Ranking The 'Fast And Furious' Franchise Films From Best To Worst

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by Drew Taylor
May 21, 2013 12:59 PM
41 Comments
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This weekend sees the sixth (!) film in the "Fast and Furious" franchise, "Fast and Furious 6" (or, according to director Justin Lin, just "Furious Six") race into theaters. Once thought of as a kind of also-ran franchise in the Universal canon, it has quickly become one of the studio's most important properties, with each subsequent film getting bigger and more bombastic (if not genuinely better). Sure, these movies might not be high art but they are consistently entertaining in a way that few Hollywood franchises are, full of muscle cars and beautiful women and tough guys who pummel each other just for the heck of it. We've already run our official review of "Fast & Furious 6," but in the spirit of the series, we thought we would run down every entry in the entire franchise, from worst to best. So put on your tiniest muscle shirt, grab that energy drink, and buckle up.

6. "2 Fast 2 Furious" (John Singleton, 2003)

Already it seemed like the franchise was running out of gas, when John Singleton took over for Rob Cohen (the original film had revitalized his flagging career), and Vin Diesel instead chose the tent-pole non-starter "XXX" (about an extreme sports-loving secret agent) over the sequel. This entry swapped Southern California for Miami and saw Singleton, already an underappreciated stylist, go fucking HAM. The original's over-the-top stylistic flourishes like the zooming-through-the-engine shots are nothing compared to what Singleton employs – single tracking shots that zoom between each car, shots of just the drivers' eyes (a cue quoted verbatim from old episodes of "Speed Racer"), and the "warp speed" gag from the first movie pushed to delirious, almost psychedelic heights. All of this has the cumulative effect of leaving the whole thing feel more like "Mario Kart" than "Vanishing Point." The elasticity of the physical "Fast and Furious" universe was being pushed further, with an opening sequence involving a group of racers jumping across a drawbridge that is being raised. The fun of "2 Fast 2 Furious" is somewhat undermined by the lack of original cast members and original plotting (thieves are replaced by drug runners and that's about the only difference in terms of narrative), feeling the most like an unnecessary cash grab in a film series designed to feel like unnecessary cash grabs. Perhaps the movie is most notable for introducing the characters played by Tyrese and Ludacris, who would become major players in subsequent films and intrinsic pieces of the "Fast and Furious" mythology (as it were).

5. "Fast & Furious" (Justin Lin, 2009)

Unfortunately, the first film to reunite the original "Fast and the Furious" cast (the title was shortened and an ampersand added, presumably for variety's sake?) is also one of the more awkward entries, a weird in-between movie that's got to set up a bunch of things and find a way to reunite the characters in an organic way, but instead comes across about as subtly as two super-charged cars smashing into each other going 100 miles per hour. Dominic Toretto's lover, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) is murdered (or so it seems), which leads him back into the United States to try and solve the murder and get revenge. The best part of "Fast and Furious" is a prologue set in the Dominic Republic with Dom and his crew hijacking a fuel tanker that’s like something out of one of the "Mad Max" movies. Meanwhile, FBI Agent Brian O'Connor (Paul Walker) is hunting a drug boss that has a connection to Letty's murder – do you think these old friends and rivals will cross paths? Possibly while performing some illegal street racing? While Justin Lin shows much of the same ingenuity and exuberance that was present in "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift" (the GPS-aided race is a really nice touch), this kind of narrative, a holdover from the first two films, feels like it has hit a patch of rough road, leading to the abrupt (and wholly welcome) tonal shift of "Fast Five." Even though the events of "Fast & Furious" ripple out into the other parts of Lin's little mini-trilogy, it's probably the least essential entry, besides the second installment.

