More and more, The Fast and the Furious series has established that it’s “not just about being fast.” As the movies continue to grow more and more absurd and over-the-top, they somehow still manage to understand what makes a great action scene. It isn’t just about having large set pieces. If that was the case, there are a lot of movies that would give The Fast and the Furious a run for its money. But those movies are few and far between because of how Chris Morgan, Vin Diesel and whichever director was involved, have turned the series into something where dynamics matter. The most important thing to the franchise has increasingly become the concept of family.
With the preamble out of the way, Christopher Cross and Dylan Schwan have already discussed the entire series of films in exhaustive (pun intended) detail for the Film Fallout podcast, but now they take a stab at ranking the reason a lot of people come to the films: their action scenes. This list takes all the films in the series into consideration, including The Fate of the Furious (read Dylan’s review here and check out the Film Fallout episode as well). The only major restrictions are that there are only ten scenes mentioned (we also allowed more than one per film) and that they must heavily involve vehicles. So while the prison riot sequence in the newest film is pretty exciting, it doesn’t involve cars. Oh yeah, and there will definitely be spoilers. You’ve been warned. With that in mind, let us begin the countdown.
10. The Final Heist (The Fast and the Furious)
Dylan Schwan: After a film full of ridiculously dated cars and fashion styles, the character dynamics come to a head with this surprisingly effective action sequence leaving one of their own on the verge of death.
Christopher Cross: This is by far one of the more grittier sequences in the series, which makes sense because they never really found their tone until Justin Lin’s arrival. What makes this work is the tension that exists because of Brian’s betrayal to Dom and the necessity of Brian in that exact situation. Oh, and Vince’s arm really gets messed up!
9. Han’s Death (The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift/Furious 6)
DS: While this was barely seen in Furious 6, this scene in Tokyo Drift brings all the emotion to the forefront by reminding the audience of the consequences of street racing and taking away one of the most beloved characters in the franchise.
CC: It’s that this scene is the linchpin of Chris Morgan’s retconning of Tokyo Drift that gives it more weight than it probably should have. It’s also really well edited and reminds you that this series used to care a lot about the actual racing. It also serves as the introduction to Jason Statham’s character when it is brought back as a post-credits sequence in Furious 6.
8. Zombies (The Fate of the Furious)
DS: This series has always had a bit of a back-and-forth when it comes to old school classic cars and new cars full of electronics. As expected, these movies generally come down on the side of old-school American muscle. This scene, where all electronic cars are remotely taken control of, only throws more gas on the fire in a truly unbelievable fashion.
CC: Cars drop from parkades and pummel a reinforced limousine. Then Vin Diesel gets out and – with a saw – cuts it open. He also winds up with the same harpoons used in Furious 6 attacking his car as the whole crew works together to take out Dominic Toretto. It’s watching Dom do this all with an intensity and determination which we really haven’t seen before that makes this scene incredible. And it has no shortage of vehicular mayhem.
7. London Heist (Furious 6)
DS: Establishing that you can push the limits after the franchise high-point, Fast Five, director Justin Lin and writer Chris Morgan come up with the best kind of insanity to start up a movie that successfully ratchets up the tension from there.
CC: Lin plays with the environment in this scene by incorporating ramps on cars. Much like he did in Tokyo Drift when he raised the stakes by having Sean drift through people, and not just obstacles. It also has the crew working with the government in a much more overt way than previously in the series. This is also where we realize Letty doesn’t remember anything and Dom gets his motivation to take down Owen Shaw.
6. Nuclear Submarine Chase (The Fate of the Furious)
DS: During the later films, there’s been an uptick in the absurd and outlandish. This scene, in which the crew has to outrun a submarine, is among the most absurd sequences in the series. At least they remembered to make it entertaining.
CC: For me, the momentum is what helps this scene shine so bright. Yes, there is a submarine, but its the stuff before that which also makes a huge impact. Roman kind of walks away as MVP of this for me when he is taken out of his car, slides on the ice, and takes down a dude with his car door. But we still follow Roman because now he’s with Hobbs and Hobbs gets to do his cool stuff. It’s a scene that just moves until its run out of gas.
5. Parachute Drop (Furious 7)
DS: After Fast Five & Furious 6, the impetus of the series was to make sure every action sequence became bigger. The parachute drop is, by far, one of the gnarliest things this series has shot. And then the scene goes on even further into something that feels infectiously entertaining.
CC: Okay, the Parachute Drop is easily the best sequence of Furious 7. It’s not just the awesome idea of cars flying out of planes with parachutes, but that that’s only the beginning of it all. Everything feels like its one-upping the previous moment, and the scene feels like a team constantly against the odds, but somehow very much in control.
4. Airplane Runway (Furious 6)
DS: Furious 7 may have attempted to one up the insanity of this set-piece, Justin Lin made sure to go out with a bang with the expertly edited action sequence with at least 3 different bits happening all at once and colliding into something that feels like the right kind of fun and ridiculous.
CC: Yes, that is a long runway. The harpoons are used, characters die (for good? Probably, but you never know with this franchise), and Dom rides a car out of the cockpit of an exploding airplane.
3. “They Got a Tank” (Furious 6)
DS: Here’s another expertly choreographed action scene that feels insanely fast. One thing that makes this entry in the list so effervescent is the glee at which they use the tank.
CC: The tank is a fantastic moment in this scene, but I put most of my love for this on how many people jump on cars before we get to the incredible mid-air collision of Letty and Dom. Giselle, Han, and Roman all jump on cars before Dom establishes his suicidal dedication to saving Letty (both metaphorically and physically). This is a scene of people working together as a unit against insane conditions at high speeds.
2. The Great Train Robbery (Fast Five)
DS: In retrospect, this sequence may seem on the rails (pun intended), but it certainly jumps off them and runs on its own track. There are so many great ways in which this scene differentiates itself. Better yet, it makes what could be a very by-the-numbers approach to a scene like this and punches it up with great stunts, perfect editing, and throwing a car off a cliff.
CC: Fast Five established itself as the best in the franchise once this scene began really. There’s all sorts of locomotion going on here, but its the idea that the gang isn’t here just for racing, but they do still love cars, which is cemented in the robbery. Pulling cars onto a ramp and then driving them away was cool, but the moment things stop going as planned and the tensions rise is when this scene becomes more than your typical heist moment.
1. The Vault Heist (Fast Five)
DS: There’s no better way to describe this sequence than crazy. Supercharged cars pull a large vault through the streets of Rio as the vault jumps, glides, and grinds into buildings and other vehicles. And that’s only the first half of the sequence!
CC: I’m tempted to put my foot down and say that nothing will ever top this in the series. There’s just so many moving parts to the scene, and the fact that I accepted the switching of the vaults as plausible enough, is when the series found its perfect balance of absurdity and realism. The definitive Fast and Furious sequence.