Just as the sun will come out tomorrow, so too can we count on those magnificent beefcake boys and gearhead girls in the Fast and the Furious franchise to arrive with another action-packed installment. The series has become more unkillable than the Highlander, more superheroic than the MCU, and more jam-packed with beloved action stars than The Expendables. But while each Fast and the Furious movie gets bigger and better, some things about the franchise haven’t changed since the very first movie roared into theaters in 2001, and we’re not just talking about Dominic Toretto’s love of Coronas.
Even as enemies have become friends and undercover cops have become racing kings, the Fast and the Furious franchise always keeps some core part of itself alive. Even if the action series as it is now stands bears only a vague resemblance to the original Point Break-inspired film, some things never change. From a focus on family to celebrity cameos, here are the things that happen in every single Fast and the Furious movie.
It’s all about family in the Fast and the Furious
While Fast Five and Fast & Furious 6 cemented "family" as a highly memeable character motivation for Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto, "family" has always been the third most important f-word of the franchise, right behind "fast" and "furious." After all, the first film is about a loner cop finding a community in Dom’s DVD-player stealing crew. And the sequel is about Paul Walker’s Brian trying to mend fences with his childhood best friend, Roman (Tyrese Gibson), in a story that wouldn’t play out any differently if they were actually related by blood. Tokyo Drift is about carving out a place for yourself apart from a familial legacy you might not have wanted, and the fourth film is about what happens when a member of your family is murdered — you go on a street-racing rampage. In short, long before Dom looked right at the camera and told audiences around the world that, "I don’t have friends, I got family," Fast and the Furious has always been about the family connections we make for ourselves.
Obviously, you gotta go fast in every single movie
The Fast and the Furious franchise as it stands today feels more like a James Bond spin-off series than the adventures of a bunch of street-racing dirtbags that we started with. Still, even as the stakes have gotten higher and Dom’s family has gotten bigger, a major constant in the franchise is that most problems can be solved with fast cars. It might seem silly to point this out — after all, one of the two major adjectives in the franchise’s title is related to speed — but considering how massive the set pieces have become, it’s comforting that the main solution to any problem has always been fast cars driving where you wouldn’t expect cars to drive. Whether it’s destroying the entire police force of Rio de Janeiro in Fast Five or taking out a nuclear submarine in Russia with the use of an American muscle car, there’s no problem in the Fast and the Furious world that can’t be solved by living your life one quarter-mile at a time.
Always take time to stop and smell the oil
Considering the utility of a properly engineered vehicle in the Fast and the Furious franchise, it’s no surprise that the crew takes some time to appreciate their fleet of their vehicles whenever they can. The Fast Family are a bunch of gearheads from East Los Angeles (or Miami) at heart, and that means their cars aren’t just tools for super-spy adventures — the cars are a reflection of themselves. Before the franchise became as action-driven as it is today, the cars were arguably the biggest draw of the early films, and that aesthetic appreciation remains a core driver in the franchise.
No matter how high the stakes are, there’s always time for the characters to pause and admire the cars they’ll be driving in upcoming scenes. That moment arguably reaches its peak in Fate of the Furious when Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) takes the Fast Family into a secret government warehouse full of confiscated vehicles they can use to rescue Dom. Just because the world is at stake doesn’t mean we can’t take some time to peek under the hood
The forces of good will never lose
Here’s something you might not have noticed: No good guy in the Fast and the Furious franchise has ever lost a fight. If that feels surprising, think about some of the greatest smackdowns in the films. There’s Dom fighting Hobbs (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) in a garage during Fast Five, Hobbs fighting Shaw (Jason Statham) early in Furious 7, or Dom fighting literally every other member of his family in Fate of the Furious.
But these impressive battles don’t just belong to the beefcakes. Brian somehow manages to beat Kiet in Furious 7, despite the fact the bad guy is played by Tony Jaa. Most fights in the Fast and the Furious universe either end with the good guy walking away the clear victor, or the fight itself being interrupted by circumstances outside of the hero’s control. With regards to that Hobbs and Shaw smackdown, the fight only ends when Hobbs is knocked out of a window by an explosion while covering for Elena (Elsa Pataky). When it comes to the Hobbs and Dom slugfest, it gets interrupted before an unquestionable victor can be crowned.
As a result, there are rumors of a "can’t lose" contract for some of the actors. But whether or not that’s true, the fact remains that if you’re a good guy in the world of Fast and the Furious, no weapon raised against you will prosper. Even comic relief Roman gets a moment in Fate of the Furious where he knocks a guy off a snowmobile with a car door before shooting three other faceless goons.
Those who don’t remember the fast are doomed to be furious
The Fast and the Furious franchise has earned a bit of a reputation for being needlessly complex, which isn’t really fair. After all, the order of the films are simple. If you want to watch it chronologically, you just watch The Fast and the Furious, Turbo Charged Prelude to 2 Fast 2 Furious, 2 Fast 2 Furious, Los Bandoleros, Fast & Furious, Fast Five, Fast & Furious 6 until the post-credits scene, then watch half of Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift. After that, watch the post-credits to Fast & Furious 6, watch most of the rest of Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift, watch Furious 7 until Dom wants to go to Tokyo, then finish watching the very end of Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift before completing Furious 7 and enjoying Fate of the Furious.
