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The Most Paused Moments In The Fast And Furious Series

The most accurate way to describe the Fast and Furious franchise is "aggressively stupid set pieces loosely connected by plot" — and we, along with the legions of fans around the world, couldn't be more delighted with it. The entire series is full of ridiculous moments that push the boundaries of what we've come to expect from not just the franchise, but from action movies in general.

In fact, it was such a challenge narrowing this list down to just 12 entries that we had to drop entire movies. In exchange, this will be the definitive collection of the absolute most pause-worthy moments in the franchise. Not just the coolest scenes, but the actual moments that had you picking your jaw off the floor and theater audiences howling in disbelief. As such, there's gonna be spoilers. Fair warning.

All right, mi familia. Crack open a cold Corona Extra and let's get into it.

Tokyo Drift — Han's death

The franchise's first true "oh my God" moment came with its polarizing third entry, Tokyo Drift. As country boy Sean Boswell (Lucas Black) and retired racer Han Lue (Sung Kang) tear through packed city streets, racing for their lives, Han's car is struck suddenly while going through an intersection. Sean bolts from his own car to help Han, trapped and bleeding, but the gas ignites.

Han's death shocked fans and elicited true gasps in the theater. His arc resonated with audiences who watched him overcome a tragic past to find new purpose through Sean. Fans loved how Han's disaffected lilt and playfulness contrasted beautifully against the chest-thumping bravado of the other racers, making his death sting that much more.

This moment is monumental in the franchise. It solidified Tokyo Drift as essential viewing and set in motion the arc that would dominate the next decade of the saga.

Fast & Furious 6 — Han's death, revisited

Han's death left such a mark on the series not only because of its inherent shock value, but because he was such a fan favorite that he returned in the next three sequels, defining each as prequels to Tokyo Drift. For a series about street racing, that stuck fans as so audacious that with each new movie they became obsessed with reconstructing the timeline. When would we catch up?

Fast & Furious 6 gave us our answer.

When a grieving Han tells the crew he's moving to Tokyo, you could feel the entire theater perk up. "Tokyo, you say?" Everyone wondered if that was it. Was the loop closed now? Then a surprise epilogue floored everyone, playing back Han's death from a new angle. This was no random collision. Stunned, we watched Jason Statham himself emerge from the other car. Statham (as Deckard Shaw) coldly tosses Letty's (Michelle Rodriguez) silver cross necklace into the wreckage with Han still trapped. Walking away, Deckard leaves a threatening voicemail for Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) as the car explodes behind him.

From how it restructured the whole timeline to the revelatory machinations happening behind the scenes, Han's death — both times — is without a doubt the most paused moment in the entire series.

Fast Five — Flipping the bus

It's hard to remember a time when the Fast series wasn't the ridiculous juggernaut it is today. But whereas the first four movies never quite pierced the public consciousness, Fast Five punched audiences right in the face with an intro that just bangs. On a lonely desert road, the gang launches a daring assault on a prison bus transporting Dom. Dom's sister Mia (Jordana Brewster) plays chicken with the bus, forcing it to swerve into Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker). The action slows to a dramatic crawl as the bus flips over Brian's car and careens along until we smash cut into the title card.

This introduction is simply brilliant. Fast Five managed to introduce its main players, blast the plot into overdrive, and reboot the franchise into the monster it is today — all in under 90 seconds. Compared to later moments we'll cover (even some from the same movie), the bus flip eventually pales in comparison, but the raw thrill of such a tightly paced opening remains a highlight of the franchise.

Furious 7 — Dropping actual cars from an actual plane

"Hey Roman, you're freaking out, ain't ya?" Tej playfully jabs. "Listen, man, it takes a grown man to embrace his feelings. If you need to cry, just go ahead and cry." The crew are in a dark space, laughing as they get ready for an unknown plan. The entire space jerks to one side. Where are they? The floor opens up. They're in cars, but... on a plane? What could the plan even be? Surely they wouldn't drop cars from a plane. Would they?

They would.

Furious 7 is full of ridiculous stunts. Hell, the whole series is. But none more than this one. Why? Because it's real. They dropped actual cars out of an actual plane. The series has always aimed for real stunts whenever possible, but the plane drop sequence feels so impossible that it must be fake, right? It cannot be stressed enough: that happened. It's an incredible feat, and a moment that earns its pause.

