If you live your life a quarter-mile at a time, you already know that in only one week Furious 7 has made $500 million at the box office worldwide, successfully eulogized Paul Walker, and guaranteed that your children’s children will be rolling their eyes when the franchise reaches its 26th edition and has finally run out of ridiculous plays on what was already a pretty ridiculous original title to begin with. But where does it stack-up against a franchise that features some of the most incredible action sequences in film history? Keep reading.
7. 2 Fast 2 Furious
A sequel this bad could and should have easily killed the franchise before it really took off. The set-up is clunky at best, the purple open-top Mitsubishi Spyder is awful for reasons including both style and aerodynamics, and the stereotypical bad guy Miami drug dealer Carter Verone (Cole Hauser) seems to be acting in a completely different movie than anyone else. But it’s vindicated by the fact that it introduces us to Roman Pearce (Tyrese) and Tej (Ludacris), two important, fun, and endearing staples of the on-going franchise.
Best Car: 2 Fast continues the original’s tradition of leaning heavy on Mitsubishis, but at least it establishes Walker’s character, Brian O’Conner, as a Nissan Skyline enthusiast when he rolls up in a right-side-drive R34 GT-R for the opening race.
6. Fast & Furious
It’s a confusing, though apt title for the fourth installment of the FF series, because it’s basically a rehash of the first movie. Brian somehow graduates from the LAPD to the FBI despite spending 2 Fast as a fugitive on the run, and then goes back undercover in the street-racing scene and eventually infiltrates Braga’s drug ring by way of another race. It also similarly ends with Brian trying to help Dom escape, but this time Dom decides he’s tired of running and heads off to prison. Brian apparently hates being a cop, though, because the film ends with a wink and a nod that he’s going to break Dom out.
Best Car: The Skyline makes another appearance, but since this film effectively pushes reset, so does Dom’s famous Charger, which was assumed destroyed after ramping across the front of a semi. Like most humans in this series, nothing stays dead for long.
5. The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift
This would-be straight to DVD release, which is effectively The Karate Kid in cars, somehow successfully rebooted a fading series by way of a secondary character who actually dies halfway through the film. No one ever drift-races again in the series, or speaks of Sean Boswell (Lucas Black) or Twinkie (Bow Wow), and eventually the street-racing is scrubbed to make our thugs into superhero crime fighters. Still, incredible driving, the introduction of Han, and the tease of Vin Diesel makes it an underrated fan favorite.
Best Car: Boswell’s 1967 fastback Ford Mustang is a beauty, and the Mazda RX-7’s tear up the curves, but Han compares the Nissan Silvia S15 to the Mona Lisa for a reason. And since this is film is all about drifting, this one serves its purpose.
4. Fast Five
This is when the series goes “from mission impossible to mission in-freaking-sanity.” Brian and Mia immediately break Dom out of his prison bus, and then they immediately continue heisting things, including a Ford GT40 that houses a computer chip detailing the location of $100 million in Rio. The group then rips the vault containing the money out of the wall using Charger SRT8s, and in an Ocean’s 11-worthy twist, switch out the vault with an empty while passing under a bridge. But the team also saves The Rock’s life, so he gives them a 24-hour head-start, and begins laughing maniacally when he realizes the money is gone.
Best Car: Mia tearing away in the GT40 and the boys somehow driving a ’66 Stingray without touching the pedals or wheel are both key, but you can’t beat a pair of matte black Chargers that can drag a bank vault across Rio while ignoring all laws of physics and nature.
3. Furious 7
The action set-piece that starts with the team dropping out of a plane strapped into their cars and ends in a chase through the Caucasus Mountains is maybe the best 20 minutes of the entire franchise, The Rock breaking of out the hospital and finding a Gatling gun drew cheers from the audience, Kurt Russell is a breath of fresh air, and Brian’s sendoff was nothing short of touching. We won’t spoil much more for those who haven’t seen it, but Furious 7 is everything we expect to see out of the series as it continues without Paul Walker.
Best Car: All the favorites are back, but only the W Motors Lykan Hypersport jumps from building to building (to building) with Brian and Dom inside. Don’t worry about how they got away after bailing out. Don’t even think about it.
2. The Fast and the Furious
The cars, the girls, the bravado, an opening sequence inspired by John Ford’s Stagecoach, and a ridiculous plot that was obviously lifted from Point Break, Mitsubishis and Coronas: it’s all there right at the beginning; fast, furious, bright, and beautiful. This film is the standard-bearer for everything that came after, and inspired millions of people to peel out of the theatre parking lot on their way home. Yet it still holds up.
Best Car: RIP to Jesse and his white Jetta, but Brian’s Supra, the 10-second car he owes Dom after Johnny Tran blows up his Eclipse, helps to not only install the film’s pivotal montage, but also builds the lifelong friendship between Dom and Brian.
1. Fast & Furious 6
The original may have set the standard for the series, but with all the changes along the way, FF6 is the fortunate evolution of Brian and Dom’s love story. It features what were originally scheduled by director Justin Lin as two FF film finales in the tank scene and the runway chase, and includes Letty’s return from the dead, the Rock and Dom tag team fight, Gal Gadot’s sacrifice, Han’s death, Jason Statham’s post-credits introduction, and a return the L.A. house for a barbecue and Coronas. It’s arguably a perfect film.
Best Car: Hard not to pick a tank that can keep up with supercars, but Shaw’s custom built flip car, a 480-horsepower Formula1 roll cage on wheels, is the perfect foil for London’s cops and all the muscle and speed that the team can throw at him.