En español | This month marks the release of F9, the ninth film in the Fast & Furious film franchise — or the 10th, if you count the 2019 spin-off Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw. What began as a relatively simple movie about illegal street racing evolved into a series about spies and heists and, of course, many shiny cars; it has since expanded into a global media juggernaut that now includes video games, a television series, theme park attractions, and live shows.
On the surface, these are big, dumb action movies (not exactly the kind that would get nominated for our AARP Movies for Grownups Awards), but that doesn't mean you should ignore them. They've collectively grossed more than $6.1 billion worldwide, making them the seventh-highest-grossing franchise in film history, just after James Bond. If you're in the mood for some high-speed thrills, here are nine reasons to give Fast & Furious a try.
1. At their core, the films are all about family
Sure, these films are about driving, but at their core they're really about the power of an adopted family. Throughout the series, the motley crew of gearheads hammers home this central theme as they discuss loyalty, spend time hanging out at backyard barbecues, and dispense greeting-card-quality quotes like this classic by makeshift patriarch Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel): “Money will come and go. We all know that. The most important thing in life will always be the people in this room. Right here, right now. Salute, mi familia.” According to a 2017 Bloomberg article, the first seven films include 29 hugs, while the words “family” or “team” are uttered a whopping 63 times. Aw.
2. The films’ racial diversity reflects the reality of America today
When the series began, it focused on different gangs of street-racers, divided mainly along race lines, competing in the streets of Los Angeles. Soon, however, the “family” of racers began to coalesce, and it was made up of actors of all different races and backgrounds, including Diesel, the late Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, Sung Kang, Tyrese Gibson, and later Gal Gadot and Dwayne Johnson. “It doesn't matter what nationality you are,” Diesel told Entertainment Weekly in 2015. “As a member of the audience, you realize you can be a member of that ‘family.’ That's the beautiful thing about how the franchise has evolved.”
3. ... and that diversity continues behind the camera
According to UCLA's latest Hollywood Diversity Report, nonwhite directors helmed 25.4 percent of American films last year, but the Fast & Furious franchise has a significantly better track record. Of the first nine films in the series, one (number 2) was directed by the late John Singleton, the first Black person to be nominated for a best director Academy Award (and the youngest, at 24) for 1991's Boyz N the Hood; one (number 7) was directed by James Wan, an Australian director of Malaysian Chinese descent; one (number 8) was directed by F. Gary Gray, 51, the first Black director with a film that grossed over $1 billion worldwide; and five (numbers 3, 4, 5, 6 and 9) were directed by Taiwanese-American director Justin Lin. Now if they'd only hire a female director ...
4. The films are loaded with cool vintage cars
Unsurprisingly, an action franchise that began as an ode to illegal street racing is filled with killer sets of wheels, including classic muscle cars that might remind you of your first car from back in the day. Speed-demon standouts include a 1967 Ford Mustang Fastback, a 1971 Nissan Skyline GT-R Hakosuka, a 1987 Buick GNX, and especially a 1971 Dodge Charger driven by Dominic Toretto in the first film that returns for guest appearances in later editions.
Matt Kennedy/Universal Studios/Courtesy Everett Collection; Giles Keyte/Universal Pictures/Alamy Stock Photo
5. For an action movie, there are surprisingly great roles for performers over 50
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the franchise, meaning Diesel — its original lead — is now 53. In 2017, The Fate of the Furious introduced two new fan favorites: Kurt Russell, 70, as intelligence operative Mr. Nobody, and Helen Mirren, 75, as Magdalene “Queenie” Shaw, the mother of Deckard (Jason Statham, 53) and Owen (Luke Evans).
6. It spawned a tear-jerking song you've probably heard on the radio
When Paul Walker tragically died in a single-vehicle accident in November 2013, the producers commissioned the tribute song “See You Again” by rapper Wiz Khalifa and singer Charlie Puth. With its powerfully emotional lyrics ("It's been a long day without you, my friend, and I'll tell you all about it when I see you again") and memorable chorus, the song topped the Billboard Hot 100 charts for 12 weeks and went on to earn three Grammy nominations, including song of the year.
7. You'll learn new slang you can use to impress your grandkids
The third installment of the series, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, is dedicated to Japan's “drifting” community. Never heard of it? Neither had we! It's a technique in which the driver purposely oversteers and loses traction while still maintaining control of the car by braking and accelerating. The skill is very technical and difficult to pull off, and it almost looks from the outside like an ice-skating routine on four wheels. As Roger Ebert said in his review at the time, “The movie ends with a warning that professional stunt drivers were used, and we shouldn't try this at home ... it is not the sort of thing likely to tempt me.”
8. The filming locations will make you want to book a flight
Much like the James Bond franchise, this globe-trotting series is filled with wanderlust-inspiring locations from around the globe — including Miami Beach and the Florida Keys’ Seven Mile Bridge in 2 Fast 2 Furious, Rio de Janeiro in Fast Five, Abu Dhabi in Furious 7, and Havana and Iceland in The Fate of the Furious. This year's film continues the tradition with scenes shot in Edinburgh, Scotland; Tbilisi, Georgia; and across Thailand, including Krabi, Ko Pha-Ngan and Phuket. It might be time to plan a very long road trip.
9. And Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson!
Last but not least, who doesn't love “The Rock"?! According to a recent survey by Pipslay, 46 percent of Americans said they would vote for Johnson if he ran for president — besting the likes of Oprah Winfrey and Tom Hanks. Johnson joined the franchise for 2011's Fast Five, in which he plays Diplomatic Security Service agent and bounty hunter Luke Hobbs. His character was such a hit that he went on to costar with Statham in the franchise's first spin-off film, the buddy action comedy Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw — a great addition to your watchlist if you want to make it an even 10 films!
Nicholas DeRenzo is a contributing writer who covers entertainment and travel. Previously he was executive editor of United Airlines’ Hemispheres magazine, and his work has appeared in The New York Times, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel & Leisure, Sunset and New York magazine.