Fast & Furious 6 — A truly unbelievable catch

This franchise's relationship with the laws of physics has always been "complicated" at best. Fast & Furious 6 pushed that relationship solidly into "a flagrant disregard for" with its tank scene. From the opposite side of a divided highway bridge, Dom sees that Letty is about to be thrown off a tank at high speed. Naturally, he climbs on top of and leaps from his own car, flying across the bridge to catch her in midair before breaking his impact against a windshield. Uh, wow.

There's so much nonsense in this scene to dissect, but frankly, you've got to prioritize. Get too caught up in asking how a tank that tops out at 30 mph can keep up with illegal supercars and you're bound to miss the forest for the trees. These are the pressing questions: First, how could Dom have possibly calculated his trajectory? Fans have done the math: Dom would've been traveling approximately 7,000 mph; Letty at 40,000 mph. Not only does the catch violate conservation of motion, but it also means they'd hit that windshield with a force of about 600 g (for reference, a typical fatal car collision has a force of about 75 g). So... how are they not dead?

Fast Five — Between the Rock and a hard place

Fast Five's inspired casting of Dwayne Johnson as the relentless government-backed bounty hunter Luke Hobbs is one of the biggest reasons the franchise well and truly took off. From the instant he steps off that plane, Johnson steals every scene he's in with Hobbs' intensity and unexpected quirky humor. But no scene cemented the Rock's place in the franchise more than the favela chase. While Dom and crew desperately flee a hit attempt by a local crime lord, they remain unaware of a second, more dangerous threat: Hobbs. As he leaps between rooftops, Dom looks back midair to see Hobbs bulldozing through a window after him.

Everything from the way the camera moves behind Johnson just before he leaps to the ferocious looks the two actors exchange sells the moment flawlessly. Diesel's face is a perfect mixture of shock, anger and fear as Johnson's Hobbs crashes through the glass like a force of nature. The entire favela chase is masterfully done, but this moment in particular towers over the scene.

Furious 7 — Dom drives off a cliff

Like the tank catch, Dom's big escape plan from Furious 7 is a must-pause moment — just not for the right reasons. After Dom rescues hacker Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), Mose Jakande (Djimon Hounsou) and his team trap them against a cliff. From a remote command post, an officer exclaims, "There's no way out of there." Mercenaries on one side and a sheer drop on the other, Dom smiles. "You might want to put on your helmet for this one," he tells Ramsey before launching into donuts, kicking up a maelstrom of dirt that obscures everything.

As the dust settles, we expect Dom's car to be gone, escaped in the confusion. But it's still there, albeit now pointed toward the edge. "Hold on," Dom growls through a grin. Then he floors it, driving off the cliff into uncertainty. A second parachute on his car, maybe? Nope. Dom's car smashes against every rock, every sharp ledge, tumbling down the mountain like a drunk Humpty Dumpty. Without even an airbag, each impact feels more violent than the last. Finally, the car lands — upside down — and Dom emerges, brushes himself off, and is fine again. Brian, bewildered, gives the understatement of a lifetime: "That's one way to get down a mountain."

You'll need to pause this moment just to figure out what the hell happened — and how they're not dead.

Fast Five — "Did you just take out a bank?"

It's far too easy to get so caught up in Brian's goofy grin or one of Dom's many speeches on "family" that you forget these guys are criminals. Murderers, even. Few moments remind us more than the vault car chase in Fast Five.

Brian and Dom have just ripped a 9,000-pound steel vault onto packed city streets. Chained to their respective cars, the vault lashes viciously as they tear across Rio. They whip the vault into the police — but it's OK because they're "corrupt," we're told. Yes, all of them. Then a sharp turn sends the vault careening into a crowded bank. Terrified civilians lunge out of the way as the vault razes the bank to the ground. Just as suddenly, it's gone and the carnage continues elsewhere. Hearing police chatter, Mia radios, "Did you just take out a bank?"