4. "The Fast and the Furious" (Rob Cohen, 2001)

Well, this is the one that started it all. For better or worse. The title was borrowed from an old American International Pictures B-movie and the plot was lifted wholesale from "Point Break," with a plucky cop (Paul Walker, with frosted-tips farm-boy good looks and limited acting ability) going undercover to bust some criminals who take part in underground street racing (led by Vin Diesel, equal parts charisma and muscles). Until 'Tokyo Drift,' this is the entry that was most engaged with the culture behind the illegal streetracing, which lends a certain amount of realism to a movie otherwise defined by huge leaps in logic and gang members that wouldn't be out of place in some millennial remake of "The Warriors." It was based, in part, on a Vibe article called "Racer X" by Ken Li that chronicled illegal street-racing in New York City. So far none of the movies have been based, in part or whole, in the Big Apple. Compared to the other movies, it's pretty leisurely paced (director Rob Cohen is fond of long, glacial establishing shots that sometimes aimlessly survey an entire city), and way more comic book-y than you probably remember (there are moments where the world outside literally bends around the car like they're going into warp drive). It is also hopelessly dated-- yes, that's a Limp Bizkit song on the soundtrack, and Ja Rule in the cast, and at one point Jordana Brewster flirts while seductively sipping a Snapple. The almost painfully awful script allows for some philosophical pontificating on the part of Diesel's Dominic Toretto, with things like, "it don't matter if you win by an inch or a mile – winning's winning" and "I live my life a quarter mile at a time." Deep stuff. But of course the thing that really matters are the races – this is easily the most race-centered entry in the entire franchise, with the most memorable moment probably be the sequence involving an eighteen-wheel truck and a jellybean-sized sports car zipping underneath it. In this moment, the physical reality of the "Fast and Furious" franchise, where actual physics is only loosely considered, was born.


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41 Comments

  • twqq | March 24, 2014 9:41 AMReply

    wow, I can't even begin to understand many of the Rankings

    6. TOKYO DRIFT- Killed the best character, the rest was OK
    5. Fast Six- had key cast members, stupid plot, MR makes no sense with her amnesia through the entire film and I found the whole thing to be one big cluster****
    4. Fast and Furious- what the 2nd should have been, still didn't quite get it right
    3. 2 fast 2 Furious- not enough credit given that this launched a bunch of the best characters in the series. its a fun movie, had me until they jumped a car onto a boat.
    2. Fast Five- a Heist Movie, they knew it was a Heist Movie, add in the Vince storyline and family elements among characters and IMO this should have been the last Fast and Furious movie ever made. perfect way to go out
    1. The Fast and the Furious(1)- started it all, best plot, best character work, introduction to great new world of racing and family. loved all of it, remains one of my fav "fun to watch but ultimately bad" movies.

    we all know the entire franchise is just pretty much one long bad mini series, but its fun. sometimes the fun is all that matters. maybe Tokyo Drift will win me over, but Han dying pretty much made me hate that film, and if we had Brian instead of the wanna-be Paul Walker maybe we would have had a better movie

  • Juan | January 23, 2014 11:33 PMReply

    Recently finished 2 fast 2 furious...man this movie really sucks, it felt like a cheap comedy with cgi cars rather than a fast furious entry. I think the original is waaaay underrated! It should be at least in place 2....tokyo drift was awesome though btw lol and david yates is a mediocre director, don't compare justin lin to that trash!

  • Aaron | January 22, 2014 3:41 AMReply

    This list is such a joke. All of the fast and the furious movies have a slice of ridiculous suck to them, but at least they typically have a focus on cars and racing...I cannot believe the praise tokyo drift seems to receive...The one fast and the furious (aka street racing) style movie that I sat 45 minutes through before giving up...this movie has hardly anything to do with cars or racing...ff2 had a nissan skyline, one of the most sought after import cars ever in it, and Tokyo drift so far, has not...WTF!?

    also, they take the a country bumpkin actor who looks 40 and try to act like he is in high-school...give him the most douchy personality...Paul Walker can come across as douche, but that is never a direct in your face douche like the actor in Tokyo drift...he is only douche seeming because he has an amazing car, care-free personality that comes off self-centered, and hot chicks flock to him no matter what he does.

    VS. this guy who is a straight up old-unattractive-douchebag, yet people still want to be there for and support?,,,Miss you Paul Walker! (as well as your character)

    I really do not understand how Tokyo Drift receives this cult praise when it is the least honest-to-racing insertion among the entire series with the most awful main character ever! I wanted the guy to run off the road and die so the movie would unveil whoever was the real main character and it never happened...

