With Fast & Furious 6 hitting theaters this week, it's time to take a look back at the five films that brought us to this point in the four-wheeled, fan-favorite franchise that began with 2001's The Fast and the Furious. The latest film finds Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker) assembling their team of high-speed heist experts to take down a former Special Ops soldier (Luke Evans). They're joined by returning federal agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), as well as a host of newcomers on both sides of the mission.
As anyone who's taken the franchise for a spin knows, the Fast & Furious movies combine fast cars, amazing stunts, and a talented cast of recurring characters that add a genuine sense of continuity to the series. And with over $1.6 billion in worldwide ticket sales for the first five films, the franchise isn't hitting the brakes anytime soon.
Just in case you need a refresher on what's happened in the series up to this point – or simply want to take a high-speed trip down memory lane – we've assembled the following recap of highlights from the first five films in the franchise:
The Fast and the Furious (2001)
Synopsis: Undercover cop Brian O'Conner (Walker) becomes involved with mysterious street racer Dominic Torreto (Diesel) and his “family” of grease monkey drivers while investigating a series of highway robberies. He eventually falls for Toretto's sister, Mia (Jordana Brewster), and reveals his true identity while helping Toretto's crew survive a botched hijacking. He eventually lets Toretto escape, which is probably going to come up in his next job-performance review.
Best Chase: Despite an abundance of great races, the heist that unfolds in the opening of The Fast and the Furious may offer the most impressive automotive action in the movie. The sequence, which features a trio of suped-up Honda Civics hijacking a tractor trailer, set a high bar for both the rest of the movie and future sequels.
Coolest Car: As soon as Toretto revealed the black 1970 Dodge Charger in his garage, there was no question which car was king of the film. It's hard not to cheer when he roars off in it near the end of the film – but it's even harder not to cry when you witness the car's ultimate fate.
Fast & Furious Life Lesson: “It's not how you stand by your car, its how you race your car.” -- Edwin (Ja Rule), delivering some sage advice to Brian only minutes before he proves that he can neither stand by his car nor race it very well.
Obligatory Rapper Cameo: Ja Rule (Edwin)
2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)
Synopsis: Former police officer Brian O'Conner (Walker) is living a hard life on the streets with only his shiny, modified, ultrafast car to keep him company. He's dragged out of hiding by federal agents and given a choice: go to prison (without his car) or go undercover to help the FBI bust Miami drug lord Carter Verone (Cole Hauser). After recruiting his old buddy Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson), the pair must use all the racing skills at their disposal to get into Verone's confidence, then use those same skills to avoid detection and take the drug lord down. Oh, and they need to build ejector seats in their cars – because who doesn't want ejector seats?
Best Chase: In order to secure a spot on Verone's team, O'Conner and Pearce must win a race against various other drivers across the city. It's a great sequence that hits a high mark (or maybe it's a low mark) when O'Conner spins his car around in the middle of freeway and flips a middle finger at the rest of the racers while hurtling through traffic in reverse.
Coolest Car: This one's easy. The car with an ejection seat is always the coolest car in any movie, so the suped-up 1970 Dodge Challenger that Pearce drives at the end of the film (and uses to get rid of an unwanted passenger) wins this category by a mile.
Fast & Furious Life Lesson: “We need some way out through some kind of exit strategy.” -- Brian O'Conner, extolling the virtues of always having an exit strategy... after the pair realizes that they probably should've had an exit strategy before they agreed to infiltrate a drug lord's empire.
Obligatory Rapper Cameo: Ludacris (Tej)
The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)
Synopsis: High school student Sean Boswell (Lucas Black) is sent to Tokyo to live with his military father after almost killing one of the kids from Home Improvement (Zachery Bryan) during a race through a construction yard. It doesn't take long for him to get into trouble at his new school, where the kids race in parking garages and have yakuza connections. Boswell eventually learns how to “drift” in races thanks to his new friend Han (Sung Kang), but their friendship ends abruptly when yakuza bad boy Takashi (Brian Tee) kills Han during a race through Tokyo. Boswell gets revenge by beating Takashi in a race through the mountains, then becomes the new king of the Tokyo racing scene – until an old buddy of Han's named Dominic Toretto (Diesel) shows up. (What? You didn't know this movie is set after all of the other Fast & Furious movies in the franchise?)
