Fast and Furious Entertainment

On Friday, April 14 "Fate of the Furious" will be released in theaters. It will make a lot of money if history is any judge. The eighth film in the franchise, this one will take the franchise in a new direction. Paul Walker is gone, and the trailers make it appear that our hero Dom (Vin Diesel) has turned to the dark side.

Supposedly this won't be the last of the franchise, which has become one of the most bankable. After "Furious 7" grossed more than $1.5 billion at the worldwide Box Office, it's clear people haven't tired of this franchise. And it's got a simple formula: cool cars, cool characters and great action sequences. Plus a few fringe elements that make it hum. Or at least it has since the franchise got put back on track with its fourth installment. Parts two and three, well we don't talk about those much.

With the eighth film about to come out, it's time to look back at the first seven and rank them, in ascending order.

7. Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)
Starring: Lucas Black, Shad Moss (Bow Wow), Zachary Ty Bryan, and Sung Kang
Director: Justin Lin
About: This isn't a good movie, and it doesn't really fit well into the franchise. But it did give us two important things. First, this brought director Justin Lin into the franchise, and he's brought an incredible action style to some of the best films in the seven-film run. Second, this is where we first meet Han (Kang), a character that is key to the revival that began in 2009. This film is also out of the timeline, as the events here take place between the events of "Fast & Furious 6" and "Furious 7." Let's be honest, despite some nice car work this film is pretty unwatchable. And it doesn't have much to do with the main story of the franchise, only loosely connecting thanks to a cameo from Diesel.
Rating: One out of four stars

6. 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)
Starring: Paul Walker, Tyrese Gibson, Eva Mendes, Cole Hauser, and Ludacris
Director: John Singleton
About: This film is just a slight notch above "Tokyo Drift." It's more watchable and has more of a story, though it feels like a cheap knock off of the original, including the always popular use of numerals to seem cool. Singleton is a good director, having given us movies like "Boys in the Hood," but he feels out of place with this movie. And while Gibson and Ludacris became important parts of the franchise, and Walker is good, this movie is missing something.
Rating: One out of four stars.

5. Fast & Furious 6 (2013)
Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Tyrese Gibson, Michelle Rodriguez, The Rock, Ludacris, Jordana Brewster, Sung Kang, Gal Gadot, and Luke Evans
Director: Justin Lin
About: This was the cap to the second trilogy for the franchise, and the swan song for Lin, who directed four films in this franchise. There is nothing wrong with this film. It does what you'd expect and gives us some good performances. But there was some about it that was starting to feel a little routine and tired. I like this film a lot more than the two listed above it, but it's not as near-and-dear to me as the ones that follow it. I also thought some of the story bringing back Rodriguez was a little bit of a stretch.
Rating: Three stars out of four.

4. Fast Five (2011)
Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, The Rock, Sung Kang, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Gal Gadot, Elsa Pataky, Matt Schultze, and Joaquin de Almeida
Director: Justin Lin
About: This is a fun film. This is the first one with Brian O'Connor (Walker) on the run, too, and this takes place in some fun foreign countries. It also introduces The Rock as Hobbs, a character that added a fun dimension to the film franchise. The plot might seem a little convoluted, but I liked how it all worked out and how it paved the way for a new chapter in the franchise. I liked the action and production in this chapter, too.
Rating: Three stars out of four.

3. Furious 7 (2015)
Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, The Rock, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Michelle Rodriguez, Elsa Pataky, Nathalie Emmanuel, Kurt Russell, and Jason Statham
Director: James Wan
About: This is a somewhat sentimental selection, as it was Walker's final film for the franchise following his tragic death. A lot was made of how the film would honor him and how the story would take shape as he died during filming. And this was one heck of an emotional ride for the cast and crew as it became a tour to honor Walker, who meant a lot to the franchise. I was one of those who felt this probably should have capped the franchise simply because the Diesel-Walker dynamic is what always made it hum for me. But, here we are two years later and I can't wait for the next film. This installment also introduced Statham as the villain, an inspired choice, and brought in Russell. There was a lot going on here, but I loved the action and effects, and I got quite dusty during the closing sequence with Walker and Diesel literally riding off into the sunset together.
Rating: Three stars out of four.

2. The Fast and the Furious (2001)
Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Matt Schultze, and Ted Levine
Director: Rob Cohen
About: This might be a controversial selection up this high. There are many that will argue that some of the elements that made the franchise soar are missing here, and that's true. I would argue that without this film, we wouldn't have a franchise. This was an unassuming little action movie that was released in the summer of 2001. Watching it back then (on opening weekend no less), I never would have imagined that it would still be a worldwide phenomenon 17 years later. I bet none of the cast and crew did, either. This was essentially "Point Break" with cars. That's an apt and accurate description. But there was something about the actors and the format that really stuck with people, and it became a modest hit. It was the spark between the original cast members, most of whom were barely known commodities. And I think this is a film that still holds up to this day, and has been one of my favorites for nearly two decades.
Rating: Three stars out of four.

1. Fast & Furious (2009)
Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, John Ortiz, Laz Alonso, Sung Kang, Gal Gadot, and Liza Lapira
Director: Justin Lin
About: This is the class of the Fast and the Furious franchise, and it's the film that made it a franchise. The first film in 2001 was a modest hit. The two follow up sequels were underwhelming to say the least. It would have been easy to see the franchise fade away. But in 2009, director Justin Lin reunited all the original cast in an explosive way. I remember seeing the first teaser trailer for this film and getting goosebumps. And that was as someone who didn't even finish "Tokyo Drift" at the time. I couldn't wait to see this cast back together, and the film did not disappoint. The effects were taken to the next level, the story was great and the experience was even better. I loved the film, and when that coda got tacked on, I knew that it was the start of something special. The film exploded for more than $150 million in the U.S. and more than $360 million worldwide, and it was off to the races. This remains my favorite film of the franchise, and a near perfect action film.
Rating: Four stars out of four.


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