It started so simply. In 2001’s The Fast and the Furious, Dom Toretto’s crew of street racers/thieves were stealing combination DVD/VCR players. In 2021’s F9: The Fast Saga, Dom and his friends—excuse me, Dom and his family—had to save the world by recovering a device that could hack into every computer on the planet. The franchise has been down a very long road, but one that will come to an end with next month’s Fast X and its conclusive sequel. So if you haven’t been watching their journey, is it worth jumping into the driver’s seat? Absolutely, and here’s what you need to know. (And I’ll try to cool it on the car puns.)
What Is Fast & Furious About?
It’s been about a lot of things over the course of two decades. When the first movie debuted, it was about racing and living life “a quarter mile at a time.” It was essentially a car-centric version of Point Break, as LAPD undercover officer Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) went undercover to investigate Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his gang for a series of truck-jackings.
The two formed a bond that informed the entire franchise, at least once Vin Diesel returned in 2009’s Fast & Furious (which was the fourth film released in the franchise, but not… you know what, we’ll get there). At least since then, Fast & Furious has been about family. Whether that’s family by blood like Dom’s sister Mia (Jordana Brewster), by love like Dom and Letty (Michele Rodriguez) and Brian and Mia, or by the found family they and the rest of the ever-growing cast of characters form, it’s become more important than the racing or the world-saving. As Dom says in Furious 7, “I don’t have friends. I’ve got family.”
Who Are the Main Characters?
If you’ll allow me another racing pun, please buckle your seatbelts, because this is not a short list. Let’s start with the “family” as it currently stands:
Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel)—A beyond-gifted street race, a mechanic, a thief, and a superhero whose superpower is cars. The undisputed leader and patriarch of the Fast and Furious family.
Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez)—Dom’s wife and a total badass both inside and outside of a car. She was once seemingly murdered but turned out to have gotten amnesia and was working for a group of terrorists. She got better.
Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker)—After forming a close friendship with Dom, Brian threw his life as a cop away to join Dom’s gang. He briefly joined the FBI and enlisted Dom’s help to take down a drug lord, then re-joined Dom’s gang of thieves before they were recruited to start saving the world. Sadly, since actor Paul Walker passed away in 2013 during filming, Furious 7 marks Brian’s final appearance.
Mia Toretto (Jordana Brewster)—Dom’s sister who falls in love with Brian. A talented driver in her own right. She settled down with Brian to raise their two kids, but when her exiled brother Jakob returns to torment Dom, she jumped into action for her family.
Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson)—The fast-talking childhood friend of Brian who gets enlisted for later heists. Roman is also unquestionably the comic relief of the group, and the only one that seems to realize all the stunts they’re doing are insane.
Tej Parker (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges)—A mechanic turned incredibly impressive technician who also gets recruited for the crew’s heists. But in the most recent movies, he’s also a brilliant hacker.
Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel)—The most recent addition to the family, she’s an even more brilliant hacker who has not learned how to drive.
They’ve been joined by others over the years, including a few antagonists-turned-allies. Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) was the team’s mysterious extra-governmental liaison, but he’s currently MIA. Jakob Toretto (John Cena), Dom’s exiled brother by blood, attacked the crew in F9 but seems to have joined the team for Fast X. Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) was the bad guy of Furious 7, but has since helped the team on occasion under the director of his mother Queenie (played by Dame Helen Mirren). Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) tried to catch the crew back when they were thieves, but later joined forces with them in Fast & Furious 6. The only other returning character you need to know is Cipher (Charlize Theron), who’s been the cunning antagonist of Fate of the Furious and F9, and likely beyond.
What’s the timeline of the Fast & Furious movies?
This may seem like a silly question, but it’s not. That’s because Fast and Furious, Fast Five, and Fast & Furious 6—movies four, five, and six, respectively—are technically prequels to the third movie, Tokyo Drift. (Furious 7 gets things back on track, pardon another pun.)
Why? Because of Sung Kang, who played Han. The effortlessly charming actor was so good that when Diesel soft-rebooted the franchise with Fast and Furious, he had Kang’s character Han join his crew—despite the fact Han dies in Tokyo Drift. He was a major character in 4, 5, and 6, and the final scene of Fast & Furious 6 is a replay of his fatal wreck.
Is Vin Diesel in all the Fast and Furious Movies?
Technically he’s been in all but one. Diesel had a strict “no sequels” policy at that stage in his career and declined to come back for 2 Fast 2 Furious. He’s not really in Tokyo Drift, except as a brief cameo at the very end. But he’s been the main character in every movie since.
Why Isn’t the Rock in Fast and Furious Anymore?
Although the specifics have never been made public, we know Vin Diesel and Johnson feuded a great deal during Fast 7 and Fate of the Furious, the last so much so that the two only share a single scene together (and I’m pretty confident the Rock was greenscreened into it). It seems to have been a clash of egos over which actor was the true star of the franchise. Johnson even called out an unnamed “candyass” during the shooting of Fate, which was presumably Diesel. Whatever the cause, the Rock has made it abundantly clear he won’t be returning to the main F&F movies ever, although he was fine being one of the leads in the spin-off Hobbs & Shaw.
Where Can I Watch the Fast & Furious Movies?
It’s weirdly tough to track down all the F&F movies on streaming, because they come and go to a variety of services so quickly. The only one that is currently consistent is F9: The Fast Saga over on HBO Max. If you subscribe to DirecTV or a cable service like Spectrum, you might find a few of them on demand. You can, however, rent or buy all nine Fast and Furious films on Prime Video (although watch out; for some reason, each movie has a second listing that says it’s unavailable), and the same is true at Apple TV+.
If you rent a few and like them, you can find DVDs or Blu-rays of each film over at Amazon for pretty cheap. But if you check out a few and like them, I highly recommend buying a box set of all the films, which will only run you about $40-50. It’s much cheaper than buying them digitally.
Which Fast & Furious Movie Should I Start With?
Honestly, most fans think Fast Five is the best F&F movie, and they’re arguably right (I am one of those fans). But it’s definitely a heist movie, and while it includes some incredible sequences, it doesn’t have the ludicrous, high-flying action the series has become known for. If that’s what you’re looking for, I suggest Furious 7, which really birthed the modern F&F franchise as we now know it.
However, personally, I would ask you to consider watching all of them. No, not all of the movies are good, but the series keeps building on its past in ways that make each entry so much more than the sum of their parts. It’s a big reason why the reason the Fast and Furious films have become so popular over the years. If you’re not convinced, maybe this will help.
Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about the future of Doctor Who.