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There is not an easy logic to the way the Fast and Furious movies are named, or their order. And, truthfully, as much as I love this franchise, you need to enter them with a kind of suspension of disbelief: Can a Fiero really go into space? Can you drag a safe with a pair of Dodge Chargers through the streets of Rio? Do people really say “I’ll have the tuna, no crust” in East L.A.? But when you let go of physics and reality, the Fast movies unlock a pleasure center in your brain that you perhaps had not felt since you played with Matchbox Cars as a kid.
That said, there is a wonderful arc to the characters in these movies—they go from street thieves to big heist technicians, to international superheroes tasked to save the world over and over again... with cars. Always with cars. And the only reason that the series is seemingly so disjointed is that it was that Universal practically ran out of gas with 2 Fast 2 Furious, discovered they had more fuel in the tank with the character of Han in Tokyo Drift, and then decided to make all of the sequels prequels in order to give more screentime to Han.
But then Han’s death catches up with him at the end of 6. And so 7 and 8 have no Han. But then Han fans were pissed that Han’s killer was now a good guy, and so, Han comes back for 9. Did you get that? Han's death, which turned out to be a murder, but was then revealed to be a faked death, is so pivotal to the myth and timeline of Fast and Furious that the same scene has been shown four different times.
While the movies tend to stand on their own, watching them in order leads to bigger emotional payoffs and makes you appreciate the escalating and sublime absurdity and drama that is layered on in each sequel. The Fiero that goes into space in F9 is pretty much a metaphor for the entire franchise. It started off as a derivative, underpowered car, but through a lot of luck and heart and sheer willpower, it went where no one thought it could have gone.
The Fast and the Furious
Where it all began. Point Break, but with street racing.
2 Fast 2 Furious
The one with no Vin Diesel. (He didn’t like the script.) But two introduces Tyrese and Ludacris to the franchise.
Fast & Furious
It rebooted the franchise after the original trilogy, six years after Tokyo Drift. The highlight is the introduction of future Wonder Woman herself, Gal Gadot as Gisele Yashar who poses this wonderful line to Dom: “Are you one of those boys that prefers cars to women?”
This is the installment that abandons street racing and goes full heist movie, plus injected The Rock.
Fast & Furious 6
This is the Fast with a tank. And the one with Luke Evans as Owen Shaw an ex-special British Forces officer who has recruited and possibly brainwashed Lettie. He drives a car that can flip other cars.
The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift
The movie in the franchise that is most purely about street racing, and therefore, the best movie in the franchise.
Oh man did the set pieces get a serious upgrade in this one. Cars parachute into the mountains. A Lykan Hyper Sport, one of the world’s rarest cars, is jumped from not one, not two, but three skyscrapers in Abu Dhabi. And The Rock drives an Ambulance into a weaponized drone.
The Fate of the Furious
The most rewarding part of the film is the odd-couple energy of Johnson and Statham, which led to the spinoff Hobbs and Shaw.
Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw
While much less car-centric than the other movies, this one dives deep into spy territory with Johnson and Satham and Idris Elba’s Brixton Lore, a cyborg built by an evil entity who believes the evolution of the human race is to become part machine.
The one where Han comes back, there are magnets, and Tej and Roman go into OUTER SPACE!
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