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Every Fast and Furious movie ranked from worst to best

Over the course of eight movies, the Fast and the Furious franchise hasn't just changed direction, it's swapped entire genres. What started as a series about street racing would eventually grow way out of control until its main characters were using their driving skills to literally avert global thermonuclear war. Believe us, it was quite a journey.

But that big of a change necessarily comes with some pretty inconsistent quality, and that's why it falls to us to figure out just which ones reign supreme, and which ones get left in the dust. 

2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)

It might not be a good movie, but there's one thing that you really have to hand to 2 Fast 2 Furious: it really was the sketchy blueprint for what the franchise would eventually become. It doesn't actually get there, but it does have the first stumbling steps towards making movies that aren't just about a dude going undercover to bust street racers.

Ludacris and Tyreese Gibson's addition to the cast as Tej and Roman—our generation's Bing Crosby and Bob Hope just waiting for holiday movie to star in—was the first step towards putting together the crew that would turn the movies from buddy pictures into a full-on ensemble cast of total badasses who never lose a fight, and the setup of O'Conner being blackmailed into action with the promise of his freedom? That's the premise of at least three of these movies—maybe even five, depending on how loosely you want to define "freedom."

Unfortunately, even though it has what would absolutely stand as the single best title in the franchise until they got enough of them to finally make that Fate/F8 pun work, it's just not very good. The car stunts are just okay, the characters are flat, and worst of all, it's the only movie in the franchise that doesn't have Vin Diesel in it. That dude even showed up for Tokyo Drift, but for this one, he was too busy filming an action movie that ends with him smack-talking a completely inanimate boat. And for the record? That movie is way better than this one.

The Fast and the Furious (2001)

The weirdest thing about the original The Fast and the Furious is that it's not actually weird at all, and really, that's the problem.

It's both accurate and actually pretty charitable to refer to TF&TF as a paint-by-numbers ripoff of Point Break, with the surfing and skydiving swapped out for street racing. It's not really bad. Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, and Michelle Rodriguez all have a pretty undeniable chemistry that would end up serving them much better in later movies, and Diesel in particular turns in a performance that the Chicago Reader accurately pegged as "unsettling mix of Zen-like tranquillity and barely controlled rage" that showed exactly why he was destined to become one of the next great action stars. At the same time, it's also incredibly basic, without much in the way of characters, a script that offers zero surprises, and some car action that, despite being the very thing meant to bring viewers into the theater, was good, but not great.

If you skipped ahead from the first movie in the franchise to the last, you'd never believe that this was the story that would eventually find its main characters being threatened with a literal nuclear apocalypse. Hell, it's pretty hard to believe if you've seen every single frame that led up to it over the course of the eight movies that came between them, but still.

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)

Tokyo Drift feels like a movie from an alternate universe where the Fast & Furious movies never became the completely insane over-the-top action saga, and instead just became the car-based equivalent of Bring It On or American Ninja, where some new actor would show up for a vaguely connected street racing adventure every few years until the heat death of the universe.

From a storytelling standpoint, it's another one that's pretty bland but not terrible, with a plot that follows the Karate Kid formula but with sweet drifts instead of crane kicks. There's some really fun stuff to be had—a character literally being named "Drift King" is genuinely great, and Bow Wow's smug "if you're not out of control, you're not in control" is one of the few lines in the entire franchise that can stand up to the hilarious quotability of Dom Toretto growling "I live my life a quarter mile at a time"—but calling it the most unloved film in the series is a pretty massive understatement. This is, after all, the one that has a major character death that the rest of the movies just straight up ignore until they finally get around to addressing it three movies and seven years later.

And really, that's a shame. It might not be a great movie, and we'll happily take Han Seoul-Oh and his amazing pun name back any way we can get him, but it's still a little heartbreaking that Lucas Black never really got to join the crew, even after his story was finally made official F&F canon.

Fast & Furious (2009)

Now we're getting somewhere. Seriously, if you've somehow managed to live this long without seeing any of these movies and want to just go ahead and skip to the best ones, skip the first three and start here.

Not only is this the movie that starts to ramp things up with buck wild missions and stunts that are only vaguely related to cars—the opening sequence of Dom and his crew hijacking oil tankers by driving semi trucks backwards and snapping them off the convoy with liquid nitrogen is awesome and bonkers in equal measure—and not only does it set the pattern of globe-trotting adventure, it also marks the first great team-up of the series where neither person was named "The Rock" or "Vin Diesel": director Justin Lin and screenwriter Chris Morgan.