Oh, and watch Better Luck Tomorrow if you’re a completionist and want to see the origin of Han. Simple, right?
Okay, maybe the franchise has gotten pretty complex, but that’s what happens when you keep building on the continuity without writing characters off between films. Each installment showcases either the appearance of an old character or at least a tossed-off mention to previous films. It can take the form of Brian investigating Fast & Furious villain Braga midway through Fast & Furious 6, or Dom relying on his Fast Five crew in Fate of the Furious. But no matter who shows up or when, you can always count on some familiar faces to pop up in a Fast and the Furious film.
In every movie, there’s always time for a party
It’s not all seriousness and widescreen action when you’re a part of Dom’s crew. Sure, there’s a chance that you’ll be murdered by a former SAS operative or that you’ll fall onto an endless airplane runway in the middle of a gun battle, but there are good times, too. After all, Dom knows how to throw a killer party, and members of the crew can drink whatever they want — as long as it’s a Corona. Every film in the Fast and the Furious franchise has made time for a party, whether it’s the now traditional post-action barbecue or the low-budget house party of The Fast and the Furious. Even Furious 7, grim as everything was in the wake of Han’s untimely murder, still found time to have a party DJ-ed by T-Pain in Abu Dhabi. When you live your life one quarter-mile at a time, you’ve got to leave room to celebrate.
Familiar faces in the Fast and the Furious franchise
Long before the franchise became the big-budget worldwide sensation that it is today, the Fast and the Furious franchise had some very cool early cameos. Tokyo Drift has the one and only Sonny Chiba as the Yakuza crime boss, Kamata. The Fast and the Furious hilariously stars Ja Rule as Edwin, a street racer who loses to Brian and Dom while racing to win a sexual favor from his girlfriend. And the sequel, 2 Fast 2 Furious, obviously features Ludacris, before he became such an integral part of the Fast and the Furious franchise.
From there, the star power just got bigger. Dwayne Johnson joins the cast in Fast Five, mixed martial artist Gina Carano appears in Fast & Furious 6, T-Pain and Ronda Rousey show up in Furious 7, and Dame Helen Mirren appears in Fate of the Furious. That’s without even mentioning small cameos from notable musicians like Iggy Azalea, Bow Wow, and Rita Ora. Even Charlize Theron and Kurt Russell have popped up in this franchise, and now Idris Elba is joining the Fast and the Furious ranks with Hobbs & Shaw. With all these big names, there’s no telling what famous faces we’ll be seeing in future films.
Action is its own reward
With each new Fast and the Furious film’s budget ballooning into the hundreds of millions, it’s no stretch to say the movies are known for their jaw-dropping action. But even when the budget was in the sub-hundred million range, the filmmakers still found a way to pack plenty of action into the films. The Fast and the Furious features a climax in which one of Dom’s men is wired tight to a semi-truck while the driver shoots a shotgun at Dom’s crew. Meanwhile, 2 Fast 2 Furious ends with Roman and Brian launching a car onto a boat like someone trying to weaponize the Dukes of Hazzard boys. And Tokyo Drift finds Han and the ostensible protagonist, Sean Boswell (Lucas Black), drifting through the Tokyo streets as crowds of people part like the Red Sea.
By the time Fast Five rolls around, the films have gotten so big that Brian and Dom are destroying Rio with a vault that they’re using like a wrecking ball. There’s no telling what insane set pieces we can expect in the future, but if there’s anything that lives up to Dom leaping across a bridge from his car to save Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) from getting knocked off a tank, we can all die happy.
Here today, gone for the rest of the movie
While it must be a nice boon to any actor’s IMDb page to have a Fast & Furious credit, some characters appear for such a small period of time that it’s just baffling. Think of Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) appearing as a coma patient in Furious 7, or Elena giving Dom permission to go on some adventures in Fast & Furious 6.
A strange pattern that’s cropped up in these films as they continue is an opening scene involving characters who quickly disappear for the rest of the film. Han appears in Fast & Furious to help with a heist, and then doesn’t return until Fast Five. Tokyo Drift makes a big deal out of Sean’s rivalry with a local high school jock, but that’s quickly forgotten when Sean is shipped off to Japan. Almost all of the racers who drive against Brian in the opening scenes of 2 Fast 2 Furious vanish as soon as they lose. The only real exception to the rule is in the first film, but even then, Ja Rule disappears as soon as his prospect for a threesome does.
The Fast and the Furious has girls, girls, and girls
At its core, the first Fast and the Furious film is a movie with simple pleasures in mind. There are cars, and they will go fast. There are tough guys, and they will win fights. There are beautiful girls in bikinis that are big fans of both cars and tough guys, and they will dance. Even as the films have rounded out the cast, those core ideals remain the same. No matter what destinations the Fast Family visit, there’s always going to be time for a race, and there are always going to be beautiful women that are excited to watch. Even while Dom was working to restore Letty’s memory in Fast & Furious 6, there was a London street race that featured plenty of car girls. It might be one of the strongest connective tissues uniting the various locales in the franchise, a signifier of car culture that surpasses any sort of division or geographical line. It might be a symbol of how Dom’s family is bigger than anyone ever thought possible. Or, most likely, it’s because the Fast and the Furious directors like shooting scenes with gorgeous women in exotic locales. Could go either way.