diesel, so he brought along Baby Boy star Tyrese Gibson as a worthwhile replacement. It’s not for nothing that Gibson’s Roman and Ludacris’ Tej have become the biggest/most worthwhile co-stars in the ongoing franchise. This flick sees Brian trying to get out of trouble following his decision to let Dom go at the end of The Fast & the Furious, and his pursuit of a Miami Vice-style drug dealer (Cole Hauser) offers no such moral ambiguities, even if we aren’t sure whether Eva Mendes’s undercover agent has turned.

There’s a lot more real peril this time out, and the film gets dramatic mileage out of watching Brian try to do the job, keep him and Roman alive and keep his police contacts off his back. And, yes, with double the budget, the car chases and vehicular mayhem is probably tops for the franchise up until the series became a pure action franchise. Like Saw and Star Trek, this second installment sets the broad template for the series going forward, with larger-than-life action stunts, not a little camp and a certain “Can you top this?” sensibility.

Furious 7 (2015)

Budget: $190 million

Domestic Box Office: $353 million

Worldwide Box Office: $1.517 billion

Now we get to what is frankly a quantum leap in quality. Considering how much of the awards season campaign for Leonardo DiCaprio’s The Revenant centered on how hard it was to make, James Wan should have won some kind of special Oscar for finagling a coherent finished film after Paul Walker died midway through production. That Furious 7 is easily the second-best of the franchise is something of a miracle, even if (all due respect) Walker’s offscreen demise adds a level of narrative necessity and pathos that otherwise wouldn’t have existed. Still, use what you got.

The gang’s mostly back, even if the lack of Han, Gisele and Tego Calderón’s Leo and Don Omar’s Santos makes the initial meet-up look like the “Are we all that’s left?” opening of Toy Story 3. The big hook was supposed to Jason Statham as the guy who murdered Han back in Tokyo Drift, and this sequel has three colorful villains in Statham, Tony Jaa and Djimon Hounsou. The action scenes are frankly spectacular, including the coolest forest chase since Return of the Jedi, even if Ronda Rousey joins Furious 6’s Gina Carano as another professional female fighter who can’t act.

The film seamlessly inserts the late Walker into context-appropriate places, using existing footage, special effects and body doubles. While I guess you can sometimes see the strings, it works exactly as intended. I could do without Letty again struggling with amnesia, but the movie ends with a shameless “fourth-wall-breaking” epilogue that gives Brian the happy ending he deserved. Absent the stunning $1.517 billion global gross, including a sky-high $353 million domestic cume, the franchise really should have ended here. Actually, it should have ended two movies earlier, but unexpectedly huge box office in 2011 made that an impossibility.

Fast Five (2011)

Budget: $125 million

Domestic Box Office: $210 million

Worldwide Box Office: $630 billion

What if the fifth installment of Police Academy inexplicably turned out to be as good of a cops-and-robbers movie as Heat? That’s Fast Five in a nutshell, whereby the fifth instalment of a thus-far… okay, I guess.. action franchise just rockets into the stratosphere, hits every dramatic beat and becomes one of the best American action movies of the last 20 years. Justin Lin gives us The Avengers, hell Avengers: Infinity War, a year before Marvel released its “everybody into the pool” team-up flick. At the risk of needlessly picking a fight, I’d argue Fast Five is better.

It better utilizes the supporting cast of the respective movies and offers up its rogue anti-heroes as desperate and potentially doomed underdogs. On the run after Fast & Furious, Dom, Mia and Brian bring together the cast of the previous four films (Vince from Fast 1, Roman and Tej from Fast 2, Han from Fast 3, Gisele from Fast 4, etc.) to rob a Brazilian drug lord (Joaquim de Almeida, as the franchise’s first A+ villain). In their way is Agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Johnson’s sweat-drenched lawman gave the franchise exactly the shot in the arm it needed.  

Letty’s death and Brian’s outlaw status cast a pall of doom over the proceedings. Rather than ignoring the three previous sequels (including that one taking place years later), Fast Five leans into the continuity to give its plot and its arc an extra oomph of emotional investment and character-driven tension. This is a “family” that doesn’t always get along, occasionally makes mistakes and sometimes disagrees with each other. The unlikelihood of success is not a reason to wink at the audience but rather a reason to root for their victory and hold our breath when defeat seems imminent.

The action is spaced out and practical while Dom’s soliloquies (including a joyful memory about his late father) feel entirely authentic. The camaraderie between old friends and new allies feels joyful. After the baptism by fire of Fast Five, we believe these folks will ride or die alongside each other until the end the line. No matter what one thinks of The Fast Saga, Fast Five stands alongside The Adventures of Robin Hood, From Russia With Love, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Speed and Mad Max: Fury Road as one of the finest American action movies ever made.

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