The ride-or-die days of the "Fast and Furious" franchise have taken fans on one hell of a roller coaster ride since the first film premiered in 2001. Since then, we've watched the series grow from its standard "hot-people, cool-cars" operating procedure, to becoming full-on, pedal-to-the-medal action blockbusters rivaled in size, scope and sheer awesomeness by few other modern action blockbusters.
Deciding which of the "Fast and Furious" films is the best of the best is no small task; they all have merit, even in their darkest hours. With this week's "Furious 7," however, we're giving it a shot. Read on for our rundown of the "Fast and Furious" movies, ranked:
"The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift"
Director Justin Lin and actor Sung Kang's first appearances in the franchise, "Tokyo Drift" has its supporters; some believe it was a welcome breath of fresh air after the series stumbled with "2 Fast 2 Furious." There's certainly no denying that the racing sequences are the best in the franchise up to this point, and that Han is one of the greatest characters the series ever introduced. Having said that, Lucas Black cannot be taken seriously as a 17-year-old; the story amounts to little more than "Karate Kid" on wheels, and it doesn't even have a crane kick equivalent; and aside from Dom Toretto's appearance at the end, the movie feels too disconnected from everything else that matters in the series — namely, Dom and Brian.
"2 Fast 2 Furious"
The first appearance of Tyrese Gibson as Roman Pearce, "2 Fast 2 Furious" sees Brian on the run from authorities after letting Toretto go at the end of the first movie. It's much more of a pure action movie than "The Fast and the Furious," and without Vin Diesel's Dom, the sequel loses a lot of the heart and hustle established in the original go-around. But Tyrese as Roman provides a different, more lighthearted energy that brings some big laughs to the "Fast and Furious" series, and it all starts here — not to mention the first appearance of Ludacris as Tej Parker. It's a neck-and-neck race between "2 Fast" and "Tokyo Drift" for the bottom spot, but the fact that Paul Walker has the lead role here elevates the first "Fast and Furious" sequel just a nose ahead of the third film in the series.
"Fast & Furious 6"
Welcome to the game of inches! Starting here, any ranking of the "Fast and Furious" films you could come up with would work just fine. They're all terrific masterpieces of mayhem and muscle cars from this moment forward. Let's start with "Furious 6," which is perhaps a more consistently entertaining movie than "Fast Five," but never hits the same highs as Team Toretto's jaunt through Rio de Janeiro. That said, "Furious 6" also boasts the best bad guys in the series up to this point, with Owen Shaw's crew of Evil Torettos providing more than enough faces for Dom, Brian, Luke Hobbs and the rest to smash. The surprise return of Letty, and the even more surprising death of Gisele — followed by the not-surprising-anymore but still-totally-terrible death of Han — provide all the heart this movie needs.
"The Fast and the Furious"
If we were to judge purely on nostalgia, it wouldn't be a contest. "The Fast and the Furious" is and will remain a cultural touchstone for a generation of moviegoers, and it'll be remembered as the breeding ground of one of the great modern action franchises of our time. The formula has been perfected in the years since Brian first met the Toretto family, but you never forget your first ride.
"Fast & Furious"
After "Tokyo Drift," the franchise needed Dom and Brian back in the front seat in a big way. "Fast & Furious" delivers on those desires and then some, standing out as the best film in the series as far as the pure focus on Brian and Dom's friendship. A story of redemption and revenge, the fourth film in the franchise is the perfect balance between the simpler days of "The Fast and the Furious," and the absolutely outta-your-mind insanity the franchise will become known for as soon as the very next movie.
Two words: The Rock. As DSS Agent Luke Hobbs, Dwayne Johnson kicks the "Fast and Furious" franchise up several notches as far as intensity and star power goes. He's a quip factory who loves to eat dessert first and veggies second, if at all. His fight scene with Vin Diesel will go down in the books as one of the best battles of action movie history. And that's not even mentioning the vault heist. "Fast Five" turns the "Fast and Furious" franchise down a path it can never drive back from, nor would we want it to. Essentially the "Avengers" of the series, "Fast Five" assembles Earth's mightiest heist crew and turns them into one of the most enjoyable ensemble casts in recent memory.
Call it recency bias. Chalk it up to Paul Walker's tragic death casting the story in an unexpected light. Both of those things are undoubtedly true. But given time and distance, "Furious 7" will still be remembered as one of the best, if not the best, film in the series. It features the best villain by miles and miles in the form of Jason Statham's Deckard Shaw, responsible for three of the most elite action sequences in the entire series. It uses Luke Hobbs in a brilliantly conservative way, so that when he pops on-screen, it's always an event. It puts Dom Toretto in the front seat and lets him drive the action, proving that he alone has what it takes to keep this franchise moving forward in a world without Paul Walker. And it also celebrates everything that Walker meant to the franchise, the fans, and everybody who has worked on these movies, from the actors on camera to the folks behind the lens. It's action-packed, it's emotional as hell… it's everything you could possibly want from a "Fast and Furious" movie. The hype is real.