Best Race: The race in the opening scene of the movie earns points for the sheer amount of under-construction homes that Boswell drives through and the presence of Brad Taylor from Home Improvement, but the mountaintop race features some fantastic, high-speed stunts set against a gorgeous environment. Let's call it a tie.
Coolest Car: This one's difficult to call, because the 2000 Nissan Silvia that wrecks in his first, cringe-worthy attempt at drifting deserves some recognition for the torment it endured, but the 1967 Ford Mustang Fastback that's turned into a drift racer at the end of the film is a pretty amazing hybrid of very different styles. Let's drift pass this one and consider it a draw.
Fast & Furious Life Lesson: “Who you choose to be around you lets you know who you are.” -- Han, offering some Yoda-like advice to drifter-in-training Boswell, and further cementing his status as the most likeable character in the film. His fate is heartbreaking, people. Heartbreaking.
Obligatory Rapper Cameo: Bow Wow (as Twinkie) (Yes, Twinkie.)
Fast & Furious (2009)
Synopsis: Now an FBI agent, Brian O'Conner (Walker) crosses paths with Dominic Toretto (Diesel) again when the two go undercover to bring down a drug smuggler responsible for the death of Toretto's girlfriend, Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez).
Best Race: In the film's grand finale, Toretto and O'Conner find themselves racing through a narrow tunnel drilled into a mountain on the U.S.-Mexico border, thereby blending the intensity of high-speed racing with the terror of claustrophobia (fear of tight spaces), taphophobia (fear of being buried alive), and all sorts of other fun phobias. Good times.
Coolest Car: The 1973 Chevrolet Camaro that Toretto commandeers near the end of the film isn't all that amazing, but the bright “F-Bomb” logo painted on it is – and easily makes it the most memorable vehicle in the film. I mean, come on, it's the F-BOMB!
Fast & Furious Life Lesson: “You asked me why I let Dom go. I did it, because at that moment, I respected him more than I did myself. One thing I've learned from Dom is that nothing really matters unless you have a code.” -- Brian O'Conner, explaining his man crush on Dominic Toretto.
Obligatory Rapper Cameo: No rapper cameo?! Let's just pretend Kanye West had a cameo in this one at some point.
Fast Five (2011)
Synopsis: Brian O'Conner (Walker) throws away his career (again) by freeing Dominic Toretto (Diesel) from a prison bus and fleeing to Brazil with Mia Toretto (Brewster). While there, they're noticed – in a bad way – by the local drug kingpin (Joaquim de Almeida) and tough U.S. agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson). Toretto decides to pull one last heist in order to collect enough money to disappear forever, and brings in just about everyone who's ever played a supporting role in a Fast & Furious movie so far (including Han, Tej and Roman).
Best Race: The final sequence featuring Toretto and O'Conner racing through the streets of Brazil with their cars chained together while dragging a massive bank vault behind them could go down in history as one of the most insane chase scenes of all time – and not just because of the damage they cause with the vault. What makes this scene so ludicrous is the assertion that they avoided killing any innocent people when the giant freakin' safe swinging around behind their cars obliterates several buildings with no warning whatsoever. Toretto and O'Conner really are the greatest drivers in the world, it seems.
Coolest Car: What this movie lacked in memorable cars, it made up for in memorable vaults crashing through buildings. Let's just split this category between the two cars dragging around the safe, because, just... wow.
Fast & Furious Life Lesson: “Running ain't freedom. You should know that.” -- Dominic Toretto, explaining why he really means the whole “one last job” thing this time. No, seriously!
Obligatory Rapper Cameo: Ludacris (as Tej)
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