    This is also not a comment because I am some big Paul Walker fan either...I watched the first movie in theaters as a kid and have never watched any one ff movie since...I am just now catching up...and I heard tokyo was one of the best...yet, it is a joke...

  • mike | December 10, 2013 9:59 AMReply

    wtf i suppose someone with out any sense of reality and totally messed up minds who cant turn a real spanner has to like this fast and spurious rubbish.Get a life of your own ,peeps.

  • Brian | December 8, 2013 1:00 PMReply

    Only correct ranking would be:
    1. The Fast and the Furious
    2. The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift
    3. 2 Fast 2 Furious

    4-6 is the biggest shit ever, nothing to do with cars anymore, just stupid action with Dwayne "retard" Johnson.

  • AF E | September 16, 2013 10:48 AMReply

    Please Answer.

  • AF E | September 16, 2013 10:46 AMReply

    which director is better? Rob Cohen-Justin Lin-John Singleton

  • John L | September 5, 2013 3:55 PMReply

    Cheers, my list is pretty much the same as yours. I'd put the 1st movie ahead of Fast 4 just for nostalgia. I hate the direction the franchise has taken since Fast 4. It's not about cars anymore, it's now an action movie franchise. The cars have been sidelined so much they feel like cardboard. The characters could have easily been piloting a plane or whatever, it doesn't matter.

    I don't understand how people used to complain that these movies had no plot but they're perfectly fine with a stupid story. This is why I hate the new direction. Drugs, the military, terrorists, but it all has to do with cars somehow. The military could've easily shot down those terrorists but no, they have to rely on a gang of street racers. Sounds like I'm contradicting myself, but no. The plot somehow has to do with cars but it's not dedicated to cars. In the end the characters drive tanks, shoot at each other, punch other, the cars are like just standing there. "I'll wait here, you go do what you have to do." That's my problem with Fast 6, too much talking and not fast paced enough. Stop trying to take yourself so seriously and rationalize a plot that's stupid to begin with. Acknowledge the plot is silly and go along with it.

    Then there's that obligatory single race in each movie since Fast 4 like, just to show you this is our roots. But they're lame. Might as well not do it at all. Fast 5 was the last in the franchise that I saw in the cinema. It was fun, but definitely not a car movie.

    Love Tokyo Drift. The story and the characters seemed the most plausible. Guy learns to drift, gets in trouble with gangs, places wager with gang leader. Yeah, becoming DK in a matter of months was a big stretch, but have you seen what the other guys are doing in the other movies? They're bloody jumping off tanks without even a single scratch! It's the bloody Avengers!

    I also loved the attention to detail in Tokyo Drift. Every shot was beautiful. It was vibrant and had a really great feel to it. Some of the scenes really make you feel at home if you live in Asia. Can't believe some of the scenes were shot in the US.

    And yeah, CARS!

    I think Tokyo Drift gets a lot of hate because 1) People never really liked the 1st movie to begin with. The target market was small and then 2) Tokyo Drift further divided that market into people who liked drifting and people who hate it.

    There was actually a lot going on in Tokyo Drift that people didn't seem to notice. Like that father and son thing. I'm glad they didn't include a cheesy dialogue between them about "Believe in yourself bla bla bla." It was handled rather realistically. Then there was that... reverse-racism? But I guess it's not reverse-racism if you are the outsider in Japan, haha. I think that further divided the viewers. White guy not scoring with Asian women? Some people must've gone, "Fuck no!" Then there was Bow-Wow's little hustler trying to survive in the world. The way DK treats women. Like it or not, it happens in real life, just depends on where you look. And anybody notice a bit of a noir feel to the movie? Nobody complains when a noir movie has a simple story.

    Long story cut shot, I've given up on this franchise. I actually think it might be a bad thing that they linked up Fast 6 with Tokyo Drift. We knew it was coming, but it can potentially ruin its legacy. All that shit about drug lords, secret chips, terrorists, urgh.

