After much hype, anticipation, and trailers where Ludacris can be seen blowing things up in a tank, the eighth installment in The Fast and the Furious franchise zooms into theaters this Friday.
Where its predecessor earned a mind-boggling $397 million at the box office, The Fate of the Furious’s takings are expected to dwarf that figure further still. And why wouldn’t they? There might be no Paul Walker, but with Vin Diesel, The Rock and Jason Statham all returning, not to mention Charlize Theron debuting as the series’ first ever female-antagonist, the latest movie is geared to be the biggest and most outrageous yet. I mean, it literally does feature Ludacris blowing things up in a tank.
In a bid to decide some of the best moments so far, we’ve gone to the painstaking, at times headache-inducing, effort of rewatching the entire canon from start to finish. For the uninitiated, that’s an 827-minute orgy of high-speed car chases, adrenaline fuelled fights, and big ol’ explosions. Lots and lots and lots of explosions.
Adopting The Fast and the Furious approach to plot and narrative, we arrived at our categories by eschewing logic and reason completely, preferring instead to run with the first titles that sprung to mind. Find them below, or exit now to avoid spoilers.
Winner: “Bridge Jump” Race (2 Fast 2 Furious)
With the newer movies all but reboots of The Expendables with added cars, it’s easy to forget that The Fast and the Furious was formerly a franchise about underground racing.
2 Fast 2 Furious is the worst installment in the series — perhaps only rivaled by Tokyo Drift — but it did provide the memorable opening sequence where we’re reintroduced to Brian O’Conner and his famous Skyline GT-R. In a drag race helmed by Ludacris featuring some of the worst paint jobs ever assembled, the mercurial cop finds himself behind the wheel and up against fearsome but unfortunately named Miami petrolheads such as “Slap Jack,” and “Orange Julius”.
With the contest approaching its end and the drivers’ beginning to cramp from an inordinate amount of gear shifting, the maniacal Ludacris decides to ramp things up a notch further by opening a drawbridge that connects the Miami River. Quite how the rapper has managed to gain access to such an important piece of city infrastructure will forever remain a mystery, but that’s not the important part. Just as first place looks like slipping away, Brian zooms into shot and leapfrogs his nearest opponent mid-air, eventually touching down and letting rip with an ear-shattering “WHOOOOOOOOHOOOOO” loud enough to drown out even the angriest GTR.
Winner: Dom’s 1970 Dodge Charger (Various)
It sums up the badassery of Domenic Toretto’s 1970 Dodge Charger that, in a franchise (ostensibly) about cars, this section was a no contest. “I’ve never driven her, it scares the shit out of me,” remarks Dom in the first movie, adorably oblivious to the fact that he’ll be facing down planes, tanks, and submarines in the not-too-distant future.
Sadly put out of action after going head-to-head with a train (what else?), the beast eventually returns in the fourth, fifth, six, and seventh films sporting a striking black matte paint job. (Note to all drivers: unless you drive a vehicle like this, please never, ever attempt a black matte paint job.)
Winner: The Plane Drop (Furious 7)
With $514 million worth of insurance damages wreaked in stunts across seven series, this is, without a doubt, our fiercest category so far. By the later installments, set pieces involving burning trains and tanks had become run-of-the-mill — mundane, almost — leaving writers to find new ways of satiating their thrill-seeking audience. The answer? To introduce big fuck off airplanes, of course.
There’s big, then there’s dropping cars out of a C-130 military transport aircraft big. Think about that for a second. We’ve somehow gone from street racing to dropping cars from 12,000 feet.
Needing to head off a bad guy on a remote mountain road, Dom and his crew take the measured and completely logical decision of parachuting their cars from the back of a cargo plane. “Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, huh?” remarks Brian in a cheeky fourth-wall wink, before calmly reversing into the stratosphere, seemingly oblivious to the fact that he’s literally just reversed into the stratosphere. As the laws of physics take a backseat and the drivers fall through the air without an oxygen mask in sight, each touch back down on terra firma with ease — their cars, bodies, and mental states all inexplicably intact.
Best Bad Guy
Winner: Johnny Tran (The Fast and the Furious)
It’s not every day you come across a bigger bastard than Jason Statham or a Miami drug lord named Carter Varone, but then jacked-up Vietnamese gang leader and avid collector of DVD players Johnny Tran is not your usual bad guy. The chieftain of what can only be described as a PG-friendly bosozuku mob, Johnny and his uzi-toting, leather jacket-wearing cohorts can be seen causing havoc throughout the LA racing scene. Shortly after delivering the immortal line about how “The SWAT came into my house and disrespected my family!!!” Johnny is incapacitated by Dom and eventually shot and killed* by Brian — the punishment deemed just following his drive-by killing of unsettling car nerd Jesse.
*This being The Fast and the Furious, we fully expect to see him return from the dead at some point in the future.
Winner: Hobbs’s improved line (Fast & Furious 6).
With a rapier wit like this, it’s no wonder Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is the highest-paid actor in the world.
Winner: Ja Rule (The Fast and the Furious)
Helen Mirren, Rita Ora, Iggy Azaela, and Ronda Rousey are just some of the big hitters to have made cameo appearances in the franchise over the years, but it’s hard to think of a more memorable star turn than Ja Rule as hapless street racer Edwin. After succumbing to the rookie error of hammering on his NOS button way too early, Ja is overtaken at the last minute, which results in the still hilarious yelp of “NOOO! Monica!!!” as he realizes his ménage à trois ambitions with Monica are all but doomed.
Incredibly, the Murder Inc. man turned down $500,000 chance to star in 2 Fast 2 Furious, with the role eventually passed over to Ludacris. “[Ja Rule] turned down half a million dollars. He got 15 grand to be in the first movie. He was really big at that time,” said director John Singleton in an interview with Grantland. (“At that time” being the operative words.)
Most Random Moment
Winner: Pet Iguana (Fast & Furious 4)
I’ve seen Fast & Furious 4 many times. I still have no idea why this beleaguered truck driver has a pet iguana that likes to eat candy (1:10).
Best Scene Featuring Vin Diesel Improbably Jumping from One Vehicle to Another
Winner: “The Jump” (Fast & Furious 6)
Runner Up: “Cave Jump” (Fast & Furious 4)
In case you couldn’t tell from his muscle-hugging tank tops, leather jackets, and the fact he likes to walk with both fists clenched for no apparent reason, Vin Diesel’s Dom character is a larger-than-life behemoth for whom ordinary rules do not apply — gravity, in particular. After demonstrating his salmon-like leaping ability in an underground cave in Fast & Furious 4, by the seventh installment Dom had developed into a fully fledged Avenger, somehow navigating a sports car from one Abu Dhabi skyscraper into another — and then out the other side.
The bald action man’s finest hour, however, would come two years prior when he carried out a physics-defying jump, which fans have affectionately come to dub “the jump”. After ending up in a high-octane motorway battle with a Chieftain tank, Dom’s back-from-the-dead girlfriend Letty (played by Michael Rodriguez) somehow finds herself thrown from the destroyer’s roof to a near certain death. Thankfully, by this point, Dom has learned the ability to fly — like, actually fly — and soars from his car to catch her in mid-air before landing safely on a velvety soft windshield with no damage done. Captain America has nothing on this dude.
Most Emotional Moment
Winner: Paul Walker Tribute (Furious 7).
Oh man, I still can’t even. Not even a cringe-inducing Whiz Khalifa song can ruin the poignancy of this. Talk about a fitting note to end on.
Want more great films releasing this year? Check out our list of the 40 best upcoming releases.