Let’s get this out of the way. Am I stealing Grantland’s idea? You bet.
Am I going to do a low rent version of the same piece? Probably.
Am I writing too many lists? Debatable.
Is the Fast series the best franchise in all of movies? Not debatable.
Sorry Star Wars. You might make great movies and incredible memes, but you don’t have a scene where the Rock flexes his arm so hard it shatters a cast. The Death Star blowing up, while cool, is no match for a bunch of cars parachuting out of a plane. Or a car exploding out of a plane as it takes off. Or a sub chase on an arctic ice scape?
No. It doesn’t have any of those things. It also taught me nothing about family, which is another strike. And it doesn’t have any life lessons about the definition of winning, which is strike three.
So, now, without further ado, let’s make the list. Starting with number seven:
#7 – Fast and Furious
The fourth entry into the franchise, this movie was responsible for rebooting the entire series and bringing Vin Diesel into the fold after his absence from 2 Fast 2 Furious and The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. I always thought that was one of the more interesting wrinkles of this series – it’s star departed for two movies and essentially left the series for dead, but, in doing so, allowed the series to have a much different direction than it would have had if he stuck around. Instead of a series of movies about Dom and Brian, and their families, we got a diverse array of side characters who would later go on to form what is essentially the spiritual successor to the popular Ocean’s franchise – a group of stars pulling off big time heists together. This movie also did a terrific job of re-invigorating the movies after their slow decline into Tokyo drift and set the stage for the sequels. It’s not really a favorite of mine though, so it winds up at the bottom of the list.
#6 – The Fast and the Furious – Tokyo Drift
This is a really fucking weird movie. It was really out there in the sense that it didn’t include Walker or Diesel. Well, I shouldn’t say that, because Diesel does have a fucking awesome cameo to end the movie, which helped to set the stage for Fast and Furious. But it was centered around a fish out of water southern boy drift racing in Tokyo while struggling against the Yakuza. If that sounds odd to you, remember I called it a weird fucking movie.
The film does add an interesting twist of adding and then killing Han, who would be introduced in later movies (which places this as the sixth movie in the series chronologically). That was kind of a mind fuck at the end of Fast Six, which we’ll cover later. Han also delivers a classic soliloquy about the value of life, which might warrant a future piece in its own right.
The thing that makes the movie the weirdest though, is that there seems to be no middle ground on how people view this movie. For a lot of the fans, it’s the worst of the bunch; but for a much smaller number, it’s their favorite of the series. Say what you want about this movie, but at least it’s polarizing.
#5 – 2 Fast 2 Furious
From this point onward, it’s pretty much all gold. This movie doesn’t feature Vin Diesel, which oddly enough scores it some major points because it allowed him to go off and shoot the cult classic XXX. If you think I love the Fast movies you should have seen me when I walked out of the last XXX movie.
It also made Ludacis into a movie star and launched Eva Mendes’ career into the stratosphere, and I’m extremely grateful for both of those things. Lastly, this movie also introduced us to the insane set piece scenes we’d see in later Fast movies. Overall, it’s a pretty strong movie and is definitely worth a watch if you haven’t seen it.
From this point onward, things really take off. The gap between the top four and the bottom three is pretty significant for me. Whereas I like the previous three movies, I love the next four.
#4 – The Fast and the Furious
The movie that launched a billion dollar franchise, The Fast and the Furious was an against all odds cultural phenomenon at the turn of the millennium. For a 14 year old me, this movie had it all: street racing, explosions, hot girls with an extreme lack of clothing, and a ton of nitrous oxide. But, that wasn’t why the movie worked for me, that wasn’t the reason why I pretty much burned the film off of the DVD during my time in high school. No, this movie had a lead character in Vin Diesel who was absolutely dripping with the perfect combination of swagger and integrity. He was the epitome of cool, and his interactions with Brian (Paul Walker) showed the power of friendship and the importance of family. He showed me that you could be hard as ice and still be a caring, kind person.
And he, like me, grew up without a father. For those of you in my spot, you know how rare it is to find a role model like that. Dom spoke to me. He had to learn everything on his own, he taught himself how to be a winner, and if Dominic Toretta could do it, I could too.