    Last gripe before I end this rant, they wasted Sung Kang. All he does in Fast 4 to Fast 6 is blurt one-liners. He's been reduced to token Asian guy. Couldn't even give him a believable relationship with Gisele. He goes to Japan because of her but then the reason he drifts is to pick up chicks?

    And Dominic used to be motherfucking badass, now he's constantly preaching about family like some senile old fart. If I was there, I'd shoot him.

  • Mike | August 12, 2013 9:07 AMReply

    I'm sorry but this list is horrible Fast and Furious 1 second from bottom?? I don't think so

    This is the list

    1. Furious 6
    2. Fast Five
    3. The Fast and Furious 1
    4. Fast and the Furious 4
    5. 2 Fast 2 Furious
    6. The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift

  • Karam Jbara | November 18, 2013 1:28 PM

    I totally agree with your list. It makes more sense. Furious Six has more action than Fast Five, The Fast and Furious 1 is pretty good because it is the intro of the franchise, and finally Tokyo Drift sucks ass cause it isn't starring Vin Diesel, obviously making it a total fail.

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  • Thousands of people | July 1, 2013 4:21 AMReply

    1. Furious 6
    2. Fast Five
    3. Fast and Furious
    4. The Fast and the Furious
    5. 2 Fast 2 Furious
    6. The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift

    But then again they are are incredibly close but Furious 6 is no doubt the best.
    I reckon Fast and Furious 7 will be better than 6 because the story has opened up and Jason Statham is joining!!!

  • Trio | May 29, 2013 6:47 AMReply

    DREW TAYLOR ----- please stop doing a critic's job because you can write shit nor did you understand the franchise.......Tokyo Drift maybe not be the worst or it may definitely be the worst, but its definitely not the best..... that place definitely belongs Fast Five long ago irrespective of how many sequels are made..and with Justin Lin now there is no change....

    Thank You....You Dash.....

  • Brett | August 11, 2013 11:40 PM

    You're as crazy as a wild dog if you think that 2fast 2 furious deserves anything worst than last... that one was ridiculous.

  • Brett | August 11, 2013 11:40 PM

    You're as crazy as a wild dog if you think that 2fast 2 furious deserves anything worst than last... that one was ridiculous.

  • Brett | August 11, 2013 11:40 PM

    You're as crazy as a wild dog if you think that 2fast 2 furious deserves anything worst than last... that one was ridiculous.

  • Brett | August 11, 2013 11:40 PM

    You're as crazy as a wild dog if you think that 2fast 2 furious deserves anything worst than last... that one was ridiculous.

  • Brett | August 11, 2013 11:39 PM

    You're as crazy as a wild dog if you think that 2fast 2 furious deserves anything worst than last... that one was ridiculous.

  • Brett | August 11, 2013 11:39 PM

    You're as crazy as a wild dog if you think that 2fast 2 furious deserves anything worst than last... that one was ridiculous.

  • Brett | August 11, 2013 11:39 PM

    You're as crazy as a wild dog if you think that 2fast 2 furious deserves anything worst than last... that one was ridiculous.

  • Brett | August 11, 2013 11:38 PM

    You're as crazy as a wild dog if you think that 2fast 2 furious deserves anything worst than last... that one was ridiculous.

  • nightgoat72 | May 28, 2013 2:15 PMReply

    Go home, Playlist - you're drunk.

  • Karam | November 18, 2013 1:31 PM

    well said, friend!

  • Snaily | May 25, 2013 12:03 AMReply

    I liked Tokyo Drift. It was predetermined to be horrible based on the direct-to-dvd aura, and having no big names in it. People went in to the theatre with their mind made up. I'mnot saying it was the best of the series, but there's no way that 2 Fast 2 Furious is honestly better.

