The Fast and Furious franchise has become almost a touchstone for car films, for better or worse, so we thought we’d take a look back at which films hold up, and which don’t.
Three of WhichCar’s journalists (Chris Thompson, MOTOR Digital Journalist; Alex Affat, Unique Cars Staff Journalist; Kian Heagney, Street Machine Journalist and Content Creator) have combined their own ranking lists to find out which film is collectively judged by us to be the best Fast and Furious movie.
The rule for ranking, 1-5, is that at least one film needed to be awarded a ‘5’ as the judge’s favourite of the series and their idea of the FnF films at their best.
You’ll notice Hobbs & Shaw is missing from this list… but it’s not exactly a racing film, not part of the main franchise, and we feel not worth comparing. Feel free to leave a 1-5 ranking for it (and each other film) in the comments below.
Our score: 4.5/5
Is the original the best? This is arguable, but a quick look at the average score we’ve given each film will reveal what we collectively think.
Here, in the first of the franchise, we meet the ‘Family’ and are granted some incredible lines and moments, from ‘DANGER TO MANIFOLD’ to ‘nobody likes the tuna here’, and even Ja Rule screaming ‘Noooo!’.
Toretto and Brian O’Conner’s story arcs, as with the other primary characters that return later, is relatively plausible here compared to the later films.
Some parts of the film haven’t aged well: the constant odd CGI and use of computerisation in cars, as well as some of the driving visuals. The feeling of the film is very ‘of it’s time’ though, and that’s no bad thing.
The first film remains entertaining, nostalgic, and fun… just remember to check your sense of realism at the door on the way in.
2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)
Our score: 4/5
Very much a ‘sequel’ film in that its story arc and theme is very similar to the first.
It ditches the ‘hometown’ vibe of the first by setting O’Conner on a group of drug runners in Miami. Partnered with a new character, Roman Pierce, O’Conner’s second adventure is a little less memorable than TFatF, though his Lancer Evo isn’t easy to forget.
Eva Mendes and Ludacris bring a little early-2000s star power, though we reckon the lack of Vin Diesel turned a fair few potential fans away. We know the use of shifting gears and somehow speeding up after long periods of apparently hitting top speed turned us away at some points.
It’s really a better film than it’s given credit for, but it’s not exactly the star of the first three in the series. In fact, it was nominated for a Razzie under the ‘Worst Excuse for an Actual Movie’ category. Then again, the later films have significantly higher IMDb scores than the first so what would the general public know?
- Chris Thompson
Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)
Our score: 4.65/5 (our top ranked FnF film)
The film least tainted by the increasing blockbuster action nature of the later films, Tokyo drift featured almost no connection to the main plotline upon its release, though has now been used to introduce later characters such as Statham’s Shaw.
Tokyo Drift’s protagonist Sean meets Twinkie (Bow Wow), the owner of a ridiculous Hulk-themed VW Touran/Caddy, and is introduced to the world of drifting. “Driftin’… what’s that?”
Its disconnect from the increasingly silly main story arc of the series and the fact it doesn’t take itself too seriously might explain why two of our three writers put this atop their lists (the other picked the original as the best).
Some aged CGI and potentially problematic themes aside, the film delivers some excellent and fun action, likeable characters (okay, mostly Han), and cars you could believe are actually usable for their intended purpose.
Sean’s storyline isn’t the most memorable thing about the film, though thankfully there’s not too much of it slowing the pace down.
Aside from Toretto’s appearance in the film, drift fans are given a treat when the real DK (Keiichi Tsuchiya, not the character granted the title in the film) appears for a few seconds. Tsuchiya and other drifters such as Rhys Millen were consulted and used as drivers during the production of the film.
- Chris Thompson
Fast & Furious (2009)
Not enough people realise that the first three Fast & Furious movies were made and produced independently of each other, in thanks to the unexpected success of each previous movie. The fourth instalment in the series, was the first time the writers stitched together an over-arching narrative for series’ future roadmap. But they had a lot of loose-ends to tie together, and it shows.
The central crew for this movie was made up of a motley crew of old familiar faces, and new ones. Essential members from the first movie return, including Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Jordana Brewster and Michelle Rodriguez (whose apparent death fuels motive for our two protagonists). Gal Gadot gets her first introduction here as one of Arturo Braga, the main villain’s goonies.
The fourth movie for many marks the departure point for the franchise, in becoming more of a cornerstone Hollywood action series than the cinematic validation for the tuner car enthusiast it once was. In hindsight, it certainly wasn’t as ludicrous (or should we say, Ludacris?) as the series would later reveal. It’s a little forgettable, but acts as an important springboard for future narratives.
- Alex Affat
Fast Five (2011)
Our score: 3.15/5
Fast Five was the first time in the series that our gang of affable automotive outlaws went transcontinental. The “family” are now on the run and have made it through South America where they land in Brazil. They link up with Toretto’s childhood best friend Vince who enlists them on a job which goes bad. This puts the gang in the crosshairs of Hernan Reyes, a corrupt businessman and drug lord.
Significantly for the series’ canon, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s character Hobbs makes his debut in this film and is tasked with hunting down Toretto’s crew while they plan a heist to steal Reyes’ fortune. The Rock actually adds a counterbalancing dimension to Vin Diesel’s character, and may be likened to Loki of the MCU. A charismatic overstated villain who would later become part of ‘the team’ in order to defeat larger evils.
Of course, the heist itself displays a laughable understanding of physics (or just a very liberal interpretation of a 2011 Dodge Charger’s tow rating), but it would certainly not be the last time that the producers threw realism out the window.
- Alex Affat
Fast and Furious 6 (2013)
Our score: 2.35/5
This instalment is often referred to as ‘the one with the 10-minute runway chase scene’. Agent Luke Hobbs barters Dominic Toretto and his crew out of retirement to help him take down criminal mastermind Owen Shaw.
Most of the unnecessarily destructive car chases take place in the UK, but we are briefly treated to an actual race between Dom and his presumed dead former squeeze Letty Ortiz. An Army tank driving the wrong way, an open wheel car designed specifically to upturn oncoming Police cars – this movie is perfect if you don’t care about cars at all but love grotesque action with no substance.
- Kian Heagney
Furious 7 (2015)
Our score: 2.5/5
The basic punchline to the seventh film is Owen Shaw’s brother Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) channels his inner Crank vibes and chases after Dominic and his crew to avenge his dead brother.
They end up in the Middle East where a super rare supercar jumps between two sky scrapers, and there’s a final showdown with lots of shouting in a multi-story car park in Los Angeles over some deadly software. But the main takeaway from this seventh film is it’s the final farewell to Paul Walker and his character Brian O’Conner, who tragically passed away during filming.
Most of the movie is as ridiculous as expected, but the final scenes bidding farewell to Paul are done tastefully and give the movie a level of meaning missing from the previous iterations.
- Kian Heagney
Our score: 2.15/5
Fate pits Dominic Toretto against his crew when cyberterrorist Cipher (Charlize Theron), forces him to do his bidding under threat of harming his newborn son with former lover Elena (Elsa Pataky).
The big action scenes in this one mainly revolve around a five-way tug of war in the middle of a city, and a truly ridiculous chase on an ice lake where a submarine quite literally breaks through the ice while in pursuit of a bright orange Lamborghini Murcielago.
Deckhard Shaw and Agent Luke Hobbs both join the cause to help take Dominic’s crew take down Cipher, and unlike previous movies this one uses some semi-decent comedy to distract from the Michael Bay levels of carnage.
- Kian Heagney