Okay, admittedly, they actually first showed up on Tokyo Drift—meaning we can credit Morgan with writing the "out of control / in control" line and Lin with keeping it in the movie—but if we're being completely real with each other, that one was a side story at best. This movie marked the first time that they were unleashed with the core cast, and they made the most of it with Morgan's increasingly imaginative (and improbable) set pieces and Lin's incredible talent for action. Seriously: you can draw a pretty straight line from this to Lin directing the Star Trek movie that ends with the Enterprise surfing a wave of aliens that are exploding because of the Beastie Boys.

Fast Five (2011)

If Lin and Morgan were the architects and Diesel and Walker were the core, then Fast Five introduced the last ingredient that would make the series truly great: Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as Luke Hobbs, the truly massive government agent who is essentially what would happen if the Terminator was a lovable single dad.

Hobbs added a believable nemesis for Toretto—something that was actually pretty necessary when you consider that by this point in the franchise, Dom was just snapping handcuffs at will like it wasn't even a thing—but more than that, his arrival and the subsequent fight-then-team-up story pushed the crew's adventures into a full-on international espionage style that the following sequels would deliver on.

As for the plot… well, it's not the best. They spend a lot of time practicing a heist that becomes more-or-less irrelevant once Hobbs joins the team and they can just drag a bank vault through the streets of Rio de Janeiro, and they don't even bother to go to Tokyo when it's time to learn how to drift like DK. Really though, the movie's fun enough that its shortcomings in the story department hardly matter.

The Fate of the Furious (2017)

By the time we got to the latest installment of the franchise, these were pretty much just superhero movies, and just in case you think we're joking about that, consider that the following things actually happen in this movie.

The villain is a super-hacker headquartered in a high-tech plane that flies through mysterious invisible holes in a global surveillance network introduced in the last movie. Her evil plan is to steal the world's supply of nuclear weapons. The villain's big plan to kill the good guys is just straight up turning every car in New York City into a zombie. Zombie cars. Seriously.

Speaking of airborne scenes, at one point two dudes are flying around on jetpacks with wing suits that look like the Falcon from the Avengers movie and nobody even bothers to question this at all.

Dom Toretto wins the movie's one mandatory street race by driving backwards across the finish line in a car that he has torn apart with his bare hands. The car is also on fire and explodes immediately after he wins. If this sounds unlikely for the average human's abilities, also consider that during an escape from an ultra-max prison, Hobbs gets shot at point-blank range by a guard with a shotgun, and replies with "Rubber bullets. Big mistake." He is then shot three more times and then beats up the guard with no visible effect whatsoever.

Oh, and the good guys fight a submarine.

Is it any wonder that people keep asking Chris Morgan when—not if, whenthis series is finally going to wind up in space?

Fast & Furious 6 (2013)

The big trick of the F&F is that it's not really about the cars. It's not even about a crew or a heist team. It's about that one word that Diesel rumbles into his dialogue whenever there are more than four characters on screen: family. It might just be shorthand for the big ensemble cast, but there really is something about the combination of characters that makes them easy to believe as people who genuinely care about each other, and it's the reason why all of their enemies keep on switching sides and joining up with the good guys.

That's not just something that happens to Hobbs, either. It eventually happens to the bad guy in this movie, who was so evil that he played Dracula in another movie, and gave us the beautiful hope that by the time we get to the ninth one, they're just going to decide that vampires are real and bring in Wesley Snipes as Blade to even the odds. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.

The point is, after a solid decade of paper-thin plots bolstered by increasingly great action, F&F6 proved that the series could actually build a story around an emotional core that showed. It's a completely insane emotional core, of course, with the beautifully soap operatic plot twist of Letty returning from the dead with amnesia, but in the universe they've made for these stories, that actually works pretty well. Plus, by the time we actually catch up with a movie that came out ten years before and actually get Han's death, it finally feels like it means something. That's a pretty tough trick to pull off.

Furious 7 (2015)

Furious 7 might be the single greatest action movie ever made.

That's not something we say lightly, but let's look at the facts here. There may be other movies that are smarter, that have better fights, and that make more sense—that last one's not that hard—but there's only one movie where the Rock stands up out of a hospital bed with a broken arm, flexes so hard that his cast explodes, steals an ambulance, takes out a drone that's trying to murder his friend, and then rips out the drone's machine gun so that he can kill a helicopter. And that's just something that happens to one character in one sequence. 

This movie also has two dudes driving into each other at a combined speed of about 200 miles per hour, then getting out of the wreckage and having a fistfight, and another scene where someone dies and is literally resurrected with the power of love. Oh, and also they drive a car out of one building and into another, forty stories up.

It is relentless from the first second, while also managing to be charming and funny, and the ending's memorial to Paul Walker is surprisingly emotionally affecting. In other words, it's great. It's just really weird to think about how this whole thing started with street racing.