It seems insane to me that I would rank this movie so low, but it’s really hard to compare it with any of the following movies, especially…
#3 – Fast Five
I had always enjoyed the Fast franchise up to this point. With the exception of 2 Fast, I hadn’t seen one in the the theaters. And with the exception of the first movie, I hadn’t seen any of them more than one time apiece. They were fun, sure, but they weren’t must see movies or anything.
Until Dwayne the fucking Rock Johnson waltzed onto the screen and immediately shot a dose of adrenaline into the franchise. Suddenly, everything changed. Suddenly, the entire ensemble from the other movies was together under one roof. Suddenly, we had a spiritual successor to the soon departing Ocean franchise and suddenly I was circling Fast opening dates on my calendar as appointment viewing.
Everything we’d seen from the Franchise so far was now turned up to 11. The casting, the location, the stunt choreography, all of it, it was a new high. And I would do whatever I could to get my fix. And from there, that would only continue as we moved onto
#2 – Fast and Furious 6
This might have been the most fun I’ve ever had at a movie, so much so that I went and saw it three times in the theater. As a reminder, this movie gives us:
- A tank chase on a busy highway
- A car exploding out of a plane
- Gina Carano in a street fight
- The Rock and Vin Diesel delivering a doomsday device to a pair of bad guys on an exploding airplane
- A shocking post trailer scene that added Jason Statham into the mix and retconned Fast 3
Honestly, if it weren’t for Wrestlemania, this movie would be the ultimate thrill ride.
#1 – Furious 7
That is, if it also weren’t for Furious 7. As Dom states in the movies, and as the title indicates, this time it isn’t just about being fast. As amazing as this movie is (Jason Statham, deadly sky lasers, cars flying through 100+ story buildings, Kurt Russell, cars parachuting out of planes) the entire thing was underscored by the tragic death of Paul Walker before the completion of the filming of the movie. Walker, who I’d seen grow up in front of my eyes, was suddenly gone and would no longer be able to star in these terrific movies. What’s more important, he was lost to all of his friends and family who all seem genuinely crushed.
I have to admit, as selfish as it is, I felt bitter and cheated when I heard this news. Just when his career was taking off again, just as I got into these movies, he’s taken away. But that’s how life works, and it’s a good reminder to all of us to make some hay while the sun is shining. If someone like Walker could go at any moment, then the rest of us mortals were no different.
The movie, of course, handled it brilliantly. I can’t imagine his aforementioned family could have envisioned a better send off or a more fitting memorial than this movie provided.
I don’t cry very often, but I have to admit that when the final scene of this movie unfolded, I was fighting back tears. I dare you to watch this and not have saltwater running down your face:
… Of course I couldn’t stop there.
I was just about to hit the publish button when I looked down at the clock in the corner of my computer screen and realized that I had tickets to see the Fate of the Furious in about 12 hours. How could I possibly rank the movies without adding Fast 8?
Well, that’s an easy answer. I’d seen the rest of them between two and infinity times, so it’s not fair to rank F8 quite yet. But I will give my initial thoughts on it after one viewing.
#? – The Fate of the Furious
There’s a really small detail that I enjoy with the naming of these movies that relates to the shift in the group after their shift between Fast Six and Seven – the group are pretty much collectively known as the Furious group now. The last movie was centered around the “Furious Seven” (Brian, Dom, Leddy, Roman, Tej, Mia, and Hobbs) and this movie continued that trend by advertising this would show the fate of what happens to that Furious group. It delivers on nearly every front.
I won’t get into any details on the movie quite yet, considering it came out last night, but I will say that it hits a lot of very satisfying notes both emotionally and in the action category. There’s a surprising amount of character growth and, by the end of the movie, you legitimately believe that Dom Toretto is the most dangerous man alive. Seriously, he’s up there with Batman, or Bond, or whoever. To borrow a wrestling term, Toretto gets over. Bigly.
If insane set pieces and action sequences are more your thing, this movie has those in spades too. I won’t spoil anything, but the coolest sequence in perhaps any of the movies is featured in Fast 8. And no, it’s not the sub (though that entire scene is fucking awesome).
If you’re in that sweet spot where you love the Fast movies but you don’t love them enough to line up on opening night, then you might want to take my advice and cancel whatever you’re doing to get in the theater… fast.