Unbelievably, this too was a real stunt. The entire sequence is incredible from start to finish, but that moment with the bank stands above the rest. Not only is it just wild to see a vault pulled by two muscle cars rip through a bank, but it tells us so much about the characters. We're rooting for them. Sure, they're criminals, but they're lovable criminals. Still, a moment like this one makes it very hard to ignore the human cost these guys are willing to accept in pursuit of money.

The Fate of the Furious — Hallelujah, it's raining... cars?

Whether you like these movies or not, there remains an undeniable, objective truth: they're imaginative in a way most modern action movies aren't. The stunts here are so crazy, so off the wall, that it feels like only a child could have designed them. Take the autonomous car nightmare revolution in The Fate of the Furious. Cipher (Charlize Theron) wants to stop a motorcade so Dom can steal a "nuclear football." True to her nature, Cipher hacks her way there, sending a veritable army of autonomous cars flooding the busy streets of New York City like water bursting from a dam. Then it happens.

Inside a parking garage, a man recoils as his car starts without him and begins reversing. As he watches, the car punches through the concrete wall and falls several stories to the street below. Another follows, smashing onto the motorcade. Then another, and another. We cut to an exterior shot. Dozens of cars pour from the garage like two-ton hail.

The only problem with watching these movies in the theater is that a moment like this demands to be paused, rewatched and paused again as you shriek in utter disbelief at how cool that was.

Furious 7 — The two most prideful chickens

We all know how "chicken" is played. Two people drive straight at each other, each determined not to pull away first. Someone always does, though. Someone has to. Not Dom. Not Deckard. Both men are so oozing with pride and machismo that Furious 7 features not one, but two scenes when each refuses to swerve and instead slam into each other. Two times.

The first is a true moment on its own. We watch the anger and determination etched across each man's face as their engines roar in anticipation. As they rocket toward each other, neither flashes any sign of hesitation. No one is backing down. But again, someone has to. Right? Not in this franchise. The cars plow headfirst into each other with a sickening crunch. Deckard pops his neck and emerges without a scratch. Dom climbs out a little worse for wear, but still fine. Both cars are totaled.

Somehow, the second time this happens manages to be just as, if not more, shocking than the first. Doing it once is one thing. That's already crazy. But twice? No way. As the cars rush toward each other once more, you can almost hear the creators saying, "Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't realize this was your first Fast movie."

The Fate of the Furious — "We're gonna need a bigger truck!"

The Fast and the Furious was about an undercover cop infiltrating illegal street racers who sometimes boost VCRs. More than 15 years and a blockbuster franchise later, The Fate of the Furious sees the same racers now tasked — by the government no less — with saving the world from a cyberterrorist threatening literal nuclear annihilation. It's been a journey. No moment illustrates that better than the submarine.

Racing across a tundra to escape hordes of Russian soldiers, the gang is already struggling to survive. Then a submarine explodes upward from the frozen lake below, sending a few trucks (or what's left of them) flying in all directions as it too begins chasing the crew.

For a second, imagine you haven't seen any of these movies and now you're watching this moment. You'd likely guess this is a Pierce Brosnan-era James Bond movie, not one about street racers. This moment is just bonkers.

The Fast and the Furious — That first NOS boost

What better place to end than the beginning? After all, 2001's The Fast and the Furious is the movie that launched it all. And really, no moment better defines this entire saga than the first time Brian uses NOS.

Eager to prove himself to Dom, Brian offers up the pink slip to his car as collateral to enter a street race. Hungry for an advantage, Brian primes his NOS, or nitrous oxide. He fires. The entire world warps in front of and wraps around Brian's car like Neo flying through the Matrix. Street lights become neon streaks whipping past like comets scorching the night sky. Brian closes in on Dom. He fires again. Dom watches as Brian rockets past him at a blistering pace. Too early. Brian's car unleashes a torrent of sparks and fire as it comes apart in motion. Dom activates his own NOS and wins easily while Brian's car sputters to a halt.

This moment has everything. First of all, it makes no sense: it's only a quarter mile to the finish and each car is shown exceeding 150 mph, yet — somehow — the race still takes over two minutes of screen time. The cinematography and special effects already have the trademark swagger that would later define the series. But most importantly, there's so much heart to this moment, and that's ultimately what this franchise been about from the very beginning.