We’ve come a long way, folks. What began as a street racing crime drama set in the neighborhoods of Los Angeles has grown into one of the most successful and most spectacular action franchises in history. Along the way, the family of good-hearted criminals transformed from electronics-thieving kings of their local racing circuit to international mercenaries tasked with tracking down terrorists, and the franchise’s signature action scenes have become more extravagant and extreme every step of the way.
Whatever the tone or scope of the film at hand, Fast and Furious has always delivered the kind of highlight chase scenes and vehicular heists that have demanded theatrical viewing and made the franchise one of the highest-grossing on the planet. With Fate of the Furious arriving in theaters this week, we’re looking back at the most insane set-pieces spawned by the franchise, from the comparatively humbler days of Rob Cohen‘s The Fast and The Furious and John Singleton‘s 2 Fast 2 Furious to the outright madness of James Wan‘s Furious 7, and the entire spectrum of Justin Lin‘s dominion in between. Check out the the list, curated by me.
The Fast and The Furious’: Final Truck Heist
The set-piece that started it all and laid the blueprint for the ever-escalating heist sequences that would follow, the final truck robbery in The Fast and The Furious seems tame by comparison but holds up surprisingly well as a tense piece of action filmmaking. Long before our heroes became all but invulnerable, the truck heist creates a real sense of danger and immediacy that’s only heightened by the relatable and identifiable measure of the stakes. When wire cuts into Vincent’s arm, it’s a cringeworthy predicament that makes you grip your own fist in sympathy. When the driver fires off a shotgun, you practically feel the buckshot flying past Brian’s head.
‘Fast Five’: Vault Heist
How do you take the kings and queens of street racing and give them a challenge? Strap a giant vault to their cars and set every crooked officer in Brazil on their heels. This is the standout action beat from Fast Five, the film where Justin Lin perfected the format and reached the perfect balance between heist thrills, tentpole action, and the core family unit (with a little bit of street racing for good measure). Not to mention adding Dwayne Johnson into the mix, which was a critical move for the growht of the franchise. The vault heist doesn’t just throw cars at a bigger, badder vehicle, it gives the team a real challenge and set of identifiable obstacles that demonstrate just what makes them the best driving crew in the world. And on top, it gives them a clever Ocean’s Eleven style sneaky strategy that leaves the film on a rare firmly feel-good ending.
‘Furious 7’: Building Jump
What do you do when you’re trapped on the top floors of the skyscraping Etihad with a murderous enemy opening fire? You gun it right out the window and soar through two buildings to safety, naturally. And you definitely have Vin Diesel grunt “It’s time to unleash the beast” first. By this time in the franchise, the cars are downright exquisite fantasy material, this particular gem being one of a very few in the world, and the feats the team pulls off with them are equally as impressive. “Cars don’t drive!” yells Brian in panic as they gun it toward the edge of the building. Wrong again, Buster. Cars do whatever Dom Toretto wants them to do.
‘Fast & Furious 6’: The Tank Chase
Straight up, fuck physics. That’s the approach the creative team took with Fast & Furious 6, the film that ditched all flourishes of realism and delivered a series of delightfully over-the-top set-pieces. They got a tank! And baddie Owen Shaw’s not afraid to use it, steamrolling the innocent nearby commuters as he attempts to demolish the family with the amnesiac letty by his side. Until she can’t take the slaughter, climbs to the roof, and goes soaring through the air. Presumably to their death, until Dom makes an impossible leap of faith, catches her, and they both land safe and sound some tens of feet below. Just ridiculous, but utterly enjoyable and a thoroughly satisfying way to see Dom and Letty united again at last.
‘Fast & Furious 6’: The Never Ending Runway
The endless runway heard round the world. Fast & Furious 6 straight up is not interested in reality or science as we know it. Gravity? What gravity? Force of impact? No thank you. The family officially makes their transition to superhero strength in this film and while the film is dodging the rules physics, it bucks geography at the same time with an interminable tarmac that hosts the finale set-piece. A gigantic cargo plane lands, taxis, and attempts take off for a full thirteen minutes, never halting the full-speed ahead inertia. Estimates for the length of the runway this sequence would require range from 15-30 miles, but either way it’s firmly in the realm of fantasy since the longest paved runway in the world tops out at about 3.5 miles.
I did not include Fate of the Furious because I would like you to said it in the comment. From all scenes in the list, which one is the craziest for you?