Movie theaters might as well sell champagne and Ciroc bottles whenever a new Fast & Furious movie opens. More than just energetic doses of full-throttle action cinema, new editions of the Vin Diesel-led franchise are basically big-screen parties, and the audience members are the VIP guests. Viewers applaud when certain characters make their first appearances, and with every wild stunt and near-death close call, the series’ biggest fans repeatedly lose their minds. There’s no denying it—the Fast & Furious brand is Hollywood’s purest form of crowd-pleasing entertainment.
Dating back to 2001’s The Fast and the Furious, which was based on the 1998 VIBE article “Racer X,” the franchise has pulled in over $2.3 billion internationally. What began as a glossy look at the underground culture of illegal street racing has settled into an unparalleled compendium of action moviemaking’s greatest tropes: heists, bare-knuckle fighting, and massive set-pieces that’d make Michael “Mr. Transformers” Bay blush. And in the franchise’s latest entry, Furious 7, the stakes are even higher. Fans are in for some seriously next-level visuals—more specifically, the sights of Vin Diesel and his thrill-seeking co-stars parachuting out of an airplane while strapped into cars, Diesel driving through one skyscraper’s glass windows into another skyscraper’s glass windows, and Paul Walker barely escaping a certain death while scrambling off the roof of a whip that’s falling off a cliff—you know, child’s play for the Fast & Furious crew.
Except that, sadly, there’s a dark cloud hanging over Furious 7: Paul Walker’s tragic November 2013 death, which delayed the film’s release for nearly a year. Because of that, the usual in-theater Fast & Furious party will at times unavoidably include collective mourning—by the end credits, tears may even flow. But that’s just another byproduct of how deeply invested audiences have become in the Fast & Furious franchise and its stars.
Furious 7’s commercials show Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto saying it’s their “one last ride,” which, in sequel-obsessed Hollywood, doesn’t seem likely—hey, money talks, and Furious 7 is about to break all the banks. But don’t expect anyone to fret over more adventures for Dom and his merry band of automotive action junkies. As this list of The 10 Best Fast & Furious Movie Scenes confirms, there’s nothing else in the movie game quite like watching Vin Diesel, Tyrese Gibson, Michelle Rodriguez, and the rest of their cohorts push expensive whips and laugh in the face of danger.
The franchise’s first sequel, 2 Fast 2 Furious is the undeniable black sheep in Dominic Toretto’s extended cinematic family. The reasons are obvious: aside from Vin Diesel’s glaring absence, director John Singleton’s (yes, the same Singleton who made Boyz n the Hood and Higher Learning) film mistakes mindless entertainment for unbridled looniness.
In 2 Fast 2 Furious’ opener, there is however the joy of watching the first film’s co-captain, Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker), officially become the man by out-driving a ton of roadsters in the brightly lit streets of Miami. You can imagine millions of Fast & Furious lovers first solidifying their undying love for Paul Walker as he speeds off that lifted-up bridge and leapfrogs over Michael Ealy.
Consider this the most unlikely and craziest kind of couple’s therapy. The couple in question: Dom and Brian, whose friendship wavers throughout Fast & Furious, which reunited Vin Diesel and Paul Walker with franchise O.G.’s Jordana Brewster and Michelle Rodriguez. In the flick’s most impressive bit of overboard mayhem, Dom and Brian join forces to chase a villainous goon (played by Laz Alonso) through a secret tunnel that connects the U.S. to Mexico. Missed opportunity: not using Philly Most Wanted’s “Cross the Border” as the scene’s background music.
Okay, so 2 Fast 2 Furious isn’t a total wash. In addition to the aforementioned opening sequence, this Diesel-less sequel should be commended for introducing one of the Fast & Furious franchise’s most important components: its humor, supplied here by perennial one-liner king Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson). This scene, in which Brian and Roman have to drive their car straight onto a yacht in order to save Brian’s girl, Monica (played by Eva Mendes), exemplifies the franchise’s uncanny ability to combine high-flying action with perfectly timed comic relief. It’s the blueprint for all of the future playful banter later shared between Tyrese and Ludacris.
Everything changed in Fast Five—and for the better. Before the franchise’s fifth entry, the Fast & Furious movies were delicious junk food for car fetishists, but in this 2011 edition, the influences evolved from Autoweek to Ocean’s Eleven. And what better way to kick off a balls-to-the-wall heist movie centered around swanky automobiles than to pull off a breathless and impossibly over-the-top train robbery in which the stolen goods are, yes, fancy sports cars? It makes George Clooney and Brad Pitt’s schemes seem like amateur hour.
But it’s also an example of something the Fast & Furious movies rarely get credit for: intelligently convoluted screenwriting. To better understand why critics should use the word “intelligent” more often when discussing these films, check out how Dom and his squad manage to walk away with the cash.
After all, the seemingly endless runway allows for every single cast member to get in on the action, whether they’re trading punches, body-slamming folks onto the roofs of cars, or recklessly driving alongside a speeding plane. By the time Vin Diesel zooms out of the exploding plane in, naturally, a wicked sports car, all you can do is smile, clap, and wonder how in the god Dom’s name they’ll top this scene in Furious 7.