The fourth Fast & Furious movie is, in no uncertain terms, a total mess. The action is all over the place and the story makes no impact. The best you can say for Fast & Furious is that it moved all the pieces in position, setting the stage for some spectacular follow-ups that pushed the franchise in a more exciting direction.
Vin Diesel sits the second Fast & Furious movie out and it's easy to see why. 2 Fast 2 Furious is a lackluster retread of the original, with forgettable drama and merely adequate action. The studio obviously didn't know what to do with this property yet, although at least somebody had the good sense to amplify the enjoyably overt homoerotic subtext.
The action is as big as ever in The Fate of the Furious, but Dominic Toretto's motivation for betraying his team is kept secret for far too long, and Deckard Shaw's turn to the light side completely glosses over the fact that he murdered a beloved character. These two flaws make it a little too difficult to get invested in this outing.
What should have been the best and biggest Fast & Furious became a strange meta-textual farewell to the series' late protagonist Paul Walker, after he died tragically during filming. The action is great and Deckard Shaw is an incredible villain, but the changes that had to be made to the storyline make little sense. It's a miracle the film works at all.
The original The Fast and the Furious is a shameless rip-off of Point Break, with a hunky young FBI agent going undercover with seductive extreme sports thieves and questioning his loyalties. But it's a good rip-off, with a fun cast, an emotional storyline and a great climactic high-speed heist.
Letty comes back from the dead - with amnesia, no less - in this ecstatically excessive sequel. The set pieces are epic, the emotions are epic-er. Everything about this movie is gloriously ridiculous in the best possible way.
Before director Justin Lin started making Fast & Furious movies he made a big splash with A Better Tomorrow, a low budget crime drama about overachieving teenagers who turn to delinquency, mostly for the hell of it. Better Luck Tomorrow is a scrappy, somewhat ramshackle drama that packs a big wallop. More to the point, it introduced audiences to the character of Han, who would go on to star in multiple Fast & Furious movies, starting with...
A departure for the Fast & Furious franchise, but a welcome one, Tokyo Drift is a slick and effective Karate Kid riff that stars Lucas Black as an undisciplined street racer who moves to Japan and has to learn a new way to drive from Han. The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift would have been great as a stand-alone movie, but it became weirdly significant to the franchise as the filmmakers started turning the fourth, fifth and sixth installments into an elaborate prelude to its events.
The best Fast & Furious movie is also, no bones about it, one of the best action movies in a very long time. The team dynamic is spot on, the action is incredible, the humor is genuinely funny, and the plot is simple and effective. The criminals from the previous films have to become unlikely heroes, turning their vehicular skills against a common enemy. Dwayne Johnson also shows up to finally give them a worthy opponent. And it all ends in one of the most wonderful and absurd car chases ever put on camera. Fast Five is the fastest and arguably the most furious installment yet.