  • mike | May 22, 2013 8:11 PMReply

    I havent seen fast 6 yet and I love what justin lin has done with these movies but tokyo drift was with out a doubt the worst movie in this series the only good thing to come from that movie was the introduction of Han who is one of my favorite characters in the movies and that Vin Diesel made that cameo setting him up to return for the rest of the films not to mention its suppose to be a prequel to the rest of the movies made after it which is one of the dumbest things ever basically tokyo drift could have never been made and it wouldnt have matter to the stories in the rest of the movies not to mention with the exception of Han and DK all the characters in tokyo drift sucked and the actors were terrible

  • ASFan | May 22, 2013 2:06 PMReply

    I like the sound of a 70s chase movie vibe. Just wondering where you heard that info.

  • Beckman | May 22, 2013 11:53 AMReply

    Finally! Tokyo Drift is true greatness. The races are by far the best in the franchise. I've seen them all several times now, and while The Fast and The Furious becomes a little boring, 2fast and Fast and Furious seems more and more ridiculous each time, Tokyo Drift and Fast Five still feels fresh and vibrant. Haven's seen Fast 6 yet though.

  • John L | September 5, 2013 4:09 PM

    High 5!

    Fast 6 doesn't know what it wants to be. Does it want to be a spy movie? Or an action movie? Or a family drama where Dominic preaches the values of family? Lol. Hate the new direction of the franchise, but at least Fast 5 knew it wanted to be a heist movie.

    People seem to not be able to scratch more than the surface with Tokyo Drift. It's like Tron Legacy, dare I say. There's a whole living breathing world in there. There's a lot of backstory. But it's pretty much left to your imagination what those backstories are. The minute Sean steps foot in Japan you're just sort of thrown into this world and left to explore.

    Aih, whatever, either you get it or you don't.

  • Jim | May 22, 2013 4:28 AMReply

    Tokyo Drift was the worst of all. Fast five is by far the best.

  • Jacques Demolay | May 21, 2013 3:10 PMReply

    Seriously, though, you best be trollin', fuckers. Tokyo Drift. Shit. What the fuck, man?

  • Jacques DeMolay | May 21, 2013 3:08 PMReply

    What the fucking fuck? Tokyo Drift is one of the worst movies I've ever seen, and clearly the worst of the franchise. I've been reading you guys almost every single day for over 4 years straight and this is the most heads-up-your-asses thing I've EVER seen you guys write.

  • Msgeekswag | May 21, 2013 2:35 PMReply

    This article is ridiculous naming the only one the of the movies that truly sucked as the best. The other 5 movies are incredible action films and all characters are great. The only thing I agree with is Eva Mendez should have been in Furious 6.

  • Msgeekswag | May 21, 2013 2:34 PMReply

    This article is ridiculous naming the only one the of the movies that truly sucked as the best. The other 5 movies are incredible action films and all characters are great. The only thing I agree with is Eva Mendez should have been in Furious 6.

  • Msgeekswag | May 21, 2013 2:34 PMReply

    This article is ridiculous naming the only one the of the movies that truly sucked as the best. The other 5 movies are incredible action films and all characters are great. The only thing I agree with is Eva Mendez should have been in Furious 6.

  • Msgeekswag | May 21, 2013 2:34 PMReply

    This article is ridiculous naming the only one the of the movies that truly sucked as the best. The other 5 movies are incredible action films and all characters are great. The only thing I agree with is Eva Mendez should have been in Furious 6.

  • Glass | May 21, 2013 2:05 PMReply

    WHY??? WHY **THIS** CONTENT???

  • K | May 21, 2013 1:49 PMReply

    Tokyo Drift is the X-Men 3 of the franchise. The title is Fast and Furious ... not "Watch this annoying redneck chase this asian around corners."

  • Karam | November 18, 2013 1:34 PM

    lol you just cracked me up in class...lol BEST OPINION EVER!!!!

  • Tally | May 21, 2013 1:26 PMReply

    top 3 IMO are 5 fast 5 furious, the 1st one and tokyo drift.

  • Chris | May 21, 2013 1:14 PMReply

    Wait, what? "Tokyo Drift" was awful. And I'm a Justin Lin fan, but "truly great"? Jesus.

  • Jon | May 21, 2013 1:27 PM

    I disagree "Tokyo Drift" was "Truly Great". It was great to see the use of Much less CGI, concentrating on real driving and being a simple story of fish out of water story.

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